Search Results for: poll dancing

Poll Dancing: Week Fourteen, or This Time the Field Goals Are Personal

It’s the rare sequel that lives up to the original.  Those that surpass (The Godfather Part II, The Dark Knight) are rarer still.  Of course, with movies that’s generally because movies that inspire sequels are actually good.  At the very least, they’re popular.  In college football, apparently all it takes is that the sequel be in the best interest of ESPN.

On Saturday morning (by pure chance, as I usually don’t even watch) I had GameDay on and heard an exchange between someone and Kirk Herbstreit (that’s how much attention I was paying).  Herbstreit was asked who deserved the #2 spot besides Alabama and made a big show of not being able to produce an answer.  This was before Oklahoma State destroyed Oklahoma in what amounted to the Big 12 championship game.  The Cowboys finished the regular season with just a single loss–a double overtime stunner on the road at 6-6 Iowa State.

I thought for sure that the BCS computers would boost Oklahoma State into the national title game.  As you know, Big 12 teams have received tremendous (suspicious, even) benefit of the doubt from the machine portion of the ratings pretty much all year.  And they didn’t let me down.  Only two computers had the Cowboys at #3.  The other four had them at #2 as expected.  So what happened?

ESPN decided, in direct contrast to their no-rematch mantra in 2006 when voters fatefully picked Florida over Michigan to face Ohio State, that suddenly the only thing that mattered was “quality of loss.”  What they really decided, of course, was that their enormous TV deal with the SEC could benefit from (and perhaps even be justified by) having two SEC teams face off for the title, even though they had already played in what was at the time billed as the Game of the Century.  That the game will be on their channel is just a coincidence, I’m sure.  The “quality of loss” nonsense is just the easiest way to sell it to the voters and the public.

But is that really all that matters?  If so, then where is the argument for Boise State?  Their only loss was by one point to 10-2 TCU.  Shouldn’t they be ranked ahead of Oklahoma State too?  Stanford’s only loss is to 11-2 Oregon.  Virginia Tech has two losses, but they’re both to 10-3 Clemson.  No one is arguing for these teams, because elevating them does not achieve maximum benefit for ESPN.

How about quality wins?  Alabama beat 3 teams in the final BCS top 25 (#s 6, 22, and 25).  Oklahoma State beat 4 (#s 8, 12, 14, and 24).  If nothing else, that should even out the imbalance of their comparative losses.  Of course, then there’s that whole business of Oklahoma State actually winning their conference.  ESPN will tell you (over and over and over) that Alabama shouldn’t be punished because they play in the same division with the best team in the country.  But Michigan was punished for that in 2006, until we learned that maybe Ohio State wasn’t the best team in the country (at least not that night).  Georgia was punished similarly the following year, before ESPN was knee deep in SEC hoopla, for basically the same thing Alabama is now being rewarded for.

So what’s the answer?  Obviously, shady computers and easily-manipulated polls aren’t working.  A national title game featuring two teams from the same division is a joke, a mockery of the very idea of competition.  At this point, I’ll take ANY advancement of the postseason, even if it’s only a plus-one (which I still don’t think is enough, but at least it would solve this year’s main problem).

Next week, I’ll give you the preliminary concept for a national ranking system that does not have the trappings of the current system.  While there is no way to avoid all forms of bias, the most egregious tampering (coaches/fans having a direct impact on the standing of their team through voting) can be eliminated.  Hopefully, it will work well with all postseason concepts, although I doubt it would be that great for a two-team BCS-style format because that’s completely stupid.

Oh, and why next week?  Because there’s a game this Saturday, and in my system, EVERY game counts.



Poll Dancing: Week Thirteen, or Do You See What I See?

My investigation into the secret bias of the BCS computers continues with something of a revelation this week.  As the season winds down with this weekend’s conference championship games (as well as offerings from non-championship conferences), the BCS computers are grinding at full speed in their effort to boost the position of the Big 12 (and, to a lesser extent, the SEC, which doesn’t really need any help).

I linked this article in yesterday’s post for a different reason, but it’s worth pointing out Wetzel’s main complaint: that the computer formulas used to generate the standings are kept almost completely secret (only 1 of the 6 is even available to the BCS itself).  He wonders (legitimately) why we should trust that there isn’t something shady at play, and I have to agree.  It’s simple really: if there’s nothing to hide, why all the hiding?

