5 Ways to Be Smart About Sports Without Looking Like a Loser

For the curious sports fan, there are a growing number of websites devoted to sports analytics.

But The Power Rank is different. We’re interested in the stories behind the numbers. It’s less about reciting statistics than having something interesting to say when you’re out at that house party.

Let’s look at 5 ways The Power Rank can help you out.

5. Be right about who’s going to win.

Well, be right more often than not. The Power Rank began as a method for ranking teams and predicting the outcome of future games. In the last 10 years of college football bowl games, the higher ranked team won 62.4% of the time. That’s a better accuracy than teams favored by the Vegas line. No one is right all of the time, but it helps to have our numbers on your side.

4. Show pretty pictures.

The Power Rank calculates the 416 win probabilities for March Madness, 2012. It’s just not that compelling to stare at a table of numbers. We use interactive data visualization to make our numbers accessible. For our March Madness win probabilities, we developed this interactive bracket for you to see only the numbers you want. Hover over a team name to focus on their likelihood of making it to each round. Hover over games to see the chance each team has to win that game.

3. Find the hidden side of sports

Conventional wisdom says a good defense in football forces turnovers. Superstars like linebacker Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens crush the ball carrier and pop the ball lose. A teammate pounces on the ball for a game changing play.

But the numbers tell a different story. A recent study looked at turnovers over the last twenty some years of the NFL. It found that turnovers forced in the first 5 games of the season are only weakly correlated with turnovers forced in the remaining 11 games (a correlation coefficient of 0.14). Random chance plays a big roll in turnover numbers.

However, it might not go over well to bring correlation coefficients at that house party. Just mention that some teams are getting lucky in the turnover department to win games. That luck might not continue.

2. Tell a good story.

In 2009, Josh McDaniels won his first 6 games as coach of the Denver Broncos. Tom Jackson of ESPN proclaimed him “one of the great ones” on air.

The Broncos finished the season 2-8 and missed the playoffs. The Broncos started the next season 3-9, after which Coach McDaniels was fired.

Stories are a better way to convince someone to reserve judgement on a coach until after 6 games.

1. Find good content not available on the web.

We post most of our content on this site for everyone to view. However, we want to develop a closer connection with our biggest fans, so we have a free email newsletter with exclusive content.

In one of our first newsletters, we projected who would be the biggest bust in the 2012 NFL draft. The analysis came from our rushing defense numbers that account for schedule strength in college football.

Moreover, we have premium content in college football with all of our advanced statistics. Each week, we’ll make a few of these pages available to those on our email list.

Sign up for The Power Rank’s free email newsletter

In addition to the exclusive content, we’ll keep you up to date on our best writing and data visualizations. Also, we’ll send our best content from over the years, such as

  • why Tom Jackson illustrates the one thing everyone should know about sports analytics.
  • how to give yourself the best odds of winning your March Madness pool.

And, if you want to ask a question, just reply to one of the newsletters. It’s the best way to stay in touch.

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Thanks for reading.