August 21, 2012 - by Austin Link
O-VER-RATED! Comparing The TeamRankings and AP Preseason Polls
posted in College Football
This past weekend The Associated Press released their annual preseason poll. The usual crew of favorites was well represented at the top with Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, and Oregon all repeating their positions in the preseason top 5. USC may have surprised a few by being number one, but they were a consistent dynasty before being derailed by “lack of institutional control” a few years ago.
For the second straight season we at TeamRankings.com have created our own preseason ratings. These ratings are mostly for use in our college football season projections, but they function as an early rankings system too. And because our preseason projected ratings are based entirely upon mathematical formulae and models developed from the past decade or so of data, our methods often result in rankings that differ notably from the AP or Coaches poll consensus.
(Note: The preseason rankings listed below for the 2012-2013 have not yet been published on our site. For now, they exist only in this blog post. These are what are referred to as our “New Rankings” on the site.)
Both sets of rankings (polls and algorithmic ratings) are useful to consider going into college football season, for two primary reasons:
- Our numbers are not subject to biases or media hype that can and often do influence human pollsters. That’s good.
- Our rankings may miss things that scouts or media folks who watch lots of practices and games would see such as individual skill changes, or the promotion of very talented backups at key positions. That could be bad.
One caveat remains before you dive into the rankings below. While the AP’s poll is their official preseason version, we still have a few adjustments to make with our rankings before we finalize them. Notable changes to come include the addition of more data on returning players and team rosters, and some adjustments to account for scenarios such as the latest Penn State transfers. Teams that have lost important components of their passing game, such as Oklahoma State and Stanford, will likely drop some from their current levels. Teams that have received a new starter or two will get a small bonus.
With that said, we present (drum roll please)…the 2012 preseason AP Poll and preliminary TR rankings comparison:
Associated Press Preseason Rankings
|AP Rank||Team||TR Rank||Difference|
|7||Florida State||17||10 better|
|9||South Carolina||25||16 better|
|11||West Virginia||29||18 better|
|13||Michigan State||26||13 better|
|16||Virginia Tech||28||12 better|
|18||Ohio State||16||2 worse|
|19||Oklahoma State||5||14 worse|
|22||Kansas State||23||1 better|
|24||Boise State||18||6 worse|
There are many teams that we believe the AP is overrating. If you have questions about specific teams, feel free to ask in the comments. In the meantime, here are some explanations for three scenarios of note:
USC. The Trojans were the surprising #1 in the preseason poll. As we’ve covered in our projections already, we see only a good, not great, team in LA. Southern Cal had a successful season last year, has a good number of returning starters, and has no red flags of decline. The problem for Matt Barkley is that his team was still a ways below the top tier last season. We think they’ll improve, just not enough to overcome the LSUs and Alabamas of the world.
South Carolina. The Gamecocks have many of the classic markers of a team that will decline. Their small number of returning starters, positive turnover margin, and talent lost to the NFL likely indicate that their top 10 hype is probably unwarranted.
Clemson. Clemson is exactly the type of team polls tend to overrate. They escaped with many close wins last season, which is nice at the time but likely can’t be repeated. The Tigers will probably regress to the mean and sink to where their talent level fits: the middle of the pack.
TeamRankings.com Preliminary Preseason Rankings
|TR Rank||Team||TR Rating||AP Rank||Difference|
|5||Oklahoma State||15.8||19||14 better|
|11||Texas A&M||11.5||36||25 better|
|15||Notre Dame||10.3||26||11 better|
|16||Ohio State||9.6||18||2 better|
|17||Florida State||9.3||7||10 worse|
|18||Boise State||9.0||24||6 better|
|23||Kansas State||7.2||22||1 worse|
|25||South Carolina||6.7||9||16 worse|
Our ratings projections system also sees a few teams that are being unjustly overlooked by The Associated Press. Again, fire away in the comments if you’re curious why. Here are three that stand out.
Florida. The Gators have seen a fall from grace since golden boy Tim Tebow left for the NFL. We expect this season to be a return to prominence, however, as Florida fits the classic profile of a team making the leap. 18 returning starters are an obvious bonus but the benefits of low passing numbers and a bad turnover margin aren’t as clear. It turns out that both of those stats tend to regress toward the average, and for Florida’s squad that means improvement.
Texas A&M. The SEC West’s newest members are underrated for the same reason Clemson is overrated: luck. At first look the Aggies seem to have had a pretty weak 2011 season, finishing only 7-6. Their losses were close though, and they faced one of the FBS’s toughest schedules. Despite those six losses, we had them number 13 in our final new ratings. We think that’s closer to where they’ll end this year.
Notre Dame. Rick Reilly may be a little down on the Irish this year, but we might see a pot of gold (or silver, at least) at the end of this rainbow. Notre Dame didn’t have too bad of a season last year, spending some time in the late season top 25. They also had a fantastically bad turnover margin. As we’ve discussed, turnovers are largely luck, and don’t carry over from year to year. A few less giveaways, a few more takeaways, and suddenly the Irish are a borderline BCS bowl bid.