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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Great Debate

Got an email from JZ who poses a great question which we throw open to you today:

What's a better judge of schedule strength: Teams you beat who wind up in the top #25 at the end of season, or teams you beat who were ranked/highly ranked when you played them?

JZ states that some talking heads are only giving credit to U-M for beating a single ranked team (ND) since Wisco wasn't ranked when Michigan played them. But if that's the case, then USC shouldn't get any "credit" for their 50-14 drubbing of Arkansas, either.

What say you, MZone reader?


Anonymous said...

I don't think this debate is even close. Have to evaluate schedules based on how the teams end up, not how they were rated prospectively based on less information.

You Know This said...

I think both need to be taken into account really. We've all seen teams like MSU start off with very promising seasons and one or two losing games in a row cause an internal implosion that ruins the rest of the season. On the other had, as in the case of Wisconsin, no one knew how good they were in the preseason, and that team is better than everyone expected at the time you played them, you should be given more credit for beating that team

Jerry Palm said...

What talking heads are discounting Wisconsin for not being ranked when you beat them? The only reason I've seen people discount Wisconsin is because of their schedule.

That being said, I hope this post will signal the last time we hear a Michigan fan complaining that USC lost to "unranked" Oregon State!

Can't have it both ways

Anonymous said...

links to talking heads discounting Wisconsin win please...

Howard21 said...

End of the season. Auburn proves that. Overrated all year, and now a win over them is not that impressive. They are a good team but not a NC contender like everyone thought. Wisconsin is another example, a team that could probably hang with or beat Auburn and is probably better than ND and is Michigan's best win of the year.

Anonymous said...

Michigan last year is a GREAT example of how preseason rankings mean nothing

eddie, eddie said...

The strength of teams should be evaluated on their whole season, with one important distinction...let's say a team bwatas a highly ranked team, and then soon after afterwards that formerly ranked team loses key players to injuries...this doesn't change the fact that when said team was healthy, they were better then when they eventually ended up

Allaha said...

End of season rankings are the more relevant because they are based on empirical data (the actual wins and losses over the entire season) rather than interim forecasts of how good a given team may be at the time. However, there are two qualifying factors:
1) if a team falls in the rankings because a key player was lost to injury (and you beat that team when the player was active), and
2) the extent to which the team falls in the ranking because of the defeat you inflicted. In other words, assume that UM had dropped to number 6 after the tOSU loss, then I think it is illegitimate to criticize tOSU for not having beaten a Top Five team given the reason UM is no longer in the Top Five is precisely because tOSU beat them.

Jason said...

End of the season, by far.

Anonymous said...

If you give credit based on where your opponents end the season, then you overlook the fact that teams change (for better and worse) over the course of the season.

For example, is it more impressive to have beaten a team like MSU (pick any recent year) prior to their annual meltdown vs. after they had fallen into the shitter?

Anonymous said...

If you don't believe in the BCS at the end of the season [but before Bowl Season], when the body of work is complete, why in hell would you believe it when the leaves are still on the trees.

Anonymous said...

Arkansas with a banged-up Darrren McFadden is not a ranked team.

Reed4AU said...

It's really both. Obviously a win against an end of the season top 10 team is impressive. But a win against a 15-25 team to ME is really no better than a win against anybody in the top 40, because a #22 can easily lose to a team ranked 15 spots lower and really isn't loads better than the other team. You got 2-3 elite teams, maybe 7-9 really good teams, and then maybe 35 who could beat each other any given saturday.

Who you beat and lose should also take into the fact where you played. A win at LSU,OSU,FLA, etc. should be worth more than a win at say Indiana or Mississippi St. A loss at Auburn isn't as bad as a loss at Oregon St.

Anonymous said...

Can we have the links to people discounting Wisconsin because they weren't ranked when you beat them or are you guys just making shit up again?

Jim said...

Anon 9:00 and Anon 7:18 - I'm not a talking head, but I'll bite. I think WI is way-tf over ranked, and I'd be more impressed with the UofM win if WI had played and beat a power this year. Someone else said they would beat Auburn. My guess is they might for the simple reason that Auburn would not think much of WI as far as a power goes. (ignoring previous losses in bowl games to the Badgers, ofc). Put Auburn in the ring with OSU and UofM and I believe you'd see two great games. Auburn doesn't get up for teams they're favored to win, it's been a chink in the armour there for a few years. It's a flaw yes and rightly so means they are not a NC team, but if for whatever reason Auburn seriously and behind closed doors thought that WI would be tough to beat this year, I don't believe WI would be able to stay close, even in Camp Randall on fake turf. Call it weird, call it bs, call me a wank, but look at their meltdowns this year.

Jim said...

Auburn's metldowns that is

Anonymous said...

ND with a #2 ranking?

nuff said....

Anonymous said...

"End of season rankings are the more relevant because they are based on empirical data (the actual wins and losses over the entire season)"

No, actually, they aren't. They're slight readjustments to the previously held ideas about quality teams based on wins and losses. Why is ND ranked? Why is anyone from the Big East ranked? Why is Texas ranked above Texas A&M? End-of-season rankings are still bullshit, they're just bullshit that has been slightly compromised by facts.

