Hack Poll College Football Ratings

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Finally, some upsets, and with them some better definition of the race to the BCS as we head down the homestretch. But first, a moment of silence for Jahvid Best, who hurtled through the air to score a touchdown, landing on his back and suffering his second concussion in as many weeks. In the short term, it appears he has suffered no permanent physical injury. Long-term effects, though, remain to be seen.

Thank you.

Now, the weekly awards:

Upset of the week: Honorable mention to Navy’s 23-21 victory over Notre Dame and Stanford’s 51-42 boat race over Oregon, but I’m going with Northwestern’s 17-10 win over Iowa because it effectively knocks the Hawkeyes out of the national title race (yes, I will finally make an alteration to my projections!) Iowa probably would have had a chance had not their quarterback, Ricky Stanzi, been injured in the second quarter. Iowa has gone from national title contender to likely out of the BCS entirely, as next week they will have to take on Ohio St with the conference title on the line without Stanzi.

Comeback of the week: Connecticut made a valiant attempt to claim this award, scoring 35 points in the second half trying to erase a 20-point halftime deficit to Cincinnati, but in the end they came up a 2-point conversion short. So the award goes to Bowling Green, who scored 14 4th quarter points to eek out a 30-29 win over Buffalo. Bowling Green still trails Temple by two games in the MAC East Division, but bizarrely, those two teams don’t play each other this year!

Yawner of the week: Disappointing Georgia took out its frustrations on Tennessee Tech to the tune of 38-0. It was a de facto bye week for the Bulldogs, who close out the season against Auburn, Kentucky, and Georgia Tech.

Game of the week: Despite the controversy about the interception that was (or wasn’t), the Alabama-LSU game was a great football game. It used to be LSU that would wear down its opponents with physical play, but in this game Alabama played that card to perfection en route to a 24-15 win. The SEC title game between Florida and Alabama is officially set in stone.

By beating a high ranked opponent, Alabama jumped up to #1 in my ratings. Oregon’s loss to Stanford dropped them only to 9th, and it’s a crime that the human polls are ranking USC higher than Oregon (even more of a crime than ranking Oregon higher than Boise State last week). Here’s the complete list:

