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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Dumbest Stat in College Football

In all the talk Saturday night about who should play in the BCS title game, I kept hearing from those pushing LSU that they were 6-1 against ranked teams.

But in the immortal words of Lee Corso - not so fast, my friend.

That 6-1 is the ranking of those teams when LSU played them, not a team's ranking at the end of the season. Meaning, to "credit" a team for such a stat is highly misleading.

Two of LSU's six "ranked" victories are against 6-6 South Carolina and 6-6 'Bama. Should anybody really be including a squeaker victory over a Crimson Tide squad that lost to Louisiana-Monroe and a 'Cock squad that lost its final five games as marquee wins?

On the flip side, the Tiger loss to "unranked" (at the time) Arkansas, which climbed back into the rankings after beating LSU to end their season, doesn't look the same anymore either.

Thus, while 6-1 sounds great when trying to a make a case for a team at the end of a season, it's bogus as hell.

Looking at some other schools, should USC get credit for being "3-1" versus ranked teams when two of those "ranked" teams turned out to simply be rank: 5-7 Nebraska and 6-6 Cal, loser of six of its last seven games?

On the flip side, Mizzou, poor astro-fucked Mizzou that got hosed out of a BCS game, should get some love for beating an Illinois team that turned out to be damn good. They shouldn't be punished just because a bunch of overweight pollsters thought - in the middle of summer - that the Illini would suck come fall and the team was thus unranked when the Tigers played them to start the season.

I could go on, but you get the point. This is just one of those "stats" that has always bugged the hell out of me. Especially when it's used at the end of the season to justify one team's inclusion in this or that bowl game. Once the season is over, you have to take a better look at the body of work out there, not continue to base the shit on incomplete info.

Then again, what else can you expect from a sport that uses this craziness to crown its champ to begin with?


David said...

what's michigan's record against ranked teams? or ohio state's for that matter? has any team in the big ten beaten a ranked team this year?

Joshua said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeremy said...

Not sure if that was sarcastic, but here you go:

Missouri, Iowa, and Michigan beat #13 Illinois.

Illinois beat #1 Ohio State.

Ohio State, Illinois, and Penn State beat #21 Wisconsin.

Joshua said...

I just went and looked since research isn't a strong suit around here...

Team...BCS, AP, Coaches final ranks

VT 5,3,5
UF 9,12,12
Auburn 22,23,21
Ark 25,nr,24
UT 16,16,18

LSU beat every one of those teams but Arkansas. This took all of 3 minutes to look up and post. But go ahead with your hollow bashing of LSU. And please try to fit in what ranked teams Ohio State or anyone else might have beaten. A quick perusal for me shows a 1-1 record for your conference champ.

You run a good blog dude, you're better than spiteful,childish posts like this.

WingRG said...

rankings are very arbitrary. In a season like the one we just had, when no one had any clearcut idea about who should be in the title game, there's also no clear cut rankings that you can have (i don't care if it's top 2, top 5, or top 25).
SEC has been a self-perpetuating myth (or a self-fullfilling prophecy) all year. LSU is ranked higher, b/c when they win, they're beating other highly "ranked" teams (some of which shouldn't be ranked at all) and when they lose, it's also to highly "ranked" teams (again, some of which shouldn't be ranked). It started with too many SEC teams being ranked in the top 25 in the preseason.
I know, people will say "Wing is completely out of his tree, he thinks he can rank these teams better than the experts". Which experts would those be? The ones that predicted OSU will be 3rd best team in the B10 (behind UM, UW, and PSU). Or the ones that set up a 41 point spread for USC-Stanford? Or the ones that predicted Louisiana-Monroe has no chance against 'Bama? Or the ones that said that Pornstaches' team will give up over 60 to WVU?
Everyone has opinions, but even if these people do it for as living (aside from Vegas) that doesn't make their opinions any more right than mine or yours.

Andy said...

Looks like it is that time of year....

I love it when the S.R.T.I. (SEC Redneck Troll Infestation) season rolls around...

