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College Football Schedule Week 8 Guide: Burn the B(C)S

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Watching last night’s UCLA-Oregon matchup was a bit disturbing. No, it wasn’t the 47-point blowout or the complete ineptitude of UCLA - how can something be disturbing when it was expected? It was the fact that ESPN continually referred to Oregon as the No. 2 team in the nation, second to Oklahoma, that really got me angry.

I admit part of it is vanity since I do have my own college football rankings and have ranked Oregon No. 1 and Oklahoma No. 8. So I do want to yell at the television screen, “Nuh-uh! Oregon is No. 1 you douche-wads!”

I understand that ESPN have decided to use the BCS rankings when advertising games and teams since they own the television rights to the BCS bowl games. But something about the BCS just doesn’t seem right if they have Oklahoma ranked ahead of Oregon.

In the Coaches Poll and Harris Poll, Oregon is ranked No.1 however the six computers have ranked Oregon an average of No. 8 - 9, 7, 9, 8, 2, 11. Oklahoma is ranked No. 3 in the Coaches Poll and No. 4 in the Harris Poll and has an average computer ranking of No. 1 with only two computers ranking them No. 3. And to this I, and most of the nation, say, “Huh?”

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This brings up an interesting conundrum. We who follow sports always strive for perfection and view the human element as being flawed. In both the NFL and college football instant replay is there to correct the referee’s mistakes while in baseball people howl in anger at every missed fair/foul call. Even tennis has an excellent replay system to get line calls correct.

So why do people get angry at the computers in the BCS poll?

The answer is very clear: they’re not computers, they’re human. It’s humans who create the algorithms that get programmed into a computer that spit out the rankings. And this is where things get disturbing.

The New York Times excerpted Yahoo! Sports columnists Jeff Passan’s and Dan Wetzel’s book “Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series.” To quote them:

Since the inception of the B.C.S. in 1998, it has used the computers as a shield against cries of partisanship in the polls that make up the other two-thirds of the formula. One of the computer rankers for the B.C.S. is Richard Billingsley, a stress-management expert from Hugo, Okla. His knowledge of college football history is encyclopedic. His knowledge of mathematics, the foundation of any accurate computer-ranking system, is not.

“I’m not a mathematician,” Billingsley said. “I’m not even a highly educated man, to tell you the truth. I don’t even have a degree. I have a high school education. I never had calculus. I don’t even remember much about algebra. I think everyone questions everything I do. Why is he doing that? Does he know what he’s doing, a crazy kook in Oklahoma?”

Um, that’s a problem. Here’s something else:
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The stringent rules placed by the B.C.S. on the computers — they must, for example, exclude margin of victory from their formulas, making 10-7 equivalent to 70-7 — turned them into the laughingstock of the numbers community. Two of the computer analysts, Jeff Sagarin and Kenneth Massey, acknowledge that their rankings for the B.C.S. are not the most accurate they can produce. “You’re asked to rank teams that don’t play each other, that don’t play long seasons, and you can’t include margin of victory?” said Massey, who provides a “better version” on his Web site, “It’s a very challenging problem from a data-analysis standpoint. It does require sacrificing a bit of accuracy. It’s not the best way to do it.”

So let’s summarize all of this:
  • Complete unknowledgeable kooks are in charge of some of the “unbiased” rankings.
  • The BCS has had a hand in manipulating the “unbiased” rankings.
  • Almost no one in the analytical mathematics world believe these “unbiased” rankings have any credibility whatsoever.

Danger Will Robinson!
There is obviously one solution to all of this. Blow up the BCS and use the LAist rankings to determine the BCS National Championship Game.

9:00 am

Notre Dame at Navy. CBS.
Mississippi at Arkansas. KDOC.
Iowa State at Texas. FSWest.
Penn State at Minnesota. ESPNU.
Michigan State at Northwestern. ESPN.
Syracuse at West Virginia. ESPN2.
VMI at Charleston Southern. Fox College Sports Atlantic.

LAist Pick: Michigan State at Northwestern.

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12:30 pm

LSU at Auburn. CBS.
Wisconsin at Iowa. ABC.
Arizona at Cal. FS Prime Ticket.
Connecticut at Louisville. ESPNU.
Georgia Tech at Clemson. ESPN.
Appalachian State at Western Carolina. Fox College Sports Atlantic (Noon).
Houston at SMU. CBS College Sports.

LAist Pick: LSU at Auburn.

2:00 pm

Washington State at Stanford. Fox College Sports Pacific.

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5:00 pm

Texas A&M at Kansas. FS Prime Ticket (4:00 pm).
Alabama at Tennessee. ESPN (4:00 pm).
North Carolina at Miami (FL). ESPN2 (4:30 pm).
Oklahoma at Missouri. ABC.
Air Force at TCU. CBS College Sports.

LAist Pick: Air Force at TCU.

7:15 pm

Washington at Arizona. ESPN.