Great question Dave...while Phil, Ralph and myself would sit down and go over ALL 128 teams (and weekly ATS picks for that matter), Phil was always the guy that had the final say in determining where exactly the teams would be placed as far as projected conference order or the teams' placement in the final Top 40. 90% of the time we deferred to the 9 sets of power ratings we had. Some power ratings were pure talent ratings, some were based off where they were last year and whether or not they were stronger/weaker in the upcoming season (called a plus/minus power rating). Those 9 sets of power ratings would be plugged into each team's schedule to get an idea of how many wins a team was projected to have in conference play and then their overall schedule. We also used all these power ratings when doing weekly ATS picks (although we'd also strongly consider technical and situational handicapping methods).
Where we would override those 9 sets of power ratings is when you deal with coaches like Bill Snyder and Gary Patterson who despite the fact, they don't sign top recruiting classes consistently, they tend to exceed expectations routinely. Ohio State this year is a great example where there could be an override on the data. The Buckeyes are the least experienced team in the country and play a much tougher schedule this year than last. However, Urban Meyer has signed the top recruiting class in the Big Ten in each of the last 5 seasons and they're also 50-4 in his 4 years there. While many respectable power ratings like ESPN's FPI and Bill Connelly's S&P have the Buckeyes ranked in the teens, we'd manually upgrade them due to their past results/performances and that's why the Buckeyes come up #9 in Phil's Power Poll this year and come up #8 in my initial power ratings.
Hope this helps,