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» Seventh Day Adventure: Week 13

The biggest game this week is the Iron Bowl, where the playoff hopes of Alabama, Auburn, and Georgia hang in the balance.

04 Sep 2015

Varsity Numbers: F/+ vs. AP

by Bill Connelly

As is the case each season, we have made one final update to our college football F/+ projections as the season begins. (The season has technically already begun, but as proof that we're not doing anything after the fact, Brian Fremeau posted his final numbers on Aug. 30 here, and I posted my final numbers on Aug. 31 here.)

These numbers mostly mirror what was presented in Football Outsiders Almanac 2015 (still available!), but there are a few differences based on both changes to the experience numbers and my endless tweaking of weights in formulas.

Depending on how you look at it, either the AP did a pretty good job with its preseason polling, or the numbers pass the eyeball test. Or both. As you see below, of the teams in the F/+ top 15, 13 are also in the AP top 15. That's a little more harmony than normal, I believe.

There are some differences, though, and I thought this would be a good time to discuss them.

AP likes 'em more

TCU (AP No. 2, F/+ No. 10)

(Note that while we still have TCU below where conventional wisdom puts them, they have moved up, after being ranked No. 15 in Football Outsiders Almanac 2015.)

Why the media likes the Horned Frogs: They looked amazing in last year's Chick-Fil-A Bowl (thereby winning the retroactive "team most spurned by the Playoff" award), they return a Heisman favorite in quarterback Trevone Boykin, they finished 12-1 last year, and when they looked good, they looked amazing. Seriously, what their defense did to Ole Miss in the bowl was not safe for work.

Why the numbers don't (as much): They were absurdly lucky from a turnovers perspective last year; going by the way I measure turnover luck, bounces benefited them to the tune of more than six points per game, the most in the country. And while they certainly had some incredible wins -- 42-3 over Ole Miss, 30-7 over Minnesota, and of course 82-27 over Texas Tech -- those bounces came in handy. They were 3-1 in games decided by one possession.

Also: their offense wasn't amazingly efficient -- when Boykin struggles, it's because his completion rate is dipping quickly -- and they have to replace quite a few big-time contributors on defense. We assume a Gary Patterson team will always be fine defensively, but the numbers aren't necessarily going to see that.

Auburn (AP No. 6, F/+ No. 13)

Why the media likes the Tigers:

Gus Malzahn offense + Will Muschamp defense = success!

Muschamp returns to his defensive roots after his ouster as Florida's head coach, and he inherits a unit that has plenty of athleticism and was rock-solid over the first half of last season. Throw in Malzahn's offensive wizardry, and you've got yourself a hell of a team.

Why the numbers don't (as much): For one thing, the stats don't care who the coordinator is. I'd love to change that, but it's nearly impossible. The numbers also take note of Auburn replacing its quarterback, two leading running backs, two of three receivers and three starters on the offensive line. Malzahn has recruited quite well, and again, it's really hard to assume poor play from an offense powered by Gusoline. But there's quite a bit of turnover here, and the new pieces aren't guaranteed to immediately click.

Clemson (AP No. 12, F/+ No. 19)

Why the media likes the Tigers: Quarterback Deshaun Watson really might be amazing (and at this specific moment in time, he's healthy, too!), and he's got most of his skill position guys back, as well.

Why the numbers don't (as much): The offense stunk last year (73rd in Off. S&P+), mainly because Watson was suffering from countless unlucky ailments. Also: the Tigers were horrendous on the ground (107th in Rushing S&P+). Oh yeah, and the defense, an incredibly disruptive force that helped the Tigers to overcome offensive woes and still finish 10-3, was decimated by graduation and attrition: six of the top seven linemen are gone, as are the top two linebackers, the top safety, and the top cornerback.

That's ... a lot to lose. Watson's potential is off the charts, and maybe his presence is enough to carry the Tigers through a lot of close games. But that's a lot to put on one player, and if he gets hurt again, Clemson's ceiling drops from top 15 to barely top 40.

F/+ likes 'em more

Ole Miss (F/+ No. 5, AP No. 17)

Why the numbers like the Rebels: Simply put, they were most likely the best team in the country for the first two months of last season. The Land Shark defense was incredible in every way, from big hits to big-play prevention, and a timely, efficient passing game was able to make plays at the right moments.

Through October 18, Ole Miss had beaten Alabama (No. 2 in F/+ at the end of the year) and destroyed Boise State (No. 21) and Tennessee (No. 24). And a lot of the key pieces to both the defense (tackle Denzel Nkemdiche, tackle Isaac Gross, linebacker/end C.J. Johnson, rover Mike Hilton, nickelback Tony Conner) are back. Plus, star receiver Laquon Treadwell is healthy and leads a potentially fantastic receiving corps.

