Friday, November 21, 2008
Real professional sports leagues don't require a human to determine which teams deserve a post-season. This is because there are only 20 or 30 possible teams to choose from. Everyone's schedule has relatively the same factor of difficulty, and so no team has to be handicapped by a sportswriter or poll voter. In college football, there are 100+ teams to choose from, and one team can only play at most 12 or 13 other teams. This means comparing teams necessarily requires some subjective factors, because head-to-head matchups are rare between non-conference foes.
But not everything is subjective. Athletic conference winners are determined not by sportswriters or strength-of-schedule, but by teams actually playing each other. There are tiebreak rules and everything in case two teams have an equal record at the end of the season. Conferences can do this because there are only between 8 and 12 teams to choose from. But unfortunately not all conferences are created equal. If we just had conference winners play each other as a playoff system, the new argument would be something like "why does the Big East #1 get to have a chance at a championship while the clearly superior Big 12 #2 doesn't?"
What I am proposing is that we blow-up the conferences and create a 32-team Superleague. The Superleague will consist of 4 divisions of 8 regionally-similar teams. Each team will play 12 games: 7 games within the division, one game each from the other 3 divisions, and 2 games from the pool of college teams outside the Superleague. This way old-fashioned college rivalries can remain intact even when one team is in the Superleague and the other team is not.
If you don't want to get into the nuts and bolts of such a league, just stop reading now and go look at some LOLcats.
For the rest of you, I will now bore you to tears with details. After the end of the Superleague season (the first week in December), a twelve-team playoff will commence. The playoff will be a seeded tournament, with the top four seeds given to each division's champion. The seeding will be based on best overall record. Tiebreaks outside the division will be, in order, as follows: head-to-head matchups, if applicable, then league record, then divisional record, then record against common teams (minimum possible = 2), then quality of best win, then quality of second best win, etc., and then coin flip. Division winners will be based on the divisional record. Tiebreaks within the division will be based on head-to-head record. In the event of a three-way tie, divisional winner will be determined based on tiebreak rules similar to interdivisional tiebreak rules. When there are two teams with the same overall record within the same division, the team with the better divisional record cannot be seeded lower than the team with the worse divisional record.
Okay, so the top four seeds earn a bye week and a home game similar to the NFL's playoff system. The playoffs will occupy four straight weekends starting in the second weekend in December and ending the first weekend of January.
But here's the part that makes this Superleague more interesting than every other professional league: the bottom team in each division should be kicked out of the Superleague for the next year. The best four teams from the remaining 88 college teams outside the Superleague would get to join the Superleague the next year. Because every crappy team needs a healthy dose of fear to get them to perform to their fullest.
As for which teams should get into this Superleague, I decided that it shouldn't just be the 32 best teams from this year. To make the Superleague palatable, it needs to include the best teams, but also perennial contenders who are going through some down times (like Michigan). So I came up with a very simple formula based on the final AP rating of each college team since 1993 that expands geometrically as seed approaches 1 and year approaches 2008, or actually (since I tweaked it a bit), as seed approaches -2 and year approaches 2012. The 32 teams this particular formula chose are as follows, in order:
3. Ohio State
8. Florida State
9. Miami (FL)
14. Penn State
15. Virginia Tech
17. Texas Tech
20. West Virginia
21. Boise State
22. Kansas State
24. Notre Dame
28. Boston College
31. Oregon State
Four out of the next 5 teams were PAC-10 teams.
From these 32 teams, I would place them in the following divisions:
For fun, I made a schedule and created simulations based on KRACH ratings from this year. Texas Tech usually got the overall #1 seed at the end of the Superleague season in my simulations, but Utah and Alabama also laid claim to that spot. The most frequently relegated teams were Oregon, Colorado, Michigan, Louisville, Kansas State, Tennessee and Auburn.
Download my Excel spreadsheet and play along if you'd like!
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
The map below shows the winner of each county in America and also the size of their victories, with a 15% or greater margin of victory shown in the fullest colors.
The 2008 county-by-county map shows all of our entrenched American voting patterns: the west coast and the northeast all predominantly Democratic, the south and the central plains all predominantly Republican, red rural counties (except in the upper midwest), blue urban counties, a Democratic black belt in the south, etc. The map does seem to show more blue places than one would think, in particular in Montana, New Mexico, Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. But this bluification goes deeper than just the counties that voted for Barack Obama.
