NHL:   :
 
NHL:  Chicago Blackhawks Blackhawks (26-27-8) 3 : 2 Ottawa Senators Senators (21-28-10)
 
NHL:  Anaheim Ducks Ducks (30-20-11) 2 : 0 Dallas Stars Stars (34-21-4)
 
NFL:   Pittsburgh Steelers Steelers (8-2) 40 : 17 Tennessee Titans Titans (6-4)
 
NFL:   New York Giants Giants (2-8) 12 : 9 Kansas City Chiefs Chiefs (6-4)
 
NFL:   Detroit Lions Lions (6-4) 27 : 24 Chicago Bears Bears (3-7)
 
NFL:   Houston Texans Texans (4-6) 31 : 21 Arizona Cardinals Cardinals (4-6)
 
NFL:   Minnesota Vikings Vikings (8-2) 24 : 7 Los Angeles Rams Rams (7-3)
 
NFL:   New Orleans Saints Saints (8-2) 34 : 31 Washington Redskins Redskins (4-6)
 
NFL:   Jacksonville Jaguars Jaguars (7-3) 19 : 7 Cleveland Browns Browns (0-10)
 
NFL:   Baltimore Ravens Ravens (5-5) 23 : 0 Green Bay Packers Packers (5-5)
 
NFL:   Tampa Bay Buccaneers Buccaneers (4-6) 30 : 20 Miami Dolphins Dolphins (4-6)
 
NFL:   Los Angeles Chargers Chargers (4-6) 54 : 24 Buffalo Bills Bills (5-5)
 
NFL:   Cincinnati Bengals Bengals (4-6) 20 : 17 Denver Broncos Broncos (3-7)
 
NFL:   New England Patriots Patriots (8-2) 33 : 8 Oakland Raiders Raiders (4-6)
 
NFL:   Philadelphia Eagles Eagles (9-1) 37 : 9 Dallas Cowboys Cowboys (5-5)
 
NFL:   Atlanta Falcons Falcons (6-4) 34 : 31 Seattle Seahawks Seahawks (6-4)
 

2018’s projected 130-team college football rankings, from Ohio State through UTEP

Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The preseason S&P+ projections are a simple mix of three factors: recent history, returning production, and recruiting. To come up with 130-team projections, I create projected ratings based on each factor. Here’s how the process works:

  • Recruiting is easy. I create a rating based on these two-year recruiting rankings. The recruiting-based projection makes up about a quarter of the overall S&P+ projection.
  • For returning production, I apply projected changes (based on each team’s returning offensive and defensive production, which are on different scales) to last year’s S&P+ averages. The projection based on returning production accounts for a little more than 50 percent.
  • For recent history, I get a little weird. I found last year that the previous year’s S&P+ ratings — which make up the starting point for the returning production figures — were carrying a little too much weight. So what you see below is a projection based solely off of seasons two to five years ago. Recent history now carries less weight in the overall formulas, under 20 percent.

Enough talk. Here are the preliminary projected S&P+ rankings for 2018.

Projected 2018 S&P+ rankings (as of Feb. 9)

