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Pre-season ranking metholodogy

Preseason rankings are a real challenge. If nothing else, it’s all based on opinion since no games have been played. But additionally one has to decide how to rank them. Does one rank them based on how good they think they are right now, i.e. if they were to play every possible team in the first season of the week, you’d expect all teams above them to beat them, and all teams below them to lose to them, or do you rank them where you expect them to land at the end of the season?

There seems to be a movement towards taking the 2nd strategy and I couldn’t disagree more. It creates all the wrong incentives and pre-biases the teams the wrong way. What it all comes down to is schedule. Teams with hard schedules will get ranked lower because the ranker “doesn’t see how they can get through that schedule unscathed” (or something like that). Teams with weak schedules but who by the ranker’s own admission aren’t as good, who have a shot at being undefeated will likely end the season higher ranked based on the benefit of the doubt and their record, they’ll put higher.

The result, since pre-season rankings only affect “seeding”, is that the team who most needs some early season ranking support when the ranking drops after they lose one or more of those tough games, is least likely to get it. The team that is weak and needs to do something to earn it, doesn’t have to because they start at the top.

There’s already far too many powerful incentives to schedule weak. We don’t need another.

Pre-season rankings should be based on how good the team is in the opinion of the ranker as they exit training camp without any biasing towards the ease or difficulty of the schedule. I understand why the pundits want to talk about it, and in concept I’ve got no problem with that, but when they put their rankings down on paper, they need to forget it.

Week 1 BlogPoll

Here’s my week #1 poll (see here for background):

Rank Team Delta
1 Southern Cal
2 Florida
3 Oklahoma
4 Georgia
6 Missouri 3
7 West Virginia
8 Alabama 18
9 Ohio State 1
10 Oregon
11 Texas
12 Auburn 3
13 Texas Tech 1
14 Kansas 8
15 Wisconsin 2
16 Arizona State 3
17 Brigham Young 2
18 Penn State 2
19 Illinois 1
20 Virginia Tech 14
21 Fresno State 5
22 Utah 4
23 California 3
24 UCLA 2
25 Notre Dame

Dropped Out: Clemson (#12), Tennessee (#16), Rutgers (#21), Oregon State (#23), Michigan (#24).


The one thing I give a big bump for is playing good teams early. I’m not impressed by beating up on Southeastern Rhode Island State (not to be confused with Southeastern Rhode Island University). But if a team plays a significant team from another BCS conference and win, that’s going to mean much more to me. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I rank those teams higher than I think their talent deserves, but as far as proving themselves, they’ve done more than the other teams to prove themselves, so they get the benefit of the doubt. Included in this are UCLA, Alabama, Fresno State, Missouri and although they were already at the top, USC.

Other things of note:

  • I’m pretty unimpressed with Arizona State, only putting 30 points on Northern Arizona.
  • Illinois doesn’t lose much respect from me for losing to a higher ranked team.
  • Yes, Notre Dame stays at 25 even though they didn’t play. In some sense not playing is no worse than playing SE-RI-State
  • I feel uncomfortable with my Virginia Tech ranking, but I still think they’re best in the ACC and had an off day.

Preseason BlogPoll

The BlogPoll is the invention of mgoblog’s Brian Cook. He solicits the opinion of LOTS of different bloggers and other web-oriented college football fans. He explicitely notes the team loyalties of each of his pollsters.

This year I have been invited to participate in the poll. The “normal” schedule is to create the weekly poll on Sunday or Monday and post it to your own blog for feedback from your readers to be finally posted on Wednesday morning. The preseason poll has a slightly different schedule with it being due next Monday.

In any case, here’s my preliminary preseason poll:

Rank Team
1 Southern Cal
2 Florida
3 Oklahoma
4 Georgia
6 Virginia Tech
7 West Virginia
8 Ohio State
9 Missouri
10 Oregon
11 Texas
12 Clemson
13 Arizona State
14 Texas Tech
15 Auburn
16 Tennessee
17 Wisconsin
18 Illinois
19 Brigham Young
20 Penn State
21 Rutgers
22 Kansas
23 Oregon State
24 Michigan
25 Notre Dame


(It’s worth noting that the expected difficulty of a team’s schedule is not supposed to be a factor in this poll. It’s supposed to be about how good the team is, not how many wins they’re going to get. The opposite is true for the end of the season, it’s not about how many wins they got, it’s about how good they proved to be, so difficulty of schedule should be a significant factor.)

Who should I interview poll posted

I put a poll on the sidebar asking who I should interview at this Saturday’s practice. I can’t promise that I’ll interview the winner both because sometimes certain players aren’t made available and because I like to talk to someone who had a good practice (or for the backups at least got a significant amount of playing time). Nevertheless, I will take the poll results seriously and make sure I pick one of the leading candidates.