My 2017 College Football Preview: Part 1

WHO ARE THE MOST TALENTED TEAMS IN 2017? A LOOK AT EACH POWER FIVE’S SCHOOL 4-YEAR ROSTER FOUNDATION. 

Teams awarded 5 points for a 5-star, 4-points for a 4-star, 3-points for a 3-star, and no points for anyone ranked below that in last four classes. Junior college players who exhausted their eligibility, as well as early entrees to the NFL draft and transfers, were included with the best information available. 5th-year seniors were not, though, because the intent was to look at a four-year roster foundation, and with limited exceptions most top programs don’t rely on them the way they used to. Thus, these numbers may not be exact but should be considered relatively close approximations.

ACC

Florida State—334

Notre Dame—304

Virginia Tech—303

Miami—291

Clemson—288

N.C. State—262

Louisville—261

North Carolina—257

Virginia—253

Georgia Tech—250

Pittsburgh—250

Wake Forest—243

Syracuse—239

Duke—237

Boston College—231    

Notes—Clemson’s total is lower than expected because of how many of its top recruits in the 2014 class declared early for the NFL. N.C. State nearly won at Clemson, then waxed in-state rival North Carolina on the road last season, and these numbers show us why—they are an emerging roster in this league. If Virginia Tech and/or Miami can find a quarterback, they are clearly the class of the Coastal Division. The Hokies were one of the surprises to me. Frank Beamer left things in good standing for his successor, Justin Fuentes. You also see the importance of Lamar Jackson to Louisville, for the Cardinals have just an above-average roster without him. Since it belongs to the ACC in every sport other than football, Notre Dame was included here. And it says here there’s no way Brian Kelly should’ve been 4-8 last season, especially with a top NFL draft prospect at quarterback.

Big 12

Oklahoma—331

Texas—326

Oklahoma State—263

West Virginia—245

TCU—243

Baylor—240

Iowa State—235

Texas Tech—230

Kansas State—211

Kansas—187

Notes—This confirms for us Bill Snyder is a helluva football coach, but we already knew that. What he’s done with all the two-star recruits he signs, who didn’t register, is just amazing. We also suspected the Sooners and Longhorns were a cut above everyone else in terms of talent, and these numbers also confirm it’s even truer than we thought. Like Jim Harbaugh took over a Michigan roster ready to win three seasons ago, so is Tom Herman set up with these Longhorns in his first year. About 65% of Iowa State’s points are in its last two classes, so that is a program on the rise. Too much attrition in their 2014 class kept the Red Raiders’ overall score down. This league’s overall numbers are down because it relies more on JUCOs than any other power five conference, and those players typically turn over every two years instead of every 3-5.

Big Ten

Ohio State—335

Penn State—302

Michigan—297

Michigan State—268

Indiana—265

Minnesota—263

Nebraska—262

Wisconsin—261

Maryland—258

Iowa—253

Northwestern—244

Rutgers—220

Purdue—216

Illinois—215

Notes—Despite losing 15 early enrollees to the NFL draft the last two years, or about two-thirds of an entire recruiting class, the Buckeyes are still in a tier all to themselves. A whopping 72% of Michigan’s roster points come from the past two recruiting classes, so this will be one of the youngest rosters in the nation this fall. Penn State hasn’t recruited the star power Michigan has in those two classes, but James Franklin having an extra year to recruit good talent to his roster gives him a slight talent edge over Harbaugh this year. The middle tier of this league has decent depth. Teams 6-10 are pretty even and score fairly competitive on our metric. Right behind them is Northwestern, which is one of the stronger developmental programs in the league, if not the country. Given the talent in their immediate area, and lack of strict admission standards, Illinois and Rutgers have to actively try to fail this spectacularly.  

Pac-12

USC—305

UCLA—290

Washington—284

Oregon—272

Washington State—264

Stanford—263

Arizona State—257

Utah—246

Arizona—236

Oregon State—234

California—226

Colorado—214

Notes—Says here the Bruins have been underperforming past two seasons, which explains why Jim Mora is on the hot seat. Given their talent edge over most of this conference, there is no excuse for UCLA not to bounce back big time this fall. Don’t overreact to Stanford’s score, because it’s one of the few top programs that still seek to redshirt the vast majority of its freshmen classes. And the Cardinal has about 30 roster points in 5th-year seniors returning from their 2013 group. Washington lost 20 points to players leaving early for this year’s draft. But a soft schedule this fall will likely compensate for that in W-L record. USC has the most talented roster in the league, but not one of the top 10 rosters in the country. About 40% of Colorado’s score is the incoming 2017 class, so the Buffaloes really need this year’s recruits to make up for (on paper) sub-par 2014 and 2015 classes. Otherwise last year’s breakthrough could start looking like a one-hit wonder.  