Rank Team W-L Value STR Last Week AP
1 Alabama 9-0 6.831 STR-14 Last-4 AP-3
2 Texas 9-0 6.484 STR-26 Last-2 AP-2
3 Florida 9-0 6.342 STR-33 Last-1 AP-1
4 Cincinnati 9-0 5.801 STR-57 Last-5 AP-5
5 TCU 9-0 5.657 STR-64 Last-7 AP-4
6 Iowa 9-1 4.946 STR-36 Last-3 AP-15
7 Boise St 9-0 4.787 STR-105 Last-8 AP-6
8 Georgia Tech 9-1 4.741 STR-48 Last-10 AP-7
9 Oregon 7-2 4.417 STR-7 Last-6 AP-14
10 LSU 7-2 4.242 STR-11 Last-9 AP-9
11 Pittsburgh 8-1 4.180 STR-65 Last-12 AP-8
12 Houston 8-1 4.068 STR-68 Last-13 AP-13
13 Ohio St 8-2 4.062 STR-24 Last-20 AP-10
14 Virginia Tech 6-3 4.039 STR-1 Last-17 AP-20
15 Wisconsin 7-2 3.914 STR-23 Last-16 AP-21
16 USC 7-2 3.814 STR-22 Last-14 AP-11
17 Miami FL 7-2 3.736 STR-28 Last-18 AP-12
18 Penn St 8-2 3.648 STR-44 Last-11 AP-19
19 Oklahoma St 7-2 3.490 STR-41 Last-21 AP-17
20 Utah 8-1 3.347 STR-109 Last-15 AP-16
21 Arizona 6-2 3.151 STR-37 Last-19 AP-18
22 BYU 7-2 2.919 STR-67 Last-24 AP-22
23 West Virginia 7-2 2.901 STR-71 Last-23 AP-27
24 Oregon St 6-3 2.802 STR-17 Last-34 AP-26
25 Clemson 6-3 2.659 STR-18 Last-29 AP-24
26 South Florida 6-2 2.613 STR-76 AP-23
27 Troy 7-2 2.388 STR-101 AP-43
28 Navy 7-3 2.373 STR-50 AP-30
29 Auburn 7-3 2.295 STR-53 AP-27
30 Notre Dame 6-3 2.250 STR-35 Last-22 AP-40
31 Boston Coll 6-3 2.180 STR-40 AP-35
32 Fresno St 6-3 2.068 STR-46 AP-41
33 Rutgers 6-2 2.063 STR-104 AP-32
34 Cent Michigan 7-2 2.027 STR-112 AP-34
35 Nebraska 6-3 1.987 STR-45 AP-33
36 Stanford 6-3 1.887 STR-52 AP-25
37 Texas Tech 6-3 1.786 STR-66 AP-29
38 California 6-3 1.709 STR-69 Last-25
39 North Carolina 6-3 1.596 STR-72 AP-35
40 Idaho 7-3 1.475 STR-103
41 Oklahoma 5-4 1.456 STR-16 AP-38
42 Tennessee 5-4 1.387 STR-20 AP-31
43 Arkansas 5-4 1.383 STR-21
44 Mississippi 6-3 1.345 STR-96 AP-41
45 Temple 7-2 1.295 STR-120 AP-35
46 Georgia 5-4 1.281 STR-25
47 South Carolina 6-4 1.117 STR-59
48 Kentucky 5-4 1.113 STR-31
49 Missouri 5-4 0.903 STR-39
50 Air Force 6-4 0.842 STR-79
51 Minnesota 5-5 0.833 STR-13
52 Nevada 5-3 0.820 STR-95
53 Florida St 4-5 0.601 STR-5
54 Mississippi St 4-5 0.558 STR-4
55 Northwestern 6-4 0.545 STR-98
56 Kansas St 6-4 0.542 STR-99 AP-39
57 Northern Illinois 6-3 0.524 STR-115
58 Middle Tenn St 6-3 0.474 STR-117
59 UCLA 4-5 0.436 STR-6
60 Michigan St 5-5 0.431 STR-34
61 Texas A&M 5-4 0.306 STR-81
62 SMU 5-4 0.278 STR-78
63 Connecticut 4-5 0.271 STR-12
64 Marshall 5-4 0.269 STR-87
65 Kansas 5-4 0.266 STR-86
66 East Carolina 5-4 0.251 STR-91
67 Iowa St 5-5 0.251 STR-43
68 UCF 5-4 0.171 STR-94
69 Ohio 6-3 0.071 STR-121
70 LA Monroe 5-4 -0.039 STR-102
71 Southern Miss 5-4 -0.142 STR-106
72 Bowling Green 4-5 -0.199 STR-38
73 Purdue 4-6 -0.208 STR-10
74 Washington 3-6 -0.304 STR-2
75 Michigan 5-5 -0.357 STR-88
76 Duke 5-4 -0.538 STR-114
77 Arizona St 4-5 -0.565 STR-56
78 Baylor 4-5 -0.567 STR-55
79 Wake Forest 4-6 -0.635 STR-30
80 LA Lafayette 5-4 -0.761 STR-119
81 Wyoming 4-5 -0.839 STR-74
82 San Diego St 4-5 -0.922 STR-84
83 UAB 4-5 -0.954 STR-93
84 NC St 4-5 -1.035 STR-100
85 Syracuse 3-6 -1.044 STR-8
86 UNLV 4-6 -1.156 STR-60
87 Louisville 3-6 -1.207 STR-15
88 Indiana 4-6 -1.210 STR-61
89 Kent St 5-5 -1.235 STR-118
90 Toledo 4-5 -1.321 STR-107
91 Colorado 3-6 -1.338 STR-27
92 Tulsa 4-5 -1.356 STR-108
93 Virginia 3-6 -1.518 STR-32
94 Illinois 3-6 -1.741 STR-49
95 Colorado St 3-7 -1.785 STR-29
96 W Michigan 4-6 -1.807 STR-110
97 Tulane 3-6 -1.854 STR-58
98 UTEP 3-6 -1.879 STR-70
99 Louisiana Tech 3-6 -1.942 STR-62
100 Buffalo 3-6 -2.100 STR-82
101 Hawaii 3-6 -2.289 STR-97
102 Army 3-6 -2.609 STR-113
103 New Mexico St 3-6 -2.648 STR-111
104 Florida Atlantic 2-6 -2.852 STR-73
105 Arkansas St 2-6 -2.900 STR-63
106 Florida Intl 2-7 -3.049 STR-51
107 Maryland 2-7 -3.131 STR-80
108 Memphis 2-7 -3.263 STR-83
109 San Jose St 1-6 -3.278 STR-3
110 Utah St 2-7 -3.282 STR-77
111 Akron 2-7 -3.291 STR-85
112 Vanderbilt 2-8 -3.295 STR-42
113 North Texas 2-7 -3.428 STR-92
114 Washington St 1-8 -3.749 STR-9
115 Miami OH 1-9 -4.010 STR-19
116 Others-Normal -4.949 STR-47
117 Ball St 1-8 -5.095 STR-116
118 Rice 0-9 -5.711 STR-54
119 New Mexico 0-9 -5.789 STR-75
120 East Michigan 0-9 -5.866 STR-89
121 West Kentucky 0-9 -5.936 STR-90

