How to use the markets to adjust Michigan’s preseason rank

I groaned when I first looked at my 2017 college preseason numbers. The numbers spit out Michigan as 30th, too low in my opinion.

This low rank comes from two factors. The model uses a 4 year window of team performance, which includes two mediocre years under Brady Hoke before Jim Harbaugh returned as coach. Also, Michigan only returns 5 starters from last season.

However, one expects better than 30th from a Jim Harbaugh team. While past performance is no guarantee of future success, he did wonders with a Stanford program. Check out the visual at the top of this post.

To adjust Michigan’s preseason rank, I considered two factors from the markets.

First, consider Michigan’s win total based on their schedule. They have difficult, toss up type games against Florida at a neutral site, at Wisconsin, at Penn State and Ohio State. Suppose they go 2-2 in these games.

For the remaining 8 games, Michigan will most likely lose one game despite being a substantial favorite in each game. Football lacks certainty, and some combination of poor play and turnovers can lead to unexpected losses like Michigan at Iowa last season.

This gives a win total of 9 for Michigan in 2017, the same total posted in the markets.

In addition, Michigan is a four point favorite against Florida in their opening game. I used these two factors to adjust Michigan, erring on the low side for each factor. This led to a rank of 9th for Michigan in 2017 with an expected win total of 8.8.

The preseason Coaches poll also ranked Michigan 9th.

The 2017 College Football Win Totals Report contains my projections for all 130 FBS teams. To get your copy, sign up for my free email list. Enter you best email and click on “Sign up now!”

Podcast: Ryan Rodenberg on the legalization of sports betting in the United States

On this episode of The Football Analytics Show, I talk with Professor Ryan Rodenberg of Florida State on the legal status of betting on games in the United States. He has both a J.D. and a Ph.D. and performs research in sports law analytics.

Ryan explains the legal status of betting on games, which culminates in the Supreme Court’s recent decision to hear a case from New Jersey to legalize betting.

I was particularly intrigued by the role of the NBA in this case. Ryan explains why the NBA seeks to prevent New Jersey from legalizing betting but also publicly favors betting on games.

Throughout the interview, Ryan keeps the conversation jargon free and accessible for those without a law degree.

To listen to this show on the legalization of sports betting on iTunes, click here.

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You can find more legal content from Ryan and others on the Sports Law Blog.

Podcast: Nik Bonaddio on fantasy football analytics and funding your company

On this episode of The Football Analytics Show, Nik Bonaddio, the founder and CEO of numberFire, joins me. We had a wide ranging conversation on football analytics, venture capital and running.

The topics we discussed include:

  • The core idea behind how numberFire makes fantasy football projections for their 2017 Draft Kit
  • The details on why numberFire gives you a 30% better chance to win your fantasy football league
  • The type of companies that get venture capital funding
  • The sports book Nik has read at least 10 times
  • The insights on his personal blog

I really enjoyed the range of topics discussed with Nik, and we didn’t even get to talk about his high school design project Lockjaw.

I end the show with thoughts on the one thing that will go wrong for Alabama in 2017. These prediction segments will become a core part of the show.

To listen to this episode of The Football Analytics Show on iTunes, click here.

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The one thing that will go wrong for Alabama in 2017

Alabama enters the 2017 as the preseason favorite to win another national title. Nick Saban’s team tops my preseason college football rankings with a rating of 22.7 points better than the average FBS team.

However, no college team does not have their problems in August. Let’s speculate at what could go wrong for Alabama in 2017.

How about an exodus of talent to the NFL? The first round of the NFL draft scooped up these players from last year’s Crimson Tide:

  • Cornerback Marlon Humphrey at 16th
  • Defensive end Jonathan Allen at 17th, who actually dropped significantly from the top 5 projection by experts
  • Tight end O.J. Howard at 19th
  • Linebacker Reuben Foster at 31st

Another 6 players went by the middle of the 4th round.

However, Alabama always loses NFL talent but reloads for the next season.

Let’s try again. Perhaps the offense stagnates under new coordinator Brian Daboll. This guy didn’t exactly light it up as an NFL coordinator, as these NFL rankings out of 32 teams show.

  • 2009, Browns, 32nd in yards per play
  • 2010, Browns, 27th in yards per play
  • 2011, Dolphins, 22nd in yards per play
  • 2012, Chiefs, 28th in yards per play

Since this meager run as coordinator, he’s been working under Josh McDaniels on the Patriots staff.

Daboll’s track record should concern Alabama fans for the upcoming season. But there’s another, much worse factor lurking in the background.

The one thing that will go wrong for Alabama in 2017 is that they won’t score 15 touchdowns on defense and special teams like they did in 2016. Fifteen!! That’s an insane number of touchdowns.

I broke Alabama’s non-offensive touchdowns into four categories based on this video.

  • 3 punt returns
  • 6 interceptions thrown right to Alabama defenders, often without much pressure on the QB
  • 3 fumbles scooped up off the ground by Alabama defenders
  • 3 deflections that landed in the hands of Alabama (interception, fumble, blocked punt)

You might want to give them credit for the punt returns. Fine, let’s do that.

The Alabama defenders barely had to move for those 6 interceptions, with the exception of Minkah Fitzpatrick’s pick that he ran back over 100 yards for a touchdown. Can they get opposing QB to be this generous again in 2017?

As for the 3 fumble recoveries, analytics has found almost complete randomness in fumble recoveries. Alabama had good fortune in recovering those last 3 fumbles, and even more luck when those players stayed on their feet to run back for the touchdown.

And the 3 deflections are dumb luck.

Should Alabama be the top ranked team? Of course. Will they win the national title? The markets give Alabama about a 28% chance.

But will Alabama score 15 non-offensive touchdowns in 2017? No.

Alabama projects to win 10.1 games by my preseason numbers. You can get all 130 win totals in The 2017 College Football Win Totals Report.

To get this free report, sign up for my free email newsletter.

Podcast: Stewart Mandel on college football analytics at the All-American

On this episode of the Football Analytics Show, I talk with Stewart Mandel, head of the new subscription college football site The All-American. He’s previously written for Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports.

Among other topics, we discuss:

  • The type of analytics that will distinguish the All-American from other college football sites
  • The primary frustration that drove Stewart to this new project
  • The Power 5 conference that came in dead last in his coaching talent rankings
  • The ACC team that could challenge Florida State and Clemson in their division
  • How to pitch (and not pitch) Stewart on writing for the All-American

I’ve always looked up to Stewart’s writing and enjoyed our conversation about his new project. You can get updates on The All-American here.

To listen to the show on iTunes, click here.

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