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Math Trek

College Football, Rankings, and Wandering Monkeys

By
3:44pm, September 3, 2004

With the start of the U.S. college football season, some folks are already looking ahead to the national championship. Determining that champion, however, is fraught with difficulties and food for much argument.

One problem is that there are 117 teams in Division I-A of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), but they play only 10 to 13 games each. Every team doesn't play every other team. Moreover, some teams play games against much weaker (or stronger) opponents than others do. Not all schedules are created equal. And, in the end, there are no playoffs among the top teams to determine a champion.

For a long time, the crowning of the national college football champion has been solely in the hands of human judges. The Associated Press (AP) set of rankings represents the views of a s

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