By Hugh Falk, Pollspeak.com
Two of the more impressive top-10 teams last weekend actually dropped in this week's BCS standings. Boise State and Cincinnati each dropped three places after their dominating performances. Of course, they dominated inferior teams, which is part of the reason they dropped. In the BCS, when things are tight, strength of schedule makes a difference. So schools have to hope that the other teams on their schedule also do well. It's kind of like that old health-class warning: when you sleep with someone…you're sleeping with everyone they've slept with. So choose your partners wisely.
In this case, Boise State slept with Hawaii, who is on a five game losing streak, Tulsa (who just lost to UTEP), Bowling Green (who just lost to Central Michigan), and a winless Miami (Ohio). Cincinnati bedded five-loss Louisville, South Florida (who just lost to Pittsburgh), and again a winless Miami (Ohio). Had Oregon State defeated USC, it would have in turn helped Cincinnati. Strong relationships make a difference in the bedroom and the BCS.
Meanwhile, TCU, USC and Iowa all benefited from the other teams' poor choice of bed-partners. Each jumped up two places. TCU was helped by a solid victory over BYU, but USC and Iowa squeaked out wins and were simply thrust into the spots vacated by the Broncos and the Bearcats. Texas is still in ideal position for a BCS Championship spot, but Iowa looks to be separating from the rest of the pack (barring a loss). If fact, five of the six BCS computers rank Iowa No. 1 this week. So let this be a lesson to athletic directors…always practice safe scheduling.
Speaking of safe scheduling, the Trojans will have a chance to make their case this weekend against No. 10 Oregon, but even with a victory, USC would still need other teams to lose to have a serious shot at the BCS title. Oregon is in the same situation. Again, five of the six BCS computers rank Oregon higher than USC. The human polls favor USC, which is why the Trojans are ranked higher in the BCS. So this weekend's clash between the Trojans and the Ducks is also a clash between the humans and the machines. If the Ducks win, look for a new computer component to be added to the BCS -- Skynet.
Other disagreements between humans and computers this week are Arizona – who are liked by the computers more than the humans (Billingsley is the only computer without the Wildcats in top 25.); Texas – who is liked by the humans more than the computers (Billingsley is the only computer to agree with the polls); and Mississippi – the humans (and Billingsley) are the only ones with the Rebels in the top 25.
A common trend you probably noticed is that the Billingsley Report tends to break ranks with the other computers on a regular basis. That's because it is has a very different methodology. You can read the Billingsley system explanation for details, but I'll paraphrase (very loosely). The Billingsley Report ranks teams more like a human voter (given specific rules) would handle rankings. I'll call it a voter simulation. That's why we'll sometimes see Billingsley siding more closely with the polls than the computers. It weighs losses heavily and even figures in pre-season bias to some extent. It is one of the few systems to offer a preseason poll (the previous year's final poll) and uses it as a starting point for the new season. It even figures in a one-week, head-to-head matchup rule, ensuring that winners are ranked ahead of losers (other things being equal). So the Billingsley Report is kind of like a T-1000 cyborg wrapped in human flesh. If Judgment Day arrives and the machines attack, we may have to send Billingsley back in time to save us.
As for the real humans in the AP, they are mostly disagreeing over Penn State. The Nittany Lions are the most polarizing team this week, ranging from Craig James' No. 7 to Jon Wilner's No. 22.
On the other hand, congratulations to the Houston Cougars who are ranked by every AP voter for the first time this season…and the first time in a long time. The last year the Cougars were ranked was 1991.
I have a quick aside about Houston and the Sagarin Ratings. Sagarin's list to the BCS doesn't include FCS schools. Believe it or not, Richmond is currently No. 25 in Sagarin's BCS ratings (also called ELO_CHESS. Richmond is No. 40 in Sagarin's standard ratings.) So Houston snuck in and took Richmond's place in Sagarin's top 25 for the BCS.
Central Michigan hopes to be the next Houston with nearly half of the AP voters ranking them this week. The Chippewas are on the cusp of their first EVER top 25 ranking, currently standing at No. 27 in the AP and No. 26 in the Coaches' Poll. Of course, to be exactly like Houston, they would have to time travel back to 1991 and become ranked first. While there, they could meet up with the Billingsley-1000 and slip into any movie theater to check out the number one movie that year: Terminator 2: Judgment Day.