Maryland vs NC State – final rankings support need for computerized selection system

NC State finished the 2010 college football season ranked #25 in both the final Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll.  The Wolfpack finished the season 9-4 after scoring more points against (then ranked #22) West Virginia  than the Mountaineers had allowed all season en route to a 23-7 win in the Champs Sports Bowl.

When reviewing the final polls, I noticed that fellow ACC member – Maryland – finished just ahead of the Wolfpack ranked #24 (AP) and #23 (USA Today).

Good for the Terps and the ACC!

Bad for common sense, facts, reality and fair analysis. 

NC State and Maryland both finished the season with 9-4 records.   Maryland beat NC State in the last weekend of the year with a controversial ending in College Park.  I recognize that short sighted voters, fans and observers will take the easy way out and proclaim that ‘Maryland beat NC State on the field’ and therefore should have an advantage over the Wolfpack;  but, I never hear those people say that NC State should be ranked ahead of Florida State because the Wolfpack defeated the Seminoles ‘on the field’?  

Newsflash to the world – both of these schools played 13 games this season.   I don’t mind if you choose to weigh 7.7% of the season heavier than the other 92.3% of the year…but head to head has got to have its limits. 

In this entry published before the bowls were selected, we laid out an obvious case through strength of schedule and performance of why NC State had clearly produced a better season than Maryland.  Since that data was compiled, NC State defeated a Top 25 Bowl opponent in Florida that had previously waxed the Terrapins 31-7; while Maryland waxed the worst defense in college football history in a game played a few miles from their campus.  (Note: that awful defense did squeak by NC State in overtime in a rivalry game played in a poorly scheduled match-up in middle of the conference season in October.)

All of this has created a situation where in the well-respected Sagarin Computer Rankings provided by USA Today NC State finished the season a very strong #18 while Maryland finished the season ranked #38

Folks, that isn’t even close.  I would give you a little bit of wiggle room if the two programs finished within 5 or 7 spots of each other, but when using an objective formula to normalize an objective set of criteria, NC State finishes a clear TWENTY SPOTS ahead of Maryland in one of the most well-respected computer rankings available.  TWENTY SPOTS!   Yet the genius ‘voters’ in the world couldn’t get close to figuring out the full body of work turned in by these two programs.

Please note, I am not just self selecting one set of computer rankings to make my case.  A quick review of the 130+ rankings consolidated by Massey shows that NC State finished higher than Maryland in approximately 115 of 130+ different ranking services/metrics available.

Yet, only the subjective voters of the polls couldn’t accurately analyze or figure out the obvious.


I don’t blame the voters for these mis-steps.  They have jobs, lives, priorities and it would be absurd to think a voter in Kansas could remotely have the time, resources and ability to dive as deep as we dove in the NC State-Maryland example.

And…THAT^ is the point!

For years, I have been a firm believer that building a fantastic computer model that omits all of ‘subjective polls’ is the most fair and accurate way to ultimately ‘select’ the two teams for the BCS Championship Game.   Of course the media and all of those around college football would never institute such an obvious answer to the annual controversy of who should advancing to the BCS Game because they would then have nothing about which to talk &/or complain all season.  But, how else do we FAIRLY analyze what actually happens in thousands of games spread thousands of miles apart over a four month period? 

Seriously…with a well-defined, completely transparent computer formula, what in God’s name is there to bitch about?

EVERY SCHOOL knows exactly what the formula for success is heading into the year.  EVERY SCHOOL can work to craft their schedules and their seasons.  There is no ‘subjectivity’ to ‘strength of schedule’ as the SOS can’t be argued as it is calculated by actual results on the field.  EVERY SCHOOL is held to the exact same standards.   Period.

The key to success is to get the formula right and then let it do its magic.  There would be NO INCONSISTENCIES. in rankings. For example, if the impact of ‘margin of victory’ is capped at 28 points, schools like Wisconsin this year (and USC, Texas, Florida and others in past years) can’t influence some voters who like to see 70 points on the board against the mothers of the poor while other voters choose to penalize the schools for running up the score.  Nobody cares that “Alabama” is on one set of jerseys while Nevada is on another set.

EVERY SCHOOL would be judged exclusively on their PERFORMANCE ON THE FIELD.   Isn’t this EXACTLY the mantra of all of the playoff supporters every year –  ‘Settle it on the field!!!’  Under ANY scenario – including a pie-in the sky-playoff-pipedream – it is next to impossible to ‘settle it on the field’ when humans get to apply their inconsistent and often inaccurate observations to process of choosing/ranking teams.  With a ‘master computer formula’ there would be no doubt that every school gets a fair shake and it would be settled on the field; it would simply be settled BY a computer using an objective set of criteria.

