Adjusting Preseason College Football Power Ratings
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about “How To Create And Use College Football Power Ratings To Beat The Point Spread.”
In that article I included a section on how to adjust your Power Ratings during the season. I subsequently received a few emails asking how I go about adjusting my Power Ratings from the end of the season to the start of the following season.
I thought the best way to explain this would be by example. And what better example could one hope for than the Pac 12 South?
Here is what my PAC 12 South Power Ratings looked like at the end of the 2018 college football season:
Utah – 83
ASU – 78
USC – 77
UCLA – 73
Arizona – 73
Colorado – 71
These numbers are our starting point heading into the 2019 season. Now I go team-by-team, position group-by-position group and either add or subtract 0 to 2 points to/from that group.
Typically, at least with the Pac 12, this is a two-part process for me. After I have read and copy & pasted a ton of info to my Pac 12 folder, I’ll then go through and make my initial adjustments.
These adjustments are based on all the information that has been gathered post spring practice.
A few weeks later, around mid-August, after I have gathered additional information based on fall practice reports, and also had a chance to compare my numbers to some of the other numbers out there, I’ll go through and adjust the numbers even further.
So let’s go team-by-team and make the initial Power Ratings adjustment for each position group.
QB +1 (12): Obviously I had Khalil Tate rated pretty high heading into the 2018 season, but a season long ankle injury really hampered his performance. A healthy Tate in OC Mazzone’s second season is kind of a scary thought for Pac 12 defenses.
RB +1 (8): Arizona’s deepest position on offense.
REC -1.5 (6.5): This position group is basically starting over and is clearly less experienced than 2018. Everything I’m reading says the Cats do have some potentially good, young options here, and it wasn’t like they lost any big-time playmakers. So at the moment I am only downgrading them 1.5 points instead of the full 2.
OL +1.5 (11): Here’s where Arizona gets a significant upgrade. They go from 1 returning starter last year to 4 this year. In addition, the Arizona beat writer(s) seem fairly confident that their two highly touted JC transfers, Josh Donovan and Paiton Fears, will (eventually) start this season. Which means this position group could be upgraded even further.
Offensive Summary +2 (37.5): Despite an injured Khalil Tate and 4 new starters along the O-Line, this was still the Pac 12’s top offense last year, averaging 457.7 ypg. The running game in particular took a hit last year. The Cats averaged a Pac 12 best 202.42 ypg, but that was down significantly from the previous season when they averaged a school record 309.31 ypg.
How close they can come to those 2017 numbers (7.01 yards per play) will depend on Tate’s ankle and how well the new receiver group plays.
DL -0.5 (10): This is the Arizona D’s most worrisome position, especially the interior where they lost both starters, including DT P.J. Johnson (NFL 7th round pick). But the Cats 2018 D-Line pretty much sucked. They allowed 4.20 yards per carry (8th in Pac 12) and only made 23 sacks (10th in Pac 12). So I really don’t see this unit getting much worse.
LB +1 (8.5): Leading tackler Colin Schooler (119t) and Tony Fields (89t — 2nd) form one of the better LB duos in the conference and the coaching staff feels good about the depth.
SEC +1.5 (7): Eight players return with starting experience including their top CB Whittaker, who did not play last season because of injuries.
Defensive Summary +2 (25.5): I look for Arizona’s defense to improve this season. They return a lot of production (17 of their top 20 tacklers) and the cornerback position was decimated with injuries last year. The D-Line still sucks, but the back 7 looks solid.
Special Teams 0 (7): The Cats were mediocre on special teams last year and I expect more of the same this year.
Coaching +0.5 (7.5): I’m not a big fan of HC Sumlin and DC Yates has yet to field a good defense in his career. But it is year # 2, and that typically means we should expect some improvement.
Final Grade 77.5 (+4.5)
QB -1.5 (10): The Devils go from a 3-year starter to almost zero experience (Sterling-Cole had 2 pass attempts last season and 1 start, 55 pass attempts in 2016). Typically that would be a -2 ratings drop, but word out of Tempe is that freshman Jayden Daniels is a stud, so ASU may be exchanging average experience for more talented inexperience.
