Did the BCS do its job? Are the computers being allowed to do theirs? Or are they being treated like mere tools made to serve human needs like some kind of...robot? Read all about it in this week's blog on SI.com.
Oklahoma, Florida or Texas? That was the question. All three made very good cases for the BCS Championship Game, but only two could go, and it was up to the BCS formula to decide which two. In reality, human voters have the most power in the BCS, and some might think too much. This year the "some" are Texas fans.
The BCS may have put together the best 1 vs. 2 matchup that most people wanted to see. Few wanted a rematch of Oklahoma and Texas (certainly most of the voters didn't). So that means Florida had to get in, and Harris Interactive voters ensured that by ranking the Gators No. 1. Many voters may think the Gators are the best team in the country, but a few might also know they needed to offset the computers who don't think as highly of Florida. Billingsley (as expected) is the only computer that ranked Florida over Texas. Most computers rank Florida 4th, and Massey ranks the Gators 5th. The computers also don't think much of the SEC this year --Sagarin's ranks the SEC 3rd strongest and Anderson/Hester ranks them 4th behind the Big East. However, if the computers had more power, it might be Oklahoma and Texas in the title game.
So if the Gators had to be in the title game to prevent a rematch, it really came down to who would be the representative from the Big 12: Oklahoma, Texas or Texas Tech. Every computer and the Coaches' Poll ranks Oklahoma No. 1. So there was no hope for Texas or Texas Tech unless they were able to stay ahead of the Gators. It was close, but the human voters (and likely the fans they represent) got their wish. The BCS lowered the weight of the computer ratings in their formula for situations just like this. So it worked out this year (except for Longhorn fans).
It's interesting to note that if the BCS allowed computers to account for scoring margins, it may have made the matchup easier. For example, Sagarin ranks Florida 4th in its ELO_CHESS rankings, which are used by the BCS and mandated not to use margin of victory as a factor. However, the Gators are ranked 2nd in Sagarin's standard ratings, which do account for margin of victory.
So are the computers really adding anything to the formula? Yes, but not much. It would have to be a very, very tight race for the computers to make a difference at the top. There is an example of computers making a small difference at the bottom -- Boston College. Ranked out of the top 25 in both human polls, BC was lifted to No. 24 on the strength of its computer ratings. However, for every example of computer relevance, there are two examples of irrelevance. This week it is Northwestern, which received no computer points, yet still managed to be ranked 23rd, and Mississippi, which only needed one computer ranking from the Billingsley Report to hang on to the 25th spot. It's worth noting that Northwestern received its highest ranking (No. 20) from the Coaches' Poll, and as we pointed out, the Big Ten actually has a slight voting advantage in that poll.
The big poll news this week is the release of the Coaches' and Harris Interactive ballots. This is the one week of the year we get to see how every person voted. I'll have some detailed analysis next week, but in the meantime, you can use Pollstalker to see the Harris Interactive ballots here and the Coaches' ballots will be added later tonight.
For more poll analysis, go to pollspeak.com.
Coaches' Poll Ballots Released (posted 12/8/08)
The USA Today Coaches' Poll has made its ballots public for the first and only time during the 2008 season. You may now use Pollstalker to analyze them. Use the USA Today-Coaches' Poll '08 Report (found in the "Poll" drop down on the left side menu), or CLICK HERE.
Harris Interactive Ballots Released (posted 12/8/08)
The Harris Interactive College Football Poll has made its ballots public for the first and only time during the 2008 season. You may now use Pollstalker to analyze them. Use the Harris Interactive Poll '08 Report (found in the "Poll" drop down on the left side menu), or CLICK HERE. There are only 113 voters, as Don Criqui did not turn in a ballot.
Look for the Coaches' Poll ballots in Pollstalker once they are released late on Monday.