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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Living Down to Expectations

College Football News had an interesting story listing the most overrated (and underrated) teams of the last 35 years based on their preseason AP ranking compared to where the teams finished at the end of the year.

As the story stated, "Beyond being just interesting factoids and fodder for message boards, it’s relevant to understand which programs have historically received the benefit of the doubt in August, only to tank once the one meaningful barometer of success—live action—begins in September."

The teams they took a look at were the 31 college football programs that have been in the AP’s preseason Top 20 -Top 25 beginning in 1989 - at least 10 different years. Thus, being 31st in this poll was "best" because it meant that team lived up to or exceeded preseason expectations. For this excercise, each team was given a composite score that represented the average annual number of spots a school's final ranking fell below its preseason ranking since 1971.

So, according to CFN, at #31, the most "underrated" team was the Miami Hurricanes with a composite score of -2.41.

Michigan did quite well coming in at #24 with a composite score of -4.21 saying, "Since 1971, no school has been ranked in the AP preseason poll more times than the Wolverines. They’ve been unranked just once, in 1985, a slight that prompted a defensively-dominant 10-1-1 season and a Fiesta Bowl victory over Nebraska. Last year’s unexpected freefall to 7-5 represented just the second time in the last 35 years that Michigan began the year in the Top 25, yet couldn’t maintain their ranking at the end of the bowl season."

So, who was the most overrated team of the last 35 years? You guessed it, our good friends in East Lansing, the Michigan State Spartans with a composite score of -19.80. Sparty's mark easily eclipsed that of the second place Wisconsin Badgers and their composite score of -12.50.

According to CFN, "No matter how good they look or how many starters are back, do not do it. Do not champion the Spartans, America’s most overrated college football program. Resist that temptation and you’ll prove wiser than your peers in the end. Ten times since 1971, Michigan State has been ranked in the preseason. In nine of those years, they ended the season unranked. And there are some real clunkers in the school vault, including Bobby Williams’ last team, which opened 2002 at No. 17, yet could only manage four victories and a host of off-field missteps."

Naturally, we here at the MZone have no comment. Nope. Not gonna pile on. Wouldn't... *snicker* ...think...*snort*... of doing such a *chortle*...thing.

Thanks to readers Mike, AHS and SiC for the tip.


Wholesome Goodness said...

As much as I love the fact that someone out there believes Michigan is an underrated team by statistics, it set my BS meter ablaze.
Being the young Wolverine that I am, personal experience tells me that there have been far more disappointments than rejoicings.
Well, I found somebody that would back me up statistically:
Rankings Stats

Now I can't speak for how the good gentlemen over at CFN created their composite score, but this page does simple addition and subtraction, which I can get on board with.
I don't want to smash hope, I just want to set the record straight, and lets hope come Nov. 18th we're riding the redneck-mustache NASCAR to victory lane.

ferenc said...

--wholesome goodness, the problem with the Ranking Stats you cite is that they rely on simple addition and subtraction and they don't account for teams that are not ranked often. Teams are punished for being ranked often and the reward for having one good season and the punishment for having one bad season is heavy. Therefore, when you look at the page, you see that teams that are rarely ranked towards the top of the page, and the national powers at the bottom. The CFN poll uses averages for the past 35 years. It is not perfect, but at least they remove teams that have finished in fewer than 10 polls and compensate for the rare season that falls outside the norm.

Lordfoul said...

It is true that Sparty is a sad program but they consistantly get second (or third or fourth) rate recruits. Michigan is an elite program no matter what anyone has to say about it. The Bo years skew the numbers our way tho. In the last decade or so we have not been so good. '97 props us up alot as well. Let's hope this year turns the trend around.

cottoncandy said...

Michigan State Community College, where low test scores and core GPA's are Spartitastic! We can't all be Alfred Einsteins!

semperfibuck said...

You forgot to mention that the Blue came in one spot below the Scarlet & Gray! But we will overlook that error of omission in this instance! :>)

Wholesome Goodness said...

ferenc, I totally agree that the stats don't crunch the numbers that much, and that the teams that are always ranked get the proverbial shaft, but the high predictions every year lead you to be let down more often than not, since it's very hard to maintain top 10 status year in and year out.

Schools like Eastern Michigan, my alma matre, would perform any number of scandals to get a top tier football team. (Including sexual favors by one of the athletic counselors...my old boss), but if they ever pop into the top 25, they're the most underrated team in history.

No doubt Blue is a force every year, but I just long for a Rocky-eqsue season ala 1984-5.