Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Golden Rankings: FCS, or not FCS?

Basketball Rankings have moved to the sidebar---->

As you may recall, we started the football season by explaining that we were going to prepare a slightly different version of Golden's rankings, one that included FCS (or I-AA) teams in it. Now that the season has finished, I thought it might be a good time to take a look at both rankings and see if the differences between the two rankings can give us any insight as to how to proceed next year. Golden's final rankings are here, mine are here.

How much did the two rankings actually differ?
When you take a look at my ranking of the I-A (sorry, FBS) teams relative to each other, you find that although most teams have moved slightly one way or the other, there are few teams that have moved significantly. Of the 120 FBS teams, only eight differed between the two ranking sets more than 10 spots, and one of those, Western Kentucky, was different by 46 spots because it played a schedule of half FBS teams, and half FCS teams. If there was one common thread among those that differed the most, it was teams that beat top level FCS teams and didn't get credit for beating 8 or 9 win teams. Ironically, the FBS participant in the most infamous FCS/FBS game this year, Michigan, finished in the exact same position in each system.

Was there a difference in how the two ranking sets did in predicting the outcome of the bowl games?
At the heart of it, a power ranking system like these two is really designed to help predict future outcomes. So which system was better? Mine, but not by much. Golden's system went 16-16, mine went 18-14, with one match-up, West Virginia/Oklahoma, a virtual dead heat before the game. We differed on four games: The aforementioned Fiesta bowl, the Motor City Purdue/CMU clash, the Insight Bowl's Indiana/Oklahoma State game, and the USC/Illinois Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl went to Golden, the rest to me.

So what does this all mean? Is it worth the time and effort to include FCS teams in the rankings?
I would say yes, but I do feel that the system needs to be refined to count wins over FCS teams less than wins over FBS teams (say 0.75 wins) and losses to FCS teams extra. Exactly what that percentage is, we will examine in our next post. In the meantime, I await Golden's thoughts.