When compared to the margins in 2004, almost every county delivered more votes for the Democratic candidate in 2008, even though most of those counties were still won by the Republican. This blue shift was obviously a very important reason why Barack Obama won. All he had to do was decrease the Republican margin of victory in rural areas and hold onto the usual overwhelming number of votes from urban areas. But the 2004-2008 blue shift doesn't necessarily tell a larger story of a shifting electorate. It just shows Barack Obama was a much better candidate than John Kerry. A better but still imperfect comparison would be to compare this election where a charismatic Democrat beat a war-crippled Republican senator to the last one in which a charismatic Democrat beat a war-crippled Republican senator: 1996, when Bill Clinton beat Bob Dole
This map is more balanced than the one for 2004, as it should be since Democrats won both elections. But one of the more amazing things about this map is that it looks remarkably similar to the 2008 county-by-county election map shown at the top. If there were no demographic or idealogical shift since the last time a Democrat won the presidency, then one would expect that most of the map would be in pale colors with some bright colors distributed in a random geographic pattern. This is not the case. The already-red South has gotten redder, the already-blue West Coast has gotten bluer, Democratic northern New Mexico and Colorado's Front Range are bluer, Republican Appalachia is redder. Democrats have increased their strangleholds on urban counties, Republicans have increased their strangleholds on rural counties.
If there is a demographic shift, it is not towards a more diverse and open society. It is towards entrenchment into communities with like-minded individuals. I mean, think about it. How many people you know voted for John McCain? No matter where you live, it probably wasn't 46%, which was his national popular vote share. It was probably somewhere between 0% and 10% (I'm assuming the fact that you're reading this indicates you are probably a Democrat).
This is the viewpoint of Bill Bishop on Slate.com, who is author of a book called The Big Sort about how we tend to migrate to communities full of people who look like us and think like us. I would agree with him. Is this better for our society? Probably not. But I'm not about to move away from my house in my neighborhood full of tall trees, older houses and Obama yard signs. I feel comfortable here.
Other interesting shifts from 1996 to 2008:
- Election-specific trends for this map would indicate that logically Arkansas and Arizona should be redder while Kansas and Illinois should be bluer since the specific candidates from Arkansas and Kansas (Clinton and Dole) are not present in 2008, while the candidates from Arizona and Illinois (McCain and Obama) are. Arkansas and Arizona are certainly redder, but Illinois and Kansas are not definitively bluer except in the Chicago region and the more urban areas of Kansas, as well as in Russell, KS, where the highway sign proudly displays "Home of Bob Dole". Russell county in 1996 went for Dole by a margin of 62%. That softened to a margin for McCain in 2008 of merely 54%.
- All but one county in Oklahoma has gotten any more Democratic since 1996. The one county is Oklahoma City's county, which moved from a Republican margin of 18% to a Republican margin of 17%. Only three other counties have increased the Republican margin by any less than 15%: Lawton, Norman and Tulsa. Everywhere else is a red explosion.
- Rio Arriba County has been passed by Taos County as the most Democratic county in New Mexico. This has long been expected due to Taos's liberal trinity: hispanics, indians and hippies.
- New York City and San Francisco have gotten even more Democratic than they were 12 years ago.
- The Southern Michigan vs Northern Michigan divide is more apparent than it was 12 years ago.
- The blue border counties of Texas have not gotten bluer over the last 12 years. But Austin, Dallas and Houston sure have.
- If you want to see how a blue area becomes red, shift the slider on nytimes.com from the 1992 election to the 2008 election and keep your eye on Louisiana, Arkansas, east Texas, east Oklahoma and southeast Missouri. It looks like water draining out of the Mississippi Valley.
(All fantastic maps from nytimes.com)
Friday, November 07, 2008
President - Al Gore (D) - Lost (but won the state)
Senator - Jeff Bingaman (D) - Won
Representative - Heather Wilson (R) - Won
Governor - Bill Richardson (D) - Won
Senator - Pete Domenici (R) - Won
Representative - Heather Wilson (R) - Won
President - John Kerry (D) - Lost (also lost the state)
Senator - Ken Salazar (D) - Won
Represenative - Stan Matsunaka (D) - Lost
Governor - Brad Henry (D) - Won
Representative - Hal Spake (D) - Lost
President - Barack Obama (D) - Won (but lost the state)
Senator - Andrew Rice (D) - Lost
Representative - Blake Cummings (D) - Lost
So, counting presidential votes as half for winning the state and half for winning the nation, I have voted with the majority 8/14 times, a ratio that will keep getting smaller the longer I live in this state.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Alabama - 60.5%
Idaho - 61.5%
Alaska - 61.5% (with 99% reporting)
Utah - 62.9%
Wyoming - 65.2%
Oklahoma - 65.6%
Wyoming had the larger margin of victory for McCain (32.5% for Wyoming compared to 31.2% for Oklahoma), but Oklahoma has the special distinction of being the only state in the union* where every single county voted for John McCain. Our state senate also finally completed it's flip over to Republican hands for the first time since statehood. Republicans already control the state house of reps. All our incumbent Republican U.S. Representatives won by huge margins (and yes, so did our one lone Democratic U.S. Representative, who happens to be the most conservative Democrat in the House and is helped by having the last name of Boren), and our incumbent Republican U.S. Senator won big as well.
