We're a day late, because we were a bit busy yesterday. But here we are now, unveiling this week's edition of Unboxing the Polls, where we fiddle around with the actual vote totals from both the AP and Coaches's Polls and put them together in a way that makes mathematical sense. Because the difference between #7 and #8 may be much larger than the difference between #8 and #9, you can't just average their ranks, and because the polls have a differing number of voters, you can't just blithely add them together. So how do we solve the problem?
We derive the number of points earned per ballot (PPB), which works because both polls use the same 25-1 system.
We'll get to the analysis in just a moment, but first our combined Week 4 rankings. "RK" is our combined ranking.
|North Carolina State||41||36||41||0.158||35||-6||0.218||-0.060|
Last week, 53 teams received votes; this week, that number fell to 46. As a result, anyone who was below 46 and received no votes this week is noted as having zero delta, because giving them credit for moving up would be ludicrous.
Alabama's loss to Mississippi threw the entore top nine into clear focus. The only gap larger than 1.5 PPB -- indicating a clear distinction between the higher team and those above it, and the lower team and those below them -- is that between Ohio State and Michigan State, and that only barely. Although the AP and coaches have serious disagreements between them on the order of teams from 6-11, as a consensus they are strikingly certain of the order of the top nine.
At #10, however, things get fun. We have three consecutive pairs of teams which are effectively equal: UCLA and Clemson are separated by only .27 PPB, Alabama and Oregon by just under .5 PPB, and Oklahoma and Texas A&M by only .21 PPB. Each of these pairs are separated from one another by close to a full PPB, which can only mean one thing for everyone below them: you're on a different level, boys.
It's about a 3.6 PPB drop from A&M to Arizona, which isn't as large as the same gap was last week but it's still pretty absurd. This, of course, is also the point where teams started jumping to fill spots vacated due to the losses suffered by Georgia Tech and Auburn, and also the vacuum created by LSU and Mississippi making large jumps. Utah moved up, a full PPB back of Arizona, and then another pair of teams are right next to one another: USC, plunging from sixth, and Northwestern. The Wildcats got a big boost thanks to Stanford beating USC, but inexplicably it wasn't enough to slide past the Trojans in the combined rankings. Blame the coaches for that one. Still, the two teams are only separated by .055 PPB, so they're basically even.
Georgia Tech is next, with a nearly two-point drop between them and a quartet of teams. Stanford benefitted not just from beating USC, but by a re-evaluation of just what their loss to Northwestern was actually worth. It looked really bad two weeks ago; it looks completely acceptable now. They're part of a group which also includes Wisconsin (.167 PPB ahead of the Cardinal), Oklahoma State, and Missouri. The spread from the Badgers to Mizzou is only .633 PPB, shoving four teams into a space which should only hold one.
BYU rounds out our top 25, properly distanced from Missouri and from #26 West Virginia, the first team in the list to receive less than a full point per ballot. That means our perception of space changes a bit. The Mountaineers are visibly ahead of Mississippi State; the Bulldogs lead a group including the precipitously-falling Auburn and Tennessee. Miami's pretty solidly in 30th for now, and then there's a cluster including Cal, Arizona State, Texas Tech, and Kansas State. This group all received just a little less than half a point per ballot. The remainder of the list is composed of teams that just got token support.
Five teams appeared on our grid last week, but did not return as they received no votes for a second week running: Louisville, Cincinnati, Marshall, Maryland, and Louisiana Tech.
The biggest gainer of the week, by far, was Stanford, which vaulted a ridiculous 25 spots. Texas Tech also gained big, moving up 19 positions; Mississippi and California each gained 10. Duke earns the dishonor of the week's biggest loser, plunging 14 places from 33rd to no votes. USC (-12), Auburn (-11 -- for the second week in a row!), and Alabama (-10) also suffered. USC also ate the largest loss of actual vote support, dropping over 11.5 PPB from last week; the big winner in that category was Ole Miss, jumping 8.5 PPB.