FanPost

The Fallacy Of The One-Game Season

Why is Auburn ranked ahead of Alabama in the polls today? I ask because you couldn't spend two minutes comparing the two team's records and statistics and come to the conclusion that Auburn is a better team. The only way you could put Auburn ahead of Alabama is if you based your vote entirely on the outcome of a single game with no consideration at all for what happened the rest of the year.

Here's what I mean.

Alabama and Auburn have played no less than six common foes. Alabama beat each of those teams by more than Auburn did:

FOE

Alabama Result

Auburn Result

Texas A&M

49-42 win

45-41 win

Ole Miss

25-0 win

30-22 win

Mississippi State

20-7 win

24-20 win

Arkansas

52-0 win

35-17 win

LSU

38-17 win

35-21 loss

Tennessee

45-10 win

55-23 win

Where do you start to make that up and find that Auburn should be the higher-ranked team? You might be able to spin Auburn as having a slight advantage against other foes, but certainly not a large advantage and personally I'd give a slight edge to Bama in this category (leaving out the garbage games):

Auburn 31, 6-6 Washington St. 24

Alabama 35, 8-4 Virginia Tech 10

Auburn 43, 8-4 Georgia 38

Alabama 48, 2-10 Kentucky 7

And it certainly ain't the stats:

STAT

Alabama

Auburn

Scoring Offense

38.8

38.6

Scoring Defense

11.3

22.5

Scoring Differential

27.5

16.1

Total Offense

448.9

491.0

Total Defense

274.7

414.3

Yardage Differential

174.2

76.7

What is the proper basis for ranking teams in polls, anyway? I don't think there's any official standard, but I think I know how it's been done, and how it should be done: teams should be ranked based on who has had the most impressive season. That way, every game counts.

Traditionally, there has been a slight emphasis on late-season results. It has really only been that way because those results are fresh in voters' minds when they're doing the end-of-season polls, but now that we're going to a playoff system we should embrace that emphasis because it will lead to higher-quality playoffs. But still, the emphasis should be slight: otherwise you lose the overwhelmingly important factor of making every game count.

For that reason, the Alabama-Auburn game should count a little bit more than other games. There's yet another reason it should count more, a practical reason, and that is that the best test of how good a team is is how it does against it's toughest foes. I would weight this emphasis more heavily than the late-season results emphasis, but it's still not overwhelming.

Bearing in mind, then, that for those two precise reasons the Iron Bowl game should be rated significantly more heavily in evaluating these two teams than other games, is that enough to overcome the heavy lean in Alabama's favor from comparing other results and statistics? The answer is obviously no, not even close.

Certainly, Auburn deserve credit for winning that game and Alabama gets blame for losing that game. But really, nobody who watched that game could've come away with the impression that Auburn was a significantly better team, enough of an impression to overcome an entire season of results going in the other direction. Indeed, I would say most knowledgeable folks who watched that game would conclude, based on that game alone, that Alabama has a better team but just didn't get the breaks. After all, Alabama out-gained Auburn 495-393 and even had less turnovers. Alabama lost that game based on field-goal kicking alone, which is a rare result.

(And before you say "it ain't so rare, it happened to Alabama against LSU in 2011," well I beg to differ. Alabama lost to LSU in 2011 because its offense continually bogged down in the red zone, leading to a succession of difficult-to-impossible field goal attempts. Alabama lost to Auburn in 2013 because of poor field goal kicking, pure and simple.)

So again, you give Auburn credit for the win, and you give the win some extra weight, but you can't go too far with it because it was a skin-of-the-teeth win, not a dominant one. The upshot is that even if you rate the Iron Bowl as much more important than other games, Alabama's season has still been much more impressive than Auburn's.

Really, I see no fair way of looking at the entire season and saying it's even competitive as to which team has had a more impressive 2013.

Having done that analysis, now let me repeat myself, and with emphasis: The only way you could put Auburn ahead of Alabama is if you based your vote entirely on the outcome of a single game with no consideration at all for what happened the rest of the year.

If anybody thinks that's a legitimate basis upon which to run a poll, I would love to hear you explain why. In your answer please respond to my point that, if you do it that way, then you ignore all the games but one - for example, here, you are ignoring Auburn's loss to LSU, not to mention the string of less-impressive wins over common foes.

You might also consider this point: right now, Auburn's win over Alabama obviously means everything, to the exclusion of all other factors, in terms of ranking the two teams in polls. However, if Auburn loses to Missouri next week, even by a missed 2-point conversion in 5 overtimes, Auburn's win over Alabama will mean zero, zip-diddly, squadoosh, in terms of comparing Auburn and Alabama in the polls. What makes sense about that? What makes sense about the current poll ranking?


FanPosts are just that; posts created by the fans. They are in no way indicative of the opinions of SBN and the authors of Roll Bama Roll.

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