My Computer is Smarter Than Your Eyeballs

Kevin C. Cox - Getty Images

Resumé rankings have their place. But the results, especially early in the season, can be startling.

There are a handful of ranking methodologies in use today, and you see most of them on a regular basis. The AP and Coaches polls are examples of subjective ratings - call them "eyeball rankings," since the pollsters rank the teams based on their perception of those teams' performance. The various computer polls, like Jeff Sagarin's, attempt to remove the subjectivity from the process by setting up what is in essence a spreadsheet that takes in weekly results and spits out rankings.

What usually ends up happening, though, is that the purely subjective polls look a whole lot like the computer polls. This week, for example, the AP top 5 are...

  1. Alabama
  2. Oregon
  3. South Carolina
  4. Florida
  5. WVU

Jeff Sagarin's top 5:

  1. Alabama
  2. South Carolina
  3. Oregon
  4. ND
  5. Florida
Richard Billingsley's top 5:
  1. Oregon
  2. Alabama
  3. South Carolina
  4. ND
  5. WVU
Wesley Colley's top 5:
  1. ND
  2. Florida
  3. tOSU
  4. South Carolina
  5. WVU
Finally, the Dunkel Index's top 5:
  1. Alabama
  2. Oregon
  3. South Carolina
  4. KSU
  5. WVU
The outlier among the pollsters is clearly Colley; only one of his top 5 (South Carolina) is in every other top 5, and another (tOSU) is only in the top 5 on his ballot. The outliers among the ranked teams are KSU and tOSU with one appearance each.

The takeaway here is that, even though most of the computer polls attempt to remove subjectivity from the process, the formulas and weights they assign to different criteria are inherently subjective and therefore produce results that are strikingly similar to what a group of human beings produce when voting purely subjectively on the same subject matter.

Enter the "resumé ranking." A resumé ranking does just what it sounds like: It ranks teams based solely on their past performance - their resumé - and on the performance of the teams on their schedule. There is no starting value based on last season's results, no "name-brand" bias, no weight given to how many starters returned on offense or defense. It is subjective in the sense that some arbitrary value has been assigned to several weighted criteria, but otherwise it is a purely historical method of rating teams.

Which brings me to my point. I have used such a rating system for several years for no other reason than that I am a nerd. I like lists and formulas and spreadsheets. So, without further delay, I give you the current top 25 resumés.
  1. South Carolina
  2. Alabama
  3. Florida
  4. Texas
  5. Ohio State
  6. La. Tech
  7. Oregon
  8. Iowa St.
  9. LSU
  10. ND
  11. Texas Tech
  12. Rutgers
  13. UGA
  14. UCLA
  15. USC
  16. Penn St.
  17. KSU
  18. Michigan St.
  19. Texas A&M
  20. Ohio
  21. OU
  22. TCU
  23. Nevada
  24. Miss. St.
  25. WVU
Now, do I expect Peter to list, say, Louisiana Tech on his BlogPoll ballot at #6? No, I don't. Do I believe LaTech could beat #25 WVU? Not at all. But, based on results to-date (a 5-0 record, including 3 road wins and 3 wins by 2 or more scores) and the performance of their opponents, LaTech has posted the sixth-best performance in the country.

Some other interesting things gleaned from the results:
  • #4 Texas (19.375 points) is closer to #2 Alabama (20.375) than Alabama is to #1 South Carolina (22.875).
  • Among the top 10, only Florida (8.075) gets more help from its opponents' results than does Texas (7.875). Put another way, Texas's schedule has been harder than most of the rest of the top 10.
  • Teams in the top 10 with easier schedules than Texas (i.e. less help from their opponents' results): South Carolina, Alabama, tOSU, LaTech, Oregon, Iowa St., LSU, ND. According to the NCAA's website, Iowa State has the most difficult schedule this season; Florida is #7.
  • #10 Notre Dame (17.800) is closer to #18 Michigan St. (17.050) than to #8 Iowa State (18.600).
  • The top four did not change between last week and this week. (Note Texas remained #4 after losing to WVU.)
  • WVU jumped from #34 last week to #25 this week. Playing stronger competition helps.
  • OU jumped from #45 last week to #21 this week. Playing stronger competition helps.
  • Akron has been #124 all year. Apparently playing stronger competition does not help them.

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