This pains me deeply to say. I almost can't bear it. But here goes.
The political coverage about New Hampshire is actually better than the sports coverage found in the AP and USA Today Polls
I find myself wanting to strangle somebody. And not because of some new scandal in the Bush Administration.
There are some legitimate points of debate. How to rank BYU, for example, is tough, since they beat a lot of teams with winning records, but they were all midmajor conferences. There's no signature win. Ditto for Hawaii, with the problem that Hawaii has quite the signature loss.
But some are just stupid. It's like, which is worse; that voters were ignorant and they just didn't care, or that they are so enamored with certain teams they willfully overlook pesky things like wins and losses? How in the world do you rank Florida ahead of Michigan (and Auburn in one of the polls)? It makes a good little Baptist boy want to swear hard enough to make Mel Gibson and Michael Richards blush. And speaking of Auburn, really? Ahead of two 10-3 teams!?!
I have an APB out for South Florida. Let's see, all they did was beat West Virginia. Oh, and somehow they beat a team from the superhuman ego conference, too. One that goes by the name of Auburn, who somehow got a 14 and a 15. Hmm, nothing to see here folks, move along. The SEC is all-powerful. They don't lose to anybody, even if the score board has some kind of malfunction and shows them having fewer points.
Now we get on to the really fun stuff, both because these are the best teams and because I personally care more. It's one thing for a team like Florida to be ranked above the team they lost to in the bowl game, or for a team like 9-4 Auburn to be ranked ahead of 10-3 teams Cincinnati and Arizona State. I don't follow any of those teams closely. But when teams I do follow more closely get disrespected, or more accurately this year, simply ignored, it makes me quite animated. Looking at how the voters decided the top ten, I really think the most rational response is to just ignore the polls. They must have used some alien formula more secret than FICO scoring. And it must have about as much precedent as the Supreme Court's decision in Bush v Gore.
So let's break this down. I think the most helpful way to analyze this is to remove the school names. You then see quite plainly that many voters made decisions based not on the performance of the teams on the field this year but rather on performances in prior years or biases about certain programs or conferences. First, here's what the two polls have after the season ended.
Without the schools, here's what the AP did:
That makes no sense. Absolutely none. So, let's try this method. Here are the number of wins the team had against another top ten opponent (bigger is better).
I repeat myself, that makes no sense. So, let's try the reverse. These are the number of losses to teams not in the top ten (smaller is better).
Well, you know the drill. So, let's try the number of teams they beat which beat a top ten team (bigger is better).
Now let's look at another number where smaller is better, the number of losses to teams with fewer than 10 wins.
Again, very interesting. Is there any number that makes sense? I haven't found it yet if there is. Maybe the answer is that the teams rated highly won their conference (or division of conference).
1. conf champ
3. conf champ
4. div champ
5. conf champ
6. conf champ
8. conf champ
9. conf champ
Hmmm, guess not. So let's put this together in the form of [wins-losses], [top ten wins-losses to teams not in top ten], [wins against teams with a top ten win-losses to teams with fewer than 10 wins], [conference position]. The AP voters say:
1. 12-2, 2-2, 0-2, conf champ
2. 11-2, 0-2, 1-1, none
3. 11-2, 0-2, 1-2, conf champ
4. 12-2, 1-0, 7-0, div champ
5. 11-2, 0-1, 0-1, conf champ
6. 11-2, 1-2, 1-2, conf champ
7. 12-1, 1-0, 3-0, none
8. 11-3, 3-2, 2-2, conf champ
9. 11-3, 0-1, 1-0, conf champ
10.10-3, 0-2, 1-2, none
Here's how I rank them (note, this sets aside the rule that the winner of the national championship is the automatic number one).
1. 12-2, 1-0, 7-0, div champ
2. 12-1, 1-0, 3-0, none
3. 12-2, 2-2, 0-2, conf champ
4. 11-2, 1-2, 1-2, conf champ
5. 11-2, 0-2, 1-1, none
6. 11-2, 0-2, 1-2, conf champ
7. 11-2, 0-1, 0-1, conf champ
8. 11-3, 3-2, 2-2, conf champ
9. 11-3, 0-1, 1-0, conf champ
10.10-3, 0-2, 1-2, none
This completes the more objective analysis of the day. I am quite eager to turn into a fan and really argue this case. Let's put some names on those numbers.
