Sunday, November 27, 2011

Is Oregon the 3rd best team after LSU and Alabama? My computer says yes

It is now pretty much a given, that short of a significant voter uprising, LSU and Alabama will finish #1 and #2 in the BCS and play in the BCS title game, even if LSU loses to Georgia in the SEC title game.  But that certainly doesn't stop fans from debating it or wondering who the next best team behind them is.

Conventional wisdom at this point is that Oklahoma State is close to the top-2 and most deserving, but will likely fall a bit short due to how the pollsters are presently voting.  They are very strong in the BCS computers but have a gap to make up in the polls and it is hard to see it happening as I wrote last week, especially with Stanford winning and thus taking some of the #3 and #4 poll votes away from the Cowboys.

But are they even the 3rd best team in the country?  While the BCS computers and even my BCS algorithm actually say they are the 2nd best just ahead of Alabama, my normal and more accurate algorithm says Oklahoma State is #4 and Oregon is #3.

How can this be?

First, as I've written before, the BCS has imposed limitations on the BCS computers to not use the score of the game at all, only who won or lost, thus significantly handcuffing them from being able to rate teams as fairly as possible.  I don't think anyone hasn't looked at one or more of the computers results and says "Huh?" about where several teams have been ranked, and many are of the opinion that systems that use margin of victory correctly rate and rank teams more accurately.

But, how can one defend a system that ranks a 2-loss team from a perceived weaker conference ahead of a 1-loss team from arguably the toughest conference this year?  As always, let's go to the performance charts, where we can see it boils down to who the losses are to.

Oklahoma State lost to a now 6-5 Iowa State that just lost 26-6 to a 2-loss Oklahoma team.  This can be seen the chart by the large red dot scoring just 67.4 points on their chart.  They also had a near loss to 6-6 Texas A&M, scoring just 83 points and another close game with K-State scoring just 81.9 points.

Oregon on the other hand lost to the clear #1 and undefeated LSU, so they were supposed to lose that one and shouldn't really be dinged for doing so and in fact score 82 points from that game, scoring about the same as Oklahoma State's 2 near losses, and also lost to a 10-2 USC that gave 11-1 Stanford all they could handle and arguably should have won that game, scoring 74.6 points from that game.

So Oregon has one very expected loss and another loss that was not nearly as bad as Oklahoma State's one loss.  Couple that with both teams having a number of very good wins, but Oregon's win over Stanford far eclipsing the best win Oklahoma State has had, and you see how Oregon can be rated higher than Oklahoma State.

Now, Oklahoma State has a chance with their game with Oklahoma to get a win similar to Oregon's over Stanford, and that could turn the tables, but with the games played thus far, my computer says Oregon is better than Oklahoma State and would be favored should they play on a neutral field.