The Pi-Rate Ratings

June 15, 2021

2021 College Football Season Historically Before It Happens

Hello out there in Pigskinville, especially all of our super fans of the Southeastern Conference. The PiRates have left the harbor in our vessel for 2021, hoping it will get us out into the shipping lanes for the 2021-2022 football season.

Needless to say, this has been the most difficult Spring for updating college football ratings in the 52 years that the ratings have existed. To be more exact, the PiRate Ratings have been utilizing the same formulas with off-season updates since 1996, as pre-Internet, our system was quite a bit more spartan in calculations. Since 1996, off-season updating has been a mechanical process that involved about 8 weeks of working an average of 20 hours per week in the early mornings and evenings, or roughy 160 hours to update 130 teams.

That dastardly little virus totally fouled up the process last year. At first, just a few dozen teams committed to playing a season. Then, it jumped to 76 then 90-something, and finally 127 of the 130 teams played football, even if they only played five games. Then, in the Spring the FCS played a season, but FBS Independent New Mexico State played two FCS games, getting blown out by Tarleton State and barely edging a fledgling program in Dixie State.

The question became, “How do we update teams that played between 0 and 12 games, including three teams that did not play, one of which played two FCS Spring games and trailed one of those teams 40-7 less than a minute into the second half?

Just coming up with an alternate one-year re-calculation that could be applied to our mechanical updating system took most of the Month of April, and applying the one-year substitute formulas in a process that maintained a level statistical playing field gobbled up all of May through Memorial Day weekend.

Alas, by June 5, we had the process finalized. However, acquiring the stats from all 130 FBS schools took another 10 days, with the acquisition of team #130, U Mass, coming this morning.

Now, the hard work begins today in earnest. At two teams per weekday, one in the early morning and one in the evening and four teams per weekend day, it will take a little over 7 weeks to finalize the preseason ratings for the 2021 college football season. Thus, we expect to be ready by August 10 and should begin our previews around Saturday, August 14 through 24. The season kicks off Saturday, August 28, with what is being called, “Week 0.”

The 2021 season is going to be somewhat like the 1946-1949 seasons. World War II led to many war veterans playing college football well into their 20’s. Oklahoma’s 1949 had more war veterans over the age of a normal college senior than they had correct age underclassmen. The Sooners won 31 games in a row during this era, and multiple players commented that playing football was much easier than fighting a war. That 1949 Sooner team could have had a speedy back from Commerce, OK, on the roster, but Mickey Mantle chose to play baseball after visiting Norman on a recruiting trip and discovering that there were men in the locker room, meaning he would see little action until they finally graduated about the time their children were entering grade school.

Because the NCAA granted an extra year for all college football players, the teams will be considerably more mature, both physically and mentally. Add into this equation the rule that has allowed all players a free transfer, and all of a sudden, the transfer list is more important than the freshmen recruiting list and maybe more important than the two year old recruiting list, or players ready to contribute. A relatively new stat that sort of mimics what we have been doing for several years is the returning production ratings made by Billy Connelly, now at ESPN. We don’t know how Billy plans to adjust his ratings, but the PiRates are giving considerable weight to transfers that expect to see extensive playing time. For instance, in less than 48 hours, Georgia picked up two transfers that figure to be major contributors. They previously had two other top-rated transfers. These four players make Georgia almost a full touchdown better than they would be using just returning production. Now, toss into this equation that a couple of point-changing transfers are still undecided on a 2021 team, and the possibility probability that some player or players will make an eleventh hour decision to transfer just before August practices commence, and we will be updating the updated ratings all summer. Our ratings are based on 100.0 being par. With 130 teams playing, the total for each of our three different ratings adds to 13,000. If a team is adjusted, then 129 other teams must adjust by a minute amount. By August, usually 15-20 teams have to be adjusted due to players leaving or entering programs at the last minute. That leads not to 15-20 updates but 15-20 updates of 130 teams.

We hope that our ratings continue to be as accurate as possible. In the past five years, our ratings have remained in the top 10% of all computer football ratings at the Prediction Tracker. Almost every year since we have been part of the Prediction Tracker, our ratings have finished in the top 5 against the Spread and for the all-important Mean Square Error, which basically calculates how close our spreads came to the actual margins. However, we suspect that the opening month of the college football season this year is going to be much more unpredictable than past seasons. We expect many of the computer ratings to begin the season behind the eight ball as the incredible amount of variables affect the game. Hopefully, our unique way of updating our ratings, with the extra attention to the transfer market along with the overall experience of teams that will have multiple six-year personnel, will allow us to get off to a fast start.

Through the years, we have given you our best advice toward football wagering–just don’t do it! At least, we ask that you do not use the PiRate Ratings as your source for gambling your mortgage payment away to corporations that build castles to the clouds in Nevada. We expect the underdogs to cover the spread more than typical in the first two weeks of the college season, unless the books lower lines and find enough people to wrongly choose the favorite. If you have the ability to wager early before the season commences and then play the other side in games where the lines appreciably move, you might be able to find some hot middles to play. Unless you know in advance which lines are likely to move by more than three points, it isn’t going to help you. But, if you have State U at -6 1/2 against Tech and wager on State U on August 12, and then on game week three weeks later, the line has moved to 9 1/2, and you can put the same wager amount on Tech, if you can find three or more of these games, this might be the year to play middles on the opening weekend. Still, we ask you to use some other means as your research if you must donate to Nevada corporations.

There is a group in the Caribbean that uses our ratings as a major part of their gaming selections. However, they have a large computer program that analyzes the spreads and our ratings, knowing when to play a minimal number of games that their program says to wager. They hit over 60% success against the spread, but their method is not possible to utilize unless you can immediately wager on certain line movements at an offshore book. There is also the issue of not just winning from an offshore book; you have to be able to collect from them as well, and some of them are hesitant to allow this.

We look forward to providing you with weekly entertainment. Expect the first conference ratings, preview, and predictions to publish around August 14. Thank you for your support.

If you are a tabletop baseball fan, our Sabertooth Baseball Games have been bases-clearing doubles down the line this Spring. We have an advanced version of great teams of all 16 franchises between 1920 and 1959, and we have a simpler, quicker playing game of all 20 franchises in existence in the early and mid-60’s, with teams between 1959 and 1972. Click on the link below for more information.

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