Past can offer committee lessons

NCF Playoff Bracket - 2004

No matter how you look at it -- with your own eyes or through a computer forecast -- the College Football Playoff's selection committee is going to have one of the most difficult, scrutinized jobs in sports this fall. The 13-member committee will choose the top four teams in the country using a truly subjective vote. To better understand some of the issues the committee might face in the future, ESPN.com looked to the past.

This is what the brackets might have looked like every year since 2004. ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach selected teams based on the eye test, and projecting for the computer was ESPN's Championship Drive Ratings, which evaluated teams based on how difficult it would be for an average Football Bowl Subdivision team to achieve their record given their schedule and accounts for how well teams controlled games throughout the season.

Knowing that the selection committee will weigh factors such as strength of schedule, head-to-head results and conference championships, each bracket was analyzed to see what challenges would have been presented to the committee and how it might have addressed them. Of course, in most years, the pool of qualified teams went deeper than four, and choosing No. 4 might just be the committee's biggest task. The definition of "best team" will likely differ for each committee member. Will an undefeated Boise State team ever unseat a one-loss team from a Power Five conference? Or will history repeat itself, even in a new era? A look back foreshadows more questions are in store.


2004: The top three teams (USC, Oklahoma and Auburn) were pretty easy to discern for both the eye test and the computer, as all three finished the regular season undefeated. They weren't the only ones, though. Utah earned its first undefeated season since 1930, and then-coach Urban Meyer said, "I truly believe we are one of the top six in the country." The selection committee would have had to make a choice between Utah's historic run and a one-loss Texas team that fell to highly ranked Oklahoma at a neutral site. Texas was shut out 12-0 for the first time in 281 games and had lost five straight in the storied rivalry. Utah, though, didn't face a ranked opponent all season. Louisville also made a case that season, with its lone loss coming on the road to a 9-3 Miami team.


2005: USC and Texas would have been no-brainers for the committee, as they were the only teams to finish the regular season undefeated and held the top two spots in the BCS standings all year. Beyond that, it gets a little tricky. Both the eye test and the computer went with Penn State and Ohio State. But what about Virginia Tech? LSU? That season, the Tigers' only two losses were to Tennessee and Georgia, which were both ranked. LSU beat Alabama on the road in overtime. How much weight would that carry with the committee? More than Ohio State's win at Michigan? Penn State was deserving with three wins over ranked opponents, and its lone loss came on the road against Michigan. The Nittany Lions' head-to-head win over the Buckeyes would bump them above Ohio State, but two Big Ten teams wouldn't have been a guarantee.

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