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Revised BCS format simplifies ranking system

Joe Meixell | Friday, August 27, 2004

After a split national championship in 2003, the Bowl Championship Series formula was due for a major change.

In past years after controversial BCS championship game participants, more components were added to the formula like strength of schedule, quality wins and team losses.

This time the BCS is going back to the basics.

The revised formula announced July 15 for the 2004 season will have only three parts – the Associated Press poll, the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll and a computer average. Each portion will bear equal weight counting for one-third of a team’s overall BCS ranking.

“As opposed to past years where we tried to go in and take a look at previous years’ results and make minor adjustments, add elements or tweaks to the poll, this was really a complete re-evaluation of the formula,” Big 12 commissioner and BCS coordinator Kevin Weiberg said in a July 15 teleconference. “In analyzing the BCS standings, we wanted to develop a ranking formula that would be simpler and more precise,”

The precise part of the formula comes from how the results from the polls and computers are calculated. Each team’s poll score will be a calculation of how many points a team receives in the poll divided by the total number of possible points. For example in the AP poll last year, a team receiving 1,500 points – out of a possible 1,625 – would have an AP score of .923.

Six computer rankings are being used in 2004. The highest and lowest computer rankings for each team are thrown out in determining a team’s computer average. 25 points will be given to a team ranked No. 1 in each computer poll, 24 for second and so on. The sum of the four computer rankings will be divided by 100 – the largest possible computer ranking total – to get a team’s computer average.

The two poll scores along with the computer score will be averaged to get a team’s BCS average.Another way to understand the percentage system is to look at a school’s polls and computer scores as batting averages.

“The purpose of the BCS is to match the nation’s top two college football teams in an end-of-season bowl game for the national championship,” Weiberg said. “This formula goes a long way to eliminate some of the controversy surrounding previous matchups as we continue to improve the system.”

Under the revised system, co-national champions USC and LSU would have played in last season’s BCS championship game. Both the AP and coaches’ polls ranked the Trojans No. 1 at the end of the regular season, but the BCS standings had the Trojans ranked No. 3.

In 2000 and 2001, the human polls had Miami and Oregon ranked No. 2 but other components in the BCS formula kept those two teams from playing for the national title. That’s what this simplified formula is designed to prevent.

“We want to have as much consensus around the teams participating in the national championship game as we possibly can,” Weiberg said. “But, you know, our intent here was not to try to produce a formula that somehow would continue to have a controversial outcome. We’re trying to use the tools that we have available to us to get the best possible outcome.”

The first BCS rankings will be announced Oct. 18 with the top two teams in the BCS standings playing Jan. 4 in the Orange Bowl.