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BCS thoughts

Posted by Doug on October 20, 2006

The first set of BCS standings was released last weekend. As usual, nobody is happy with "the BCS," but different people are unhappy with different aspects of it, and very few people actually understand it. "The BCS" has basically become a synomym for "something about the structure of college football that I don't like."

It would make a lot of sense for the powers that be to do away with all the formulas and standings and just have a selection committee announce the bowl pairings on December 10th. They could still use the computers in an advisory capacity, as the college hoops people do.

It is admirable, I suppose, that they are attempting to make the process transparent by stating the formula in advance. But if they really wanted to make it transparent, they'd choose open-source computer algorithms. Of the six computer algorithms, only Wes Colley's is fully open to public inspection (major kudos to Colley for this). Peter Wolfe, Kenneth Massey, and Jeff Sagarin give some information about their methods but not enough to completely reconstruct their rankings. The only information on the The Anderson-Hester rankings page is so vague that it is totally useless. Rob Billingsley says an awful lot but ultimately leaves us with no real idea of the nuts and bolts of his ranking system, which incidentally is either the high or the low ranking (and is therefore thrown out) on nine of the top 10 teams in the current BCS standings.

Now I don't blame Jeff Sagarin and the others for not publishing the details of their systems. Not one bit. The algorithms are proprietary and, at least in Sagarin's case, I assume he makes money doing what he does. But I do blame the NCAA for choosing these algorithms when there are some perfectly fine open methods out there. David Mease's, for example, is very good in my opinion, as is Colley's, which they do use.

The fact that they did not select open methods tells me one of two things: (1) no one associated with the NCAA really understands any of these ranking methods or knows about the variety of methods that are available, or (2) they specifically do not want the process to be transparent. I suspect it's probably both, but more (2) than (1). The unveiling of the BCS standings each Sunday loses a bit of its suspense if nerds across the internet are able to compute and post them immediately after Saturday night's games. The human polls would still prevent the nerds from being able to compute exactly, and there are some nerds that do a pretty good job of it as is, but my suspicion is that the NCAA doesn't want transparency. It wants publicity. And the weekly unveiling of the standings each week provides that.

Enough of the rant.

Of all the teams with a reasonable shot at the title, I think I'll be pulling for the West Virginia Mountaineers. One thing I've noticed about the computer rankings is that the Big East is not the weakest of the BCS conferences, not by a long shot. In fact, almost every reputable computer algorithm that I've seen has them ahead of the Big XII and ACC.

My margin-of-victory-not-included ranking system of choice is similar to Wolfe's and is nearly identical to Mease's (referenced earlier). Here is the top 25:


Team W-L Rating
============================================================
1. SouthernCalifornia 6- 0 11.65 0.903
2. Michigan 7- 0 11.09 0.899
3. OhioState 7- 0 9.47 0.885
4. Florida 6- 1 6.38 0.844
5. Auburn 6- 1 5.93 0.836
6. Rutgers 6- 0 5.23 0.820
7. Louisville 6- 0 4.96 0.813
8. Arkansas 5- 1 4.85 0.810
9. BoiseState 6- 0 4.67 0.805
10. NotreDame 5- 1 4.57 0.802
11. California 6- 1 4.46 0.799
12. Tennessee 5- 1 4.21 0.791
13. WestVirginia 6- 0 3.88 0.779
14. Texas 6- 1 3.38 0.759
15. Oregon 5- 1 3.23 0.752
16. BostonCollege 5- 1 2.98 0.739
17. Clemson 6- 1 2.90 0.735
18. Nebraska 6- 1 2.90 0.735
19. Wisconsin 6- 1 2.87 0.733
20. GeorgiaTech 5- 1 2.53 0.712
21. Tulsa 5- 1 2.50 0.710
22. WakeForest 6- 1 2.46 0.708
23. TexasA&M 6- 1 2.46 0.707
24. LouisianaState 5- 2 2.43 0.706
25. Missouri 6- 1 2.38 0.702

When trying to sort out the relative strength of conferences, here is the view I like to look at. Here you'll see all the out-of-conference wins and losses by each conference, and the ranks of those teams.