As to the issue at hand, I think that EARLY early season rankings can be discredited more, but say a team like Clemson, that was kicking serious ass in the midseason--a win over that team at that time is impressive, because they were playing well. Have to put everything in its context, I think.

1201 S. Main St. said...

One of the morons on Fox Official BCS Ratings show threw it out there. I believe Flutie said it on ESPN, too.

Anonymous said...

In one of ESPN's on-screen graphics in their build-up for The Game, they did not credit Michigan's win over Wisconsin as being against a ranked opponent. I was dumbfounded and a bit pissed off by that, but I had to assume it was because Wisconsin at 3-0 was not yet ranked.
So yeah, the WWL was one of those sources that discounted our W against Wisconsin. You know, the same douchbags that are shamelessly stumping for a Michigan-Notre Dame rematch in the Rose Bowl.

oldwestside said...

Jim, while I agree that Auburn could be competitive against OSU and UM, and some years beat them, I also think you are making excuses for Wisky beating Auburn last year, which you sort of admit to.

In the late 90's, the SEC had the overall edge against the Big 10, but since 1999, the Big 10 is 9-10 vs SEC teams in bowl games. I call it a push.

There always seems to be excuses for when the SEC squads lose, however, usually along the lines of "they weren't motivated because they didn't win the SEC championship" or in your case "they didn't think they were playing a quality opponent so they couldn't get up for the game."

The reason Auburn in particular has lost those games is because the other teams have been just as good, and this applies to all Big 10/SEC teams. I heard similar excuses when Iowa beat Florida 37-17. I get the feeling that Wisconsin would match up against all the top SEC teams and play a competitive game. I'm not proclaiming victory.

Wisky had 3 conference losses last year to Auburn's 1 and beat them in a non competitive contest 24-10, not because Auburn overlooked Wisconsin, but because Wisconsin was the better team.

They have some questions this year certainly, but if they play the loser of the Florida/Arkansas game competitively, would it prove them relevant? I get the feeling we'd hear the same excuse, even if Wisksy won, that the only reason they won was because their opponent wasn't motivated because they lost the SEC championship game or considered them a lessor opponent.

Anonymous said...

Problem with the SEC....They automatically think they have the better teams since they play in the "tough" SEC....

No doubt they play good football but they aren't head and shoulders above any of the other conferences out there....well maybe against the MAC, Conf USA, or Div 1 AA

I believe in 2005-2006 bowl games the SEC went 3-3. In 2004-2005 I believe it was the same. Not the dominant conf by far.

As for rankings...pre-season rankings are BS....End of the year rankings (while based off of bullshit preseason rankings) at least have something to show for it...Wisc seemed to be underranked at the beginning while Georgia was over ranked.

The King said...

If you think preseason polls are moronic and unfairly color the whole season (which you should if you are even a casual fan), then you cannot possibly favor a system that takes into account where a team was ranked in the middle of September when we beat them.


Next debate.

Jim said...

Oldwestside and anon 10:59 - great points and really, no arguments here on most of it. As a Gamecock fan, we really feel no let down in a bowl game if we don't win the SECE, much less the SECC. We haven't been there before to know what it's like to expect to win the conference and then not give a shit once we realize we aren't.

I will say that my impression of UGA, Tenn, Florida, Bama and LSU is that I think they do feel that way. Yes, a NC is on several team's minds, when that dream's gone, there's still a SECC possibility, but when that's gone the bubble bursting twice is usually enough in everyone's minds to more or less give up for the season. The battle for recuits is normally over at that point. A lot of recruits sought by SEC teams are narrowing down between SEC teams at that time and have made their minds up. An SECC means the recruit will be inheriting a champ team, not winning the SECC means that a recruit is the final piece of the puzzle to make a run next year. Yes, fans travel to bowls, look forward to Dallas, Florida, Nawlins, wherever for a bowl vacation. To so to say an SEC power gives up and completely could give a shit less about a bowl opponent is false; however, to say the fire is still there is also false. The Cocks? Hell, we're usually happy with whatever the bowl gods send us and send a crap load of fans. Which looks like jazz in Memphis or country music in Nashville this bowl season.

Jim said...

Back to the blog - yes, preseason rankings (and pre-season Heisman watch lists) are BS and usually biased by several things that don't really have much to do with a team's DIRECT ability to produce on the field
1. fanbase size (fans = ratings)
2. a school's media machine
3. previous season's results regardless of loss of talent
4. Tradition

I'd like to see rankings not start for about 4-5 games. If that's done, I'd certainly argue that beating a ranked team then should count at the end of the season as beating a ranked team, regardless of where that ranked team you beat ends up. Any team you beat prior to weeks 4-5 that ended up being ranked, should also be counted. This would help reduce people taking credit for beating a pre-season ranked team early when that team was over-ranked.

Allaha said...

Anon at 8:58 -- I agree with your central point, which is that the polls at any time are disproportionately influenced by the rankings at the start of the season (which in turn are based on pure speculation), as well as the prior week's evaluations.

