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Glitch leaves LSU, Boise State in wrong order in final BCS

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The final BCS ratings show LSU ranked 10th and Boise State 11th. But I discovered a mistake that would switch the order of those teams. The Broncos should be BCS No. 10.

Wes Colley's final rankings, as submitted to the BCS, were incorrect. The Appalachian State-Western Illinois FCS playoff game was missing from his data set. I will spare you some of the gory, mathematical details, but the net result of that omission in Colley's rankings is that LSU, which he ranked ninth, and his No. 10, Boise State, should be switched. Alabama and Nebraska, which he had 17th and 18th, would also be swapped.

The impact on Nebraska and Alabama is negligible. Nebraska is still the 17th ranked overall computer team either way. The Huskers' BCS score would go up slightly, but they wouldn't still rank 18th. Colley's ranking is discarded for Alabama because it is the worst ranking for the Tide. But LSU and Boise State are so close in the overall BCS standings (.0063) that this one error switches the order. Boise State should be 10th in the overall BCS standings and LSU should be No. 11.

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This may not seem overly important, especially since neither team qualified for a BCS game either way. It may be important though because the Mountain West, Boise State's new home, is making an effort to become an AQ conference. This week's data -- the final regular season standings -- is part of the basis for making that determination. Every little bit helps, or at least it could.

But the bigger point is that nobody checks the BCS computer data. We should all be grateful to Colley for having a system that is open, accountable and verifiable. The BCS owes us an entire system that is open, accountable and verifiable.

I asked Bill Hancock about this on my radio show this week, and he said they have faith in the computer people to do their jobs right. He called them, "the best in the business," as if the BCS folks have any way of knowing that.

I don't think Colley is especially sloppy. He generally does a great job. Stuff happens. Data sources aren't always reliable, although in this case, his data source is provided by another BCS computer operator, Peter Wolfe. I could not find any evidence Wolfe's source data for his own rankings was compromised, so it may have been a timing issue that messed up Colley. This kind of thing happens with the RPI sometimes. Even school websites can't always be trusted fully. The fact that there was a mistake made isn't the problem. It's the assumption that no mistakes are ever made, and therefore, nothing ever gets checked.

Then there is the issue of whether Richard Billingsley's ratings are partially based on last year -- something he says isn't true. I have my doubts, but again the point is that it hasn't been verified either way. The fact that this mistake didn't have an overwhelmingly dramatic effect this year doesn't mean it won't happen in the future. This time, it affected the 10th- and 11th-rated teams. Maybe next time, it will impact the race for No. 2.

The BCS has shaky enough credibility with John Q. Footballfan as it is. It needs to verify its data. Right now, nothing is verified. Nothing is accountable. Except Colley. Thank goodness we at least have that.

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