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Compu-Picks: 2012 Spring Preview

Mr Pac Ten
Posted May 16, 2012

2012 Compu-Picks Spring Preview - Texas vs LSU, Part Two: Talent Inflows and Outflows

As you can see in the posted Compu-Picks 2012 spring top 25 list, the system projects Texas as not just being better than LSU, but being much better. Given that LSU is almost everyone's #1 team, and Texas is not at all a popular pick, I've put together a number of exhibits and analyses to help support this inevitably controversial projection.

One important piece of the projection is talent level. This part of the projection has a number of sub-categories: recruiting; talent lost to draft; returning starters; and other meaningful statistics such as returning yards, tackles, etc. (that last data is not yet available; I have used returning starter information to inform estimates of what those numbers may be, though when actual data is posted the projections will move to some degree as a consequence).

Let's start with recruiting. Below is a table of the scout recruiting rankings for LSU and Texas for 2003 through 2012:

Team 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003
LSU 7 9 7 3 7 5 8 19 2 2
Texas 1 4 3 7 16 3 3 13 10 14
Difference 6 5 4 -4 -9 2 5 6 -8 -12

As you can see, for the past three recruiting classes Texas has enjoyed a much greater level of incoming talent than LSU, who hasn't had a truly great recruiting class since 2009 (and by the time players have been in the system that long, it's fairly unlikely they'll make an impact if they haven't already shown promise; it's really the more recent classes that usually provide "new blood" to a program). So in terms of incoming talent, Texas has a clear advantage over LSU, especially with the most recent class. If there are players who are going to burst on the scene and excel off the bat, they're more likely to come from Texas than LSU.

Moreover, it's obvious from looking at this table that Texas's recruiting classes are trending upwards rather strongly, which is generally a solid sign of impending improvement. Meanwhile, LSU's classes are going in the wrong direction (2010-2012 is on average much worse than the previous three years, and looks like a worse rolling average than any 3-year period since the 2005 class counted). That too is a clear sign, but not an encouraging one.

Just as important as incoming talent is outgoing talent. And again, here Texas shows a big edge. Let's start with the 2012 NFL Draft. In the draft, Texas lost a 4th rounder, a 6th rounder and a 7th rounder, their lowest draft losses by far since 2001. Here's how some other power programs who did in their lowest draft loss years: Miami in 2009 (solid improvement); USC in 2002 (huge improvement, though it's probably not a fair comparison since their overall program talent took off afterwards); Ohio St in 2010 (won the Sugar Bowl); Alabama in 2008 (went from 7-6 to making the Sugar Bowl); Georgia in 2008 (a decline from 2007, but better than 2006 and much better than 2009-2010); Penn St in 2005 (when they improved from 4-7 to winning the Orange Bowl); Florida St in 2009 (a down year); Auburn in 2003 (a down year before taking off in 2004); Florida in 2005 (an improvement before winning the national title the next year); and Michigan in 2009 (technically an improvement though still not good). Overall, it's a strong sign of likely improvement, with a number of huge steps up taken.

LSU, meanwhile, lost: the #6 overall pick; the #14 overall pick; a second rounder; a third rounder; and a fourth rounder. That's an unusually high total for them; not as bad as the 2007 draft, but not that far off. Of course, they ended up winning the national championship in 2007, so it worked out for them that time, but in general you don't want to lose that much talent to the draft, because it's hard to replace it all (especially with declining recruiting).

Returning starters tell a similar story. According to Phil Steele's numbers, LSU returns 7 starters on offense and 5 on defense with no returning quarterback, a little below average (especially since the QB tends to be worth much more than most other positions). Texas, meanwhile, returns 10 starters on offense and 7 on defense, including a returning quarterback. Starters don't tell the whole story, of course, but that's a meaningful difference. Five extra starting roster spots is a lot of space to fill, especially when a number of those players were good enough to make it high in the NFL draft. One item to note, though, is that LSU returns both their punter and kicker, while Texas returns neither. My early analysis indicates this isn't a huge deal, but it's still something, and is admittedly not reflected in the current projections (I need to investigate more before determining whether it's worth adjusting for and how much of an adjustment to make).

There are a few important notes and caveats I need to make about this model:

1) Compu-Picks does not endorse implicitly or explicitly any form of illegal gambling. Compu-Picks is intended to be used for entertainment purposes only.

2) No guarantee or warranty is offered or implied by Compu-Picks for any information provided and/or predictions made.

2012 Compu-Picks Blog

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