Comparing the 2013 preseason Coaches Poll to Football Outsiders projections

Streeter Lecka

The preseason USA Today coaches poll was released today with few surprises. As we've assumed from all of the individual preseason rankings we've seen (not to mention the magazines), Alabama, Ohio State, and Oregon are the top two, and the top 10 is filled out with Stanford, Clemson, Louisville, and SEC teams.

How does this compare to the rankings projected in the Football Outsiders Almanac 2013? Let's take a look.

USA Today Team Football
Outsiders
Difference
1 Alabama 1 0
2 Ohio State 10 +8
3 Oregon 2 -1
4 Stanford 3 -1
5 Georgia 9 +4
6 Texas A&M 15 +9
7 South Carolina 14 +7
8 Clemson 20 +12
9 Lousiville 31 +22
10 Florida 5 -5
11 Notre Dame 13 +2
12 Florida State 19 +7
13 LSU 4 -9
14 Oklahoma State 6 -8
15 Texas 8 -7
16 Oklahoma 7 -9
17 Michigan 28 +11
18 Nebraska 21 3
19 Boise State 12 -7
20 TCU 11 -9
21 UCLA 45 +24
22 Northwestern 40 +18
23 Wisconsin 16 -7
24 USC 17 -7
25 Oregon State 22 -3
26 Kansas State 41 +15
27 Miami 25 -2
28 Michigan State 18 -10
29 Baylor 37 +8
30 Virginia Tech 23 -7
31 Fresno State 50 +19
32 Arizona State 36 +4
33 Ole Miss 27 -6
34 Vanderbilt 51 +17
35 Utah State 52 +17
36 BYU 34 -2
37 North Carolina 29 -8
38 Northern Illinois 39 +1
39 Tulsa 59 +20
40 Ohio 76 +36

When you come up with projections based on precedent and no "Yeah, butting" in the formulas, you're going to come up with a few shaky projections along the way. I think Oklahoma's too high at No. 7, but I know why the Sooners are projected that high -- they rank eighth like every damn season in the F/+ rankings, so of course they're going to project close to that. And while I like Oklahoma State quite a bit, I wish they were closer to 10th-12th than sixth.

Meanwhile, I think Michigan and UCLA are projected too low, with their numbers getting dragged down by poor five-year performance. I don't think Northwestern is No. 40, but No. 22 also makes me queasy. I'd split the difference on the Wildcats.

But when it comes to Ohio State and Louisville (and Clemson, for that matter) getting ranked too high, I'm buying that. Ohio State wasn't elite last year and only has a slight chance of being so this year. Louisville played at an elite level basically once last year (and in a bowl game, no less, which is almost completely lacking in predictive quality) and hasn't yet fielded a top-40 defense in Charlie Strong's tenure. Clemson has to replace two of its three best skill position players and hasn't had a top-50 defense in three years. (I would love nothing more than for the Tigers to get rolling, however. They're too much fun.) These teams have far too many issues to be ranked as high as they are.

And yes, as has been discussed before, Ohio State and Louisville both have schedules conducive to double-digit wins, so their records might end up elite even if they aren't. But I'm pretty confident that both of them will lose at least once along the way.

Finally, one of the immediate story lines from the USA Today poll is the "Big 12 is down!!" meme. That directly conflicts with the FO projections -- in the USA Today poll, there is not a Big 12 team in the top 13, but in the FO projections, there are four in the top 11 -- so it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

So what does it look like if we split the difference and give a "poll vote" of sorts to both the USA Today and FO top 25 (one point for No. 25, two for No. 24, etc.)?

  1. Alabama (50 points)
  2. Oregon (47)
  3. Stanford (45)
  4. Ohio State (40)
  5. Georgia (38)
  6. Florida (37)
  7. LSU (35)
  8. Oklahoma State (32)
  9. Texas A&M (31)
  10. South Carolina (31)
  11. Oklahoma (29)
  12. Texas (29)
  13. Notre Dame (28)
  14. Clemson (24)
  15. TCU (21)
  16. Florida State (21)
  17. Boise State (21)
  18. Louisville (17)
  19. Wisconsin (13)
  20. Nebraska (13)
  21. USC (11)
  22. Michigan (9)
  23. Michigan State (8)
  24. UCLA (5)
  25. Oregon State (5)

Actually, I can live with that. You?

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