College Football 2013 Preseason Rankings: The TR Top 25 And Beyond

posted in College Football

College football is back again!  Tomorrow the 2013 college football season will kick off — the last season in the highly controversial BCS era. One point in the BCS’s favor though: college football is more popular than ever. To add to the excitement, we’ve updated all our college football content for the 2013-14 season.

Our preseason rankings are somewhat unique in the universe of CFB rankings because they are entirely mathematically driven. Our formulas take in many forms of quantitative data, from previous years’ team ratings to the numbers of returning starters to last year’s turnover margin, and compute projected preseason ratings for all of the 125 FBS teams.

Computers vs. Humans

While our quantitative approach may miss some information that is best applied subjectively, it also brings several advantages. Human voters are inevitably biased and/or subject to the influences of media hype and groupthink. What they believe is important may not be supported — or may even be proven false — by hard data.

And while human voters may be decent at evaluating teams they are very familiar with, they may also be downright awful at gauging the strength of teams outside their zone of deep knowledge.

Our system, on the other hand, only incorporates factors that we can show make a difference, and it appropriately weights each piece of information. It uses a 100% consistent framework for evaluating all teams, and it can’t be jaded one way or another. It’s hard for a computer to overreact to a tough bowl loss, or a few lucky wins, and that’s a good thing.

You Have Team X WHERE???

Some of the rankings listed below may surprise and/or shock you, but don’t forget one key point. You may know a lot more about your favorite team than our system does, but the goal of this system isn’t to come up with the most accurate preseason rating for your favorite team. The goal is to come up with the most accurate rating system as a whole.

Also, just because our ratings may differ from the prevailing consensus doesn’t mean we’re wrong. Only time will tell, and several of the more unique preseason claims we made last year ended up coming true.

Finally, our preseason ratings also drive our college football preseason projections, which have made profitable predictions in each of the two years they have existed so far. Those projections currently reflect the preseason ratings listed in this post, but they will automatically update every day of the season based on the most recent game results that come in, and consequently, the updated team ratings.

Below we have posted below our preseason Top 25 for this upcoming year, followed by some highlights of teams that our system feels high or low about compared to the popular consensus. At the bottom of the post are our complete 2013-14 preseason team rankings.

The 2013 TR Preseason Top 25

RankTeamRatingAP Rank
1Alabama Crimson Tide25.41
2Oregon Ducks25.33
3Texas A&M Aggies19.97
4Oklahoma State Cowboys17.413
5Stanford Cardinal17.14
6South Carolina Gamecocks15.86
7Florida Gators15.310
8Ohio State Buckeyes14.82
9Wisconsin Badgers14.823
10Oklahoma Sooners14.816
11Texas Christian Horned Frogs14.320
12Georgia Bulldogs145
13Texas Longhorns13.915
14Nebraska Cornhuskers13.818
15Oregon State Beavers13.825
16Louisiana State Tigers13.612
17Arizona State Sun Devils13.1NR
18Kansas State Wildcats12.5NR
19Notre Dame Fighting Irish12.414
20Southern California Trojans11.224
21Clemson Tigers10.98
22Michigan Wolverines10.717
23Mississippi Rebels10.4NR
24Florida State Seminoles10.311
25Brigham Young Cougars8.8NR

Underrated

#4 Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State is ranked #13 in the AP poll, not a poor showing. Our numbers, however, see them as a potential national championship contender. This is indicative of a trend we see in our preseason ratings this year, that the Big 12 once again appears a little underrated. Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas State all also project higher in our numbers than in the voters’ minds. The Big 12’s reputation as an unstable conference may be preventing proper appreciation of the SEC’s only true rival for the best conference in football.

#9 Wisconsin

Ohio State’s going to run away with the Leaders division title, right? Not so fast, because Wisconsin has all the makings of a team that could make a jump this season. A low turnover margin, 15 returning starters and quality returning quarterback options all help alleviate the loss of Montee Ball. Of course, if last year’s Big Ten title game is any indication, the Badgers have no problem finding people to run behind their monstrous line. We see them battling the Buckeyes all year for a trip to the Rose Bowl.

#17 Arizona State

Like Wisconsin, the Sun Devils have many of the traits of teams that tend to make a positive jump. They’ve also quietly put together solid squads each of the past three seasons. Put ASU in the mix of a weak South division in the Pac-12 and they are our favorite to reach the Pac-12 title game.

Overrated

#21 Clemson

For the last two years, Clemson’s actual win-loss record has been better than its expected record based on scoring margin. While this may seem good at first, it turns out to be mostly luck, and we’ve found that luck does not carry over from season to season. The Tigers will still be a solid team this year and they’re still our favorites in the ACC, but we don’t expect them to run away with it, and we don’t expect them to make a serious championship bid.

#34 Northwestern

Normally teams that have years of success are the ones that get the benefit of the doubt, but in this case it appears the human voters are overly enthusiastic about an uncommon top 25 inhabitant. Northwestern returns a lot of players, but its high turnover margin last year could indicate that last year’s record was a bit of a fluke. Another important factor for the Wildcats is the overall returning strength of the Big Ten. Going 9-3 in the Big Ten is normally very difficult, but last year’s extremely weak conference artificially inflated Northwestern’s record. The Wildcats should still make a bowl this season, but a conference title is probably out of the question.