I don’t care what some media member in New Mexico ‘thinks’ about teams.  You shouldn’t either.  I don’t care what Lee Corso ‘thinks’.  If anyone’s ‘thoughts’ of what teams were better than others were actually accurate, they would be living in Las Vegas and never losing a bet.  It doesn’t matter what people ‘think’ about teams; it only should matter what those teams actually do on the field!  I only care WHAT HAPPENED ON THE FIELD, not what team you ‘think’ is better than others.  

Take out the ‘choosing’.  Implement a system that TRULY uses the data and performance of all of the teams for all of the season and you can avoid embarrassments like Maryland finishing the season ranked in front of a team that clearly out performed through 13 games.

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38 Responses to Maryland vs NC State – final rankings support need for computerized selection system

  1. coach13 01/11/2011 at 11:42 AM #

    When is the last time we finished ranked? Hey and if you are not #1, 23-24-25 doesn’t matter. At least we are in the top 25. Where did the shoulda-woulda-coulda Holes end up?

  2. Manu Ginobili 01/11/2011 at 11:45 AM #

    Honestly, I am one of those who will take the easy way out and have no problem with them finishing ahead of us. We have the same record, we won our bowls, and they beat us on the field. I can’t argue with that, even if they had an easier schedule, they beat us, period. I am happy for my Wolfpack finishing the season ranked!

  3. baxter 01/11/2011 at 11:49 AM #

    Spot on analysis. Disagree here with Manu other than being happy about being ranked. I couldn’t remember if the BCS published a final rankings after bowls or not, but if you see where the other guys have us ranked, it would suggest anywhere from 18 to 25.

  4. StateFans 01/11/2011 at 11:49 AM #

    ^ Manu…BEFORE THE BOWLS NC State was still ranked ahead of Maryland in ‘others receiving votes’ in some polls.

    We beat a Top 25 team on a neutral field that crushed Maryland earlier in the year.

    Maryland crushed an awful team on effectively their home field.

    What changed?

    Point is the subjective nature of how Maryland beat an awful team obviously had influence on their final ranking. That’s crazy in light of the quality of the team we beat.

  5. wolfbuff 01/11/2011 at 11:51 AM #

    Look, the Maryland game was on the last game of the season and they beat us fair and square. Some might argue the final score was way closer than the game itself. And they beat a team that beat us. Computer model or no computer model, bad defense or no bad defense, unfortunate scheduling or not, Maryland deserves to be ranked ahead of us. We had a great bowl win, finished 9-4, and should be happy to be in the final ranking. We didn’t exactly set the world on fire the last half of the season. If we could have beaten Clemson or Maryland, we would have finished ahead of both FSU and Maryland in the final polls. I think the voters got it about right. This entry seems a bit whiny to me.

  6. StateFans 01/11/2011 at 11:51 AM #

    I would much rather be ranked #18 than #25. Especially when objective analysis of every school’s performance in the country would support it.

    Basically, we are getting some kind of ‘name brand discount’ of ‘timing of when you succeeded’ discount our rankings.

    What if we had lost to Maryland in the first week of the season?

    I’m willing to bet we would higher than them.

    Why does a game in September mean less than a game in October?

    Computers smooth all of that bias out.

  7. StateFans 01/11/2011 at 11:55 AM #


    Using your premise —

    We beat a much better team ‘on the last game of the season’ than they did. In fact, that team we beat crushed Maryland earlier in the year.

    Since recency of the win is so important, then why does their win over us in November mean so much more than our win over West Virginia (who beat Maryland) in late December?

    I just don’t understand the mindset of self selecting 1 of 13 games to base everything on.

    Maryland would not have finished the season with an identical record as us had they not played such a ridiculously weak schedule. We should have played Morgan State instead of traveling to ECU and then we would have had a better record for you guys.

  8. StateFans 01/11/2011 at 11:57 AM #

    Just so we are clear…the reason they had this all-important ‘identical record’ as us is because

    * NC State played TEN teams that were bowl eligible, including both participants in the ACC Championship Game.

    * Maryland played EIGHT bowl eligible teams and only one participant in the ACC Championship Game.

    * NC State played teams that finished #1; #3 (tie); and #3 (tie) in the Coastal Division to put together our record.
    * Maryland played teams that finished #2; last (tie); and last (tie) in the Coastal Division to put together their record.

    * NC State played 1 OOC cupcake in Western Carolina to get to 9 wins.
    * Maryland played 2 OOC cupcakes in Morgan State & Florida International to get to 9 wins.

  9. IMFletcherWolf 01/11/2011 at 11:59 AM #

    I’m glad that we finished inside the top 25. Yeah, it sucks the be behind MD, but I’m not really bothered by that.

    What about the ACC? In many ways the conference was a disappointment this year, but it ends the season with 4 ranked teams. Pretty good if I do say so myself.

  10. mikeD 01/11/2011 at 12:00 PM #

    There is a thread on this topic in the forum.

    To argue wolfbuff – We beat UCF, yet they are ranked higher than we are. Single games should not (although single games from the end of the season are) be used for deciding a ranking.

