Saturday, December 4, 2010

College football teams are hard to rank

At least that's the conclusion of a recent NY Times article, Who’s No. 1?, written before the Thanksgiving weekend games were played.  It begins by noting

"This is the 13th year of the Bowl Championship Series, the byzantine and unpopular system that is supposed to guarantee that the college-football season ends with a championship game between the sport’s two best teams. Comparing teams that usually do not play one another — there are 120 major college-football programs, and each one competes in just 12 games each season — was never going to be easy. Like three egg rolls served to a party of four at a Chinese restaurant, the portions never seem to divide up quite as neatly as they should. This year, for instance, four programs — Oregon, Auburn, Boise State and Texas Christian — have spent much of the season in contention for the two positions in the championship."
...
"In addition to the championship game, the B.C.S. involves four beauty-contest games: the Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar bowls. In the last four years, the teams ranked lower than their opponents by the B.C.S. formula have won 12 of the 20 games established by the system. The putative underdog has also won 6 of the last 8 title games: last year’s championship, in which the higher-rated Alabama defeated Texas, was something of a novelty. If the No. 2 team routinely beats the No. 1 team, it’s worth asking whether the B.C.S. rankings are valid.
...
"Without high-quality out-of-conference games, every major conference is in essence an island unto itself. We can identify the best team in the Pac 10, or the best team in the S.E.C. But we don’t have any good way of comparing the Pac 10 against the S.E.C., or against any other conference. It doesn’t matter how smart your computer rankings are, or how wizened the participants in your poll: there simply isn’t enough worthwhile data to work with."


I've written earlier posts about college football bowls, and how the present system arose in part out of an effort to roll back the unraveling of dates at which teams and bowls were matched...

1 comment:

Stacey said...

I have created a model based on offensive and defensive productivity that allows one to systematically rank NCAA FBS teams. I do so at my blog: http://teamsportsanalysis.blogspot.com/