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NCAA Tournament vs. College Football Playoff


With March Madness cranking up and the tournament brackets announced, I found myself watching closely to see who was "snubbed" from the 68-team tourney. Since FSU was one of the snubs, this got me thinking,

"How do the results of the NCAA Basketball Tournament correlate to the College Football Playoff system?"
"Do the teams that get "snubbed" really have a shot at winning six games in a row? One game?"

It’s encouraging that the Powers That Be have elected to expand the college football national championship tournament from 2 to 4 teams this year. Although, I’ve always thought an 8-team college football playoff was the magic number.

Some people say it’s too many games (8 team playoff), I say you only add 2 games to the top 2 team’s schedules, 1 game to the 3rd and 4th best teams and 0 games to 5th – 8th (subtracting out the bowl game they would have played anyways). Two best teams play 16 games. The majority of the country still plays 12 or 13 games. A handful of teams play 14 or 15 games.

Some people say, the bowl season/schedule will suffer, I say you play the first round with the crappy bowl games, the 2nd round with the good bowl games and the last game after the elite bowl games.

Back to the analysis/correlation between the NCAA Tourney and College Football Playoffs…..

Here is a list of the seeds to have won the NCAA tournament over the last 24 years.

•#1 - 15 championships (62.5%)
•#2 - 3 championships (12.5%)
•#3 - 3 championships (12.5%)
•#4 - 1 championships (4.2%)
•#5 - 0 championships (0%)
•#6 - 1 championships (4.2%)
•#7 - 0 championships (0%)
•#8 - 1 championships (4.2%)

(This article is not intended to dispute the accuracy of the seeds, rather let’s go with them and assumes all #1 seeds are better than #2 seeds and so on and so forth. Let’s also agree that a #1 seed is a team ranked #1-#4, a #2 seed is a team ranked #5-#8, and so on).

According to my trusty source (Wikipedia.com), there are currently 351 Division 1 teams in NCAAB. If you take the seed average, from above, of the last 24 years, the average seed # to win the tourney is #2. That correlates to the 5-8th best team in NCAAB. Which by percentages is (5-8) /351 = 1.4 – 2.3 % of the total team population. This means that on average, the top 2.3% of men’s college basketball teams actually win the NCAA tourney. Convert that over to college football (126 teams) and you get 2.87. This means that basically any team ranked 3 and better has a solid chance of winning the national title.

You may argue, but what about the one #8 seed that one it that one year (Villanova – 1985). Ok let’s look; an 8 seed is equivalent to the 29-32nd best team in college basketball. Which by percentages is (29-32) / 351 = 8.3 – 9.1 % of the total team population. Convert that to college football and you get 11.5. In other words, 1 team ranked around 10 – 12 range in the last 24 years could have won the college football championship. Is it worth bumping the college football playoff from 2 teams (now 4 teams) to 12 teams or more? That’s for you to decide.

Based on the graphical curve you could create from the information above, 88% of the champions come from the top 12 teams in college basketball or the top 3.4% of teams. 3.4% coverts to #4 rank in college football.

Math and history are telling me that a college football playoff with 2 teams is eliminating a significant amount of teams that could legitimately win the national championship. It’s also telling me that a playoff with 4 teams will get it right about 88% of the time. But a playoff with 8 teams gives you about 92-96% chance of getting it right.

What does ‘getting it right’ mean? It means a team that could win the championship based on rank, actually has a chance to win the title by being included in the tournament. If you want to get in 100% right, you need to include the top 12 teams, but 12 is a semi-messy number for a playoff. So go to 16 teams, right? Well if you think the 16th best team in the country can win 4 games in a row against teams that are ranked better than them…..we’ll yeah it could happen. It’s equivalent to an 11-seed winning the basketball tourney. But then, you’ve added another game; what about academics, schedules, injuries, length of season, etc.

You may ask or think to yourself, well a lot of higher seeded teams have done well in the tournament (final four, etc.) but haven’t won it. I agree and that’s great for college basketball as it brings excitement, an underdog story, and school notoriety. But at the end of the day, I want to capture the pool of teams that can win the national championship in the smallest field possible.

So the teams that get "snubbed" from the future College Football Playoff……are they really getting ‘snubbed’? If we include 8 teams. I don’t think so.

Your thoughts?

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