In Wyoming, their two Republican U.S. Senators won by huge margins, but their U.S. Representative race was substantially tighter. Republicans in their state legislature vastly outnumber Democrats by a 3 to 1 margin.
Which state is more conservative then? Oklahoma or Wyoming? I'll throw my weight behind Oklahoma since there are far more people in Oklahoma, making it's Republican homogeneity more remarkable.
*among states with counties, which excludes Alaska.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
5:55 I'm starting out on CNN for two reasons: 1) It's the only 24 hour cable news channel I get in HD, and 2) James Carville's amazing shiny head. I'll flip over to NBC, MSNBC and Fox News occasionally too. I'll ignore ABC and CBS and PBS. I only have so much attention.
6:00 Time to color! Kentucky to McCain, and Vermont to Obama. 8-3 lead for McCain. I wonder if Bill Kristol is now forecasting a McCain victory. Lets see.
6:01 Fox was supposed to bring me "You Decide '08" at this time, according to my hd tuner, but I'm getting Family Guy instead. Thats fine with me. Human analysts on CNN are breaking down the demographics in Vermont and Kentucky. Dog analyst Copper is breaking down some plush dog toys.
6:09 Joe Scarborough announces that the Republican party is now shattered. Chris Matthews appropriately calls him out on saying this 9 minutes after the first states are called. Chris matthews: the voice of reason.
6:12 Fox News forecasts good things for McCain because Lindsey Graham has been reelected. Let them have their graspable straws, I say.
6:13 I've always thought this, but I might as well say it: Fox News's Brit Hume sounds like the voice of Assy McGee.
6:18 Fred Barnes of Fox News and the Weekly Standard yells at early voters, for some reason. Apparently "absentee" voters aren't actually absentee enough for him.
6:22 Dog analyst Copper just got up in my lap and almost immediately farted. I may have to kick him off the "Worst Political Team".
6:24 Turd Blossom is on! Explains how awesome the socialistic policies of Henry Paulson are. So far its a really subdued night on Fox News.
6:29 John King: my hero. Explains how close margin in Indiana so far (3% for McCain) benefits Obama, since results from his base aren't even starting to show up.
6:31 CNN can't even make a projection on West Virginia. That is a fantastic sign for Obama! Dog analyst Zeke greets news with a mighty huff.
6:35 The "Worst Political Team" is going to have the first election night beer of the night, as Fox News puts WV in McCain's column.
6:46 CNN and NBC still refuse to call West Virginia, and refuse to talk about it. Suzanne Malveaux (sp?) of CNN is reporting from Grant Park in Chicago, but we can't hear a word she's saying because thousands of excited people are behind her screaming "Obama". Why doesn't she have a mic? Liberal bias, trying to show a bigger crowd than actually exists?
6:50 Just 10 minutes until polls close in Oklahoma! The question that's on everyone's mind is Will the networks be able to call Oklahoma for McCain at 7:00:01 or 7:00:02?
6:51 CNN analysts are breaking down the historic ramifications of this election. Dog analyst Zeke has now decided to break down a milk jug.
6:55 NBC raises Fox News by calling South Carolina for McCain. 16-3 McCain so far for them. Whoops, Fox News now has SC for McCain too. Make that 21-3.
6:57 CNN calls South Carolina for McCain. Still nothing from West Virginia. Still CNN and NBC not talking about it.
7:00 Big roundup #1 tonight! CNN projections: Mccain: Oklahoma and Tennessee. Obama: Massachusetts, Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maine (3/4), Delaware, Maryland, and DC. Obama takes the lead 77-39! Still up for grabs: AL, FL, MS, PA, NH, and MO. More interesting news for Mississippi and Alabama not already being able to be called for McCain. Fantastic stuff for Obama.
7:06 My first trip to ABC and they've got the score at 102-34 for Obama. Kapow! NBC is not in HD for me, but ABC and CBS are.
7:09 Okay, so everyone but CNN is calling PA for Obama already. That's half the puzzle (the other half is Virginia). Wonder if Slate.com has already called the race for Barack Obama.
7:10 Joe Scarborough and Keith Olbermann are pretty giddy right now. Joe - "the thread is getting really thin for McCain". Joe - Pennsylvania = "Fool's gold for Republicans". Keith - "How can McCain possibly win without Pennsylvania".
