Blog Entry

Head-to-Head-to-Head Comes to a Head

Posted on: October 11, 2010 10:24 am
Edited on: October 18, 2010 8:47 am

:  Clicking a team link in this blog will show you how everyone voted for that team.  Clicking a voter name link will show you their ballot.

The first Harris Interactive College Football Poll of the season was released this week, which means we’re just a week away from the first official BCS rankings.  The Harris Interactive Poll is pretty similar in content this week to both the Coaches and AP Poll.  It does place Arizona lowest of any BCS component at No. 21.

For reference, here is a list of all of the voter changes in the Harris Interactive Poll from 2009 to 2010.  There were only 12 people replaced from what is the largest voter pool of any poll (114).  Compared to the AP Poll and Coaches’ Poll, which has replaced about 50% of their voters over the last two years, the Harris Interactive number seems very small.  Is that an issue?  Probably not, but it is something to keep an eye on.  One reason is that voter turnover helps prevent corruption.    In other words, if 90% of the voters are going to stay the same from year to year, it makes it a lot easier to “fix” the polls.  No amount of change can completely prevent corruption, but there is no sense it making it easier.

With the BCS looming, let’s take a quick look at how humans and computers disagree on No.1 and No. 2.  The humans are currently on board with an Ohio State vs. Oregon title game.  However, if you look at the computers, they tend to favor LSU, Boise State or Oklahoma in the top two spots.  Sagarin does have TCU at No. 2 right now.  The Horned Frogs do have a couple of good opponents remaining in Air Force and Utah, but they aren’t likely good enough to make up for the strength of schedule of the other teams.

In the AP, we have a tie for the most extreme voter this week, but we’ll give a shout out to Mark Anderson of the Las Vegas Review-Journal since he is an extreme noob.   He has ten extreme rankings and four near the extreme this week.   While his ballot isn’t 100% clear-cut, the reason he got there was due to a general trend of downgrading the SEC (Alabama, South Carolina and Arkansas) while showing favor to the Big 12, including highest ranks to:  Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Missouri, and Kansas State.  However, he did rank Auburn highest in the nation at No. 3 and Nebraska near-lowest at No. 8.

Head-to-Head lines:

It was predictable that Arizona’s loss to Oregon State was going to make the situation between Arizona and Iowa worse.  Now 37 of the 60 voters rank Iowa over Arizona even though both teams have one loss and Arizona beat Iowa.  For some reason Craig James doesn’t even rank Arizona, while he ranks Iowa No. 16.  You would think that if their opinion of Arizona dropped so much after their loss, the loss would also affect their opinion of Iowa, whom the Wildcats beat.  Note that the four released BCS computers (without preseason bias, i.e. not Billingsley) all still rank Arizona over Iowa.    Of course, if Arizona loses again, all bets are off, and I would expect that the voters and the computers would likely rank Iowa over Arizona.

We finally have a great three-way head-to-head-to-head situation to discuss:  Auburn over South Carolina over Alabama.  The Tigers are undefeated and beat South Carolina (one loss) who beat Alabama (one loss).  So you would think that is the order they would all be ranked on people’s ballots.  However, six voters have South Carolina ranked over Auburn, a team they lost to.  The Gamecocks pulled off an amazing upset of Alabama, but Auburn is undefeated and already proved they could beat South Carolina; they may be able to beat the Crimson Tide as well.  Voters could at least give the Tigers the benefit of the doubt until Iron Bowl at the end of the year. 

19 of the 60 voters still rank Alabama over South Carolina, and the following 17 voters rank Alabama over undefeated Auburn, who beat South Carolina, who beat Alabama.  These are people who obviously would not be able to abide by the difficult and final decisions handed down by playoff games.  To them, the results on the field don’t matter nearly as much as their own opinions about some other hypothetical game that may (but likely won’t) happen in the future. 

Oh and as an SEC on ESPN bonus, Craig James is the only voter to rank Arkansas over Alabama.