Mikoyan said...

The East German judge gives joshua's post a 5.8 for artistic merit and 5.9 for technical merit. Had to deduct points because the triple lindy was only a 2.5 lindy.

I wonder if we could lure that East German judge out of retirement to be a pollster.

As for the subject of rankings, Michigan was a 5 ranking when the season began and now that the season is over, we see how much that means. Then there is the shenanigan factor with some of the polls.

Sundawg said...

Wings, are you saying you're uncomfortable being #1?

All team suffer from the same malady, the highly-ranked team you beat early in the season goes into the shitter and you're accused of knowingly playing a soft schedule. The Domers have turned soft schedules into an art form, but that's a whole other story.

I heard on ESPN that the SEC was the toughest conference in college football. I don't question this having seen the ritual killing and consumption of the opposing team's captain. Just sayin' ...

Gotta go wire brush my neck.

WingRG said...

nowhere in my post did it say that i thought (or didn't think for that matter) that OSU should be #1. I just happen to agree with Yost, regarding this particular statistic (record vs ranked teams).

Here, i think that top 4 teams in the B10 are same strength as top 4 teams in the SEC. But the SEC ones are ranked, whereas the B10 ones aren't. Is that b/c of bias? Maybe. Or maybe my subjective opinion of the teams' strength being equal is wrong? My point is you don't really know for sure.

Yost said...


First of all, this wasn't an anti-LSU post. It was an anti-misleading stat post.

And the research is fine, your understanding of what they're saying is the problem. The 6-1 record they're referring to is the ranking of the teams WHEN LSU PLAYED THEM which is why your little list doesn't add up to seven since South Carolina, UK and Bama are no longer ranked (yet are included in that 6-1 stat).

On the flip side, Arkansas was unranked when they played LSU and thus were not included.

I guess I just want to say, you leave good comments, dude. You're better than ill informed knee jerk comments that aren't specifically directed at a school you root for.

Sundawg said...

Wings, you're right; you don't really know until it's settled on the field. I would argue the Dawgs belonged in the top 10, but as high as #4, maybe not. But it's not something you give back once you've got it.

We have a weak defensive secondary, and playing Hawaii' Colt 45 (45 TDs by the end of the game?) scares the crap out of me. I was at Georgia's last Sugar Bowl against WfVU and it wasn't pretty. At all.

WingRG said...

it seemed that UGA overlooked WVU that year, and payed for it dearly. You shouldn't make that same mistake with the Rainbow Warriors, just b/c their schedule is ranked 117/119. Georgia should win this game, but in this crazy season what does that really guarantee?

Mikoyan said...

By Gene Wojciechowski from ESPN

SAN ANTONIO -- There's no disputing it: The just deceased college football regular season was crazier than ordering a chocolate martini at a biker bar.

No. 1 Missouri lost the Big 12 bakeoff to favored Oklahoma, and No. 2 West Virginia absolutely shanked its national championship chances to four-touchdown mutt Pittsburgh. And that's just part of what happened this past Saturday. How about the previous 14 weeks?

Appalachian State over Michigan. USC, Boston College, Cal, Kansas, South Florida, Oregon and West Virginia all yakking away their No. 2 rankings. Oregon's DayGlos. Mike "I'm a man!" Gundy. Notre Dame and its bungee jump into oblivion. I could go on.

But, sorry, crazy isn't good enough. College football deserves better than simple bedlam. Chaos doesn't legitimize ignorance or stupidity.

[+] EnlargeGregory Shamus/Getty Images

A series of upsets helped Jim Tressel and the Buckeyes finish No. 1 in the BCS standings.

By sheer accident, nothing more, Ohio State and LSU will play Jan. 7 in the Allstate BCS National Championship Game. A few days ago it was supposed to be Mizzou vs. West Virginia. And before that, Kansas vs. LSU.

