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8 - The Michigan Daily - Football Saturday - October 30, 2004
SORTING OUT THE BCS
Collegebcs.com founder and computer rankings guru Jerry Palm speaks with Michigan Daily
football writer Bob Hunt about issues surrounding college football's biggest topic of debate.
The Michigan Daily - Footb
Rivals prepared for battle
By Chris Burke
Daily Sports Editor
In 1994, after reading about the Ratings Per-
centage Index (used to help decide what
teams make the NCAA Tournament) in a
magazine, Jerry Palm, then a systems analyst
for a bank in Chicago, decided to replicate the
formula himself. The Purdue graduate, computer
nut and avid sports fan cre-
ated collegerpi.com, and the
site flourished. He then cre-
ated collegebcs.com in 1999
to break down the BCS for-
mula. Palm is currently one
f most popular sports talk
radio hosts around. Palm
spoke with Michigan Daily
football writer Bob Hunt
about the BCS. Palm
The Michigan Daily: What should Michigan
fans be hoping for besides a Wisconsin loss as far
as playing in a BCS bowl?
Jerry Palm: I would think the biggest thing
%would be somebody beating Texas along the way.
Oklahoma getting into the Orange Bowl would
be good because Michigan has a chance to be the
highest-rated one-loss team. The best chance is if
Oklahoma goes to the Orange Bowl, which opens
up a spot in the Fiesta Bowl (the Big XII champ
goes to the Fiesta Bowl if it is not selected for
the title game) and Texas has a loss, so it really
doesn't have a good Big XII team available, and
Michigan becomes a nice option for them.
Probably the biggest surprise in the rankings
last week is that Michigan didn't get more of a
boost for beating Purdue. I'd really thought they
would move up at least past Utah.
TMD: Who do you think the recent changes in
the formula benefit?
JP: We may not know really until the end of
the year. I think teams that play a bad schedule
are going to benefit because strength of schedule
has been minimized. So, like Auburn, you may
say, "How could they play an easy schedule, it
plays in the SEC." (But) they play a bad non-con-
ference schedule, and it's in the weaker division
of the SEC. Really, Michigan may end up bene-
fiting - they're non-conference schedule wasn't
all that good, and it misses Wisconsin in the Big
Ten. That's kind of hurt it in the computers, but
the computers don't have as much emphasis in
(the BCS standings) this year and there is no
strength of schedule factor. So teams that don't
play a tough nonconference schedule won't be
hurt as much.
One thing to keep in mind about this new for-
mula is that it does not fix any of the perceived
problems of the past. Everything that people have
perceived to have gone wrong in the past can still
go wrong again in this formula. You can have a
team that doesn't win its conference play for the
title. You can have No. 1 vs. No. 3. You can even
have No. 2 vs. No. 3 if there is not enough con-
sensus among the top three teams. If that happens
again, you'll see reaction, which is what they do.
TMD: How has the stripping of the margin
of victory in these computer rankings affected
JP: It's ironic. They haven't stripped it. They
took it out of the computers, but now that they
have more influence on the polls, the polls don't
care about strength of schedule, but they do care
about margin of victory. If you play a bad oppo-
nent, and you don't beat them bad enough, you
could get hurt in the polls, which is two-thirds
of the formula. After a couple of years ago when
they took it out of the computers, that really
reduced its impact on the formula. Now, they
give the polls so much influence, they've gone
more with margin of victory than they have with
strength of schedule.
TMD: Do you think the recent changes in the
formula have been for the better?
JP: No, I think it's worse. I don't think the vot-
ers do a good job ranking teams. I don't think they
should be comfortable with the level of authority
that they have. There's just so many ways that it's
wrong, and you're giving two-thirds influence
over these formulas. Voters just don't have the
time to do a proper job of it.
WHAT DOES THIS THING ENTAIL ANYWAY?
The Bowl Championship Rankings change every year, and 2004 was no exception. Unlike previous years,
the BCS ranking will no longer include a strength of schedule ranking, only a compiled rating based on
human polls and computer rankings. The ranking has also changed so that the a team's final score is a per-
centage instead of a number. Here's a breakdown of what goes into this year's formula:
Human polls (two-thirds of total):
Both the Associated Press poll and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll count for for one-third of the total. For
each poll, a team is given a percentage score based on the amount of points it receives in that week and the
number of points pssible. For example, Michigan had 985 points in the week's AP poll, soit had a percentage
score of .606 (985/1625). No. I Southern Cal had 1,610 points, so it had a percentage of .991.