Most overrated team: Stanford (6-3, AP#25, Hack#36) The Cardinal offense did impress last week against Oregon, but so far that has been their only significant victory this year. The highest ranked team they have beaten besides Oregon is #59 UCLA, and they lost to #79 Wake Forest. They finish up against USC, Cal, and Notre Dame – if they can win two of those three they probably deserve to be in the top-25.

Most underrated team: Iowa (9-1, AP#15, Hack#6) I knew it was going to happen. Iowa loses its starting quarterback and then loses a tough game to Northwestern, and the voters disproportionately punish the Hawkeyes, ignoring their 9-0 start including a home win over Arizona and road wins over Penn St and Wisconsin. I know that without Stanzi, Iowa is going to have a tough time against both Ohio St and Minnesota, but right now, based on what they’ve done, they deserve to be a lot higher than 15th.

BCS Pie-in-the-sky predictions: I’m leaving Florida in the national championship game, but now I’m sending Alabama to the Sugar Bowl instead of LSU. As for the other spot in the championship, Iowa is out (now I’m picking Ohio St to go to the Rose Bowl) and Texas is in (have to find a new candidate for the Fiesta Bowl):

Orange Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. Pittsburgh
Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Boise St
Fiesta Bowl: USC vs. Miami (FL)
Rose Bowl: Ohio St vs. Oregon
National Championship: Florida vs. Texas

For a discussion of how I would do playoffs instead of the BCS format, see my last post.

Interesting games this week:
(3) Florida vs. (47) South Carolina [Steve Spurrier tries to upset his former team]
(35) Nebraska vs. (65) Kansas [Cornhuskers try to stay alive in Big-12 North race against disappointing Jayhawks]
(23) West Virginia vs. (4) Cincinnati [Both teams still control their own path to the BCS]
(20) Utah vs. (5) TCU [If Horned Frogs win this game, I’ll put TCU in my Sugar Bowl projection instead of Boise]
(6) Iowa vs. (13) Ohio St [Stanzi’s injury takes some of the luster off of this game]
(40) Idaho vs. (7) Boise St [Even though the Vandals have 3 losses now, this is still the biggest intra-Idaho game in years]
(8) Georgia Tech vs. (76) Duke [Yellow Jackets can clinch trip to the ACC title game and deal crushing blow to Blue Devils’ slim hopes of bowl eligibility with a win]
(21) Arizona vs. (38) California [Wildcats still control their own path to the Rose Bowl, but after Cal they still have to play Oregon, Arizona St, and USC]