4. West Virginia
7. Ohio State
9. Virginia Tech
10. Texas (although, this is really Boston College for me; I vote Texas 11 and BC 10)
When you look at the 2007-2008 college football season, I am quite convinced that the national championship game was not played in New Orleans between LSU and Ohio State, but rather in Kansas City between Missouri and Kansas. They have quality wins and they avoided bad losses. In a season where the top teams are all very close, that combo is very important. The worst team that the Big 12 combo of MU/KU lost to was...Oklahoma; they had not a single loss to a team outside the top ten. That is almost unbelievable. Only three of the top ten teams won 12 games, yet only one of them was ranked in the top three. Kansas only lost one game all season, while Missouri beat seven teams who were good enough to themselves beat a top ten team, more than LSU (0), Georgia (1), and USC (1) combined! The teams Missouri beat were themselves responsible for beating the SEC Champion, the ACC Champion, the Big 12 Champion, and the Big Ten Champion. That is a monstrous season.
Let's move on to Georgia. What would be required of teams like Missouri, Kansas, and West Virginia to get voted ahead of Georgia? All three had more wins against top ten teams than Georgia even played! Missouri, unlike Georgia, won its division, not to mention winning more games. Georgia's schedule was as soft as Kansas' was; Kansas came out with a better record. West Virginia won the Big East, having the same record as Georgia. Basically, the AP voters are saying a team would have to go undefeated to be better than a two loss Georgia team whose best win of the entire season was against a four loss team and whose worst loss was to a team that didn't even play in a bowl game. The two teams Georgia lost to had a combined 10 losses. The three teams that Missouri and Kansas lost to (together) had total combined losses of eight games. Just think about that. Georgia's rank is so ridiculous you can't even argue with it. You just laugh at the voters and give them zero credibility.
Then there's USC. At least they won their conference. Their main problem, however, is that they have a bad loss. A very bad one. USC lost at home to a team that finished the season 4-8. Stanford's victory over USC ranks not just among the season's all-time upsets, but among the greatest upsets in the history of college football. Now, if the Pac 10 had been a strong conference this year, that might be forgivable, if USC had some great wins. They don't have any, though. Their only win against a team with 10 or more wins was against Arizona State, which was manhandled by the Big 12's fourth team, Texas. Their second best win was against Illinois, which, oh, Missouri also beat, in a location a lot closer to Champaign than the Rose Bowl. Like Georgia, USC didn't even play a top ten team!
It's also important to understand that, aside from ranking either team highly, ranking both USC and Georgia highly is only consistent if the criteria is the national recognition of the program. In other words, it has nothing to do with this football season. You can't claim the SEC is a great conference to vote for Georgia #2, then vote a team from a weak conference #3. You can't vote USC #3 because winning conference championships are important, then vote for a #2 team that didn't even win their division, let alone their conference. You can't talk about how good the conference is when the teams you are talking about (like Florida and Arizona State) lose bowl games against teams ranked lower than them, while other teams get blown out by a higher ranked team (think Arkansas).
So my #1 choice is finally ranked at #4. But that still leaves me upset about Kansas and West Virginia.
How Ohio State is ranked #5 is a mystery beyond mysteries. It's so bizarre. Either they should be ranked higher for winning a conference, or they should be ranked lower for not being a very good team. Unlike Georgia and USC, Ohio State did play a top ten team. They lost, though. Overall, I think their season was a little better than USC, but since USC won its bowl and the team it beat was responsible for Ohio State's other loss, then I think USC should probably be a notch higher than Ohio State. How the AP voters rank them higher than Kansas and West Virginia, though, is probably classified above top secret.
Interestingly, once we make it down to the 8, 9, and 10 slots, I have no quarrel with the AP.
So join me in recognizing the Missouri Tigers as your national champions. Or at least join me in mocking the voters.
And I don't mean the New Hampshire ones.
One final update, here's the bowl predictions I made by conference vs the actual result.
Big 12: 5-3/5-3: exact
Pac 10: 4-2/4-2: exact
SEC: 5-4/7-2: two off
ACC: 4-4/2-6: two off
Big East: 2-3/3-2: one off
Big Ten: 4-4/3-5: one off
Labels: elections, football, ncaa, politics, sports, stanford