One More Arbitrary NCAA Football Ranking Scheme for the BCS
I’ve been reading a little bit about the BCS computer rankings lately, and, while I’m a huge fan of ratings systems (I have my own for the NFL), the BCS computer rankings make me cringe. The computer ratings, which account for only one third of the overall rankings, are made up of six seemingly arbitrarily chosen ratings systems that, in most cases, no one knows all of the details of how they work. As one website puts it :
What do you know about the different computer rankings?
Not a whole lot. Most of the formulas are proprietary. Some are more forthcoming about what goes in than others. All of the systems use the same basic set of data (except where noted): Date of game, location of game, who played and who won. What distinguishes them is what they do with the data, how much they weigh certain factors, and what set of teams they rank.
That’s not comforting at all. This means that there are 18-22 year old men out there who have spent their whole lives playing football and preparing to play in college, whose chance to play for a national title, will, in some small way, be affected by 6 almost completely black box computer rankings. And sometimes they even leave data out of their black boxes. (The fact the an FCS game between Appalachian State and Western Illinois can actually affect the ranking of a top ten FBS team is absolute high comedy. It sounds like an Onion article: “Boise States top ten dreams rest in the hands of…… Appalachian State.” Only the clowns that run the BCS could make this a reality.)
But even if the six computer rankings are all done perfectly every week, why these six? I found this to be an interesting explanation from Massey ratings website:
How did you get involved with the BCS?
I started working on college football ratings as an honors project in mathematics while at Bluefield College in 1995. Continuing this interest as a hobby, I developed a web page and helped pioneer the organization of college football rankings via my comparison. The BCS, which started in 1997, realized the need to expand its sample of computer ratings from three to seven. My web site became a central resource point as the BCS officials searched for quality, respected, and well-established computer ratings. I received a phone call from SEC commisioner Roy Kramer in the spring of 1999 to discuss the prospect of adding my ratings to the BCS formula. Mine were chosen because of their demonstrated accuracy and conformance to the consensus, and my personal expertise in the field.
Conformance to the consensus!?! Massey states that a reason his computer model was chosen was because of its conformance to the consensus, which in this case I assume means the two polls which make up the other two thirds of the BCS rankings. This makes it sound like the BCS went out and picked the 6 ranking systems that conformed most closely with the polls. This would essentially render the computer rankings useless, as they would just be an elaborate extension of the polls. (Note: I like the Massey ratings; I just don’t think they or any computer rating system should be used to determine a national champion.)
All of this has led me to produce my own rankings (which do not conform to the consensus). Maybe if I post my rankings long enough, I will get a call from some big time conference commissioner, and they will add my totally black box ranking system to the BCS. So anyway, here are my rankings. (Some details: I’m only using data from 2011, all teams start on a level playing field (no preseason ranking is considered). Strength of schedule plays a heavy role in my rankings (which the BCS should love because I’ll likely never put Boise State in my top ten.) I do not consider the location of the game, and I get my data from goldsheet.com. So rather than using only FCS or FBS data points, I’m using only games that can easily be gambled on (I guess the
NCAA BCS won’t be calling; they seem to frown on gambling.))
BCS: If you want to contact me you can send me a tweet @StatsInTheWild.