I guess I’ll just give people a minute to get outraged and then explain.
rank / team / prior
1 LSU 1
2 Oklahoma St. 2
3 Alabama 3
4 Boise St. 5
5 Houston 4
6 Michigan 8
7 South Carolina 10
8 Oregon 12
9 Arkansas 13
10 Stanford 6
11 Oklahoma 11
12 TCU 19
13 USC 9
14 Baylor 22
15 Kansas St. 15
16 Virginia Tech 7
17 Michigan St. 16
18 Wisconsin 18
19 Southern Mississippi —
20 Georgia 14
21 Clemson 20
22 West Virginia 25
23 Nebraska 17
24 Penn St. 21
25 Cincinnati —
Out of rankings: (23) Ark. St., (24) Notre Dame
Comments About the Top 3
In prior years of using this ratings system (2008, 2009, and 2010), the top 2 teams advanced to the title game, so naturally the winning team came out #1 in these ratings.
As I discussed here, the BCS #2 was at odds with my #2. If #1 wins, no problem. Few people make a big deal about where the team who loses the championship ends up. To my eternal frustration as someone who happens to be an LSU fan who regards Alabama as the #1 team to beat, the #1 team going in did not win.
Another wrinkle was that not only did the winner of the BCS title game not finish first, it finished third. Like so many big games this year, Oklahoma St.-Stanford went into overtime, and again, the “wrong” team (for the purpose of the rankings being well-received) won.. If that goes the other way, again, fewer people would have a problem with the overall results.
I anticipate an argument in comparing them to both LSU and Oklahoma St., “But Alabama won so easily”.
That’s nice, but that’s not what I’m looking at here, I’m trying to reward teams on the strength of the opponents they beat and punish them according to the strength of the teams that beat them.
I firmly believe that following that process would have put the correct two teams in the title game for each of the past four years. The result doesn’t go back in time and change that, even if Oklahoma St. had also lost by 21.
The next obvious Alabama argument vis-a-vis Oklahoma St. is, “Losing to LSU in OT is much better than losing to ISU in OT.”
That’s certainly true, but remember, the losses are only 1/13 or 7.7% of the games played in each case.
This is a slight re-hash of the blog I linked to above, but I’ll give the updated numbers in light of the final rankings. Before the bowls, Oklahoma St. beat 7 top-40 teams this season. There were a total of 7 top-40 teams in the Big XII, and since the Cowboys didn’t play themselves, they had to pick up one out-of-conference, which they did with Tulsa. The SEC had 6 teams in the top 40, albeit with higher average rankings than the Big XII teams. But Alabama didn’t play Georgia or South Carolina, so that knocks their in-conference total down to 3. The Tide also picks up one in regular season out-of-conference (Penn St.), so that leaves a 7-4 edge for the Cowboys.
Looking at the top 25 instead, that still makes it 5-3 OSU.
So I think a good argument can be made that this disparity makes up for the difference in the losses.
Here’s another way to look at it. I made a list of all the Alabama wins and all the Oklahoma St. wins. I dropped the Georgia Southern game from Alabama’s list, and to make up for the dramatic difference in the quality of the loss, I took away Oklahoma St.’s best win, the Fiesta Bowl against Stanford. Oklahoma St.’s remaining wins are still better than Alabama’s remaining wins.
As for LSU, I think it’s pretty clear why they would rise above both. The Tigers beat THREE eventual winners of BCS bowls. When has that ever happened? They also got to play one of the top-2 SEC East teams when they defeated Georgia in the SEC Championship game. It would have been better had South Carolina made that game, but still it added to an already impressive list which even with bowl wins, no other team can touch.
As a Tiger fan, I’m depressed about this great effort ending the way it did against the team it ended against, but I guess it’s some kind of cosmic justice for losing two games in 2007 and still being awarded the national championship.
By the way, even though my methods have changed a lot over the years, I’ve been doing rankings weekly since the 1995 season, and this is only the second time there has been a wire-to-wire #1. The first was Florida St. in 1999.