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Econometric tests of American college football's conventional wisdom


  • Trevon Logan


College football fans, coaches and observers have adopted a set of beliefs about how college football poll voters behave. I document three pieces of conventional wisdom in college football regarding the timing of wins and losses, the value of playing strong opponents and the value of winning by wide margins. Using a unique data set with 25 years of Associated Press (AP) poll results, I use a hedonic regression to test college football's conventional wisdom. 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. I conclude by noting how these results inform debates about a potential playoff in college football.

Suggested Citation

  • Trevon Logan, 2011. "Econometric tests of American college football's conventional wisdom," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 43(20), pages 2493-2518.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:applec:v:43:y:2011:i:20:p:2493-2518
    DOI: 10.1080/00036840903286331

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    Cited by:

    1. Kotchen, Matthew J. & Potoski, Matthew, 2014. "Conflicts of interest distort public evaluations: Evidence from NCAA football coaches," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 107(PA), pages 51-63.
    2. Daniel Stone & Basit Zafar, 2014. "Do we follow others when we should outside the lab? Evidence from the AP top 25," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 49(1), pages 73-102, August.
    3. Nutting Andrew W., 2011. "And After That, Who Knows?: Detailing the Marginal Accuracy of Weekly College Football Polls," Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, De Gruyter, vol. 7(3), pages 1-17, July.
    4. Rodney J. Andrews & Trevon D. Logan & Michael J. Sinkey, 2012. "Identifying Confirmatory Bias in the Field: Evidence from a Poll of Experts," NBER Working Papers 18064, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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