Note to voters:  ranking people in the proper order this week doesn’t mean that the teams have to finish that way.  Some of those teams are bound to have other losses.  However, based on what you have seen on the field, and in line with AP guidelines, teams should be ranked based on their head-to-head results when all else is equal.  You can always change the rankings again next week when you have more information to go on.  As an added bonus, obvious biases (preseason or otherwise) and/or lack of effort won’t be so obvious during the course of the year.


Since: Aug 25, 2006
Posted on: October 15, 2010 10:44 am

Head-to-Head-to-Head Comes to a Head

To those of you who complain that Alabama is ranked higher than South Carolina, consider this: Boise is ranked higher than Alabama and USC, but if one of these two teams swapped schedules with BSU they would probably go 12-0. They are still the exact same team , except the schedule is MUCH easier. Where would you rank them then?

If Boise played @Arkansas, Florida and @South Carolina in consecutive weeks, would they still be #3? Would they even be in the top 10? I think not.


Since: Sep 22, 2006
Posted on: October 12, 2010 1:31 pm

Head-to-Head-to-Head Comes to a Head

There are lots of ways to get 16 teams for a playoff that involve the computers/polls to a far lesser extent than this current "system."

1.  Take the champions, as decided by each league (whether through championship game or otherwise) of the: SEC, Pac 10, Big 10, Big 12, ACC, Big East, MWC and Conference USA (or whomever, for that last one; when the conference jumping stops, we'll see who the eighth conference is).  There are 8 teams, no polls involved.  From there, as in D-1AA--err, excuse me, the Football Championship Series, you have eight at-large bids.  Are these going to be controversial?  Yes; they are in the FCS, and they are in D-II and D-III, but since you can win your way into the playoff, teams and fans have far less room to whine.  Seed your conference champs, 1-8; seed your at-larges, 9-16; set up your bracket: 8 plays 9, 7 plays 10, and so on.

2.  Take seven conference champs and nine-at large bids, if you prefer.

3.  Take the Top 16 teams in the "BCS standings" regardless of whether or not they won their conference championship.  If a Boise State or a TCU cannot crack the Top 16, well ...

4. Take the top 12 from the "BCS standings" and four conference champs from the "lesser conferences": Big East, ACC, MWC, USA.  (Yeah, that's right, I'm calling the Big East and ACC as inferior, on a year-in and year-out basis, with perhaps only their champion being deserving of mention in the national championship race.)  If a team from those conferences finishes within the Top 12, then take the Top 13; if two teams make it, go top 14; etc.  In any case, guarantee the "lesser conferences" four slots and let the big boys have a dozen.  Seed as before, and go.

5, 6, 7 ... it doesn't really matter.  As with March Madness, when everyone has a realistic shot to play their way in, instead of being voted upon as if it were a beauty contest (Oooooh, Alabama is taping its swimsuit to its butt; Ohio State gave a stupid answer to the judges! Auburn would have won if they had played at a neutral site with orthodox Jews for referees and no television cameras, etc., etc.).

Polls make for good discussion, and the current system is good for making lots of money.  Perhaps the people will speak.

Since: Aug 18, 2010
Posted on: October 12, 2010 1:15 pm

Head-to-Head-to-Head Comes to a Head

The only team that Bama played coming off a bye was SC, as both UF and Arkansas played games the week before they played Bama.  The bottom line is that SC was ready to play and Bama was not.  This is the SEC, and there are no excuses.  Regardless of the voters perception, Bama's best wins are over Arkansas, a UF team that LSU beat on the road, and Penn State, who we all know is really not very good this year.  SC lost to Auburn, and they did that in quite the chocking fashion with those four turnovers on their last four possessions.  It would appear they learned from that and did not make the same mistakes in their victory over Bama.  We will see what Bama has learned over these next few weeks. 

Since: Sep 17, 2010
Posted on: October 12, 2010 12:18 pm

Head-to-Head-to-Head Comes to a Head

SC fan, see you in December!  Enjoy this one while you can.