Monday, November 09, 2009

In response to the “Mandel Plan” for a college football playoff, I now present the “Hack Plan”. The Mandel Plan calls for a 4-team playoff (the so-called “plus-one” model) and it’s pretty good, but in my opinion it fails to address one inequity in the current system of selecting the national champion: what happens when a team is good enough to contend for the national title but happens not to be in the top 4 of the BCS rankings? For example, in 2007 Hawaii finished 12-0 but finished 10th in the BCS standings, while three out of the top 4 in the BCS standings had 2 losses apiece. In an effort to deal with these inequities, I present a format of an 8-team playoff with the following selection process:

1) Throw out the human polls and just use the computer rankings as they are currently inserted into the BCS formula. People are understandably leery of using computers to pick the top 2 teams in the country, but I don’t think anyone can make a reasonable argument that the computers would not include the top 2 teams in the country in and among their top 8. Under this format, the current top 16 would be:
1. Florida
2. Alabama
3. Cincinnati
4. TCU
5. Texas
6. Boise State
7. Georgia Tech
8. LSU
9. Iowa
10. Oregon
11. USC
12. Miami (FL)
13. (13t) Ohio State
14. (13t) Pittsburgh
15. Arizona
16. Houston

2) Choose the top 4 “seeds”, which are chosen to be the top 4 ranked conference champions (for these purposes, the top-ranked independent would be treated as equivalent to a conference champion). These 4 teams would host first-round playoff games the week before Christmas. In this case, those teams would be Florida, Cincinnati, TCU, and Texas.
3) Attempt to fill out the remaining four spots with conference champions ranked from highest to lowest in the top-12 of the computer rankings. In this case, they would be Boise State, Georgia Tech, Iowa, and Oregon.
4) If the 8 spots are not filled after step 3, take wild card teams (non conference champions) ranked from highest to lowest provided (a) they are ranked in the top 8 of the computer rankings, and (b) no other team from that conference has already been selected as a wild card. (For example, if there were only 6 conference champions in the top-12, Alabama would be selected as a wild card. LSU would not, because Alabama took the SEC’s wild card spot. USC would not be selected either because in the initial selection, wild cards would have to be in the top-8.
5) If the 8 spots are not filled after step 4, take additional conference champions, in order, ranked between 13 and 16.
6) If the 8 spots are not filled after step 5, take additional wild cards, in order, ranked between 9 and 12.
7) After the 8 teams are selected, a committee including representatives from each of the four major bowls, representatives of the FBS conferences, and representatives of the NCAA meet to determine the first-round pairings. They take into consideration such factors as preventing potential rematches until the championship game and geography (to minimize travel costs and encourage visiting fans to travel to the game. In this example, the committee might come up with Florida vs. Georgia Tech, Cincinnati vs. Iowa, TCU vs. Oregon, and Texas vs. Boise State.
8) The first round games feed into two of the Big 4 bowl games which serve as semifinal games on or about New Year’s Day. The National Championship is held at a different Big 4 site the following week, just as it is now.
9) Meanwhile, the two big bowls that don’t host semifinal games get to choose teams that didn’t make the playoffs for Meaningless Marquee Matchups (MMM’s), which (let’s face it) is exactly what the BCS bowls are now. The bowl that would not be involved in the playoffs this year (Sugar Bowl) would get its first choice of teams for an MMM, and the bowl that later hosts the National Championship (Rose Bowl) gets the last choice. Each bowl selects two of the four highest ranked eligible teams remaining, but a team is not eligible if another team from its conference has already been selected as a wild card or as an MMM participant. (So, in our example, the Sugar Bowl would get to choose from Alabama/LSU, USC, Miami, or Ohio State. Assuming the Sugar Bowl took Alabama and Miami, the Rose Bowl would get to choose from USC/Arizona, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, and Houston)
10) Using current standings as an example, here is how the format would look this year:
First round (week before Christmas):
Georgia Tech at Florida
Iowa at Cincinnati
Oregon at TCU
Boise State at Texas
Second round, and MMM games:
Orange Bowl: Semifinal game (Winners at Florida and TCU)
Sugar Bowl: MMM: Alabama vs. Miami
Fiesta Bowl: Semifinal game (Winners at Cincinnati and Texas)
Rose Bowl: MMM: USC vs. Ohio State
At Pasadena: National Championship Game

