The 2015 season will be my 11th making public predictions in advance of a Wyoming high school football season.
Some predictions have worked out. Even more have not.
I started making predictions in 2005, my first year with the Casper Star-Tribune. Since leaving the CST in 2009, I have continued making preseason picks on this blog.
The methods have varied from year to year, and it wasn’t until 2011 that I started picking every place for every conference. In those four years of preseason picks, I’ve nailed down a team’s end-of-season spot in its respective conference standings 110 times. I’ve missed it 141 times.
Big misses motivate me to do better. My worst single pick came in 2011, when I picked Rocky Mountain to finish second in the Class 1A 11-man East; the Grizzlies finished seventh. I also missed big on Natrona in 2011 (picked fifth, finished first), Shoshoni in 2011 (picked eighth, finished fourth), Big Horn in 2012 (picked fifth, finished first) and Saratoga in 2012 (picked second, finished sixth).
As I looked deeper at my picks, I tried to decipher where I go wrong and how I can improve my preseason predictions. I looked at classifications (am I better at some classes than others?) as well as individual teams (do I perennially overrate or underrate certain programs?).
Here’s what I found:
Patrick’s most overrated teams, since 2011: Evanston (-6), Rock Springs (-5), Burns (-5), Buffalo (-4), Powell (-4), Southeast (-4).
Patrick’s most underrated teams, since 2011: Shoshoni (+7), Kelly Walsh (+4), Jackson (+4).
(The number represents the total number of places in the conference standings that these teams have finished compared to my predictions. It’s an aggregate number since 2011.)
I also tried to look at the teams with the most variance — not necessarily whether the team finished better or worse than my prediction but if they finished differently than what I had picked. The numbers in parentheses here represent those the absolute values of the placings of the programs as compared to my picks.
Patrick’s easiest teams to pick, since 2011: Cokeville (0), Cheyenne East, Cheyenne South, Douglas, Riverton, Pine Bluffs, Wyoming Indian, Kaycee, Midwest, Hulett, NSI, Dubois, Snake River (1).
Patrick’s toughest teams to pick, since 2011: Natrona (8), Rocky Mountain (8), Rock Springs (7), Burns (7), Shoshoni (7), Saratoga (7).
When I broke my predictions down by class, I found that when I looked at the total potential points available and my variance from that, I found that I was best at picking Class 1A six-man (15.1 percent variance) and worst at picking Class 2A (25.3 percent). In between were Class 4A (18.2 percent), Class 1A 11-man (24 percent) and Class 3A (25 percent).
In my defense, I’d argue that six-man is simply more predictable than 2A….
My state title predictions, meanwhile, date back the full 11 years to 2005 (with the exception of 2011, when I only did conference predictions but no full state predictions and no published preseason top five). In those 10 years, I’ve successfully picked the state champion in the preseason less than half the time (23 out of 50).
However, only a handful of preseason No. 1 choices didn’t reach the title game, and even fewer preseason No. 1s (Powell in 2014, Natrona in 2007, Tongue River in 2007 and Big Horn in 2006) didn’t reach the semifinals. Every preseason No. 1 made the playoffs, though…
And almost every eventual state champion was ranked in my preseason top two. Only five times did the eventual state champ come from outside my preseason top five (Snake River and Thermopolis in 2010, Cheyenne East and Jackson in 2007 and Kemmerer in 2005).
The tl;dr version? I’ve picked the state champion right in the preseason less than half the time. Natrona and Rocky Mountain are hard to pick; Cokeville’s easy. I overrate Evanston and underrate Shoshoni. I’m good at picking six-man and not so good at 2A.
Most of all, preseason predictions are for fun. On the scoreboard, they mean absolutely nothing. These preseason rankings have no effect on the result of any single game. You’ll notice my site doesn’t track preseason polls; it tracks game results.
Part of the beauty of a season is the season itself. Teams rise past expectations — or fall short — all the time. Injuries, slumps, streaks, upsets and distractions affect seasons way more than what we talk about in the preseason.
No matter what the preseason ranking, every team starts 0-0. There’s a certain amount of beauty in that.