Why the media doesn't (as much): Who cares about the first two months? The Rebels lost a heartbreaker to Auburn when Treadwell suffered a gruesome injury and fumbled as he was about to score the go-ahead touchdown, then fell into a funk: they got pummeled by both Arkansas and TCU and finished the season losing four of six.

Seriously, this was a calamitous fall. From my Ole Miss SB Nation preview:

Oh yeah, and they have to replace their quarterback now.

If TCU got a bowl bump for crushing Ole Miss, Ole Miss gets an anti-bump. But the numbers don't really care about how the season ended; they just care about the overall averages.

UCLA (F/+ No. 7, AP No. 13)

Why the numbers like the Bruins: Steady year-to-year improvement? Check. The Bruins were 75th in F/+ in Rick Neuheisel's final season (2012) and have improved to 31st, then 13th, then 12th under Jim Mora. Excellent recruiting? Check. They're fourth in two-year recruiting rank. Returning experience? Check. They return eight starters on each side of the ball, from 1,500-yard rusher Paul Perkins, to 131 career starts on the offensive line, to all but one player in each level of the defense.

That's a team built for the numbers to love.

Why the media doesn't (as much): One of the only players UCLA has to replace is quarterback and NFL early entry Brett Hundley. And the new starter, Josh Rosen, is a true freshman. He's a very well-decorated true freshman, but ... RED FLAG RED FLAG RED FLAG RED FLAG RED FLAG.

Georgia (F/+ No. 4, AP No. 9)

Why the numbers like the Dawgs: Georgia is consistently good; the Dawgs have finished 14th or better in F/+ for four consecutive years and were fourth last season. They return maybe the best running back in college football (Nick Chubb), a well-seasoned offensive line, and an active, super-athletic back eight on defense. Mark Richt recruits well and wins 10 games each year when the injury bug isn't particularly cruel. From the perspective of recent performance and returning talent, they are easily the surest bet in the SEC East.

Why the media doesn't (as much): They dropped the ball last year, laying one of the season's biggest eggs in a blowout loss to Florida and blowing the SEC East title (to Missouri, which the Dawgs beat by 34 points on the road) in the process. They struggled defending powerful run games last year and must now replace three linemen. And yes, they have a new quarterback.

One more thing: when Richt lost offensive coordinator Mike Bobo to the head coaching job at Colorado State, he replaced him with Brian Schottenheimer. When fans (in this case, those of the St. Louis Rams) lose their offensive coordinator and celebrate wildly, that's a scary sign.

Of course, all Schottenheimer has to tell his new quarterback is, "Put the ball in Chubb's (or his awesome backup's) belly."

For five of the six teams here, part of the difference between perception and projection might come because of the quarterback position. It's interesting, and it makes sense, as simply using returning starters doesn't give extra weight to the quarterback position.

So here are the official, last-second projections. F/+ rankings will be posted here weekly, starting next week. And you can find this week's F/+ projections/picks post here. To say the least, the season started well for the numbers yesterday. (Had to say that now before the tide inevitably turns.)

