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BCS Rankings in Depth: Computers and Other Ranking Oddities

A look at how the chips and other outliers affected the BCS Top 25. This week: Harris looks normal, South Carolina > LSU and the greatness of Texas Tech

Crystal Logiudice-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Let's make fun of the Harris Poll voters, shall we? Not really. It's hard to attack them too much for having Florida State at No. 8 -- after all, the USA Today voters have the Seminoles at No. 10 -- but it does seem to do away with the idea that preseason perception doesn't play a factor if a poll isn't taken for the first few weeks. They also have Clemson at No. 13 in the rankings, but again, so do the coaches. If the USA Today poll is starting to move closer to the Harris panel, this is not an encouraging situation.

LSU is really tragically underrated by the computers. In fact, they're below South Carolina in the chips one day after edging the Gamecocks by two at home. For once, this blog's favorite computer ranking to make fun of -- Richard Billingsley -- is not to blame here. He has LSU sixth and South Carolina seventh, which is right where they wind up in the overall poll. However, there are some oddities. Anderson & Hester have South Carolina eighth; LSU is 17th. That one's thrown out for the Tigers as their lowest mark, but there are other. Colley Matrix puts the Gamecocks at No. 8 and LSU at No. 12. Jeff Sagarin's logical ranking of No. 5 LSU and No. 9 South Carolina ends up getting discarded for LSU as the high score and Peter Wolfe's 8-9 split combined with Billingsley isn't enough to make up the difference.

But Billingsley is still strange? Of course he is. He puts Florida at No. 5, behind (in order) Alabama, Notre Dame, Oregon and Kansas State. Yes, Billingsley's computer sees Notre Dame as a better team than Florida. (More on that shortly.) He puts Mississippi State at No. 21 -- because of things and stuff -- at least eight spots clear of every other computer and five lower than the USA Today voters, the most pessimistic of the human polls. He doesn't rank Louisville or Cincinnati, being the only metric to exclude the Cardinals or the Bearcats. Boise State is 13th, which boggles the mind, and TCU gets one of its three computer votes and the highest by far (18th) from Billingsley.

Peter Wolfe's Top 10, on the other hand, is really a form of interpretative art. Kansas State is No. 1, followed by Florida and Alabama. Then comes Notre Dame, Oregon State and Oklahoma -- why would I make this stuff up? -- followed by No. 7 Texas Tech. (All the computers seem to have a crush on the Red Raiders.) Then it's LSU and South Carolina, two of the only teams who are likely in their proper place. Notice who's missing? Yes, the Oregon Ducks, who check in at No. 10 according to Wolfe's machines.

Computers in general love: Notre Dame, Oregon State and Texas Tech. The Irish are No. 1 according to two machines -- Colley Matrix and Kenneth Massey -- and no lower than fourth according to any of the chips. Oregon State is actually probably closer to right at No. 5 among the machines, but putting them ahead of Alabama, as Anderson & Hester does, is probably a bit extreme. And Tommy Tuberville has charmed the chips, with Texas Tech checking in at No. 7 overall and in Colley Matrix, Kenneth Massey and Peter Wolfe's numbers. Sagarin has them at No. 21, but gets thrown out as the low score, and no one else pegs the Raiders below 11th. Why? Probably because the computers see a team that beat West Virginia and Iowa State (among others) and lost to Oklahoma, which looks a lot better when you're not allow to consider the 21-point margin of defeat.