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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The 2012 preview you've been waiting for

I even dressed the part
Preseason statistical analyses are little more than a voodoo witch doctor reading sheep entrails while rubbing a crystal ball for luck. There are some measurables - returning starters, recruiting class rankings, etc. - that we can try to use, comparing these to benchmark results from past seasons. But fundamentally we are trying to evaluate teams statistically that have not yet produced any statistics.

So today, two days before the season kicks off, I'm going to do my best impression of a voodoo witch doctor. The model is pretty simple. I start with a strong power ranking from the 2011 season. I adjust that number for lost production in each position group, the per play production of replacement players, and the general strength of the program (the capacity to reload). [Note that I am only using 2011 FBS teams. Even voodoo witch doctors have their limits.]

The first column is the 2012 predicted power ranking. Alabama comes out on top, and not by a little. In fact, Alabama is so far ahead of everyone else I considered manually adjusting them down a smidgen just to keep things interesting. LSU drops from a clear #2 in 2011 to 4th.

Good chance these guys get together again this year
The third column is the margin of victory for the 2012 team if they played the 2011 version (with a slight bias for the 2011 squad). No team is expected to take a bigger step back in 2012 than Boise St; fortunately for the Broncos, Michigan St. is also predicted to take a tumble. Looking at the clumping from #41-43, Houston, Michigan St. and Baylor should form a PQSD (post-quarterback stress disorder) support group; and the Redskins need to go get Keenum from the Texans. USC and Oklahoma jump up past LSU, and Michigan, Georgia, Texas, and Kansas St. also make big moves into the top 10.

The 4th column is the expected wins followed by the expected win distribution (or the probability that the team will win x games). While no team has a better than 3 in 10 chance of an undefeated season, USC, Alabama, Wisconsin, Florida St., and Georgia are all better than 3 in 20.

New Mexico has an 18% chance of going winless while the rest of the country has a 54% chance of producing another winless team.

Back of the envelope calculation: we have a 3-4% chance of an undefeated 'Bama and USC matching off for a national championship.

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