About Houlgate College Football Rankings
"Out of the huddle and into the sack!"
That was the title of my late brother Deke III's article describing our grandfather's college football ranking system. Unfortunately, I cannot find the article he wrote in 1996 or I would put it up here instead of mine. Still, I wish to give my beloved brother the credit where credit is due.
My grandfather, Carroll Everard (Deke) Houlgate formulated a ranking system for College Football teams. It started in the 1930s and continued until his death in 1959, a couple of weeks before my first birthday. Deke was a nationally recognized football writer and statistician, who loved the college game. In his time, there was no BCS, although there were bowl games and several ranking systems floating around. The Houlgate ranking system was based on your won-loss record, who you played and their won-loss record. The system was meant to reward teams according to their success against other successful teams. Two factors played into his scheme 1) A letter grade based based on your team's won-loss record and 2) Points added or subtracted depending on whether you win or lose.
To go into more detail, it goes like this:
An undefeated team is an A team. A one-loss team is a B team. A two-loss team is a C team and so on to the letter H for a team with seven or more losses.
Points are awarded or taken away, depending on the letter grade of your team's opponent. When your team wins, the letter grade of your opponent downgrades to the next letter. For example if Michigan State beats previously unbeaten Iowa, Iowa's grade as an A team changes to B and Michigan State earns the points allotted for beating a B team. If Michigan State loses to Iowa, Iowa's grade remains unchanged, Michigan State's grade changes to the next lower grade. It loses one point, but this is the least amount of points because of losing to an A team. If Iowa was a B or C team, Michigan State would lose more points because of Iowa's lower grade.
Here's how teams are graded and points allotted and taken away:
|If your team:|
|loses 1 game|
|loses 2 games|
|loses 3 games|
|loses 4 games|
|loses 5 games|
|loses 6 games|
|loses 7 games or more|
|If your team:|
|Opponent's Grade:||Wins, add:||Loses, subtract:|
|* Opponent downgrades to B or the next letter grades and then the points for defeating a team with that grade applies.|
This point system only applies to Division I (Football Bowl System - FBS) teams. Some Division I teams play Division II (Football Championship System - FCS) and other teams outside of Division I. For scoring purposes, all non-Division I teams are regarded as H teams no matter what their records are. This is intended to close the loop and keep the system exclusive to Division I.
So there it is. It may seem very simplistic and archaic when compared to the computer generated rankings, yet anyone with enough time on their hands and mathematical aptitude (a computer with spreadsheet software helps, too) can use this system to compare and rank the teams. One flaw in the system is that some teams will tie because they score the same number of points. The letter grade may serve as a tie-breaker because one team may have a better won-loss record, but that rule cannot apply if both teams have the same letter grade.
Also note that as the season progresses, teams change letter grades and this changes the points retroactively. For example: Let's say BYU beats Colorado at the beginning of the season and earns 7 points for beating a B team. If Colorado loses again, it downgrades to a C team. The 7 points BYU earned from beating Colorado are downgraded to 6 points. In the Houlgate ranking system, the strength of schedule really depends on your opponents' won-loss records. Ideally, you want all of your opponents to be A teams until they play your team and hopefully finish out the season as B teams, thus giving your team the maximum points for the whole season. As you might guess, this is highly improbable, but this is supposed to reflect the strength of schedule element in the system.
In the years before the current tie-breaker rule was instated, the Houlgate System included way to score ranking points in the event of a tie game. In such cases, both teams would be downgraded to the next letter grade and then awarded half of the points they would have normally receive from defeating their opponent with that letter grade. For example if Michigan State, an A team, tied Iowa, also an A team, both teams would be downgraded to B teams and then you would add 3.5 points to each team's ranking score.
We intend to bring you the rankings each week of the season, including the bowl season, so you can see how they stack up with the BCS and AP Coaches poll.