    Also, on the USA Coach’s poll, Tulsa was ranked higher than we are. Serioiusly???

  11. packalum44 01/11/2011 at 12:00 PM #

    I was also disappointed to see MD ranked ahead but not surprised. How crazy are MD fans though to fire a coach of a top 25 team who was one win away from the ACC title game…those fans have a lot of nerve they should know there place like Fowler did for us.

  12. packalum44 01/11/2011 at 12:03 PM #

    The ECU loss really hurt us here. Think about it, if you are a journalist in Kansas looking through our schedule and see that loss then look at how MD just demolished them….you automatically scratch your head. 10-3 would have been so much sweeter than 9-4. No more ECU games Debbie!!!

  13. Spacewolf 01/11/2011 at 12:06 PM #

    Another log on the UCF fire is that their Sagarin rating (42) is even lower than Maryland’s (38). They did win their conference championship though, and beat an SEC team in their bowl game. Never mind that the conference they won was CUSA and the SEC team they beat was the crappiest UGA team in decades.

  14. bigwolfpacker 01/11/2011 at 12:11 PM #

    I have to disagree with you on this one. Pretty easy to put MD ahead of NCSU based on the last 2 games MD played – a win over State and a convincing win over a team we lost to. Pretty simple.

  15. charger17 01/11/2011 at 12:14 PM #

    I think the point of this article is to evaluate the process – not evaluate how important you think the process is. No one cares how important or how unimportant you think the final rankings are. I for one think this is absolutely spot on. If somehow Maryland had landed in the BCS Championship game ahead of us, the point of the article would shine through. So, the validity of the argument is no less strong just b/c we aren’t talking about that level of stakes.

    Another positive result of having a 100% objective ranking system not mentioned is an accurate way to evaluate any program. AD’s, coaches, and fans would have a way to objectively know if they’re program is moving in the right direction or not.

  16. mikeD 01/11/2011 at 12:20 PM #

    ^bigwolfpacker –
    Maryland lost to West Virginia and Florida State!!! The thinking should go both ways here! You shouldn’t judge a season based on the last 2-3 games!

  17. waxhaw 01/11/2011 at 12:26 PM #

    Our game being so early in the bowl season probably cost us 2-3 spots. Most of the people voting are too lazy to look anything up and our game was eons ago.

  18. burnbarn 01/11/2011 at 12:50 PM #

    I think most expected us to be ranked in the 20s at season end after our bowl performance. That way we can say we finished the year ranked….does it matter if it was 22 or 25? I don’t think so. Would it matter if we were 18? Yes, but that wasn’t going to happen in the real world.
    The only issue is Md….. and that really is not an issue.. it just means their new coach will have more pressure to produce.

    I am thrilled to be able to say we finished in the top 25!!!

  19. graywolf 01/11/2011 at 12:51 PM #

    We ended up ranked, Carolina football is in disarray, we beat Carolina and Florida State. We have a new Chancellor and AD that are beyond competent and that love NC State and their jobs.
    There are more positives than negatives. The positives will help recruiting in the long run so I’m happy .

  20. Astral Rain 01/11/2011 at 12:55 PM #

    Yeah, I’d be a little miffed, but the emphasis on little.

    Being ranked to end the season is a good thing, especially given the expectations. At least in terms of the football program, I see a partly cloudy future (I do have Concerns over whether TOB will lead us to a title, but I see a bunch of 7-9 win seasons, which isn’t bad at all, and from that baseline you can get a magical season once in a while)

  21. boxorice 01/11/2011 at 1:17 PM #

    Lord have mercy. There isn’t that much difference in #23 and #25. Not enough to devote that much time to writing (or reading, because I didn’t) that entire article.

  22. Lock 01/11/2011 at 1:51 PM #

    That’s a lotta words that doesn’t change the fact that they beat us, near the end of the season, and are a (reasonably) comparable team.

    You’d be pitching a fit if the roles were reversed and someone dared suggest we should be ranked lower.

    Celebrate the fact that we have finally, finally finished a season in the top 25, and look forward to further improvement, instead of digging deeper than is sanely reasonable for something to gripe about.

  23. 61Packer 01/11/2011 at 2:24 PM #

    I understand why Maryland finished a notch ahead of us in the final rankings. I don’t understand why UCF finished 4 notches ahead of us.

  24. 87stategrad 01/11/2011 at 2:36 PM #

    ^^”The ECU loss really hurt us here. Think about it, if you are a journalist in Kansas looking through our schedule and see that loss then look at how MD just demolished them….you automatically scratch your head. 10-3 would have been so much sweeter than 9-4. No more ECU games Debbie!!!”

    +1 and AMEN. No more ECU games!!

  25. MrPlywood 01/11/2011 at 2:48 PM #

    State is ranked in the final top 25. When is the last time you could say that? 2002. So I’m good with being on the list. As far as scheduling ECU – I say play them, and beat the crap out of them.

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