2011 BCS Rankings: A comparison of major ranking services vs. SportsMeasures

Once again, the annual argument about the validity of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) rankings has begun! I am happy to lead the charge against this assault on the intelligence of the American sporting public.

My public rantings have been raged in this space many times before and will continue. The BCS is as unscientific, invalid, and therefore, inherently unfair to everyone involved, as anything foisted upon the sporting world. It combines subjective and biased sportswriters’ and coaches’ opinions, flawed statistical analysis and deception to create the illusion of accurate rankings. It is anything but that.

OK, so that’s out of the way. Let’s compare the AP Poll (no longer part of the BCS equation), the USA Today Poll, the BCS rankings to the only objective measurement methodology available anywhere. A short refreshed for those of you unfamiliar with our methodology. We use only games results data to create our measures. That means there is no subjectivity or bias of any kind in our measures. We make no assumptions about the distribution of the data like the Bayesian method does. We let the actual data do the talking and that is what you see reflected in the table below. SportsMeasures rankings and measures are a pure reflection of the wins and losses of all the teams at all levels of college football. If you disagree with anything in this comparison chart, then you’re disagreeing with the actual results of the games on the field. That statement reflects the absolute independent nature of our methodology.

SM ranking

Team name

measure

error

AP Top 25

USA Today

BCS

wins

losses

1

Alabama

97.30

6.10

2

3

2

7

0

2

LSU

95.94

6.24

1

2

1

7

0

3

Boise St

95.00

6.50

5

7

5

6

0

4

Oklahoma

89.19

6.19

3

1

3

6

0

5

Oklahoma St

89.03

5.26

6

6

4

6

0

6

Wisconsin

88.81

7.13

4

4

6

6

0

7

Stanford

86.62

8.79

7

5

8

6

0

8

SMU

84.90

6.09

29

29

NR

5

1

9

Clemson

84.72

5.42

8

8

7

7

0

10

Oregon

84.69

6.41

9

8

10

5

1

11

Virginia Tech

82.91

5.77

16

14

12

6

1

12

Houston

81.45

8.55

21

20

19

6

0

13

Kansas St

80.96

6.39

12

16

11

6

0

14

Michigan

80.63

6.14

18

17

18

6

1

15

West Virginia

80.31

6.05

11

14

15

5

1

16

Texas A&M

80.21

5.62

17

18

17

4

2

17

Arkansas

80.14

5.36

10

10

9

5

1

18

Arizona St

79.20

5.12

24

25

NR

5

2

19

Nebraska

78.96

6.11

13

11

13

5

1

20

Penn State

78.76

5.97

26

22

21

6

1

21

Michigan St

78.75

5.67

15

13

16

5

1

22

Temple

78.67

5.61

NR

35

NR

5

2

23

TCU

78.57

5.38

NR

37

NR

4

2

24

South Carolina

78.38

5.72

14

12

14

6

1

25

Toledo

78.16

5.17

4

3

26

Notre Dame

77.28

5.81

27

27

NR

4

2

27

Georgia

76.30

5.51

24

26

NR

5

2

28

Rutgers

75.99

6.21

35

28

NR

5

1

29

Washington

75.37

6.76

22

24

25

5

1

30

Texas Tech

75.20

5.68

4

2

31

Miami FL

74.82

5.83

3

3

32

Illinois

74.47

5.89

23

21

23

6

1

33

Georgia Tech

73.92

5.60

20

19

22

6

1

34

Southern Miss

73.76

5.82

32

31

NR

5

1

35

North Carolina

73.51

5.53

NR

33

NR

5

2

36

Utah

72.86

6.58

3

3

37

Missouri

72.66

6.86

3

3

38

Baylor

72.11

6.55

30

34

NR

4

2

39

Texas

71.92

6.57

31

30

24

4

2

40

Florida St

71.61

6.43

3

3

41

Southern Cal

71.60

6.79

28

NR

NR

5

1

42

South Florida

71.47

5.43

4

2

43

Auburn

70.90

6.25

19

23

20

5

2

44

Ohio State

70.01

5.94

4

3

45

Iowa

69.13

7.19

4

2

46

Louisiana-Lafayette

68.23

10.12

6

1

47

Cincinnati

67.89

6.93

33

32

5

1

48

San Diego St

67.75

7.05

4

2

49

Arkansas St

67.73

8.52

4

2

50

Florida

66.04

8.68

4

3

51

Nevada

65.83

6.56

3

3

52

Tennessee

64.43

6.92

3

3

53

Western Michigan

64.34

6.12

4

3

54

Virginia

62.16

6.48

4

2

55

Mississippi St

62.12

10.71

3

4

56

UTEP

62.03

8.49

3

3

57

Hawai`i

62.03

5.68

3

3

58

Vanderbilt

61.51

6.61

3

3

59

Tulsa

61.13

13.70

3

3

60

Wake Forest

60.92

7.45

34

4

2

61

Central Florida

60.84

6.52

3

3

62

North Carolina St

59.82

7.05

3

3

63

Eastern Michigan

59.73

6.47

4

3

64

Washington St

59.54

7.01

3

3

65

California

59.43

7.86

3

3

66

Pittsburgh

59.05

6.84

3

4

67

Utah St

59.02

6.03

2

4

68

Northern Illinois

58.84