Rk Team Conf. Recruiting impact Returning production Weighted 5-year Proj. S&P+
Rk Team Conf. Recruiting impact Returning production Weighted 5-year Proj. S&P+
1 Ohio State Big Ten 1 1 2 27.0
2 Alabama SEC 4 4 1 27.0
3 Clemson ACC 12 3 3 25.4
4 Washington Pac-12 17 2 13 23.9
5 Auburn SEC 11 6 6 22.4
6 Georgia SEC 2 5 28 22.1
7 Notre Dame Ind 10 7 16 21.4
8 Penn State Big Ten 8 10 20 20.2
9 Oklahoma Big 12 6 13 7 19.5
10 Michigan Big Ten 15 14 8 18.3
11 Michigan State Big Ten 33 9 22 18.0
12 Wisconsin Big Ten 36 11 11 17.8
13 Miami-FL ACC 9 16 18 17.4
14 Mississippi State SEC 26 15 21 15.7
15 USC Pac-12 3 27 9 14.0
16 LSU SEC 7 28 5 14.0
17 Central Florida AAC 66 8 85 13.9
18 Florida State ACC 5 48 4 12.3
19 Oklahoma State Big 12 35 19 29 11.9
20 Stanford Pac-12 27 23 10 11.9
21 Virginia Tech ACC 24 22 27 11.5
22 TCU Big 12 31 21 24 11.4
23 Oregon Pac-12 18 29 30 11.3
24 Texas A&M SEC 14 36 19 11.0
25 Ole Miss SEC 30 26 14 10.9
26 Boise State MWC 65 18 26 10.0
27 Texas Big 12 16 38 43 9.6
28 Utah Pac-12 32 30 34 9.4
29 Louisville ACC 28 44 12 9.3
30 Missouri SEC 44 24 47 8.9
31 Florida Atlantic C-USA 77 12 107 8.7
32 Florida SEC 13 62 17 8.2
33 Arizona Pac-12 45 25 63 7.7
34 Wake Forest ACC 67 20 83 7.4
35 South Carolina SEC 20 56 56 7.2
36 Iowa Big Ten 39 42 38 7.2
37 NC State ACC 40 39 40 7.2
38 Northwestern Big Ten 54 31 57 6.5
39 UCLA Pac-12 19 75 23 6.0
40 Duke ACC 51 35 62 5.8
41 Washington State Pac-12 46 49 55 5.4
42 Memphis AAC 71 32 48 5.1
43 West Virginia Big 12 42 58 44 5.0
44 Fresno State MWC 95 17 100 4.9
45 Pittsburgh ACC 37 64 31 4.7
46 Iowa State Big 12 49 47 78 4.6
47 Texas Tech Big 12 59 52 59 4.1
48 Boston College ACC 68 37 65 4.0
49 Toledo MAC 73 40 41 4.0
50 Baylor Big 12 34 78 15 3.9
51 North Carolina ACC 25 81 33 3.8
52 Arkansas SEC 41 72 32 3.7
53 Georgia Tech ACC 48 63 36 3.5
54 Purdue Big Ten 62 45 89 3.2
55 San Diego State MWC 75 50 53 2.6
56 South Florida AAC 69 53 73 2.5
57 Arizona State Pac-12 38 79 46 2.3
58 Indiana Big Ten 56 67 50 2.2
59 Houston AAC 70 60 49 2.1
60 Nebraska Big Ten 22 91 42 2.0
61 Kansas State Big 12 64 69 39 1.9
62 Marshall C-USA 80 46 79 1.9
63 Appalachian State Sun Belt 109 34 51 1.8
64 Kentucky SEC 29 80 75 1.8
65 California Pac-12 57 71 58 1.4
66 Arkansas State Sun Belt 89 41 81 1.4
67 Minnesota Big Ten 47 85 45 0.8
68 Ohio MAC 113 33 91 0.1
69 Northern Illinois MAC 91 54 77 0.0
70 Louisiana Tech C-USA 86 61 74 -0.4
71 Syracuse ACC 58 83 70 -0.6
72 Wyoming MWC 111 43 96 -0.7
73 Virginia ACC 61 82 72 -0.8
74 SMU AAC 84 57 112 -0.9
75 Vanderbilt SEC 52 87 86 -1.0
76 BYU Ind 72 88 35 -1.1
77 Utah State MWC 115 59 54 -1.1
78 Troy Sun Belt 97 55 93 -1.1
79 Tennessee SEC 21 115 25 -1.6
80 Maryland Big Ten 23 102 76 -1.7
81 Temple AAC 90 74 61 -1.9
82 Miami-OH MAC 103 51 120 -2.0
83 Middle Tennessee C-USA 93 70 88 -2.9
84 Rutgers Big Ten 53 90 106 -3.1
85 Navy AAC 92 84 52 -3.3
86 North Texas C-USA 99 65 113 -3.6
87 Western Michigan MAC 78 89 66 -3.7
88 Cincinnati AAC 55 100 69 -4.0
89 Colorado Pac-12 43 112 64 -4.6
90 Western Kentucky C-USA 85 98 37 -4.6
91 UAB C-USA 117 76 97 -5.0
92 Army Ind 110 68 123 -5.3
93 Buffalo MAC 125 66 119 -5.4
94 Southern Miss C-USA 74 97 92 -6.0
95 Colorado State MWC 82 99 60 -6.0
96 Eastern Michigan MAC 121 73 124 -6.1
97 Bowling Green MAC 88 96 84 -6.3
98 Tulane AAC 79 93 108 -6.6
99 Illinois Big Ten 50 118 82 -7.6
100 New Mexico State Ind 124 77 129 -7.7
101 Nevada MWC 98 92 109 -7.7
102 Massachusetts Ind 116 86 125 -7.7
103 Kansas Big 12 63 110 115 -8.1
104 UTSA C-USA 76 106 101 -8.4
105 UNLV MWC 104 94 114 -8.4
106 Georgia Southern Sun Belt 106 104 67 -8.5
107 UL-Monroe Sun Belt 102 95 122 -9.1
108 Tulsa AAC 87 111 87 -9.2
109 South Alabama Sun Belt 118 101 90 -9.5
110 Oregon State Pac-12 60 126 68 -9.7
111 New Mexico MWC 114 103 102 -10.2
112 Air Force MWC 129 107 71 -10.2
113 Georgia State Sun Belt 94 109 121 -11.1
114 Old Dominion C-USA 122 108 104 -11.5
115 Liberty Ind 130 105 116 -11.8
116 Central Michigan MAC 107 116 98 -11.8
117 Ball State MAC 101 117 94 -11.9
118 Coastal Carolina Sun Belt 128 113 99 -12.1
119 Akron MAC 126 114 103 -12.6
120 Florida International C-USA 83 121 126 -12.8
121 UL-Lafayette Sun Belt 120 119 95 -13.3
122 Hawaii MWC 105 123 110 -14.2
123 Texas State Sun Belt 100 122 128 -14.6
124 Connecticut AAC 96 125 118 -14.7
125 East Carolina AAC 81 128 80 -15.1
126 Charlotte C-USA 112 120 130 -15.2
127 Kent State MAC 119 124 117 -15.3
128 Rice C-USA 123 127 111 -16.2
129 San Jose State MWC 108 130 105 -19.1
130 UTEP C-USA 127 129 127 -20.3

