Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Some thoughts on order and normalcy.

Proof that college football teams are not elements of a well-ordered set:

October 6, 2007: LSU 28 - Florida 24
October 13, 2007: Kentucky 43 - LSU 37
October 20, 2007: Florida 45 - Kentucky 37

Pete Thamel, in the New York Times, has some interesting observations about "normalcy," which he sees as returning after a weekend in which only three top ten teams were upset (my beloved South Florida by Rutgers, Spurrier's South Carolina by lowly Vandy, and Kentucky by Florida, which would have been an easy favorite three weeks ago - see above). Perhaps the most dispiriting comment in his piece, for me, is this: "But nothing could signal a return to normalcy more than Ohio State and Michigan on a collision course to play for the Big Ten title." Spare us.

Thamel also reflects a bit on polls. I predicted South Florida would fall from the top ten after losing to Rutgers, despite other teams having kept top ten rankings after a single loss. Indeed, the Bulls fell to eleventh in the AP and twelfth in the USA Today poll; however, they are fifth in the aggregate of computer polls used by the BCS. Thamel points out that two of USF's victories (over Auburn and West Virginia) are more impressive than any of Southern Cal's, while the Bulls' loss on the road to Rutgers is less embarrassing than the Trojans' drubbing at home by Stanford. Nevertheless, USC is now ahead of USF in the "human" polls, while the reverse obtains in the computer rankings. That human voters are biased toward the familiar is Thamel's unsurprising conclusion.