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Algorithmicizing the human polls

Posted by Doug on August 24, 2007

I still have not finalized the details of my attempt to algorithmicize college football's human polls. Since this project is too silly to post on any day other than Friday, and since this is the last Friday before the season starts, I guess I'd better nail it down right here.

In the above-linked post, I laid out a rough draft of an algorithm for ranking college football teams that would match up with the human poll at the end of the year. I knew that that formula in that post probably wouldn't end up being the finished product, and was hoping to get some suggestions from the readership (that's you). As usual, I did get good suggestions. In particular, both JKL and Pat noted that there needs to be a mechanism for vaulting teams up in the rankings when they beat a team ranked ahead of them, especially early in the season. They're right.

So here is the new system:

STEP 1: Build the preseason rankings - this will be done just as described in the earlier post:

1a. First rank all the BCS conference schools

1a(i). put them in order of last year's final poll (including the "others receiving votes" part)

1a(ii). order the non-vote-receiving teams by their 2006 winning percentage, with ties broken by perceived conference superiority: SEC > Big 10 > Big 12 > Pac 10 > ACC > Big East (note: since Notre Dame was "ranked" at the end of 2006, there is no need to make a special rule for them. Should the need arise in future years (yeah, like this thing is going to survive past week 3, much less into future years), they will be treated as a Big 10 team.)

1b. rank the non-BCS teams, first using last year's final poll, then ranking the rest by record, ties broken alphabetically (A's first)

1c. put all the non-BCS teams behind all the BCS teams to create the preseason rankings.

STEP 2: weekly adjustments

2a. deal with the losers first

2a(i). teams that lose by 9 or fewer points to a team ranked higher drop 2 spots.
2a(ii). teams that lose by 10 or more points to a team ranked lower drop 10 spots.
2a(iii). all other losing teams drop 5 slots.
2a(iv). all losing teams drop an additional 5 slots if they lost their previous game as well.
2a(v). all ties broken by the previous week's rankings. [for example, if the #1 team loses by 3 points, they should drop to #6. Meanwhile, if the #4 team loses to the #2 team by 3 points, they should also drop to #6. In this case, the former #1 would be #6 and the former #4 would be #7.]

At this point all the losers have a ranking. We need only order the rest of the teams, then fill them in to the empty slots in order.

2b. ordering the non-losers. (All references to "teams" below refer only to the non-losing teams.)

2b(i). starting with the lowest-ranked (worst) team, we look at each team in turn. If they beat a top 25 team, then they leapfrog int((.5 - .02r_1)r_2) teams, where r_1 is the previous rank of the beaten team, r_2 is the previous rank of the winning team, and int() is the greatest integer function (i.e. round down).

That's it. I'd like to point out that, even though it took a fair amount of verbiage, this isn't as complicated as it seems. The basic idea is: drop the losers down, move up the big winners, and fill everyone else in in the same order as the previous week.

I honestly have no idea how this is going to work out. I hope I'll be able to keep up with it throughout the season. Here is the preseason poll:

1. Florida
2. Ohio State
3. LSU
4. USC
5. Wisconsin
6. Louisville
7. Auburn
8. Michigan
9. West Virginia
10. Oklahoma
11. Rutgers
12. Texas
13. Cal
14. Arkansas
15. Wake Forest
16. Virginia Tech
17. Notre Dame
18. Boston College
19. Oregon State
20. Tennessee
21. Penn State
22. Georgia
23. Nebraska
24. Texas A&M
25. Georgia Tech
26. South Carolina
27. Maryland
28. Texas Tech
29. Kentucky
30. South Florida
31. Missouri
32. Clemson
33. Cincinnati
34. Purdue
35. Kansas State
36. Oklahoma State
37. UCLA
38. Oregon
39. Arizona State
40. Florida State
41. Miami (FL)
42. Kansas
43. Washington State
44. Arizona
45. Pittsburgh
46. Alabama
47. Minnesota
48. Iowa
49. Indiana
50. Washington
51. Virginia
52. Ole Miss
53. Vanderbilt
54. Northwestern
55. Michigan State
56. Baylor
57. Iowa State
58. UConn
59. Syracuse
60. Mississippi State
61. NC State
62. North Carolina
63. Illinois
64. Colorado
65. Stanford
66. Duke
67. Boise
68. BYU
69. TCU
70. Hawaii
71. Houston
72. Central Michigan
73. Navy
74. San Jose State
75. Ohio
76. Southern Miss
77. Nevada
78. Troy
79. Tulsa
80. Utah
81. Western Michigan
82. East Carolina
83. Middle Tennessee
84. Northern Illinois
85. Rice
86. Arkansas State
87. Kent State
88. La-Lafayette
89. SMU
90. Wyoming
91. New Mexico
92. Akron
93. Ball State
94. Florida Atlantic
95. Marshall
96. Toledo
97. UTEP
98. Air Force
99. Bowling Green
100. Fresno State
101. Idaho
102. La-Monroe
103. New Mexico State
104. Tulane
105. UCF
106. Colorado State
107. Army
108. La Tech
109. North Texas
110. San Diego State
111. UAB
112. Buffalo
113. Memphis
114. Miami (OH)
115. UNLV
116. Eastern Michigan
117. Temple
118. Utah State
119. Florida International