Official 2012 College Football Preseason Rankings: Oklahoma #1, Big 12 Looks Strong

posted in College Football

We’re just a day away from the beginnings of another college football season. Thanks to some new data we’ve received on final team rosters, we are now able to publish our official 2012 college football preseason rankings and ratings for all 124 FBS teams.

These ratings are the numbers that go directly in to our 2012 college football preseason projections, another set of numbers that are now official. (These projections will update daily throughout the season, and are posted on our college football projections page.) Our season projections and preseason ratings debuted last year, and overall were successful at identifying value teams.

For now though, let’s dive in to the rankings…

How Our Preseason College Football Ratings Work

(Quick primer for newbies on the difference between ratings and rankings: We first calculate numerical ratings for every team, which represent, in points, how much better or worse we think a team is than the average team, when playing on a neutral field. If you sort the list of all 124 FBS teams by rating, you now have our team rankings.)

Normally our team power ratings are computed by examining games that have already been played in a season. With no games played yet, however, that method doesn’t really work for evaluating the strength of teams in the preseason.

In its place, we’ve examined past seasons of college football data to determine how a variety of statistical factors have related to a team’s end of season rating. These factors include previous season ratings (e.g., how good a team has been in recent years), returning players (accounting for players lost to the draft, etc.), certain statistics from the prior season, and players lost to the draft. You can get more detail in our preseason ratings methodology post.

It’s important to note that our preseason team ratings are our best guess at a team’s most likely level of performance this year, based on the data we have available to us and comprehensive number crunching. The “official” goal of our preseason ratings is to do a good job predicting our end-of-season ratings — not the final AP Poll, Coaches’ Poll, or anything like that. Some of them will end up being really close, and some will end up way off. That’s the nature of the beast. (We even account for expected error in our preseason projections as we update our team ratings throughout the season.)

Our preseason ratings also provide an interesting alternative perspective on every team’s prospects, once you strip out media hype and bias and all the other agendas individual human pollsters may have. Our methods are far from perfect — there isn’t a huge wealth of amazing data on college football out there, and 18-year old “amateurs” can be a notoriously fickle group to model — but so far they have generally done well at picking out teams to which the public and the pollsters aren’t giving enough credit regarding their prospects this year.

Notable Ratings

We’ve covered a couple teams in the projections post, so while USC and Ohio State are interesting, here’s a look at a few other squads we haven’t discussed.

Florida. The Gators have something of a perfect storm for improvement this year.  They’re only 23rd in the AP Poll, but they have a strong program history, poor 2011 turnover margin (read: bad luck which shouldn’t repeat itself), and loads of returning starters. Those three qualities have historically foreshadowed a team’s improvement, and we think it’ll continue with Florida.

Notre Dame. The Irish have been discounted by many this year, not appearing in the AP’s top 25.  We’re more optimistic about their talent, ranking them 13th among FBS teams. A rating that high means a few lucky bounces could put them in a BCS bowl.

More interesting though is their strength of schedule.  Being an independent forces Notre Dame to play a wide array of teams, and this year in particular many such as Oklahoma, Stanford, and USC happen to be very good.  The Fighting Irish have college football’s toughest schedule, and will have to fight for every win despite being a good team.

The Big 12. Every year it’s assumed that the SEC will be the best conference in the nation, and lately that’s been true.  A look at our projected strength of schedule numbers makes a different case however.  Seven of the ten hardest schedules belong to Big 12 teams.  Why?  Because they’re all stuck playing each other.

The Big 12 has our top ranked team (Oklahoma), three more in the top eight (TCU, Texas, Oklahoma State), and two more in the top 25 (Kansas State, West Virginia).  That’s 60% of the conference among the top 20% of teams.  Heck, three of the four teams that have left are even in our top 20.  Despite a tenuous existence the last couple seasons, the Big 12 still has elite skill and depth.

