Notebook > Sports

Fire up the computers

Sports | Big 10 matchup may happen twice

Issue: "Darfur," Nov. 25, 2006

Depending on how the computers process the stretch run of college football and how a few key teams finish the year, college football on Jan. 8, 2007, might look a lot like it did on Nov. 18. Depending on how other teams play, not just the winner but also the loser in the Nov. 18 Ohio State-Michigan contest could make it back to Glendale, Ariz., for the Bowl Championship Series National Championship game on Jan. 8.

For weeks, the BCS poll, the complicated formula combining human and computer polls, had ranked undefeated Ohio State and Michigan as the top two teams in the nation. Losses by USC, Florida, and possibly Notre Dame could leave the one-loss Big Ten team in the championship game.

Which raises the question: In that case, which Ohio State vs. Michigan matchup would really matter? If the Nov. 18 winner loses on Jan. 8, should that team be declared co-champion? Polls tied into the BCS system like the ESPN Coaches poll and the Harris poll would be compelled to vote the Jan. 8 winner as the champion. But the AP poll-the most widely respected of the rankings-doesn't have to crown the BCS champion.

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Six computer polls make up one-third of the BCS formula, helping decide which teams play in the four coveted BCS bowl games and the BCS national championship game.

Anderson-Hester: These rankings by a web-savvy duo give the most weight to schedule strength and do not consider margin of victory.

Billingsley: Oklahoma resident Richard Billingsley's complex formula takes into account major or minor upsets, schedule strength, and the game's location.

Colley Matrix: Research scientist Wes Colley earned his Ph.D. in 1998 and now works for the University of Alabama-Huntsville. His "bias-free" matrix records schedule strength and gives bonuses for wins over top teams.

Massey: A math professor at Carson-Newman College in his mid-20s, Massey's rankings have the most bells and whistles. His rankings include the strength of offenses and defenses and even use a standard deviation.

Sagarin: The best-known computer pollster, Jeff Sagarin has provided his polls for USA Today since 1985. Unlike some other polls, Sagarin considers margin of victory.

Wolfe: Researcher Peter Wolfe studies HIV/AIDS at UCLA while using his spare time to administrate football and basketball rankings. His ratings do not reward teams for running up the score.

Around the Horn

BASEBALL: According to reports, the Boston Red Sox bid to negotiate with Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka surpassed $51 million. That's not the amount the club would pay the Japanese phenom-rather the amount the Red Sox would pay Matsuzaka's Japanese team simply for the right to negotiate with the star pitcher.

BOXING: Boxing fans probably already have May 5 marked on their 2007 calendars. On that day in Las Vegas, legendary fighter Oscar De La Hoya plans to defend his junior middleweight championship against undefeated welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. Considering Mayweather's stated desire to retire on top-and De La Hoya's age-it could possibly be the final bout for each boxer, though De La Hoya says he'll fight after the Mayweather bout.

NFL: Oakland quarterback Andrew Walter's bad moves may pave his way back to the bench. But it's not what Walter has done-it's what he said. Walter criticized the Oakland coaching staff for having too simple a playbook. In turn, Raiders coach Art Shell noted that Walter might not be long for his starting job. "When you speak out, you need to know what you're talking about when you make those statements," Shell said. "I'm going to take a hard look at it and see where we are with him."

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