By Chuck Burton
College Sports Journal
PHILADELPHIA, PA. — The members of the College Football Playoff committee have been spending the last week in Dallas walking through hypothetical playoff selection scenarios, which makes it the perfect time to make a fantasy, hypothetical scenario for playoff selection and how it might play out in the smoke–filled room.
It’s the end of the 2013 season, and the current, real members of the 2014 College Football Playoff committee is in a Mad Men-esque conference room outside of Dallas, Texas, figuring out who the heck they will be picking.
(Interior, fade in. Cigar smoke fills the air as we pan in on the CFP members, in front of glowy boat anchor computer monitors and green bar printouts on a wodden conference table, in the middle of discussion.)
Tom Jernstedt, former NCAA executivevice president: So, are we any closer to picking the four teams?
(A sleepy Condoleezza Rice, Stanford University professor and former U.S. Secretary of State, wakes up from the table, her cell phone vibrating on the steel conference table. She looks at a text, nods, and whispers something to Lieutenant General Mike Gould, former superindendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy. He grabs his jacket, and runs out of the room.)
TJ: Everything OK, Condy?
CR: Yes, Tom. Mike has, a, erm, prior engagement. He had to fly to London for… um… something.
Barry Alvarez, director of athletics, University of Wisconsin: Hey, look, guys! They brought us more donuts!
TJ: So let’s look at the ballots again.
Tom Osborne, legendary head coach at Nebraska: I can’t read this damned newfangled green bar printouts! Printouts! Have we forgotted what a goddammned NOTEPAD is? (pulls out a notepad)
Steve Wieberg, former college football reporter, USA: Tom, tom, relax, I’ve made a chart that makes it easier to comprehend.
TO: All I see is a big red area with the SEC logo in it, and a smiley face, along with a smaller blue area with the Big XII and a frowny face.
Mike Tranghese, former commissioner of the Big East conference (sobbing): Sure, SURE! Make a graphic higlighting the Big 12, and don’t even mention Louisville or the rest of the Big East… the Big East… (blows nose on Barry Alvarez’ sleeve)
BA (his mouth full): Mmmmppph! Use your own sleeve, crybaby!
Pat Haden, director of Athletics, USC: Dude, DUDE, relax, man! (Sound of door opening.) Oh, over here, dude!
TJ: What the…
PH: Don’t worry, TJ. We’re just learing who’s going to be the four playoff teams, and having some food. Here, dude, keep the change. (Pays the pizza delivery guy, who looks suspiciously like Pac 12 commissioner Larry Scott, while Condoleezza Rice rolls her eyes.)
(Barry Alvarez drops half a cruller and grabs a slice of pepperoni.)
TJ: Order, ORDER! The only way we’re going to get through this God-forsaken vote is to go over the votes again, look at the data one more time, and come to a conclusion.
(Mike Tranghese, his eyes red from bawling, shoots a look at Tom Jernstedt.)
TJ: But first, I almost forgot, let’s take a moment to discuss the relative merits of one of the mid-major conferences (the words which cause Tranghese to cry a little louder) for one of the championship games. 11-1 UCF, 11-1 Louisville, 11-1 Fresno State, and 12-1 Northern Illinois. Come on, lets hear the positives in favor of any of these teams.
(Three minutes of silence. The sound of Barry Alvarez eating pizza and slurping coffee fills the room.)
TJ: OK, Now that that’s over, let’s look at the votes once again. To recap, the teams we’re seriously considering for the four-team playoff are 13-0 Florida State (another cry from Mike Tranghese), 12-1 Auburn, 11-1 Alabama, 12-1 Michigan State, 11-1 Baylor, 12-1 Ohio State, and 11-2 Stanford.
CR, covering her ears: LA LA LA LA LA I AM NOT HEARING THIS
TJ: Sorry, Condy. I forgot about the recusal rules. Oliver, you go first.
Oliver Luck, Director of Athletics, West Virginia (wearing a Colts jersey): Thanks, Tom. So my vote for the teams in the four-team playoff are Baylor, Florida State, Michigan State, and Ohio State.
OL: Well, Baylor laid down 73 points on my Mountaineers. 73! That’s quite a lot. Also, Maryland beat the crap out of us, too, and Florida State beat the crap out of them, so they have to be good.
TJ: Why Michigan State and Ohio State?
OL: Well, the highlights showed they were pretty good teams. I think Ohio State was ranked at one point, and that generally means they’re really, really good. Also, the guys in the parking lot of the Colts games seemed to think they were really, really, good too – Ohio State that is. And if Michigan State beat them, that means that they’re REALLY good.
(Archie Manning, legendary Ole Miss quarterback, wearing half a Peyton Manning jersey, the other half an Eli Manning jersey rolls his eyes.)
AM: Has nothing to do with your Big 10 envy. Oliver?
OL: Shut UP, Archie. I see that face runs in the family.
(Archie Manning growls, looking not unlike Peyton during the 2009 Super Bowl.)
TJ: OK, next up is Jeff.
