After some big upsets this weekend, the latest pre-BCS rankings are complete. The day started with another ACC team taking out an SEC power as Miami beat Florida, continued with Michigan finishing victorious after a long battle with Notre Dame under the lights and concluded with Washington State upsetting USC right here in my back yard at the Coliseum.
While official BCS ranking 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, and are almost always identical or very close, so a simple substitution is made for these rankings.
Because computers care about the actual games, not hype and preseason nonsense, they won't have anything to say on the subject for a few weeks. In the meantime, I've substituted in Jeff Sagarin's final computer rankings from 2012. Obviously this will not be completely accurate, and those teams that lost a great deal of talent will get a slight boost from their 2012 success, while the up and comers may be slightly hindered.
This proxy will be replaced next week with my own computer rankings, which have been tuned to simulate the average of the six BCS computer rankings, and down the road, by the actual computer values themselves when they become available.
If you need a refresher on how the BCS formula works, please take a look at the first installment of this series here - http://ow.ly/oi409, otherwise let’s check out the week two results.
The two big winners in the polls are understandably the two big winners of the week, though it’s surprising how often that doesn’t quite work out. Miami and Michigan both scored big prime time wins over highly ranked teams, and as a result moved up the rankings.
Miami’s lack of offense for all but the first quarter was enough to top the Gators, and give the ACC yet another high profile win over big brother SEC. For all those claiming Florida dominated this game statistically, despite losing, I would suggest they don’t appreciate quite how important the statistic 5 to 1 is. That would be Florida’s turnover ratio compared to Miami, and when you commit five turnovers in a game, your odds of winning are incredibly low, no matter what else you do.
As a reward, Miami moved from unranked to 21st, and can continue climbing the ladder as they move into conference play. The ACC has two more high profile games against the SEC at the end of the season as Florida State and Clemson traditionally take on their regional rivals in Florida and South Carolina. It should be quite interesting to see how these matchups end up and what it says about conference strength.
Another big winner this week was the Wolverines. Michigan was able to defend their home turf under the lights for the last time in the foreseeable future against the Fighting Irish. The Irish backed out of the continued series and so will have no chance for retribution from last night’s loss.
While some may claim the luck of the Irish was simply not on their side on Saturday, debatable pass interference calls went both ways, and while the Irish suffered a turnover over a ball careening off a Michigan player’s knee, they also picked up a touchdown when Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner tossed up a lob instead of taking a safety. All in all, Michigan was just the better team on Saturday, and they deserved the win.
As a result, Michigan escapes the Big Ten block and jumps from 17th to 12th. Ohio State still sits atop the rankings for the Big Ten at 3rd, but the Wolverines will have plenty of chances to close the gap against ranked Legends opponents Nebraska and Northwestern, before heading into the regular season ending showdown with the Buckeyes.
While Notre Dame dropped five places after their loss to Michigan, and Texas and USC were unceremoniously booted from the rankings after they fell to BYU and Washington State, respectively, there are two bigger losers on this list worth discussing.
The first is South Carolina. While the Gamecocks have handled Georgia the past three years and been unfairly kept out of the SEC championship game despite having defeated everyone in their division, they will have no excuse this year if Georgia is able to top Florida.
While South Carolina only fell from 4th to 10th, they are behind SEC teams LSU, Alabama, Texas A&M and most importantly, Georgia. This means their shot of making the National Championship Game is a long one, despite their top ten ranking. Because they sit behind Georgia, even in a three way tie situation should Florida take out the Bulldogs, the Gamecocks are at a disadvantage, this makes them a clear loser after coming out on the wrong side of this week’s big matchup.
The second loser, or group of losers, is the contingent of Big Ten teams sitting towards the bottom of the polls. Northwestern, Nebraska and Wisconsin sit together filling rankings 17 through 19. Northwestern dominated Cal and Syracuse in consecutive weeks, currently giving them one of the highest strength of schedule ratings in the country, Nebraska has two wins and one of the highest rated offenses and though Wisconsin hasn’t been challenged yet, they also haven’t been scored upon, or put up less than 45 points in either of their victories.
While the Big Ten block shouldn’t be in the top ten, they are having trouble moving up at all, as losers Florida and Notre Dame still sit directly ahead of them, as well as Oklahoma and Oklahoma State who have looked fairly unimpressive against mediocre competition. While it’s still early, these teams need to make statements any chance they get, particularly against tougher and more high profile opponents, if they are to have any hope of moving into the upper echelon of the rankings.
In week three, there are some big time showdowns, and we will certainly see a shake up in the polls. At the top, No 1 Alabama goes up against their only loss from last season, as they travel to take on No. 5 Texas A&M. While the Tide weren’t able to overcome Johnny Football last season in Tuscaloosa, off the field issues could play a role in allowing Alabama to get revenge this week.
Two of the week’s losers will also get a chance to excel in the upcoming week. No. 18 Nebraska hosts No. 22 UCLA and No. 19 Wisconsin travels cross country to take on Arizona State. While the Sun Devils are unranked, they are widely regarded as one of the teams challenging for the Pac-12 championship this season.
Both Big Ten squads will get a chance to prove they should separate from the block, much like Michigan did this week. The only question is, will they be able to capitalize?
Next week we will also introduce the Francis Ranking system, which will replace last year’s computer rankings. These are meant to approximate the average of the six BCS computers, and do so with a high degree of accuracy.
Between these key matchups and the introduction of new rankings, next week’s pre-BCS rankings should hold even more big winners and significant losers.