RB +1 (8.5): Eno Benjamin led the PAC 12 and was 5th in the country with a school record 1,642 yards rushing.
”We also think we can get Eno more involved in the passing game. He has good hands and he has worked hard on his route running. Teams are going to crowd the line of scrimmage against him so he should be able to do some damage if we get him in the open field in the passing game” RB coach Shaun Aguano.
REC -1 (7.5): ASU loses an NFL 1st round draft choice at WR, but they bring back a lot of experience and depth here. Some within the program think Brandon Aiyuk (33 catches, 474 yards in his first season out of JC) has NFL potential.
OL 0 (11): The Devils return 3 starters and 6 players overall who started or were part of last year’s rotation, including All-Conference center Cohl Cabral (Pac 12 2nd team). Last year ASU was second in the PAC 12 in rushing (184 ypg) & sacks allowed (16). This line should be solid once again this year.
Offensive Summary -1.5: Benjamin and one of the conference’s best offensive lines is a good starting point for the ASU offense. But with virtually no experience at QB and the loss of their top playmaker the Devils could struggle to match last year’s production
DL -0.5 (10): The D-Line is the D’s biggest concern. ASU lost their top DT, 4th round NFL draft pick Renell Wren, and 10 game starter DE Jalen Bates. But this wasn’t really a very good D-Line last year, The Devils ranked 74th in rushing defense, allowing 170.5 ypg and made 29 sacks, which ranked only seventh in the Pac-12 and 57th overall. Several players who started or saw significant playing time return, plus they add All-CUSA grad transfer DT Moe Wilkins from Rice.
LB +1.5 (9.5): ASU started 3 freshmen at linebacker last year, including the Pac-12’s Defensive Freshman of the Year Merlin Robertson. This is arguably the best LB unit in the Pac 12.
DC Gonzales said. “It’s really about guys taking the next step. A lot of last year was trying to figure out where guys fit. We know a lot of that now and these players know what we expect so we’re in a good place.”
SEC +1 (7.5): The secondary is ASU’s deepest position group as 3 starters and 6 players with starting experience return. The Devils also get potential playmaker Tyler Wiley back at the Tillman position. Last season ASU was 71st in FBS in passing yards allowed (233.8 pg) and 74th in passing defense efficiency. Much of that can be attributed to growing pains as the Sun Devils had to rely on inexperienced players. Look for improvement this season.
Secondary coach White “We do have a great group of players from top to bottom. They’re fast. They’re athletic and have great ball skills. There is great potential.”
Defensive Summary +2 (27): The defensive line is a concern, but after playing quite a few freshmen and sophomores in the back eight (ASU runs a 3-3-5) last year, look for continued improvement this season.
And if Herm is to be believed, perhaps we’ll see a big improvement. “They’re a year into it,” Edwards said of ASU’s 3-3-5 defense. “Last year we were trying to teach the system. The coaches are trying to figure out the players, the players are trying to figure out the coaches. It’s hard. Now we’re so much further along. And our speed, you’ll see it. It’ll jump out at you.”
Special Teams 0 (7.5): Brandon Ruiz is one of the best FG kickers in the Pac 12 (18-22 last year), and he has a big leg. The Devils lose their punter but they get a grad transfer from UL-Lafayette (2nd team All-SBC in ’17). They do lose Harry on punt returns, but they do have plenty of solid options available to take his place.
Coaching +0.5 (7.5): I was skeptical of Edwards at the beginning of last year, but he did surprisingly well. I like everything about the ASU coaching staff, but since things went so smoothly last season, I just gave them a small bump.
Final Grade 79 (+1)
QB 0 (11): Steven Montez is one of the top returning QBs in the Pac 12 … but we already knew that. However, now for the first time in 3 years he’ll be running a new offensive system and working with a new OC.
RB -1 (5.5): The Buffs lose their two top backs from 2018 and don’t return a single running back with more than 12 career rushes. But the run game was pretty awful last year – 9th in the Pac 12 at 143 ypg & 10th with 3.80 yards per carry – so those numbers appear to be replaceable. The problem is that there’s no one on the roster with much experience, but the coaching staff likes the talent on hand.
