Why college football still can't get it right.

The stadium scene.
Nov. 24 2003 6:53 PM

Polls and Bowls

Why college football still can't get it right.

(Continued from Page 1)

The answer is that the Times and Sagarin and the others did not actually create those rankings systems; they're following the guidelines given to them by the BCS through the NCAA, and those guidelines are riddled with compromises and logical absurdities. For instance, try and figure the BCS's formula for "Quality Win Component": "The quality win component will reward to varying degrees teams that defeat opponents ranked among the Top 10 in the weekly standings. The bonus point scale will range from a high of 1.0 points for a win over the top-ranked team to a low of 0.1 for a victory over the 10th-ranked BCS team. The final BCS standings will determine final quality win points. Quality win points are based on the standings determined by the subtotal. The final standings are reconfigured to reflect the quality win point deduction."

Got that? Personally, I think any team with a player who can figure out what that means deserves the national championship right there.

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Two years ago, the BCS eliminated margin of victory as a component in its rankings. The reason for their concern was obvious: They wanted to prevent powerful teams from running up the score on weaklings just to increase their standing in the BCS rankings. This was an admirable sentiment, but the BCS's solution to the problem was entirely unnecessary, as computer programmers long ago figured out a method for making sense of runaway scores. "It's called 'collapsing,' " says Ignatin. "If a team is favored to win by, say, 20 points, and they exceed expectations and win by, say, 30, they deserve some credit for that. But if they pile it on and run up the score by, say, 60 points, it's not a true reflection of their real strength, so programmers 'collapse' the core after it reaches about 10 points above the anticipated margin of victory. That way no team can get too much credit for one or two lop-sided wins." Southern Cal, though, got no credit for six consecutive wipeouts in which they scored 43 or more points.

Through no fault of their own, Southern Cal's schedule this year is weaker than last year's, weaker, in fact, than Ohio State's. But only a fool, an ideologue, or an NCAA executive thinks that how much you beat a team by doesn't tell you something.

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