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Talking College Football Computer Rankings with Kenneth Massey

No other sport intersects as dramatically with technology than college football, where a group of computer rankings helps decide national championship game participants. Here to discuss those computer rankings and their impact on the sport and its fans is Kenneth Massey, whose Massey Ratings are a part of the BCS. Massey earned his master's from Virginia Tech and his system has been a part of the BCS since 1999, the year the Hokies made it to the title game. For more technical answers about his ratings, check out the extensive FAQ over at his site.

How do you think computer rankings in general help improve the BCS system?

Computer rankings provide an objective component that isn't swayed by media attention or public opinion. It's sole focus is to reward teams for winning games against tough competition. Computer algorithms can analyze and synthesize all the connections between teams that never played each other on the field.

What do you think the future is for the BCS? Are there ways to improve the computer rankings used in it? Has your formula been tweaked at all since you've been involved or has it stayed the same?

I think a playoff is inevitable, but I hope the BCS system can provide the framework for seeding and implementing the games.

A few years ago, the BCS mandated that computers ignore margin of victory, so I now provide a modified version of my ratings to meet that criterion.

Have your own ratings ever surprised you? Have you ever watched a team play and then get surprised when your system places them much higher or lower than you anticipated?

Yes, given that the computer doesn't award style points. Remember, the computer rankings are not designed to predict future performance, but to reward wins vs tough competition, no matter how ugly they may have appeared to the human eye.

Has running this ratings system altered the way you watch games at all? Do you want results on the field to justify your ratings or are you still a fan?

I am now much more interested in non-conference games since that is ultimately the way that the computer descides e.g. if the SEC is really better than the ACC.

You got your master's from Virginia Tech. Do you still follow the Hokies or ever return to Blacksburg?

Yes, I see a few VT games each year. My dad has had season tickets since the 1960's.