“You see a lot of potential — and a lot of inconsistency,” running backs coach Darian Hagan said of his players
REC +1 (8): A healthy Laviska Shenault makes this group one of the deepest and most talented receiving groups in the Pac-12.
OL +0.5 (9.5): This was not a very good unit last season. We’ve already seen the poor rushing numbers and they finished 10th in the league in sacks allowed (34) & dead last in tackles for loss allowed (104). Colorado loses 2.5 starters from last season, however, the three Buffs who played the most downs on the O-line a season ago (Pursell, Sherman and Lynott) all return and they add Oklahoma State grad transfer Arlington Hambright (5 starts last year). So, there is hope that the line can at least go from atrocious to mediocre this year.
Offensive Summary +0.5 (34): A three-year starting QB surrounded by an experienced group of receivers (including arguably the best WR in the country) is a great starting point. But if the offensive line can’t pass protect or open up some holes for a group of inexperienced backs, we might be looking at another mediocre Buff offense – 8th in total offense (392.6 ypg), 7th in scoring (27.1 ppg), 9th in rushing (143 ypg) and 4th in passing (249.6 ypg).
This is an offense to keep an eye on. If the Buffs get a little bit of improvement along the O-line we ‘ll see improved numbers in 2019. If they get a lot of improvement, watch out.
DL -1.5 (9): Despite significant improvement over the previous season, Colorado’s defensive line was still pretty mediocre last year. Now All-Conference honorable mention DT Mustafa Johnson is the only one of last year’s top six linemen back. He’s surrounded by inexperienced underclassmen and depth is a major concern.
LB 0 (7): Similar to the D-Line, the Buffs two-deep takes a hit, losing 2 starters from last year. However, last year’s leading tackler Nate Landman returns (AC 2nd team last year), and he’ll be surrounded by a little more experience (Soph Carson Wells 6 starts last year) and an influx of JC talent
SEC +1 (7): Like the D-Line run numbers, CU’s pass defense numbers were pretty middle of the road last year. However, the Buffs return 3 of 5 starters — they lose 2 safeties but return STAR (OLB/Safety hybrid position) Davion Taylor – and 5 players overall who made starts last year.
Defensive Summary -0.5 (23): Overall this unit is lacking on experience and proven talent and will likely turn to a lot of first year players. New HC Mel Tucker is a defensive guy, so maybe this D will surprise … but with limited talent & experience, I doubt it.
Special Teams +0.5 (7.5): The Buffs return a solid kicker and punter and a solid unit could improve (once again).
Coaching -1 (6): I liked Mike MacIntyre, so this downgrade may be a little biased. But considering the difficult situation Macintyre inherited at Colorado, I thought he did a great job, winning the Pac 12 South division in 2016. Now the Buffs (once again) turn to a coach with zero head coaching experience. A coach (and coaching staff) mind you who is used to working with a massive talent advantage – Mel Tucker’s last three college jobs were at Georgia, Alabama, and Ohio State – so call me skeptical at the moment.
Final Grade 70.5 (-0.5)
QB +1 (10.5): Dorian Thompson-Robinson started 8 games (6 before a shoulder INJ vs Arizona) as a true frosh last year and I expect him to improve in his second season in Chip Kelly’s offense. In spring, Thompson-Robinson looked like he has improved in several areas especially his accuracy.
RB +0.5 (7.5): Last year this position had several highly recruited players (Jamabo was a 5*, but he never even got close to resembling a 3* recruit), but UC Davis transfer Joshua Kelley ended up being the leading rusher with 1,243 yards rushing (4th in the PAC 12), including gashing USC for 289 yards. He’s one of the top backs in the conference and the Bruins have a lot of depth to work with, though overall talent is questionable.
REC +1 (7.5): This unit looks to be improved and there is a lot of depth returning, but similar to the RB position, the overall talent level is questionable. Their top receiver last year was TE Caleb Wilson (7th round NFL draft choice) and leading returning receiver Theo Howard was 17th in the conference 13.27 yards per catch. The Bruins could definitely use a few more big plays out of this group in 2019.
OL +1 (10.5): Four starters return to an offensive line that made big improvements over the previous season. Despite the lack of depth this unit should continue to improve. The Bruins staff feels very confident that their big guys are much more comfortable with the offense and they expect this group to be much improved from last season.