Perhaps one solution is not to have official polls until some point after the season starts (e.g., until conference play begins). Had that been the case this season, ND and UT -- two teams that have clearly disappointed and never deserved a number 2 ranking -- never would have been in the poll stratosphere. (And I say this being a UT fan.) Accordingly, some of the current anomalies, such as ND still in or near the Top Ten, would be eliminated.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the stupidest debates ever. If mid-season or early season rankings were more important than END of season rankings, why don't we award bowl spots based on mid-season rankings? Heck, why not put Ohio State and Texas in the BCS Championship game just because they were AP #1 and AP #2 when they played each other early on in the season. Maybe we should put Auburn in the BCS title game, they were ranked #2 in the nation at one time. Early and mid-season rankings mean nothing because they are merely biased predictions by voters who lack sufficient information.

Jeff from LA

Anonymous said...

Some more bullshit...Florida State and Miami accepted bowl bids....those two schools should be at home for the holidays

Anonymous said...

jerry palm: the "others receiving votes" category does not count as "ranked." sorry, buddy. U...C...L...A... fight fight fight.

1201 S. Main St. said...

Jeff from LA Writes:

"This is one of the stupidest debates ever. If mid-season or early season rankings were more important than END of season rankings, why don't we award bowl spots based on mid-season rankings?"

Perhaps you're missing the frame of the debate. It's not about what rankings matter most when awarding bowl spots or the NC, it's whether a ranking of a team when played holds greater weight than the ranking of the same team at the end of the season.

As show by a few of the other posts it’s not a cut and dried answer. If your team is ranked but hasn't been tested then gets hammered and drops down or out of the polls then maybe the ranking wasn't justified and thus it shouldn't hold as much weight. Likewise, if your team beats an unranked team at the beginning of the season, but that team improves, wins out and gets ranked, then shouldn't that win hold more weight? Conversely, if your team beats the #1 ranked team in week two, and that #1 team goes on to run off 8 more wins then loses their star QB and RB and finishes off with two more losses which drops them out of top 25, then should you discount that win just because their out of the top 25 at the end of the season? I think not. That's a case where you beat legit ranked team.

It’s a statistical measure which gets manipulated by whoever is presenting the argument. Watching Petros Papadeko -- the USC homer on FOX's Official BCS Show -- say things like UM shouldn't get a shot 'cause they've only beat one ranked team is deceptive or at least ill-informed. Either way you have someone on the "official" BCS show spouting off "facts” that are skewed.

I bleed Maize and Blue but think the Trojans have a legitimate claim at playing in the NC, and Pete Caroll may not only be the best coach in college, he's also the best halftime post game interview, but I take issue with how some people present their stats

So in the interest of showing how stats can be manipulated and providing a counterpoint to Petros lets take a look at the top three 1-loss contenders and their records against ranked teams. Which is better?

USC beat 19, 21, 17 and 6, while losing to unranked.
UM beat #2 and lost to #1.
FL beat 13, 9, and lost to #11

USC beat 9, 10, 18, 20 and LOST to #24
UM beat 7, 10 and LOST to #1
FL beat 5, 16 and LOST to #11

I'd venture to say that 1-4 are your elite teams, 5-12 are your very good teams, and everything else is a toss up with the last few spots dolled out to teams with a good weekly win, or consistent stellar play in a 2nd-tier conference.

So who's better by this measure (final BCS standing)?

*FL has a win over highest ranked opponent. FL Edge
*UM and USC have two wins over top 12 teams, FL only one. UM's avg is 8.5 while USC's is 9.5. UM Edge
*USC has two more wins over top 25 schools while FL has 1 and UM none. USC Edge
*USC lost to #24, FL lost to #11, UM lost to #1. UM Edge.

So we score that UM 2, USC 1, FL 1

If you break it down by RANKINGS AT TIME OF GAME it goes as follows:

* UM has win over highest ranked opponent. UM Edge

* FL, USC, and UM each have a single victory over a top 12 team. UM's being highest and only one to beat a top 5 team. UM Edge

* USC has three wins over two 12-25 teams, FL has 1, UM has none. USC Edge

* USC lost to unranked, FL lost to #11, and UM lost to #1. UM Edge

UM 3, USC 1, FL 0.

So Jeff, is it still a stupid debate?

oldwestside said...

Good breakdown 1201 main, but one thiing I'd like to add is that Penn State was number 25 in the BCS the prior week, and there is a good chance they sneak back in considering 24 Oregon State and 25 Hawaii play each other this week. Plus if 20 Nebraska or 22 Georgia Tech lose PSU could climb back in too. All this does is further acknowledge the subjectivity of "when do you examine the rankings?" It is also subjective to consider the ranking cutoff at 25 when you could cut it to 20 or increase it to 30.

Jerry Palm said...

anon 3:22

Oregon state is RANKED #24 in the bcs buddy.


Anonymous said...

I'm going to have to waffle. I think both need to be considered but I lean towards the ranking at the time. Obviously a team might lose a game early (like Arkansas) and it turns out they were better than thought at the time. But you also have to consider that teams change as the season progresses and a team that might have come out guns blazing early in the season roll over and die after a tough loss or two (MSU anyone?).

Good question though. It could be deabated ad nauseum.