Bill Connelly has released his SP+ projections for the 2022 season. Connelly, a former SB Nation-turned-ESPN data nerd, puts out some of my favorite data points to use in college football. The ‘Canes finished the 2021 SP+ metrics 32nd in FBS. Bill C had Miami’s offense end ‘21 ranked 25th, defense 51st and the kicking game was 27th.
Connelly’s projections are based upon three factors:
1- Returning production. Returning production (including transfers and accounting for attrition) will make up “more than” two-thirds of the weight towards the SP+ projection numbers. Here is a link to Bill’s returning production article for your viewing pleasure.
2- Recent recruiting. This includes the ‘last few’ classes, per Bill. It makes up about one-fifth of the weight towards the projections.
3- Recent history. Bill uses the previous 2-4 seasons to give a ‘program health’ metric in his projections. Recent history was given “a minor piece of the puzzle” weight per Bill.
The projections are updated again in August accounting for more transfers, injuries, etc that happen during spring and camp.
The Ohio State Buckeyes are the SP+’s top rated squad heading into the 2022 season. Bill’s metrics give OSU the top-rated offense and 11th ranked defense.
In 2nd place are the Georgia Bulldogs. UGA’s offense is ranked 2nd while the defense is ranked 5th. In 3rd, the Alabama Crimson Tide. Bama has the 4th ranked offense and defense per the projections.
The Michigan Wolverines are set to finish 4th in nation. The other UM is set to have the 5th best offense and 19th best defense.
The ACC doesn’t make their entrance until 5th with the Clemson Tigers. Clemson will have the 41st ranked offense but 1st ranked defense.
The rest of The ACC
The ACC teams (not including Notre Dame) make four more appearances in the SP+ ‘22 projections Top-25. Notre Dame is projected at 8th overall, 22nd on offense and 10th on defense.
Pitt is projected to finish 13th in the nation. The Panthers are projected 15th on offense and 31st on defense. NC State comes in 15th in Bill’s rankings. The Wolfpack are 43rd on offense but 8th on defense.
Our beloved Miami Hurricanes are 20th per Bill C’s SP+. The ‘Canes offense is ranked 24th while the defense is ranked 29th.
Rounding out the top-25 will be the Florida State Seminoles. The ‘Noles are 24th overall, while being 47th on offense and 13th on defense.
For the rest of the ACC, Louisville is 29th, UNC 40th, Wake Forest is 47th, Syracuse is 58th, Virginia Tech is 59th, Virginia is 63rd, Boston College is 76th, Georgia Tech is 92nd, and the lowly Duke Blue Devils are 117th.
Some of the more fun outliers are FSU’s 13th ranked defense, the Cardinals 8th ranked offense, Wake’s 9th ranked offense (and their 92nd ranked defense!), UVA’s 7th ranked offense (and 116th ranked defense, damn!), and the Yellow Jackets 108th ranked defense (from a ‘defensive-minded head coach).
If you’re curious about his returning production numbers, specifically, the first ACC team to pop the list are the Seminoles at 11th, returning 82% of their production. NCSU comes in at 12th, and Louisville and Syracuse are 14th and 15th.
The ACC sees a large gap until Pittsburgh at 31st with 74% of their production returning. Clemson is 41st, Miami and Wake Forest are 45th and 46th, and Virginia Tech is 64th.
After a small gap, UNC returns 63% of their production and comes in at75th, BC is 89th, the Fighting Irish are 93rd, while Georgia Tech is 109th, UVA is 123rd, and Duke is 125th.
The thing returning production can’t account for is the value of losing a Kenny Pickett in the locker room, or the value of having Tyler Van Dyke return to a locker room. Intangibles baby intangibles!
The Doppler on Bill
So what does all of this even mean? Let’s take a look at the 2021 pre-season chart compared to the 2021 finish. Bill’s SP+ had Alabama as the top-rated team in FBS heading into this past season. Clemson was 2nd, Oklahoma 3rd, OSU 4th and UGA 5th. The Hurricanes were 8th, while Michigan was 17th and Cincinnati was 19th. As previously noted, Miami finished the ‘21 season 32nd. Obviously 5th ranked UGA came in 1st on the field.
Before 2020’s COVID season? Ohio State was 1st, Alabama 2nd, Clemson 3rd, and UGA 4th. The Irish were 9th. Obviously in ‘20, the Tide pounded OSU when it mattered the most. While Clemson was beaten mightily by the Buckeyes and the Irish were an easy out for the Tide. Miami was pre-season 23rd and ended the year 20th.
Heading into 2019, Alabama was 1st in the pre-season SP+. Clemson 2nd, Georgia 3rd and eventual champion LSU was 4th. Playoff teams Ohio State and Oklahoma were 7th and 5th, respectively. Miami was pre-season 20th and ended the year 33rd. Bill did a great job in ‘19 of seeing the LSU Tigers as a top-5 squad before they were truly even there.
Essentially, since moving over to ESPN, Bill’s worst season has been ‘21 where he missed on the winner, but also didn’t have Michigan or Cincy in his top-10.
Regarding Miami, Bill has always been high on the ‘Canes and Manny Diaz. Miami has been a talented team and two areas the SP+ can’t account for are essentially coaching chops (Mario Cristobal can’t be accounted for in the SP+, yet) and dud performances from expected stars that had returning production.
Prediction: This is the year that Bill’s metrics are wrong the other way. Miami will finish higher than 20th in 2022. Yup, I’m fully on the optimism train heading straight for Charlotte in December.