Chaos Rankings

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Giddy as a school girl

Am I the only one completely unable to sit still in my office chair? Kickoff is barely 1.5 hours away! I know it's BC pummeling CMU, but it's also college football! Round about half time, you get a little better matchup of Spurrier's Gamecocks against Mississippi State. Is anyone else planning to skip out of work a little early to be home in time for the start of the game? ;)

The best laid plans...

Sorry to dissapoint my 5 readers, but the Week 1 rankings are definitely going to be late. Apart from going down to Atlanta this weekend, we had a death in the family this week and funeral services are on Monday and Tuesday, so I'm heading up for those straight from Atlanta and won't be home until Tuesday night, so hopefully by Wednesday I'll have them up for you. Then we should be back on schedule starting with Week 2.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Coding is fun(damental)

I'm almost done with my rankings software that I've been working on. It might even be finished in time for the first set of rankings next Sunday. That being said, I'm headed down to Atlanta over Labor Day to witness the complete and utter annihilation of the Irish at hands of the Yellow Jackets. As such, the Week 1 rankings may not get posted until Monday. Anyway, the software is all in Java, which means that, at least in theory, I should be able to extract the ranking part of it to poast as a applet at some point for people to play aroudn with adjusting the parameters. We'll see. Anyway, stay tuned. The first kickoff is only 6 days and 7.5 hours away!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Bowl Game Connundrum

I forgot to mention in my last post the issue of bowl games. Presumably, after the regular season is complete, there would be one set of rankings, adn then after the bowl games there would be another. At first I was concerned that this might skew the final rankings because of how teams are matched up against each other. But then I thought that this is probably no different than some teams playing conference championships while others do not. Let's take USC and Texas last season: both were undefeated, and pre-bowl game USC led Texas by a tiny tiny margin. Obviously, the Longhorns win over the Trojans would vault them into first place, but I'm concerned that USC might fall to 4th place or something, which may or may not seem right. I'm also concerned about having only 1 undefeated team play for the national title, lose, and still end up in first place above another 1-loss team that beat them. This obviously seems wrong. But is it? Why does 1st place have to hinge on a single game? What if you had one undefeated team and the next best team had 3 losses? If the 3 loss team beats the undefeated team in the Championship game, does that make them a better team over the entire season? I doubt anyone would be willing to argue that point. In any case, I'm going to just go ahead and let the rankings speak for themselves this season, including for bowl games. I never said the system was perfect (in fact I've pointed out numerous reasons that it isn't), so we'll just see how things play out and go from there. Only a little more than 3 weeks until the first kickoff!