Having compared the average ranking of each team in the human portion of the BCS standings to their ranking in the computer portion, I think I have an idea what might be up.  You might recall that the reason I started monitoring this in the first place was what I felt was an abnormally high ranking for Oklahoma State a few weeks ago.  As the digging continued, it became apparent that the entire Big 12 was being favored more heavily than any other conference in the computers.  This week, I noticed something else when examining the numbers, so I sorted them in order from most “overvalued” to most “undervalued.”  (These are generic terms to illustrate the difference in the rankings, they are not intended as an assessment of a team’s ability.)  Here are the seven most undervalued teams–the teams that receive significantly worse (at least 2 full spots) rankings in the computers than in the human polls:

Houston (-2)
Oregon (-3)
Southern Miss (-6)
Michigan State (-6)
Wisconsin (-6.5)
Virginia Tech (-6.5)
West Virginia (-8.5)

In this group, we have the probable Big East champion, the probable ACC champion, the Big Ten champion, the probable Pac-12 champion, and the Conference USA champion.  Boise State and TCU, one of whom will win the Mountain West, are undervalued by one spot each.

Every champion (or probable champion) of every automatic-qualifying conference besides the Big 12 and SEC is undervalued by at least three spots.

The contenders for the SEC crown don’t fare that much better, Georgia is undervalued by one spot while LSU breaks even, ranking #1 in all polls by virtue of being undefeated.  By comparison, probable Big 12 champ Oklahoma is overvalued by 5.5 spots, while possible champ Oklahoma State is overvalued by 2 spots.

Is the Big 12 really that much better than every other conference?  Are the computers programmed to treat Big 12 teams more favorably?  Are there even any computers at all?

Poll Dancing: Week Twelve, or DIE DIE DIE BCS DIE!!!!!

Ah, what a weekend of football.  The BCS machine is scrambling, trying to convince you that you want to see a rematch of two teams from the same conference (even though you apparently would have hated that in 2006) and that it would be totally cool if a team that didn’t win its division played for the national title (even though that was a most uncool proposition in 2007).  Yeah, the BCS pushers are basically going to argue for whatever nonsense makes their system look like it “got things right.”

But this year, it’s not going to, because there is no getting it right in a two-team postseason this year.  The most the BCS can hope for is getting it acceptable to most and then trying to poke holes in all of the arguments that arise afterward.  Here, then, are some of this year’s possible end-games.  Feel free to cheer for whichever of these makes you most happy.  You know what I’ll be hoping for.

Best-Case For BCS-Lovers

Thanks to the Big 12’s absurd boost in the BCS computers (now up to +8.1 spots vs. human polls on average), if Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma next week, the Cowboys can still make the BCSCG.  Additionally, if LSU wins out, they will remain #1 and the title game will seem okay to most fans.  Maybe you’ll think another team belongs there, but you can live with this.  In this scenario, Houston will need to lose to Tulsa (who is also unbeaten in CUSA play) or to Southern Mississippi in the CUSACG to ensure there are no unbeaten non-champions at season’s end.  It would also be nice if all other one-loss teams lost.

Most-Likely Scenario (Mid-Level Controversy)

Based on current betting lines, Houston, LSU, Boise State, Alabama, Virginia Tech and Stanford should all win this weekend.  Chances are Oklahoma is going to be favored over Oklahoma State based on the fact that OU’s defense is ranked 40 spots higher than OkSU’s–in other words, the Sooners are going to win.  If that happens, there will almost certainly be multiple one-loss teams following conference championship week and they will be very close in the BCS rankings.  One of them will go to the BCSCG and the rest will complain.  Those complaints become even louder if the one-loss team is Alabama unless you think 5 other AQ conference commissioners are totally fine with the SEC taking both title game spots.

Total Chaos

This begins with Arkansas beating LSU, which is pretty unlikely.  That results in a 3-way tie atop the SEC West that must be settled by BCS ranking.  How that shakes out will already be controversial since the three tied teams just happen to be the top three teams in the current BCS standings and will probably remain the top 3 as long as OU beats OkSU (they will).  Step two is whichever team ends up on top losing to Georgia the following week, opening up the door for two teams from the same division playing for the national title even though neither of them actually won that division.  Jim Delany will murder three people (possibly at random) if this happens.

Also in this scenario: Houston and all non-SEC one-loss teams win out (including bowls), creating a jumble of teams with legitimate claims to the title.  And just for good measure, all Big Ten and ACC teams murder their bowl opponents (except when cancelled out by aforementioned one-lossers; also Big Ten takes precedence over ACC when the two play each other), adding the possibility that those conferences are better than critics thought.

