Ohio State Football: Projecting Where Buckeyes Would Be in the BCS Rankings

Adam Jacobi@Adam_JacobiBig Ten Football Lead WriterOctober 30, 2012

Ohio State fans don't need to be told again that the Rose Bowl (or any other bowl) is not happening this year. They're exquisitely aware that the one-year postseason ban imposed by the NCAA is capping the OSU season at 12 games and leaving it out of Big Ten championship contention.

As a result, the official BCS rankings don't include Ohio State, and that makes sense—the rankings are for postseason BCS bowl eligibility after all, and OSU's not going anywhere. Same with Penn State. So as a result, we get BCS rankings where Nebraska sits at No. 20 and the rest of the conference sits on its hands at home.

That's fine, and for the BCS' purposes, that's the way it ought to be. But let's not forget that these BCS rankings are also what ESPN uses for its chyrons in score updates and during games, so it looks as if the Big Ten's best team is barely in the Top 20, and we know that's not true.

So let's take a look at where Ohio State would be in the BCS rankings, and you can just keep that in your head accordingly as you watch the Buckeyes unload on Illinois this weekend.

NOTE: What ensues is math. If numbers hurt your poor little brain, scroll down to the giant Brutus Buckeye picture near the end to see the end result. It's OK.

First, the single most important aspect of the BCS rankings is the human element. The coaches' poll and Harris poll each account for one-third of the weight of the rankings, so where the teams are slotted in these polls largely determines where they are in the overall BCS standings.

Now, we don't know where the coaches' and Harris poll voters would have Ohio State. But we do have other rankings we can look at. The AP poll has Ohio State at No. 6, slotted between LSU and Georgia. ESPN.com's power rankings have the Buckeyes in the same spot. CBSSports.com ranks Ohio State fifth, right between Kansas State and Florida. 

Like the AP and ESPN power rankings, the Harris poll and coaches' poll both have LSU ranked No. 5, and Georgia is the next team up. So let's assume those voters follow the same convention and slot Ohio State between the two. The coaches' poll and Harris poll are the same through the first 13 spots anyway—not that that's troubling or anything.

Then there's the computer rankings, and thankfully, here we don't need to do any assuming.

Since the computer rating systems need to be able to assess the worth of Ohio State and other postseason-ineligible teams as an opponent for the sake of other teams and their strength of schedule, all the computer polls do rank the teams; it's just that the ineligible teams are taken out before getting to the BCS.

So here's where Ohio State sits in each of the rankings.

The outliers on each end, which are thrown out of the final BCS formula to normalize things, are italicized and not counted. Every poll is linked in the header. The "poll percentage" is determined by taking the inverse poll points (25 for the top spot, 24 for No. 2, the way most polls do it) for the remaining four polls and dividing by 100, the maximum points possible. 

BCS Polls A&H RB CM KM JS PW Avg. Poll %
Ohio State 4 8 4 6 11 4 ? .820

You'll notice the average poll position is a question mark, and our fellow math geeks will tell you that a question mark is not a number. Here's where things get a little tricky.

NOTE: This all has little effect on the end result, so again—if you don't feel like looking at more numbers, go ahead and scroll down until you see Brutus Buckeye. It's OK. We won't be mad.

Throwing Ohio State into these polls pushes every team below it down a spot—for both the computers and humans. That means, for these computer polls, the outliers that are discarded can change based on whether Ohio State is added to the mix.

Further, since Ohio State's average poll position is 5.5, we can't know for sure where it slots in the computer index until we look at the teams near it—and what effect Ohio State's addition to the poll has on their rankings.

So let's take a look at Ohio State and the new rankings for the four teams right outside the computers' consensus top three of KSU, Alabama and Notre Dame (since their rankings are unaffected by anything that happens at No. 4 and below):

BCS Polls A&H RB CM KM JS PW Avg. Poll %
Florida 6 7 5 4 3 5 4 .840
Ohio State 4 8 4 6 11 4 5 .820
Oregon 5 4 6 5 8 6 5 .820
LSU 9 5 9 7 4 7 7 .760
Georgia 7 6 8 8 6 8 8 .750

Sure enough, Ohio State is tied for fifth in the computer polls with Oregon, which means LSU—who had been ahead of Ohio State in the human polls—takes a pretty substantial hit. Is it enough to push LSU out of the fifth spot overall?

To answer that we'd need to know how many actual votes Ohio State would get in the human polls, and that's completely unknowable. There is a work-around that is somewhat problematic, and that's to give Ohio State the votes Georgia would have gotten, give Georgia the votes Florida State would have gotten, FSU the votes Florida would have gotten, etc.

Is that how it'd work in the real world? No. But it's the best we can do.

Therefore, since that gives us all the necessary data, let's go ahead and compute the new, improved BCS Top 10.

2012 BCS Harris Poll Coaches' Poll Computers Overall
Week 10 Rank Points Poll % Rank Points Poll % Rank Poll % Rank Poll %
Alabama 1 2868 .9976 1 1475 1.0000 3 .930 1 .9759
Kansas State 3 2656 .9238 3 1366 .9261 1 .970 2 .9400
Notre Dame 4 2553 .8880 4 1307 .8861 1 .970 3 .9147
Oregon 2 2725 .9478 2 1391 .9431 5 .820 4 .9036
LSU 5 2382 .8285 5 1225 .8305 7 .760 5 .8063
Ohio State 6 2205 .7670 6 1149 .7790 5 .820 6 .7887
Georgia 7 2193 .7628 7 1121 .7600 8 .750 7 .7576
Florida 9 1917 .6668 9 976 .6617 4 .840 8 .7228
South Carolina 12 1473 .5123 12 758 .5139 10 .640 9 .5554
Florida State 8 2061 .7169 8 1024 .6942 22 .160 10 .5237

There you have it. Despite a substantially stronger computer showing than fifth-ranked LSU, the Buckeyes still come in at sixth thanks in large part to a lockstep set of human polls.

The good news is that games against relatively strong, but eminently beatable opponents Wisconsin and Michigan still remain for Ohio State, while LSU's schedule is also about to get stronger—but in a "you're about to catch a loss" kind of way, since it's Alabama week.

But there's such a gap between Nos. 4 and 5 that it's hard to imagine Ohio State even cracking the top four without getting some help from other teams losing up there—and who knows if an Alabama loss at LSU would even push the Crimson Tide down far enough in the human polls for it to matter to Ohio State?

So make no mistake; Ohio State is still a tier below the national-championship contenders.

But hey, when the rest of your conference is the 2012 Big Ten, being the sixth-ranked team nationally is still pretty special.


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