Heeere's Harris: Let the Real BCS Positioning Begin

Published on 13-Oct-2013 by J Square Humboldt
Football - NCAA / NCAA Football Daily Update

All red. That would be Bama, Ohio State, and ... Utah?

Allow a moment for an old baseball truism.

Ted Williams was one of the best hitters the game has ever known. Those skills came naturally to him. However, they didn't help him become a great manager. The legendary star simply couldn't identify with the trials and tribs of regular ballplayers who weren't stars. He just knew how to hit; he couldn't understand how others didn't, and he definitely couldn't explain it. Thus, his only managing gig -- with the 1969-1972 Washington Senators/Texas Rangers -- was a complete disaster.

With that in mind, consider the college football polls.

Under the current system, whether the voters are from the press (AP poll), the coaching ranks (USA Today poll), or the football community at large (Harris poll), the process of ranking teams will always be reduced to a beauty contest, the sporting equivalent of bikinis and sashes. The writers have other things to do, the coaches have their own motivations, and who knows what the various Harris voters use for criteria?

Give the sportwriters credit for ethics. They were troubled by being a part of the story they covered and withdrew their votes from the BCS formula. The coaches really had no choice; if they wanted a championship game, then they had to help determine it, not only with their teams but with their opinions. Big brand schools liked the unavoidable human biases -- say thank you, SEC -- and thus didn't want to leave their fate in the hands of cold-hearted, stat-heavy, objective computers. So the machines' influence was minimized, and the credibility of the BCS ranking process has been crippled ever since.

With all that in mind, here's the first week of Harris Poll rankings:

Harris Poll - 2013-10-13

Note for the moment that Clemson currently has preference over Ohio State, as opposed to the other poll that matters, the USA Today's.

Now, take a look at the top five teams according to the six computer rankings that, when taken together, account for the other third of the official BCS rankings:

  Anderson-Hester Billingsley Colley Massey Sagarin Wolfe
1 Alabama Alabama Florida State Florida State Oregon n/a
2 Clemson Oregon Clemson Alabama Alabama n/a
3 Florida State Clemson Missouri Clemson Florida State n/a
4 UCLA Ohio State Alabama Missouri Baylor n/a
5 Oregon LSU Oregon Oregon Missouri n/a

Clearly, these calculations are based on actual games played to date, so weekly shifts will be more radical than the full-season projections -- projections! -- of human polls.

It's enough already to justify a selector's panel with evaluation skills from all walks of life who are adept at data analysis -- instead of traditions and image -- to determine the four most probable candidates as the best in the nation.

Because, just like Ted Williams the manager, too much of what one just knows how things should be, as opposed to what actually is, simply doesn't work.

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