Team Conference Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. FEI Rk Proj. F/+ Rk AP Rank Diff
Ohio State Big Ten 27.1 1 0.279 1 69.1% 1 1 +0
Alabama SEC 24.5 2 0.265 2 63.9% 2 3 +1
Oregon Pac-12 20.9 4 0.246 3 56.6% 3 7 +4
Georgia SEC 20.8 5 0.206 5 52.0% 4 9 +5
Ole Miss SEC 20.9 3 0.178 11 48.2% 5 17 +12
Baylor Big 12 16.2 13 0.235 4 47.8% 6 4 -2
UCLA Pac-12 19.6 6 0.180 10 47.1% 7 13 +6
Michigan State Big Ten 17.8 10 0.196 6 46.9% 8 5 -3
LSU SEC 18.2 9 0.180 9 45.5% 9 14 +5
TCU Big 12 15.5 15 0.186 8 42.5% 10 2 -8
USC Pac-12 16.5 12 0.166 13 41.6% 11 8 -3
Florida State ACC 14.3 20 0.189 7 40.9% 12 10 -2
Auburn SEC 19.6 7 0.132 24 39.7% 13 6 -7
Notre Dame Ind 15.3 16 0.163 15 39.7% 14 11 -3
Oklahoma Big 12 17.1 11 0.141 19 38.9% 15 19 +4
Georgia Tech ACC 14.4 19 0.166 14 38.8% 16 16 +0
Stanford Pac-12 14.7 18 0.151 18 37.5% 17 21 +4
Arizona State Pac-12 12.7 23 0.170 12 36.8% 18 15 -3
Clemson ACC 14.9 17 0.141 20 36.4% 19 12 -7
Arkansas SEC 19.4 8 0.110 28 36.0% 20 18 -2
Boise State MWC 12.1 25 0.161 16 35.0% 21 23 +2
Missouri SEC 12.1 24 0.158 17 34.7% 22 24 +2
Texas A&M SEC 14.1 21 0.131 25 34.2% 23
Mississippi State SEC 14.0 22 0.117 27 32.2% 24
Wisconsin Big Ten 11.5 28 0.138 21 31.7% 25 20 -5
Team Conference Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. FEI Rk Proj. F/+ Rk AP Rank Diff
Virginia Tech ACC 11.6 27 0.134 23 31.4% 26
Tennessee SEC 16.0 14 0.083 35 29.0% 27 25 -2
South Carolina SEC 9.4 33 0.134 22 28.3% 28
Kansas State Big 12 7.8 38 0.120 26 24.5% 29
Nebraska Big Ten 9.5 32 0.088 31 23.1% 30
Arizona Pac-12 8.3 36 0.095 30 22.5% 31 22 -9
Louisville ACC 8.6 34 0.087 34 21.8% 32
Utah Pac-12 6.5 41 0.102 29 20.8% 33
Michigan Big Ten 10.4 30 0.058 38 20.0% 34
Penn State Big Ten 9.8 31 0.061 37 19.9% 35
Miami-FL ACC 11.7 26 0.039 44 18.7% 36
Pittsburgh ACC 8.4 35 0.051 41 17.0% 37
West Virginia Big 12 7.8 39 0.051 42 16.2% 38
Oklahoma State Big 12 4.1 47 0.088 32 16.0% 39
BYU Ind 4.0 49 0.088 33 15.8% 40
Marshall CUSA 5.9 43 0.065 36 15.8% 41
Florida SEC 7.9 37 0.035 47 14.3% 42
North Carolina ACC 7.2 40 0.029 50 12.7% 43
Texas Big 12 10.4 29 -0.001 63 12.1% 44
Duke ACC 1.8 55 0.057 39 9.4% 45
Minnesota Big Ten 4.9 45 0.022 52 9.1% 46
NC State ACC 5.4 44 0.010 57 8.0% 47
Cincinnati American 4.0 48 0.013 56 6.9% 48
Virginia ACC 6.1 42 -0.006 65 6.8% 49
Texas Tech Big 12 3.5 51 0.016 53 6.6% 50
Utah State MWC -1.3 65 0.057 40 5.3% 51
Team Conference Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. FEI Rk Proj. F/+ Rk AP Rank Diff
Temple American 0.1 58 0.034 49 4.4% 52
Western Kentucky CUSA -0.6 61 0.037 45 3.9% 53
California Pac-12 3.6 50 -0.008 68 3.6% 54
Louisiana Tech CUSA 2.4 54 0.000 62 3.2% 55
Central Florida American -1.4 66 0.036 46 2.8% 56
Iowa Big Ten -0.3 59 0.014 55 1.6% 57
Northwestern Big Ten -0.7 62 0.016 54 1.3% 58
Boston College ACC 2.8 52 -0.027 74 0.4% 59
Navy AAC -0.4 60 0.002 59 -0.1% 60
Toledo MAC -3.7 75 0.034 48 -0.2% 61
Washington Pac-12 -1.2 64 0.001 60 -1.1% 62
Washington State Pac-12 0.9 56 -0.023 73 -1.5% 63
Northern Illinois MAC -5.5 82 0.042 43 -1.6% 64
Western Michigan MAC -1.1 63 -0.007 67 -2.2% 65
Kentucky SEC 4.1 46 -0.069 85 -2.9% 66
Georgia Southern Sun Belt -3.0 72 0.006 58 -3.0% 67
Memphis American -2.2 68 -0.007 66 -3.5% 68