Monday, August 07, 2006

The moment you've not been waiting for

The inherent problem with any ranking system in the early stages of the season is that there isn't a lot of data to go on. How often do the preseason favorites end up still at the top of the standings? How often does an early pick lose their first couple of games, then quietly go 10-2 or 9-3 and wind up in a great bowl game? My point is that it takes a couple of weeks for things to settle down and for anyone to get a good feeling about any team.
The same is true of my rankings of course. Perhaps even more exagerrated because of the heavy emphasis (50%) on winning. What this means of course is that after Week 1, the team who will eventually finish the season in the Top 5 could very well be #58. This isn't "wrong" per se, since so far they have yet to prove they're a good team. Let's say that on opening weekend, Miami loses to FSU (I know I know, wide [insert direction], but hey, anything's possible). Let's also say that both teams rack up a lot of points and yards in the process. The SOS component for Miami will be pretty high, but they'll still be in the bottom half of the rankings because of the loss. If then Miami goes undefeated, you will see them climb in the rankings each week until they regain a position that seems more fitting for a team of their talent. Of course, given Coker's loss of momentum in recent years, maybe this was a bad example, but we'll wait for the season to see who's who and what's what.
To summarize, because these rankings are based on a formula, it is very likely that a good team will be ranked poorly early in the season if they drop a decision, but assuming they live up to expectations, not to worry, they will climb right back into things. Also note that it is not impossible for a team with otherwise stellar stats but two loses to climb above a team with 1 loss. VT did it last year over West Virginia.
Other points to note: statistics piled up against non Div. I-A opponents count, but the games are entered as 0s in the SOS calulation. This probably isn't enough of a penalty given that when a team like Texas demolishes a team like Sam Houston State, they might pile up 70 points and 500 yards which may offset the SOS penalty. I haven't done the math yet to determine if this is the case, but it feels about right. Strength of Schedule is based only on games played at the time the rankings come out, and accordingly will change every week based on games played. So the team with the strongest SOS at the end of Week 1 may end up with the weakest schedule at the end of the season.
I think those are all the concerns I have with my ranking system up to this point. I'm sure, just like the BCS, that more will emerge throughout the year and I'll end up adjusting my formula for next year.
Also, right now, my calculations are all done in Excel, which isn't inconvenient per se, but it's just not all that pretty. Ideally, I'd like to have a little program that I can enter in stats from each game and it will do all the backend work for me. I started working on this at the end of last season, but promptly gave up after many many compile errors. My coding skills are substantially rustier than I thought... In any case, my eventual plan is to have a little GUI that allows you to enter data, shows rankings, can import and export data in CSV format, and perhaps has sliders on it that can be adjusted and will automatically re-rank the teams based on the new formula parameters. I'm going to try to write this myself one mroe time while I'm on vacation at the beach next week, but if any CS kids out there want a relatively simple project to work on for free (okay, I'll give you a cookie or something), shoot me an email and I'll pass along some system specs and rough sketchs.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Full Disclosure

Who am I and why do I get to tell you what I think about where teams should be ranked? To answer the second part of that first, because the 1st Ammendment says I can, and because I've been watching college ball for a long time and every year there's controversy about the rankings and every year I say to myself, "how hard can it be?" So this year I'm going to do my own rankings and discover just how hard it can be. As for the first part, I'm a (soon to be senior) systems engineer for a defense contractor in the DC Metro area. I have a BSEE from Georgia Tech. I've never played any kind of organized football, just pick up games with friends. Most of my football games this season will be watched on a 46" Samsung DLP HD projection, including the poor quality grainy ones that Raycom/JP broadcast, and the games of unknown origin that appear on ESPN Gameplan. However, all that watching, exciting as it is, should be somewhat irrelevant. Once the season starts, my formula will be locked, so no amount of my own personal agenda or preferences should have any impact in the rankings (at least not any more than in the original design). For example, left to my own devices, UGA would always be somewhere near the bottom of the pile, Tech would always be in the top 25, and all else being equal, an ACC team would take precedence over any other team. That being said, you shouldn't see any of that occuring other than by natural process. For more on what kind of rankings you might expect, stay tuned for my next post that covers what my previous post said this post would cover. If case anyone is interested, I'm a huge GT fan, followed primarily by the other ACC teams, then Iowa (they're the perpetual underdog aren't they?) and Penn State (no one loves that wacky old man with coke-bottom glasses more than me and no one could have been sadder the day Bowden surpassed him in total wins, or happier last January when JoePa's Nittany Lions handed F$U an Orange Bowl defeat), then Michigan (with numerous Wolverine alumni in the family, I was brainwashed with numerous Rose Bowl appearances at a young age). I hate UGA, F$U, Notre Dame, and Ohio State, more or less in that order. I started watching football, growing up in this area, the year the Skins won the Super Bowl, and then became a die hard Niners fan. For years I looked forward to the NFC CHampionship matchup between S.F. and Dallas more than the Super Bowl. I started watching college football my freshman year at Tech under Heisman canidate Joe Hamilton. That was all it took and now I couldn't care less about the pros and am only interested in college ball. I'd be happy to elaborate if anyone's intersted, but for now, I think that's just about enough about me.