Playoff committee's SOS challenge

Schedule strength is a key playoff determinant. How should it be measured?

Originally Published: August 25, 2014
By Brad Edwards | ESPN Insider

Hancock/LongAP Photo/Tony GutierrezMeasuring SOS will be a major challenge for Bill Hancock (left), Jeff Long and the CFP committee.

In analyzing the factors that will determine which four teams will make the inaugural College Football Playoff, it's best to first visit the CFP's website to take a look at the data the selection committee members will use to make their decisions.

The first three things listed are win-loss records, strength of schedule (SOS) and conference championships won. It sounds straightforward. But it's not. The first and third criteria are rather easy to calculate, but figuring out how to apply any of that information will be more of a challenge for the committee than most people realize.

The reason is that not all win-loss records are equal; neither are conference championships. And schedule strength is the reason why. Teams play vastly different nonconference schedules. Some leagues play eight conference games; some play nine. Some leagues have a conference championship game; the Big 12 doesn't. The selection committee's job is to attempt to balance it all.

Here's a look at the challenges associated with the selection committee's playoff criteria and how to best judge schedule strength.

The dilemma

The first issue with strength of schedule is defining it.

• Analyzes college football and the CFB Playoff as part of ESPN's Stats & Information Group
• Analyst for both College GameDay on ESPN Radio and the ESPN College Football app