One of the most game changing moments in college football history will take place at 6:30 this evening on ESPN when the first ever college football playoff rankings are announced by the College Football Playoff Selection Committee.
The committee, tasked with determining the four teams that will participate in the National Semifinals and placing teams in the Cotton, Peach, and Fiesta, the three bowls known as the "access bowls" because they will be filled by the committee in the seasons they do not host the national semifinal. For those wondering, the Sugar (SEC vs. Big 12), Rose (Big Ten vs. Pac-12), and Orange (ACC vs. SEC/Big Ten/Notre Dame) are still on the contract system, but whenever one of these bowls host a semifinal, that bowl is not stipulated to pick a team from the conferences on the contract.
The selection committee will go through seven rounds of voting on the Monday and Tuesday leading up to each ranking announcement. With no system such as RPI in place, the committee, which meets in person, will use criteria such as win-loss record, strength of schedule, records against common opponents, head-to-head results, and also look at injuries and conference championships.
Below comes from a the release concerning the voting process and how it works on collegefootballplayoff.com:
College Football Playoff Selection Committee Voting Process
1. Each committee member will create a list of the 25 teams he or she believes to be the best in the country, in no particular order. Teams listed by three or more members will remain under consideration.
2. Each member will list the best six teams, in no particular order. The six teams receiving the most votes will comprise the pool for the first ranking step.
3. In the first ranking step, each member will rank those six teams, one through six, with one being the best. The three teams receiving the fewest points will become the top three seeds. The three teams that were not seeded will be held over for the next ranking step.
4. Each member will list the six best remaining teams, in no particular order. The three teams receiving the most votes will be added to the three teams held over to comprise the next ranking step.
5. Steps No. 3 and 4 will be repeated until 25 teams have been seeded. There will be seven rounds of voting; each round will consist of a "listing step" and a "ranking step."
Overall, this is a fairly deliberative process that puts making the final four for the playoff go into two separate votes which forces the committee to thoroughly examine the final team that make the playoff. Once the teams are seeded Nos. 1-4, the committee will place the No. 1 seed at the location, either the Rose or Sugar Bowl, that gives it the greatest advantage in its matchup. With most of the teams looking at coming out of the ACC or SEC this year, it seems a given that the No. 1 seed will play in New Orleans in the Sugar Bowl, and for those wondering, the semifinal can be a rematch from the season.
After the four championship teams have been placed, any contract bowls, this year, only the Orange Bowl, will fill its slots. After that occurs, the selection committee will fill the rest of the spots in the access bowls.
As to the participants of the access bowls, the process has the following steps:
1. Any conference champion failing to make the national semifinal that would have been contracted to a bowl game hosting the semifinal that year will be selected. For example, the Big Ten champion may not make the semifinals this year, but the Big Ten champion is contracted to play in the Rose Bowl. If that situation occurs, the Big Ten Champion must play in either the Peach, Cotton, Fiesta, or Orange Bowl this year.
2. The highest-ranked, non-contract conference champion will be included in one of the access bowls.
3. After all displaced conference champions and the highest-ranked non-contract champion have been placed in bowls, the committee will use the highest ranked teams to fill the rest of the slots in the bowl matchups. In doing so, they will use the following factors in order to create "the best matchups," however these factor will not carry importance on the seeding nor will they solely control the placement process:
- The committee will use geography as a consideration in the pairing of teams and assigning them to available bowl games.
- The committee will attempt to avoid regular-season rematches when assigning teams to bowls.
- To benefit fans and student-athletes, the committee will attempt to avoid assigning a team, or conference, or the highest-ranked champion of a non-contract conference, to the same bowl game repeatedly.
- The committee will consider regular-season head-to-head results when assigning teams to bowls.
- The committee will consider conference championships when assigning teams to bowls.