Maryland Big Ten 2.7 53 -0.062 83 -3.8% 69
Colorado State MWC -3.1 73 -0.001 64 -4.0% 70
East Carolina American -4.3 78 0.001 61 -5.2% 71
Arkansas State Sun Belt -2.8 71 -0.020 72 -5.8% 72
San Diego State MWC -3.8 76 -0.010 69 -5.9% 73
Illinois Big Ten 0.1 57 -0.060 82 -6.9% 74
Ball State MAC -11.3 104 0.029 51 -8.8% 75
Team Conference Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. FEI Rk Proj. F/+ Rk AP Rank Diff
Vanderbilt SEC -3.9 77 -0.039 76 -9.6% 76
Houston American -8.0 88 -0.010 70 -10.8% 77
Purdue Big Ten -1.5 67 -0.079 89 -11.1% 78
Nevada MWC -6.0 83 -0.031 75 -11.2% 79
Oregon State Pac-12 -4.5 80 -0.056 81 -12.4% 80
Appalachian State Sun Belt -10.1 97 -0.012 71 -13.1% 81
Middle Tennessee CUSA -6.3 84 -0.046 78 -13.5% 82
Rutgers Big Ten -2.6 70 -0.087 95 -13.5% 83
Indiana Big Ten -3.4 74 -0.078 88 -13.6% 84
Air Force MWC -5.0 81 -0.070 86 -14.9% 85
Colorado Pac-12 -2.5 69 -0.108 103 -15.4% 86
Syracuse ACC -4.4 79 -0.093 98 -16.6% 87
Iowa State Big 12 -6.6 86 -0.068 84 -16.7% 88
Bowling Green MAC -10.2 99 -0.044 77 -17.6% 89
UL-Lafayette Sun Belt -6.5 85 -0.084 93 -18.5% 90
Kent State MAC -10.0 95 -0.056 80 -19.1% 91
Tulane American -8.2 89 -0.074 87 -19.3% 92
Tulsa American -11.6 108 -0.047 79 -19.5% 93
Wake Forest ACC -8.8 90 -0.082 92 -21.2% 94
Central Michigan MAC -9.1 91 -0.087 96 -22.1% 95
Rice CUSA -7.4 87 -0.109 104 -22.5% 96
Fresno State MWC -10.1 96 -0.081 91 -22.6% 97
Ohio MAC -9.7 92 -0.087 94 -22.9% 98
San Jose State MWC -10.9 103 -0.079 90 -23.3% 99
Florida Atlantic CUSA -10.0 94 -0.100 100 -24.9% 100
Team Conference Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. FEI Rk Proj. F/+ Rk AP Rank Diff
Florida International CUSA -11.5 106 -0.093 97 -25.8% 101
UL-Monroe Sun Belt -10.8 101 -0.100 99 -25.9% 102
Texas State Sun Belt -11.8 110 -0.113 105 -28.8% 103
New Mexico MWC -10.1 98 -0.143 110 -30.0% 104
Connecticut American -14.4 115 -0.107 102 -31.0% 105
South Florida American -9.9 93 -0.160 116 -31.3% 106
Old Dominion CUSA -11.5 105 -0.143 109 -32.0% 107
South Alabama Sun Belt -11.6 109 -0.144 111 -32.3% 108
UTEP CUSA -10.3 100 -0.166 119 -32.6% 109
Hawaii MWC -17.1 121 -0.105 101 -33.1% 110
Massachusetts MAC -14.8 117 -0.123 106 -33.6% 111
Southern Miss CUSA -11.6 107 -0.161 118 -34.0% 112
Akron MAC -12.9 112 -0.150 113 -34.8% 113
Charlotte -15.3 118 -0.134 108 -35.8% 114
Georgia State Sun Belt -12.4 111 -0.173 122 -36.3% 115
Buffalo MAC -17.9 123 -0.124 107 -36.8% 116
Kansas Big 12 -10.8 102 -0.214 127 -36.8% 117
Wyoming MWC -13.8 114 -0.161 117 -37.2% 118
SMU American -15.7 119 -0.150 112 -38.2% 119
Miami-OH MAC -13.5 113 -0.183 123 -38.9% 120
Idaho Sun Belt -14.5 116 -0.193 125 -41.4% 121
UNLV MWC -16.4 120 -0.170 120 -41.7% 122
North Texas CUSA -19.7 125 -0.156 114 -43.2% 123
Army Ind -19.7 126 -0.156 115 -43.2% 124
Troy Sun Belt -17.5 122 -0.185 124 -45.0% 125
New Mexico State Sun Belt -19.1 124 -0.171 121 -45.0% 126
UTSA CUSA -20.1 127 -0.197 126 -49.7% 127
Eastern Michigan MAC -23.2 128 -0.291 128 -63.9% 128

Posted by: Bill Connelly on 04 Sep 2015

1 comment, Last at 04 Sep 2015, 4:45pm by Will

Comments

1
by Will :: Fri, 09/04/2015 - 4:45pm

Have College Football Championship bets on Ohio State, Georgia, and Oklahoma. F/+ gives me faith!

Will