By Hugh Falk, Pollspeak.com
The ACC is No. 1? It is according to Sagarin's conference ratings. How can a league that doesn't have a dominating team or a national title contender be the top conference? The answer lies not at the top, but at the bottom. N.C. State is the ACC's lowest ranked team at No. 56 (using standard Sagarin Ratings). Meanwhile, other BCS leagues have several teams ranked lower:
SEC: Auburn (No. 69), Tennessee (No. 73), Arkansas (No. 81) and Mississippi State (No. 97).
Big East: Louisville (No. 88) and Syracuse (No. 102).
Big 10: Illinois (No. 58), Minnesota (No. 64), Purdue (No. 72), Michigan (No. 86) and Indiana (No. 112).
Big 12: Baylor (No. 67), Colorado (No. 74), Kansas State (No. 77), Texas A&M (No. 94) and Iowa State (No. 117).
PAC-10: Stanford (No. 63), Arizona State (No. 76), UCLA (No. 91), Washington (No. 147) and Washington State (No. 154).
Notre Dame is ranked No. 59.
The ACC has three top 20 teams according to Sagarin (Georgia Tech, Boston College and Florida State), but no top 10 team. So, looking at the mean, median or whatever formula you like to find the general strength of a league, the ACC may be the best. However, is this really a good measure of conference strength? Wouldn't teams like Alabama, Florida, Texas, Oklahoma or USC run through the ACC without a loss? If this were war, wouldn't the strongest side be the one with people left standing at the end? Unfortunately that is a question that can only be answered in bars and video games. Regardless, it seems some computers believe parity is more important than dominance -- as long as it reflects parity of strong teams and not weak ones.
Parity in the ACC is demonstrated by the fact that neither division will be determined until this week's games are played. Also, a lot will be revealed about the comparative strength of the ACC on Saturday with several key games against SEC opponents (Florida at FSU, Vanderbilt at Wake Forest, South Carolina at Clemson and Georgia Tech at Georgia).
Conventional wisdom would have the ACC losing most if not all of these games. However, this weekend will be a good test of human conventional wisdom vs. computer math.
Enough talk about the ACC and computers. Let's look at the Big 12 South and humans. Now that there is a three-way tie of one-loss teams at the top, how did voters handle the situation? As usual, we'll look at the AP Poll (the only poll with public ballots) as an example:
No surprise -- after last week's shellacking, everybody ranks Oklahoma over Texas Tech.
More surprising -- everybody also has Texas over Texas Tech, even though the Red Raiders won the head-to-head. I expected most people to vote as they did, but I didn't expect it to be unanimous.
The last comparison is where it gets messy -- 37 of 65 voters rank Texas over Oklahoma. That's only a bit more than half.
In retrospect, I really wish Texas Tech were able to keep the game close with Oklahoma. It could have given us a good idea of how much weight voters put on "what have you done for me lately?" However, the Sooners' domination of the Red Raiders really does give them a clear advantage in the three way tie, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Oklahoma with the edge in the human polls if it wins next week. However, it is good to see the computers pulling some weight in the BCS this week.
Here is the comparison: Oklahoma is ranked higher in both the Coaches' and Harris Interactive Polls. Texas is ranked over Oklahoma in four out of the six computer polls (including two No. 1 votes). So in total, there are four BCS components with Texas on top and four with Oklahoma on top (including both human polls). Yet the official BCS standings puts Texas at No. 2 and Oklahoma at No. 3. Of course, next week Oklahoma plays Oklahoma State.
If all three teams win next week, the BCS won't just decide the national champion, it will also decide the Big 12 South champion. Tie-breaker rule No. 5 for the Big 12 is, "The highest-ranked team in the first Bowl Championship Series Poll following the completion of Big 12 regular-season conference play shall be the representative." Once again, we call for the BCS to recognize its power and address its flaws. There is a lot more at stake than the fate of two teams. The BCS also affects most teams' TV coverage, recruiting and now conference championships, too.
For more poll analysis, go to pollspeak.com.