Friday, October 06, 2006

AP Top 25 Individual Ballot Analysis

I'm sorry I'm just getting to this now, in the afternoon at the end of the week. But I just saw it and felt compelled to dig into it.

I don't know when the AP started doing this (this week?), but the AP has a URL that links to every Top 25 poll-voter's individual ballot. (People who used to read my Daily Quickie column on know that this is a big deal for me.)

First of all: HUGE kudos to the AP for bringing more transparency to the entirely-too-sketchy poll-voting process.

(It almost makes up for the AP's hypocrisy in huffily withdrawing from the BCS under the rhetoric of "not wanting to make news," while still arrogantly bestowing, on its own, one of two recognized national titles in college football. But that's not making news or anything.)

But second: It offers a glimpse into the individual ballots that was previously very difficult (you had to look up each voter on their own and hope they published their ballot, which some did and some didn't).

What were some of the more surprising examples of the perception of homerism or scratch-your-head judgment? (I don't mean to pick on these specific individuals; these were the ones that just hit me most viscerally.)

Angelique Chengelis (Detroit News), who had Michigan ranked No. 3 and Auburn at No. 7. (No. 7? Why not No. 25, as long as you're deflating Auburn's ranking.)

Bob Thomas (Florida Times-Union) and Susan Miller Degnan (Miami Herald), who both had Florida ranked No. 2 (and I'm even a Florida fan saying that's just wrong).

Jeff Metcalfe (Arizona Republic): Cal at No. 11 (Pac-10 homerism, much?)

Scott Rabalais (Baton Rouge Advocate): LSU at No. 6. (Here's an idea: No Top 25 voters from papers that are based in a Top 25 team's town.)

Jon Wilner (San Jose Mercury News): Michigan at No. 2, Florida at No. 3, Tennessee at No. 8.

(There were a surprising number of voters who had Michigan at No. 2, including Kirk Herbstreit, who votes under the auspices of WBNS-AM in Columbus. And then there was guys like Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle, who had Texas No. 6, ahead of Michigan at No. 7. Hell, even the voter from Austin, Kirk Bohls, had Texas at No. 8 and was another voter with Michigan at No. 2. I'm not saying it's THAT wrong -- although it IS wrong -- but just noticeably different from the No. 6 aggregate ranking...and perhaps even inflating the No. 6 up a slot or two?)

Sketchy stuff happens at the bottom of the ballot, too:

Ray Fittipaldo (Pittsburgh Post): Penn State at No. 24?

Bud Withers (Seattle Times): Puts hometown Washington at No. 20. Gotta love the reliable hometown nudge.

And a few kudos to the Colbert-Style Heroes:

Mitch Vingle (Charleston WV Gazette), who had West Virginia No. 4, behind Ohio St, USC and Auburn. (We'll see what happens as we get closer to bowl-selection time.)

Kevin Pearson (Riverside CA Press-Enterprise), who had the guts to vote West Virginia No. 1 (Maybe he's doing Vingle a favor...)

Scott Wolf (LA Daily News), who also had West Virginia No. 1, but had hometown USC No. 6. (WVA can NOT claim West Coast Bias against them.)

Doug Lesmerises (Cleveland Plain Dealer), who I actually think was a classmate of mine at Northwestern, whose ballot I simply think most closely matches mine.

Here's my problem: Reporters and columnists are entitled to their opinion, but if they are going to insist on flashing regional bias, I think fans should insist that these folks not be given the responsibility – the privilege, actually – of having such sway over a process that is more a national trust of fandom than personal fiefdom of a couple dozen newspaper reporters.

I didn't spend nearly the time on this that I wanted to, and I'm sorry I'm only finding this now – on a Friday afternoon. Maybe next week I can dig into it more (and earlier in the week). Someone with a gift for Excel could really do some damage on the analysis.

Here's your follow-up task: Check out the various ballots using this link and, via the Comments section on this post, add any more examples of questionable bias (or just sloppy or "YOU'RE-an-expert?!" judgment you might see. The AP might have started this to add in a little more accountability; it's on fans to take it to the next step.