Poll Dancing: Week Eleven, or Then There Were Two

If the season ended today, they would probably throw a party in the cobwebby underground BCS lair where a dozen of the most evil sports minds ever assembled tirelessly toil to make our lives as college football fans miserable.  With losses by Stanford and Boise State over the weekend, we have reached the system’s sweet spot of only two undefeated major-conference teams, the maddening situation that generally lets the abomination of a post-season off scot-free.

But it’s not over yet, and that’s very good news.  The primary thing to cheer for right now is an Oklahoma victory on December 3, when the Sooners take on the currently unbeaten Oklahoma State Cowboys.  This is not at all unlikely, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Oklahoma is the favorite going into that game.  They are easily the best team on Oklahoma State’s schedule.  Of course, the outcome of that game could be rendered moot by an Arkansas upset over LSU on Black Friday.  The Razorbacks have only one loss (@Alabama) and if they shock the Tigers, it would create a three-way tie atop the SEC West–complete with circular head-to-head–and those are always fun.  If not, then a surging Georgia might do it in the conference championship the following week.

Once again, it’s time to revisit some earlier prognostications and see how I did.

Pre-Season Pretenders Update

These were the teams from the preseason Coaches’ Top 10 that I thought would lose at least 2 games this year.

Wrong So Far

#4 LSU (currently 10-0, #1 BCS)

The Tigers have @Ole Miss, Arkansas, a possible SECCG berth, and a bowl game upcoming.  Could they lose half of those?  Probably not, but it’s not impossible.

#8 Oklahoma State (currently 10-0, #2 BCS)

The Cowboys just squeezed past Kansas State but still have Oklahoma coming up.  I’m pretty sure they’ll lose that one.  Will they get caught coasting @Iowa State?

#2 Alabama (currently 9-1, #3 BCS)

Alabama still has the Iron Bowl on the road or an actual bowl in January to get that second loss.  Although, if Arkansas beats LSU, the Tide could find themselves in the SEC title game for another chance.

#7 Boise State (currently 8-1, #10 BCS)

The Broncos are coming off their first loss to TCU.  In August, I identified the back-to-back TCU/SDSU games as a potential stumbling block.  One down…

Already Right

#5 Florida State (currently 7-3, #25 BCS)

The Seminoles haven’t lost since I last updated this list.  Good thing they choked early!

#9 Texas A&M (currently 5-5, unranked)

The Aggies have gotten brutalized in conference play lately.  Good thing they’re leaving!

#10 Wisconsin (currently 8-2, #17 BCS)

The Badgers got stunned by late TD throws two weeks in a row on the road against Michigan State and Ohio State, a two-game stretch I singled out in August.

FraudWatch Update

These were undefeated teams through week 5 that I determined would lose a few games.

Projected Losses: 5+

1. Kansas State (8-2)

The Wildcats hung on to beat Texas A&M and will now need to lose all remaining games (Texas, Iowa State, bowl) to hit 5.  Looks like they’ve dodged the bullet.

2. Texas Tech (5-5)

Since opening 4-0, the Raiders have lost every game except for a stunning 3-point upset of Oklahoma.  This is how fraud teams work.

Projected Losses: 3-4

3. Illinois (6-4)

The Illini have lost four straight and close out with Wisconsin and Minnesota.

4. Georgia Tech (7-3)

The Yellow Jackets have Duke and Georgia remaining.  That last one is probably a loss as the Bulldogs look to streak right into the SEC title.

5. Oklahoma State (10-0)

The Cowboys would have to lose out (@Iowa State, Oklahoma, bowl) to reach three losses.  Probably not happening.

Projected Losses: 1-3

6. Texas (6-3)

7. Oklahoma (8-1)

8. Wisconsin (8-2)

Other Teams (0-2 Projected Losses)

LSU (10-0), Alabama (9-1), Stanford (9-1), Boise State (8-1), Clemson (9-1), Michigan (8-2), Houston (10-0)

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!

Poll Dancing: Week Nine, or Another Two Bite The Dust

When previously unbeaten Clemson and Kansas State went down this week, you have to think that whoever still likes the BCS system got a little more comfortable and started imagining how everything was going to work out just fine yet again.  Virtually a given is that the winner of this weekend’s LSU/Alabama showdown will cruise through to the big game, joined by…

…oh, wait…

There are two other undefeated teams remaining from automatic-qualifying conferences, and the BCS needs one (and only one) of them to stay perfect along with the LSU/Alabama winner to ensure that the defense of their system isn’t completely laughable.  Those two teams are Oklahoma State and Stanford, not exactly traditional powers used to dealing with heightened expectations.  As the unfamiliar media spotlight (and pressure to perform) increases, so does the difficulty of the schedule.

