FanPost

Predictions vs Reality: How Preseason Polls Are Always Wrong About Certain Teams



With the start of the season almost here, every writer, blog, and town drunk (not necessarily mutually exclusive categories) has come out with their predictions for how each team will finish by the end.  With these predictions come the equally inevitable accusations of "no respect" and the ever present "They never understand my team".  

However, lost in this cacophony is any actual evidence.  That’s where this article comes in.  Using a similar concept to "against-the-spread" but taken over the whole season, I look at how often each team finished above or below their predicted result and by how much since 1993.  I also highlight years where each where each team was particularly overhyped or shocks the world with their play. 



Feel free to skip down to the first team on the list.  This next bit just explains the reasoning behind the "ZOMG OVERRATED" accusations further below.  

For each team, I computed the following:
Record Against the Pundits- How often the team outperformed, underperformed or equaled preseason expectations.
Shock the World vs Overhyped- Shock the World is how much the team outperformed expectations in years they were underrated; Overhype is the reverse for disappointing seasons
Average difference between prediction and reality- (Shock the World + Overhype)/17.  This value measures how badly the prognosticators predict a particular team on average per season.  The higher the value, the worse the predictions.  
Shock the World Seasons- Years in which the team outperformed expectations by more than 3 places
Years Vastly Overhyped- Years in which the team underperformed expectations by more than 3 places

I somewhat arbitrarily set the "surprising" threshhold at more than 3 places difference between prediction and results.  This difference seemed to pass the eyeball test which for me was 2005 Penn State.  The "Year that Saved JoePa" had a difference of only 3.5, but I think most fans were surprised by the Lion’s share of the conference championship.  

For ties in the final standings, I gave every team the average of the places involved.  For instance, when Michigan and Minnesota tied for 10th-11th in 2009, they were both given a 10.5 ranking.  When Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota tied for 6th (and 7th and 8th) in 2008, they were each given a 7 ranking.  In the 4-way cluster!@#$ for the 7th through 10th positions by Iowa, Northwestern, Purdue and Indiana in 2007, everyone was put at 8.5.

I used this site for both the preseason predictions and conference records.

 

 

Now the teams, in order of worst to best record against expectations:

 

 

Michigan

Record Against the Pundits: 2-10-5
Shock the World vs Overhyped: 3-27.5
Average difference between predictions and reality: 1.79
Shock the World Seasons: 0
Years Vastly Overhyped: 4, 2009 (3.5 places lower), 2008 (4.5), 2005 (3.5), 1993 (4)

Michigan is the most consistently overhyped team in the conference.  Don’t misinterpret that statement; they still have the second best record overall in the time period.  However, they have not met expectations ten times and are tied for the most years vastly overhyped.  Luckily for the Wolverines, overrated really isn't an issue this year.  

 

 

Penn State

Record Against the Pundits: 5-10-2
Shock the World vs Overhyped: 11-21.5
Average difference between predictions and reality: 1.91
Shock the World Seasons: 1, 2005 (3.5 places higher)
Years Vastly Overhyped: 2, 2003 (4.5 places lower), 1999 (3.5)

Penn State’s mid-decade dip illustrates how preseason predictions are often based too much on the previous year.  Forecasters didn’t foresee the Lion’s collapse in 2003 and they didn’t expect their return just two years later.  

 



Illinois

Record Against the Pundits: 5-9-3
Shock the World vs Overhyped: 18.5-24
Average difference between predictions and reality: 2.50
Shock the World Seasons: 3, 2007 (4.5 places higher), 2001 (6), 1999 (3.5)
Years Vastly Overhyped: 4, 2009 (4 places lower), 2008 (3.5), 2000 (4), 1995 (3.5)

I was actually expecting Illinois to appear much higher on the unpredictability scale given their tendency to either vastly outperform or underperform preseason expectations.  They are tied for the second most surprise seasons, but they are only middle of the pack for general unpredictability.  




Michigan State

Record Against the Pundits: 6-9-2
Shock The World vs Overhyped: 19-26.5
Average difference between predictions and reality: 2.68
Shock the World Seasons: 3, 2003 (4 places better), 1999 (3.5), 1995 (4)
Vastly Overhyped Years: 3, 2009 (3.5 places lower), 2006 (5.5), 2002 (5.5)

MSU’s 2006 season got their coach fired.  Often, it’s more high expectations than low results that lead to coaching changes.  




