Friday, November 7, 2008



Is Div. 1AA #1 JMU really better than either Maryland or Virginia Tech?

According to Jeff Sagarin, they are. Jeff who?

Sagarin is an American sports statistician well-known for his development of a methodology for ranking and rating sports teams in a variety of sports. His ratings have been a regular feature in the USA Today sports sections since 1985, have been used by the Bowl Championship Series since its inception.

Sagarin received a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1970 and a Master of Business Administration degree from Indiana University in 1983, so he’s a brainiac.

He offers two rating systems, each of which gives each team a certain number of points. One system, "Elo chess," is presumably based on the Elo rating system used internationally to rank chess players. This system uses only wins and losses, with no reference to the victory margin.

The other system, "Predictor," takes victory margin into account. For that system, the difference in two teams' rating scores is meant to predict the margin of victory for the stronger team at a neutral venue.

For both systems, teams gain higher ratings within the Sagarin system by winning games against stronger opponents, factoring in such things as home-venue advantage. For the Predictor system, margin of victory (or defeat) factors in also, but a law of diminishing returns is applied.

Therefore, a football team that wins a game by a margin of 7-6 is rewarded less than a team that defeats the same opponent under the same circumstances 21-7, but a team that wins a game by a margin of 35-0 receives similar ratings to a team that defeats the same opponent 70-0.

Got that?

So, with that in mind here’s how the ACC stacks up this week. The top 10 is pretty obvious: Penn State, Texas, Florida, Alabama, Texas Tech, USC, Oklahoma, OK State, Boise State and Georgia. The first ACC team is UNC at #16…

Here’s the rest of the field: Miami (19), Georgia Tech (23), Florida State (24), Duke (26) – huh?, Wake Forest (28), Virginia (33), JMU (40), Virginia Tech (41), Boston College (51), Clemson (54), Maryland (55) and N.C. State (95).

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