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Oregon's loss at Stanford dropped it below USC.::AP

By Hugh Falk,

In the grand scheme of things, there are no significant changes at the top of the BCS Standings.  The BCS championship will still be the SEC champion vs. Texas until one of those teams loses.  At the bottom of the BCS, Oregon State received an unusually large boost from the computers.  The Beavers were ranked outside the top 25 by all three human polls, but all six computers rank them... four in the top 20.  This pulled Oregon State from a No. 28 ranking in the polls to No. 23 in the BCS.  Beaver fans shouldn't worry; expect the polls to catch up to the computers right before the season finale with Oregon.

Instead of disecting the BCS components this week, I want to cover a broader topic:  head-to-head match-ups.

Pollspeak has always advocated that when two teams have the same record, the team that wins the head-to-head match-up should be ranked over the loser.  This is one of the obvious, intelligent things humans can do that make us "better" than computer rankings in a sport where there is no playoff.  We can make our own playoff, which plays out over the entire season.

Of course, people always bring up exceptions to the rule: injuries were the reason for a loss, or weather, or officiating, or luck, or whatever.  Pollspeak's official stance is, "so what?"  That's why they play the games, and all of those excuses are part of the game.  With that reasoning, real playoffs would be pointless.  Teams would lose their playoff game and still get to advance because of injuries or weather or whatever excuse sounds best.

The college football season is just one big playoff with less formal rules and some complications.  (i.e. Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech last year).  However, typically, when two teams have the same record, the winner should be ranked excuses.  If the winner ends up having more losses, then all bets are off.  They can drop below the loser.  Otherwise, the winner has advanced in their playoff game.

The AP feels that head-to-head match-ups have merit, too.  It is one of their few voter guidelines:  "Pay attention to head-to-head results."    Yet so many voters don't pay attention.  For example:

Seven voters have Oklahoma State ranked over Houston.

John Hunt is the only voter to have Nebraska ranked over Virginia Tech.

Eight voters rank two-loss Arizona over one-loss Iowa.

Bob Asmussen has two-loss Wisconsin ranked over Iowa.

Three voters rank Penn State over Iowa.

Ten voters rank West Virginia over South Florida.  The Mountaineers do have one more win so this is debatable, but both teams have two losses and the Bulls won the head to head.

The worst example is that 23 voters rank USC over Oregon this week.  Oregon just beat USC soundly the previous week.  OK, unranked Stanford beat the Ducks, but USC lost to unranked Washington...a team with twice as many losses at the Cardinal.  The Trojans haven't even played Stanford yet.  Voter memories are very short, but wouldn't it seem obvious to rank Oregon over USC?

Maybe there is another reason.  It took me some time and effort to track down these examples of head-to-head match-ups between ranked teams with similar records...and there are more examples.  Could it be possible that voters just forget sometimes?  Of course it is possible, and we've seen cases of voters apologizing for mistakes in their weekly column or blog.

I would like your opinion.  I've designed a tool, like Pollstalker, that will tell voters where they are potentially making mistakes before they turn in their ballots.  It won't fill out their ballots, and ultimately it will be up to the voters to make their own choices.  Do you think this would be a useful tool?  If somebody forgot that Nebraska lost to Virginia Tech in week three, it could remind them before they turn in their ballot.  If they still want to rank the Cornhuskers higher, fine.  At least, the decision was intentional.  What do you think?   Should I put it online?  I could personally use it to find all of the head-to-head oversights for future articles.  However, would voters use it?  


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