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BCS (Bob's College Summary)
By Bob Cunningham
December 15, 2003
 

An objective way to rank college football (sort of)

Click here to go straight to the bowl picks.

It appears that I've become somewhat infatuated with figuring out a way to fairly rank major college football teams. I've utilized various philosophies, attempted to persuade the masses of my perception of what is right, and been both lauded and loathed because of it.

So finally, I just decided it was time to sit down and come up with a basic, by-the-numbers system. After toiling off and on the last several weeks, I present to you the following outline for a scoring system that might help settle the century-long debate about what constitutes a Division I football champion.

Let me quickly point out that the following is really a rough draft, and I've simplified it significantly for ease of presentation. In reality, the exact scores can broken down as much as is desired and needed in the interest of fairness. So, instead of picking apart the specific numbers, I'd like those of you kind enough to review my system to focus on the general theme of what I'm obviously attempting to accomplish.

To summarize the system, it gives numerical scores for victories over quality, middle-of-the-pack, and bottom-feeder teams, with higher scores achieved for road accomplishments and three different levels to account for margin of victory. You'll notice that the cut-off for victory margin is simply more than 20 points. I don't want to be guilty of encouraging the running up of scores here.

I weighted victories over quality foes, and losses to weak teams, inproportional to the overall system. A contending team can not only hurt itself by losing, but also if it struggles to defeat a weaker team.

Games at neutral sites are averaged between the scores for home and away. OK, see what you think:

COLLEGE FOOTBALL RATING SYSTEM

Victories

Over Quality Opponents (defined as teams in the AP Top 25 at time of applying system)
By 20+ points on the road 25 units
By 20+ points at home 20
By 10-19 points on the road 17.5
By 10-19 points at home 15
By 4-9 points on the road 15
By 4-9 points at home 12.5
By 3 points or less on the road 10
By 3 points or less at home 7.5
   
Over Mediocre Opponents (defined as all teams not included above who have records of one under .500 or better)
By 20+ points on the road 15 units
By 20+ points at home 12.5
By 10-19 points on the road 10
By 10-19 points at home 7.5
By 4-9 points on the road 7.5
By 4-9 points at home 5.0
By 3 points or less on the road 5.0
By 3 points or less at home 2.5
   
Over Weak Opponents (defined as all teams with records two games below .500 or worse, and all non-Division I teams)
By 20+ points on the road 10 units
By 20+ points at home 7.5
By 10-19 points on the road 7.5
By 10-19 points at home 5
By 4-9 points on the road 5
By 4-9 points at home 2.5
By 3 points or less on the road 2.5
By 3 points or less at home 0

Defeats

To Quality Opponents
By 3 points or less on the road 0 units
By 3 points or less at home -2.5
By 4-9 points on the road -5
By 4-9 points at home -5
By 10-19 points on the road -7.5
By 10-19 points at home -10
By 20+ points on the road -12.5
By 20+ points at home -15
   
To Mediocre Opponents
By 3 points or less on the road -5 units
By 3 points or less at home -7.5
By 4-9 points on the road -7.5
By 4-9 points at home -10
By 10-19 points on the road -12.5
By 10-19 points at home -15
By 20+ points on the road -17.5
By 20+ points at home -20
   
To Weak Opponents
By 3 points or less on the road -10 units
By 3 points or less at home -12.5
By 4-9 points on the road -15
By 4-9 points at home -15
By 10-19 points on the road -17.5
By 10-19 points at home -20
By 20+ points on the road -20
By 20+ points at home -25

Quite simply, a team's aggregate score is divided by the number of games played to determine an average. It's not altogether unlike the current BCS, although in my system it's the high score that wins.

Applying my system to the present season, USC would finish first with an average of 10.21 units, Oklahoma second at 9.81 and LSU third at 9.62. Interestingly, one-loss Miami of Ohio is fourth, at 8.84, primarily because of two decisive victories over Bowling Green that are considered "quality wins."

W-L record isn't everything though... After Michigan comes Kansas State, which has three defeats.

On closer examination of the Trojans, Sooners and Tigers, it was USC's four decisive road wins over medium opposition and its home rout of Washington State that lifted its score. Oklahoma was No. 1, of course, before losing the one-sided decision to Kansas State on a field which was neutral for both. LSU's non-conference slate was almost entirely from the "weak" category.

The polls stress more than simply winning, so I guess my system should as well. Below is my system's top 10, with boxes showing this year's individual game results for USC, Oklahoma and LSU, for comparison.

My system still has some issues to be resolved, most assuredly, but the primary premise seems valid.

My System's Top 10:

1. USC (10.21 units average)
2. Oklahoma (9.62)
3. LSU (9.42)
4. Miami of Ohio (8.84)
5. Michigan (8.13)
6. Kansas State (7.69)
7. Tennessee (7.08)
8. Miami of Florida (6.88)
9. Ohio State (6.54)
10. Florida State (6.18)

USC (11-1)
Won at Auburn, 23-0 (15 units)
Won vs. BYU, 35-18 (5 units)
Won vs. Hawai'i, 61-32 (12.5 units)
Lost at California, 34-31 in OT (-5 units)
Won at Arizona State, 37-17 (10 units)
Won vs. Stanford, 44-21 (7.5 units)
Won at Notre Dame, 45-14 (10 units)
Won at Washington, 43-23 (12.5 units)
Won vs. Washington State, 43-16 (20 units)
Won at Arizona, 45-0 (10 units)
Won vs. UCLA, 44-20 (12.5 units)
Won vs. Oregon State, 52-27 (12.5 units)
Total = 122.5 units/12 games = 10.21

Oklahoma (12-1)
Won vs. North Texas, 37-3 (12.5 units)
Won at Alabama, 20-13 (5 units)
Won vs. Fresno State, 52-28 (12.5 units)
Won vs. UCLA, 59-24 (12.5 units)
Won at Iowa State, 53-7 (10 units)
Won vs. Texas at Dallas, TX, 65-13 (22.5 units)
Won vs. Missouri, 34-13 (12.5 units)
Won at Colorado, 34-20 (10 units)
Won vs. Oklahoma State, 52-9 (12.5 units)
Won vs. Texas A&M, 77-0 (7.5 units)
Won vs. Baylor, 41-3 (7.5 units)
Won at Texas Tech, 52-20 (15 units)
Lost to Kansas State at Kansas City, Mo., 35-7 (-12.5 units)
Total = 120 units/13 games = 9.62

LSU (12-1)
Won vs. La-Monroe, 49-7 (7.5 units)
Won at Arizona, 59-13 (10 units)
Won vs. Western Illinois, 35-7 (7.5 units)
Won vs. Georgia, 17-10 (12.5 units)
Won at Mississippi State, 41-6 (10 units)
Lost vs. Florida, 19-7 (-10 units)
Won at South Carolina, 33-7 (10 units)
Won vs. Auburn, 31-7 (12.5 units)
Won vs. Louisiana Tech, 49-10 (7.5 units)
Won at Alabama, 27-3 (10 units)
Won at Mississippi, 17-14 (10 units)
Won vs. Arkansas, 52-20 (12.5 units)
Won vs. Georgia at Atlanta, Ga., 34-13 (22.5 units)
Total = 122.5 units/13 games = 9.42