Monday, September 14, 2009

Gators Free Fall to No. 4

Despite its commanding lead in the human polls, Florida has dropped to No. 4 in the latest BCS standings (simulated). The Gators are now not even the highest ranked team in the SEC, falling behind No. 3 Alabama. Texas keeps a slim lead ahead of the Tide at No. 2, while USC has ascended to the top spot with a sizable lead.

Let's cut to the chase, what's happening with the Gators?

With four computers ratings (out of six) already available, the placements in the standings are fairly stable. That the Gators are No. 4 is purely the product of their early-season cupcake schedule.

Florida is No. 5 in Billingsley (and typically the most likely to produce an outlier), the highest of the four computer rankings. It's 20th in Sagarin, 35th (and no points) in Colley and 533rd(!) in Massey. In contrast, USC is ranked 1st, 1st, 13th and 12th by those computers, respectively.

Before you Gator fans go nuts about these computers, relax. It's early in the season and the computers are likely to produce some strange results because of the lack of data. What should worry Florida is that it's becoming obvious that it has no margin for error. Because of the weakness of the schedule, one loss might, and probably will, doom the Gators' repeat championship hopes.

Florida is in a very similar position that USC was in last year. The Trojans opened the season No. 1 and likely would've stayed there by going undefeated. But a late-September loss at Oregon State sank USC, which never made it back above No. 5 the rest of the season, despite every other BCS contender losing at least one game - and all after USC did.

As long as the Gators remain unbeaten, they should have no trouble moving their way back into the top two slots. But since the SEC is not particularly tough this season, that Florida misses both Alabama and Ole Miss in the regular season, plus Florida's two other nonconference foes - Florida International and Florida State (which needed a last-minute TD to fend off I-AA Jacksonville State to avoid going 0-2) are not exactly awe-inspiring, the computers won't be favoring the Gators, that much is certain.

In short, the soft schedule will work both ways for the Gators - it paves a smoother path to the BCS title game, but it will also obliterate their chances with just one stumble.

Moving on down the rankings, Boise State has regained the inside track among non-BCS teams for the one guaranteed spot (if any of them finished among the top 12), checking in at No. 7, ahead of No. 9 BYU. The Cougars have a tougher schedule than the Broncos on paper, but given the recent performances of Florida State and Utah, that may not be the case in reality. These two teams will be in a see-saw battle all season long if they both remain unbeaten.

The team that made the quantum leap this week is Houston, coming off a 45-35 upset at Oklahoma State. These Cougars moved up from No. 52 to No. 21. And don't look now, Conference USA is now nipping at the heels the Big East. Cincinnati, the top ranked team in the Big East, is just one spot ahead of Houston, which has a schedule strong enough to make things interesting should it go through the season unbeaten.

And finally, the loss to Michigan greatly imperils Notre Dame's chances of stealing a BCS bid (never mind the national championship, that was just crazy talk from Granny Holtz). Barring an upset win over USC, there is about no chance for the Irish to get a BCS spot. Notre Dame needs to finish in the top 8 to be guaranteed a spot, and top 14 to be eligible. With few votes, no computer points, and a just one ranked team left on their schedule, the Irish have very little margin for error. And without a BCS bid, Charlie Weis' five-year internship may finally be over.


Clark said...

The computer rankings get less crazy after a few more games, right?

The Guru said...

Clark - Yes. What screws up the computers is the BCS mandate that margin of victory can't be considered. If you look at Massey and Sagarin (they both publish two sets of rankings), the ones with MOV are much more reasonable.

It'll get better after about two more weeks.

Anonymous said...

There needs to be a big incentive to schedule decent Non-con games and a especially big bonus for schedualing tough ones.

It adds to our fan enjoyment, the ablity to compare conferences and its just plain more sporting to play a team that is at least closer to you in talent.

I'm glad the computers are rewarding Alabama .

mike said...

Do the computers take into account some kind of subjective criteria when rating teams?

It seems to me that, without accounting for margin of victory, Florida shouldn't be any better off than any other 2-0 school considering the competition they have played (an 0-2 team that lost to WOFFORD 42-14, and an 0-2 Troy team that just got blown out by Bowling Green, both at home).

I know the computers seem to have wacky rankings, but it seems like they should be even wackier at this point.

The Guru said...

Mike- That depends on how much prejudice is in each computer ranking. Take Billingsley, for example, his ratings are obviously highly subjective (it's a one-man poll); but Massey's BCS ratings have Florida at No. 533.

After about 4 weeks, with enough data, things start to sort themselves out. That's one of the reasons why the BCS doesn't publish its official standings before October.

dethwing said...

Each of the computers take different criteria, but only use wins and losses. Some use time of games [Billingsly], some use homefield advantage, some don't use anything else [Colley]. I don't know much about they others, and that's the way they want it.

Just a small correction, Florida is 103rd in Massey. BCS doesnt allow ranking non FBS teams. [As far as I know...]. My own personal rankings put them 43rd.

The reason Billingsly is always out of wack with the others, by the way, is that he's the only one with a pre-season poll. He takes the results from the previous year, normalizes their end of year scores in someway, and then bases each weeks games as they come. This means beating Oklahoma State last week was huge, because they were so high. Beat them now, and it does very little. OTher systems treat the games equally.

Boy that was a big post.