Offensive Summary +3.5 (36): UCLA ranked No. 80 in the FBS and No. 9 in the Pac-12 in yards per play last season at 5.52, and they ranked No. 92 in the red zone and were No. 86 in red zone touchdown percentage. However, in their first 4 games UCLA only averaged 312 ypg, but in the final 8 games they averaged 432 yards per game. With the return of 9 starters in the 2nd year of Chip Kelly’s offense I look for significant improvement.
DL +0.5 (10.5): The good news here is that the Bruins played a lot of their freshmen D-linemen, so they now have some experience. The bad news is that the overall production last year was pretty mediocre, at best. UCLA was 100th in the country in rush D allowing 199.42 ypg (11th in the Pac 12) & 89th in sacks allowed with 32 (98th in sacks per game). Overall the DL returns 3 starters (2 were freshman) and another player with starting experience.
LB +1 (8): Almost everyone returns from a talented and experienced two-deep — five of the linebackers on the projected depth chart will be seniors — including projected 2018 starter Josh Woods. This unit has a chance to be the most improved unit on the team due to maturation and the return of Woods.
SEC +1 (7.5): Last years pass defense numbers weren’t all that impressive – 9th in the Pac 12 in pass D (245.5 ypg), 10th in defensive pass efficiency (138.59) & 9th in completion percentage allowed (60.9%) – but a lot of that had to do with the fact that the Bruins’ lack of a pass rush put more pressure on the secondary. The Bruins have talent here and they return 3 starters, so like every other aspect of the team, they should continue to improve.
“This is a very accountable, mature, focused group,” one Bruins offensive coach said of the DBs. “They are a reflection of (secondary coach) Paul Rhoads and what he demands of them.”
Defensive Summary +2.5 (26): UCLA returns 10 starters, including 4 freshmen starters from last year. They’re more experienced at every level on defense, and they have some good talent in the back eight. This unit wasn’t anything special last year – they were 11th in the Pac 12 in both total defense (444,9 ypg, that’s down from 483.7 ypg in 2017) & scoring defense (34.1 ppg, that’s down from 36.6 ppg in 2017) – so their overall grade isn’t that impressive, but they should once again be improved in 2019.
Special Team 0 (7.5): Everyone returns except P Flintoft (led Pac 12 w/ a 45.8 average). However, the Bruins bring in Maryland grad transfer Wade Lees who had a 38.8 net avg last year. So, the Bruins should once again be solid on special teams.
Coaching +0.5 (8.5): I had debated making this a full +1 since Chip Kelly was such a proven coach at Oregon and like Arizona’s Sumlin and ASU’s Edwards, this is year # 2. But since I already have him rated higher than ether of those coaches, and I only gave those two teams a +0.5 bump, I’ll keep it consistent.
Final Grade 78 (+5)
QB +1 (11.5): J.T. Daniels returns for his sophomore season in a new QB friendly offense. Daniels freshmen numbers weren’t bad – he was 3rd in the conference in passing yards per game (242.9 ypg), but only 9th in passing efficiency (128.55) with a 14:10 TD to INT ratio – but I expect his production and efficiency to increase under new OC Harrell.
RB: 0 (7.5): This wasn’t a particularly productive unit last season. The Trojans averaged a dismal 133.5 ypg rushing (their worst output in over a decade). Two of the top three rushers return, and they were both highly touted, especially 5* recruit Stephen Carr. So they have some talent on hand, but none of them has proven they are an every down back.
WR +1.5 (9): Other than Alabama and Clemson, this is probably the most talented receiver group in the country. It’s definitely USC’s top unit on the roster. The three top receivers return (Pittman, St. Brown & Vaughns) and they were all 5* recruits. Depth isn’t an issue either as the Trojans boast at least 6 more top tier recruits on the depth chart.
OL -1 (10.5): The O-Line was banged up last year and the overall numbers weren’t very good (the poor run numbers discussed above plus they allowed 27 sacks — 7th in Pac 12), and now they lose three multi-year starters, including 3rd round NFL draft pick Chuma Edoga at RT. On the bright side, because of the injuries, a lot of younger players saw action last year and the Trojans get Tennessee grad transfer Drew Richmond (25 career starts). So there are six players with starting experience along the line.
