May 12, 2009

Are Preseason Rankings Predictive?

The answer is no. Even if voters want to rank teams in the order of how they think they will finish the next season, they usually do a pretty bad job at it. After my little "unbiased" preseason poll experiment, I started to notice just how bad the 2008 preseason polls look in hindsight. In fact, 2008 may have had the worst preseason rankings in a LONG time.

Does this have anything to do with Georgia being the preseason #1? Not really. Yes, UGA had what many call a "disappointing" season, but the #1 pre-ranked team ended up at #13 and #10 in the AP and Coaches' Polls (respectively) with 3 losses and a bowl win. Sure, this was "disappointing" to UGA fans, but many of those who bleed Red and Black won't be satisfied without an SEC or national title.

So if Georgia wasn't that big of a problem with the preseason rankings, who was? Looking at the AP preseason top 25 and final top 25 for 2008:


Preseason #10 Auburn went 5-7 and ended up (of course) unranked.

Preseason #18 Tennessee went 5-7 and also ended unranked.

Preseason #15 Arizona State went 5-7, ended unranked.

Preseason #9 Clemson went 7-5 regular season, lost bowl game, and unranked.

Preseason #7 LSU went 7-5 regular season and ended unranked.

Preseason #6 Missouri did well with a 9-3 regular season, but dropped to #19.

Preseason #14 Kansas went 7-5 and ended unranked.

Preseason #13 Wisconsin went 7-5, lost bowl game, and ended unranked.

Preseason #19 South Florida went 7-5, won bowl game, ended unranked.

Preseason #20 Illinois went 5-7, ended unranked.

Preseason #23 Wake Forest went 7-5, won bowl game, ended unranked.

And finally, Preseason #25 Pittsburgh went 9-3, lost bowl game, and ended unranked.


By my count, that's 11 teams that started in the preseason top 25 and weren't ranked at all after the bowl games. ELEVEN!

This includes 3 preseason top 10 teams that ended the season unranked (LSU, Auburn, and Clemson). THREE!

Of course this all means that 11 teams that weren't ranked preseason ended up in the final top 25. But guess what? 2 unranked teams in the preseason (Utah and TCU) ended up at #2 and #7. Alabama, ranked #24 by the AP and unranked by the Coaches' Poll in the preseason, of course ended up in the top 10.

So what does this all mean? You can always expect a few teams (especially the lower ranked ones) to end up unranked after starting the season in the top 25. But 11? And also, it has to be unusual for so many highly ranked preseason teams to do so poorly and end unranked. Are the voters just bad at judging who the best teams will be? Or was 2008 just a crazy, unpredictable season for college football?

1 comment:

  1. Last year was disappointing because during a down conference year, we lost to the only 3 teams on our schedule that were worth a crap. I bet if the Dawgs had beaten one of those three teams, people would not have complained as much. All those injuries and suspensions also really put a damper on last season too.