For the past decade, the Bowl Championship Series unfailingly provided the matchup for college football’s national title game that reflected the public consensus. (In the six years prior to that, the BCS’s record was spottier, but after 2003-04, its formula was wisely streamlined, and its subsequent results were impeccable.) This year, that BCS selection process, which involved 167 polls voters and six computer rankings (one of which was the Anderson & Hester Rankings, which Chris Hester and I co-created), was replaced by a subjective committee of 13 people. And in its penultimate rankings of the season, the committee has now declared that Florida State, which is the nation’s sole unbeaten team and has more 1st-place votes in the A.P. poll than any other squad, wouldn’t get to play in the national championship game if the committee were deciding such things. In fact, the committee doesn’t even rank Florida State third, instead relegating the undefeated Seminoles to fourth, behind three 1-loss teams (Alabama, Oregon, and TCU).
Thankfully, there is a 4-team playoff this year, which gives the committee the margin of error it seemingly needs.
So what would the old BCS Standings have yielded? The mock BCS standings that have been published in various places this season are not particularly accurate, for they invariably include two computer rankings (Jeff Sagarin’s and Kenneth Massey’s) that now incorporate margin-of-victory and would not have been allowed to be a part of the BCS formula in that form. The BCS explicitly banned margin-of-victory-driven computer rankings after such computers ranked four 2-loss teams ahead of 1-loss Oregon (#2 in the polls) in 2001, a year after those computers had ranked 1-loss Washington outside of the top-5 in 2000. (Sagarin’s margin-of-victory-driven computer rankings currently rate (6-6) Arkansas ahead of (12-0) Florida State.)
Approximating the BCS Standings, therefore, necessitates using only the four former BCS computer rankings that don’t incorporate margin of victory. (The Anderson & Hester Rankings, which have never incorporated margin of victory because it isn’t the object of the game, rank Florida State #1 and Arkansas #34.)
The BCS dropped the high and the low computer rankings each week and kept the middle four. Having access to only four of the old BCS computer rankings, however, those four might or might not have been among the ones dropped in any given week. The most sensible way to approximate the BCS Standings, therefore, seems to be to tally the computer rankings with the high and low rankings dropped, tally them a second time without dropping any of the four, and then average those two tallies together. Meanwhile, the A.P. poll is the best stand-in for the Harris poll, which was created by and for the BCS and no longer exists.
Putting all of this together, here is an estimate of how the BCS Standings would have looked this week, with each team’s point value listed (one of the beauties of the BCS was that the spacing between teams was apparent):
1. Florida State (12-0), .975
2. Alabama (11-1), .965
3. Oregon (11-1), .935
4. TCU (10-1), .858
5. Ohio State (11-1), .836
6. Baylor (10-1), .789
7. Arizona (10-2), .711
8. Mississippi State (10-2), .677
9. Michigan State (10-2), .658
10. Kansas State (9-2), .641