(Jeff Long, Director of Athletics, Arkansas, flicks up the brim of his hat. He mysteriously takes a piece of paper out of his raincoat, and reads off the names.)
JL: Alabama, Auburn, Missouri, South Carolina.
Tyrone Willingham, former FB head coach: Jeff! You’re crazy as hell, you know that? YOU KNOW THAT? Missouri? South Carolina? Really?
JL, looking away, lighting a cigar: That’s sucker talk. My reasons for my vote are my own.
AM: Dat’s my vote, too. I voted them too because, um, Alabama and Auburn played the game of the year for the Iron Bowl, and South Carolina’s and Missouri had, um, better strength of schedule.
(Dan Radakovich, director of Athletics, Clemson, grabs Manning’s ballot.)
DR: Is this Slive’s handwriting?
(Long glares at Manning.)
JL (whispering through his teeth): TYPEWRITER, Archie. TYPEWRITER.
TJ: Next up: Condy, who also has General Gould’s vote as well.
CR: Gould has, um, let’s just say, ANFORD-Stay (whispered) as his first team, followed by Michigan State, Ohio State, and Oregon. He didn’t have time to give his reasons before heading to London.
BA: Gee, real surprise there.
CR: As for me, I can’t vote for that fine, private California research university who NOT ONLY won a super-challenging Pac-12 – and whose academic reputation, eminent alumni, influence and wealth (which can be spread around, if you know what I mean) are world-renowned, so I guess instead my four teams are: Florida State, UCF, Auburn, and Alabama.
MT, under his breath: Gee Condy, any Republican governors there to which you DON’T owe political favors?
MT: Auburn, Alabama, Michigan State, Stanford.
DR: No undefeated Florida State, Mike, really?
MT: Shut UP DAVE, RUINER OF CONFERENCES!! CONFERENCE RUINER!!! CONFERENCE RUINER!!! (sobs)
TJ: Dan, your turn.
DR: I have Florida State, Auburn, Alabama, and UCF.
MT (sobbing): IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WON’T DO
TJ: Please, please. Order. Order! Tom Osborne, your turn.
TO, peering through glasses on handwritten paper: Thanks, Tom. My vote is for Ohio State, Stanford, Florida State, and Michigan State. My reason for picking them is I did my damndest to avoid playing them all when I coached the Huskers. Those Buckeyes were a challenge to play, let me tell you….
TJ (cutting him off): Next up, Pat Haden.
PH, mouthful of pizza: OK, OK! Dude. Stanford, Baylor, Auburn, and Michigan State. You know, it was kind of a humungous honor to be here to pick these teams. But just like I told the guy on ABC, “Danger is my business!” It’s a way of life, it’s no hobby. It’s a way of looking at those Sagarin ratings and saying, “Hey, Bud, let’s party!”
TJ: Barry Alvarez?
TW, whispering to Pat Haden: Give me that piece of paper from the pizza box.
BA: Michigan State, Ohio State, Florida State, Stanford. Any more pepperoni, Pat?
PH: Sure, dude, feast away.
TW (quickly): Let me get that piece of plain over there first… (grabs a piece of pizza with what looks like an envelope baked into it)
TJ: Steve Wieberg?
SW: Thanks, Tom. After looking over all the formulae for strength of schedule, looking at Massey’s Sagarin ratings and the Pugh Matrix, crossing that with the old BCS formula while adding cross-weight with the AP Top 25 to place more of the human element into the mix, my computers came up with: Florida State, Alabama, Ohio State, and Stanford.
MT (sobbing): Schedule strength! SCHEDULE STRENGTH! Tell me something new, Steve! A Big East Team would never, ever get enough strength of schedule to get atop your formulas!
SW: Um, Mike, the Big East isn’t…. (MT sobs some more.)
TJ: Finally, we have Tyrone Willingham, and my vote following that.
TW: Stanford because I coached there…
CR, covering her ears: LA LA LA LA LA LA LA
TW: Michigan State because Notre Dame beat them…
SW: Precisely why they’re NOT in my computed teams for the playoff.
TW: And Auburn and Alabama, because those are two real bad-ass teams, you’ve got to admit.
(Jeff Long looks quizzically at Willingham, looking for a typewritten piece of paper.)
JL (whispering to Archie Manning): Ty ate the paper, Archie. Smart guy.
AM: I owned Alabama’s and Auburn’s asses at Ole Miss, Ty, you know that, right?
TO: They weren’t diddly crap when I coached against them. I remember back in 1977, what a game…
OL: My son would kick your son’s ass, Archie.
AM: Bite me, Oliver.
BA: Where’s the hot sauce? You need hot sauce on pepperoni pizza. I learned that when I whooped on Auburn in the Capital One Bowl!
DR: How can you have a ballot without Florida State? ACC NUMBER ONE WE’RE UNDEFEATED FER CRISSAKES
(TJ rips a blank sheet off of Tom Osborne‘s notepad, and writes down four names: Florida State, Michigan State, Stanford, and Auburn. He faxes it off to the New York Times, with “The Four Teams” listed and underlined above it. Then he collapses on the table.)