Saturday, December 13, 2014

USA Today/Amway Coaches' poll ballots show familiarity bias

At the end of each season, the coaches participating in the Amway/USA Today Coaches' Poll are forced to reveal their ballot. Whether or not the coaches are actually filling them out or someone else in the athletics department is doing the work is another story. Last Sunday, we saw the ballots from coaches and there were obvious signs of the familiarity bias. Coaches were generally more favorable toward their own team than their peers in addition to giving preferential treatment for conference members or out-of-conference foes.

I ran a few tests to find out who the most extreme voters were in the Coaches' poll, using the same methodology as I did last month with AP voters. Here were the top five most extreme coaches from the final ballot:

1. Rick Stockstill (Middle Tennessee): Stockstill is a prime example of someone who ranked teams higher that his team faced. Nobody has BYU (lost 27-7), Memphis (lost 36-17), or Marshall (lost 49-14) higher than he does (No. 20, No. 16 and No. 14 respectively). He gave BYU all six of its points in the poll and Memphis 10 of its 18.

2. Frank Beamer (Virginia Tech): Beamer has the most amount of "extreme" teams among those who voted in the poll. He has Ohio State No. 2 in his poll, but the Buckeyes were only No. 2 by default when VT came to town. Beamer's most extreme ranking, though, is having Duke No. 15 (VT beat Duke 17-16). The next highest vote for Duke in the poll was No. 21.

3. Bret Bielema (Arkansas): Bielema was apparently not impressed by the teams that lost in the last week of the season. Nobody has Georgia Tech (19) and Kansas State (18) lower than him and only one person has Arizona (17) lower than he put them.

4. Art Briles (Baylor): Briles is obviously upset with the Big 12 that it promoted TCU and Baylor as co-champs, even though Baylor is the #OneTrueChampion of the Big 12. Any two-team tiebreaker would be settled by head-to-head. He ended up putting the Bears No. 3 (extreme) and TCU No. 5, with Alabama sandwiched between them.  Briles' vote for Alabama at No. 4 was the lowest the Crimson Tide received.

5. George O'Leary (UCF): Well, somebody's got to believe in Central Florida. The Knights started 0-2 with losses to Penn State and Missouri, but finished a respectful 9-1. However, that one loss is to Connecticut (2-10), which is about as ugly as a loss can get. O'Leary had UCF No. 21, and the only other vote for UCF was a No. 25 one. O'Leary also has Auburn unranked, which three others do as well. 

Other notable rankings/exclusions

-Jimbo Fisher not ranking Georgia, putting Clemson No. 12. I'm just going to assume Fisher forgot about Georgia rather than deliberately leaving them off his ballot. Georgia and Clemson are both 9-3 and the Bulldogs won the head-to-head matchup, so it wouldn't make sense for there to be that much of a difference in the other direction between the schools.

-Mike Gundy ranking TCU No. 1. Mike Gundy was really pulling for the Big 12 co-champs here. The week before TCU didn't have a first-place vote, so Gundy obviously switched his vote. Only a few people have the Horned Frogs in the Top 3, and Gundy's the only person to have them in the Top 2. He also ranked Baylor No. 3 and Oregon No. 5. Outside of his bizarre Top 5, his ballot is actually fairly closely aligned with the poll.

-Ron Turner (FIU) ranking Stanford No. 19. Stanford (7-5) certainly disappointed this season, given the Cardinal's BCS bowl streak, but it could have been better (three losses by a field goal). Turner was the only person to rank Stanford in the final coaches' ballot, and he had them at No. 19. Perhaps he ranked them because of Stanford's last game, a three touchdown wallop over UCLA, but Stanford had two less points in the poll this week than the one prior.

-Apparently, we all decided Michigan State was either the No. 7 or No. 8 team in the country. Only one voter had them different (at No. 10). Of the Top 25, the Spartans had the most conformity among voters. Wisconsin and Missouri had the least.

Conference bias

I was able to produce a ranking of each team by conference fairly easily using Microsoft Excel. For the 36 non-independent teams receiving votes in the poll, 33 of them were positioned higher in the polls by their own conference (this includes coaches voting for themselves). The three teams that were viewed less favorable were Stanford (single vote outside conference), UCLA (10.84 average vs. 10.83 Pac-12) and Wisconsin. 25 of those 33 teams were viewed as most favorable by the league they play in.