Computer rankings (one-third of total):
The six computer rankings (run by Jeff Anderson-Chris Hester, Richard Bilfingrsley Wes Colley, Kenneth
Massey, Jeff Sagarin and Peter Wolf) are treated as if they are voters in one mi-poll. For each team, the
highest and lowest ranking is dropped, and the four remaining rankings are used and an average is taken. This
week, Michigan is ranked 12th in the Anderson -Hester, 7th in the Billingsley, 14th in the Colley, 18th in the
Massey, 19th in the Sagarin and 14th in the Wolf. Its rankings in the Billingsley and Sagarin were dropped,
and an percentage (46/100) was taken out of the four remaining rankings. Michigan currently has the 15th-
highest compuiter ranking average, which is its lowest ranking within the three BCS components.
ittle is kiown about what goes into each ranking becausejjust one ranking (Coley's) is available to the pub-
Nit none of the six rankings take into account margin ofictory,' as mandated by the BCS.
Each of the three percentages are averaged to calculate a BCS percentage. The teams with the two highest
pereages will play in the Orange Bowl for the national tte. li the event of a tie, whlchever teami has
beaten the highest-ranked team over the season would win the tiebreaker.
There's always plenty of discussion about
which team is Michigan's bigger football rival:
Michigan State or Ohio State.
But, for Michigan linebacker Joey Sarantos
- a Portage native whose brother, Paul, is also
on the Wolverine roster - the answer is clear.
"To me growing up, I always thought of
Michigan State as the biggest rivalry," Sarantos
said. "I didn't learn until later that a lot of people
thought Ohio State was the biggest one. To me, I
still consider Michigan State the biggest."
As someone who grew up in the state of
Michigan, Sarantos is just one of many involved
in Saturday's game between No. 12 Michigan
(5-0 Big Ten, 7-1 overall) and Michigan State (3-
1, 4-3) that have spent their lives entranced with
And it's that intrastate interest that makes the
annual Wolverines-Spartans skirmish a highly
"As a kid, you hear Michigan vs. Michigan
State and you feel that rivalry," Sarantos said.
"I always grew up not liking the colors green
and white, especially together.
"It's definitely a big game every year, and
this year is no exception."
On the other side of the ball, Michigan State
coach John L. Smith lost his debut against
Michigan last year, 27-20, in East Lansing, but
will be making his first trip to the Big House as
the Spartans' head man.
In the 2003 contest, Smith got enough of a
taste of the rivalry to understand its magnitude.
"Why do I keep getting the question, 'This is
a big rivalry for Michigan State and not a very
big rivalry for Michigan?' "Smith said at his
weekly press conference. "It's the biggest game
of the year for us. I can't speak for them.
"To make this a big rivalry, we have to con-
tribute. We have to start winning some of these
games to make it what (the rivalry) should be,
and what it can be."
Saturday's game will mark the 97th time
Michigan and Michigan State have done battle
on the football field, with Michigan sporting a
63-28-5 record in the series.
The Wolverines will also be trying to hold
onto the Paul Bunyan Trophy, which has been
awarded to the winner of the matchup since
1953. But while both teams would love to take
the trophy home, that doesn't mean that the win-
ner will admire it much over the next year.
"I think it's the ugliest trophy in college foot-
ball," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "But you
know that doesn't mean that we don't love it.
And we want to give him a nice, secure place
to live and to spend his years - we're going to
fight to keep him."
Michigan senior offensive lineman David
Baas thinks the biggest problem with the Paul
Bunyan Trophy is that the figure on top doesn't
look so much like Bunyan as one of Baas's fel-
"It looks like (Matt) Lentz with an axe," Baas
Still, the Wolverines know the rivalry has big-
ger implications than just a piece of hardware. In
this year's game, both Michigan and Michigan
State will be playing to stay near the top of the
Big Ten standings.
Michigan enters the game tied with Wiscon-
sin for first place in the conference, while the
Spartans have been one of the Big Ten's bigger
surprises. Since a season-opening upset loss
at lowly Rutgers, Michigan State has made an
impressive turnaround - culminating with a 51-
17 shellacking of Minnesota two weekends ago.
"It looked like a much-improved team from
earlier in the season, and from last season, they
look a lot better," Michigan cornerback Marlin
That turnaround has been spearheaded by
sophomore quarterback Drew Stanton. The for-
mer Farmington Hills Harrison standout severe-
ly injured his knee while on special teams in
Michigan State's Alamo Bowl appearance last
year. But Stanton has returned strong, taking
over the Michigan State offense in its Big Ten
opener at Indiana.
Since then, Stanton has passed for more than
1,000 yards and rushed for 454 more - good
enough to lead the team in both categories.
"That is always a challenge for a defense,
going against a quarterback that can run as well
as pass," Jackson said. "He can drop back, and
you can have everybody covered, but he can take
off at any time. That is going to be a tough thing
to go against."
With the Stanton-led Spartans charging up
the conference standings, Saturday's game has
taken on the feel of a potentially epic chapter in
"Where would you rather be?" Michigan
linebacker Roy Manning said. "The Big Ten
championship on the line, playing at home, play-
ing in an in-state rivalry. There's so much riding
on this game, I'm sure everyone on both sides of
the ball are going to be excited."