If there were a congressman to write concerning the forever flawed Bowl Championship Series (Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C.?), I'd give you his address. But there isn't. Instead, we get SEC commissioner Mike Slive, who doubles as the Bowl Championships Series coordinator. It's a crummy part-time job because you're forced to explain the unexplainable, defend the indefensible.

Slive is a smart, well-intentioned administrator, but when he says, "I don't see what I would call an NFL-style playoff in the offing," someone needs to remind him that it isn't an "NFL-style playoff" we're talking about. It's an NCAA-style playoff, the kind of elimination tournament seen in nearly every NCAA sport and every NCAA football division except Division I-A. SEC schools won two of those "NFL-style" playoffs last season. They're called Final Fours.

And when he says he's looking "very, very hard [at] drilling down into that concept" of a Plus-One format (sort of a seeded, one-game playoff game after the bowls), he's admitting the BCS has major imperfections. Otherwise, why bother?

Think about what just happened this past weekend. The short list:

One-loss Ohio State reached a national championship game by doing nothing more strenuous than clicking the TV remote. Congrats. The Buckeyes will go 50 days between their last game and their next.

The 10-2 Mountaineers were eliminated partly because of an injured thumb.

An 11-2 OU team beat Missouri for a second time this season -- including Saturday's 21-point win against the No. 1 Tigers on a neutral field -- and got aced out.

LSU, also 11-2, squeezed in.

Poor Mizzou went from No. 1 to a non-BCS bowl (the Cotton) in less than 24 hours. Meanwhile, Kansas, which lost to Missouri late in the season and failed to reach the Big 12 title game, was invited to a BCS bowl, the Orange.

Georgia, which is 10-2, was in the BCS title game discussion despite not winning its division or conference championship.

USC, playing as well as anyone these days, finished 10-2, but still gets no soup.

And don't even get me started on why the only undefeated team in the country, 12-0 Hawaii, is completely ignored in the Jan. 7 equation.

Is this any way to determine a national champion? And if the bowl results shake out a certain bizarre way, we could even have a split championship. How fitting.

[+] EnlargeJ.P. Wilson/Icon SMI

Bob Stoops pointed out that the BCS is "sort of like a playoff."

College football's madness arrived late Saturday night when the absurd BCS "system" forced coaches to campaign for their teams like they were trying to win the Iowa caucus. Oklahoma's Bob Stoops delivered his hard sell after the 38-17 victory in the Big 12 Conference championship. Georgia's Mark Richt and USC's Pete Carroll also issued spins on behalf of their respective teams. The BCS didn't give them any other choice.

When someone questioned Stoops about the Sooners' chances to reach the BCS title game, the OU coach could barely contain himself. "Well, I'm glad you asked," he said, before making his impassioned pitch.

Stoops is anti-playoff. Too many moving parts, he said. His reasons: the regular season would become less important … fans would have difficulty traveling from playoff site to playoff site … regular-season attendance might suffer … the bowls might be adversely affected. Anyway, he said, the status quo is "sort of a like a playoff."

"Sort of like a playoff" isn't working. "Sort of like a playoff" gave us at least six teams that could each make valid arguments for a BCS Championship spot. But instead of a playoff, the finalists were determined by 176 voters (some of whom actually pay attention), six computer polls and politicking.

But even Stoops acknowledged that this season, especially with so many legitimate BCS contenders at the end, lent itself to a playoff. "It's a decent argument," he said.

Standing just outside the Oklahoma locker room at the Alamodome was Tostitos Fiesta Bowl president John Junker. The well-respected Junker was waiting for clearance to go inside and officially invite the Sooners for a repeat appearance to his bowl.

"We got the most dominant team in the country coming to our game," said Junker, moments before being waved in.

Not dominant enough to convince enough computers or voters. And that's the shame of all this. Nobody is playing better than OU, Georgia or USC right now. But it's Ohio State, with its puppy fur-soft nonconference schedule and so-so Big Ten quality, that was chosen for New Orleans. Interesting, since the Buckeyes didn't register a win against a top 20 team at the time they played. At least inconsistent LSU mostly survived a killer conference and won its league championship game.