-- D.S.

OK, so The House Rock Built had a post about this on Monday. Credit where it's due. Great catch, Brian!


Gary said...


The link you sent us to, takes me to a blue map, then upon clicking on a state, shows the papers in that state that are members of the AP. What gives? Relink if you get a chance please, I'd be interested to see who voted for whom, thanks!

Gary said...

I take that back, it now works no problem, I don't know what went wrong the first time. Great link, thanks

Brian in Oxford said...

Dan, you want to not grant votes to newspapers in cities where the team is top 25?

So, if you're in New Brunswick, NJ, voting....and Rutgers is on the cusp of being top 25, do you have to wait for all the other votes to come in, to see if Rutgers is NOT top 25, and then you get to have your vote count for the week?

(And then, you have to make sure your vote doesn't push Rutgers INTO the top 25, thus negating your own vote, which then re-substantiates it, which then....)

I understand the idea of getting the homerism out. How about taking an "average" vote.....This way, the voters in Columbus don't vote for Ohio St.....but Ohio St. isn't counted as a ZERO on their ballot, you simply divide by a fewer number of ballots for them.

All you'd have to do is make a point of indicating that you think they're top 25 and just not counting them. Especially if you're the Rutgers guy voting, and you think they're legitimately #26. Then they get no points but your ballot counts in the denominator, versus having them #25, where your ballot doesn't count, omitted by this anti-homerism rule.

(Is the BCS calculating organization hiring?)

Dan Shanoff said...

See my post's comments about how ludicrous it is to rank Michigan at No. 2.

And I'm actually impressed with them. But No. 2? No chance.

Unfortunately, Michigan's schedule only allows for one solution:

STFU until Michigan beats Ohio State. Until then, I don't want to hear from you.

After that? Hell, I will be the first one in line to argue UM should be in the BCS title game. (As long as beating OSU leaves them undefeated.)

Dan Shanoff said...

That idea to eliminate hometown voters is probably half-baked. Maybe throw out the highest and lowest? I don't know the solution, because I can't begrudge the hometown Rutgers writer like I begrudge the hometown writer of a bigger powerhouse.

Jen said...

Enough of the UofM! You guys are playing better than anticipated and like it was mentioned earlier, Michigan started lower and is now working their way up the polls as the weeks go by.

Jen said...

If anyone with the gift of Excel takes time to make a spreadsheet, I am going to laugh my arse off.

ENJOY your weekend and please don't waste time making a spreadsheet of poll voters' results.

Jen said...


nep1293 said...

I don't know why Michigan is getting bad mouthed. If they started the season #1 and Ohio St started outside the top 10 would there be any problems with OSU being #2? I have no problems with Michigan being ahead of Auburn, USC, or West Virginia... they've been 1 of the most impressive and complete teams in the country so far. If there were no preseason rankings they would be getting the respect they deserve n the polls.

Also, I'm not talking as a Michigan fan, just a football fan

Dan Shanoff said...

We get it: You love Mario Manningham and Michigan. It's so much more powerful if you make your point once.

Trey (formerly TF) said...

Steve Phillips WBIR-TV in Tennessee has Notre Dame 19th!

I'm not an Irish fan but come on. They can't be lower than Georgia Tech (He has them 17th).

I didn't view them all, but they seemed fair.

Joe (dayton)

The heroin sheik said...

You know I wish the gators got to play in such a conference like the big ten. Sure OSU and UM are perrenial top 25 teams but really who else is there. it has been mostly downhill for PSU since they joined and most of the other teams are average at best. Cmon the top four scoring defenses are in the sec and we have to play them in the span of one month. Id love to see michigan or OSU get pummeled week in and week out. I really hope that it is a big ten team and the gators playing for the national title because I want to see what you guys have to say when you only manage about 200 yrds and 6 points. I figure there are at least five teams in the SEC who could beat OSU or UM regularly. Sure I am a homer but we all are on some level but at least im not so blatant as to think Leak will even compete for the Heisman.

