Must Read Articles at The Power Rank

On a podcast, I asked Rufus Peabody how he liked being ESPN’s predictive analytics expert.

He gave a lukewarm response, saying that people seemed to only want picks, not any kind of understanding. He asked whether I had the same problem at The Power Rank.

Well… no, I don’t.

The predictions page gets the most traffic. However, the site statistics on page views and time spent suggest people read the articles.

This guide will help you get up to speed on sports analytics through my best articles. I carefully curated this list so you get the most for every minute read. For example, I eliminated a 3,000 word primer on college football analytics since the ideas were discussed in other articles.

Grab a cup of good coffee, and get comfortable. Find the article below that best fits your mood.

Happy reading!

The Reason You Can’t Avoid The Curse of Small Sample Size

You know you shouldn’t judge sports based on a small sample size of games.

But somehow we all have problems with this.

In this article, I discuss the human psychology behind why we have such a difficult relationship with randomness. It involves the very trait that makes us human.

The article also includes a hilarious story from my volunteer math teaching at Summers-Knoll School in Ann Arbor.

To learn more about the reason you can’t avoid the curse of small sample size, click here.

The Football Analytics Resource Guide

What role does analytics play in football?

Should your coach go for it on 4th down? What is the most efficient play in the NFL?

In this resource guide, I summarize my seven favorite football analytics articles on the web. This resource guide will get the beginner up to speed on key results of football analytics.

To check out the football analytics resource guide, click here.

The Essential Guide to Predictive College Football Rankings

Which college football rankings should you trust to predict the outcome of games?

The answers may surprise you. In this article, I look across the spectrum of human polls, computer rankings based on points and computer calculations based on play by play data. The article begins with a list of trusted rankings.

To check out my essential guide to predictive college football rankings, click here.

The surprising truth about passing and rushing in the NFL

How much does passing matter compared to rushing in the NFL?

We all seem to grasp the importance of the quarterback. But what about running the ball and rush defense?

Numbers make a definitive statement about the importance of passing over rushing in the NFL. The story starts when Bill Belichick wanted Thurman Thomas to rush for 100 yards in the Super Bowl and might just shake your core belief about the NFL.

To check my favorite article on this site, click here.

Do you make these 3 mistakes with college football statistics?

Sacks count as rush plays in college football.

This makes no sense, since these plays started life as an attempt to throw the ball. No matter, all major media sites count sacks as rush plays, which makes them misleading at best.

This article takes you from these awful public numbers to efficiency metrics that characterize the strengths and weaknesses of a team. I use the 2012 Stanford Cardinal as an example.

To understand how to properly evaluate rushing and passing in college football, click here.

How Computer Rankings Make You Smarter About Sports

How do I make the computer predictions posted on this site?

This article tells my story of how an academic paper back in 2008 led to The Power Rank. It also explains the features of my ranking algorithm that make the predictions worthwhile.

To check how computer rankings make you smarter about sports, click here.

If that’s not enough for you, an older article digs deeper into my ranking algorithm.

How to Win Your March Madness and Bowl Pool

How do you maximize your chances of winning your March Madness or college football bowl pool?

Even as a believer in analytics, you can’t just fill out your bracket by picking the higher ranked team in each game. You need the right strategy, which depends on pool size.

I discuss these strategies in the Introduction of my book How to Win Your NCAA Tournament Pool. To check it out, click here.

Of course, I’d rather that you purchase the book, but this article explains the contrarian ideas necessary to win a medium size pool.

Many of the same concepts apply to college football bowl pools, although not all. To understand how to win your bowl pool, click here.

5 Insights from academic research on predicting world soccer/football matches

Which world soccer/football rankings make the best predictions on matches?

Not the ubiquitous FIFA rankings. This article summarizes the results of a research study on predictive power of international soccer rankings. My numbers appear in the study.

To check out the insights into predicting world soccer matches, click here.

Image by Nell Boss Photography.