Arkansas’ fall in the BCS Rankings after a win is hardly an indication of a particular bias against the Razorbacks or of a lack of respect. Having studied the BCS system, having studied the BCS formula, having read the technical publications accompanying each of the polls as well as having some experience with developing a computer ranking system, a detailed explanation might be given, but for today let’s get to the basic points.
Dealing with the issue of respect, the Razorbacks moved up in both human polls. In the Harris Poll the Hogs moved from 10th place to 9th place. For those who would like to know more about the Harris Poll, click this link. The short explanation from their website is:
The 2011 Harris Interactive College Football Poll is comprised of 115 panelists and includes former coaches, players, administrators and current and former media. Panelists are randomly drawn by Harris Interactive from among more than 300 nominations supplied by the 11 Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) conferences and independent institutions. The panel meets Harris Interactive criteria for sample design and is a statistically reliable representation of all 11 conferences and independent institutions.
In the USA Today Coaches’ Poll, Arkansas moved up from 10th to 8th. Computers don’t respect or criticize anyone, so it’s difficult to say that the Arkansas Razorbacks are suffering from a lack of respect from people in the college football world who matter.
One-third of the BCS Ranking is a composite computer ranking of six selected computer polls which are averaged together. Computers are part of the BCS computation in the first place because writers and coaches may be influenced from the amount of media coverage or vote with a certain amount of “homer” influence. Computers crunch numbers according to the method that their authors use, and admittedly the systems may contain bias. However, any one computer poll counts for no more than 1/6 of 1/3 of the BCS Rankings, i.e. 5.5% of the total. Even then, most of the systems aren’t terribly different in terms of their results from one another and the difference in any single off-base poll has only a smaller fraction of the overall impact because the team is already getting some credit vs. the amount of credit others believe they should receive. The computers rank the Hogs as 12th, 11th, 15th, 6th, 7th, and 6th for an average ranking of 8th. It’s really simple and understandable to say, “Hey Sharp, don’t you see that we’re 9th, 8th, and 8th, in each of the three components of the BCS? There’s no way to tell us that we should be 10th in the BCS.”
The reasons why Arkansas fell to 10th in the BCS standings don’t have as much to do with Arkansas as much as they have to do with the teams around Arkansas being either ranked higher in the human polls or much higher in the computer polls. Really, we are comparing four teams, Oregon, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Arkansas who are separated by 296 ten-thousandths (10,oooths) of a point and grouped in the last part of the BCS Top 10. You can see the complete BCS Standings for Week 9 below. The differences overall in these four teams are negligible. In case you’re wondering, the grouping isn’t arbitrary. 7th ranked Oregon is separated from 6th ranked Stanford by 1247 ten-thousandths of a point while 10th ranked Arkansas is 1201 ten-thousandths of a point higher in the BCS than 11th ranked Michigan St. The result is a clear demarcation setting Oregon, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Arkansas together between BCS ratings of .6877 and .6581.
BCS Complete Standings Week 9
|BCS Rk.||Team||BCS AVG||BCS PVS||Harris Rk.||Harris Pts.||Harris BCS %||Coaches' Rk.||Coaches' Pts.||BCS Coach %||Comp. Avg.||A&H||RB||CM||KM||JS||PW||Comp. BCS %|
Sort as you like.
So that sorting would work properly, zeros have been added where needed.
Some have noted the difference in the Associated Press’s Top 25 Poll and the BCS Poll. The AP Top 25 was no longer part of the BCS calculation beginning in 2004. Ultimately, it’s an opinion like everyone else’s, and where it fits in is that it gives rankings before the first BCS Poll every year. Why? The BCS Polls don’t start until week 7 or so of the season in part because it’s really too early before then in any season to start to see teams with real strength against worthy opponents for a few weeks. The other reason is that some computer rankings will need the data of several weeks in order to begin producing meaningful results.
Some will never agree that computer rankings should be a part of college football; however, this season has produced an example of what the computers bring to the table. Hog Database’s College Football Champion Index and the BCS Polls both included Penn State week before last in the Top 25. The Associated Press had Penn State as the first of “Others Receiving Votes” so the Nittany Lions were just out of the Top 25. The BCS had Penn State at 21 in its first poll with an average computer ranking of 16. The College Football Champion Index had Penn State at No. 15. Not everyone has to see the landscape the same way, but the cold calculations of computers can sometimes recognize things which people don’t see.
Here’s what happened with the Razorbacks this week. Oregon was the beneficiary of the teams losing ahead of the Ducks in the both the Harris and USA Today Polls and vaulted from No. 9 to No. 7 in the Harris Poll and No. 8 to No. 7 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll. The Ducks maintained their No. 12 computer average. The CFCI has the Ducks at No. 14. Kansas St. which was No. 11 in the BCS Poll last week, moved up across the board. The Harris Poll moved the Wildcats from 12 to 10 while the Coaches moved them up 4 positions from 16 to 12. However, the computers have moved Kansas State up to a No. 5 average where the College Football Champion Index had them last week and where they remain this week. Of the grouping, Oklahoma’s loss and higher ranking than the Razorbacks is probably the more understandable one of the bunch. The Sooners fell from BCS No. 3 to BCS No. 9, ranking No. 8 and 9 in the Harris and USA Today Polls this week down from No. 3 and No. 1 respectively, and they came in at No. 7 in the computer polls, down from an average of No. 4. The College Football Champion Index had the Sooners at No. 6 last week and falling to No. 15 this week. The Hogs moved to No. 9 and No. 8 in the Harris and Coaches’ Polls this week up from No. 10 in both while maintaining a No. 8 rank in the computer rankings. As against the composite BCS Champion in the CFCI, the Razorbacks moved up to No. 20 this week based on their win over Ole Miss alone. Defensive stats drag the Hogs to a performance ranking of 51st which is the lowest of the CFCI’s Top 25, but the divergence between assessed performance and actual rank credits greatly the emphasis that the CFCI places on winning.
If there’s any way to sum up this week for Arkansas in the Polls, it’s to borrow the old saying, “You’re either getting ahead or falling behind, because you’re never going to stay the same.” Against Ole Miss, the Hogs’ got by and fell behind.
**If you compare the College Football Champion Index to the Computer Polls, not a single BCS Computer Poll places 3 of the BCS Top 4 in order. The CFCI does.