Excerpts of a telephone interview with Wes Colley, whose computer rankings are used in the BCS formula.
How is Penn State (third) ahead of USC (fourth) in your poll?
A. You look at the average team Penn State has played, if you average out all their teams according to my ratings, the average team Penn State has played is Cal. And the average team Southern Cal has played is Wake Forest. So the question to ask yourself: If you went 8-1 against Berkeley, how would that compare to winning eight games in a row against Wake Forest?
Having watched both teams, in your gut
as a human, do you feel Penn State is better than USC?
A. No, I definitely think Southern Cal is better than Penn State and on a neutral field Southern Cal is going to win nine times out of 10. I always get a little hesitant to comment on what I think because that's the whole point of computer rankings. What we think is often wrong. Tennessee was supposed to win the SEC East.
Do you get upset when people say, "The computer geeks screwed up"?
A. People call me a computer geek. I don't really care. I would rather the people just call me and talk to me, like you're doing, than misrepresent what I do and call me a geek. At least you have the journalistic integrity to call us and talk to us.
Why not account for game location or the date of games in your poll?
A. Certain systems do; I don't. I don't think either one is right or wrong, it just depends on what you're trying to measure. The basis of my system is that I want it to be as close to what the NFL does as possible. The NFL doesn't say, "We'll forgive that loss back in September." They don't say, "Well, you lost, but it was at Buffalo in December." They just say, "It's a loss."
How many e-mails from fans do you get per week?
A. This week and last week, probably 100 or 150. . . . Some people write and write: 'Southern Cal has won 30 games in a row!' Well, this year they have won eight games in a row. Then they keep coming up with more and more obscure statistics until finally they just quit. That's the thing with computer rankings: They always make sense because it's just math.