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College Football Polls Aren’t What You Think

It may not be surprising to you that Trevon D. Logan, an economics professor at Ohio State University, is interested in college football. Ohio State is, after all, a football mecca (as we experienced first-hand some time ago).

What may surprise you, however, is what Logan has concluded about college football polls. In a new working paper, Logan used 25 years of AP poll data to test if a variety of conventional wisdoms were correct. He found out that often, they are not. From the abstract:

In particular, I test (1) whether it is better to lose early or late in the season, (2) whether teams benefit from playing stronger opponents, and (3) whether teams are rewarded for winning by large margins. Contrary to conventional wisdom, I find that (1) it is better to lose later in the season than earlier, (2) AP voters do not pay attention to the strength of a defeated opponent, and (3) the benefit of winning by a large margin is negligible.

If you care at all about college football, this is pretty interesting. And if you care at all about college football, you also know that Ohio State plays Michigan this weekend. It is good to see that Michigan has bounced back after an early-season whomping by my alma mater.

Finally, lest you think Logan is wasting research dollars by worrying about college football poll results, you should know that his specialties are economic history, economic demography, and biodemography. This paper, “The Transformation of Hunger,” looks particularly interesting. It finds that poor people today are less hungry than yesteryear’s wealthy industrial workers.