From the Press Box
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2010
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Inside the Poll
Last week’s issue of “From the Press Box” introduced you to the Bilo Football Report, which had your Dolphins ranked No.4 in the country – ahead of Appalachian State.

Now, a week later, the Dolphins are no longer in the poll – dropping at least 32 spots to be outside the top 35. While there is a significant drop, these kind of fluctuations happen early in the season among computer polls or rating systems – such as the Bilo Football Report.

With last week’s post, I happened to get an email from one Scott Bilo – founder and author of the Bilo Football Report. So, now we’re proud to offer a follow up on introduce you to Mr. Bilo, his report, his ratings system and one of his passions – college football.

What follows is an email interview of Scott that we had this week. After the interview is the “From the Press Box” that you can find in the award-seeking JU Football Gameday Program on Saturday.

Q: Give us some background on your poll and how teams are ranked?

SCOTT: I just started the blog in July. I am a former sports reporter from Southern California. The poll itself was created in 2005, and I don't actually like to refer to it as a poll, but rather refer to it as a ratings system.

There are no votes involved, no outside interference or influence whatsoever. I set point values to several different aspects of a team's performance week by week, and sometimes, especially early in the season, you see some interesting teams in some unorthodox spots. There are several different categories, and points are assigned to every team in 1-A and 1-AA. When a team wins, the values are all positive numbers, when they lose negative numbers are used. A team with a losing record will usually end up with a negative number at the end of the season.

When it comes to FCS ratings, there is one difference. When a FCS team loses to a FBS team, there are no points taken away, as the team is playing against a school from a higher level. There are teams right now that are sitting with 0-2 records that have zero points for the season. I don't see it as being fair that a team is punished for playing up a level. If a FCS team loses to a lower division squad (D2, etc.) they will lose the points, but will also have an additional penalty added on, and that counts for all levels.

When I created the PRS (Power Ratings System) it was to accomplish a set of goals. I set it up to counter the BCS, which I am no fan of, as I find it discriminatory in nature. I wanted to see that if you plugged in number values across the board, and put every school on an even playing field, removing prejudices of any kind, what would happen.

It gives everyone a chance when you remove what are common mainstream prejudices, such as individuals thinking that non-scholarship programs cannot compete, or that the non-BCS schools don't hold up to the Big 6. I wanted to put all of this to rest, and I think that I have accomplished this to a certain degree. Of course, a team still has to win the game on the field.

Being that everything is new right now, I only publish the top 35, but everyone has a ranking and a number all season long, and it's how I keep the "poll" moving along, with teams rising up and falling back down all season long. Next season, expect to see where every team ranks every week from top to bottom, and I anticipate coverage expanding as I go.

Q: The Dolphins were ranked No. 4 in your initial poll and now are longer in the top 35. What gives?

SCOTT: The poll works in both positive and negative numbers. When you win you gain, and when you lose...well, you know. This is a system that I started working on at the age of about 9, so it's a culmination of approximately 30 years of mad science. There have been several different things that I have played with, added, and taken away. There have been endless hours of brain storming with my buddy Keith included as well.

Several components go into the poll every week. Wins, points scored on the field, point differential, home/road (road wins earn double), wins against PRS (Power Ratings System, the official name of my "poll") top 35 teams, and wins against higher classification schools (FCS, D2 and D3 all benefit from this) are all components that go into ranking a winning team. Every time you win, your point total is added to that of the previous week.

In the case of JU, the win against ODU on the road was huge. The road win factored into rising to No. 4, where as if the win had come in J-ville, they would have still been ranked, but maybe 8-10 spots lower (just an example).

In the case of a team losing a game, such as JU's loss to Appalachian State, it goes like this. The loss itself, point differential lost by, home/road loss(home losses cost double), and losses to teams outside of the PRS top 35 are all components that go into the PRS ranking. I still add any points scored on the field back into the total, win or lose. JU opened with a total of 245 points with the win over ODU, but lost a total of 167 of those points in the loss at Appalachian State. JU now stands with 78 points on the season.

One major component that goes into all levels of college football where the PRS is concerned is games played outside of classification, such as FCS teams playing a level up against FBS, or a level (or two) down against D2 or NAIA schools. When a team beats a team from a lower classification, only the point differential is counted in a win. No other points are awarded for playing down.

