By Hugh Falk, Pollspeak.com
The BCS rankings took on extra importance this week when the Big 12 used them to determine its South Division champion, as Oklahoma is ranked No. 2 in the BCS ahead of No. 3 Texas. Last week I predicted an Oklahoma "victory" if all three Big 12 South leaders won their games, which they did. However, I expected the human voters to give them the edge, and I was wrong on that one.
Texas actually has a slight (almost negligible) edge in the human polls, although both teams average a No. 3 ranking. Texas is ranked No. 3 in both polls while Oklahoma is No. 4 in Harris and No. 2 in the Coaches' Poll. The real difference is in the computer rankings, with Oklahoma getting three first place votes to Texas' one.
As I've mentioned in the past, the computers have no long-term concept of head-to-head match ups (though arguably, human voters don't, either). So, it doesn't surprise me that Oklahoma ended up on top. However, if the Big 12 (or Texas fans) don't like how the tiebreaker played out, they shouldn't blame the BCS. Instead, they should enforce a head-to-head rule just like the SEC does. The SEC tiebreaker is similar to the Big 12, but if the teams are within five spots of each other, the head-to-head results are the deciding factor instead. That's a great safety valve to override the voters and computers who ignore head to head results.
While the BCS' top four is always interesting, the bottom four this week is also interesting:
No. 22 Northwestern was ranked No. 22 in both human polls, but only cracked the top 25 in one computer rating, Anderson/Hester, which ranked the Wildcats No. 25. Yet that was still enough to keep them at No. 22 in the BCS.
No. 23 Pittsburgh similarly keeps the same ranking it received from human voters in the BCS.
Meanwhile, the last two, No. 24 Florida State and No. 25 Virginia Tech, are just the opposite. They were not ranked by either Harris Interactive or the Coaches, yet both teams still snuck into the BCS based on the strength of their computer rankings. That is a rarity since the computers have been relegated to one-third of the BCS formula, but it shows that the computers can make a difference at the top and the bottom of the BCS.
As for the humans, most people obviously voted Alabama No. 1, but if you look at who received the second most first-place votes (overall) it was neither Texas nor Oklahoma, but rather Florida. The Gators dismantled the Seminoles in the swamp (not the "Swamp" in Gainesville ... the temporary swamp in Tallahassee caused by constant rain), and have impressed at least a few new voters in Florida and elsewhere. Looking at the AP ballots, which are the only ones made available each week, the three No. 1 votes for Florida come from two California voters and one Virginian. If Florida can beat Alabama in Atlanta, the Gators will surely get several more No. 1 votes.
One last note about Florida. The Gators were the only SEC winner in the four SEC vs. ACC matchups this weekend. The ACC definitely proved itself a solid league. The Georgia Tech victory over Georgia was particularly impressive, and even though both teams now have the same record, three voters still ranked the Bulldogs over the Yellow Jackets. However, with Florida beating FSU soundly, the ACC also showed it has no top 10-caliber teams this year. Sagarin ranked the ACC as the strongest conference last week, and Anderson/Hester did this week, too. Still, it's a dubious honor to be the strongest conference but to not have had a shot at the national championship since week one. Although, one could argue that if Georgia Tech and Boston College didn't play in such a tough league (their only losses are to ACC teams), they could be undefeated right now. But let's table that argument until after the bowls.
For more poll analysis, go to pollspeak.com.