CHANGES TO THE MAGAZINE IN 2016
I take great pride in having the MOST ACCURATE college football magazine in the country over the last 17 years. I also take great pride in the fact that the magazine is usually 99.8% correct with regard to its statistics and other information. Keep in mind that writing a magazine with SO MUCH information and 352 pages demands a LOT of proofreading. There are over 10,000 college football players in the magazine. In just the “2014 Statistical Leaders Box” on the right hand pages there are over 33,920 different stats for the 128 teams, which does not even include the game-by-game stats or all the other stats and numbers on the right hand pages. Likewise, there are over 2,000 words or stats written on each team page (just the left side!), which comes out to over 256,000 words or stats to review on just the lefts. That is over 500,000 words and stats to proof if you include all the other pages. If you find 20-30 typos in so many words and stats, you are doing pretty well!
Similarly, I have taken GREAT pride for 21 years in writing the individual units and forecasts for EVERY TEAM. I usually spend 3-5 hours on each team in December and January during my first write-through, followed by another 3-5 hours on each team in my 2nd write-through in March and April. Finally, I spend another 2-4 hours on each team in the 3rd write-through in May. In all, that works out to approximately 11 hours for all 128 teams, or 1400+ hours. I start writing the magazine on the Sunday after Thanksgiving and I finish at the end of May, so I pour 6 months, or 26 weeks, into the magazine. If I worked 40 hours a week, that would be only 1040 hours and nowhere near enough time to complete the magazine. Fortunately, I am a workaholic and working 50 hours a week seems like vacation for me, so I probably average 70 hours a week during those 6 months. This past year, I decided to talk to as many coaches as possible prior to the magazine coming out (see today’s other blog 2015 Magazine Changes). While this was very positive experience and allowed me to learn much more about the teams, it left me pressed for time at the end. As a result, I was able to complete the All American teams, but I did not have much time to go over the All Conference teams as carefully as I would have liked. Although I still believe that those selections are quite accurate, there were admittedly a few things slipped through the cracks. On balance, I would say the All Conference teams are more like 93-95% accurate (and the All Conference teams make up about 2% of the magazine), but some of the mistakes were noteworthy.
Given the need to ship the magazine to press on a firm date, we were on an extremely tight deadline. In addition, as mentioned above, my magazine has a significantly larger volume of information (including text, statistics and historical information) than the other preview magazines, which complicates the review process. Unfortunately, while we can catch most errors, it is impossible to avoid all mistakes, even for other magazines. For example, I picked up the Athlon’s Big Ten Preview and, on page 58, they have Stanford the #24 team in the country and on page 59 the #26 team, while omitting Florida entirely from the top 128 teams. Do I think that Athlon forgot Florida has a football team? Of course not! It’s a TYPO and it happens. I am sure it was a last second change and it slipped through the cracks.
In the same sense, there were a few oversights for my All Conference teams, most notably Tennessee DE Derek Barnett being listed as 3rd Team SEC. Last year, Barnett made my final 2nd Team SEC last year as a true frosh and the other 1st Team SEC defensive linemen were gone, so he naturally should have made the jump to 1st Team. How did this oversight occur then? Well, when determining All-Conference teams, I rely on my individual player power ratings, which consider height, weight, speed, PS#, NFL scout evaluations and, of course, their stats for last year and for their career. Those numbers had Derek Barnett 1st team SEC. To select my All-American team, I speak to my NFL contacts, particularly Gil Brandt, with whom I spent hours going over each of the top players for the draft. Since Barnett is a true sophomore, he is not eligible for the draft, so his name did not come up in those conversations and he was not fresh in my mind.
Going back to my individual player power ratings, I use these ratings for my Draft Eligible Lists in the front of a magazine. In doing so, I rely on a modifier that removes true freshman and true sophomores from the equation since they are not eligible for the NFL Draft. That column is right next to the main column I use for ALL players When I sorted the names for the All American team, I accidentally sorted by the list of draft eligible players when doing the Defensive Line rather than all players. With so many names in my head, I took the best players off that list and put them on the AA team, which resulted in Barnett being excluded because he is not draft eligible. This type of mistake is very rare. In turn, we took the All American list to make sure that 2nd or 3rd Team All-Conference players were not ranked ahead of those that made the All American list and his name got bumped back to 3rd Team SEC by mistake in this process. Obviously, this will reduce the accuracy of this year’s magazine down to the 98-99% category instead of the normal 99.8%, but I feel very good about the overall product despite these couple of shortcomings. I am also confident that the team forecast will continue to be the most accurate in the country.
The biggest change for 2016 that I am going to reclaim some hours by improving the writing process. The first write-through of the magazine involves heavy statistical research and analysis of each position. It also involves reading through every story written about each team during the year. Rather than performing every single first write-through myself, I will be relying on some solid people on my staff, who are very capable of handling this task. By having my staff members handle the first write-through for approximately 60 non-Power 5 teams, I will gain an additional 240 hours of time to devote toward making sure the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed. This will help bump the accuracy back up from 98.3% back to 99.8% for 2016. I can also interview more coaches with all these extra hours and use this information for when I do the 2nd and 3rd write-through of each team, so nothing will be missed.
So Tennessee fans- I definitely agree that Derek Barnett was worthy of 1st Team SEC and he was there on the page until that last minute move. This is a mistake that was made just like Athlon knows that Florida STILL has a football team even though their last minute change left them off the pages. There are always a couple of typo type things in every magazine. In any event, the most important accolades are the Midseason and Postseason All-Conference teams, so trust me that I will be watching him closely and happy to place him on the top line if he continues to build on his fine freshman campaign!