How College Football BCS Standings Are Calculated

Love it or hate it, BCS Standings is the single entity that decides each year who will play for the National College Football Championship. Everyone knows that the top 25 BCS results are made up of computer calculations based on coach rankings, schedule strength, and other types of top 25 polls. However, very few understand exactly how the BCS classification works. Actually, it is possibly quite a simple system, but the most vetted classification system on the planet. The BCS classification consists of 3 equal components that, in return, constitute the general average of a team. The 3 components consist of the Harris Poll, USA Today Poll, and computer ratings. An average of the 3 is taken for each team with the highest ranking percentage at the top and in descending order. To help you better understand, we break down each component of the BCS Rating Components calculation in more detail.

Harris Poll is the first component to contribute to the BCS ranking formula. Harris’s survey consists of former coaches, student-athletes, and media personnel totaling 114 participants in total. The 114 participants in total fill out the ballots that classify the 25 best teams in the country. Each vote number 1 receives 25 points for each participant and in descending order to the team ranked 25 that in return would receive 1 point as the final team on the ballot. The maximum number of points that any team can receive is 2,850 and that is if the 114 participants classify the same team number 1 at 25 points per piece. Therefore, the calculation percentage of the BCS ranking with respect to the Harris poll is the total number of points of a team divided by 2,850 possible points. For example, let’s say Florida receives 113 first-place votes and 1 second-place vote from the final contestant, they would have 2,849 points, giving them a Harris Poll average of 99.9% or a score of 0.999. The team average is ranked in descending order and constitutes 1/3 of the formula components of the total BCS ranking.

The next component in the BCS ranking is the USA Today survey. The USA Today poll is actually the survey of coaches who also fill out their own ballots for the top 25 teams in college football. These calculations work very similarly to the Harris Poll calculations, but there are only 1,475 possible points because the USA Today Poll only consists of 59 total participants. The total points for each team are divided by 1,475 to give another percentage average. Another example would be if a team got all the first-place votes from each of the 59 participants, it would have a maximum of 1475 points, so a score of 1.0 equals 100%.

The final component of the BCS classification consists of the famous computer classifications. The computer rankings consist of 6 different surveys. These top 25 polls are from the Anderson & Hester, Richard Billingsley, Colley Matrix, Kenneth Massey, Jeff Sagarin, and Peter Wolfe rating systems. Each ranking system in computer rankings works slightly differently, but with the intent of calculating the best college football teams. Factors included in the computer rankings include program strength and recent performance are more heavily weighted in the calculations. Other factors include the location of the games; Preseason and other rankings also have small effects.

Each computer ranking gives 25 possible points to the first-place team, 24 points to the second, and so on. The highest computer rating along with the lowest rating is discarded to give the 4 middle ratings. For example, if a team had computer ratings of 1, 2, 2, 2, and 3. Ratings of 1 and 3 would be discarded. The 4 different second place votes would add up to 24 points, 24 points, 24 points and 24 points, resulting in a total of 96 points. The maximum possible points would of course be 100, which means that 96 points would equal a score of 0.96 or 96%. The computer classification is the final component of the BCS classification formula. As a result, all the components must be added together to obtain an overall average which is the final average of a team’s BCS ranking. The team with the highest average, of course, would rank first and in descending order.

Final example:

  • Harris Poll – 0.98
  • USA Today Survey – 0.99
  • Computer Rating – 0.95
  • 0.98 + 0.99 + 0.95 = 2.92
  • 2.92 / 3 = Final average of 97.3% or 0.973

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