Offensive Summary +1.5 (38.5): A roster with this much talent shouldn’t finish tied for 91st in scoring offense (26.1 points) or 84th in total offense (381 yards per game). Enter new OC Graham Harrell and his new “Air Raid” offense. The Trojans are LOADED at the skill positions, especially at receiver, while QB & RB are more experienced. But the OL is still a big question mark.
DL +1.5 (11.5): The starting lineup along the D-Line should be strong, and that starts with second team All-Pac 12 DT Jay Tufele and DE Christian Rector. Toss in 2017 5* recruit Marlon Tuipulotu at NT and you have one of the Pac 12’s top D-Lines. The Trojans also have several highly touted youngsters and JC’s on the depth chart.
LB -0.5 (8.5): They lose their top 2 LBs from last year, including Cameron Smith (5th round NFL). Palaie Gaoteote started 5 games as a true frosh last year and 23 game starter MLB John Houston also returns. This group should be solid, but it may take a small step back after losing a pair of studs.
SEC -1 (7.5): Five of last year’s top six DB’s are gone, including NFL draft picks CB Iman Marshall and S Marvell Tell III. But because of injuries last season, there is still some returning talent in this group, especially at the safety position with Pola-Mao and Hufanga back in the lineup. But CB is a legit concern.
Defensive Summary 0 (27.5): Good defensive line, two big losses at LB and lots of questions in the secondary. That about sums up nearly everything I read about this Trojan defense. I think they’ll be fine at LB – Smith and Gustin were definitely studs, but they were often injured too – but I think the secondary is a concern, especially at CB. But this D was fairly underwhelming last year, so I don’t expect much drop off, if any.
ST 0 (7.5): They lose both punters from last year, but pick up 28-year old Aussie Ben Griffiths and McGrath returns at kicker (12-17 FGs ’18). They’re also loaded with athletes to return kicks and punts (Vaughn returned a punt last year for a TD), so I expect another solid, above average group.
Coach +0.5 (7.5): This was/is a tough call. I’ve always thought Helton was in over his head as a head coach, but he does have some solid coordinators in Pendergast on defense and now Harrell on offense. I bumped them up a notch … to slightly better than average.
Final Grade: 81 (+3.5)
QB +1 (11.5): I’ve seen Tyler Huntley play several times and I’ve never been overly impressed, and his lifetime numbers are fairly pedestrian (27-16 TD:int ratio). But he does have 19 starts under his belt and is a senior, so if he stays healthy, I would expect him to have a solid season. The reason for the upgrade is backup Jason Shelley, who came in after Huntley was injured last year and started the final 5 games, and other than the Pac 12 Championship game vs Washington, he looked pretty good. Huntley is a middle of the pack QB, but Shelley makes this one of the better QB “units” in the league.
RB 0 (8): This would have been without question the best RB unit in the Pac 12 had Armand Shyne not opted to transfer to Texas Tech. Shyne rushed for 512 yards and five touchdowns last season, making him one of the most productive running backs to change teams this summer. Zack Moss returns for his senior season, and he is one of the top RB’s in the league, but the No. 2 spot on their RB depth chart is a bit of a question mark now.
WR +0.5 (7): Seven of the top 8 receivers return, including leading receiver Britain Covey, who is a great possession receiver (60 rec, 637 yards & 1 TD). But this unit lacks playmakers, so the overall grade isn’t that high. But I’ve bumped them up a notch based on this being a more experienced group,
OL -1 (10.5): The Utes lose three all-conference, multi-year starters, including NFL 7th round draft pick LT Jackson Barton, Pac 12 HM C Lo Falemaka and first team Pac 12 RG Jordan Agasiva from last year’s solid O-Line (3rd in the Pac 12 w/ 4.48 yards per carry & 8th in sacks allowed w/ 32). The Utes do return 3 players who started at least 7 games last year and overall total career starts only drop from 54 in 2018 to 49 this year. But replacing 3 all-conference starters without experiencing some loss of production seems unlikely.