TMD: Do you think the powers that be have
become a little paranoid of computer rankings
after what happened last year (with the No. 1
team in both polls not making the title game)?
JP: They don't understand them. The BCS hon-
chos get in trouble every time No. 1 and No. 2 in
the polls don't play each other. And so they kept
changing things to the formula, adding things
to the formula to try and fix the previous year's
problems. They're reactive, not proactive. And
this is yet again a reaction to what happened last
year. They figured out that by adding more to the
formula, you're giving each factor less influence.
So, if they want more influence for the polls, they
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I Southern Cal..
5 Florida State
13 Boise State
14 Texas A&M
15 Arizona State
18 West Virginia
19 Oklahoma State
22 Virginia Tech
KIP SERIES STANDINGS
PRESS USA TODAY/ESPN COMPUTER RANKINGS BCS
% RANK POINTS "o A&H RB CM KM JS PW COMP, AVG. % BCS AVG PREV
.991 1 1513 .992 24 24 25 25-24.24- 2 .970 .9843 1
.964 2 1469 .963 22 25 23 19 17 23 4 .870 .9325 3
.87 3 1380 .905 25 23 24 24.25 25 1 .980 .9239 2
.914 4 1358 .80 23 22 22 22 23 22 890 .8983 4
.779 5 1218 .799 19 16 20 20 20 16 .7 .750 .7759
.679 10 1001 .656 21 14 19 23 22 21 5 .830 .7217
.778 6 1152 .755 18 15 15 14 15,.11t .6Z0 .7180
.759 8 1066 .699 10 7 10. 15.1314 14 470 6428
.639 7 1127 .739 12 17 14 13 8 9 .480 6195
.692 9 11032 .677 13 20 13 11......... .12.480 .6163 1
.619 12 864 .567 16 2118 17..14. 10 ..660 .6152 9
,606 11 970 .636 14 19 12 8.... 2 15 574 3
.340 115 638 .418 15 18 16 16.21. .9 .9 .690 .4827 14
.393 17 503 .130 17 11 17 18.9.20 8 .710 .4777 16
.62 21 346 .227 20 12 21 21 18 18 6 .770 4195
.471 14 660 .433 9 8 9 9 11 7 8 .350 .
.448 16 582 .382 8 1 8 10 6 T0.,7
.422 13 738 .484 1 5 4 4 3 3 22 .140 ,3487 20
.262 20 415 .272 11 10 11 12 12 13 15 .460 3312 .21
.284 18 477 .313 5 13 7 6 4 6 19 .240 .2788 19
.340 19 457 .300 & 9 3 1 1 2 23 .120 .2533 2-
.178 22 338 .222 0 0 0 0 NR .000 1332 .2 <
.118 24 89 .058 7 6 5 2 5 21:0 .210 .1286
.003 39 3 .0 2 0 0 6 7 9 8 20 .210 .0717 .
.057 23- . 176 ... .5 2< 9', .. (1f1 0<- 0'', Nt .010 .0609
have to take things out of the formula. It's closer
to what they want as far as getting No. 1 and No.
2 in the polls, but they can't just go with the polls,
because they know the polls don't do a good job,
and the AP considers that too much making news
and not enough covering news. They're really
uncomfortable withethe ethics of that.
Now, the way they are calculating the votes,
one guy could decide whether Utah gets $15
million or not. One guy could vote Utah sixth
instead or seventh, and that could be the vote that
puts them into the $15 million game. Ethically,
that's a big problem for the journalists. It makes it
an even bigger problem for the coaches, but they
just don't care.
TMD: How are the rankings incorporated in
the BCS selected?
JP: When they first did it in 1998, Roy Kramer
(former BCS and SEC commissioner) he picked
a few, and they went and looked at old results for
these rankings, and they picked three. In 1999,
they went from three to eight. They actually
asked me at the time about using the RPI, so I
gave them some data for the RPI, and they ulti-
mately didn't pick it. They looked at various rat-
ings systems that you can find on the Internet,
and they looked at results. But they don't know
the formula. It's not like they know what these
guys are doing.
TMD: So the BCS doesn't have access to the
actual formulas for these rankings?
JP: Yes. They basically ask the computer guys
"So, what goes into your formula." And, he'll say
"Well, home-and-road, wins and losses, strength
of schedule and margin of victory." (The BCS) is
basically taking their word for it. I guess there's
no reason not to take their word for it, but they're
taking their word for it.
TMD: What would you say to someone that
says, "At least the polls are the opinion of 65
people, whereas the computer rankings are the
opinion of one?
JP: The thing about a computer ranking is
See PALM, Page 10
q'p' J i f
catches in last y
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