Monday, December 01, 2008

It’s Not a Sure Thing

Dr. Saturday does a good job of illustrating that which should be a concern to all Gator fans – the fact a win over Alabama does not guarantee us a slot in the BCS title game.

Presently Florida is 4th in the BCS standings with a .8851 BCS Average which is derived by averaging our “percentages” of three polls – the Harris Interactive Poll, the USA Today “Coaches’” Poll, and the “Computer” Polls. The average is done by calculating the actual voting points as a percentage of total voting points in each poll. In Florida’s case this is –

2nd in Harris Poll, or .9271 of total points of Harris Poll
4th in Coaches’ Poll, or .9082 of total points in Coaches’ Poll
6th in Computer Polls, or .820 of total points in Computer Polls

Which averaged together equals .8851

Our problem as Dr. Saturday points out? The computers don’t like us.

And they don’t much like Alabama either, who comes in 3rd.

Florida’s nightmare scenario would go something like this –

The Gators eke out a win over Alabama in Atlanta while Oklahoma lathers Missouri in the Big 12 Championship. The human voters propel the Sooners to number 1 in both the Harris and Coaches’ poll. This is not at all inconceivable, as the Coaches’ currently have Oklahoma number 2, and the Harris has them 3rd. The Gators end up 2nd in both Human polls, Texas 3rd.

Now it is impossible to guess what vote percentages the human polls will come up with, but say there is some difference of opinion between Oklahoma, Florida and Texas as number one, which there undoubtedly would be. Let’s assume the following averages for the Human polls -

1. Oklahoma - .9300
2. Florida - . 9250
3. Texas - . 9200

Under this scenario it would come down to the computer polls. And who can say what they might do?

Well right now the computers love the Horns and the Sooners, with them ranking Oklahoma 1st and Texas 2nd. The percentages of Oklahoma, Texas and Florida right now for the computer polls are –

Oklahoma - .980
Texas - .940
Florida - .820

So assuming my human voting as above (Oklahoma 1, UF 2, Texas 3) with a Florida win over Alabama, and using the current computer scores, the BCS after the SEC Championship would look like –

1. Oklahoma - .9467
2. Texas - . 9267
3. Florida - .8900

In other words Florida has to make up a lot of ground with the computers to get that 2nd BCS slot. Will a win over Alabama do it?

Remember computer polls cannot take margin of victory into account per BCS rules, so all of Florida’s gaudy wins count for nothing more than mere wins. Most of the computer polls are also “black boxes” with their inputs being unavailable to the public. The exception is the Colley Matrix which is transparent.

Colley right now ranks Florida 4th, and Alabama 3rd. There is not a lot of respect for either of our schedules, with Florida ranked 31st by SOS and Alabama 82nd.

Texas is 1st in the Colley Matrix, and Oklahoma 2nd. Texas has the 4th hardest schedule, and Oklahoma the 13th per Colley.

It is not hard to imagine that by beating Alabama the Colley Matrix would move Florida to 3rd leaving Texas and Oklahoma at 1st and 2nd, regardless of how bad Florida beat the Tide (remember margin doesn’t matter). In fact I would say that, with a Oklahoma win, Florida will be 3rd in the Colley.

What the other computers would do is anyone’s guess. But remember they are computers, and the chance exists (even likely) that Alabama would still be ahead of Florida even with a Florida win. Why? Well Alabama will have 1 loss, the same as UF, but Alabama will have lost to the “better” team, and at a neutral location at that.

And this folks is where the math gets very, very bad for Florida indeed. Let us assume that a win over Alabama gets Florida to where Alabama is right now in the computer polls at 3rd (in fact I think this is a highly likely result). Alabama has a computer average of .920.

The math –

Oklahoma: .930 + .930 + .980 / 3 = .9467
Texas: .920 + .920 + .940 / 3 = .9267
Florida: .925 + .925 + .920 / 3 = .9233

Under this scenario Texas would edge Florida by the slightest of margins. What this shows the final margins here are closer than anyone seems to think even with Florida coming in number 2 in both the final human polls. The computer polls could very well decide this all.

If Florida can blast Alabama and find its way to a sure 1st place in the human polls this shouldn’t much matter. A close game between the Gators and the Tide would likely split the human vote quite a bit between Oklahoma, Texas and Florida and, with the current computer polls indicating a no better than 3rd finish there for the Gators regardless, make the final BCS poll very, very close indeed.

A BCS title game match up between Oklahoma and Texas is a distinct possibility, irrespective of how the sport’s media is framing this. Florida fans ought to be very concerned.

