How Pac-12 can improve preseason rankings and increase TV ratings | Panda Anku

The Pac-12 placed just three teams in Monday’s Associated Press preseason poll of the top 25, tying the Big 12 for the smallest contingent among the Power Five leagues and continuing a downward trend for the conference that didn’t is as meaningless as it seems.

Utah finished at No. 7, the highest starting position in school history, followed by No. 11 Oregon and No. 14 USC. The SEC led all leagues with six teams in the top-25, including No. 1 Alabama.

The human polls and computer rankings of the preseason are often dismissed as meaningless predictions, but they matter on the ground as a potential spark for ticket sales and philanthropy.

Due to the multiplier effect, the AP survey also has a lasting effect at conference level. The more teams that are ranked at the start of the season, the greater the likelihood of large-scale substitution during the season.

These in-season rankings impact choices made by television networks, which tend to use premium broadcast windows for matchups between top 25 teams.

“Preseason leaderboards aren’t real, but they affect how teams move up and down once they start beating each other in conference play,” said Sam Schwartzstein, 2018-20 director of operations, innovation and Strategy of the XFL and has studied the analytics behind college-level attendance and television ratings.

“You want to end up with as many ranked matches as possible.”

The Pac-12 has drawn a pretty clear arc in the AP preseason poll since adding Colorado and Utah in the summer of 2011.

Poorly represented at first, before the recent downturn it enjoyed an excellent middle haul:

2011
Three: #3 Oregon, #7 Stanford, #25 USC

2012
Three: #1 USC, #5 Oregon, #21 Stanford

2013
Five: #3 Oregon, #4 Stanford, #21 UCLA, #24 USC, #25 Oregon State

2014
Six: #3 Oregon, #7 UCLA, #11 Stanford, #15 USC, #19 ASU, #25 Washington

2015
Six: #7 Oregon, #8 USC, #13 UCLA, #15 ASU, #21 Stanford, #22 Arizona

2016
Five: #8 Stanford, #14 Washington, #16 UCLA, #20 USC, #24 Oregon

2017
Four: #4 USC, #8 Washington, #14 Stanford, #24 Washington State

2018
Four: #6 Washington, #13 Stanford, #15 USC, #24 Oregon

2019
Five: #11 Oregon, #13 Washington, #14 Utah, #23 Washington State, #25 Stanford

2020
Three: #9 Oregon, #17 USC, #22 Utah

2021
Five: #11 Oregon, #15 USC, #20 Washington, #24 Utah, #25 ASU

2022
Three: #7 Utah, #11 Oregon, #14 USC

Schwartzstein, a former Stanford offensive lineman, used predictive models to develop business strategies for the XFL.

He believes the Pac-12 should take whatever steps are necessary to “put your content engine in front of as many people as possible”.

This process begins well before the first whistle and ties in closely with a page from the Pac-12 playbook that hasn’t been used in years: The conference should consider inviting the head coaches and top players on a media tour in late spring East Coast, Schwartzstein said, with stations in New York City and ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut.

That is exactly what happened in the early years of former Commissioner Larry Scott’s tenure as he attempted to raise the national profile of the conference. But the annual trips eventually ended, partly because of opposition from the head coaches.

Stanford’s David Shaw had a solo appearance in Bristol in the summer of 2018 for the so-called “Car Wash,” which saw college coaches experience a barrage of interviews with ESPN reporters, appear on ESPN shows and chat with ESPN executives.

The conference could also send coaches and players to New York City:

Of the 63 media representatives who took part in the AP poll, 11 live in New England or the Mid-Atlantic region. (The AP voter distribution is based on the total number of FBS teams in each state.)

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