If a team loses to a higher classification team, zero points are granted for the week to the positive or negative. I do not throw points scored on the field into the total, and the game is simply "zeroed out". If you play up and win, an additional bonus is gained, and that bonus drove Jacksonville State to a No. 1 ranking in week one when they upset Ole Miss in Oxford. That bonus is generally worth as much as a win itself.

If you lose to a lower classification school, your loss is worth double to the negative. In week one, 65 FCS schools played such games, which assisted JU in their rise dramatically, and also prevented many traditional powers such as Montana, Richmond, Delaware, and Villanova from gaining enough points to reach into the top 35.

The lesson in this is simply to play inside of you class, or beat the "big boys" in the FBS to gain maximum points every week.

I was so disappointed to see that the Dolphin upset bid fell short at ASU. That would have been an amazing win for your program. But don't despair. A win in two weeks may very well propel JU back into the poll. Unfortunately, a win against Webber won't do much for the power rating, but with the Davidson game being played on the road, there is a chance to make up some ground. Right now, JU has a total of +78 points for the season, which is 490 points behind #1 Liberty this week, but things do fluctuate a great deal this early in the year. It usually takes about 6 weeks for the picture to begin to clear up.

Q: Doing any ranking system and website has to take a lot of time. How much time a week do you devote to this?

SCOTT: In one word...bunches. I rank 120 1-A (FBS) and 124 1-AA (FCS) teams every week, which means watching a ton of film, and never getting more than two feet away from my Blackberry or my laptop. I usually don't post much on the site on Saturday, or at least have not up to this point. I DVR several games, and it's usually a healthy mix of conferences and

I stop and watch as much FCS and D2 action as TV allows for with the broadcast schedules.

I generally only watch UCLA (my favorite team) and UNLV (my local team) every single week. I then come home from my day job at about 2pm on Sunday, and after spending the afternoon with my lovely and awesome wife, Dina, and our three cool dogs Elvis, Trixy, and Steve, I will sit down at around 8pm to start crunching numbers.

I also write a conference review for every FBS conference for the week. I work as a Manager for an Airline, so I have very odd hours, which includes having Monday and Tuesday off until next month when I switch to Friday's and Saturday's, so Monday is probably about a 16 hour day of writing reviews and finalizing the PRS numbers, putting every team in order from 1-120 and 1-124. By late Monday afternoon, I have a poll in place, and I start working it into the computer. I spend all day Tuesday (again about 16 hours) reviewing games on my DVR and getting both "polls" published. If time permits on Tuesday, I start to break down the weekday games coming up in the FBS. On Wednesday it's back to my day job and I spend the evening breaking down the Saturday games for the FBS. Thursday and Friday is basically a carbon copy of Wednesday. In all, if I am at work, I spend about 6-8 hours a day in additional time working on the site and the poll, and on days off, I spend about 16 hours working on the site and poll.

Q: So, with the Dolphins sitting at 1-1 and a minimal point game coming up against Webber this weekend, JU needs to do something special to get back into the top 25 again, correct?

SCOTT: The Dolphins just need to win. Losing a game against Webber would be catastrophic at this point. There are four very winnable games coming up for JU in Davidson, San Diego, Drake, and Valparaiso. The games against Davidson and Valpo are on the road, so they are very important dates against teams that JU should handle. With the lack of Dayton on the schedule in conference play, there is not a game left on the slate that I look at and sweat too much over. The schedule is very manageable the rest of the way, and with four of those games coming on the road, there will be plenty of shots at big point gains.

Q: Spending 16 hour days doing this means one thing - you've got to love football, don't you?

SCOTT: Love is a massive understatement of epic proportion. My family had UCLA season tickets for many years, and I can honestly say that some of my happiest memories from my youth come from those games. I went to my first game on October 24th, 1980. UCLA played California at the Coliseum, and the Bruins had not lost to Cal since the day of my birth. Once I enetered that stadium, I was forever changed, and I had been bitten by the bug. Since that time, I have been to many stadiums and have had the opportunity to see some truly legendary college players, such as Steve Young, Troy Aikman, Peyton Manning, and so on and so on.

