BCS 2011: Mathematical Prediction of the Upcoming BCS Poll

Adam FergusonContributor IIIOctober 5, 2011

BCS 2011: Mathematical Prediction of the Upcoming BCS Poll

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    Regardless of how you feel about the Bowl Championship Series, it's still the system we have to use to determine which teams compete in the BCS National Championship game to crown this year's champion.

    It's also used to select the participants in the four major bowl games—Fiesta, Orange, Rose, and Sugar.

    Unfortunately, the initial BCS rankings won't be release until October 16, so most fans just assume we have to wait and see before we know where our favorite teams will end up.

    Luckily, I'm here to show you that through a little simple numerical analysis, the BCS rankings can be predicted using the same methodology that is used to calculate them.

    There are three factors that are equally weighted when calculating the BCS rankings—the Harris Poll, the Coaches' Poll, and the composite of six computer polls.

    The Harris Poll has not yet been released, nor has one of the six computer polls—the Peter Wolfe computer rankings.

    However, using the six polls that are available out of the eight that will eventually be used, we can calculate what the BCS will look like based on those numbers.

    Before I give you the Top-12 BCS rankings, I'm going to provide a few details as to how the rankings are calculated.

The BCS Formula: The Methodology Behind the Poll

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    As I mentioned before, the BCS poll is calculated using three things—the Harris Poll, the Coaches Poll, and six computer rankings.

    The Coaches Poll is comprised of 58 voters who rank the top 25 teams in order from 1-25.

    The No. 1 ranked team on each ballot receives 25 points. The No. 2 team gets 24 points, and so on. All of these points are added together to determine the Top-25.

    In calculating the Coaches Poll portion of the BCS, the total number of points is divided by the maximum number of points (1450). This number is used to calculate one third of the BCS.

    The second portion of the BCS is calculated using the Harris Poll in the exact same way as the Coaches Poll. The number of points are divided by 2850 because of the 114 voters.

    Unfortunately, this poll has not yet been released, and it has to be left out at this point.

    The final third of the BCS is made up of six computer rankings—the Sagarin Ratings, Anderson and Hester, Richard Billingsley, Colley Matrix, Massey Ratings, and Peter Wolfe. All of these rankings have been released except for the Peter Wolfe rankings.

    The composite average of these polls is determined by throwing out the highest and lowest rankings and taking the average of the remaining four polls. The No. 1 ranked team on each ballot will receive 25 points. The No. 2 ranked team will receive 24 points, and so on.

    The remaining points are added together, and divided by 100 (However, because the Peter Wolfe poll has not been released, the final number is instead divided by 75).

    Therefore, the following preview of the Top-12 of the BCS has been calculated using the same methodology that is used in the actual BCS rankings, with the exception of the Harris Poll and one of the six computer polls.

12. Oregon Ducks

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    Record: 3-1

    Coaches Poll: 9

    Composite Computer: .147

    Average: .424

    After a loss to LSU on national television on opening weekend, the Ducks have rebounded with three consecutive wins against lesser competition.

    Playing in the Pac-12, Oregon has only two ranked opponents on their schedule for the rest of the season—Arizona State and Stanford.

    The November 12 showdown at Stanford will likely decide the Pac-12 North Division champion.

11. Georgia Tech

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    Record: 5-0

    Coaches Poll: 13

    Composite Computer: .640

    Average: .571

    The Yellow Jackets have certainly made a lot of progress after barely making a bowl in 2010 with a 6-6 regular season record.

    Paul Johnson has his triple option attack firing on all cylinders only this time he has a QB that can actually throw the football.

    The Georgia Tech offense is currently second in both scoring (51.6 pts/gm) and yards per game (587.0).

    The October 29 matchup with Clemson in Atlanta could very well feature two undefeated teams.

10. Michigan Wolverines

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    Record: 5-0

    Coaches Poll: 11

    Composite Computer: .627

    Average: .592

    In just his first year as head coach, Brady Hoke has the Wolverines looking like a much different team than they did under Rich Rodriguez for the past three seasons.

    The offense is still powerful, but the defense, while improved, still isn't quite what Michigan fans grew accustomed to under Lloyd Carr.

    With a schedule in a weakened Big Ten that doesn't include Wisconsin or Penn State, Michigan plays only two ranked opponents this entire season—Illinois and Nebraska.

9. Texas Longhorns

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    Record: 4-0

    Coaches Poll: 10

    Composite Computer: .770

    Average: .689

    Coming off of a 5-7 season in 2010, very few would have predicted the Longhorns to be ranked in the Top-10 going into the second week of October.

    Any team with this level of talent and Mack Brown as coach shouldn't be counted out for too long.

    With a showdown against Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry coming up this weekend, we should find out just how good Texas really is.

8. Stanford Cardinal

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    Record: 4-0

    Coaches Poll: 4

    Composite Computer: .530

    Average: .692

    Even with the departure of Jim Harbaugh to the NFL to coach the 49ers, Andrew Luck has the Cardinal exactly where they left off last season.

    Currently holding the nation's longest winning streak at 12 games, Stanford's schedule currently has only one ranked opponent the entire year.

    Of course, Washington, USC and Notre Dame may not be ranked this week, but we all know how things can change over the course of the season.

    When Oregon comes to town on November 12, it has the potential to be one of the best games of the season.

7. Wisconsin Badgers

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    Record: 5-0

    Coaches Poll: 5

    Composite Computer: .660

    Average: .756

    When Russell Wilson transferred from N.C. State, the Badgers went from one of the premier running teams in the country with a slightly above average passing game to nothing short of an offensive juggernaut.

