CFP poll should add BCS touch

first_imgThe big news around the country this week has been surrounding the midterm elections. But the poll I was most interested in seeing Tuesday wasn’t any Gallup poll, expected voter poll or exit poll.It was the College Football Playoff’s Week 11 poll.The College Football Playoff system replaced the Bowl Championship Series this year to determine the national champion in NCAA Division I-A football. While the BCS picked only two teams at the end of the regular season to participate in a national championship game, the CFP will pick four teams to compete in a two-round playoff to determine who wins the national title.Every college football fan I know is beyond thrilled that a playoff will finally determine which team is the best in the country. But there is plenty of uncertainty over how the CFP’s selection committee will pick the four teams to compete in the first-ever playoff.To make the best decision, I would highly encourage the CFP to actually pay some attention to those midterm elections. As different as they may seem, the national championship debate reminds me a lot of the national political debate.Though I won’t reveal my party affiliation, there is someone I’m always rooting for a little bit during U.S. elections: Nate Silver.Silver launched somewhat of a revolution in probability and statistical analysis with his highly publicized and shockingly accurate political predictions in the last two presidential elections. He was so good in politics that ESPN hired him to apply his analysis to projecting outcomes in the sports world. His research proved how important quantitative data can be when trying to understand the world. I love any time the results validate his guesses because it gives sportswriters like me hope that we, too, can sound smart if we stare at the numbers long enough.The CFP hasn’t really offered any criteria on how its selection committee decided on the first poll. We’ll probably get a little more insight into the thought process on the final poll, but the system is much more open-ended than the BCS system. In fact, a selection committee was brought together to do almost the exact opposite of what the BCS did. But the BCS system looked at football much in the same way Silver looks at political races, and Silver’s method of analysis is proven to work.The BCS averaged subjective polls from coaches and journalists with computerized polls based on objective statistics. The computer polls’ primary goal were to create some formula to measure strength of schedule when teams finished with equal records.To do so, the formulas kept track of the records of teams’ opponents, the records of their conferences and the ratio of teams’ games played at home to on the road.The computer polls got a lot of flak from media members — who, of course, thought media polls were much more accurate. It felt impure that some formula could measure such a personal form of human performance like college football — “Siri, which college football team is the best in the nation?” — and journalists argued that rigid statistics could not account for the subtleties necessary to understand the quality of a team. Beat writers argued that they could recognize which teams legitimately were the best in the nation even if arbitrary numbers didn’t add up.But the BCS ranking system was unveiled in 1998 before the “sabermetrics” revolution in sports. Advanced statistics first popped up in baseball relatively recently. Today, advanced stats are also applied to soccer, basketball, hockey and, of course, football. It seems, however, that judgment on the validity of “the computers” was made before advancements in the field proved how valuable statistical analysis could be.The selection committee will rely on the opinions of just 13 panelists, one of whom is our very own Pat Haden. Several of the panelists are university athletic directors, like Haden. All of them have either played college football or worked in some capacity with the NCAA, an athletic conference or a university with the exception of Steve Wieberg, the only full-time sportswriter of the bunch. The idea is that each committee member is an expert on football, capable of watching a team play and knowing if it is on the level of past national champions.Regardless of whether the committee members really are experts — Condoleezza Rice is a bit of a head-scratcher, but she was the provost of Stanford before serving as the Secretary of State — I would highly encourage the committee members to consult statistical analysis. It would be very easy for each member to succumb to his or her own regional bias — Haden would probably like to think that any team from the Pac-12 is the best in the country — especially given how many teams and conferences there are to judge between. But there’s valuable information out there about point differential, yards allowed, red zone efficiency, turnover margin and time of possession. This information doesn’t necessarily need to be the deciding factor on a decision, but should certainly be considered.The CFP waited until Week 10 to come out with its first poll and had Mississippi State, Florida State, Auburn and Ole Miss in the top four. Notable snubs from the playoff were then-No. 5 Oregon and then-No. 6 Alabama.The decision-making got a little easier in Week 11, as Ole Miss fell to Auburn, allowing Oregon to jump to No. 4. But the Crimson Tide, who moved up to No. 5, still have to play Auburn and Mississippi State, so there’s plenty more drama to come with each successive poll.While there isn’t any real hope for a spot in the playoff for USC, the Trojans could get a crack at knocking Oregon out of the playoff in the Pac-12 title game. Such a scenario would almost be déjà-vu from 2011, when the Lane Kiffin-led and postseason-ineligible Trojans defeated the then-No. 4 Ducks to eliminate Oregon from the national title conversation.Sure enough, if USC did beat Oregon in that hypothetical scenario, it would do a big favor to Mr. Kiffin. Alabama, where Kiffin is now the offensive coordinator, would surely leapfrog Oregon in the CFP poll and have a spot in the playoff if the Ducks lost again.Hey Nate, what are the odds of that?Luke Holthouse is a sophomore majoring in broadcast and digital journalism and policy, planning and development. His column, “Holthouse Party,” runs Wednesdays.last_img read more

Trojans finish season on the road at BYU

first_imgThe men’s volleyball team (7-17, 5-15 MPSF) will conclude their regular season this Friday and Saturday as they head to Utah to face No. 1 BYU (21-3, 17-3 MPSF), which is coming off two wins over then-No. 1 UCLA on the road last Friday and Saturday.The Trojans are coming off of a split weekend at home. Last Friday night, USC swept UC San Diego (25-20, 25-17, 25-13) but lost to No. 15 UC Irvine in straight sets (21-25, 15-25, 23-25).Junior outside hitter Lucas Yoder led the Trojans with 17 kills on the weekend. Senior middle blocker Josh Kirchner was second on the team with 13 kills.Going to BYU is always unpredictable for the Trojans. When the two schools meet, just like with USC and Hawaii, the teams play back-to-back matches.“[Traveling is] a learning experience for the younger guys,” head coach Jeff Nygaard said. “It’s a great chance to educate them on what it takes to go on that trip and play in that environment.”Playing at BYU is a challenge all of its own. Provo, Utah is just above 4,500 feet in elevation. Los Angeles is just over 200 feet in elevation. The difference in elevation alone is a difficult adjustment for teams to make, not to mention the fact that BYU is a mecca for men’s volleyball.“It’s hostile in that it’s an extremely favorable BYU crowd,” Nygaard said.“Favorable” would be an understatement. In their 10 home matches this season, BYU has averaged about 4,000 fans in attendance. In USC’s 13 home matches this season, they’ve averaged about 400 fans.BYU has a home record of 8-2 this season. Their losses were courtesy of No. 3 Stanford in mid-January and No. 6 Pepperdine in mid-March. USC has an opposite away record of 2-8. They’ve struggled this season, but especially on the road.Despite the daunting conditions, Nygaard isn’t afraid of the challenge ahead of the Trojans.“I would expect them to win,” Nygaard said. “I don’t see any reason otherwise.”Nygaard, a former UCLA men’s volleyball standout, has experience playing in BYU and knows what it’s like to head into that “hostile environment.”“I think it’s a great environment for volleyball,” Nygaard said. “I love going there and I love competing there.”As the season is drawing to a close, Nygaard shared his belief that all of the ups and downs of the season will help transition the team for next year.“Everything we’ve done this year is helping us transition for next year,” Nygaard said. “Regardless of what happens, it’s always going to transition to the next year.”The adversities of this season will aid the Trojans in becoming a more weathered, toughened team. Pair that with a longer time under Nygaard’s direction and plan, and the Trojans look to come out firing for next season.But before they can move on to any of that, they’ll have to take on the Cougars.last_img read more