Out-of-conference wins


Big East Big 10 Big XII ACC
==================================================================================
29 Navy 10 NotreDame 33 Washington 34 BrighamYoung
41 Maryland 14 Texas 43 SouthFlorida 59 CentralMichigan
46 Ohio 28 Pittsburgh 46 Ohio 64 Houston
47 Miami(Florida) 56 BowlingGreenSta 54 Louisiana-Lafay 66 Connecticut
60 KansasState 56 BowlingGreenSta 63 Texas-ElPaso 69 Syracuse
62 Kentucky 57 WesternMichigan 70 ArkansasState 72 MiddleTennessee
65 Indiana 58 Kent 72 MiddleTennessee 76 Cincinnati
72 MiddleTennessee 59 CentralMichigan 75 SouthernMethodi 79 Wyoming
79 Wyoming 69 Syracuse 82 Army 86 Mississippi
82 Army 71 Idaho 86 Mississippi 92 Rice
85 Akron 73 Vanderbilt 88 Alabama-Birming 97 FloridaAtlantic
87 EastCarolina 76 Cincinnati 91 NorthTexas 98 Troy
90 CentralFlorida 77 NorthernIllinoi 92 Rice 98 Troy
90 CentralFlorida 78 IowaState 93 NewMexico 100 LouisianaTech
94 MississippiStat 85 Akron 97 FloridaAtlantic 115 FloridaInternat
95 Illinois 107 BallState 97 FloridaAtlantic 115 FloridaInternat
95 Illinois 107 BallState 98 Troy 116 Temple
96 Virginia 108 SanDiegoState 99 Toledo 120 1AAOpponent
99 Toledo 116 Temple 100 LouisianaTech 120 1AAOpponent
101 NorthCarolina 117 Miami(Ohio) 100 LouisianaTech 120 1AAOpponent
101 NorthCarolina 117 Miami(Ohio) 105 Marshall 120 1AAOpponent
105 Marshall 118 EasternMichigan 113 Nevada-LasVegas 120 1AAOpponent
115 FloridaInternat 118 EasternMichigan 114 Louisiana-Monro 120 1AAOpponent
116 Temple 120 1AAOpponent 120 1AAOpponent 120 1AAOpponent
117 Miami(Ohio) 120 1AAOpponent 120 1AAOpponent 120 1AAOpponent
117 Miami(Ohio) 120 1AAOpponent 120 1AAOpponent
120 1AAOpponent 120 1AAOpponent 120 1AAOpponent
120 1AAOpponent 120 1AAOpponent 120 1AAOpponent
120 1AAOpponent 120 1AAOpponent
120 1AAOpponent 120 1AAOpponent
120 1AAOpponent 120 1AAOpponent
120 1AAOpponent 120 1AAOpponent
120 1AAOpponent

Out-of-conference losses


Big East Big 10 Big XII ACC
==================================================================================
3 OhioState 6 Rutgers 1 SouthernCalifor 6 Rutgers
22 WakeForest 10 NotreDame 3 OhioState 7 Louisville
22 WakeForest 10 NotreDame 7 Louisville 10 NotreDame
29 Navy 10 NotreDame 15 Oregon 13 WestVirginia
31 Iowa 11 California 30 WashingtonState 26 Alabama
48 VirginiaTech 46 Ohio 31 Iowa 28 Pittsburgh
50 MichiganState 66 Connecticut 37 Georgia 32 SouthernMississ
83 Kansas 69 Syracuse 51 ArizonaState 43 SouthFlorida
84 Nevada 61 TexasChristian 57 WesternMichigan
120 1AAOpponent 61 TexasChristian 85 Akron
120 1AAOpponent 64 Houston 87 EastCarolina
74 ColoradoState 120 1AAOpponent
82 Army
99 Toledo
120 1AAOpponent

The Big East doesn't have the quality wins that the Big 10 has, but it also doesn't have the multiple bad losses that the Big XII and ACC have. You can quibble about which set of wins and losses is best, but the point is that --- at least for 2006 --- the Big East is not a joke compared to the majority of the other BCS conferences (the SEC and Pac10 are a cut above the rest). I'm not going to claim that the Mountaineers (or Louisville or Rutgers) have a tough schedule, but by the time they've gotten through it, I'd have no problem calling it adequate.

This entry was posted on Friday, October 20th, 2006 at 3:29 am and is filed under BCS, College. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.