For the third year in a row, Alabama will open the season as the No. 1-ranked team in my simulated BCS standings. And for the second consecutive year, the Tide are atop of the standings despite ranking second in both the AP and Coaches' polls.
In 2011, Oklahoma was ranked No. 1 in both preseason polls, though it was never a title factor after stumbling in midseason against Texas Tech and Baylor. Alabama and LSU, the two SEC West rivals that met in the BCS championship game, were ranked second and fourth, respectively, in both polls. This year, Alabama is behind USC in the AP poll and behind LSU in the Coaches' poll.
Now, you might wonder why the AP poll is in the simulated BCS standings ... don't worry, we'll get to that, and the methodology, after the rankings below.
The top of the standings are dominated by the SEC, which has five teams in the top eight spots. The Pac-12's USC and Oregon, who might meet twice this season, check in at Nos. 3 and 4, ahead of the Big 12's Oklahoma, at No. 5. Michigan, the Big Ten's top team, is ranked ninth, followed by Florida State, the ACC's highest-ranked team.
The Big East, which has now stooped to include Temple among its eight teams, is somehow still receiving an automatic bid to BCS bowls. The rump AQ conference's top team is Louisville, ranked No. 30, behind top teams from the non-AQ Mountain West (No. 18 Boise State) and Conference USA (No. 29 Houston).
Each of the 11 conferences is represented in the complete standings, as well as independents Notre Dame (No. 24) and BYU (No. 36).
Now, why is there a simulation of the BCS standings? Why does it matter, and how accurate is it?
The simulation is based on as much BCS-related data as we can get our hands on at this point. The actual BCS standings consist of two polls (Coaches' and Harris Interactive) and six computer ratings. Right now, the Coaches' poll is available but the Harris poll won't be released until the first weekend of October. And three of the six computers (Sagarin, Massey and Billingsley) publish preseason rankings.
We use the AP poll in place of the Harris poll until the latter is released. This really isn't much of a stretch. The Harris poll almost always closely apes the other polls, particularly the AP poll. (We suspect the Harris voters basically copy and paste the AP poll when it comes to time to vote.) Last year, the top 10 teams in the Harris poll of the first official BCS standings were ranked exactly the same as they were in the AP poll.
As for the computers, Sagarin and Massey have preseason rankings based on their respective power algorithms while Billingsley starts with the final rankings of the previous season. We take these three computers and the median of 36 rankings to form the basis of the computer ratings in the simulation.
Of the other three computers, ratings in the Colley's Matrix becomes relevant by about the end of September, which is also when Anderson and Hester releases its first rankings. Peter Wolfe is the lone holdout, as he won't publish his rankings until when the BCS standings are released.
By about late September, our simulated standings are pretty much the same as the real deal, with most of the computer ratings available and the AP poll providing a close facsimile for the Harris poll. This enables us to start projecting the actual standings, as this year's initial release is scheduled for Oct. 21.
We will provide the simulated standings each Monday morning (except for Labor Day weekend) until the debut of this season's official standings, at which time we'll switch to providing projections each Sunday morning.
Here are the top 25 teams in the preseason simulated BCS standings (see complete listings). Note that since Ohio State, Penn State and North Carolina are serving NCAA postseason bans, they're not eligible to be ranked in the BCS and therefore are excluded from the standings.
Keys: 2011 = Final 2011 Associated Press Poll; Coach = USA Today Coaches Poll; AP = Associated Press Poll; Md = Median ranking of 36 computer ratings; JS = Jeff Sagarin; KM* = Kenneth Massey MOV; RB = Richard Billingsley; Cp Avg = Computer Average; Yellow indicates top team in BCS conference; Orange indicates top team in non-BCS conference.
Explanation: This rankings method is a simulation of the actual BCS standings with the following variations: 1) The AP Poll is used in place of the Harris Interactive Poll, which is not published until after the first weekend of October; 2) Three of the six BCS computer ratings are available -- Jeff Sagarin, Kenneth Massey and Richard Billingsley; 3) The other three computer ratings -- Anderson & Hester, Colley Matrix and Peter Wolfe - will not be available until mid-September or October, so they're replaced by the median ranking of 36 computer ratings.
While we’re here, let’s watch some of the many fine college football videos from SB Nation’s YouTube channel: