BCS- NOT BOTS!!! The Humans Are To Blame -Released Coaches Ballots

December 08, 2008

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John Barfield

BCS- NOT BOTS!!! The Humans Are To Blame -Released Coaches Ballots

     The votes have been tabulated. The computers have crunched the numbers. The craziness that is the NCAA college football regular season is over and the bowl match-ups have been chosen.


     Unless you live on Mars or spend all of your time reading Teen Magazine, you already know that Florida will play Oklahoma in the BCS national Championship game. You probably also know that teams like Texas and USC will have to wait until the 2009 for a chance to win the trophy. In fact, there are SEVEN one-loss teams that could perhaps make an argument that, at the very least, their fans would listen too.


     There are also two undefeated teams that could do likewise. However, they have now been beaten down so long that they are like a dog at the pound.  They just want someone to pay a little attention to them. They don’t seem to care if they go to a home that abuses them, ridicules them, and treats them like an unwelcomed guest-they just want to be fed and watered every day.


     I have scanned the message boards often over the last couple of weeks and I have noticed that two things are consistent. One, the BCS system infuriates everyone. Second, and this is what I would like to focus on, the common misconception is that the computers are the ones to blame. I could not disagree more.


     It is true that the computers do not understand head to head wins, but here is what they do understand. THEY understand that a WIN is better than a LOSS. THEY understand that quality wins are not wins over a “name team”, but over a team that is having a good season. They understand that a schedule that has 4 top-20 teams on it, but you lose three of them, is not as good as a schedule with 2 top-20 teams when you win them both. THEY don’t care how much money is to be made if Ohio State or Notre Dame goes to your Bowl Game instead of Boise State or Tulsa.


     The computers each use their own formulas. No matter the formula, or the computer, the basic idea is the same. The strength of schedule and the record of the team is how each team is evaluated.


     If you are a “clone” as Jim Rome puts it that takes everything that the so called “experts” tell you and buy it – fine.  If you do not mind thinking every once in a while however, then look at the computer rankings themselves, or their average.  You will actually see that the computer rankings make more sense than just about anything in college football. Oklahoma beat more ranked teams than Texas.  That is why they are in the National Championship Game. In fact, all of the one loss teams are ranked in order of the “quality” of the loss and the relative score, and strength of schedule.


Comp. Ave.     Team                          Loss                 Top 40 Opponents                  


1.000                 Oklahoma        #3 Texas by 10                      (6)

0.940                 Texas               #4 Texas Tech by 6                 (6)

0.890                 Florida            #25 Ole Miss by 1                    (6)

0.870                 Texas Tech       #1 Oklahoma by 44                  (5)

0.810                 Alabama           #2 Florida by 11                      (5)

0.750                 USC                #27 Oregon State by 6             (4)

0.660                 Penn State        #29 Iowa by 1                          (4)


     The computers are nothing if not consistent and logical.  Texas Tech and Alabama are in the middle since their losses are by more points than the top two and to better teams than the losses experienced by the bottom two. You will also notice if you simply ranked them based on loss and the number of teams that they played in the top forty, this is EXACTLY what you would come up with. So the next time you hear someone blame the computers I ask you to politely, with as much decorum as possible, tell them “YOU ARE AN IDIOT!!!”


     This is not to say that the computers are right. I agree that their results are fair based on the information, but there is a reason that they are not the only aspect of the BCS Standings. The human element is there to - well, make these standings HUMAN! The Coaches Poll and the Harris Poll are there to value the things that the computer formulas do not.  These polls are used to value things like head-to-head, weather considerations, and anything else that might be of use.


     The biggest argument of this college football season has been the Texas versus Oklahoma debate. Texas defeated Oklahoma in October, but Oklahoma was chosen over them in the BCS rankings. Head-to-head did not matter in this case and Texas fans were livid. Outsiders were also wondering from afar: How can this be? “They” (the television pundits) always tell us that EVERY WEEK is like a playoff in college football. Any sane person, other than a fan of the benefitting team, would say head-to-head should be the biggest consideration.


     That is exactly what I though also – until I researched the votes by the coaches in the USA Today Coaches Poll. It turns out that the COACHES DO NOT BELIEVE HEAD-TO-HEAD MATTERS.


