G’day readers, I hope everyone is having a good week. On Sunday the first BCS rankings for the year were released and it was no real surprise that the SEC dominated the rankings while the Big Ten didn’t show up in the top 25. Of course the BCS rankings always manage to generate some controversy and one of the annual talking points among sports fans and the media is the difference between the human and computer polls. This year’s initial ranking showed perhaps the biggest difference ever between the human and computer polls. While Florida ending up as number 2 in the overall rankings due to the computer polls has generated a good deal of attention, it is only a shift of one or two positions and isn’t that big of a deal. The more notable differences occur farther down the rankings, the first incidence occurring at the 14th position occupied by Florida State; the Seminoles are ranked 8th and 10th in the Harris and USA Today polls but are unranked in the computer polls. Similarly Clemson was ranked 13th in both human polls but fell to 19th in the BCS thanks to their being unranked by the machine. Conversely Texas Tech enjoyed some computer love, being boosted to 17th after being ranked 20/21 in the human polls thanks to being ranked in a tie for 6th place by the computers.
There has always been dislike between sports fans and the people who write computer programs, dating back to when a jock first shoved a nerd into a high school locker. Many sports fans bemoan the fact that computer polls are part of the BCS, complaining that the programs are written by nerds who don’t understand sports and the programs themselves don’t watch the games and see how they are played. Conversely those behind the computer polls argue that the human pollsters are inherently biased and swayed by unimportant aspects of the games. Both sides are correct in many ways. The computers obviously do not watch the games and instead base their ranking on the win/loss record of the teams and the strength of schedule. The computers are unaware of how the game actually went, whether a victory is the result of a team playing well or their opponent making mistakes or even a series of lucky breaks. Some of this is a natural handicap of the computers while part of it is also dictated by the rule that the computer polls cannot take margin of victory into account; this is a major mistake by the BCS organizers. At the same time human pollsters are biased, easily swayed by flashing performances and big names; how often do people complain about Notre Dame being overrated due to their name, the complaint in and of itself showing a human bias as the complainers are taking into account previous years performance in evaluating this year’s team. There is also the issue that human pollsters don’t watch every game and end up making many of their decisions based on just looking at the results, like the computers do.
The disconnect between the human and computer rankings for Florida State and Clemson can easily be explained. While it is hard to know exactly why the human pollsters ranked teams in certain places, the flashy offensive performances by the Seminoles and Tigers likely helped boost the rankings of these two teams. Both teams have scored more than 30 points in all but one of their games this season and with how offensively focused college football has become recently, putting up high scores is often seen as a sign of top team. Computers didn’t get to watch these flashy performances though, nor even consider the margin of victory involved, instead they based their ranking solely on the win/loss record of the two teams and who those wins and losses came against. The only division I-A team with more than two wins that Clemson has beaten was 4-3 Ball State while the only I-A teams with more than two wins that Florida State beat were Clemson and 3-3 Wake Forest; taking these facts into consideration it is easy to see why the computers aren’t loving these two teams.
The college football season is only half over and BCS standings at this point are pretty much meaningless. Both the human and computer polls have their strengths, the human polls can consider more aspects of how the game was played while computer polls avoid most of the subjective biases that come with any human voter. Despite the huge differences between how humans and computers go about coming up with their rankings they have one thing in common, they both get better with more data. As the season goes on the polls will most likely agree with each other more and more, and we will forget what currently looks like remarkable differences between then, unless remembering them serves our purposes of complaining about the fate of a team we like/dislike.
Women’s Volleyball Returns Home
After two straight weekends on the road, the 19th ranked Ohio State women’s volleyball team returned home to take on a pair of teams from the state just to the west. On Friday, the Buckeyes squared off against Indiana and the match did not start off well as OSU dropped the opening set 25-23. The Buckeyes bounced right back, winning the next three sets 25-22, 25-12, and 25-17 to earn the 3-1 win. Senior Emily Danks led both teams with 18 kills and added seven digs while fellow senior Mari Hole recorded her 9th double-double of the season with 15 kills and 15 digs. Sophomore Taylor Sherwin played her best match of the year, leading both teams with 50 assists.