6.62

4

3

69

Florida Intl

58.12

7.43

4

2

70

Ohio U

58.06

5.68

4

3

71

Air Force

56.83

8.01

3

3

72

Syracuse

56.08

8.03

4

2

73

Connecticut

56.03

6.15

3

4

74

Navy

55.58

8.10

2

4

75

UCLA

55.53

7.73

3

3

76

Brigham Young

54.10

7.68

5

2

77

Maryland

54.01

7.55

2

4

78

Bowling Green

53.09

6.85

3

4

79

Wyoming

52.59

7.83

4

2

80

Iowa St

51.87

6.00

3

3

81

Louisville

51.72

7.42

2

4

82

Northwestern

51.33

7.09

2

4

83

Ball St

50.88

6.52

4

3

84

Marshall

50.56

6.30

3

4

85

Louisiana-Monroe

50.55

8.28

2

4

86

Louisiana Tech

49.80

7.90

2

4

87

San Jose St

48.81

7.95

3

4

88

Purdue

47.02

8.83

3

3

89

Rice

45.32

9.12

2

4

90

Fresno St

44.56

6.72

3

4

91

Duke

44.29

7.04

3

3

92

New Mexico St

43.96

9.20

3

3

93

Buffalo

43.85

6.09

2

5

94

Central Michigan

42.35

5.61

2

5

95

Kansas

41.26

6.79

2

4

96

Colorado

40.51

5.87

1

6

97

East Carolina

40.24

11.33

2

4

98

North Texas

39.64

7.80

2

5

99

Mississippi

39.47

5.95

2

4

100

Army

38.90

7.09

2

4

101

Colorado St

38.12

6.18

3

3

102

Boston College

37.84

6.67

1

5

103

Kentucky

37.50

6.66

2

4

104

Miami OH

36.57

6.51

2

4

105

Indiana

36.13

6.85

1

6

106

Troy

35.27

8.38

2

4

107

Idaho

34.36

6.13

1

6

108

Arizona

33.09

8.16

1

5

109

Oregon St

32.19

7.72

1

5

110

Kent St

31.54

6.25

1

6

111

UNLV

30.79

6.27

1

5

112

Minnesota

30.77

6.06

1

5

113

Western Kentucky

30.03

6.58

2

4

114

Akron

28.30

13.41

1

5

115

Tulane

26.03

8.19

2

5

116

Middle Tennessee St

25.99

6.46

1

4

117

Florida Atlantic

22.03

8.85

0

6

118

Alabama-Birmingham

17.83

8.08

0

6

119

Memphis

16.70

6.11

1

6

120

New Mexico

13.41

10.55

0

6

Our method takes into account the whole data matrix – who played who played who played who, etc. That is virtually impossible for any voting sportswriter or coach to do. These measures also allow us to create realistic strength of schedule calculations as well as fair and objective conference strength measures (see our other article on that subject – search by author name – Patrick B. Fisher)

The most glaring omission in the major rankings is Southern Methodist University. SMU has a 5-1 record, with their lone loss coming at (#16) Texas A&M, which has the toughest schedule (SoS) so far.  Our SoS calculations are based on games played so far. Their victories have been over UTEP (#56), Northwestern St (#44 in FCS; would be #84 in FBS), @Memphis (#119), @TCU (#23) and Central Florida (#61). Each win has come by a sizeable margin and the TCU game was on the road. Houston (#12), 6-0 so far, is ranked #21 in the AP Poll, #19 in the BCS. Their SoS is 111th of 120 and are getting more respect and attention than SMU. Houston’s weak schedule is reflected partly in their high error of measurement (8.55). Compare that to Oklahoma St with a 6-0 record and an error of 5.26 (#20, SoS).

Boise St is once again not getting all the respect they deserve. They’ve responded to the critics by adding a road game at Georgia to their schedule, which they promptly went out and won. The BCS has them at #5, but SportsMeasures has them fighting for a spot in the BCS Championship game.

Other large discrepancies include #17 Arkansas (#9, BCS), #18 Arizona St (unranked BCS) and, #24 South Carolina (#14, BCS). These examples highlight the problems with the BCS method. Another commonly argued (and valid) point is the syndrome of beginning the season highly ranked and staying there because you won, not because your schedule strength or performance warranted staying there. Since SportsMeasures makes no assumptions, every team starts at the same place at the beginning of the season and their performance dictates their ranking as the season goes.

The other big issue with the BCS is how they hope and expect there to be very few (read: 2) undefeated teams so that the national championship game teams are easily paired. Currently, there are ten undefeated teams in the FBS, which opens the floodgates for the other undefeated teams to argue their case for being in the BCS championship game. Because our method is subjected to scientific rigor  it will stand up to any scrutiny by anyone.

I will be writing shorter follow-ups for the duration of the season focusing on the Top 25.

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