     That’s right - the computers weren’t supposed to deal with the head-to-head issue.  The human polls were meant for things like that. The human polls are what let us down.


     Forty-five of the sixty-one coaches that vote in the USA Today Coaches poll voted Oklahoma over Texas. Some of these were at least close – voting Oklahoma #2 and Texas #3 for example; but some of them, like Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio, had Oklahoma #1 and Texas ranked #5. I wish someone would ask these coaches to explain this. I want them to say if they were in Texas’ position, which way would they vote?  


     As for the other schools and their arguments, again do not blame the computers, blame the humans. If you think that USC has been so dominant over the past couple of months that they should be in the National Title Game, then blame the humans. The computers gave them all the credit that they can based on that schedule.  Many say the USC defense itself makes them worthy.  Five Pac-10 coaches vote in the poll and NOT A SINGLE ONE VOTED USC IN THE TOP 2.


     I expected to see a lot of self interest and a little bit of sour grapes as I looked through the coaches’ votes. I saw very little of either. What I saw were coaches trying to get jobs with sportsbooks in Las Vegas. They did not seem to vote at all based on what HAS HAPPENED. They were voting on what they THINK WILL HAPPEN. They want to be the smart one that says, “See, I told you they weren’t that good.” They were guessing on what the rankings will be after the season ends.


Here are a few examples:

 Score during the Season

Penn State 49 - Michigan State 18

Mark Dantonio ranked Penn State #6

 Score during the Season

Penn State 46 - Michigan 17

Rick Rodriguez of Michigan ranked Penn State #6

 Score during the Season

USC 44 - Oregon 10

Mike Bellotti of Oregon ranked USC #4


     These coaches obviously were not voting to help their conferences, but it does not appear to be sour grapes either. This kind of voting was consistent throughout.  Teams that were pummeled during the regular season by a one loss teams like Texas, Penn State, USC, Alabama, and Texas Tech still voted for Oklahoma and Florida. Do they think that those teams would beat them worse?  Does Oregon think that Florida would hang 80 on them?


     The other thing I noticed was THE DISMISSAL OF NON-BCS SCHOOLS BY NON-BCS SCHOOLS!!!  I, like most of us, have long thought that the self declared elite conferences have been keeping the non-BCS schools away from the party.  Here’s a little secret – It’s their own coaches.  It is not just the coaches of Utah and Boise State, but the small school coaches everywhere!!

 Score during the Season

Boise State 61 - Fresno State 10

Pat Hill of Fresno State ranked Boise State #6

 Score during the Season

Boise State 49 - New Mexico State 0

Hal Mumme of New Mexico State ranked Boise State #8

 Score during the Season

Boise State 31 - San Jose State 16

Dick Tomey of San Jose State ranked Boise State #9

 Score during the Season

Utah 40 - Wyoming 7

Joe Glenn of Wyoming ranked Utah #5


     Remember, these are the two UNDEFEATED teams. Just how badly would Boise have had to have beaten New Mexico State for Hal Mumme to place Boise higher on his ballot?  Turner Gill of BUFFALO ranked Utah #9.  He voted two-loss Ohio State ahead of Utah. The best team that Ohio State beat all year was a mediocre Michigan State team.  The Mighty Buffalo University, San Jose State, Wyoming, and all the others should be ashamed.  It appears that these schools have made their statement about the non-BCS Conferences – They do not belong in the National Title Hunt. I have long stood up for the little guy, but this does not look good.  There are two undefeated teams at non-BCS conferences and THEIR OWN PEERS DO NOT THINK THAT THEY BELONG.  


     I would rather these coaches err on the side of self interest than just concede inferiority. Many big time coaches voted these teams higher. Help your conference out and help yourself out. More exposure for your conference is a good thing.  What are these coaches saying to recruits?   


     The computers were not to blame this season; it was the humans. The humans did not believe that a head-to-head win is a deciding factor. The humans did not buy into USC and its great defense. The humans did not think that Joe Paterno deserved a shot at the title game. The humans dismissed undefeated Utah and Boise State. Humans. I wonder how they choose bowl teams in outer space.


          Complete Coaches Ballots can be found at:     http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/football/2008-12-08-final-coaches-ballots_N.htm

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