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Observations and Punditry

Woody's Ramblings
Saturday, January 10, 2009

By Woody Peele

Home-brewed rankings still compute

By Woody Peele
All rights reserved.

Editor's note: Each year for about two decades, Woody Peele has compiled a college football computer ranking loosely based on a concept put forth by Lou Holtz when he was head coach at Arkansas. Holtz, the father of East Carolina coach Skip Holtz, formulated the idea one year when his Razorbacks didn’t win the national championship despite having an outstanding season. Holtz suggested giving a team three points for every game it won, two for every game one of its victims won, and so on into the third level of competition. Peele and a computer-savvy friend put together such a ranking, incorporating their own modifications into the overall formula. Since its inception, only once have Peele's computer rankings failed to match the final No. 1 team in the Associated Press or Coaches’ polls, though it has been common for sharp differences to be numerous in spots other than No. 1.

In many ways, Utah finally got its dues, finishing second in the final Associated Press football poll for 2008.

The Utes didn’t do quite as well on my annual computer rankings — which were inspired many years ago by Lou Holtz — but still finished in fifth place. In fact this year, there were probably as many disparities between the final AP and computer rankings as there has ever been.

About the only agreement was in No. 1. The Florida Gators, who won the BCS Championship game over Oklahoma, finished atop both listings, continuing a years long trend.

While Utah finished second on the AP list, Texas took the No. 2 spot on the computer, despite being shut out of the BCS final.

How, you ask? It’s simple with the principle of the computer. Take Florida for example. The Gators receive 24 points for each team they defeated. Florida then got an additional 16 points each time one of its defeated opponents captured a win. Another eight points was awarded each time one of the clubs on the 16-point level won.

So it boils down to the strength of the opponent. One must assume that every team starts out on an equal basis. And looking at how many “upsets” were recorded this year, one has to admit there is a lot of parity out there.

That resulted in a lot of teams that made the Top 25 on the AP falling some distance back on the computer. Brigham Young, for instance, finished 25th on the AP, but only 52nd on the computer.

Here’s how the teams finished, comparatively speaking:

AP Rank (computer rank in parentheses)
 1. Florida (1st)
 2. Utah (5th)
 3. Southern Cal (4th)
 4. Texas (2nd)
 5. Oklahoma (3rd)
 6. Alabama (7th)
 7. Texas Christian (21st)
 8. Penn State (14th)
 9. Ohio State (20th)
10. Oregon (37th)
11. Boise State (11th)
12. Texas Tech (10th)
13. Georgia (23rd)
14. Mississippi (tie 12th)
15. Virginia Tech (6th)
16. Oklahoma State (tie 37th)
17. Cincinnati (8th)
18. Oregon State (41st)
19. Missouri (25)
20. Iowa (28th)
21. Florida State (19th)
22. Georgia Tech (17th)
23. West Virginia (22nd)
24. Michigan State (15th)
25. Brigham Young (52)

Others further down the AP's list that finished in the computer's Top 25:

27. Pittsburgh (9th)
33. Boston College (tie 12th)
NR. Wake Forest (16th)
NR. North Carolina (18th)
NR. Maryland (24th)

East Carolina was the Conference USA team most highly regarded by the computer, finishing 26th. Rice was next at 38th, while Tulsa, which finished No. 29 in the AP voting, was 45th.

The computer calculated that Houston was 48th, Southern Miss was 50th, Central Florida was 77th; Texas-El Paso was 79th; Marshall tied for 81st; Memphis finished 94th; UAB was 101st; Tulane came in at 113th and SMU at 116th.

In addition to those listed in the AP/computer Top comparisons, the ACC placed Miami at 33rd; N.C. State at 34th; Clemson at 40th; Virginia at 43rd and Duke at 67th.

You can say what you wish about the rankings, but they do project a true measure of how well a team performs based on how its opponents perform.

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01/10/2009 02:12:31 AM

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