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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Superfan Daily: Men's College Power Rankings

Yesterday I wrote about the shortcomings of the USTFCCCA computer rankings for college teams, and promised a new system of ranking teams.  I've gotten some feedback about what people think is important and what they don't.
I think the best way to explain why I'm coming up with a system is to just let Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry say it.  From the January 2011 issue of Track and Field News, speaking about the increasing irrelevance of college track:
The...aspect that we've lost is that it's about Red beating Blue. Every other sport, including golf now, involves a team. We have to start being team-oriented, team against team. We've got to come away with winners and we've also got to come away with losers.

I think that's important to the development of the individual, not just for our sport. I think it's great for our individuals to be involved in something greater than self also and be a winner or a loser. I think that's part of the education process.

But I think our sport has to come back to this school trying to beat that school.

...what we should be doing in my opinion: having a great track meet where we really care about whether there's people sitting in the stands or not.

We've got to create an environment that is fan friendly...and they see this team has beaten that team...

So my Superfan Power Rankings are created with that attitude in mind, that the results of all scored meets have some meaning, not just the NCAA Championships. Obviously not equal meaning, but when you see this team beat that team it is then reflected in the rankings until either a) the teams meet again with a different outcome or b) it has become obvious that the head-to-head outcome was a fluke.

Let's also be honest about something: rankings and ratings ultimately don't matter. This is true in any college sport (besides football), but especially so here.  No team's ranking will put it at a disadvantage for winning the championship of the NCAA or its conference. As my high school coach used to say, if we know ahead of time who is going to win the trophies then we won't bother to have the meet.

Where rankings DO matter is in sports media. And I think we risk making ourselves look ridiculous by having a team win a meet and then fall behind the team they beat.  I also think it's important to be able to look at the rankings and have some indication of which team will win an upcoming meet, be it an invitational, dual, or conference championship, and the USTFCCCA computer ratings aren't terribly good at that.

The rankings are based only on this year, from both team results and a compilation of individual results. They combine the ability to compete at both an NCAA Championship-type meet and a conference-type meet. Teams are ranked only on what they have already done, thus very good squads with little to no competition so far this year (such as Florida and Oregon) are far below where they'll probably end up.

Rankings after the jump...

The Superfan's Men's Power Rankings for January 27
1. Texas A&M 1) vs LSU
2. LSU 2) vs Texas A&M
3. Indiana 1) vs Purdue
4. Ohio State 1) vs Michigan 1) All-Ohio Championships
5. BYU
6. Minnesota 1) Jack Johnson Classic
7. Akron 1) vs Kent State 2) All-Ohio Championships
8. Kent State 2) vs Akron 3) All-Ohio Championships
9. Texas Tech
10. Nebraska 1) adidas Classic
11. Iowa 1) vs Illinois 2) adidas Classic
12. Illinois 2) vs Iowa 1) Illini Classic
13. Arkansas 1) vs Texas
14. Penn State
15. Virginia
16. Oklahoma
17. Mississippi
18. Texas-San Antonio 1) Hilton Memorial
19. Alabama
20. Houston 2) Hilton Memorial 2) adidas Classic
21. Liberty
22. Tennessee
23. Florida
24. Clemson
25. Baylor

Oregon is not in the rankings because its indoor season hasn't yet begun in earnest.  By next week that will change.  Florida will also rocket up the list next week.

Eleven of the top 13 teams have been in some kind of team competition.

The Big Ten, which tends to emphasize team competition over individual competition and indoor over outdoor, has six teams here. Expect that to dilute as the season progresses, as the west coast and sun belt teams begin to dial up their efforts.

Two underappreciated MAC teams are in the top ten, in Akron and Kent State. Both have a few nationally-competitive individuals and have large squads covering most events fairly decently.

Women's rankings to come tomorrow.

Yesterday's Results
First leg of the Moravia High Jump Tour
Trinec CZE
Winners: Alexandr Shustove 2.29m, Mariya Kuchina 1.97m (best-ever U20 indoor mark)
IAAF story and results

Cottbus GER
Winners: Renaud Lavillenie 5.85m PV, Svetlana Shkolina 1.96m HJ

Cologne GER
Winner: Tom Parsons 2.28m HJ

What's On
The first meet in the BIGBANK Estonian Winter Grand Prix takes place today in Tartu.

Track on TV
Bud Greenspan Presents: Beijing 2008 - America's Olympic Glory, 4:00 PM today on Showtime Extreme
Olympics: Reliving the Glory: Sydney '00, 10:00 PM today on Universal Sports

News Links
Runner's World's Racing News has all the headlines.  But one of them may need to change: Lolo Jones is having trouble with her New York to Glasgow flight, and might compete at Millrose instead.

The House of Run's weekly podcast is up; it includes a segment with SI's Jeff Pearlman about track cuts.

Let's Run's The Week That Was in running.

More on the London Olympic Stadium situation: West Ham has revealed visuals for its post-Olympic plans, sides are lawyering up, and Athletics Weekly writes this week that some three months before the final voting for the 2012 hosts the Paris bid committee predicted London would do a U-turn on its stadium promises.

The Prefontaine Classic is running out of photos for its posters.

Track and Field News checks in with USC star Bryshon Nellum, who is recovering from a serious gunshot wound.

The Tokyo Marathon has released its full list of elite runners.

Is Usain Bolt the new coach for Chad Ochocinco?

Can the USA sweep the Olympic decathlon medals?

The NY Times profiles the Van Cortlandt Park cross country course.

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