-- Choosing the four teams for the College Football Playoff is one of the most subjective, ambiguous processes of determining a national champion in all of college sports.
That is, unless you follow the selection committee's 11 commandments.
Believe it or not, there's a method to the madness. There is protocol to be followed, and now there is two years of data to be analyzed. You want in, TCU? Michigan? LSU? Pay attention.
The committee says thou shalt ...
1. Play a challenging schedule
"One of the top criteria we have in our rankings is strength of schedule. We look at all of those things. I know when we're comparing schools or looking at schools, we throw it right up on the screen: who'd they play, what their opponents' records were. That's very important -- your quality wins." -- CFP committee member Barry Alvarez
2. Win your conference
"I think that win over that highly ranked team added to the rest of their body of work caused Michigan State to be ranked ahead of Oklahoma." -- Former committee chairman Jeff Long on Dec. 6, 2015
3. Lose early, not late
4. Win the head-to-head debate
"TCU went behind Baylor because I think people when they voted took into account finally the head-to-head. People would say why don't you take the head-to-head during the season? Because at that point, there are games that are being played, and one team's schedule might be significantly more challenging than another team's schedule, but once you've been through playing the whole conference slate and you're on even footing, and that's when you have to get it right." -- Former committee member Mike Tranghese
5. Pass the eye test
6. Don't assume undefeated means No. 1
"There is debate about that. There's certainly those who view a team coming from behind and winning as a sign of a strong team, and there's others who might believe that they're a good enough team, they should have been in front or more in control of the game as they progressed." -- Long on FSU, Nov. 25, 2014
7. Find a Heisman-caliber QB (unless you're Alabama)
8. Don't write anyone off in Week 1 (except Houston)
"You can recover. Teams change from the beginning of the year to the end of year." -- Alvarez
9. Two teams from the same conference can be in the top four
"Our protocol clearly says there can be more than one team from a conference in the final four, so that's definitely a possibility," -- Long on Dec. 1, 2015
10. Don't panic over injuries
"One notable injury this week to Ohio State's quarterback, J.T. Barrett, did not affect the week's rankings. The committee will evaluate the Buckeyes without him in the Big Ten championship game this weekend. -- Long, Dec. 2, 2014
11. Don't get comfortable until the final ranking is revealed
"I don't really care if I get it right during the year. I'm not worried about it. I'm only worried about getting it right the last week of the year. If we get every week wrong but we get it right at the end of the year, then we get it right." -- Tranghese