It seems like the following sentiment rings true every weekend this year, but it was especially accurate last weekend: the 2021 college football season is pure chaos.
After six full weeks of college football, 40 ranked teams have lost this season thus far, the most of the poll era. Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State, the staples at the top of the typical polls, have all suffered losses. If the College Football Playoff started today, they would not be taking part.
There is still a lot of football to be played, but here is who would have a shot at the college football crown if the old BCS system was still in place.
- Georgia (6-0)
- Iowa (6-0)
- Oklahoma (5-0)
- Cincinnati (5-0)
- Alabama (5-1)
- Michigan (6-0)
- Ohio State (5-1)
- Penn State (5-1)
- Kentucky (6-0)
- Oklahoma State (5-0)
- Michigan State (6-0)
- Notre Dame (5-1)
- Oregon (4-1)
- Ole Miss (4-1)
- Coastal Carolina (6-0)
- Florida (4-2)
- Wake Forest (6-0)
- Arkansas (4-2)
- BYU (5-1)
- Texas A&M (4-2)
- Arizona State (5-1)
- SMU (6-0)
- Texas (4-2)
- NC State (4-1)
- Clemson (3-2)
Last week’s BCS rankings largely resembled the AP Poll, with just one team more than two spots away from their current AP ranking. Plus, the top five were the same in each ranking. This week, however, there is less consistency.
The BCS pitted the top two teams against each other for a national title, and those two teams, Georgia and Iowa, are the same in both rankings. This game would be a defensive matchup for the ages based on how the teams are currently treating their opponents. Both teams rank in the top five in scoring defense – Georgia is No. 1, allowing just 5.5 points per game, and Iowa is fourth at 13. Not only is Georgia ceding very few points, they are ceding just 201 yards per game, also top in the nation. The Iowa defense leads the country in forced turnovers, including 16 interceptions. The over/under on this contest would be astronomically low.
Oklahoma and Cincinnati swapped spots in the AP Poll and the BCS Rankings. The Bearcats, the darling of the Group of Five teams, would not have the opportunity to play for a national championship under this current set of rankings, while they would get a shot at the CFP.
After their improbable victory over then-No. 1 Alabama, Texas A&M makes an appearance in both polls after falling out following losses to Arkansas and Mississippi State after Week 5. Alabama, who failed to score a touchdown on four of its six red zone trips on Saturday night, is still in control of the SEC West with a win over Ole Miss, but the shakeup at the top is welcomed by most people outside of the Tuscaloosa area.
Like last week, San Diego State has a spot in the AP Poll while Clemson doesn’t, but Clemson holds the No. 25 ranking here, and the Aztecs are on the outside looking in. On the topic of the ACC, their highest ranked team in the BCS simulation is Wake Forest, the only remaining undefeated team in the conference and one which needed overtime to top Syracuse last weekend.
The Pac-12 does not have any remaining unbeatens, but Arizona State has emerged as the favorite in the South after trouncing a Stanford team that, to that point, had looked pretty decent.
The impending Big Ten East cannibalization is going to be must-see TV. For the first time ever, the Big Ten has five of the top-10 teams in the AP Poll. In this BCS simulation, Michigan State fell to No. 11, but the idea stands. Oh yeah, and four of the teams – Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State – are in the same division and have yet to play each other. Clear your calendar on Oct. 30. The Wolverines host the Spartans, and the Nittany Lions travel to Columbus.
From BCS to CFP
Prior to the current CFP system, college football was governed by the BCS, whose final rankings were computer generated, and two teams faced off in the national championship to conclude the season. The system also created matchups for four additional prestigious bowl games: the Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl.
The BCS formula used a number of factors to produce its list. There were three components to the rankings, with a mix of human and computer generated thoughts: the Harris Poll, the Coaches Poll and the computer rankings. All three parts were weighted equally.
The Harris and Coaches Polls had values assigned to each spot in reverse order. For example, in the Harris Poll of 25 teams, the top team receives 25 points, the second team receives 24 points, etc. The Coaches Poll had a similar scoring system, although there were fewer voters involved.
The third part, the computer rankings, included six additional polls: Anderson & Hester, Richard Billingsley, Colley Matrix, Kenneth Massey, Jeff Sagarin’s USA Today and Peter Wolfe. In the end, the final values assigned to each team in the three categories are averaged, and the BCS rankings were produced.
Beginning in 2014, the CFP replaced the BCS. Two semifinal games are played around New Year’s Day, and the games take place on a rotating basis at six of the country’s top bowls – the Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Peach Bowl, Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl. The two winners advance to the College Football Playoff National Championship. That game is played on a Monday night in the second week of January.
The CFP selection process is more subjective than the BCS, as the teams are decided upon by 13 people and there is no longer a strict computer component. The selection committee is composed of athletic directors, former coaches and student-athletes, and others in the college administration world. The current chair of the committee is Gary Barta, the athletic director at Iowa.
“The selection committee ranks the teams based on the members’ evaluation of the teams’ performance on the field, using conference championships won, strength of schedule, head-to-head results, and comparison of results against common opponents to decide among teams that are comparable,” the website says.
Additionally, there is a board of governors made up of presidents and chancellors from the 10 FBS conferences plus Notre Dame which governs the administrative actions of the CFP.
Alabama is the reigning national champion and holds the most CFP wins at eight. In total, the SEC and the ACC each have eight playoff appearances, driven largely by Alabama and Clemson’s near-constant presence at the top in recent years. Technically, all FBS teams have equal access to the playoff; there are no automatic qualifiers.
College football remains the only college sport in the country without an officially NCAA-sanctioned championship. At its core, the CFP is really a television contract currently owned by ESPN.