    This team does nothing but score points, including putting up 48 on a once proud Nebraska team.

    With Illinois being the only ranked opponent on the schedule for the remainder of the season, it's not hard to imagine this team finishing the season undefeated.

    Unfortunately their weak schedule might keep them out of the BCS National Championship if two other teams finish the season unbeaten.

6. Oklahoma State Cowboys

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    Record: 4-0

    Coaches Poll: 7

    Composite Computer: .810

    Average: .806

    With an offense led by Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, the Cowboys offense can keep up with anyone on the scoreboard.

    If the defense can improve on their 27.5 points per game allowed, this is a team to keep your eye one.

    Unfortunately for Oklahoma State, the schedule doesn't get much easier with upcoming games against four ranked opponents—Texas, Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma.

    The December 3 game at home against archrival Oklahoma could potentially determine one of the participants in the BCS National Championship Game.

5. Clemson Tigers

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    Record: 5-0

    Coaches Poll: 8

    Composite Computer: .920

    Average: .815

    Coming off of a 6-7 season in 2010, few members of the national media were predicting the Tigers to do much of anything this year, and many had Coach Dabo Swinney on the hot seat.

    Fast forward five weeks into the season and Clemson has been the most surprising team in the nation.

    With a new spread offense led by offensive coordinator Chad Morris, this Clemson team has weapons all over the field. Their weapons include quarterback Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins, Dwayne Allen and Deandre Hopkins.

    Clemson is the first ACC team in history to win three consecutive games against AP-top-25 opponents. The Tigers' schedule gets a little easier on the way to a matchup against undefeated Georgia Tech on October 29.

    With three of their toughest opponents behind them in Auburn, Florida State and Virginia Tech, this Clemson team has a chance to do something special.

4. Boise State Broncos

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    Record: 4-0

    Coaches Poll: 6

    Composite Computer: .850

    Average: .834

    Even after losing leading receivers Titus Young and Austin Pettis, Kellen Moore and the Bronco's offense has been able to pick up where he left off.

    They've been able to spread the ball around to twelve different receivers including Matt Miller and Tyler Shoemaker.

    After knocking off the only team to beat them last year, Nevada, Boise State will likely head into the bowl season with another unblemished record. 

    Unfortunately, adding Georgia and TCU to the schedule won't do much to change the perception of their weak schedule with the way these two teams have been performing thus far.

    TCU, currently at 3-2, looks like the only team with even a slim chance of knocking off the Broncos when they face off on November 12.

3. Oklahoma Sooners

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    Record: 4-0

    Coaches Poll: 1

    Composite Computer: .720

    Average: .850

    Another year, another Bob Stoops led Sooner team in national title contention.

    With all the success that Stoops has had in his tenure at Oklahoma since taking over in 1999, it's hard to believe his only National Championship came all the way back in 2000.

    Landry Jones leads a high-powered Sooner offense that includes weapons like Ryan Broyles and Kenny Stills.

    This team can keep up with anybody on offense, and boasts a defense that only allows 15.3 points per game.

    The Sooners schedule isn't exactly a cakewalk, with five of the remaining eight games coming against Top-25 opponents.

    It all starts with this weekend's Red River Rivalry against Texas and ends in Stillwater against Oklahoma State on December 3.

2. LSU Tigers

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    Record: 5-0

    Coaches Poll: 2

    Composite Computer: .870

    Average: .921

    At the start of the season, LSU was without multiple players due to suspension, including starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson.

    It would have been easy for the Tigers to lose their composure and start their season off slowly.

    After opening the season against Oregon, the Bayou Bengals boast two additional decisive victories over ranked opponents in Mississippi State and West Virginia.

    The schedule doesn't get any easier as the season progresses with games against four more ranked opponents—Florida, Auburn, Alabama and Arkansas.

    This team is led by Tyrann Mathieu and a nasty defense that gives up only 12.8 points per game and creates plenty of turnovers.

    Couple that with an opportunistic offense that scores a healthy 38.0 points per game and rarely turns the ball over, and you have a recipe for success.

    The matchup between the Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide on November 5 has the potential to be the biggest regular season game of the year—a de facto semifinal to determine who will play in the BCS National Championship Game.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Record: 5-0

    Coaches Poll: 3

    Composite Computer: .990

    Average: .981

    Every spring it seems like the Crimson Tide are decimated by losing elite players to the NFL Draft. Yet every fall, Alabama returns with a roster full of future NFL talent.

    When it comes to maintaining a top five team full of elite players, Nick Saban is unmatched.

    The 2011 Crimson Tide defense just may be the best yet since Saban took over five seasons ago.

    This defense is first in the nation in points allowed (8.4), third in yards per game (191.6), fifth in passing yards (152.0), first in rushing yards (39.6) and second in pass efficiency defense (83.36).

    It's rare to find a defense that really has no weaknesses, but Alabama is a team that appears to be able to stop anyone.

    Coupled with that defense is an offense that ranks second in the SEC in scoring with 38.4 points per game and third with 438 total yards per game.

    Then there's Heisman hopeful Trent Richardson who is fourth in the nation in rushing yards (622) and fourth in touchdowns (10).

    The fact that this team also averages 208 yards per game through the air is just unfair. Stats certainly don't mean everything, but on paper this team looks to be the class of the SEC and the rest of college football. 

    Alabama faces only two more ranked opponents this season—LSU and Auburn. The November 5 game against LSU at home will likely decide which team plays for the National Championship.