Your projected conference leaders

You can sort by each category above, but here are the top four projected teams in each conference:

  • AAC: No. 17 UCF, No. 42 Memphis, No. 56 USF, No. 59 Houston
  • ACC: No. 3 Clemson, No. 13 Miami, No. 18 Florida State, No. 21 Virginia Tech
  • Big 12: No. 9 Oklahoma, No. 19 Oklahoma State, No. 22 TCU, No. 27 Texas
  • Big Ten: No. 1 Ohio State, No. 8 Penn State, No. 10 Michigan, No. 11 Michigan State
  • Conference USA: No. 31 FAU, No. 62 Marshall, No. 70 Louisiana Tech, No. 83 MTSU
  • MAC: No. 49 Toledo, No. 68 Ohio, No. 69 NIU, No. 82 Miami (Ohio)
  • Mountain West: No. 26 Boise State, No. 44 Fresno State, No. 55 SDSU, No. 72 Wyoming
  • Pac-12: No. 4 Washington, No. 15 USC, No. 20 Stanford, No. 23 Oregon
  • SEC: No. 2 Alabama, No. 5 Auburn, No. 6 Georgia, No. 14 Mississippi State
  • Sun Belt: No. 63 Appalachian State, No. 66 Arkansas State, No. 78 Troy, No. 106 Georgia Southern