List of Extreme Teams

CoachSchoolRatingExact Coaches Matches# of extremesExtreme #1#2#3#4#5#6#7
Rick StockstillMiddle Tennessee1.31044BYU (20)Memphis (16)Marshall (14)Miss. St. (11)
Frank BeamerVirginia Tech1.13547Duke (15)Miss St (14)Ohio State (24)ASU (21)Nebraska (17)Alabama (3)UCLA (20)
Bret BielemaArkansas1.05155Georgia Tech (19)Kansas State (18)Nebraska (16)Arizona (17)Louisville (14)
Art BrilesBaylor0.96516Alabama (4)Georgia Tech (17)Louisville (12)Baylor (3)Georgia (20)Auburn (NR)
George O'LearyCentral Florida0.94743UCF (21)Arizona (18)Auburn (NR)
Mike MacIntyreColorado0.93854Air Force (24)Duke (21)Louisville (NR)Auburn (NR)
Tommy TubervilleCincinnati0.93363Cincinnati (20)Georgia Tech (16)Missouri (22)
Blake AndersonArkansas State0.91143Ole Miss (25)Northern Illinois (19)Auburn (9)
Ron TurnerFlorida International0.90574Stanford (19)Wisconsin (NR)USC (21)UCLA (20)
Les MilesLSU0.85733ASU (23)Arizona (17)LSU (18)
Troy CalhounAir Force0.80951Air Force (22)
Gary PinkelMissouri0.80074Michigan State (10)Kansas State (18)Wisconsin (8)Miss. St. (11)
Norm ChowHawaii0.79174Marshall (17)Colorado State (24)Missouri (NR)Wisconsin (NR)
Jimbo FisherFlorida State0.78884Georgia (NR)Northern Illinois (22)Louisville (13)Clemson (12)
Steve SpurrierSouth Carolina0.78582Colorado State (23)Louisville (NR)
Todd MonkenSouthern Miss.0.78052Nebraska (16)Georgia (20)
Al GoldenMiami0.77150
Dan McCarneyNorth Texas0.74770
Todd BerryLousiana - Monroe0.74752Baylor (3)Florida State (5)
Rocky LongSan Diego State0.74361Utah (19)
Craig BohlWyoming0.73341Boise State (10)
Terry BowdenAkron0.73231Oklahoma (16)
Kevin WilsonIndiana0.72263Clemson (NR)ASU (9)LSU (18)
Justin FuenteMemphis0.71052Memphis (22)Auburn (NR)
Bobby HauckUNLV0.70351Colorado State (24)
Rod CareyNorthern Illinois0.70342Northern Illinois (20)Louisville (NR)
Charlie StrongTexas0.69961TCU (3)
David BailiffRice0.68861Cincinnati (23)
Bo PeliniNebraska0.671102Minnesota (19)Louisville (NR)
Brady HokeMichigan0.66230
Mike GundyOklahoma State0.65493TCU (1)Oregon (5)Baylor (3)
Chris PetersenWashington0.65483UCLA (21)Oklahoma (19)Missouri (22)
Dino BabersBowling Green0.64871Utah (21)
Urban MeyerOhio State0.635100
Matt RhuleTemple0.63370
Nick SabanAlabama0.62881LSU (18)
Steve SarkisianUSC0.60562USC (19)Utah (20)
Frank SolichOhio0.59562Minnesota (21)UCLA (20)
Mike RileyOregon State0.59341Alabama (3)
Gary PattersonTCU0.584112Oklahoma (18)TCU (3)
Bronco MendenhallBYU0.58390
Tim DeRuyterFresno State0.57531Alabama (3)
Dennis FranchioneTexas State0.57591Mississippi State (11)
Larry BlakeneyTroy0.56972Missouri (24)Minnesota (21)
Jeff QuinnBuffalo0.56790
Bill BlankenshipTulsa0.55580
Larry FedoraNorth Carolina0.54671Mississippi State (12)
Bob StoopsOklahoma0.545111TCU (3)
Dabo SwinneyClemson0.53760
Matt CampbellToledo0.51970
Larry CokerUTSA0.51970
Jerry KillMinnesota0.51961Minnesota (21)
Paul JohnsonGeorgia Tech0.51860
Brian KellyNotre Dame0.510101Alabama (3)
Mark RichtGeorgia0.49390
David CutcliffeDuke0.49160
Rich RodriguezArizona0.47590
Mark DantonioMichigan State0.475110
Mike LeachWashington State0.46980
Bob DiacoConnecticut0.45790
Ken NiumataloloNavy0.417100

(The rating is a formula I came up with to determine how extreme a voter is. The exact coaches matches means that a coach ranked the team the same as the final poll turned out. I blued extreme teams that were from the head coach of that team.)

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