Monday, October 22, 2012

Ranking Based on Records Instead of Resumes

We have reached the point in the season where it starts to become enjoyable to pick on the human polls for slavish obedience to records and names as opposed to actual resumes.  When you look at the reasoning behind some of the placements in the AP and Coaches Polls, you understand why fans are so excited for the idea of a committee to pick playoff participants, regardless of the fact that we do not know who will be on the committee, what their criteria will be, or whether we have any good reason to think that a small group of humans will do a better job than a larger group.  To wit:

  • Georgia is five spots ahead of South Carolina.  Yes, the same South Carolina team that beat the Dawgs like a drum two weeks ago.  Why is South Carolina behind Georgia?  Because the Cocks’ record is one game worse than that of the Dawgs.  Is it possible that South Carolina playing at Baton Rouge and Gainesville might have something to do with that disparity in record?  According to Sagarin, South Carolina has played the #23 schedule in the country while Georgia has played the #65 schedule.  It seems likely that Georgia will lose in Jacksonville this weekend, run the table against Ole Miss, Auburn, Georgia Southern, and Georgia Tech, and thus finish 10-2 without beating a single ranked opponent.  In other words, they will have repeated their 2011 season almost exactly.  Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative and Mark Richt.  The fact that Georgia could pull of consecutive ten-win seasons without a victory over a ranked opponent says a lot about the lack of depth in the SEC (certainly relative to past years), Georgia’s fortunate draws from the West, and that “we played an SEC schedule” doesn’t mean anything in certain instances.
  • Ohio State is #9 in the AP Poll based on … what, exactly?  One-score wins over Cal, Michigan State, Indiana, and Purdue?  As with Georgia, Ohio State is where they are based on their name and their record, ignoring the quality of their performances.  Here’s a simple hypo: if Michigan (ranked eleven spots behind Ohio State in the AP Poll) and Ohio State switched schedules, then what would their records be?  Michigan would be unbeaten and Ohio State would be 5-2, right?  So then why the gap between the two?  For the record, the Sagarin Predictor agrees with me here, as it has Michigan as a field goal better than the Bucks on a neutral field. 
  • Another example of paying too much attention to a record: Texas A&M.  The Aggies are 5-2 with the two losses being tight games against top ten Florida and LSU.  Otherwise, they handed Louisiana Tech their only loss, won at Ole Miss, and have blown out everyone else on their slate.  Hand Mississippi State’s schedule to A&M and they are almost certainly unbeaten.  So why are the Aggies nine spots behind the Other Bulldogs?  According to Sagarin, the Aggies would be a ten-point favorite on a neutral field.

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