The initial College Football Playoff rankings will be released Tuesday night, and I can say I’ve been in the room where those rankings will have been assembled.
It’s a fourth-floor conference room in the mammoth Gaylord Texan Resort hotel outside of Dallas. The 12 members of the CFP selection committee sit at four long tables arranged in a rectangle with large flat-screen televisions planted in the middle.
I know this because about a month ago, the CFP staff invited 12 media members to go through a mock selection to get a better understanding of how the real committee does its work. The group included respected writers and broadcasters from around the country, and also me. With one semifinal being played at the Georgia Dome on New Year’s Eve, it was an immersive way to learn more about how the teams that will play for the national championship (including the two bound for Atlanta) will have been selected.
I’ll say upfront that I’m not a conspiracy theorist by nature. I don’t believe, for example, that Charles Woodson won the 1997 Heisman Trophy over Peyton Manning because ESPN pushed for it (full disclosure: I went to Michigan, and also my wife loves Manning’s commercials). I tend to doubt Ray Lewis’ theory that the NFL caused the Super Bowl blackout in 2013.
I also find merit in the way that the playoff field is decided, by a 12-person committee made up largely of former coaches and college athletics administrators. But there’s always distrust and dissent with just about any change to policy or rules in college football, and perhaps reasonably so, which was part of the reason why the CFP invited media to take part in the mock selection exercise, plying us with a Tex-Mex dinner (which, admittedly, was really good) and granting access to the very room where the playoff field and bowl matchups will be set up.
We were given the challenge of retroactively ranking the top 25 and deciding which four teams would have been picked to play in a hypothetical playoff in 2010, which was the year that Auburn and Cam Newton beat Oregon for the national title. You may remember that TCU also finished the regular season undefeated, while Ohio State, Stanford and Wisconsin were all one-loss teams before the bowl season. By dint of record and statistical data, Auburn and Oregon didn’t take much work. The next two slots, to say nothing of the remaining 21 in the top 25, were much more challenging.
The rest of the story can be read on myajc .