SEC Bowls: LSU and Florida Should Go Ahead of Auburn

Most bowl projection sites that I looked at over the past few days have Auburn going to the Sugar and Florida going to the Citrus. I hope ESPN’s Greg Ostendorf is right and LSU gets the Citrus (you can see his other projections as well), which would be a just result for my Tigers in my humble opinion. It would not be fair to Florida, but Florida is not exactly on my good side right now. So while personally I would not feel aggrieved as long as LSU is in the Sugar or Citrus, it still bothers me as someone who values fairness and logical consistency that Auburn would go ahead of either team.

In the new College Football Playoff (CFP) standings, Auburn is ahead of BOTH LSU and Florida.

It’s important to note that the Sugar Bowl and the SEC get no input. The Sugar is contractually bound to pick the best available SEC team in the College Football Playoff standings. It appears that unless Florida wins (or loses so valiantly that they move up), Auburn will go to the Sugar Bowl. It’s also possible that a Clemson loss could negatively affect Auburn.

How the SEC bowl selection process works.  For this year, it is assumed that only one SEC team will be in the top 4 and that the Cotton Bowl will not select an SEC team.

How the SEC bowl selection process works. For this year, it is assumed that only one SEC team will be in the top 4 and that the Cotton Bowl will not select an SEC team.

It will be very frustrating if LSU ties both Auburn and Florida in losses but falls below the top three SEC bowl slots (CFP semifinal which is all but guaranteed to Alabama, Sugar which will likely go to Auburn, and Citrus which will likely go to Florida).

I won’t be one to complain if Florida makes the Sugar Bowl, but LSU should at least get the Citrus (once known as the CapitalOne) Bowl over Auburn. I like my formula and if it were followed, LSU would also be out of the SEC top 3, but that’s not how this or similar systems have historically worked.

The way LSU is being treated is not in keeping with fair play. For instance, when LSU lost to Alabama, the Tigers fell 11 spots. Auburn just fell ONE spot even though they lost to the Tide by 8 more points than LSU did. That more than accounts for the current gap between Auburn and LSU of 7 spots. If Florida loses to Alabama, I’m guessing the Gators won’t fall 11 spots either.

CFP rankings after Alabama defeated LSU.  Florida was unranked.

CFP rankings after Alabama defeated LSU. Florida was unranked.

The three relevant teams in the current CFP rankings.

The three relevant teams in the current CFP rankings.

I know the argument is that if you lose to a team no matter how close it was, that team should go ahead if there is any ambiguity, but I think that’s wrong. It’s better to lose to the top 3 teams in the conference than it is to lose only one of the top 3 and to two 4-4 teams (Texas A&M and Georgia). In the whole season and despite the rocky start, LSU has only lost to one team that was not a division winner (Wisconsin won its division as well), and that was the road game against Auburn in September when the clock apparently expired to take what would have been the winning points off the board.

How does ending a season like Auburn did put you in the Sugar Bowl? Florida would also end with two losses, but I think ending with two losses in regular season conference play is worse than rivalry game on the road (against a team the committee tells us is better than anyone in the SEC but Alabama) followed by conference championship against the #1 team in the nation. Florida won’t fall to 5-3 in conference with a loss; they’d fall to 6-3 against SEC teams. Again, I have no problem with Florida getting the Sugar. The Gators played in a lesser division, but they did beat both of their regular-season SEC West opponents (which neither LSU nor Auburn can say about their SEC East opponents) and they will finish with a better record in conference.

There are multiple reasons my ratings look at things differently than bowl consideration has typically done.

The first that I touched on was how close the games were. LSU was less than a yard short of beating Florida and less than a second short of beating Auburn. I don’t give them any credit for that. I also don’t give them any credit for playing Alabama closes than anyone has since Ole Miss. By the way, make a mental note of that for when I talk about teams playing differently at different times of the season.

The second is that LSU has played one fewer game (I don’t think we need to go into why), but that has not historically been a reason to penalize a team. I don’t think anyone would question that LSU would have beaten South Alabama in a home game 10 days ago.

The third difference, which I already touched on, is I don’t give any benefit or penalty for recent versus early-season games.

I know it’s a completely different group of people, but the football committee is intentionally designed to be similar to the basketball committee. No one would question that if Team A’s only losses in the two months leading up to selection day were to two top-15 teams that Team A would go ahead of Team B who had the same record but who lost to one team in common and then lost to another team that wasn’t even in the top 40. Team B’s win over Team A earlier in the year would not overcome that.

This is another apparent difference from basketball. When there is a dramatic change—and there was a dramatic change in what kind of team LSU was, at least when they weren’t playing a really good rushing defense—you consider the team that is going to actually be playing much more than the team otherwise.

I’m just not seeing the logic unless they’re using my ratings as part of the formula and not telling me. If they are, LSU shouldn’t have fallen much after losing to Alabama though. Maybe they just started using it? I wonder if I got an email about that. I should check my junk mail more thoroughly.

It would be great if it were the case, but computers aren’t unanimous either. I’ll take the BCS ratings one at a time. One difference from mine is they tend to measure whether the team and its opponents are on the upswing or downswing.

Anderson and Hester: (17) Florida, (24) Auburn, (26) LSU
Billingsley: (14) Florida, (16) LSU, (31) Auburn
Colley: (19) Florida, (22) Auburn, (24) LSU
Massey: (14) LSU, (15) Auburn, (20) Florida
Wolfe: (18) Florida, (21) LSU, (24) Auburn
Sagarin: (8) LSU, (13) Auburn, (24) Florida
LSU average: 18.17 (2 first places among the three teams)
Florida average: 18.67 (4 first places among the three teams)
Auburn average: 21.5

I can see Florida just getting a freebie loss to Alabama since neither Auburn nor LSU has to play this weekend and someone saying it’s close enough given the other factors to give Florida the Sugar, but there is no good objective measure to justify putting Auburn first.

Is it because they have a more interesting offense than either LSU or Florida? If that’s the most important factor, how in the world is Washington State not even ranked? Put the Cougars ahead of all three by that measure. Also, Auburn’s offense hasn’t even been interesting lately. LSU scored 54 in the last game, and in the last three SEC games combined Auburn has only scored 35. So it’s best offense in October then? Ridiculous.

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