Sunday, November 28, 2010

How the Guru Whiffed on Bucky

So I blew it. In my five years of being the BCS Guru, this was the worst flub I've ever had. Because one of the mistakes is so egregious, I owe you folks an explanation.

The first mistake was fairly minor, that Auburn went ahead of Oregon by .0002. I didn't foresee the Tigers gaining that much ground in the polls after a game that they were truly lucky to win (Alabama really should've had a 35-0 lead and put the game to bed in the second quarter). I knew Auburn would be No. 1 in all the computers, so as soon as both polls came out, I knew the exact margin and Tweeted it as much.

Now, the serious mistake was having Ohio State ahead of Wisconsin in the original projection. That of course goes beyond flip-flopping teams in the 5 and 6 spots because of what's at stake - a Rose Bowl berth.

First, there's the obvious question of whether this was a publicity stunt. Fair question. If it were, then that means I have no integrity and was going for the cheap thrill of getting undue attention. That's absolutely not the case. I've been toiling at this for too long and built up too much goodwill and trust than to risk it for some one-night stand.

Then it becomes a question of competence. Having your credibility in doubt isn't all that much better than having your integrity savaged. When no WMD was found in Iraq, President Bush was called either a liar or a dunce by his critics. Same here, but of course with much less at stake.

The erroneous projection happened because of a miscalculation of the polls and a simple data entry error. If only one of the two occurred, it would not have happened. That the fact both of them happened on this one projection (on Ohio State) made it a perfect storm.

First, the poll miscalculation. The polls are always harder to project than the computers because it involves psychology. You have to form an educated evaluation on the behavior of the voters. That's much more difficult than analyzing the computers, which follows a certain formula and ironclad logic. I had believed that by virtue of LSU's loss to Arkansas, thus removing it as a buffer between Ohio State and Wisconsin, the Buckeyes would gain significant ground in the polls.

That didn't happen in the margins I had forecast. Wisconsin lost only 26 points in the coaches poll and a completely unforeseen 24 points in the Harris poll, out of 114 voters. I had projected the Buckeyes to pick up about 100 points in the Harris poll with LSU gone, but that simply didn't happen.

Now you must wonder, given that I had to know Wisconsin would stay ahead of Ohio State in the two polls, did I completely screw up on the computers?

The truth is, I didn't. That's why this was such a mind-numbing debacle.

I simply transposed two projections. on Massey and Sagarin, I assigned the values of 20 (for No. 6) to OSU instead of OU on my spreadsheet, and 10 (No. 16) for OSU to OU.

By making these mistakes, Ohio State's computer numbers were inflated to .790 instead of .680 (OSU's actual BCS computer score was .660) and Oklahoma's was deflated from .780 to .640 (OU actual: .760). This explains why OU was also initially projected to be a spot lower (No. 10) than it ended up (No. 9).

I don't expect everyone who reads this blog to get all this - and you shouldn't have to. It was incumbent on me to check and double-check my own data before publishing the projections. Perhaps I was in too much of a rush to get the projections out (this has become a bad habit since I moved back to the West Coast), or maybe because I did so well the last two weeks (1-10 in exact order two weeks ago and 1-13 last week) that a little hubris got the better of meticulousness.

Whatever, it was my mistake and I own it. The only thing to do is to acknowledge it and make sure it won't happen again. I still maintain that my record speaks for itself over the years, against Jerry Palm, Brad Edwards, anybody. I have a report card dating from 2006 to prove it.

And finally, I don't mind the criticism and even the hate mail. I deserve it, and I won't erase any of it to cover my own ass. You can't make me feel any worse than I already do.


Milwaukee Brian said...

No big deal. Definitely well explained. Yes, I jumped at you viciously when you made your projections, but I'm also a frequent visitor to your website, and I'll be back often. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I left a couple comments on the other post questioning your assessment of the computers and then (later) asking for an explanation of how it went so wrong. Didn't actually expect one, and I think doing this reflects very well on you. Don't beat yourself up too badly; mistakes happen. :)

Anonymous said...

Big Wisco fan here. Also left a comment on the original post. Let me say: it's fine. I'll keep reading.

Us Wisconsin-folk historically have felt overlooked and more than a few times, national pundits have ignored Wisconsin during good years. For example, Lou Holtz constantly spins for Ohio State on national TV at the expense of Wisconsin, using circular logic to justify all reasoning putting the Buckeyes above Wisconsin.

So, I probably speak for numerous Wisconsin fans when I say it's all good, but we just wanted to defend our version of events.

Hope you keep posting next year.

EEE said...

I thought holtz might have hacked into your system, seeing that his boorish behavior ripping wisconsin past several weeks could have caused this

Anonymous said...

Alright. You made a mistake and you owned it. It's cool. We can call off the dogs now.

Andrew said...

Your explanation is honest and believable. I will therefore decrease your lashings from five to two.

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed your pre poll projections and comments
for a few years now, and find it quite refreshing how you have taken ownership of your miscalucations.
Absolutely the right way to handle things, and I bet you garner even more respect in the community , just like you did from me. Great job. Keep it up!

Ian_InsideTheShoe said...

Hey, it's all good. I thought that Wisconsin would be ahead of us anyway, but if you would have been right it would have given you even more credibility then you already have. This is a terrific blog, keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I give you credit for owning up to the mistake and giving an explanation. We are a little sensitive in Wisconsin, most likely due to Lou Holtz and his constant Ohio State and Notre dame are the best teams in the country. I am surprised he did not come up for an explanation of why Michigan was better than Wisconsin.

That being said, you really had me biting my teeth waiting for the standing to come out Yesterday!

tyamdaly said...

Hey, no big deal. We are all human and can make mistakes. It won't keep me away from here. This site is the best independent BCS site out there. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Yesterday, I posted a comment that 3 things would happen...2/3 did (that Auburn is #1 and Wisconsin would win over OU) and the remaining one is in the future (if Auburn loses they still play in the big game). Move over, I am the guru now....Mike M.

Anonymous said...

long winded explanation when only the last paragraph or two was needed. Then there's the smell test which you obviously ignored.

Anonymous said...

Appreciate the explanation. And definitely will admit you had this Badger fan sweating for a few hours early Sunday morning.