Florida State just completed what some might consider the best regular season in college football history, a relentless 13-game blitzkrieg through the (admittedly down) ACC, where no opponent was even within spitting distance by the time the fourth quarter mercifully rolled around.
Between that and the fact that they are the only undefeated team in college football, you might think the Seminoles a shoo-in to be ranked No. 1 in the country—by every conceivable metric. But this, in case you had forgotten, is the BCS we're talking about. Of course two of six BCS computers ranked them No. 2 in the country!
Yes, you read that right. SEC champion Auburn—a team that lost convincingly to LSU and then needed miracles to beat Georgia and Alabama on its home field—ranked higher in 33 percent of the BCS computers than Florida State, which has spent the past four months waging total war on college football.
Of course none of this actually matters since Auburn and Florida State will settle their score on the field in Pasadena in 28 days. We'll know which team is better on the evening of Jan.6—or at least which team is better for 60 minutes that night. Either way, for seemingly the first time in BCS history, there is little to no doubt that the system got things correct.
Still, the sheer ridiculousness of Auburn being ranked ahead of Florida State in two computer polls is worth mentioning briefly. These computers have been making big, consequential decisions for the past 16 years. The two guilty machines—the dreaded Colley Matrix and the Massey Ratings—need to at least be identified, lest they escape proper ribbing.
The Colley Matrix is a punchline among college football fans, so no one should be surprised at this development. Something like this happens every December and January. This is the computer, after all, that still ranked Notre Dame No. 1 in the country after last year's BCS National Championship Game:
C'mon now, BCS. Be better than this. RT @JBradEdwards: Just checked final computer rankings: Colley Matrix still has Notre Dame ranked No. 1— Bleacher Report CFB (@BR_CFB) January 10, 2013
Alabama won that game, 42-14, and the final score barely did justice to the rout. The Tide knocked Notre Dame out in the first quarter and then danced on its corpse for the next three. If the Colley Matrix still had the mettle to rank Notre Dame first after that performance, we shouldn't be indignant that it ranked Florida State No. 2 or that it ranked Ohio State three spots ahead of Michigan State.
If anything, we should be grateful it didn't have, say, Florida International floating around its Top Five.
The Massey Ratings are less overtly deplorable than the Colley Matrix, though not necessarily foolproof. Unlike the Colley Matrix, it includes at least some semblance of rhyme and reason. Its biggest outliers this year are common among all the computer numbers—favoring teams like Arizona State and UCLA, because the Pac-12 has done very well on paper all season.
Who Deserves to Be Ranked No. 1 in the Computer Polls?
I'm willing to give the Massey Ratings a pass, but only because things worked out so perfectly at the top. This isn't an argument against Auburn. The Tigers earned their spot in Pasadena and might even have a shot to win. They are definitely the second-most deserving team in America of being there.
Any creature with two eyes and a brain could see that without dispute. So can four of six BCS computers. So too, I imagine, could a handful of inanimate household appliances like toasters or ovens or garbage disposals.
The Colley Matrix and Massey Ratings, however, cannot.