Final 2012 Preseason Rankings, Ratings & SOS 

TR RankAPCoachesTeamTR RatingRating ChangeRank ChangeSOSSOS Rank
144Oklahoma21.5+0.0+57.01
222Alabama20.7-6.406.92
355Oregon16.4-8.8+12.227
413USC15.6-0.3+54.313
531LSU15.2-11.9-45.76
62017TCU14.2+1.4+96.23
71515Texas14.1+3.6+145.85
81919Oklahoma St13.4-12.0-55.18
92118Stanford13.1-10.7-43.619
102323Florida13.0+5.3+165.57
111010Arkansas11.5-3.004.811
1277Florida St11.5-1.6+21.036
1324Notre Dame10.9-1.3+55.94
141716Nebraska10.8+3.7+162.029
1588Michigan10.2-4.1-34.115
16Texas A&M10.0-4.1-35.19
17Missouri9.3-2.2+25.110
181212Wisconsin9.1-11.9-100.147
1966Georgia9.0-3.4-22.226
202422Boise St8.9-12.5-13-3.374
21Utah7.9+1.7+110.146
2218Ohio St7.7+2.2+121.235
232221Kansas St7.6+1.2+84.712
241111West Virginia7.4-1.9-23.918
2599South Carolina7.2-5.2-93.917
261620Virginia Tech7.0-0.7+11.731
27South Florida6.9+3.0+140.839
28Georgia Tech6.4+2.8+150.048
29Vanderbilt6.1+1.3+81.930
30BYU5.5+1.3+10-1.359
31Tennessee5.4+4.8+242.821
321313Michigan St5.0-6.3-122.128
33Tulsa4.7-0.7+2-3.373
3425Auburn4.5+3.0+173.520
35Houston4.4-11.4-25-6.082
361414Clemson4.3-0.4+3-0.250
37Cincinnati4.3-3.8-12-1.357
38Iowa4.1+1.7+8-1.663
39Pittsburgh3.6+2.1+13-0.149
40Baylor3.5-4.9-174.016
41North Carolina3.3+2.4+12-3.171
42California3.1-4.3-142.622
43Texas Tech2.8+5.7+302.524
44Southern Miss2.8-4.5-15-3.576
45Rutgers2.6-0.60-0.954
46Mississippi St2.5-3.5-130.838
47Illinois2.0+0.3+3-1.358
48Central Florida1.7+1.2+8-4.077
49Connecticut1.5+4.0+21-1.460
50Oregon St1.2+2.0+141.732
51Boston College1.1+5.5+260.640
52Miami (FL)0.7-4.4-162.225
53Temple0.4-3.4-11-1.055
54Washington0.4-0.301.634
5525Louisville0.2+0.7+6-0.652
56Penn St0.1-4.7-180.543
57UCLA0.1+0.3+10.837
58Louisiana Tech0.0-2.0-9-5.279
59Iowa St-0.2+2.4+124.214
60Purdue-0.6+2.5+14-0.853
61Mississippi-0.6+9.0+322.623
62Nevada-0.9-3.1-15-6.688
63North Carolina St-1.2-0.8-3-1.562
64Utah St-1.5+2.8+12-7.095
65Navy-1.8+0.5+3-6.587
66Ohio-1.9+2.1+9-9.1110
67Bowling Green-2.0+8.7+30-6.893
68Toledo-2.3-5.9-24-6.790
69Northern Illinois-2.4-2.5-12-7.8102
70Arizona St-2.6-10.8-460.444
71Western Michigan-2.7-1.4-5-6.994
72SMU-2.9-2.1-9-3.070
73Arizona-3.3-5.4-250.245
74Army-3.3+5.7+15-6.083
75Virginia-3.8+0.7+3-1.764
76Northwestern-4.0-3.2-14-1.056
77Wake Forest-4.3-1.9-8-1.561
78Arkansas St-4.4-3.3-13-7.399
79Syracuse-4.4+0.400.542
80Kentucky-4.4+3.0+10.541
81FL International-4.6+1.7-1-8.2106
82Fresno St-4.8+4.8+9-6.586
83Miami (OH)-4.9+3.20-6.184
84Duke-5.2+3.7+3-2.265
85Kansas-6.2+8.0+191.633
86Western Kentucky-6.4+4.6+12-7.096
87Air Force-6.5-6.2-28-8.1104
88Ball St-6.9+5.4+13-3.172
89UTEP-7.1+3.6+7-2.869
90UL Monroe-7.3+1.7-2-6.792
91Minnesota-7.3+3.9+9-2.768
92East Carolina-7.4+1.8-2-6.689
93Marshall-7.4+1.5-7-5.480
94UL Lafayette-7.5+0.8-10-8.1105
95Maryland-7.6+0.8-10-0.651
96Eastern Michigan-7.6+7.4+9-5.178
97Washington St-7.7-5.0-25-2.366
98Troy-7.9+8.1+10-7.9103
99San Diego St-8.0-6.4-32-8.4107
100Central Michigan-8.1+7.8+6-7.197
101Indiana-8.9+7.1+6-2.667
102North Texas-9.0+3.40-7.4100
103Hawaii-9.4-1.7-21-7.7101
104Wyoming-9.6+0.3-9-8.5108
105Kent St-10.0+3.5-2-7.198
106Colorado St-11.8+5.1+4-10.8119
107Colorado-11.9-2.4-15-3.575
108Rice-12.1-1.0-9-6.791
109Buffalo-13.8+2.40-6.285
110San Jose St-14.5-4.7-16-10.0115
111South Alabama-15.0-----10.9120
112Massachusetts-15.0-----6.081
113Texas St-15.0-----10.7117
114UT San Antonio-15.0-----16.7124
115Idaho-15.2+2.3-4-9.8114
116Middle Tennessee-16.1+5.6-2-10.8118
117UAB-16.9+2.6-4-9.2112
118UNLV-16.9+6.6-3-10.1116
119Florida Atlantic-17.0+9.2-2-9.1111
120Tulane-17.6+6.2-4-8.9109
121New Mexico St-21.3-2.6-9-12.6122
122New Mexico-21.5+9.2-2-11.2121
123Akron-22.4+7.7-4-9.4113
124Memphis-24.4+2.5-6-12.9123

  • huskerbaseball

    Good stuff as always! Do you have a link for your 2011 Preseason Rankings of all 124 teams?

  • http://www.teamrankings.com/ David Hess

    Not in a blog post, but you can navigate to any date in our rankings to find ratings. For these preseason projections, the “Predictive” version of the “New Rankings” shows the preseason ratings for a couple days before the season starts:
    http://www.teamrankings.com/college-football/ranking/predictive-by-other?rating_date=2011-09-01