This isn't meant as a total rip job on the Buckeyes and Tigers. They finished atop the BCS standings because they won and lost at the "right" times against the "right" teams. They are the beneficiaries of the perfect BCS storm.

There will be those who say the unpredictability of this season and of the BCS is what made college football so compelling in 2007. I'd say the BCS is what made this season so embarrassing. How can you have these delicious scenarios without having a playoff to resolve them on the field?

We're back where we started pre-BCS. Chaos reigns. And all because too many people in the business of college football are willing to settle, willing to pretend there isn't a better solution. Makes you want to chug that martini.

Joshua said...

Oh shit, now I'm gonna have to get a new username- we have an impostor "Joshua"- I declare shenanigans!

WingRG said...

"ok, enough ... i will pistol-whip the next guy who says shinenigans" :-)

Joshua said...

I hadn't even read his post when I wrote that comment. Based on the senselessness of it I'm taking back my username. LSU Joshua, change your name dude! And thanks for the compliment Yost, it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Joshua said...

Shnawzberries taste like shnawzberries.

Joshua said...

OMG Brian over at MGoBlog is reporting Ferentz is back in the mix. If that happened I seriously couldn't get to a bridge fast enough.

Mikoyan said...

Today's Tuesday Morning Quarterback has a commentary about the BCS. He sums it up as being about the money which is about as honest as anything else.

jwalk said...

I'm sorry, but I'm tired of all the OSU backing into the MNC. Why should OSU be penalized for finishing out its schedule before Thanksgiving? Make the weak schedule/conference argument if you like. Those two may very well be valid points. But if the B10 is willing to risk late season movement for not playing, it's their deal. This year it paid off for OSU. Last year, not so much for Michigan. An 11-1 conference champ is an 11-1 conference champ, regardless of whether they played last week.

Joshua said...

All I have to do is add a lil photo of a Michigan guy and pandelirium will break loose in this comment section.

I could start talking about what a fine man Woody Hayes is and how Notre Dame has the finest winning tradition and Appy State has no chance.

I love you guys.

ps. I bet the Buckeye fans love to do the word verification since incorrect spelling is the point of it. It'll be great the day that "jersywaringmunkeys" pops up.

Joshua said...

And joshua, I never said I had any sense. I did say that LSU has probably the most extensive record against pretty dang good teams, in and out of conference, something Ohio State can't even begin to fathom. We skulldrug a BCS conference champ for crying out loud.

So, if there's any trash to be talked anyone's resume, it isn't LSU's. But I understand the original posters intent. I agree completely. If I was to make a case for LSU, I would use the rankings/evaluations as they are now, not at the time. That's a no brainer.

Mikoyan said...

Oh yeah, if you go by the final rankings...Michigan and Ohio State are both 1-1 against Top 25 teams.

Joshua said...

Actually you'd have to add a pic of a Michigan guy and not misuse words. Unless you really meant Pandelarium, in which case i'd find it highly amusing when an EP by Th' Legendary Shack Shakers broke out.

And i wasn't really baggin' on you, I just want my name back!

TitleIX said...

Here's a smart stat:

graduation rates for the bowl teams

note the huge disparity b/w African American and White players.

And, note if you will the comparison between tOSU (53% rate, 43/74) versus Michigan (73% rate, 56/92)

BC with SICK numbers in the high

description of the study design and data sources can be found at www.tidesport.org

carry on

whetstonebuck said...


Maybe it's because more tOSU players hit the NFL draft prior to graduation. Kind of a side stat that unintentionally highlights the disparity of wins/loses as of late.

whetstonebuck said...

Hey, hey, it's Ferentz again. Begin the wrist slitting.

If you prefer the ledge, please take a number and wait your turn.

