How Not To Do A Top 11 List
The Wall Street Journal is the finest newspaper in America, if not the world, but I would no more go to them for sports than I’d go to Paris Hilton for … anything.
The November 18 WSJ ran a story ranking the top 15 College Football rivalries (that have not yet been played this year). The results are pitiful. Here is the Journal’s list:
1. Florida vs. Florida St.
2. Georgia vs. Georgia Tech
3. Alabama vs. Auburn
4. Michigan vs. Ohio St.
4. BYU vs. Utah
6. Nebraska vs. Colorado
7. Arizona vs. Arizona St.
8. Virginia vs. Virginia Tech
8. Washington vs. Washington St.
10. Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma St.
10. Oregon St. vs. Oregon
12. USC vs. UCLA
13. Pittsburgh vs. West Virginia
14. Arkansas vs. LSU
15. California vs. Stanford
Three problems immediately jump out:
* Number 1 is listed at the top of the list, destroying all suspense.
* The list is too long – studies show that the optimal length for a list is eleven.
* When ranking something as subjective as football rivalries, there is no need for ties. Take a stand. Is the Oklahoma/Oklahoma State rivalry bigger, or is it Oregon State/Oregon?
I do give the Journal credit for at least attempting to quantify their rankings; they use the criteria of ticket scalper price, game quality, and the record of the teams involved. But when you come up with the BYU/Utah rivalry tied with the Michigan/Ohio State rivalry, your formula needs some tweaks. Here is why the Journal ranks Michigan/Ohio State so low: “The problems: lots of punts and only 4 lead changes after halftime.” Yeah, I think I’ll watch the BYU/Utah game; those Wolverine/Buckeye games have way too many punts.
Where are the long standing traditional rivalries? The games where the fans wouldn’t care if their team went 1-12, so long as the one win denied the hated rival a shot at a National Championship? Don’t they know that there are two kinds of Texans: Longhorn fans and Aggies fans and they don’t care much for one another? Have they ever heard of a little rivalry called the Army/Navy game? True, those games have been mismatches of late, but tradition should count for something. And if you’re going to bring recently created rivalries into the mix, you can’t ignore all of the new University of Minnesota rivalries created by the scheduling genius of Glen Mason (my personal favorite of these is Minnesota/Louisiana-Lafayette).
The Wall Street Journal should stick to reporting on stock splits and leave the lists to the experts.