Idiot...slow down... We can't believe we're saying this, but the offseason may be moving just a bit too fast in one respect: just poring over even an nth of Phil Steele's 2009 College Football Preview convinced us we're not prepared for the 2009 season, as in "going to an ant party wearing a suit made of honey" unready. We're completely unprepared for a world where:
--Notre Dame is ranked 7th by someone other than Tom Lemming.
--Cal is ranked 9th.
--Ole Miss is ranked higher than LSU
There's a whole host of other shocking but evidence based conclusions in this year's edition of Phil Steele, including the suggestion that Bill Snyder will somehow have a better year than Mark Mangino. (Phil's obviously underrated the flow and sick pimpness of Marky M.) You should pre-order and buy it so we can call each other on the phone and talk about after the movie like two giggly schoolboys.
The one thing that has always struck me as a misleading stat Phil uses--and admittedly, it's one factor in a huge set of stats--is starts lost.
It is not an entirely irrelevant at programs who have been relatively successful over the years leading up to the year in question. Good talented sophomores hopefully become well-seasoned and talented seniors, etc...but how useful this stat is becomes a legitimate question when you have mid-grade talent used by coaches over more talented up-and-coming talent sitting behind them simply because of the age difference. In other words: just because your team has more experience and returning starts as a group does not mean your group isn't a bunch of relatively mediocre talent just aged another year.
Take a look at last year's stats and you'll see how random this really is. Florida had a substantial number of losses at 25, Clemson returned plenty of starts at 101st, Syracuse was even better in terms of seasoned experience at 118...it's spotty correlation that begs for a bit of scatterplotting. It also highlights coaching aptitude: if a team like Syracuse returns that many starts and still fails to compete, the better question is "What kind of experience has your team had?" As scary as it sounds, data like this implies Syracuse players got little if anything out their time with the Syracuse coaching staff. (Then again: you already knew that, and this is just confirmation.