As everyone who cares at all knows, the BCS Championship game is tonight. I have no idea what percentage of the population follows college football on a regular basis but I do know that national news outlets, like Slate Magazine, don’t typically run stories about it in their headlines.
That’s not the case today as stats guru, Bill James, weighs in on the system he finds flawed.
Most of us claim to know next to nothing about the computer rankings that make up a component of the BCS scores. Nor do we want to. Mr. James, on the other hand, knows exactly what they do – and don’t do.
There are several things that a ranking system could do. It could rank teams based on their accomplishments over the course of the season—whom they played and whom they beat—or it could rank them based on the probability that they would win against a given opponent. It could rank teams based on how they have played over the course of the season, including perhaps in some early-season games against teams that were not quite sure who their quarterback was, or it could rank them based on how strong they are at the end of the season. It could rank the teams based on consistency, or it could rank them based on dominance.
Which of these is the goal of the BCS system?
Mistakingly, I guess, I thought that the computers tried to do a little bit of all that, and do it without bias in the form of team and conference loyalty.
He goes on to say that when the computers ranking do their job correctly and in the process differ from the polls, that the gurus add more parameters to keep them in line with the human polls, thus rendering them ineffective.
James’ is certainly a different voice mixed in the din of pundits and pontificates.
Just goes to show that when college football is big news, like it is today above maybe all days – because of the BCS, like it or not – then we get the opportunity to hear more than the usual voices.