Stats vs. conventional wisdom

There are no significant surprises here. In all, 22 of the S&P+ top 25 are also in the early human top 25. But here are some of the prominent teams S&P+ is highest on, compared to the human rankings:

  • Mississippi State (+10): No. 14 per S&P+, No. 24 per humans
  • Notre Dame (+9): No. 9 per S&P+, No. 16 per humans
  • Washington (+7): No. 4 per S&P+, No. 11 per humans
  • Oklahoma State (+6): No. 19 per S&P+, No. 25 per humans

And the other way around:

  • West Virginia (-24): No. 19 per humans, No. 43 per S&P+
  • Wisconsin (-7): No. 5 per humans, No. 12 per S&P+
  • Texas (-7): No. 20 per humans, No. 27 per S&P+
  • Stanford (-6): No. 14 per humans, No. 20 per S&P+
  • Virginia Tech (-6): No. 15 per humans, No. 21 per S&P+

We can draw some rough conclusions from these differences and the projections overall.

My spreadsheets hate John Denver

For the second straight year, one of the biggest differences between conventional wisdom and my S&P+ projections is the team from Morgantown. Last year, dramatic defensive turnover led to a barely-top-70 projection for West Virginia, a team many had in the preseason top 25. Part of the reason for WVU hype was transfer quarterback Will Grier, and since transfers are only marginally a piece of my projections, it made sense that S&P+ was underselling.

In the end, WVU split the difference. The Mountaineers were better than 70th, but they were merely a top-40 team before Grier got hurt, and they were worse after.

Last year’s fade, combined with top-50 recruiting and more attrition, means Dana Holgorsen’s squad is once again projected far lower in S&P+ than via conventional wisdom.

Projected conference averages

  1. SEC (+10.7)
  2. ACC (+7.9)
  3. Big Ten (+7.9)
  4. Pac-12 (+6.6)
  5. Big 12 (+6.4)
  6. AAC (-2.7)
  7. Mountain West (-5.0)
  8. MAC (-5.9)
  9. Conference USA (-6.9)
  10. Sun Belt (-7.6)

Like Alabama, the SEC was far less effective overall in 2017 than in previous years but still ended up on top (Bama won the national title, and the SEC eked out the top average in S&P+).

The combination of recruiting rankings, returning production, and minimal dead weight at the bottom means the SEC is once again projected as the top conference.

Good lord, Big Ten East

The Big Ten’s projected averages are hurt by three teams projected No. 80 or worse, plus the fact that only five conference teams are projected in the top 35.

All five of those teams, however, are projected in the top 12. And four of them are in the Big Ten East. Your projected top team, Ohio State, leads the way, but Trace McSorley and recent recruiting have Penn State predicted to remain at a top-10 level, and Michigan’s 2017 youth movement will be expected to pay off next fall. Oh yeah, and Michigan State returns more of last year’s production than any team in the country.

The East has four of the top 12 teams in the country. Not even the SEC West (four in the top 16) can match that.

Washington and Oklahoma or bust

Among the power conferences, three stand out above the other two. The Pac-12 and Big 12 are each given only one top-10 team here.

Washington is loaded and ready for another run, but if the Huskies slip, there might not be another contender in the bunch. USC has to replace a ton of production, and Oregon isn’t ready yet.

In the Big 12, Oklahoma State and TCU are both replacing key pieces, and barring a second-year leap, Texas probably won’t have all the pieces Tom Herman needs yet despite this awesome recruiting class.

You can make the case that the Big 12 is in good shape long-term (on the field, at least) because of Texas’ potential rise and OSU’s and TCU’s proven staying power. But this could be a transition year, especially considering that even the lone title contender (Oklahoma) has a lot to replace.

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