Inside look at team analyzation, selection process for the CFB Playoff Committee
National polls are nearly meaningless and ‘tailored’ statistics carry more weight than you would expect.
There’s sure to be questions when the College Football Playoff selection committee begins meeting regularly on Oct. 27, but Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez has provided an insider’s look at the evaluation process in a recent interview with ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich, new revelations that could be deemed surprising to some.
The former Wisconsin football coach and current Badgers athletic director is one of 13 members on a selection committee whose job is to rank team in terms of overall strength compared to the rest of college football in hopes of selecting the four best representatives in the first CFB Playoff.
Alvarez takes his iPad everywhere to watch condensed versions of games and using his own statistician to further dissect the competition.
“There are specific things I’m looking for in statistics,” Alvarez told ESPN.com. “It’s too early in the season to do that, to compare teams yet. I’m really glad that we’re waiting until the end of October before we put our first poll together.
“There’s so many questions to answer with some of the teams. You haven’t seen them play against the competition they play in their conference to really evaluate them. In another five or six weeks, we’ll have those answers and be able to compare statistics team by team.”
Unlike the previous BCS system, ‘winning pretty’ with a heavy emphasis on margin of victory’s no longer has as much meaning as relative offensive and defensive performance.
“Let’s say a team scores 50 points four games in a row, but the teams they’re playing give up an average of 45,” Alvarez said. “And then you’ve got someone who’s played a very difficult schedule and they’re averaging 21 points a game, but the teams they’re playing only give up an average of 10 points. There’s a huge difference there.
“That variation on both offense and defense are very telling statistics. Your average starting field position, your turnover margin … we can all tailor our own stats. (Committee member) Tom Osborne may want to look at some other statistics in how he evaluates. We can tailor that individually.”
Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long takes a similar approach, but unlike Alvarez, doesn’t even glance at the Associated Press Top 25 or Coaches Poll every week.
The committee’s first ranking will be released Oct. 28.
“I’m simply looking, evaluating and processing,” Long said to ESPN.com. “I purposely haven’t paid a lot of attention to the polls that are out there. I know they’re there. You can’t watch a game and not know who some of the top people are, where they’re ranked, but I’m purposely not looking at a top 25 and have not put a top 25 down at all in my practice.”