How the College Football BCS Standings Are Calculated

Love it or hate it, the BCS Standings is the single entity that decides each year who will play for the National Championship in college football. Everyone knows that the BCS Top 25 eankings are composed of computer calculations based around coaches’ rankings, strength of schedule, and other types of top 25 polls. However, very few understand exactly how the BCS Standings function. In reality it is a fairly simple system, but possibly the most widely scrutinized ranking system on the planet. The BCS Standings consists of 3 equal components that in return make up a team’s overall average. The 3 components consist of the Harris Poll, the USA Today Poll, and computer rankings. An average of all 3 is taking for each team with the highest percentage ranking at the top and in descending order. To help better understand, we break down each component of the BCS Standings components calculation into more detail.

The Harris Poll is the first contributing component of the BCS Standings formula. The Harris Poll consists of former coaches, student-athletes, and media personnel that make up 114 total participants. The 114 total participants fill out ballots ranking the nation’s top 25 teams. Each number 1 vote receives 25 points for each participant and in descending order to the 25th place team that would in return receive 1 point as the final team on the ballot. The maximum number of points any team can receive is 2,850 and that is if all 114 participants rank the same team number 1 at 25 points a piece. Therefore the calculation percentage for the BCS Standings in respect to the Harris Poll is a team’s total number of points divided by 2,850 possible points. For example say Florida receives 113 first place votes and 1 2nd place vote by the final participant they would have 2,849 points giving them aa Harris Poll average of 99.9% or a score of 0.999. The team’s average is ranked in descending order making up 1/3 of the components of the total BCS Standings formula.

The next component in the BCS Standings is the USA Today Poll. The USA Today Poll is actually the Coaches Poll who also fills out their own ballots of top 25 teams in college football. These calculations work very similar to the Harris Poll calculations, but there are only 1,475 possible points due to the USA Today Poll only consisting of 59 total participants. Each team’s total points are divided by 1,475 to give another percentage average. Another example would be if one team got all first place votes from each of the 59 participants they would have 1,475 maximum points therefore having a score of 1.0 equaling 100%. gtr

The final component of the BCS Standings consists of the famed computer rankings. The computer rankings consist of 6 different polls. These top 25 polls are from Anderson & Hester, Richard Billingsley, Colley Matrix, Kenneth Massey, Jeff Sagarin and Peter Wolfe ranking systems. Each ranking system in the computer rankings works slightly different, but with the attempt to calculate college football’s best teams. The factors included in the computer rankings include strength of schedule and recent performance hold larger weight to the calculations. Other factors include game locations; preseason rankings and other have small effects as well.

Each computer ranking gives 25 possible points to the team ranking 1st, 24 points to 2nd and so on. The highest computer ranking along with the lowest ranking is thrown out to give the 4 median rankings. For example if a team had computer rankings of 1,2,2,2,2, and 3. The rankings of 1 and 3 would be thrown out. The 4 different 2nd place votes would make up 24 points, 24 points, 24 points, and 24 points thus resulting in 96 total points. The maximum possible points would of course be 100 meaning the 96 points would equal a score of 0.96 or 96%. The computer ranking is the final component to the BCS Standings formula. As a result, all components must be added together to get an overall average which is a team’s final BCS Standings average. The team with the highest average of course would rank 1st and in descending order.