UPDATE: Our friend the BCS Guru concurs with the above. I could have saved myself a lot of effort by going to his site first.


kevinh said...

I think this deserves a reference to your old article concerning the Big 12's perceived strength by pummeling nobodies for the first half of the season. None of them played anybody worth a damn until they played each other, and at that point nobody had any losses. At least the Gators played (and Beat) Miami and FSU, however 'down' they happen to be. That would affect SOS severely!

Anonymous said...

Alarming, indeed.

Andrew said...

So if this happens does the system finally implode or do we hear some argument that we all know is a bunch of hooey?

I'm still at a loss for how any proponent of "settling things on the field" (AKA a playoff) can put OU in front of a UT team that beat them on a neutral field. Another scenario is if OU squeaks out a win against Mizzou, do the voters get buyer's remorse and bump UT back over OU to play the SEC Champ? There's a million other ways this thing can get botched up next weekend...

Tom said...

Can you think of a scenario where the voters leave Bama ahead of UT and make us first? We should be fine then, right?

Troy said...

I certainly agree with you that there's a lot to worry about, but I also think you're being overly pessimistic about the human polls.

First, I think "beat the #1 team" will have a lot of sway over the voters. If you barely beat the #1 team in the country, you still beat the #1 team in the country, and a lot of voters already have us #2.

Second, I think this "will the comptuers screw Florida" angle will get played up in the media as the week goes on. My guess is that the ESPN talking heads will say things along the lines of "if this happens it'll be a great injustice and will mean we need to kill the BCS." The voters then should be well aware, Saturday night when they fill out their ballots, that a vote for Florida at #2 is a potential vote for a rematch between Texas and Oklahoma. I think a lot of voters would vote Florida over Oklahoma just to help ensure that their #1 and #2 met in the MNC game.

Anonymous said...

In the exact scenario you just described, yes, Florida fans ought to be concerned. Under almost any conceivable circumstance, the Gators will need a pretty clear advantage in the polls to offset the computer rankings. But if the gap in the computers narrows a bit, they actually won't need too huge an advantage over Texas. If they get Alabama's first-place votes in the Harris, the Gators would actually be sitting pretty. There is a nightmare scenario, it's just somewhat unlikely.

Trader Rick said...

If the Gators beat the Tide, and are not in the Championship game, It will be last-straw time, the BCS will immediately announce vast changes to their system (If they are smart). If they don't, this BCS "Championship" will probably be the last anyone takes seriously, and a playoff system will be devised for next year, with the help, hopefully, of the Master Change-agent via Office of the President Elect.

At this point, I'm more likely to see the Writer's Poll or the Coaches Poll, as more indicative of reality than the Computer Polls, even tho, they too have their bizzarre quirks.

The BCS system is a good try, but after all, how do you really use math to determine what is essentially a subjective result?

Amos said...

I think that until the Big 10 and Pac 10 are the ones who get screwed over, we're not gonna see the change we all want to see. They (and the Rose Bowl) are the real reason we don't have a 4 team (I don't want to see bigger) playoff. They care too much about getting their champions playing against each other because it's the tradition.

However if Florida manages to get left out (unlikely), you'll just convert more people who can't affect anything to a playoff over the current BCS.

DolFan 316 said...

Up until this moment, it never occurred to me that the Gators being screwed over would be the final straw for the BCS after so many years of ridiculous results.

On the one hand, I really REALLY want them to win a second national title in three years, and that's not possible if they don't beat Alabama and get voted into the title game.

BUT...on the other hand I want a playoff system for the greater good of college football. So what the hell do I root for, the first scenario or the second?

Rooting for the Gators to lose so this never comes up is not an option obviously.

Chris said...

The point is well made but assumes a lot. Every media outlet is propping Championship games winners (C. Low - ESPN, D. Dodd - CBSSports, etc.). There is the distinct possibility that regardless of the game, a Florida victory will propel them to No. 1 in the human polls esp. if the humans want no part of a rematch (OSU v Mich '06). The computer outcomes are uncertain but a win over AL is worth more than a win over MO. Then there is the AP championship ... Let's just beat 'Bama and worry about the rest later. Urban can stump during the OU-MO game and the Foley machine can grind out emails until the next day.

Henry Louis Gomez said...

Urban can stump during the OU-MO game and the Foley machine can grind out emails until the next day.

Is this really what it should take to win a major sports championship in the 21st century?

Anonymous said...

henry, since WHEN does the B(c)S system have ANYTHING to do with what SHOULD be?


Henry Louis Gomez said...

It never has, thus our quixotic struggle to end this nonsense.