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Saturday, May 28, 2005

When right loses to practical

This paper from Econophysics suggests a new and clever way to rank teams in NCAA football. I have read the paper a couple of times and it looks like the authors might be onto something. Here's the abstract:
American college football faces a conflict created by the desire to stage national championship games between the best teams of a season when there is no conventional playoff system to decide which those teams are. Instead, ranking of teams is based on their record of wins and losses during the season, but each team plays only a small fraction of eligible opponents, making the system underdetermined or contradictory or both. It is an interesting challenge to create a ranking system that at once is mathematically well-founded, gives results in general accord with received wisdom concerning the relative strengths of the teams, and is based upon intuitive principles, allowing it to be accepted readily by fans and experts alike. Here we introduce a one-parameter ranking method that satisfies all of these requirements and is based on a network representation of college football schedules.

The problem? Even if the system is a better way to rank teams for the BCS format, it is impractical to describe on sports radio or ESPN (especially Figure 1) and therefore it is unlikely to be implemented.

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