Friday, September 18, 2009
Xs and Os: RANKINGS
By now you have probably heard about the rankings, but do you understand them? The college football rankings have existed for many decades and have been a huge source of conversation and contention. The Associated Press (AP) poll and the USA Today poll are accepted as the two most authoritative polls, but that has not stopped several other news outlets and fans from publishing their own polls. The voters in the AP poll are comprised of media personnel across the country. The USA Today poll is tallied from ballots cast by college football coaches. Since both polls have human voters, there is a certain level of human bias that affects the poll results. This has caused mathematicians and statisticians and the like to develop “computer” polls that aim to remove human bias (personally, I feel these computer polls still have human bias in them because a human prepares the data and assigns the weight to the variables used to compute the rankings). When a team wins or losses, no standard rules exist for how far up or down a team should move in the rankings. Generally, the won-lost record plays a significant factor, but if voters do not feel that a team has played tough competition, then they may keep that team below others with a worse won-lost record. The BCS uses the USA Today poll, the Harris Interactive Poll (another poll using human voters) and the composite score of six computer polls. The teams that come out ranked numbers one and two then play for the national championship, which is the biggest impetus for fans’ obsession with the polls and where their favorite team is ranked. I appreciate the rankings and what they add to college football, but I would love to see more fairness from the voters in ranking teams based more on merit than reputation and perceived strength.