Both teams face a much tougher road ahead than the one they’ve already traveled and this is where things could get ugly for the BCS.  Oklahoma State’s opponents so far have won just 54% of their games.  The opponents they’ll need to beat to make the title game have won 72% of theirs.  Similarly, Stanford’s first 8 victims won 43% of the time, while their next 5 (including the Pac-12 championship game, almost certainly against Arizona State) have won 60%.

This weekend, Oklahoma State faces Kansas State, fresh off their first loss.  They’ll close out the year against the team that beat KSU (Oklahoma), the team that beat Oklahoma (Texas Tech), and the team that just beat Texas Tech (Iowa State).

Stanford will travel to Oregon State for their second straight road game and may be a bit worn out from the triple-overtime thriller against USC.  The real test will come next weekend though, when the Cardinal hosts Oregon.  Admittedly this isn’t last year’s Duck team that averaged 47 points a game and lost only to Auburn in the national championship.  No, this year’s version is averaging 47.5 points a game and has lost only to potential national champion LSU.

So, of the six undefeated teams still out there, one is guaranteed to lose this week, two will be facing significantly tougher challenges from here on out than they have yet, and the other two are Boise State and Houston.  We know that Houston, regardless of how they finish, is not going to make the championship game, but Boise presents an interesting dilemma for the BCS.  What if we end up with unbeaten LSU, unbeaten Boise, and everyone else with at least one loss?  Can the Broncos, whose schedule features just one AQ-conference team (albeit the respectable Georgia), be a viable #2 over potential one-lossers Alabama, South Carolina, Arkansas, Stanford, Oregon, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Penn State, Nebraska, Michigan, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Kansas State, or even Cincinnati?  As much as I support the opportunity for any undefeated team to earn a championship in a playoff system, I can’t see a justification to give Boise State a shot under the BCS format (probably the main reason I hate the system to begin with).

If Boise does get the spot, and gets murdered by LSU/Bama (which is what would happen), then the outcry from the one-loss AQ teams will be just a shade less deafening than the one from Idaho if Boise doesn’t get the spot, especially if the game is still a blow-out (again, very likely) and the Broncos win their bowl.

Of course, maybe I’m wrong, maybe the Cowboys or the Cardinal will navigate the gauntlet and come out with a goose-egg in the L column.  Hell, maybe they both will.  Oops, that would be a totally different kind of BCS disaster…

Poll Dancing: Week Eight, or Two Tickets To Paradise

BCS supporters–both of them–breathed a little sigh of near-relief this weekend as Oklahoma and Wisconsin joined the ranks of the beaten, inching the system that much closer to “getting it right” another season.  If you’re a BCS-hater like me, it’s tough to decide what to cheer for right now, as there are two options to get the most anti-system vitriol spewing next offseason.

Option One: Too Much Awesome

The Badgers and Sooners were supposed to help us out here, but there’s still hope.  The ACC’s Clemson remains perfect and has a reasonable schedule leading up to the conference championship, probably against Virginia Tech.  The Big 12 has no title game and two lossless teams remaining in Oklahoma State and Kansas State (they play November 5).  The Pac-12’s Stanford has challenges in USC and Oregon, but will have a relatively easy conference championship game if they can get there unblemished.  The SEC will almost certainly produce a undefeated champ as perfect divison-mates LSU and Alabama (also facing off November 5) probably aren’t sweating the eventual East champ too much.  On top of that, mid-majors Boise State and Houston will try to make their case should they continue their winning ways.  Expect the Broncos to gain some popular support.

The bottom line here is that 6 undefeated teams, including 4 from AQ conferences, would be too much for even the most devout BCS apologists to spin.  At the very least this situation would demand a four-team playoff or Plus-One style setup.  And that’s if you leave out the mid-majors again.

There really is no best outcome for the BCS here.  No matter who gets left out, they’re going to be livid and they’ll have a good point.  Whoever loses the game will be considered unworthy of their spot (as usual), and no matter how the other teams are matched up, the season will likely end with multiple unbeaten non-champions.  That will be ugly for BCS PR.

