The ARGH pre-season power ratings are computed using the following factors, with the strength of each factor varying each year based on what has happened in the three previous years:
Previous Year's Power Rating. This is the single most powerful predictor of the current year's power rating, both because much of the team responsible for the previous year's results will be back and because the previous year's results are an indication in and of themselves of the talent level of the team. This factor is down slightly for 2009.
Second Previous Year's Power Rating. This is used because much of the team will still be around after two years, and because it helps to create a historical context with which to judge a team. In other words, if a good team has an off year, this factor will tend to predict that team to bounce back. (This, in part, explains Kansas' high preseason ranking; the Jayhawks finished #2 in 2007 and also had good indicators everywhere else other than recruiting, which is a weak factor this year.) This factor is up slightly for 2009.
Number of returning starters. The number of projected starters is a fairly powerful indicator of whether a team will get better or worse. This factor is up for 2009. Figures are from Athlon, Lindy, Phil Steele, and Marc Lawrence.
Returning Coach. A team changing coaches tends to get a little worse during the year immediately after the change, presumably due to a period of adjustment to the new coach's system. This factor is down somewhat for 2009.
Returning Starting Quarterback. The quarterback is far and away the most important position in terms of experience, and a returning starting quarterback is worth much more than a returning starter at any other position. This factor is up significantly for 2009.
Previous year's strength of schedule. This factor is supposed to work under the theory that teams tend to play up or down to the level of their competition. This factor is down somewhat in 2009.
Recruiting. Analysis has generally shown a small but reasonably significant positive correlation between recruiting and a team's preformance in the next season. I have developed a way to estimate recruiting rankings for all 120 teams based not only on listed rankings for individual teams, but the listed rankings within conferences, and this is what I've been using since 2007. The recruiting factor is down significantly for 2009, and the numbers are based on figures from Phil Steele and Athlon.
Factors that are NOT used to calculate the ratings are:
Previous years' power ratings beyond two years. There's no evidence that these are statistically significant to the current year's power rankings.
Turnover Margin. Phil Steele is big on this one, so I tested it in 2003. The results of the test were that the previous year's turnover margin are utterly statistically insignificant in any combination with the factors I actually use. Sorry, Phil -- I love your work even if the walls of text in the magazine blind me, but I think you're finding something more akin to the bounceback provided by the second previous year's power rating.
Current year's strength of schedule or lack thereof. Almost every year some team is touted for the national championship or at least a great year because their schedule is so weak. Every year that team loses, usually more than one game, usually early, and often in an embarrassing manner. Having a weak schedule does not make a team strong, and having a tough schedule does not make a team weak. These power ratings are meant to measure how good a team is, not to measure a team's ability to beat patsies.
Individual player talent. I don't pretend to know how to judge anything like this, and even the people who do pretend to do so are usually subject to either their own biases or a lack of context. Talent usually manifests itself in a team's record for the previous year, or possibly in a team's recruiting, and both of those are already factored in mathematically.
Because I like them. Cal, my alma mater, is predicted in the top ten. This is (surprisingly) common this year, and they are universally projected as the #2 team in the conference, but like most true Bears fans, I will believe it when I see it. Heck, I'll believe that they'll win their first game against Maryland when I see it happen; I attended and remember only too well the disaster that was the Maryland game last year. See also the comment about Nebraska below; in fact, you can throw in #119 North Texas here as well, although to be fair, #119 is one spot higher than most have the (not-so) Mean Green at this point of the year.
Because I dislike them. Stanford projects as a bowl team.
Because they're historically good. This year, the best examples are probably Notre Dame, who clearly should be improved but look to be a bit short of top 25 material, and Nebraska, who is my favorite Big Twelve team, but has uniformly horrible indicators other than their #26 finish last year and doesn't project anywhere near the top 25 ranking that they enjoy in the preseason polls.
Because you like them. These ratings are strictly mathematical, and an e-mail that says something like
"Your ratings suck! I'm a 1977 alumni of Wild Card U., and in my unbiased opinion, my Jokers are going to go all the way!! Go Jokers!!!!!!"
won't change the formulas or the ratings.
This page last modified September 2, 2009.
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