Sunday, November 20, 2011

Analyzing the 11/20/2011 AP Poll: Least consensus ever after #1 and #2

This time of year, while the AP poll isn't used in the BCS, it is still interesting to take a look and this week's analysis is unlike any other I recall seeing.

Here is the summary view chart.  The top-25 teams are listed across the X axis and the top and bottom of the vertical lines for each team indicates the high and low ranking the team has received.

For comparison, here is last week's chart.

What is clear is that except for the top-2 where there is surprisingly 100% consensus, there is very little consensus or consistency after that.  This is visually apparent by how many teams have a large range of votes and how large some of those ranges are.

For example, this week's largest range is for Boise State like last week, everything from a 4th place vote to a 23rd place.  But this week they are joined by Virginia Tech (3rd to 19th), Houston (4th to 20th), Georgia (5th to 20th), and Wisconsin (5th to 21st) as teams with ranges of 15 positions or more.  Last week only USC joined them.

Additionally, there are a full 13(!) teams getting 5th place or better votes.  Last week there were just 7.

Why the confusion?  There are a bunch of 1 and 2 loss teams, specifically 6 at 10-1 or 9-1 and 14 at 9-2 or 8-2.  Add that most of these teams have had high points and low points and you have plenty of reasons for a voter to argue for or against a team.

One thing we can do with this data is do head to head comparisons which can be interesting:

  • Arkansas is really not being challenged by Stanford or Oklahoma State.  They are ahead of Stanford 59 times with an average gap of 2.6 places, and ahead of Oklahoma State 58 times with an average gap of nearly 3 places.
  • Stanford and Oklahoma State are very close, Stanford ahead 31 times with gap of 2.4 and the other way 29 times with a 1.9 gap.  This could be important after the LSU/Arkansas game, especially if Georgia pulls the upset over whomever in the SEC title game.
  • Virginia Tech is ahead of Boise State 41 times with a gap of 4.5.  When BSU is ahead the gap averages 4.1.
  • BSU and Houston are very close, 30 times for each being ahead, BSU by 3.6 when they are and Houston by 3.9 when they are.

Also, in looking at the votes and my computer's ratings, we can try to see if there are some suspicious votes:

  • I'm not sure why Arkansas has suddenly become the darling to vote #3.  Yes, they are in the SEC West with clear #1/#2 LSU and Alabama, but they've only played one of them so far and lost by 24, and they have the 2nd weakest schedule of any team in the SEC and #45 in FBS.  If my computer is right, don't expect them to stay here.  My computer has them #6.
  • Stanford at #4 also seems a bit high with the 2nd weakest schedule in the Pac-12 and #44 in FBS.  And they needed a little luck and OT in one of their tough games, and convincingly lost their other.  My computer has them #8.
  • Oklahoma State manages to fall to just #5 which isn't bad, but one can easily make the argument they should be higher than Arkansas and Stanford.  Unlike those teams, they have a strong schedule, #15 in FBS, and their only loss was on the road hours after a tragedy at their university.  Their loss was to a worse team though, my #49 Iowa State while Arkansas lost to my #2 Alabama and Stanford lost to my #4 Oregon.
  • Virginia Tech seems exceedingly high at #5, and their spot is where a lot of the lack of clarity begins.  They have a middle of the road schedule within the ACC (5th toughest of 12), but it is only #61 in the FBS, their out of conference schedule including FCS Appalachian State, East Carolina (#86), Arkansas State (#66), and Marshall (#91).  And they've only played 2 conference opponents with a record better than 6-5, and they lost badly in one (Clemson 23-3) of those.  My computer is not impressed ranking them #24.
  • Houston is another darling since they have managed to stay undefeated, but their schedule pales even next to Virginia Tech's and being #8 is questionable.  Their schedule is #119, near the very bottom of the FBS teams.  Only one of their opponents, 7-4 Louisiana Tech, has a record better than 6-5, and their only conference opponent with even a winning record thus far was 6-5 SMU.  My computer has them #16.

Look for more soon on what biases there may be in the voting.