#47 Louisville

Louisville is the biggest outlier in our 2013 projections, a whopping 38 spots worse than its AP poll ranking. The Cardinals won the Big East, had a big BCS game victory, and return 15 starters, why are they so low? As it turns out, our system thinks Louisville got really lucky last year. In fact, over the last four years (all significant predictors of current year performance) we the Cards as almost exactly the FBS average team. Granted, their defeat of Florida last year was a serious upset, but hey, upsets do happen. Louisville may not be quite as bad as we have them ranked right now, but we do think an AP rank of #9 is pretty unrealistic.

Full Preseason Rating Table

RankTeamRatingAP Rank
1Alabama Crimson Tide25.41
2Oregon Ducks25.33
3Texas A&M Aggies19.97
4Oklahoma State Cowboys17.413
5Stanford Cardinal17.14
6South Carolina Gamecocks15.86
7Florida Gators15.310
8Ohio State Buckeyes14.82
9Wisconsin Badgers14.823
10Oklahoma Sooners14.816
11Texas Christian Horned Frogs14.320
12Georgia Bulldogs145
13Texas Longhorns13.915
14Nebraska Cornhuskers13.818
15Oregon State Beavers13.825
16Louisiana State Tigers13.612
17Arizona State Sun Devils13.1NR
18Kansas State Wildcats12.5NR
19Notre Dame Fighting Irish12.414
20Southern California Trojans11.224
21Clemson Tigers10.98
22Michigan Wolverines10.717
23Mississippi Rebels10.4NR
24Florida State Seminoles10.311
25Brigham Young Cougars8.8NR
26Boise State Broncos8.819
27Missouri Tigers8.2NR
28Virginia Tech Hokies8.1NR
29Michigan State Spartans7.9NR
30Baylor Bears7.5NR
31Auburn Tigers7.1NR
32Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets6.7NR
33UCLA Bruins6.521
34Northwestern Wildcats6.422
35Arizona Wildcats6.3NR
36Texas Tech Red Raiders6.1NR
37Washington Huskies6NR
38Utah Utes5.9NR
39Northern Illinois Huskies5.6NR
40Cincinnati Bearcats5.5NR
41Mississippi State Bulldogs5.3NR
42Utah State Aggies5NR
43Arkansas Razorbacks4.8NR
44Vanderbilt Commodores4.7NR
45Tulsa Golden Hurricane4.7NR
46Central Florida Knights4.4NR
47Louisville Cardinals4.39
48Miami Hurricanes4.2NR
49San Diego State Aztecs4.1NR
50Iowa State Cyclones3.4NR
51Penn State Nittany Lions3.2NR
52North Carolina Tar Heels3.1NR
53Pittsburgh Panthers1.7NR
54Fresno State Bulldogs1.5NR
55Nevada Wolf Pack1.4NR
56Connecticut Huskies1.3NR
57Tennessee Volunteers0.5NR
58California Golden Bears0.5NR
59Syracuse Orange0.3NR
60Iowa Hawkeyes0NR
61Rutgers Scarlet Knights0NR
62Temple Owls0NR
63West Virginia Mountaineers-0.1NR
64Navy Midshipmen-0.2NR
65Maryland Terrapins-0.9NR
66Southern Methodist Mustangs-1NR
67South Florida Bulls-1.1NR
68Minnesota Golden Gophers-1.4NR
69Air Force Falcons-1.9NR
70Arkansas State Red Wolves-2.6NR
71Kentucky Wildcats-2.6NR
72North Carolina State Wolfpack-2.6NR
73UL Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns-3.6NR
74Boston College Eagles-4.1NR
75UL Monroe Warhawks-4.4NR
76Indiana Hoosiers-4.4NR
77Toledo Rockets-4.7NR
78Kansas Jayhawks-4.8NR
79San Jose State Spartans-4.9NR
80Virginia Cavaliers-5.1NR
81Louisiana Tech Bulldogs-5.3NR
82Bowling Green Falcons-5.3NR
83Illinois Fighting Illini-5.5NR
84Kent State Golden Flashes-5.8NR
85Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders-5.9NR
86Ball State Cardinals-6.1NR
87Purdue Boilermakers-6.2NR
88East Carolina Pirates-6.3NR
89Rice Owls-6.3NR
90Washington State Cougars-6.5NR
91Troy Trojans-7NR
92North Texas Mean Green-7.1NR
93Duke Blue Devils-7.2NR
94Houston Cougars-7.3NR
95Western Kentucky Hilltoppers-7.5NR
96Hawaii Warriors-7.5NR
97Texas San Antonio Roadrunners-7.6NR
98Army Black Knights-8NR
99Wake Forest Demon Deacons-8.3NR
100South Alabama Jaguars-8.4NR
101Ohio Bobcats-8.4NR
102Florida International Golden Panthers-9.5NR
103Colorado State Rams-9.7NR
104Marshall Thundering Herd-9.9NR
105Western Michigan Broncos-10NR
106Colorado Buffaloes-10NR
107Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles-10.1NR
108Wyoming Cowboys-10.2NR
109Texas El Paso Miners-10.3NR
110Texas State Bobcats-10.7NR
111UNLV Rebels-11.2NR
112Memphis Tigers-11.5NR
113Buffalo Bulls-11.7NR
114UAB Blazers-13.2NR
115Georgia State-13.7NR
116New Mexico Lobos-13.9NR
117Florida Atlantic Owls-14NR
118Central Michigan Chippewas-14.5NR
119Eastern Michigan Eagles-17.7NR
120Miami (Ohio) Redhawks-18.2NR
121Tulane Green Wave-18.8NR
122Idaho Vandals-19.2NR
123Massachusetts Minutemen-19.5NR
124Akron Zips-20.4NR
125New Mexico State Aggies-21.4NR