7:12 First Howard Dean sighting of the night on MSNBC. I'm hoping he starts screaming before the night ends. But he sounds really subdued right now. Those tranquilizers have been working quite nicely for him.
7:14 From newsok.com - Headline says "Voting Problems Reported in OKC Metro Area". First sentence says "They ran out of 'I voted' stickers at Midwest City's Restoration Church this morning." Sensationalist journalism?
7:27 Senator Jim Inhofe going to be speaking in about half an hour. With 1% reporting, its Inhofe - 56%, Rice - 40%. I will be happy if Rice can get more than 40%. The Oklahoma Democratic party, ladies and gentlemen.
7:28 Its a tight race for our first openly gay politician in the Corporation Commissioner's office, Jim Roth, the incumbent Democrat appointed by Brad Henry two years ago. Interesting race: Dana Murphy, his Republican opponent, campaigned on a platform of claiming she was more qualified than Jim Roth to be Corporation commissioner. Even though Roth actually is Corporation Commissioner. Bizarre.
7:31 Alabama and Arkansas go to McCain, but the bigger news is that John Sununu and Elizabeth Dole are going down in flames! Like, huge numbers for the Dems Kay Hagan and Jeanne Shaheen (sp?). If these numbers stretch across to other states, we may actually see a 60-seat senate for the Dems, which would be about as surprising as their 2006 victory.
7:37 Georgia goes to John McCain, according to NBC. Mitch McConnell is in an incredibly close race still with half the precincts reporting in Kentucky. If that seat flips, just, wow. John King says if McConnell loses, its a Democratic wave. Then he actually made a waving hand motion. Love that guy!
7:41 CNN finally calls Pennsylvania for Obama 41 minutes after all the other networks. A lot of shots of celebration in Grant Park, Chicago. Haven't seen too many shots of the Biltmore in Phoenix.
7:47 Brit Hume at Fox News is always perplexed by green screens. Earlier he had to explain to people that the picture behind Juan Williams was a computer image, and now he's amazed by the green screen behind this dude running down the House races. Actual conversation after he finished his analysis:
You call it a board, is that right?
But theres no wood there, right?
No, it's ...
So you can't see where you're pointing? It just looks green to you, right?
Yeah, I don't see anything but green, and I ...
So we can see what you do better than you can?
Wow, I love it! What's next, oh, were going to take a break. I love it! Back in a few!
7:51 Voter fraud coverage, thanks to Fox News! In Cuyahoga County, OH, apparently absentee ballots are breaking heavily to Obama 71% to 29%. And a high number of provisional ballots that the correspondant is holding in his hands and resisting the urge to rip them up. He also reports 9000 people have emailed Fox News complaining about voter fraud. Scandals!
7:55 Big roundup #2 coming up in 5 minutes. Dog analysts Zeke and Copper are preparing for the onslaught by going outside and peeing on stuff.
7:59 Roth vs. Murphy - corporation commissioner - with 5% reporting, its still 50%-50%. Andrew Rice has to fondle the numbers, or something, before he'll officially speak and concede.
8:00 Big roundup #2: Obama gets New York, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Rhode Island. McCain gets Kansas, North Dakota (already?), Wyoming. Not projecting Texas(!), Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Louisiana, Nebraska (!!), South Dakota (!). Millions of votes already tallied, and like 1% of the precincts are in in Texas. But everythings bigger in Texas. Obama leads 174-76 (ABC projection).
8:15 Our dog analysts, immune to daylight savings time ending, are requesting a platform of 9:00 walkies.
8:22 With 20% in, McCain's up in Oklahoma 61%-39%. We're going to need to do better than that if we're going to have a chance at beating Utah and Idaho as most conservative state.
8:26 Huge! NBC is calling Ohio for Obama! CNN calls West Virginia for McCain (duh!), but remains silent on Ohio. Instead, we get a live view of Hank Williams Jr at the Biltmore in Phoenix. Now that's journalism! Wolf throws it to commercial, but teases us with "a very big projection after the break". Hank Williams Jr: still born to boogie.
8:28 Okay, if Ohio goes Obama, it means he doesn't have to have Virginia, which is trending McCain. An aside - Florida is also trending Obama. But with Ohio in the bag for Obama, it means I lose the NY times 3 pick teaser on their Economix blog. It was a risk, I know.
8:49 Markey's up huge in Musgrave's Colorado House seat! 61%-39% with 31% reporting.
8:55 New Mexico for Obama! My dad fumes! Louisiana for McCain! The south shall rise ... some other time!
