Nov 24, 2012; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida Gators running back Mike Gillislee (23) carries the ball against the Florida State Seminoles during the first half at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-US PRESSWIRE

Monday Morning Quarterback: BCS Standings, Man vs. Machines

Wow, what an exciting finish to the 2012 regular season with the Gators dominating their most hated rival on their field with their usual penalty-filled, come-from-behind aplomb. This team has more plot twists than an old episode of Perry Mason. Perhaps they should have a big U on their chests for Underdog.  “Here I come to save the day.”

Nevertheless the Gators finished the regular season 11-1, their best season since 2009 when they finished 12-0. The Monday Morning Quarterback thinks they are the best team in the nation and deserve a shot at the BCS title. The BCS computers agree and have the Gators ranked 2nd overall behind only undefeated Notre Dame. Unfortunately, however, the voters that make up the two human polls the Harris Interactive poll and the ESPN-USA Today coaches poll which make up two-thirds of the BCS standings do not agree. Both have the Gators ranked as low as fifth in the nation.

So what gives? Why are the Gators so much higher in the computers than in the human polls? The answer is the bias that is inherent in human voting and the lack thereof in the computer algorithms that create the rankings. Human’s use their senses and then their brains interpret those sensations based on prior knowledge, gut feeling, and their environment.  In terms of college football rankings the old term was “style points” and the new term seems to be “sexy”. Either way it equals “bias”.

Voters want to see offense.  Therefore they tend to show bias toward teams that put up a lot of points. Defense is boring and is a little harder to quantify in voter’s minds as big offenses do.  Sadly in spite of humans showing favortism towards teams with high flying offenses, history shows that in big games, the team with the better defense usually wins the game, especially in “championship” game situations.  The old adage that “defense wins championships” has been proven over and over again, yet voters still tend to show bias towards offensive teams.

Computers, on the other hand, show little bias in terms of how a team “looks”. They give more creedence to who you beat and who you lose to then how big you win, how good you look, or how many points you score. A one point win over a tough opponent means more to the computer than a large margin of victory against a weaker team.

Herein lies the crux of the argument for both sides of the BCS formula detractors. Two weeks ago, FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher went on a tantrum about the BCS formula and the use of computers to choose a match-up. The gist of his argument was that computers can’t tell how a team “looks” and only deal with won-loss record in relation to strength of schedule.  He knew that playing in the ACC he was always going to lose out to a team from a more powerful conference like the SEC in the computer rankings because those schools tend to play a tougher schedule on average than an ACC team.  Therefore, he wants to downplay the  schedule aspect of the computer rankings in favor of a more human element that can decipher how a team looks giving his team a better opportunity to play for a championship under the current formula.

Now Florida fans would be on the opposite of this argument.  Here’s a team that has played 5 teams currently ranked in the top 13 of the BCS standings and beat four of them. No other team can come close to this resume. Not Alabama, not Georgia, certainly not Notre Dame or Oregon. In fact, the Gators have more victories against the BCS top thirteen than all of the other four combined. This is why the computers have them ranked second behind only undefeated Notre Dame.  Poll voters, many of whom probably haven’t really seen the Gators play, don’t think they look good enough and keep them behind Alabama, Georgia, and Oregon.  The Monday Morning Quarterback thinks this is PREPOSTEROUS.

As voters, who we assume have a least half a brain which is admittedly a HUGE assumption, they should be rewarding schools for playing a tough schedule not rewarding the ones who play well against nobodies. If Florida’s resume this season is not good enough to deserve a shot at undefeated Notre Dame than nobody’s is… ever. Why? Well I’ll tell you why.  Regardless of what playoff scenario you could create, it could not make a more difficult path to a championship than what Florida played in the regular season. They’ve played a playoff all season and came out looking as good as any other one-loss team with a tougher path.

You want style points? How about of the five BCS top fifteen teams Florida played they held them to an average of 260 yards per game. This isn’t stat padding against patsies, this is playing top five defense against the top teams in the country.  They created 15 turnovers against those same top 13 teams.  That’s not good, that’s crazy good.

You want sexy? How about holding Texas A&M and their freshman phenom Johnny “Football” Manziel to their lowest offensive output of the season with 334 total yards.  Not enough, how about the fact that they adjusted at halftime of that game and shut them out in the second half.  Alabama couldn’t shut Manziel down in any quarter, the Gators shut him down for the whole second half and came from behind on the road in sophomore Jeff Driskel’s first ever start.  Still not sexy enough for you? Man tough crowd to please.

How about rushing for 176 yards against one of the top rushing defenses in the nation in LSU.  What does running the ball 25 consecutive times in the second half and dominating a defensive line that features two likely first round draft picks get you in the football capital market? How about 5 turnovers against South Carolina, the same team that dominated ACC opponent Clemson last Saturday, and winning big despite having less than 200 yards of total offense.

Of those five teams the Gators played in the BCS top thirteen, three are ranked in the top 16 nationally against the rush and yet the Gators still averaged 146 yards rushing against them, including 176 against #10 LSU and 244 against #4 FSU.

Jimbo Fisher argued that the computers cannot tell how well a team is playing, but I would argue the opposite is true. The computers give a better picture of how a team is playing.  The voters are the ones lacking the discernment to see truly how well a team is playing relying too much on media reports on how a team looks and allowing offensive bias to cloud their judgement against teams who play tough defense and conservative offense.

Yes the Gators get left out of the BCS title picture this season. Somebody does every season, and there is no system that is completely fool proof. The Monday Morning Quarterback would argue that they were “screwed” out of an opportunity that they alone absolutely earned.  Oh to get just one turnover back against Georgia and we’d not be having this “conversation”.  Playoff? Playoff? Did you say Playoff? It’s time has certainly come.

I’m The Monday Morning Quarterback, and I’m out.


Tags: BCS Standings Florida Gators Gator Football The Monday Morning Quarterback

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