Week 14 Rankings - LSU Stands As the Lone A-Team, Houlgate Adds a New Wrinkle To the Old System
LSU made their case for the national college football championship so convincingly that it may not matter whether or not the Tigers win the BCS championship game in January 2012. The Tigers defeated the SEC East Division champion Georgia, 42-10 on big plays turned in by star cornerback and kick returner, Tyrann Mathieu, aka 'the Honey Badger.' LSU's victory catapulted them to 43 points in the Houlgate Rankings, 15 more than the nearest challenger, making it virtually impossible for any team to surpass the Tigers after all the bowl games are played.
In addition to LSU's commanding lead at the end of the regular season, the Tiger's also earned the distinction of finishing the season as the only A-grade (undefeated) team. The Houston Cougars, which had been the nation's only other A-team got blown out in the Conference USA championship game by Southern Mississippi, 49-28, thus depriving the Cougars and the Conference USA of representation in a BCS Bowl game.
The nearest challenger, Boise State, tied with Oklahoma State in points, but a new wrinkle to the Houlgate Rankings gave the Broncos a slight edge. The new component to the legacy Houlgate Ranking system factors in a strength of schedule grade point average. John Houlgate, grandson of the system's creator and its keeper described it this way: "The number of ties in the rankings that kept coming up, even at this late stage of the football season concerned me. I wanted to see more distinction between the teams, so I came up with a battery of tie-breaking factors.
"The first factor is a 'Strength-of-Schedule Grade Point Average' (SOS GPA). We take the grades of a team's opponents and assign a number to them, just like we do when we allocate ranking points, except in this case, we sum the numbers and derive an average. It's very similar to getting a student's grade point average. We get the average Grade points of a team's opponents and if there is a tie between two teams that have the same grade, then we look at the Strength-Of-Schedule GPA and whichever team has the higher GPA, gets the higher ranking."
In the case of Boise State versus Oklahoma State, it turned out that both teams tied again on the SOS GPA.
"We found there were some ties broken by the SOS GPA, but there were still many ties remaining," Houlgate said. "Then we looked at some other ways to break the ties and came up with a 'field score differential.' If two teams have the same number of points, same number of losses and same strength of schedule gpa, we then check to see if these teams have played each other and if they did, we rank the winner higher than the loser. If that game didn't take place, we then derive the difference between what a team scored in all their games on the field and what was scored against them."
The Field Score Differential (FSD) between Boise State and Oklahoma State firmly put Boise State in the lead. Boise's differential exceeded Oklahoma State's, 300-282, earning the Broncos the number 2 ranking and placing the Cowboys in third.
Well, what happens if there are two teams that have the same points, same letter grade, same SOS_GPA, never played each other and have the same FSD? "It's a very remote possibility that that can happen," said Houlgate. "However, it did happen this week! Iowa and California tied each other on all those fronts, including the FSD. Both had tied for 49th place, with -12 ranking points, both were "F" teams, both had SOS_GPAs of 2.75 and both had FSDs of 65 points!
"I resolved that by taking the differences of their total yards gained by offense and kick returns and total yards given up by defense and kicks returned against them. Cal beat Iowa with 528 yards to a minus 335. Cal got 49th place and Iowa took 50th."
So in week 14, the Houlgate Rankings show every team in a distinct position.
"I don't plan to do this every week next season." Houlgate added. "It takes a lot of time to drill down this far, but I believe it's only fair to break up these ties and assign distinctive rankings to every team. I don't know if my grandfather would have approved, but these tie breakers are based on performance outcomes. We leave the essential elements of the ranking system intact - the points and letter grades. We still adhere to the principle of strength of schedule. It's only when we have ties at the end of the season that apply the tie breakers."
Here are the Houlgate rankings after week 14: