December 8, 2008

Inside the ballots: Breaking down the votes

An examination of 61 coaches' ballots and 113 Harris ballots used in the final BCS standings showed that the voters gave Oklahoma and Florida a ringing endorsement for the national championship game. It wasn't necessarily the same in the computers.

Here is a look at how the final pieces of the BCS standings fit together:

The coaches' and Harris polls were in lock step at the top spot until the final poll. The coaches and the Harris voters agreed on No. 1 each week until the final rankings. More than two-thirds of Harris voters ranked Florida first, compared to 42.6 percent of coaches. The majority of coaches had Oklahoma No. 1.

The computers favored the Big 12. All six computers had Oklahoma first. The Colley Matrix, Sagarin and Wolfe had Texas second, and Sagarin and Wolfe had Texas Tech third. Massey followed Oklahoma with No. 2 Texas Tech and No. 3 Texas. Florida was second in one computer, third in one, fourth in three and fifth in another. Utah was the other team to finish second in a computer ranking.

The Billingsley Report was the only computer to reflect the final BCS standings, with Oklahoma first and Florida second. That computer ranked USC third and Texas fourth. Interestingly, Billingsley was the only computer that had last season's national title game: No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 LSU.

USC's computer average was seventh, and the Trojans' rankings ranged from third to ninth.

Anderson & Hester favored an Oklahoma-Utah national championship game. It had an Ohio State-Missouri matchup for its title game last season.

Harris voters overwhelmingly believed Florida should play for the national championship; the Gators were ranked first or second on 104 of 113 ballots. The Sooners were No. 1 or No. 2 on 77 ballots, Texas on 43.

Half of the 10 coaches involved in BCS games don't vote in the coaches' poll USC's Pete Carroll, Alabama's Nick Saban, Penn State's Joe Paterno, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Cincinnati's Brian Kelly.

The three voting coaches who faced Oklahoma and Texas Missouri's Gary Pinkel, Texas Tech's Mike Leach and Baylor's Art Briles voted the Sooners No. 1.

Coaches favored their conferences with a couple of notable exceptions. Texas coach Mack Brown was the only Big 12 coach to vote Florida No. 1. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier a former Florida player and coach was the only SEC coach to vote Oklahoma No. 1. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was Spurrier's defensive coordinator with the Gators from 1996-98.

Four of the seven Big 12 coaches who vote Iowa State's Gene Chizik, Colorado's Dan Hawkins, Nebraska's Bo Pelini and Missouri's Gary Pinkel had Oklahoma and Texas in the top two. The other three were Brown, Briles (Oklahoma, followed by Florida) and Leach (Oklahoma, followed by Texas Tech).

Eight Harris voters and seven coaches would have had an Oklahoma-Texas rematch in the national championship game. The coaches who preferred a rematch: Chizik, North Texas coach Todd Dodge, Hawkins, Pelini, Pinkel, UTEP coach Mike Price and former Purdue coach Joe Tiller.

Georgia coach Mark Richt shut the Big 12 out of the top two spots. He voted Florida first and Alabama second. One Harris one voter, New York radio broadcaster John Minko, did the same.

None of the computers, 40 of the 113 Harris voters and 13 of the 61 coaches ranked Texas ahead of Oklahoma. One computer and none of the Harris voters ranked Texas Tech ahead of Texas. The only coaches to have Texas Tech ahead of Texas were Leach and former New Mexico State coach Hal Mumme, who ranked Tech third, behind Oklahoma and Florida and one spot ahead of Texas. Leach used to work for Mumme at Kentucky.

Boise State coach Chris Petersen ranked his team seventh, one spot ahead of Utah. Fresno State coach Pat Hill ranked Boise sixth, which was the Broncos' highest ranking.

Former Greensboro (N.C.) News & Record journalist Larry Keech gets the Outlier Award in the Harris poll for the third consecutive season. Keech ranked Utah first and Boise State second on his ballot, followed by No. 3 Texas, No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 5 Florida. Utah has received one first-place vote in each poll since Nov. 23, presumably from Keech. At least he's consistent in ranking undefeated teams first, regardless of conference affiliation: Keech's ballot last season was led by No. 1 Hawaii the nation's only unbeaten and No. 2 Kansas. In 2006, he ranked unbeaten Ohio State first and unbeaten Boise State second.

CBS broadcaster Don Criqui did not submit a final ballot to the Harris poll for personal reasons.

Harris poll voter Pat Quinn, a former Oklahoma State sports information director, embarrassed himself when he told a reporter he believed Penn State would be in the championship game because the Nittany Lions were undefeated. He said that Dec. 1; Penn State lost to Iowa on Nov. 8. For the final ballot, Quinn got the memo and ranked Penn State seventh. His top four, in order: Florida, Texas, Alabama and Oklahoma.

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel was not a fan of the non-"Big Six" conferences. He had the lowest ranking in the coaches' poll for Utah, Boise State, TCU and BYU. He ranked the Utes 15th, the Broncos 16th, the Horned Frogs 17th and the Cougars 19th. Pinkel ranked Missouri 18th.

Florida coach Urban Meyer gave Ole Miss its highest ranking in the coaches' poll. Meyer ranked the Rebels, the only team to beat the Gators, at No. 12. Meyer also gave his old team, Utah, its highest ranking. Meyer, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham and former Wyoming coach Joe Glenn ranked the Utes fifth.

Most coaches with rankable teams ranked their teams slightly higher than their final position by a couple of spots. Not Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer. He ranked his team 23rd and the Hokies finished 19th. Though his team won the ACC title, Georgia Tech at No. 13 was the highest-ranked ACC team on Beamer's ballot. The Hokies beat the Yellow Jackets 20-17 in September. Florida State, California and Buffalo weren't ranked but received votes; none received votes from their coaches.

To look at the final coaches' ballots:

For the final Harris Poll ballots:

David Fox is a national writer for He can be reached at

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