I have attended 3 Rose Bowls and I go to the Las Vegas Bowl every season, as I live about 15 minutes from Sam Boyd Stadium. I moved away from Los Angeles in 2000 and spent 10 years in Boston, where I had Boston College season tickets, and spent time watching Rhode Island and Brown. And I am lucky enough to have a Wife that understands my obsession with the game. She is incredibly supportive and backs my work 100%.

Q: One more question that came out of me looking at the poll again - your poll takes points scored and scoring margin into account, correct? Are you concerned that as it grows, it encourages teams to run up the score and what are your thoughts on the BCS taking the scoring margin out of the computer polls it uses?

SCOTT: I do take scoring margin into account as well as points scored. I don't really fear the running up issue all that much, due to the fact that you are not seeing it very much now. When the scholarship limits of 85 kicked in for the FBS, it made it more risky to keep players on the field during "blowout" games. It doesn't take much to whittle down an 85 man roster when the injury bugs start to bite.

I am not a fan of the BCS poll eliminating margin of victory for one simple reason. A fan pays for a ticket to watch his team play, not to sit on the ball for 30 minutes of a 60 minute game. I don't mind a team putting up big points on people...as long as they are doing so while clearing their bench. UCLA defeated Stanford one season 84-0, and legendary coach Red Sanders was criticized about running up the score. In pointing out that every player in a uniform played that day, Coach said "I can hardly tell a boy not to play." That is my motto when it comes to blowouts. I am only bothered when starters are left in well into a rout. There is no call for that.

Q: Last, why don't you post your entire poll (1 through 120) on the site each week? (Personally, I would like to see how teams rise and fall as well as a cross-section of your system ranks other teams.)

SCOTT: I get that a lot. I think that my only set back in releasing the entire 1-120 and 1-124 lineup is TIME!!! I never seem to have enough of it, and often find myself up against my own deadlines. I do promise, however, that you will be seeing the entire rankings on both levels very soon.

My good friend of 30 years, Keith Harding is going to be a contributor to the site, and he is a research guru. As he gets more involved, you will see a big increase of content, with the complete rankings being on the table. We also intend some pretty major expansion in coverage into the D2 and D3 ranks by next season, and I am looking to start breaking down FCS conference races as the season gets more in depth. We have several tricks up our sleeves over the next several months coming your way.

THOUGHTS FROM LAST WEEK…

Have you ever heard almost 30,000 people gathered together and eerily quiet?

With 10 minutes to go in the third quarter last week, I was treated to the sounds of silence at Kidd-Brewer Stadium as the Dolphins had just scored to cut mighty Appalachian State’s lead to three.

At that point, the Dolphins had officially forced ASU to realize that this wasn’t just another patsy on their schedule. This was a team that had a legitimate chance to wreck the Mountaineers party.

ASU woke up in time to thwart JU’s upset bid – scoring 28 unanswered in the final 21 minutes to take home a 45-14 win.

That’s the funny thing when people read scores. Florida State got blown at Oklahoma, 47-14, and the game was never in doubt. JU got beat 45-14 by ASU, and the score only got out of hand in the final 10 minutes of the game – which is not an accurate reflection of how close the game actually was.

Yet, it’s games like this that help build programs.

Two years ago, a young JU team went to Boone, N.C. looking to “shock the world” when they played ASU. ASU showed what championships teams do – take advantage of any and every opportunity that the opponent gives them.

That young JU team went on to rattle off seven straight games and earn the school’s first Pioneer Football League title.

Now, a veteran JU team showed that it’s capable of competing with some of the top teams in the country – beating a highly-regarded Old Dominion team on the road as well as throwing a scare into national power Appy State.

The question before this year’s group of Dolphins is can they handle the expectations? Can they handle having the target on their back in every game the rest of the season? They have clearly set the pace with the most difficult out of conference schedule in the PFL and by setting the bar, the Dolphins will more than likely be favored to win every game the rest of the season.

SOME OTHER FOOD FOR THOUGHT THIS WEEK…

JU is experiencing some growing pains, forcing the Dolphins to leave the cozy confines of D.B. Milne Field for the same-green AstroTurf pastures of The Bolles School. The renovations for the playing surface are a huge step in the right direction for the facility and the new track is going to be a perfect complement for the Dolphins’ ultra-successful program that has only won five straight Atlantic Sun Conference titles.

Going through these growing periods is rough on the teams and programs, but what doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger. And while this is a temporary setback, it will be beneficial in the long run.