10:45 Barack Obama, as commonly predicted, was projected the winner at precisely 10:00:01, when California put the race over the top with their 55 electoral votes. From that point on, it was nothing but hyperbolic coverage from every journalist with a microphone! But seriously, this is pretty big stuff, I guess. My dad hasn't called, which is actually fine because I'm sure he's crying over losing New Mexico's Republican senate seat as well as their two house seats.
10:55 Sorry about the big gap, but they wouldn't call it the "Worst Political Team" for anything. Actually M___ and R___ joined the team, and blogging and socializing became two mutually exclusive things.
11:01 Obama speaks, and its moving enough. Very poised. Very calm! A good contrast moment from John McCain's concession speech came when Obama made reference to McCain and Obama's audience clapped, unlike McCain's audience who booed Obama.
11:30 Hearing the excuses from Fox News. "This campaign was all about personality." "He outspent McCain by a large margin." But you know, it's actually refreshing to not hear the histrionics of the MSM. It's fine that we can acknowledge what Obama means to the black cause, but at the end of the day he can't just be defined as a "black" president if he's ever going to be truly successful.
But I'm really glad he won!
11:54 Turd Blossom says Republicans can't abandon the social issues and uses the Florida gay marriage ban to point this out. But he neglects to point out that the good people of Colorado voted down a proposal to define life at the point of conception (by a 3:1 margin), the medical marijuana proposal passing in Michigan, the rejection of limits to abortion in South Dakota, etc. In other words, plenty of swing state voters rejected social conservative issues.
11:59 Fox News throws support behind Bobby Jindal's 2012 candidacy.
12:00 I've been monitoring the Red Race to see which state is the most conservative, as defined by which state elected John McCain by the widest margin. Oklahoma and Wyoming have been going neck-and-neck, and we're both totally trouncing expected-frontrunners Utah and Idaho. It's 66%-34% in Oklahoma, 66%-32% in Wyoming. Wyoming's probably going to win, all because Oklahoma had no third party candidates or write-in abilities.
12:05 Jacob, after hearing Barack Obama's 2004 DNC speech: "Ladies and gentlemen, the 44th President of the United States of America." Steve, in November 2007 or so: "I guarantee a Republican will win the presidency." Let's just say I should owe Jacob a lot more than a six-pack of beer for how much his prescience kicked my prescience's ass.
12:07 Alaska - Too close to call! Still out: NC, MO, MT and the first state to close their polls tonight, Indiana, amazingly.
12:08 I already colored in Alaska an hour ago. I disenfranchised Aleutians!
12:10 Jim Roth lost his Corporation Commissioner seat. I bet if more people knew he was gay, he would have lost by a lot more.
12:12 Bernalillo county - 60% to 39% for Obama! Larimer County, CO - 55% - 44% for Obama! Cleveland County, OK - 60% - 40% ... for McCain. Like 2004, no Oklahoma county went for Obama. The closest county, Oklahoma County, was 58%-42% for McCain.
12:16 Breaking news! Bill Richardson has shaved! BILL RICHARDSON HAS SHAVED!
12:21 Bill Richardson and Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, president of Spain = BFF. Keith Olbermann has to ask him why he shaved. It showed white, it required maintenance, it cleans him up (to be an acceptable candidate for Secretary of State ...).
Okay, I've stayed up way too long. I loooooove elections!
Saturday, November 01, 2008
Here are my predictions for the election night score:
7:01 - VT - Obama
7:01 - KY - McCain
7:31 - WV - McCain
7:50 - SC - McCain
8:01 - ME, MA, CT, NJ, DE, MD, DC, IL - Obama
8:01 - TN, MS, AL, OK - McCain
(Obama leads 78-54)
8:10 - GA - McCain
8:20 - NH - Obama
8:31 - AR - McCain
8:45 - VA, PA - Obama (kaBOOM!)
9:01 - NY, RI, MI, WI, MN - Obama
9:01 - SD, 4/5 of NE, KS, TX, WY - McCain
(Obama leads 188-125)
9:20 - IN - McCain (this will plant the "why wasn't Obama's victory more decisive" storyline)
9:40 - LA - McCain
10:01 - UT - McCain
(Obama leads 188-150)
10:10-10:40 - Mindnumbingly boring half-hour of TV coverage featuring interviews with Bill Richardson's beard on at least 3 different networks.
10:40 - IA - Obama
10:45 - ND, MT, 1/5 of NE, AZ, FL - McCain, in preparation for 11 pm onslaught
11:01 - ID - McCain
11:01 - WA, OR, CA, HI - Obama
(Obama declared projected winner, leads 272-198)
The remaining states will sort themselves out sometime.