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About Jon
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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
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A Football Article? Not Exactly
2004-10-19 09:17
by Jon Weisman

What does the Bowl Championship Series have to do with baseball?

The BCS uses a formula to determine who the country's top college football teams are, with the top two teams meeting in a national championship game.

Each year, it seems, a horde of people are unhappy with the results of this formula. So they change the formula.

Monday, the first set of standings for the 2004 season was released, and already the fur is flying. Take Chris Dufresne in the Times:

Initial reaction to Monday's first release of the bowl championship series standings:

You call this progress?

... USC opened as undisputed first-week BCS king with No. 1 rankings in both polls and the system's computer component but there was confusion just below as Miami debuted ahead of Oklahoma in the important second position.

... Oklahoma's place was a surprise because it is No. 2 in both human polls, whereas Miami is fourth in the Associated Press poll and third in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll.

So here's the controversy: The top two teams in college football's two polls are not the top two teams in the BCS standings. One of them, Oklahoma, is third.


Isn't this ridiculous? If this kind of deviation is enough to cause an uproar, then why even bother? Why not just use the polls?

In fact, college football is already moving in that direction. During the most recent adjustment to the BCS formula, they eliminated such criteria as a statistical analysis of quality wins and gave the human polls more weight. But apparently that still won't be enough for some people. There seems to be a real desire for college football's championship game to match up the polls' top two teams, no matter what.

Of course, unhappiness with the polls is what inspired the BCS in the first place.

So what does this have to do with baseball? It reflects that baseball is not the only sport where a cadre of people have a distrust for the computer, who feel that "if the computer doesn't agree with what I see, it must be wrong."

I have little patience for this point of view. Those of us who use statistics - certainly me - have no desire to see them take over. We like to see the games played on the field as much as anyone. That's the sport. If the 176th-best team beats the No. 1 team on the field, good enough. The No. 1 team may normally be better - but not on this day. And this day is what matters.

But if you're talking about how to rate and compare players and teams who haven't met, why is there such hostility toward statistics? Have an open mind. Maybe the computer isn't all bad.

All that being said, baseball sure has a better setup than college football. Its system isn't perfect, but every team can play its way to a title. Neither polls nor statistics are the deciding factors. How refreshing.

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