Friday, November 19, 2010

The BCS conference beauty contest

In the Yahoo! Sports Blog Pollin' table, a list of the top 6 wins by each team is provided. The inclusion or exclusion of a team in the "quality list" is somewhat arbitrary. (3-6 Cincinnati, 4-6 Ole Miss and 5-5 BYU appear, but 7-4 Toledo doesn't make the cut. The criteria seems to be "BCS conference team or popular non-BCS team.) However aside from the criteria issue, it appears that the wins are built almost entirely of teams in the same conference.

TCU and Oklahoma are the only teams that get credited with 3 of their top 6 wins against non-conference opponents. (though Boise State's Toledo win would probably rank as 4th best if it were included.) Only 5 teams (Boise, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Arizona) include victories over top 25 out of conference teams.

So what does this tell us? Most top ranked teams get there by beating high-ranked conference opponents. These high ranked opponents are high-ranked because: 1) they have few losses in conference play and 2) they have victories over inferior teams out of conference.

How is the best way to carry this out? Well, the ACC, SEC and Big-12 have a pretty good model. 1) They have the "BCS" status that allows them to schedule money games against inferior opponents. Most teams will schedule three or four easy wins. 2) They have 12 teams in the conference, yet only play 8 conference games. This minimizes the internal conference carnage.

The Big-10 comes close to the model, with 8 conference games and an 11 team league.

The Big East plays a full round-robin schedule, but due to league size play only 7 conference games. In this case, the five non-conference games works against them. They lack the money, reputation (and quality) to play 5 sure-wins, and often end up with more competitive non-conference match-ups. The complete round-robin schedule also hurts.

Of the BCS conferences, the Pac-10 does the worst job of guaranteeing its BCS riches. The 9 round-robin conference schedule adds in additional conference losses. They also tend to schedule more competitive non-conference games. (Geography is a factor - the WAC and Mountain West are the nearest conferences, and happen to be the best of the non-BCS conferences.)

For the non-BCS conferences, scheduling is the big disadvantage. The lower teams in the conference often schedule body-bag games to bring in revenue, adding to conference loses. Due to poor conference perception, the top teams schedule more competitive games (and fewer "sure wins").

The ranking of each team, with the top nonconference wins (number proceeding is where it ranks in top 6 wins, number after is where the team ranks in top 25).
1) Auburn : 6. Clemson
2) Oregon : 0
3) TCU : 2. Baylor, 5. SMU, 6. Oregon State
4) Boise State: 1. Virginia Tech (16), 3. Oregon State
5) LSU : 4. West Virginia, 5. North Carolina
6) Stanford: 3. Notre Dame
7) Nebraska: 5. Washington
8) Oklahoma State: 0
9) Michigan State: 5. Notre Dame
10) Wisconsin: 3. Arizona State
11) Ohio State: 1. Miami (25)
12) Alabama: 4. Penn State
13) Missouri: 4. Illinois
14) Oklahoma: 1. Florida State (24), 2. Air Force, 6. Cincinnati
15) Arkansas: 2. Texas A&M (19)
16) Virginia Teach: 5. North Carolina
17) Nevada: 1. Cal
18) South Carolina: 0
19) Texas A&M: 0
20) USC: 0
21) Arizona: 1. Iowa (22)
22) Iowa: 0
23) NC State: 2. UCF, 5. Cincinnati
24) Florida State: 4. BYU
25) Miami: 3. Pitt

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