Since: Dec 12, 2007
Posted on: October 12, 2010 12:03 pm

Head-to-Head-to-Head Comes to a Head

Craig James is a tool who doesn't think football exists in the western third of the country.

Since: Sep 13, 2009
Posted on: October 12, 2010 11:16 am

Head-to-Head-to-Head Comes to a Head

Well, maybe Florida and Arkansas aren't as strong as everyone thinks they are.

Since: Sep 13, 2009
Posted on: October 12, 2010 11:13 am

Head-to-Head-to-Head Comes to a Head

The reason they rank Arizona lower is for the bias of Boise State. It make the win over Oregon State not as impressive if Arizona is ranked lower.

Since: Jun 26, 2009
Posted on: October 12, 2010 10:50 am

Head-to-Head-to-Head Comes to a Head

Well reasoned comments by most of the posters.  In fact, let's void all of the past NCAA Basketball Tourneys.
After all, they only decided things by playing one game....ONE GAME!  Congrats to Georgetown.  You are the real 1985
NCAA champs.  Sorry Villanova, but it was only one game and most people still believe the Hoyas were the better team.
Why doesn't everybody relax and wait til the regular season is over to throw your fits.  Aren't you going to feel silly when
it turns out you were defending a team that ends up with three losses?  If your team is undefeated going into Bowl Season
and you aren't in the title game, then I'll listen to your argument. 

Since: Apr 3, 2007
Posted on: October 12, 2010 9:41 am

Head-to-Head-to-Head Comes to a Head

Anyone with half a brain would understand that a head to head matchup doesn't always reveal who is the better team.  James Madison beat Virginia Tech.  Are you suggesting this FCS team should now be ranked in FBS rankings?  Are you even suggesting that James Madison is actually a better team than VT?  Clearly they are not.  They were the better team on that day.  But rankings should not rank based on who was better THAT day.  They should rank on who it the better team.  And who they play is only a part of that equation.  It takes a true idiot to claim that Team A beats Team B and is therefore a better team and should always be ranked ahead of them.  There is more to it than that that you clearly do not understand.  And even the writer of this article doesn't fully understand it.  He says "all things being equal" the team that won the head to head matchup should be ranked higher.  However, that is an ignorant statement because "all things" are NEVER equal.  You can't say all things are equal between South Carolina and Alabama.  Sure, their records are, but is an overall record "all things?"  I think not.  You still have to rank teams based on who you think is the better team.  I agree this screams for a playoff, but until that is the case, rankings still MUST be done this way or it will be an even bigger mess with more outlying mistakes than we have now if you just go off head to head matchups for your rankings.  There is too much room for statistical errors and anomolies.

Since: Oct 12, 2010
Posted on: October 12, 2010 9:31 am

Head-to-Head-to-Head Comes to a Head

Oh, Boo Hoo for Bama.  They have just gotten a little taste of what Carolina has had to deal with for the past 20 years.  They basically came off of a bye week last weak against that horrible Florida team.  The good thing is though, they are through the worst part of their schedule.  They only play 2 more decent teams, LSU (if you can call them decent, I call them lucky), and Auburn.  With all of the weapons that Bama has, there is no reason why they shouldn't have coasted through their schedule.  They were out played and out coached in the Carolina game.  Plain and simple.  That 3 week of tough games crap, like they are the only team thats ever done that, is BS.  2 of the best running backs in the country were held to 36 rushing yards, your o-line gave up 7 sacks.  They didn't put in the effort needed to win the game and they paid for it.  I would even venture as far as saying that they underestimated the Gamecocks.  Carolina, every year, plays TN, ARK, FL in a row.  When all of these teams are decent or good, thats a tough schedule and they do it every year.  Bama can go cry home to their mom if they want to, but they need to man up and take it like Carolina does.  I'm sorry but I don't feel bad for the National Champions for having to play 3 tough games in a row 1 time when a team like Carolina does it every year.  Go Gamecocks!

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