Under this format, the championship game would continue to rotate between the big 4 bowl sites. When the Orange or Fiesta Bowls hosts the championship, the Rose and Sugar Bowls host semifinals, and vice versa.

Now, since I used 2007 as an example of how the plus-one model would be inadequate, let’s see how the Hack Plan stands up to that year. First, the computer standings:
1. Virginia Tech (ACC champ)
2. LSU (SEC champ)
3. Ohio State (Big-10 champ)
4. Missouri
5. Kansas
6. (6t) Oklahoma (Big-12 champ)
7. (6t) Georgia
8. Arizona State
9. USC (Pac-10 champ)
10. West Virginia (Big East champ)
11. Florida
12. Hawaii (WAC champ)
13. Boston College
14. South Florida
15. Clemson
16. Illinois
17. Tennessee
18. Virginia
19. BYU

Select four host teams: Virginia Tech, LSU, Ohio State, and Oklahoma
Select other four teams: USC, West Virginia, Hawaii, and Missouri
Create pairings (making sure to avoid Oklahoma-Missouri and LSU-Virginia Tech rematches) and other bowls select MMM’s:
First round:
West Virginia at Virginia Tech
Missouri at Ohio State
Hawaii at LSU
USC at Oklahoma
Second round:
Orange Bowl: Semifinal (V-tech and Ohio State winners)
Sugar Bowl (MMM #2): Boston College vs. Illinois
Fiesta Bowl: Semifinal (LSU and Oklahoma winners)
Rose Bowl (MMM #1): Arizona State vs. Georgia
At Sugar Bowl in New Orleans

Advantages to this system:
1) No automatic bids. Every conference champ is treated the same, regardless of if you are from the SEC or the Sun Belt. A 3-loss conference champion is not guaranteed a trip to a Big Bowl, let alone the playoffs.
2) The system encourages teams to schedule at least one marquee non-conference opponent. Hawaii failed to do this, and even though they went undefeated they just barely qualified for the playoff field. Additionally, conference champions can dramatically improve their chances of playing a first-round game at home by scheduling a marquee non-conference opponent, improving their strength of schedule.
3) Every team in the FBS has a chance to win the national title, no matter where they start or end up in any of the human polls.
4) The Big Bowls have the same money-making potential that they currently have. In addition, since now they host 3 meaningful games every 4 years instead of just 1, that money-making potential is more likely to go up than down.
5) The first round games are virtually guaranteed to be sellouts since they are played at home sites. Between tickets and television revenue, it should not be hard to figure out the contractual arrangements to make sure that all teams are compensated comparably to BCS-bowl payouts.
6) Fans of teams making the national championship game (likely teams that hosted first round games) would only have to travel afar twice to follow their teams, the same as in the Mandel Plan.
7) The season would not drag on into January, but would end on the same schedule that it currently does.
8) The rest of the bowls would be able to carry on as usual, and with additional meaningful games in late December, it might generate some additional interest for 2nd-tier bowl games.

Just my thoughts. As Stewart Mandel muses, this has a 0.0 percent chance of getting adopted any time soon.