Poll Dancing: Week Seven, or Garbage In Garbage Out

The first official BCS standings of the year are out, which means it’s time to kick the hatred up a notch.  By pure coincidence I’m sure, this was also released this week.  (Are these guys seriously going to try to make us buy a slightly updated book every year?  When did EA open a publishing house?)

Instantly, the #4 ranking of Oklahoma State stands out.  The Cowboys are ranked #6 in both human polls, but are the top team in the computer average, winning four out of the six included models.  Since I know that the humans who program the computers (let’s stop pretending that these algorithms are magically untainted by bias) are not allowed to consider margin of victory, I have to assume that these numbers are almost entirely schedule-based.  Except that doesn’t explain it either.

LSU, ranked #1/2 in the human polls is #3 in the computers, behind Oklahoma State and Alabama.  LSU holds a 13-point victory over Oregon, a team that has won each of its other 5 games so far by no fewer (and usually quite a bit more) than 14.  LSU also claims the only win over West Virginia, a 26-point dismantling of the Mountaineers on the road.

Oklahoma State’s signature wins are a 1-point win over Texas A&M and a 12-point victory over Texas.  Each of those teams has two losses, as well as one win of five points or fewer.

Further, in the human polls, Oregon is ranked #8/9 and WVU is #14 while Texas A&M is #18/19 and Texas is not even ranked.  However, on the computer-assisted human side, Oregon is #12 (with a high of 7 and low of 18), WVU is #21 (18/25), Texas A&M is #18 (10/22) and Texas is #19 (11/UR).  And yes, the same poll that has A&M at 10 has Texas at 11.  That would be the Massey poll, which also includes such hilarious classics as “#5 LSU” and “#20 Stanford.”

And that’s just LSU.  The Cowboys are also ahead of Alabama, a soul-crushing machine that dismisses opponents like Andy Rooney dismisses poor people; Wisconsin and Stanford, who have been making cupcakey early schedules look even worse; and Oklahoma, who will fortunately be able to settle it on the field this December.  (Chancees are, they’ll settle it well: over the past 5 years, the Sooners have beaten the Cowboys by an average of 16 points.)

And then there’s Boise State.  Many will stop here and start soapboxing about the Broncos’ schedule.  And I get that, but with the exception of conference-mate Colorado State, every team that Boise has played is currently at least tied for the top spot in their own conference or division.  Considering the high risk/low reward prospect for big-name teams and the scheduling difficulty that presents for Boise, this is essentially the most they could possibly do in their current situation.  And yet, even if they run the table, which would include a win over TCU, they will still need the dreaded “help” to get a shot at the title.

The BCS system seems to have determined that this year’s championship will be the result of a contest between the Big 12 and the SEC (at least one of these conferences has appeared in 11 of the 13 BCS title games played).  The Big Ten takes a notable hit from the computer portion of the standings, with three Big 12 teams and three SEC teams checking in before #11 Wisconsin, the highest-rated Big Ten team.  Two more SEC teams appear before the second Big Ten entry.

This is not to say that these teams and conferences aren’t deserving, but the methods of selection at work here are inscrutable at best, and perhaps even suspect.  You all know I want a playoff.  This year still has the potential to end with seven undefeated teams, including the champions of five of the six AQ conferences.  One would hope that even three of those teams plus an unbeaten Boise would lead to enough disgust with the system to inspire schools to seek legitimate change.

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