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College Football Playoffs Won't Please Everyone


Yes. College football fans love their teams, their schools, their mascots. But what they really love is complaining. So even when after long-last we get the college football playoff that fans and media have been clamoring for for decades, the focus the day after the Final Four was announced is not who is in, but who is out. And why were they left out? We'll talk about who's out and who's in with Holly Anderson of Grantland.com, who joins us from Atlanta. Welcome.

MARTY ANDERSON: Thanks, guys.

SIEGEL: First, the four teams that are in.

ANDERSON: We've got Alabama number out of the SCC. Oregon - the number two seat out of the Pac-12. Florida State seated third out of the ACC, and in the much coveted, much contested fourth slot, we have Ohio State out of the Big Ten.

SIEGEL: A slot very much coveted by Texas Christian University and Baylor. Were either of those schools, or for that matter, the entire state of Texas, robbed in the selection of the Final Four?

ANDERSON: Well, there's a very simple math problem. Every conference is going to produce one best team, and there's five of them. And there's four slots. This is going to happen every year. It happened that it was the Big 12's turn first.

SIEGEL: Now, the coach of the Baylor football team, Art Briles, was on ESPN Radio this morning. Here's a bit of him. He said that - well, he implied that the cards were stacked against his team because of what part of the country it's from.


ART BRILES: The only thing that I noticed on the committee was there's really not a strong voice from this part of the nation, you know? Archie Manning originally was on there. I know Archie. He's a great friend, and he's a guy that understands football, first and foremost, but he also knows football in this part of the nation. And that to me, you know, plays a big role.

SIEGEL: Archie Manning, he's speaking of - one-time great quarterback and father of quarterbacks. Does Briles have a point? Nobody from his part of the country on the committee?

ANDERSON: Briles is accurate in that demographically the South, where there is the greatest concentration of college football talent and big-money programs, is underrepresented demographically on the program. I'm not sure how much effect that had. Like, he's academically correct, but I'm not sure how much that played into it.

SIEGEL: Well, how do you grade the process that's produced this Final Four? This is the first time that we've seen this system in use. Did they get at least close to right?

ANDERSON: Well, first of all, I don't want to be Pollyanna-ish about this, but college football has one of the longest and most interminable off-seasons of any sport. It's eight months for some teams of total darkness. And what we're about to be presented with are four fantastic teams who are playing each other. I can't not love that. That said, I don't think there was a good decision for the committee to make at this point. There are arguments - valid arguments for each of these three teams for that number-four spot.

SIEGEL: Now, this is a new system this year. It used to be that there would be a computerized-ranking system that included the sports writers' poll, coaches' poll and all sort of data, and that would produce the top two teams. Instead a committee of human beings is picking the top four. Did anybody run this year's season against the old computerized system and see what it would have produced?

ANDERSON: Yes. Actually yesterday, the folks at bcsknowhow.com - they ran a simulated BCS poll. And Texas isn't going to like this - they came out with the same top four teams.

SIEGEL: But they would have produced a different top two in that case.

ANDERSON: Well, and that's what I think we need to remember about the playoff. And again, I'm not trying to be a Pollyanna, but if this were the BCS - while I agree that a great swath of the state of Texas has a good reason to be mad - Ohio State fans would've had a great reason to be mad, too, if they'd been left out. That's the terrible, terrible beauty of this sport.

SIEGEL: That's Holly Anderson, college football columnist for ESPN's Grantland.com. Holly, thank you.

ANDERSON: Thanks, guys. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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