TitleIX said...

to drill down on your supposition whetstone, one would need to know the percentage of players not receiving degrees who went on to the NFL vs. those without degrees and no Sunday Play......broken down by race of course

any way you slice it--figures lie and liars can figure and there are clearly some VERY successful football programs with impressive graduation rates....
(and no, I have not been taken over by Jimbo or joshua2)
It just depends on one's value structure.
Win/Loss vs. Diploma

The good news from the study is that
"Nearly three of every four football teams invited to play in bowl games this season met the NCAA's academic-progress requirements, a marked improvement over the past two years, according to an annual report released on Monday by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida.

The report, "Keeping Score When It Counts: Assessing the 2007-8 Bowl-Bound College Football Teams," said that 73 percent of the 64 bowl-bound teams were keeping their players on track to graduate within six years. Last year, 64 percent of the teams were meeting the NCAA's academic-progress standards; in 2005, just 60 percent were measuring up."
from The Chronicle of Higher Ed

ps--I think that this previous argument about who has how many in the NFL has been addressed on prior strings??
we win. ;-)

TitleIX said...

enlighten me...

why are we committing hare kare over Kirk? (Ferentz, not herbie)

Mikoyan said...

The proper term is seppeku....

hari kari is something else....I think...

TitleIX said...

actually formal form vs. colloquial


learned something new, thanks Mik!

whetstonebuck said...


It is a value judgment. Diploma or 10 million? Hmmm. That's a no-brainer. If you say the diploma that would explain a few things.

As far as the number of players in the NFL, I purposely mentioned the last few years to coincide with the current disparity of wins/loses. What are the stats as of late? I have no idea, nor the energy to actually find out. It was more of a tongue in cheek comment.

Corwin said...

The concept of comparing graduation rates among schools is a farce.

First, all comparisons should be made within each university (athlete vs. non-athlete) since the point is to compare the athletic program with the university's normal rate.

Secondly, those comparisons should only be made among individuals with similar socio-economic status - since they face similar constraints in spending 4-5 years in college.

Finally, the belief that student athletes need to graduate is class-based. It is a remnant of Victorian notion of "amateur athletes" that was used to denounce poor better athletes from playing in the Olympics.

If a former/lesser athlete, who fully met academic requirements while playing, does not find it in his or her interest to earn a college diploma, even after receiving a scholarship, we should all accept it and not judge that individual as not being a success.

TitleIX said...

how about a degree that can get you 10 million...over time and without the hip replacement?? :-)

don't get too bent about my comments/posting. it was meant as a take-off on the "dumbest stat in college football" title to this thread.
get it?
what NFL team do you play for as I think the lady doth protest too much. :-)

shits and giggles,

Corwin said...

Understood T9. Unfortunately my understanding of wit is not as quick as my venom.

Not an NFL player, just an academic who teaches college football players and realizes 1) that a college degree isn't all that its cracked up to be, 2) athletes are just like other college students and face similar needs/wants to drop out, and 3) college athletic program comparisons like those are poorly done and are not worth the paper they are printed on.

Mikoyan said...

One of the guys I read on the ESPN site proposed this at one point. It sounds like a good idea. Supposedly one of the reasons why alot of football players take Mickey Mouse majors is because they are spending the bulk of their time playing football. They don't have alot of time for other things. Plus there's the attitude that they will make it to the NFL.

He thinks that schools should let them play football for four years and then set aside some of the money they make so that they can pursue a real degree if their football careers don't pan out. He was proposing this instead of salaries.

MattYancey said...

So does APP State still get credit for beating a ranked team?

Korematsu said...

I actually like the system of using the opponent's ranking at the time you play the, but I do see your point Yost. For me, it's a closer call than you see it, but at the end of the day, I definitely understand your beef.