Option Two: Too Much Mediocrity

Let’s keep this scenario realistic (even though no unbeaten AQ teams and an unbeaten Boise is probably the worst thing for the BCS) and say that either LSU or Alabama wins the SEC at 13-0.  Sure, there could be a misstep elsewhere but it’s pretty unlikely with these two.  Next, Boise is probably going undefeated, but that’s not even necessary for things to get messy.  Aside from those two, every other unbeaten with a chance (sorry, Houston, no one cares about you… yet) could easily lose a game or two down the stretch.  Clemson visits Georgia Tech this week and South Carolina to finish the season, but their best shot at losing is an ACC title matchup with the Hokies.  Oklahoma State still has the season-ender against the Sooners, and Kansas State has Texas A&M still upcoming.  Also, of course, those two have to play each other.  Stanford has their aforementioned tilts vs. the Trojans and the Ducks.

In this scenario, we finish with the 13-0 SEC champ, 12-0 Boise State and a whole bunch of one-loss teams like Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Clemson, Virginia Tech, any one of five Big Ten teams with big ticket-selling names, and whichever of LSU/Alabama doesn’t win the SEC.  This would be similar to 2007 with its mess of one- and two-loss teams clogging the top of the rankings but with the added Boise State argument.

At least this scenario can end with just one unbeaten national champion, but only if the BCS system allows Boise to play in the big game, something that will bother fans/coaches/administrators of AQ conferences who will cite the Broncos’ easier path to perfection.  Expect the volume on that argument to hit new levels if Boise gets blown out in that contest.

Either of these options would at least be damaging for the BCS and I have to think that Option One would be the worst.  There just aren’t a lot of legitimate arguments for why an undefeated team doesn’t deserve to play for a championship, and there have to be even fewer for why FOUR undefeated teams aren’t good enough.

FraudWatch Update

Here’s how my projected fraud teams are faring so far this year:

Projected Losses: 5+

1. Kansas State (currently 7-0)

The Wildcats will need to lose all but one of their final 6 games (including the bowl) to achieve full fraud status.  It’s not impossible with consecutive games against Big 12 heavyweights Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas up next.  If they lose all of those then a loss to Iowa State becomes viable while the bowl opponent gets a lot easier.  However, chances are that Kansas State avoids the 5-loss tier.

2. Texas Tech (currently 5-2)

A surprise win over Oklahoma has boosted the Red Raiders’ hopes, but the season still ends with 3 road games in 4 weeks, with the lone home date in that stretch against Oklahoma State.

Projected Losses: 3-4

3. Illinois (currently 6-2)

With unexpected losses to Ohio State and especially Purdue, the Illini are now likely to jump up to the 5-loss tier with a road trip to Penn State this week followed by home games against Michigan and Wisconsin.  A visit to Minnesota should end the regular season on the right note.

4. Georgia Tech (currently 6-2)

The Yellow Jackets are also on a two-game skid and have visits from Clemson and Virginia Tech ahead, as well as the season-ender against Georgia.

5. Oklahoma State (currently 7-0)

The Cowboys are in good shape, but games against Kansas State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma could trip them up.

Projected Losses: 1-3

6. Texas (currently 4-2)

7. Oklahoma (currently 6-1)

8. Wisconsin (currently 6-1)

Other Teams (0-2 Projected Losses)

LSU (8-0), Alabama (8-0), Stanford (7-0), Boise State (7-0), Clemson (8-0), Michigan (6-1), Houston (7-0)

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.

Poll Dancing: Week Six, or BCSual Harrisment

This week, the first edition of that other BCS-sanctioned poll, The Harris Interactive, was released and just as you would expect from a poll that patiently observes the unfolding national scene, is formulated by contributors who are actually available to watch college football on Saturdays, and is not burdened by incorrect preseason assumptions, it is virtually identical to the one that takes the exact opposite approach.

Although they feature them in slightly different orders, both polls contain the exact same top 24 teams, once again ensuring that the computer rankings will have a major impact on the top 2 when the official BCS standings begin next week.  Until, of course, the pollsters decide they don’t like who the computers have chosen as the top 2 and adjust their own votes to counteract them, rendering the entire process meaningless.

But wait, who are these Harris Poll voters anyway?  Who are these chosen few who hold so much influence over the nation’s largest source of bragging rights?

A quick look at this year’s roster reveals the shocking truth: I’m pretty sure the list is at least 50% made up names, possibly generated by EA’s autoname engine.  Or maybe you can tell me who Bob Anderson, Eric Bailey, and James Bates are?  Can you be sure that names like J. J. Joe, Lee Grosscup, and Dick Bestwick aren’t just the childish prank of some Harris Interactive intern?  Jay Walker?  Dick Crum?  Corky Simpson?  Those guys weren’t even trying.  And seriously, Jack White?  Or does he get a vote because of this?

