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Stats Corner: CFP Bias

Looking the G5/P5 Bias of the Committee

2023 Mountain West Championship - Boise State v UNLV Photo by Ian Maule/Getty Images

Bias could be defined as a showing favor for or against something. In the science fields, bias is known as a systematic error. When it comes to college football there are several polls, but only one that really matters is the College Football Playoff Selection Committee (CFP). The CFP has the job of selecting the match-ups that bring in the most revenue, I mean making sure the SEC has a spot, sorry I meant selecting the four best teams in the nation who would never cheat to win. Although, I would like to know who the 3 coaches were one voted Alabama #1 in the coaches poll ahead of Texas who beat them. Probably SEC coaches. Some people have argued there is a bias against non-Power 5 conference, for example the 2008 Utah Utes that was undefeated winning at Michigan, against Oregon State, and a bowl victory over Alabama. They were ranked 2nd in the final poll behind 13-1 Florida, who had lost at home to Ole Miss. This week on Stat’s Corner we are going to compare the CFP, AP, and Coaches poll for week 10 and week 15. There are other polls, but for sake of space we are just looking at first CFP and last CFP.

Week 10

Teams ranked lower by Selection Committee

James Madison AP 23rd, Coaches 24th , CFP not ranked. Despite being ranked in both the AP and Coaches polls and undefeated, the Dukes were left out and they were the only team ranked in both the AP and Coaches poll to be left off the Playoff list.

Tulane AP 21st, Coaches 21st , CFP 24th ranked. With only a loss to Ole Miss the Green Wave were ranked 21st in both polls, but the committee ranked them 3 spots lower.

Air Force AP 17th, Coaches 17th , CFP 25th. While the Falcons did squeeze into CFP, it was lower than both their rankings in the AP and Coaches polls. Despite the fact they were undefeated at the time and ranked higher than Tulane, they were below the Green. The argument that the Falcons would go on to lose 4 games in a row in irrelevant. The rankings are based, supposedly, on what you have done, not what the committee thinks you will do.

Penn State AP 9th, Coaches 9th, CFP 11st. The committee ranked the Tigers two places lower than either AP or the Coaches. At the time, the Niffany Lions were 7-1 with wins against West Virginia, Illinois, Iowa, and Northwestern, and a one possession lose to Ohio State.

Notre Dame AP 12th, Coaches 12th, CFP 15th. The committee was not as impressed with Notre Dame as the others despite their only losses were to Ohio State and Louisville.

Teams ranked higher by Selection Committee

Oklahoma State CFP 22nd other unranked. The surprise of the first CFP poll was Oklahoma State making the list ahead of Kansas State, Tulane, and Air Force despite not being ranked in either the AP or Coaches Poll.

USC AP 24th, Coaches 22nd, CFP 20th. I know, they had Caleb Williams and Lincoln Riley, so that deserves a boost, right?

Missouri AP 14th, Coaches 14th, CFP 12th. With wins over South Dakota, MTSU, and Vanderbilt, the Tigers were a powerhouse, or was it an SEC bump?

Louisville AP 15th, Coaches 15th, CFP 13th, somewhat ironic given how the committee treated Florida State’s victory over Louisville at the end of the season, but in the first poll, they were happy to boost the Cardinals a little.

There were 5 schools who were ranked lower by the Selection Committee, 3 of them were from the G5 conferences, and were a combined 23-1 at the time. On the flip side, all of the 4 teams which were ranked higher by the committee came from Power conference: ACC, Big 12, PAC 12 (2), and Big 10. Some people will argue that it is just random some schools will be ranked higher and other lower, and that is true. However, if it was random then you would see AAC and MWC schools being ranked lower and higher, the fact that it is only going one way indicates there is a Selection Committee bias against now-Power schools.

Week 15

Teams ranked lower by Selection Committee

Tulane AP 23rd, Coaches 24th, CFP unranked. Despite being ranked in both Coaches and AP, the committee was unimpressed with AAC team

James Madison AP 24th , Coaches 25th CFP unranked. See Tulane, except Sun Belt team.

Liberty AP 18th, Coaches 20th, CFP 23rd. At least they were undefeated and ranked, but see above and insert CUSA team.

SMU AP 17th, Coaches 19th, CFP 24th. How low can we drop the AAC team? Seven spots, that works.

Florida State AP 4th, Coaches 3rd, CFP 5th. Outside the top 4 in the only poll that matters. Sorry, Seminoles, rules require the committee include at least one SEC team.

Teams ranked higher by Selection Committee

Oregon State AP 21st, Coaches 22nd, CFP 19th. I guess losing back to backs does not mean much to the committee.

Tennessee AP 25th, Coaches 23rd, CFP 21st . SEC schools always deserve a bump, right?

Clemson AP unranked, Coaches unranked, CFP 22nd. They were good in the past, that means something.

Kansas State AP unranked, Coaches unranked, CFP 25th . Because we couldn’t rank two schools from the G5 conferences.

Another ranking, another case of not a single AAC , CUSA, Sun Belt or MWC school getting ranked higher by the committee. Just once would show that it can happen and would at least give some evidence to non-bias. Four schools were bumped up all from the P5 and 3 were from the conferences with teams in the playoffs. Coincidence? I think not.

The only P5 school that was bumped down was Florida State to make room for Alabama. The strange thing is the lack of SEC teams on the list, but we are told there is no SEC bias.