Barry Alvarez: Polls not meaningful

ByHeather Dinich ESPN logo
Thursday, September 25, 2014

Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, one of 13 members of the College Football Playoff selection committee, said he will be watching No. 11 UCLA at No. 15 Arizona State on Thursday night, and he gave some insight into his approach at ranking teams in a wide-ranging interview with

While Alvarez said he doesn't place much stock in margin of victory, he does pay close attention to a statistic on relative offensive and defensive performance.

"In other words, let's say a team scores 50 points four games in a row, but the teams they're playing give up an average of 45," Alvarez said. "And then you've got someone who's played a very difficult schedule and they're averaging 21 points a game, but the teams they're playing only give up an average of 10 points. There's a huge difference there.

"That variation on both offense and defense are very telling statistics. Your average starting field position, your turnover margin ... we can all tailor our own stats. [Fellow committee member] Tom Osborne may want to look at some other statistics in how he evaluates. We can tailor that individually."

Each committee member has been deemed a point person for a conference, and Alvarez was assigned the MAC and Big 12. In order to help with the evaluation process, the committee members have access to coaches' copies of all game tape, which shows every play twice and breaks the plays down by offense, defense and special teams. Committee members were also given iPads, which will have all of the games downloaded, and they have access to condensed versions of televised games that they can watch in an hour.

Alvarez said he doesn't talk to the other committee members much -- there will be plenty of time for that when they start meeting on a regular basis beginning Oct. 27 -- but he still does his own top-25 ranking each week.

"I've got one of our statisticians helping me," Alvarez said. "He works in our sports information office, and he's a stat nut. We look at statistics, we watch film together, we sit down, and he and I talk about the games and put our things together."

The committee's first official ranking will be released Oct. 28.

"There are specific things I'm looking for in statistics," said Alvarez, the winningest coach in Wisconsin history and member of the College Football Hall of Fame. "It's too early in the season to do that, to compare teams yet. I'm really glad that we're waiting until the end of October before we put our first poll together.

"There's so many questions to answer with some of the teams. You haven't seen them play against the competition they play in their conference to really evaluate them. In another five or six weeks, we'll have those answers and be able to compare statistics team by team."

Alvarez also said he pays attention to The Associated Press and USA Today Top 25 polls.

"I look at them, sure," he said. "Are they meaningful? No, but I'm aware."

Committee chairman Jeff Long doesn't maintain a top 25, nor does he pay attention to the polls. He says he's seen games from all 10 conferences and has watched all or part of more than 70 games already.

"I'm simply looking, evaluating and processing," Long said. "I purposely haven't paid a lot of attention to the polls that are out there. I know they're there. You can't watch a game and not know who some of the top people are, where they're ranked, but I'm purposely not looking at a top 25 and have not put a top 25 down at all in my practice."

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