The Big 12 Media’s Preseason Poll: Statistically Breaking Down How They Put KSU 6th


Nothing surprises me about media-types anymore. That is why, when the Big 12 preseason media poll placed Kansas State at 6th in the conference, it did not surprise me much at all. It wasn’t until I delved into the “guts” of the poll that I became somewhat angry. And then, as I broke it down statistically, I became less angry. Here’s why.

Before addressing the portion of the poll that angered me, and then made me less angry, let’s say this upfront: it’s ludicrous to have a team that finished 2nd in the conference last year, and returns every skill position player on offense, and most major contributors on defense, 6th in a preseason poll. In fact, I can find very little justification for sliding KSU past the 3rd spot, at worst. If I had a vote in this poll, it would have looked like this (Big 12 media rank in parentheses):

"1) Oklahoma (1)2) Kansas State (2)3) Texas (3)4) West Virginia (2)5) Oklahoma State (4)6) Texas Christian (5)7) Iowa State (8)8) Baylor (7)9) Texas Tech (9)10) Kansas (10)"

Let me make sure I understand this. Forty-one people (the number of voters in the Big 12 media poll) collectively believe that a West Virginia team that has never faced the week-in, week-out grind of a Big 12 football schedule is somehow going to go 8-1/7-2 in this conference in their first go-around? In my view, that’s utterly laughable.

Do not misunderstand what I’m saying. West Virginia has a solid team, led by a really good quarterback. But everyone in the Big 12 has at least that, save KU and maybe Texas Tech. But whatever the Big 12 media would have you believe, they do not have the second-best team in this conference.

What angered me at first about this poll, though, is that K-State actually got one first-place vote. That may seem like an odd complaint, from a KSU partisan writer, but here’s my thinking on it. That first place vote means that 10 of KSU’s 257 points (3.9%) came from that one vote. What this means, is that at least one or two of these media-types had to have placed KSU below sixth in the poll, to account for that one first place vote. That’s just insane.

But then I went deeper, taking a look at the statistics of how the poll broke down. Here is what the points breakdown would look like in a “pure” poll, where every writer votes every team into the same exact spot on their ballot:

"#1 = 410 points (41 writers X 10 pts/ballot)#2 = 369 points#3 = 328 points#4 = 287 points#5 = 246 points#6 = 205 points#7 = 164 points#8 = 123 points#9 = 82 points#10 = 41 points"

Here is how the media’s ranking compares to the pure poll, which will show the deviation from “pure” poll above. This shows whether a significant number of media members voted a team higher than its rank (indicated by positive numbers) or lower than its rank (indicated by negative numbers).

"Rank Team  Pts (Deviation)1. Oklahoma 396 (-14)2. West Virginia 339 (-30)3. Texas 291 (-37)4. Oklahoma State 267 (-20)5. TCU  260 (+14)6. Kansas State 257 (+52)7.Baylor 162 (+12)8.Iowa State 121 (-2)9.Texas Tech 116 (+34)10.Kansas 46 (+5)"

One way to look at these numbers is to think of them as a gauge of how much the media disagreed with each other on the placement of a given team. In other words, the closer the number is to zero–whether positive or negative–the more agreement there was among the voters as to placement of that team. Looking at it that way, here’s the top 5 teams, in order of how much disagreement the writers had in judging a given team. Obviously, a positive number means that the disagreement was that several writers thought a team should be ranked higher, while negative numbers means that several thought the team should be ranked lower.

"Rank Team-Placement (Deviation)1. Kansas State-#6 (+52)2. Texas-#3 (-37)3. Texas Tech-#9 (+34)4. West Virginia-#2 (-30)5. Oklahoma State-#5 (-20)"

Clearly, there was a huge disparity in how various media members voted, regarding K-State. That’s clear, given that not only do they top the above list, but they (as well as TCU) received one first place vote. It’s also clear that there’s very little disagreement at the bottom of the poll. The Kansas Jayhawks received only five votes that did not put them in last place.

Keeping the above statistical breakdown in mind, and knowing that K-State’s brilliant motivator of a coach is going to milk this slight for all it’s worth, I can’t be too angry at this poll. Does it show the ignorance of the Big 12 media as regards both K-State’s returnees and Snyder’s genius? Sure. But you can be certain that before this season kicks off, this poll will be discussed in the K-State locker room.

And you can also be certain that by the end of this season, K-State will be much higher than sixth in the conference.