Wisconsin

Record Against the Pundits: 7-9-1
Shock the World vs Overhyped: 19-27.5
Average difference between predictions and reality: 2.74
Shock the World Seasons: 3, 2006 (4.5 places higher), 2005 (3.5), 1993 (4.5)
Vastly Overhyped Years: 4, 2008 (5 places lower), 2003 (4.5), 2001 (4.5), 2000 (4)

I was surprised that Wisconsin came out as the second most unpredictable team since 1993.  However, the last decade has treated the prognosticators very badly.  Six times in the last ten years, the Badgers have finished substantially different than expected.  That run includes the most overhyped four year period ('00-'03) of any Big Ten team.  




Ohio State

Record Against the Pundits: 4-5-8
Shock the World vs Overhyped: 8.5-14
Average difference between predictions and reality: 1.32
Shock the World Seasons: 0
Vastly Overhyped Years: 2, 1999 (5.5 places lower) and 2004 (4)

Ohio State has been the most accurately predicted of any Big Ten team.  The Buckeyes have very high expectations and have remarkably lived up to them nearly every season.  (PSYCHE! PSYCHE PSYCHE PSYCHE!)




Iowa

Record Against the Pundits: 6-6-5
Shock the World vs Overhyped: 24.5-19
Average difference between predictions and reality: 2.56
Shock the World Seasons: 3, 2008 (3.5 places higher), 2002 (6.5), 2001 (4.5)
Vastly Overhyped Years: 2, 2006 (5.5 places lower), 1993 (4.5)

Iowa has outperformed and underperformed equally often, though on the whole they have been more underrated than overhyped and are second in overall Shocking-the-Worldness.  The Hawkeye’s 2002 season was the third most shocking-of-the-world in the conference since 1993.




Purdue

Record Against the Pundits: 8-7-2
Shock the World vs Overhyped: 17.5-15.5
Average difference between predictions and reality: 1.94
Shock the World Seasons: 2, 2009 (3.5 places higher), 1997 (5)
Years Vastly Overhyped: 1, 2005 (4 places lower)

Purdue’s "Shock the World" seasons both followed coaching changes.  The pundits were not expecting much from either Joe Tiller or Danny Hope.  Tiller eventually silenced his critics and Hope appears to be on the right track as well.  




Indiana

Record Against the Pundits: 8-4-5
Shock the World vs Overhyped: 22.5-7.5
Average difference between predictions and reality: 1.76
Shock the World Seasons: 2, 2001 (5.5 places higher), 2006 (4.5)
Vastly Overhyped Years: 1, 1995 (4 places lower)

No one expects much of Indiana.  They have been picked to finish 10th or 11th twelve times in this period.  In 1995, they had their highest expectations of any year of the last 17 when they were pegged to finish 7th; they ended the season dead last.  In the Hoosiers’ defense, they do usually finish at least a little bit above the voters’ opinions are the third most underhyped team in the conference.  




Minnesota

Record Against the Pundits: 9-5-3
Shock the World vs Overhyped: 19-11.5
Average difference between predictions and reality: 1.79
Shock the World Seasons: 1, 2008 (4 places higher)
Vastly Overhyped Years: 0

The Gophers have had the fewest surprise seasons of any team and are the third most accurately forecast team overall, which is particularly unexpected given their location in the hard-to-predict pack.  Maybe it’s just general Minnesotan politeness, but the Gophers don’t disagree very much with preseason prognosticators.  

 


Northwestern


Record Against the Pundits: 10-4-3
Shock the World vs Overhype: 45.5-13.5
Average difference between predictions and reality: 3.47
Shock the World Seasons: 7, 2009 (3.5 places higher), 2008 (4.5), 2005 (4.5), 2004 (5), 2000 (8), 1996 (3.5), 1995 (10)
Vastly Overhyped Years: 1, 2001 (8.5 places lower)

Northwestern has been by far the worst predicted team.  They have the two most shocking-of-the-world seasons in 2000 and "Perfect 10" 1995.  The Wildcats have also had more seasons substantially ahead of preseason rankings than any other two teams combined.  On the other hand, Northwestern also had the most overhyped year in this period when they were picked to finish 2nd in 2001 and ended up tied for 10th. 

 

 

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