Saturday saw OSU take on 17th ranked Purdue and once again the Buckeyes started off the match in a hole as the Boilermakers easily won the first two sets 25-19 and 25-15. The Buckeyes woke up after intermission and won the third set 25-20. The fourth set was a back and forth affair but unfortunately OSU came up short, dropping the set 25-23 to lose the match 3-1. Hole recorded her 10th double-double of the year with 13 kills and 10 digs.
The weekend has to be a disappointment for the Buckeyes who started off both matches slowly. OSU was able to recover and easily beat Indiana but Purdue was too good for that. While the Boilermakers were ranked slightly ahead of the Buckeyes, it was a home match and an experience OSU squad should have put up more of a fight; the pollsters agreed and dropped OSU one spot to 20th. The Big Ten is an amazingly difficult conference and hopefully this performance doesn’t indicate that the Buckeyes are wearing down. This week gets a bit tougher as Ohio State hosts top ranked Penn State on Wednesday for a rare mid-week game before traveling to East Lansing on Saturday to take on Michigan State, who are receiving votes but are not ranked.
Women’s Hockey Looks to Stay Ranked
A week after pulling of a pair of road wins against a ranked team to earn their way to number 10 spot in the ranking, the Ohio State women’s ice hockey team hosted a weekend series against 6th ranked North Dakota. The Buckeyes came out of the gate hot on Friday night, scoring a pair of goals in each of the first two periods to take a 4-0 lead. The Sioux weren’t impressed though and scored three straight goals to make it a one goal game until the Buckeyes hit an empty netter to ice the 5-3 upset. The win improved OSU to 5-0-0 on the season, marking the first time in program history that the team has won its first five games.
Saturday didn’t go so well for OSU as the Buckeyes were beset with penalty issues, getting called for eight. The time on the penalty kill hurt the ability to get into a rhythm on offense and OSU could not find the back of the net as they fell 2-0 to the Sioux.
While Saturday’s loss was disappointing, OSU is still off to the best start in program history which features three upsets of ranked teams, two of which were on the road; the loss also did not hurt Ohio State in the polls as they moved up to 6th place. The road gets more difficult for the Buckeyes as they travel to take on top ranked and undefeated Minnesota.
Men’s Hockey Also Takes on a Ranked Opponent
The Ohio State men’s hockey team also wanted to get in on the fun of taking on a ranked opponent as they opened the season with a trip to 12th ranked Minnesota Duluth. The scoring came early on Friday night as each team found the back of the net in the first three minutes of the game before Minnesota Duluth scored three straight to take a 4-1 lead at the end of the first period. A Buckeye goal in the second briefly gave the team hope but a pair of Bulldog goals in the third ended that hope and gave Minnesota Duluth the 6-2 win.
Saturday saw Ohio State get off to a hot start as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead at the end of the first period. Minnesota Duluth roared right back with a pair of power play goals in the second period to knot the game up and seize the momentum. The Buckeyes weren’t done though and sophomore Max McCormick hit the gamewinning goal in the third to give OSU the 3-2 upset. After watching senior Brady Hjelle start on Friday, freshman goalie Collin Olson made his first collegiate start and he had a good night, making 26 saves while earning the victory.
Battling back to pull off a road upset is always great to see but Buckeye fans will likely remain cautious as memories of last season’s hot start, featuring several huge upsets as the team climbed up the rankings, turning into an epic post-New Year’s collapse that saw OSU only win two more games remains fresh in their mind. The solid performance of Olson in net is encouraging though and is a good sign as the Buckeyes look to replace graduated goalie Cal Heeter from last year. Ohio State goes on the road again this weekend with a trip to Hampden, Connecticut to face Quinnipiac.