By Hugh Falk, Pollspeak.com
It's October, the month where strange and horrific creatures visit our homes and scare the hell out of us. Of course, I'm talking about the computer rankings. The first Anderson & Hester Rankings of the season were just released, and the lone BCS component left to appear is the Wolfe Ratings, which come out on October 18th during a full moon (Yes, that was a lame wereWolfe pun).
More importantly, October is when the computers typically start to make sense. To help prepare you for the BCS horror, let me explain two of the "trickier" rankings: Sagarin and Massey. You can find the Sagarin Ratings at the USA Today site where teams are listed by their standard "Rating." However, this rating isn't used by the BCS, which doesn't allow for margin of victory. Instead, the BCS uses Sagarin's ELO_CHESS ratings, which are listed on the same page in the second column from the right. Unfortunately there is no way to sort by that column. So the best way to see the Sagarin teams sorted in their BCS order is with Pollstalker. The Massey Ratings have a similar "BCS" column (also second from the right). The Massey site lets you sort, which makes it easier to read; however, you must also use the "FBS" filter since Massey doesn't send any FCS (1AA) schools to the BCS. Of course, you could just use Pollstalker to look at the Massey Ratings as well.
The computers definitely see things differently at this point in the season with all five computers tapping LSU as the No. 1 team. Meanwhile all three human polls still rank Florida No. 1. This isn't a surprise, but it does show how differently humans and computers handle their week-to-week rankings. LSU didn't even receive one first place vote in any of the polls (AP, Coaches', or Harris Interactive).
Florida may end up being national champions (relatively good odds according to Vegas). However, everybody who is voting Florida No. 1 is making many assumptions. For example, the Gators will play as well as they did last year. Opponents won't be better at defending the spread. Tim Tebow or other key players won't be injured. Other teams haven't improved more than Florida. Other teams won't get lucky, etc. Computers can't make these assumptions. Instead, they'll have to wait until Florida plays LSU next week. After that, I strongly suspect the computers and humans will be on the same page for the first time this season.
Speaking of those scary humans, shouldn't South Carolina be ranked over Mississippi? The Gamecocks have a better record and beat 'Ole Miss head-to-head. All of the computers rank the Gamecocks higher, but none of the human polls agree. More than half of the AP voters also have it the wrong way around. In fact Mississippi has one of the largest ranges of rankings in the BCS components. The Rebels are ranked No. 16 by the Coaches, but No. 71 by Massey (BCS, FBS). Mississippi gets its chance to make a statement next week when Alabama comes to town. If 'Ole Miss wins, we'll have to wait one more week for South Carolina to play Alabama and sort this mess out.
Meanwhile the Coaches' Poll still has Penn State ranked over Iowa. Iowa struggled with Arkansas State (and won), but they still have a better record and beat Penn State. I'll make the coaches a deal: let us see your ballots, and I promise not to refer to you by name. It can be the way penalties are called, without naming the player who committed the foul. Oh wait, I just remembered….they changed that rule because coaches thought it would be good for everyone to know what is going on even if it did cast a bad light on players. That sounds familiar.
Oklahoma becomes the first two-loss team to be ranked in the polls. There is no shame in that; their two losses were close calls against ranked teams. At least all of the human polls have BYU and Miami over the Sooners this week. That's still not the case with individual AP voters, though. John Clay leads the way with Oklahoma ranked No. 11 (highest) and BYU unranked.
Five AP voters have Ohio State over USC. I'm not sure why, when they lost the head-to-head at home. It must be Ohio State's quality win over…
I mentioned how the computers typically start to make sense in October. One example this week is Doug Lesmerises' ballot. I'm not saying Doug is a computer, but his method of heavily weighing on-the-field results over reputation is computer-like. His ballot this week is his first that isn't the most extreme. Again, we're reaching a point where more and more voters are abandoning reputation over actual results, and Lesmerises is now falling more in line with other voters.
The new extreme voters are Jon Wilner and Scott Wolfe. The California duo was commonly mentioned in past seasons, but not so much this year. Wilner has Miami and Virginia Tech highest, Florida lowest at No. 7 and is one of the few to leave Penn State unranked. Wolfe was the only voter to rank Utah over Oregon, a team who beat them. Wolfe also left Penn State unranked. While I agree that the Hawkeyes should be ranked higher than the Nittany Lions, Penn State is still a quality team. Then again, they are probably still looking for a quality win, and I can't argue with that.
October will be a scary month with both the BCS and Halloween looming. I'm a big fan of both and can't wait to see how the month plays out. Don't worry; Pollspeak will be here to protect you. Just don't believe what BCS Commissioner Jason Voorhees always says, "Relax. It'll all work out in the end."