Oh yeah and Dan or any fellow gator are at the game tomorrow look for the drunk guy with the orange and blue mohawk at the salty dog after the game. First rounds on me.

Anonymous said...

Here's what I came up with for tables and breaking it down by conference

Hope this is helpful

Anonymous said...

If you look at the game by game resumes of the 5 teams fighting for #2 right now, Michigan has had the best season thus far. They've played the toughest schedule and they've had a 3 score lead halfway through the 4th quarter in every game. They haven't even broken a sweat yet. The Wolverines 4 TD victory on the road in South Bend is easily the best performance of any of the other teams.

Auburn? Nice 4 point win at home against LSU. Also a nice nailbiter over a bad South Carolina team that came down to the final seconds.

I'll wait a few more weeks before making any definite decisions, but right now Michigan has had the best resume with USC and Auburn just slightly behind in the race for #2 behind Ohio State.

As for whoever mentioned the Vandy game not being impressive, you obviously didn't watch. Vanderbilt only ran 11 plays past the 50 yard line the entire game. The next 2 weeks they proceeded to take Arkansas and Alabama to the wire.

Anonymous said...

"Id love to see michigan or OSU get pummeled week in and week out."

As for the SEC, Michigan is 5-1 against SEC teams in recent bowl games including wins over Alabama, Auburn, and Florida.

Anonymous said...

Angelique Chengelis (Detroit News), who had Michigan ranked No. 3 and Auburn at No. 7. (No. 7? Why not No. 25, as long as you're deflating Auburn's ranking.)

Still think Angelique was deflating Auburn's ranking? They'll be lucky to be #7 tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

That's crap and you know it.

Anyone ranking Auburn #7 was garbage and Auburn's loss does not benefit them.

The point of rankings is to rank what teams HAVE accomplished against what other teams have accomplished.

To defend that soleless bi-atch from the Detroit News ignores facts.


If anyone wants to pain bias on the fans, they suck. The "expert/writers/objectives" are the problem

john (east lansing, mi) said...

Everyone -

First of all, I might be 'with' Manningham and Manningham (are you actually the same illiterate guy logging in with two different names to make it seem like somebody agrees with you?), but I'm not with them.

Despite that, I'm still not gonna sit down and take Dan's abuse (and I think it's really Dan this time, but, quite frankly, I'm surprised.

Is Michigan's schedule really all that lousy? Florida has to play 3 or more top ten teams! Oh, but... one of them is Auburn. Why was Auburn a Top Ten team? They started up there, and the inertia was enough to plant them there solidly, through (warning: foreshadowing) struggles against not-so-great teams.

Oh, and... one of them is LSU. Why was LSU a Top Ten team? They had a loss! But, they started up there, and then they lost to Auburn. Now, Auburn was a Top 2 team, because they beat a Top 5 team, LSU. (Pardon me if my logic gets a little fuzzy here - fuzzy logic is exactly what I'm trying to demonstrate) You can't drop LSU very far - they lost to a #2 team! Oh, you say LSU has lost 2 now - one close game to a team that we were expecting to be really good, and one blowout to a Florida team that actually seems to be pretty good? Hrm.

Ah, yes, and Georgia. Top Ten Team Georgia. Gave the mighty Colorado Buffs all they could handle (in the last 50 seconds of the game). But hey - they were in the Top ~10 preseason, and they didn't lose (until this weekend when they bent over and took it hardcore in the second half vs. Tennessee).

Aside from playing each other really tough, have either Auburn or LSU showed anything this year, aside from those little numbers next to their team names? What about Georgia? Have they looked good in any game, for any length of time?

I'm not saying this makes Florida's schedule shitty, and I'm not saying that they shouldn't be rewarded if they make it out of the SEC undefeated. UF should absolutely be NC-game-bound if they don't lose this season. The only reason that anybody pretends last week's Top 5 belonged there, and the only reason anybody gets away with claiming the SEC schedule is so much tougher than the Big Ten schedule, is the preseason rankings and the intertia of the polls. Dan, I was sure you had this figured out by now.