Pre-Season Pretenders Update

Way back in the innocent days of August, I sifted through the pre-season top 10 and chose a handful of teams that I thought would finish the season with at least 2 losses.  In the interest of calling myself out before you do, here’s how that’s going for me…

#2 Alabama (Currently 6-0, #3 in Coaches’ Poll, #2 in Harris Poll)

Of the four games I picked as potential stumbling blocks, two have come to pass with the Tide barely noticing.  Penn State was shut down pretty convincingly, and that’s the closest game Bama has played.  While they could still lose to LSU or in the SEC championship and a bowl game, it’s looking like this one is going in the Miss column.

#4 LSU (Currently 6-0, #2 in Coaches’ Poll, #1 in Harris Poll)

See above.  LSU beat Oregon and Mississippi State by 13 points apiece and then steamrolled West Virginia and Florida.  There’s still hope, but not much.

#5 Florida State (Currently 2-3, unranked)

Well, that didn’t take long.  As I guessed, the Seminoles couldn’t quite handle Oklahoma, continued their road woes against Clemson and even dropped a trip to Wake Forest.  Having lost these three games by just 20 points combined has to be extra-frustrating.

#7 Boise State (Currently 5-0, #6 in Coaches’ Poll, #5 in Harris Poll)

Boise handled the opening test against Georgia well and came up huge on the road beating Fresno by half-a-hundred.  There’s still the back-to-back TCU/SDSU tilt, but that’s a little less daunting now than it appeared back in August.  Could this finally be the Broncos’ year, or will a glut of unbeatens dash their dreams again?

#8 Oklahoma State (Currently 5-0, #7 in Coaches’ Poll, #6 in Harris Poll)

I paired them with Texas A&M (see below) because they played so early in the season.  The Cowboys won, but now enter a more difficult stretch.  They’ll need to beat a Texas team looking to take out some frustration this weekend and then take out top dog Oklahoma at the end of the year.

#9 Texas A&M (Currently 3-2, #23 in both polls)

Another early Hit!  After dropping the one-point loss to Oklahoma State, the Aggies fell to future conferencemate Arkansas by four.

#10 Wisconsin (Currently 5-0, #4 in both polls)

Well, Russell Wilson clicked, and the Badgers burned through their early schedule without a flicker.  The closest game was a 31-point dismantling of Nebraska.  After hosting Indiana for what should result in an amusing scoreboard, Wisconsin hits the road for consecutive away night games against Michigan State and Ohio State, their two co-champs from last season.  After that, they may face a challenge from Illinois, but probably not.  This is looking like another Miss.

Poll Dancing: Week Five, or Uncontrollable Fraudulence

A couple of years ago, I came up with a method of identifying “fraud teams”–teams that start out undefeated (with four or five wins) and then stumble the rest of the way, finishing with at least five losses.  This tends to happen to a few teams each season and their early runs usually contain at least one close win and a bunch of bad opponents.  Originally for this season, I was planning to look at one-loss teams as well, but there are still so many unbeaten teams (including half of the Big 12) that the one-lossers are going to have to sit this one out.  Anyway let’s get to it:

FraudWatch 2011

The only two teams to satisfy the criteria for total fraudulence both come from the Big 12, and I’m predicting each of them to have at least five losses by the end of the year.

1. Kansas State

Kansas State is the textbook example of a fraud team.  Three of their four wins are by four points or fewer and their opponents have won just 41.2% of their games.  Starting October 15th, they play two road games followed by games against four ranked teams (two of those on the road).  Interestingly, the first game in that stretch is against…

2. Texas Tech

The Red Raiders annihilated Texas State and New Mexico, but only one of those teams has actually won any games and it’s the one that plays in the FCS.  All told, Tech’s opponents have won just a third of their games so far.  The Raiders  host Texas A&M this week and have upcoming road trips to Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri and Baylor as well as a visit from Oklahoma State.

The next three teams had enough areas of concern to warrant inclusion but aren’t necessarily begging to be beaten.  I figure 3-4 losses for these teams.

3. Illinois

4. Georgia Tech

5. Oklahoma State

The final three teams had minor fraudlike tendencies, but probably won’t lose more than 3 games.

6. Texas

7. Oklahoma

8. Wisconsin

All other undefeated teams should be considered safe.  Anything can happen, but barring major injuries or other disasters, those will be the teams that finish the season with 0-2 losses.