What Do Big 12 Preseason Picks Tell Us?

Written by Kyle Porter

The Big 12 preseason media poll is out, and Oklahoma was picked to win its third consecutive Big 12 Championship. So now that we know what the media thinks (including us), it begs the question of how much the media knows.

I went back and looked at the last five years of preseason picks (since the league went to 10 teams) combined with how teams finished up in Big 12 play to determine which teams were the toughest to peg and which were the easiest.

Note: I used order of finish on CFB Reference — I believe it applies all the tiebreakers properly, but it should be noted that in 2014, for example, it had TCU at No. 1 in the Big 12 and Baylor at No. 2 even though they split. The difference here throughout the last five years has been mostly negligible. 

Hardest Teams to Pick — Last 5 Years
Team Variance
TCU 3.4
West Virginia 2.8
Kansas State 2.2
Baylor 2
Texas Tech 2
Oklahoma State 1.4
Oklahoma 1.2
Texas 1.2
Iowa State 0.4
Kansas 0.2

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Kansas is the easiest team to pick. They’ve been picked last each of the last five years, and that’s where they’ve finished in four of those years. It also probably should not surprise anyone that the two newest teams have been the toughest to peg in the 10-team league.

But this doesn’t tell us everything. You can pick a team No. 1 every year and they finish 5th every time and get the same variance as a team you pick 7th every year and they finish 2nd. It doesn’t tell us who is performing better than average and who is performing worse than average. So let’s take a look at that.

Pick Accuracy — Last Five Years
Team Too High Too Low Perfect
Baylor 2 2 1
Iowa State 2 0 3
Kansas 0 1 4
Kansas State 1 3 1
Oklahoma 2 1 2
Oklahoma State 2 2 1
TCU 4 1 0
Texas 3 0 2
Texas Tech 2 3 0
West Virginia 1 3 1

TCU has been wildly overrated in its first five years in the league. Four times (!) it has been picked too high, and the only time it wasn’t (2014) is the year it won the league. Weird. Also, you can say a lot of things about Kansas, but you can’t say they’re overrated!

Oklahoma State has been right in the middle in the last five years. Here is a look at all five of its preseason picks along with its finishes.

Year Picked Finished
2012 4 4
2013 1 3
2014 5 7
2015 4 2
2016 3 2

That 2013 season still stings quite a bit. Picked to win it. Had it won. Had a pick to win it! Finished 3rd.

Here’s a look at where teams have been picked on average and where they’ve finished on average. You want to be in the positive numbers here. That means you are outperforming media expectations.

Average Finish — Last 5 Years
Team Projection (avg.) Actual (avg.) Miss
Baylor 4.0 3.6 0.4
Iowa State 8.8 9.2 -0.4
Kansas 10.0 9.8 0.2
Kansas State 6.0 4.2 1.8
Oklahoma 1.6 2.0 -0.4
Oklahoma State 3.4 3.6 -0.2
TCU 3.6 4.6 -1.0
Texas 4.2 5.4 -1.2
Texas Tech 7.2 6.8 0.4
West Virginia 6.2 5.8 0.4

Kansas State has been the most consistently underrated, and Texas and TCU have been the most consistently overrated (although TCU is saved by that 2014 season in which it was picked 7th and won the whole thing).

Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Baylor, Tech, Kansas, Iowa State and WVU have all been almost spot on. This doesn’t tell us much about this specific year, but it is a handy guide for how to interpret this season’s Big 12 preseason rankings. The lesson, as always, beware of the wizard.

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