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College football playoffs: 1-loss teams vs undefeated easy schedules?

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    This is an old-age debate when it comes to college football - how to do you weight strength of schedule against a team's season record and performance, for determining the teams that make it into the playoffs?

    The 2019 season is a perfect scenario. Right now the top 4 teams are:

    Ohio State 8-0, LSU 8-0, Alabama 8-0 and Penn State 8-0. They are technically the 4 playoff teams. But Clemson is 9-0 and ranked #5 at the moment. Clemson won the national championship title the year prior and they have beat every team on their schedule (except for one) in dominant fashion, as they should.

    Should they be dropped down because their strength of schedule hasn't been as tough as the 4 teams above them? I mean, they can't really help who they play, they can only play their schedule and show up every week, which they have done.

    But on the other side, it wouldn't be fair to LSU, Alabama, Ohio State or Penn State to be below Clemson when their schedules have been tougher and they are also undefeated.

    Where it gets interesting is Ohio State will play Penn State before the season ends AND Alabama plays LSU as well. So guaranteed 2 of the top 4 teams will have at least one loss on their record when it comes time to pick the playoff teams. But those 1 loss teams will have only lost to a top #1-4 club, so it shouldn't drop them down, maybe at all in the rankings.

    You can have Penn State and Alabama for example lose those games, win out otherwise, and still be ranked #3 and #4, even if Clemson wins out, simply because Clemson's rest of season schedule is really easy, they only play one ranked opponent and its #19 Wake Forest.

    So... should an undefeated Clemson be able to jump a 1-loss team in this scenario? How would you call it? I know it depends on how the losing teams perform in their loss. If they get blown out, they drop a lot. If it's a close loss though, they usually don't drop. Gets even more complicated because Clemson won it all last year and it would look VERY odd if they went undefeated and then had to sit out of the playoffs.

    We have those big match-ups coming and conference championship games to help sort all of this out. But I think it's fascinating.. just assume it all plays out in the most tricky way possible.. should Clemson move ahead or is it possible two 1-loss teams beat them in the rankings just because their schedule was tougher?

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    I don't think an easier schedule should be held against them in the rankings. If they have 9-0 record, they won 9 out of 9 games, period. I've always seen that as more of a trash talk opinion than an actual statement towards a teams record or strength during a season.

    I think the only thing that should be considered when weighing the teams schedule of the season is how they stack up (in theory) against the other team. If Clemson had easier opponents during the season then say LSU and they play eachother, it's all just a matter of opinion as to who will win/lose. Their season records don't really change anything during that single game.

  • Are you sure you want to delete this post?

    Teams get to schedule their own non-conference games years in advance so I think weighting strength of schedule is fair. You can't always help if the teams you pick aren't as good as they were when you selected them, but if you pick a bunch of weak teams on purpose, you deserve to not be taken as seriously.

    I wish there was a definitive way to say undefeated teams should always go above 1-loss teams with much tougher schedules, but I think it's always a case by case basis. You could probably create an algorithm that weights it all and spits out the exact right answer, but for now and the foreseeable future, there will always be an element of voters using the eyeball test.