Is the ACC at a disadvantage in a 4-Team playoff format?

Recently I took a look at the two 4 Team playoff formats, conference champions or 4 team playoffs.  I concluded that in either scenario if you simply win games you’ll have a shot at the playoff.

Now I want to go through those same rankings and look at it from ACC football perspective. I had started writing this article last month, but got delayed by the expansion wildfire. You may be asking what about expansion? I’ve given my last thoughts on that topic, and you can view them here if you wish.

With the playoff format decision on the horizon, I thought I’d go ahead and finish the post up.

It’s a virtual certainty that we are going to get a 4 team playoff in college football. The format has yet to be decided. It might be the 4 highest rated teams, it might be the 4 highest rated conference champions. In either case much has been written that under either scenario that the ACC would more often than not be left out.

Only the 2007 Virginia Tech Hokies have finished in the top 4 in the Final BCS standings. At first glance it would appear the ACC is a severe disadvantage, but this is not true. Since the ACC’s completed expansion in 2005, not one single major conference school that was undefeated in the regular season finished outside the top 4 in the Final BCS rankings. That includes the 2009 undefeated Cincinnati Bearcats of the Big East. So 4 1 loss teams making the 4 team playoffs over an undefeated ACC team isn’t going to happen. An undefeated ACC team will without question be in the top 4, but what about a 1 loss ACC team? I wager in most years a 1 loss ACC would be right in the thick on the National Championship discussion.

Let’s look at things from the top 4 teams format which is generally considered the harder of the two formats for inclusion.

This is where it gets interesting…. We go from the Final BCS ranking since expansion.

2005 BCS Rankings

Week 12 had an 8-1 Miami team 3rd in the BCS while  8-1 Virginia Tech was 6th. LSU lost in Week 14. Had Miami or Virginia Tech ran the table with the 1 loss they are in the playoffs. Virginia Tech was sitting 5th in Week 14.

 2006 BCS Rankings

Week 12 had the 7-1 Clemson Tigers 12th in the BCS. 9 of the 11 teams ahead of Clemson lost before the season ended. LSU at 10-2 was the 4th BCS team, but in week 12 was 16th and behind Clemson. It’s hard to see LSU overtaking a Clemson team that didn’t lose another game, but it’s close. I can’t guarantee the ACC gets in this year if Clemson runs the table, but they’d have a definite shot.

2007 BCS Rankings

Virginia Tech finished the year 3rd. They would have been in the playoffs. In addition Boston College at 8-0 was 2nd in the BCS and clearly would have been in the playoffs had they won out. A 12-1 BC would have made it too, since 3 of the final 4 teams had 2 losses. Kansas was a 1 loss team that gets left out because they lost very late in the year.

2008 BCS Rankings

The last remaining 1 loss ACC team was Florida State in week 9 and they were 15th in the BCS. With 7 1 loss teams it’s a roll of the dice. The Noles would have played highly ranked Florida to the end the season and 9-3 Georgia Tech team which would have given them a big boost. Consider a 1 loss USC, Penn State, and Texas Tech are left out this year. A 1 loss FSU team has a chance.

2009 BCS Rankings

Georgia Tech sat 7th in the BCS at 10-1 in Week 12, but in a year than finished with 4 undefeated teams (Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati, and TCU) the ACC is on the outside looking in this year.

2010 BCS Rankings

Florida State was 16th at 6-1 in the BCS Standings. This is similar to the 2009 season. Auburn, Oregon and TCU went undefeated and 1,2,3 in the final rankings. Stanford was 12-1 and finished 4th, but 1 loss Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Michigan St were would be left out. Wow no wonder the Big 10 in pushing the conference champion format. I think FSU doesn’t make it even running the table.

2011 BCS Rankings

Clemson was 5th in the BCS and 8-0 in week 8 ahead of undefeated Stanford and Kansas St. Win out and they easily make the playoff. By week 11 though Clemson had lost a game but was in 7th position followed by Virginia Tech in 8th place. The Hokies eventually got to 5th and had they played a top 10 Clemson team rather than a 3 loss one, it would have come down to percentage points that could have moved to 4th. 1 loss Clemson on the other hand was ahead of 1 loss Stanford in week 11. If the Tigers had beat top 15 BCS teams South Carolina and Virginia Tech to finish the season, they would have mostly likely stayed ahead of Stanford and possibly pushed 3rd ranked Oklahoma.

So what have learned from this?

It seems that any ACC team that made it through 3/4 of the season undefeated would have easily made the 4 team playoffs. Of the last remaining 1 loss ACC teams, win out and in 2005 (Miami or Virginia Tech), 2007 (Boston College or Virginia Tech), 2011 (Clemson) also makes the playoffs.

The 2006 Clemson team and 2008 FSU are the discussion with 1 loss. 2009 and 2010 are the two years the ACC’s 1-loss team probably doesn’t make it due to the high number of undefeated teams those years.

So your telling me in years the ACC goes undefeated they are playing for the title? Yep. No doubt. In years where there are 1 loss, of the last 7 years, 3 years you make it, 2 years you have a shot, and 2 years almost no chance because 7 of the 8 teams are undefeated. We’ve seen examples Pac 12, Big 12, and especially Big 10 where their 1 loss teams are left out.  Only the SEC appears immune to having other 1 loss teams ranked ahead of them, but when you win the last 6 National Title, you get the benefit of the doubt.

The numbers prove out a 1 loss ACC team will always be in the discussion for the national title and in 3 of the 5 years where there are multiple 1 loss teams they look very solid to make the playoffs. As before, you win, have an elite record (0-1 losses) and you will be there at the end.

2 pings

  1. New Playoff Format provides “opportunity” for ACC. » All Sports Discussion says:

    […] At the end of the day what does this all mean? It means the ACC has more opportunities than ever to get into higher profile bowl games against higher caliber opponents. It means that access to the national title is better than it’s ever been, and please if someone tries the SOS argument, I’ve already addressed that.   […]

  2. Florida State’s rise to number 2 in the BCS rankings debunks an expansion era myth. » All Sports Discussion says:

    […] With only one BCS year left, I aimed to disprove this last June, by asking was the ACC really at a disadvantge in the 4 team playoff?  […]

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