Offensive Summary +0.5 (37): New OC Andy Ludwig inherits a veteran QB, one of the best running backs in the Pac 12, seven of last year’s top eight receivers and the foundation for a solid offensive line. Overall Utah returns more offensive production than any team in the Pac 12 South. Building on last year’s solid numbers – 395.8 ypg (7th in the Pac 12) & 28.1 ppg (6th in Pac 12) — seems likely.
DL +1 (13): Let’s keep this one simple. Everyone returns to one of the top D-Lines in the country. The line features “three NFL guys, at least,” coach Kyle Whittingham said. DT Leki Fotu & DE Bradlee Anae were both All-Pac 12 first team and DT John Penisini was All-Pac 12 second team.
“This is probably the deepest defensive front we’ve ever had,” Whittingham said. “We’re very fortunate — that’s a great starting point to build a defense around.” Whittingham said that Utah has 11 players on the D-line in which he feels confident.
LB -1 (8): Utah losses their top 2 tacklers, second team All-American Chase Hansen and NFL 3rd round draft pick Cody Barton. That’s a lot of talented production to replace. But the Utes return senior rover Francis Bernard and they’ve added three transfers, most notably former Penn State star Manny Bowen. Coaches regularly praised Bowen’s attitude and performance during spring practice, and expect a lot from him. The Utes still have a lot of talent at LB, but Hansen and Barton set a high standard for the position.
SEC -1 (8): All five Utah starters in the secondary (includes Nickleback) earned All-Pac 12 honors last year. Two move on, including NFL 2nd round draft pick SS Marquise Blair. CB Jaylon Johnson (All-Pac 12 first-team), FS Julian Blackmon (All-Pac 12 second team) and NB Javelin Guidry (All-Pac-12 honorable mention) return. Two second year JCs will take over at the vacant CB & FS positions. This will once again be a solid and productive secondary, but probably not as good as last year.
Defensive Summary -1 (29): This was arguably the Pac 12’s top defense last year. The Utes were 2nd to Washington in total defense (315.6 ypg) and scoring defense (19.4 ppg). They were the top run defense in the league (100.29 ypg & 2.88 yards per carry) and third in pass defense (215.3 ypg & 118.25 pass efficiency rating).
The Utes must replace two stud LBs and a pair of All-Conference DBs. But they have some talent available and with one of the best D-Lines in the country returning intact, this will once again be one of the Pac 12’s top defense.
ST -1.5 (7.5): HC Whittingham almost always produces top notch special teams, and I am sure this year will be no different. But there is no way they are going to replace both Ray Guy (P Mitch Wishnowsky) and Groza Award (K Matt Gay) winners, both of whom were selected in this year’s NFL draft.
Coach 0 (9): Whittingham has been here 15 years and he is an exceptional coach. Andy Ludwig is the 9th new OC in the past 11 years, but this is still one of the best coaching staffs in the Pac 12.
Final Grade: 82.5 (-0.5)
In summary, here are my initial PAC 12 South Power Ratings for the beginning of the 2019 college football season:
Utah – 82.5 (-0.5)
USC – 81 (+3.5)
ASU – 79 (+1)
UCLA – 78 (+5)
Arizona – 77.5 (+4.5)
Colorado – 70.5 (-0.5)
Unit by Unit Rankings:
At this point I like to compare my numbers against the current GOY lines posted at 5Dimes (or any of the other offshore sportsbooks). This will give you an idea of how your current numbers shape up against the bookmakers.
Utah @ USC -2 …. My number would be USC -1.5
USC -7 @ Colorado …. My number would be USC -7.5
UCLA @ Utah -10.5 …. My number would be Utah -7.5
UCLA @ USC -6 …. My number would be USC -6
Arizona @ ASU -3 …. My number would be ASU -4.5
Colorado @ Utah -16 …. My number would be Utah -15
Only a half dozen games to compare against. However, once I complete the Pac 12 North, we’ll have a much larger sample size.
The only game my number is significantly different than the current GOY line is UCLA @ Utah.
My Arizona @ ASU number also stands out. Mainly because I felt I may have underrated Arizona and overrated ASU, and a slight adjustment on both teams would have them rated closer to the current market.
However, at this point I will not be making any adjustments until after I have completed the Pac 12 North.
Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.