The latest pre-BCS rankings are complete, and with preliminary computer rankings fluctuating wildly, some interesting changes have occurred. A Friday night Mountain West game with little hype had a big impact, and an overall weak schedule for the top teams has some dropping in the ranks.
While official BCS rankings aren’t published until halfway through the season, roughly two thirds of the components are available already. The USA Today Coaches Poll begins during the preseason, and the AP Poll is an easy replacement for the Harris Poll, which isn’t conducted until mid-season. Both are composed primarily of football media and associated members, are almost always identical or very close, so a simple substitution is made for these rankings.
Because computers care about actual games, not hype and preseason nonsense, they won’t have anything to say on the subject for a few weeks. In the meantime, we have been using Jeff Sagarin’s final computer rankings from 2012. These have been replaced by my own system, which was built to model the BCS rankings, and has been tuned to do so to a high degree of accuracy. While the system will require additional tuning, and as the 2013 season goes on it will become more accurate, it is a good place holder until the actual computer rankings are available.
One of the major drivers for not releasing official BCS rankings until later in the season is to allow the computers time to collect enough data, resulting in less dramatic changes. Until then, rapid fluctuations can occur week to week, and those teams ranked in the top ten one week, may fall off the list the next. While the BCS may not feel like explaining such wild swings, I think they’re fun to watch, so enjoy.
If you need a refresher on how the BCS formula works, please take a look at the first installment of this series, found here – http://ow.ly/oi409, otherwise, let’s check out the week three results.
The big winner this week staked their claim on a Friday night with little fanfare, almost zero hype and barely any notice by the mainstream media. A matchup that has proven to be one of the best games of the season in the past ten years is often tacked on as a side note simply because the conference it takes place in does not have an automatic bid to a BCS game.
The Boise State-Fresno State rivalry is one that is far more exciting than the milk can that is presented to the winner. These are two extremely well coached teams that should be looked on as prime examples for why the Mountain West is on par with several of the BCS automatic qualifiers. These teams not only demonstrate fundamentally sound and smart football, but play with a chip on their shoulder that pushes them to challenge any team in the country and often times come out with a win.
Make no mistake, the reason that Boise and Fresno have had fewer games recently with SEC, Big 10 and Pac-12 opponents is because more and more often the Broncos and Bulldogs come out on top.
That being the case, when these two programs go head to head, it is usually quite a spectacle. A spectacle that, despite being the only game on Friday night, was hardly mentioned by the media.
If you did happen to catch it, you saw an extremely exciting matchup that was eye to eye for most of the first half. Fresno then built a lead in the third, Boise rallied back to overtake it in the fourth, thanks in part to a recovered pooch kickoff, until the Bulldogs reasserted themselves with two minutes remaining and held on with a solid defensive stand.
Fresno was rewarded in the polls, moving up seven places, from 24th all the way to 17th. While the human pollsters are paying about as much attention to the Bulldogs as they did to their game, the computers see Fresno’s strong schedule and unblemished record and are rewarding them for it, moving them from 13th all the way to 7th.
If the Bulldogs continue to win and are able to capture the first ever Mountain West championship, perhaps it will create enough noise to be rewarded with a BCS bowl game.
The big loser this week demonstrates to me what is fantastic about including computer rankings in the BCS formula – the computers don’t care about hype, they only factor in what can be measured. Louisville won this week 72-0, a win that the human pollsters took to be greater evidence of their potential and proof of the hype they had already assigned to the Cardinals.
The computers see this as a win over a team that hasn’t won a game all season, and lost to an FCS school last week, plus they don’t care about the score. Tacking this win onto their already weak schedule only dropped Louisville in the rankings, and deservedly so.
While I am not arguing that Louisville is not an excellent team, I am saying that anyone that wants to play for the crystal football should have to prove it on the field, and not just in the eyes of the media.
As a result of their ever weakening schedule, Louisville dropped off the list of computer rankings entirely, which knocked their overall ranking down eight spots, from 4th all the way to 12th. UCLA and Ohio State suffered similar fates after beating up on New Mexico State and FCS foe Florida A&M.
Several of the top 25 have critical games this week. The Pac-12 will be on display as No. 11 Washington hosts Arizona and No. 9 Stanford travels to Washington State. In the Big 10, No. 8 Ohio State looks to build their strength of schedule as they take on previously ranked Wisconsin. Finally, the Game of the Week showcases two top ten teams from the SEC, as No. 3 LSU travels to No. 6 Georgia. The winner there will look to continue the path to the SEC championship.
Another exciting week will showcase some key matchups, and the computer rankings will continue to solidify, making next week’s pre-BCS rankings even more interesting.