Poll Dancing: Week Ten, or Field Goal Of The Century

Sorry for the lateness of this week’s Dance.  I’m still recovering from the riveting drama and unparalleled excitement of Saturday’s Game Of The Century between LSU and Alabama which–despite what that ad might lead you to believe–did not actually contain any of those show-offy “touch-downs” that are all the rage with the kids these days.  How thrilling was the Greatest Game That Has Ever Been Played Since The Beginning Of Sentient Life, Including Imagined Contests And Computer Simulations?  Well, let me tell you: one quarter actually saw two separate field goals scored in under five minutes!

But if you missed out on all that craziness, don’t worry–the BCS is working hard to make sure you get another chance.  Thanks to the entire sports media universe pretending this was a great defensive battle, Alabama moved down from #2 to #3 in the BCS standings, ahead of Stanford and Boise State, who are actually still undefeated.  Now, you’re probably cool with Bama being on top of Boise, and I’m not entirely against it either (although it makes it impossible to argue that this system is inclusive of non-AQ programs), but you may be wondering how they’re ahead of Stanford.  Are you ready for Computer Bias?

Since no one is actually allowed to look at the computer formulas that make up that component of the BCS numbers, all we have to go on is what we can see.  And what we can see from looking at the difference in the human polls and the computers is a pattern that suggests that a pile of supposedly indifferent  machines somehow looks more favorably on SEC and Big 12 teams than those from other AQ conferences.

On average, an SEC team’s ranking in the computers will be 2.42 spots higher than it is in the polls.  A Big 12 team will get a stunning 5.6 spot boost (this number would be higher if I could include Baylor, who sits at #19 in the BCS computers and is unranked by either human poll).  Meanwhile, the ACC’s three teams rank 2.33 spots lower in the computers, the Pac-12’s two get dinged 3.25 spots, the Big East’s lone representative (Cincinnati) is 4 spots worse, and the Big Ten’s five teams are a whopping 7.8 spots lower.  Of the 11 teams from these 4 conferences, just one actually sits higher in the computers than the human polls.  That would be Clemson, checking in with a 0.5 spot bonus.  By contrast, only one of the 11 teams from the SEC and Big 12 is ranked lower by the computers (Georgia, at -1.5).

The most reasonable argument for this would be strength of schedule, which one has to assume the computers are programmed to look at.  However, this seems unlikely considering the three mid-major teams in the Top 25 (who unquestionably have easier schedules than any other ranked team) also benefit from the computers, besting their human rankings by 1.33 spots on average.

Granted, these numbers are based only on this week’s standings (although I noticed the discrepancy weeks ago), so it could be a coincidence.  Then again, it’s no secret that Big 12 and SEC play for BCS titles a lot and that the computer portion is the only part of the formula that is completely hidden from the public (at least we know who votes in the human polls).

For the record, if it were entirely up to the humans, the top 10 would be:

1. LSU
2t. Oklahoma State
2t. Stanford
4. Alabama
5. Boise State
6. Oregon
7. Oklahoma
8. Arkansas
9t. Clemson
9t. Virginia Tech

For your patience, I give you Gorilla Fight Of The Century!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: