Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Building a Better Football Poll

One of the things I have been thinking about lately is a way to build a completely objective football ranking system that accounts for the quality of play on the field and can not be "gamed" by coaches.

The original idea of a way to include quality of win was by looking at the win margin. It is obvious that a team that won by a large margin is much better than a team that won by only a small margin against the same team. However football coaches knew that this was a factor so when they played easy teams the would pile on the points to help out their rankings. I believe now the computer components of the BCS are not allowed to take the margin of victory in to account when they make their rankings. So this lead me on to think about ways we can measure how good a team is, more than by just who they beat.

The first measurement I want to propose is to look at the "Time of Win". That is, how much time was left on the game clock when the eventual score that won the game was made. So if a team runs back the opening kickoff and then holds their opponents to less than a touchdown for the whole game, their Time of Win would be essentially 60 minutes, where as a hail marry at then end of the game would result in a Time of Win of a couple of seconds. This measurement would allow polls to take into consideration how much one team dominated another without encouraging the scoring to spiral out of hand. It would, however, make the teams play defense throughout the game.

I thought of a second good measurement last night while laying in bed: Offensive Yards per Point. This number would incorporate a few aspects of a teams performance into one figure. It would measure how well a team can finish off long drives, reward teams for creating turnovers, and also give a bonus for a team that has a good kick return game. It also would be somewhat difficult to game because scoring as many points with the fewest amounts of yards obtained is already a primary goal for coaches, so they can't really make much of a game plan change to reflect this being measured.

Other factors that I would consider would be power rankings, like the Massey rankings, which looks at who beats who. Also if the game was home or away. I would also like to include a couple of other measurements but it is kind of hard to think about relevant ones that can't be taken advantage of. Anyone else have any good ideas for ways to build a better football polling system?


The Gare Bear said...

Just a thought -- it always seemed to me that point spreads should be figured into rankings because of this -- it is not rude or inconsiderate to run up the score as long as you are playing a legitimate team, with what should be at least normal talents (unless they are obviously physically or mentally impaired, in which case it would be a good gesture to spot them some points up front -- a hurdle to your better team to strive for). If running up the score is an issue, put in the B team or C team and let them get some field time so they can improve and/or be ready to fill an A team slot. I think (I've been there) a humiliating defeat can make a poor team better, faster, than almost anything else if there is even the most remote scrap of self esteem in the team that got stomped. Incentive to get better is always good. A false, lower, point spread is, in my opinion not only dishonest in a strange way, but also demoralizing to the winning team. There are exceptions, of course, such as the recent basketball free-throw episode in which the team that intentionally missed the free throws sent a very powerful and positive message of sportsmanship to the opposing team.

piglet said...

i have good ideas but not so much on football. i'm going to pass this on to my brother in law b/c he seems to be quite an expert on football. anyone is an expert compared to me.

i just love the fact that you think up stuff like this. i've always wanted a video camera connected to my brain so i can go back to all the stuff i actually miss. can you invent that too?

Ookami Snow said...

Gare Bear- The problem with including the margin of win is that every team must run up the score when possible, if they don't they will fall behind in the rankings.

piglet- Unfortunately I don't really ever make anything, I just think up of ideas. However if I can make one machine that has the ability to make things from ideas, I would only have to make that one machine and then it could build the rest of my ideas for me...

To the labaratory!