Earlier this week, I debuted my new statistical college football rating system, which I'm referring to as the Statistical Team Effectiveness Rating, or STER (by the way, I'd like to hear any suggestions out there on renaming this thing). Monday's post showed my postseason rankings for the 2013 season, but that's all in the past now. It's officially college football season, and with Big 12 teams starting play tomorrow, I wanted to get STER's predictions for this year's finish in writing.
A couple of quick notes before I go through my predictions. First, my use of STER as a prediction system is far less scientific than STER itself. STER is based on numbers and measurements that I studied for their correlation with positive game outcomes. It took me most of the summer to develop the formulas I use, and there's still quite a bit of work to be done. It took me just a of couple days to produce this formula for my picks, and obviously it hasn't had a chance to be tested yet.
Essentially, I took last years ratings, and factored in three more pieces of data: recruiting ratings from the past 4 years, returning starters, and the program's trend over the past five years. I gave each team a new rating, and predicted their record based on their schedule (I factored in home field advantage, but it was essentially guesswork). Here's what I came up with
1) Oklahoma - 12-0 (9-0 Big 12) - Offensive Rank: 3rd, Defensive Rank: 1st, Overall Rank: 2nd
There was some objection to Oklahoma's 2013 ranking, but I think Sooner fans will be happy with this prediction. My ratings actually have them as the 2nd best team in conference to Baylor, but they're close enough that getting the Bears in Norman tips the scales in their favor. Do I really think Oklahoma will go undefeated? Nah. But what this says is that their schedule does work in their favor this year.
Oklahoma had a solid defense last year, and with 9 returning starters it should be best in the conference. The offense might take a bit of a hit, but Oklahoma has shown in recent years that they can replace talent with the best of them, and though they lose six starters on that side of the ball, how many of them were impact players?
2) Baylor - 11-1 (8-1) - Offensive Rank: 1st, Defensive Rank: 4th, Overall Rank: 1st
A trip to Norman is the only forseeable trip-up for Baylor this season. Though I rank them 1st in the conference, I should note that I do see them taking a decent-sized step back from last year, when I had them ranked 4th in the country. Baylor lost more starters (13) than they retained (9), and they haven't quite reached the point in recruiting where you can expect them to reload in a seamless transition. That said, their dominance over the competition last year was pretty astounding. If they were more of a flash in the pan last year I would predict more of a drop-off, but the fact is they've been steadily building to this point, and Art Briles should have them playing like a well-oiled machine again, despite the lack of returning starters
3) Kansas State - 9-3 (7-2) - Offensive Rank: 2nd, Defensive Rank: 6th, Overall Rank: 4th
Though I have Oklahoma State ranked a touch higher, K-State gets them in Manhattan this year, which gave them the advantage in records. KSU sees quite a bit of turnover on the depth chart, but their steady improvement under Snyder over the past 5 years cancels some of that out. The Wildcats had a potent offense last year, and return enough of it to be dangerous again. Their defense was ranked roughly equal to the offense last year, but that will likely drop off with just four returning starters. K-State should have just enough firepower to win some shootouts on the road to another successful season
4) Oklahoma State - 8-4 (6-3) - Offensive Rank: 5th, Defensive Rank: 2nd, Overall Rank: 3rd
Oklahoma State actually had one of the best defenses in the country last year, but losing 7 starters will hurt their odds of repeating that accomplishment. In fact, with just 9 starters returning overall, it's unlikely that Oklahoma State will be in the running for a conference title late in the season again. Still, Mike Gundy consistently has this team playing at a high level, and a huge sudden dropoff would be surprising
5) Texas - 7-5 (5-4) - Offensive Rank: 6th, Defensive Rank: 5th, Overall Rank: 5th
It's tough to predict how a team with a new coach will react. It sounds like Charlie Strong has a very different way of doing things compared to how the program was run under Mack Brown. Will the team be slow to adjust, or will the change revitalize the players, resulting in one of those big first years that we sometimes see at programs with new coaches? The numbers alone say Texas will be a .500-ish team, returning six offensive starters and seven on defense. Texas had two nice wins against Oklahoma and K-State last year, but they were overshadowed by blowout losses to BYU, Ole Miss, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Oregon. Texas may be the biggest question mark in the conference this year, and right the middle is probably as good a guess as any for where they'll end up
6) Texas Tech - 7-5 (4-5) - Offensive Rank: 4th, Defensive Rank: 8th, Overall Rank: 6th
The difference between Tech and the Longhorns in my predictions basically boils down to the fact that their game is in Austin this year. Tech's offense should be solid, with Kliff Kingsbury retaining eight starters as he continues to re-establish the Air Raid in Lubbock. The defense, which was only average last year, returns just four starters and doesn't appear to be a big focus of Klingsbury's. Look for this team to resemble the old Mike Leach Tech teams, with a lot of 56-49 style shootouts, and more wins than losses
7) TCU - 6-6 (3-6) - Offensive Rank: 9th, Defensive Rank: 3rd, Overall Rank: 7th
TCU's offense struggled mightily last year, and it's hard to see where there's much help on the way on that front. What keeps them in bowl contention is their defense, which returns most of their starters even with Devonte Fields' departure. Despite their 4-8 record in 2013, their defense ranked 3rd in the conference, which is where I have them again. If they win at home against Minnesota early in the year, I think they can handle ISU at home, as well as road games against struggling West Virginia and Kansas en route to a bowl game
8) Iowa State - 3-9 (1-8) - Offensive Rank: 7th, Defensive Rank: 10th, Overall Rank: 9th
Welcome to a three-way tie for the cellar. Though Iowa State struggled to move the ball last year, returning ten starters and picking up Mark Mangino at OC (though this isn't factored into my ratings) could result in a respectable improvement for Iowa State offensively. Unfortunately, defense matters too, and Iowa State may continue to struggle on that side of the ball. Their D ranked dead last in the Big 12 last year, and I look for that to continue this season. Their lone Big 12 win comes at home against West Virginia, though the road game in Lawrence is close to being in the toss-up category
8) Kansas - 3-9 (1-8) - Offensive Rank: 10th, Defensive Rank: 7th, Overall Rank 10th
The Jayhawks are one of the top teams in the country in returning starters with 16 overall. Nine of them return to the defense, which was the stronger side of the ball to begin with. With some decent line play (fingers crossed), the defense could be in position to reach the average level this year. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the offense, which was abysmal last year, and is relying on a big improvement from Montell Cozart and smart coordinating from John Reagan for any glimmer of hope. Their offensive rating is too low to pull them from the cellar in my ratings
8) West Virginia - 2-10 (1-8) - Offensive Rank: 8th, Defensive Rank: 9th, Overall Rank: 8th
I list West Virginia last in the three-way tie for two reasons: first, games against Alabama and Maryland will likely hold West Virginia to just one non-con victory, and second: it gave me an excuse to list Kansas somewhere else. If I'm being honest, West Virginia at 2-10 is probably my least likely prediction. As you can see, my ratings actually place them 8th in the Big 12, but the ISU game is on the road, and there's just a bit too much of a gap between them and the rest of the conference to give them any other wins. The Mountaineers were hit pretty hard by injuries last year, so that's probably skewing some of their numbers downward as well. Just as I don't really believe Oklahoma goes undefeated, I think 2-10 is too low for West Virginia as well. Their games at Maryland and home against TCU could very much be in play