And now, the idea of Michigan at #2 being ludicrous:
Why in the blue fuck would you say that? Who has shown more on the field, during the season (a criterion DS loves in theory)?
OSU? Sure. They were better last year (if that matters this season), and they're still good (haven't had any trouble dispatching various opponents, including some tough ones).
Auburn? Heh.
USC? This one bugs me. A team has been good for a few years, but loses tons and tons of talent. Everybody still pretends they're just as good, or almost as good. Nobody can disprove this, unless they pay attention when USC has a tough time with teams from Washington two weeks in a row, even in a home game. No. USC has no business in the Top 3.
WVa? How did we decide this? I mean, what in hell has us convinced that this team is so great? They really haven't played a team yet. When they lose to Lville, it will become clear to everyone else as it is to me, this team doesn't belong in the Top 8.
UF? Maybe. I mean, why not? They haven't lost, they beat some tough teams, including Tennessee on the road. I mean, they squeaked by, but not on a fluke or any bad calls. Real team winning real games. But then, why are they better than Blue? Haven't beaten OSU. Just beat an LSU team which might just have been overrated a little. Beat 'em pretty good, but not in a way that totally overshadows UM's win over a slightly overrated ND.

Poll inertia is the enemy of any thinking CFB fan (who doesn't cheer for overrated teams that actually suck). And yet, you've turned it into a huge glass ceiling for UM.

I wouldn't care enough to have written all this, but your STFU attitude grates on me, for whatever reason.

And jen from ohio - 'You guys are playing better than anticipated'?? Gee, thanks, coach. Thanks for demonstrating how ridiculous this preseason-poll-mindset is. Anticipation shouldn't have anything to do with rankings. This is the embodiment of the inertia we rail against.

But whatever. I'll STFU, I guess.

john (east lansing, mi) said...

And, regarding fixing the polls - excuse me, repairing - Any idea that involves letting everybody vote, but not letting them vote for their local team doesn't make sense, and sure doesn't work.

What about alums? Everybody did undergrad somewhere, and most of them are stuck on their alma mater. Being in Detroit doesn't mean you root for UM or MSU.

More important, really, is the fact that inflating one team isn't the only heinous choice a poll participant can make. If I had a ballot, I could vote OSU #12 if I felt like it. I wouldn't do it, because they're the #1 team until proven otherwise (maybe 2 or 3, given strong cases, but I don't think they've shown any weakness, which should be required for dropping in the polls). Even if I had Michigan at #6 like a good little AP writer, I could drop the whole Top 5 behind them, which has about the same effect as just putting them at #1.

And what is a writer supposed to do if they just can't vote for their team? Just leave an empty spot? What does that accomplish?

If there were anything to be done (and there clearly isn't), there would have to be a review board. Give each ballot to a room full of people who know and care about CFB. If the first couple guys who see a ballot think it looks clean, accept it. If the first couple think it's fishy, the whole board takes a closer look. Writers have a chance to defend their choices; if their case is as lousy as I expect most would be, there's an escalating penalty scale. Votes discounted, expulsion from poll eligibility, a weekend with Joe Buck, what have you.

Yeah, I know this doesn't make enough sense either, but polls are subjective, so the correction mechanism has to be subjective too.

Also - I don't see why Auburn at #7 was so crazy last week, either. As I said in my post above - Auburn hadn't proved anything. In fact, that Detroit News writer is a hero for dropping Auburn like they deserved after backing into a win with a failed drive at the end of a game.

The heroin sheik said...

I think the reason the SEC lost all those games is because after losing out on winning the sec championship there is typically a letdown. However it is a very good point about us not having a winning record those bowl games however the gators did win last yr against iowa in the outback bowl. I think the last few seasons the SEC has had an upswing in the quality of both the play and the talent.