I like the method b/c the measure of how good a college football team largely depends on how well the team is playing at a particular time. Now whether or not this is fair is a different story, but that's how teams are measured. For example, #5 Michigan is dealt a huge upset and is knocked out of the top 25 the next week. USC, LSU, OSU all lose to unranked opponents, but don't fall out of the top 10. The reason, b/c the season developed to the point where a big upset wouldn't been damning. Another example, Georgia and USC are considered two of the best teams in the country, despite losses to South Carolina and Stanford respectively. But West Virginia, also a two loss team that played dominant throughout the year, is likely not considered on those teams' level. Reason: WVU lost late, and Georgia and USC lost early. My point is this. It's much more difficult to beat a team when they are on a streak and ranked high. A team can fall out of a high ranking for many reasons (Dennis Dixon getting hurt, Cal and South Carolina losing momentum). But at the time the game is played, if unranked team A has to walk into #5 team B's house and play them under the lights with an intense crowd, team A has a mindset and will play as if they are playing a top 5 team. Likewise, if unranked team A has to play unranked team B with nothing on the line, the quality of play will be different. I think the better solution is to bifurcate the whole statistic. Come up with a record against teams at the time they played and at the end of the season. Because I think both stats are relevant, and one is not necessarily better than the other.

Joshua said...

Wow, everyone's a bit testy tonight. I must say, however, the level of intelligence in most posts is refreshing. Or maybe I've just been hanging around idiots for too long.

As for electing for the Hemingway Solution if Ferentz gets hired, I just disagree with his candidacy on several levels. I've never understood people who change jobs within a conference, it just shows a bit of disloyalty in my opinion. Not unlike dating a friend's ex-girlfriend without his permission. Maybe I'm just old fashioned, but it rubs me the wrong way. Secondly, he hasn't done much. I realize he's recruiting at Iowa and it's not us, but I cannot get excited about someone who's team lost to Western Michigan this year. He's conservative like Lloyd, and although I appreciate '97, I'd like to see a philosophical change within the program. And if the story about his son living in low-income housing is true I REALLY don't want him. that's sketchy.

Overall, I just can't get excited about it. It seems so mediocre.

whetstonebuck said...


How about I get the 10 million now and when the time comes, I'll pay for the hip replacement out of my petty cash and...over time get a degree if I want one? It won't be necessary, but I might want it just for grins.

Mikoyan said...

The pre-season rankings are pretty much meaningless. Michigan's #5 ranking was based on an offense that was returning some pretty good seniors. I don't think they realized how inexperienced Michigan was on Defence. Ohio State wasn't even on the radar despite being a top shelf (blech) team in a supposedly top shelf conference. Even then, it took Ohio State almost the whole season to get to Number 1.

Then watch the fluctuation based on other metrics. Michigan almost fell out of the rankings after the App State loss. USC barely fell after their loss to Stanford. Missouri is ranked lower than Kansas despite beating Kansas. Hawaii is barely in the top 10 despite being undefeated and having a bunch of 2 and 3 loss teams ahead of them.

As such, the polls are no better than the East German judge.

Jeremy said...

Mikoyan, Michigan is 1-2 vs. current top 25 teams. Beat Illinois, lost to Wisconsin and Ohio State. Get your head in the game!

Mikoyan said...

Sorry, I blanked out on the Badgers....

But still, the whole thing is based on perceptions. The SEC is perceived as a good conference, so their teams get bonus points. The Big 10 is perceived as having an off year, so they get negative points.

Toki Wartooth said...

This is all Notre Dame's fault. With as many Big Ten teams that Notre Dame played this year, if they had finished 6-6 instead of 3-9 the computer ratings of the entire Big Ten would be much higher.

Korematsu said...

Or more appropriately, the Big Ten would've been higher if Michigan didn't lose to App. State, Northwestern to Duke, Minnesota to Bowling Green, Iowa to Iowa State, etc etc etc.

Chester said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chester said...

LSU was 5-0 against teams who finished in the FINAL TOP 15 (AP).

USC didn't even play any (not even in their own bowl game. Thanks, Mr. Delaney) and Ohio State played one--LSU.

LSU, when not having many mission-critical players out throughout the season, gained 600! yards total offense (299run-301pass)against the #4 Defense in the nation (final NaziAA ranking).

Check please!