SEC

Alabama—380

Georgia—348

Auburn—341

LSU—334

Tennessee—321

Texas A&M—316

Florida—303

Ole Miss—289

Arkansas—288

Kentucky—287

Mississippi State—282

South Carolina—281

Missouri—258

Vanderbilt—241

Notes—Needless to say the SEC has definitely surpassed the other power conferences in procuring pure talent, but for the purpose of this exercise its numbers are also over-inflated because of its systemic over-signing. As the perennial recruiting champ, Alabama’s number is predictably staggering, but the next seven schools eclipsed the 300-point mark, too. LSU proves the importance of the quarterback position, because they have recruited a top 4-6 roster in the country perennially. Yet they haven’t been a factor nationally in several seasons because of anemic quarterback play. These numbers say Kevin Sumlin has underachieved in College Station with a spate of 4-5 loss seasons. They also say that contrary to conventional wisdom, the window may not be closed for Butch Jones to save his bacon in Knoxville. The Vols still have plenty of talent on hand. Despite the recent scandals/looming NCAA sanctions, there’s also plenty of players remaining at Ole Miss, too.

 Top 25 Roster Foundations

  1. Alabama
  2. Georgia
  3. Auburn
  4. Ohio State
  5. Florida State
  6. LSU
  7. Oklahoma
  8. Tennessee
  9. Texas
  10. Texas A&M
  11. USC
  12. Florida
  13. Notre Dame
  14. Virginia Tech
  15. Penn State
  16. Michigan
  17. Stanford (counting redshirt points)
  18. Miami
  19. UCLA
  20. Ole Miss
  21. Clemson
  22. Arkansas
  23. Kentucky
  24. Washington
  25. Mississippi State

Finally, keep in mind this is a roster foundation, not a power rating (which is next) or even a preseason ranking. This is strictly looking at raw talent as a base resource. Without taking into account decisive factors like coaching, player development, experience at key positions like quarterback, talent distribution at positions of prominence like defensive line, schedule for the coming season, etc. Just a snapshot of what each major program is starting from once those are factored in.  Recruiting rankings used were the consensus rankings provided by 247 sports.

2017 College Football Power Ratings

My first step in putting together my annual preview is to first assess the personnel in each team, which is what my roster foundation point system provides.

From there, each team is given a power rating, defined as a win range of two games based on that talent, its development, and my perception of the strength of schedule they will face with that personnel. Teams with a * after their name are awarded a bonus win range if they return an experienced, successful quarterback, because I put a premium on returning talent at that position in my analysis.

Next, my coaching ratings are also factored in. A + after the team means they have a head coach who is historically elite, and/or known for getting the most out of his talent base on a consistent basis. If a head coach is stepping up to the power five level for the first time, he is not included in the coaching assessment. Likewise, for anyone who has yet to be head coach in Division I college football.  

Finally, I take these metrics into account when I project the outcome of the season, and this projection is what I base my entire preview on each season. Since I highly value coaching in my analytic as well, I will often use my coaching rankings as the tie-breaker in predicting the outcome between teams of equal talent.

AMERICA ATHLETIC

Central Florida 5-7

Cincinnati 4-6

Connecticut 2-4

East Carolina 3-5

Houston 8-10*

Memphis 7-9*

Navy 7-9+

South Florida 10-12*

SMU 4-6

Temple 3-5

Tulane 2-4

Tulsa 6-8

ACC

Boston College 4-6

Clemson 8-10+

Duke 4-6+

Florida State 10-12*+

Georgia Tech 6-8+

Louisville 7-9*+

Miami 8-10+

N.C. State 7-9*

North Carolina 5-7+

Pittsburgh 5-7

Syracuse 3-5

Virginia 3-5

Virginia Tech 7-9

Wake Forest 4-6

BIG TEN

Illinois 2-4

Indiana 5-7*

Iowa 5-7+

Maryland 4-6

Michigan 8-10*+

Michigan State 5-7+

Minnesota 5-7

Nebraska 5-7

Northwestern 7-9*+

Ohio State 10-12*+

Penn State 8-10*+

Purdue 2-4*

Rutgers 1-3

Wisconsin 8-10+

BIG 12

Baylor 4-6

Iowa State 5-7*

Kansas 1-3

Kansas State 7-9*+

Oklahoma 9-11*+

Oklahoma State 8-10*+

Texas 8-10

Texas Christian 6-8*+

Texas Tech 4-6

West Virginia 6-8*

CONFERENCE USA

Charlotte 2-4

Florida Atlantic 4-6

Florida International 2-4

Louisiana Tech 6-8+

Marshall 4-6

Middle Tennessee 8-10*

North Texas 3-5

Old Dominion 7-9*

Rice 2-4

Southern Miss 6-8

UAB 1-3

UTEP 3-5

UTSA 7-9*

Western Kentucky 6-8

MAC

Akron 4-6

Ball State 4-6

Buffalo 2-4

Bowling Green 5-7

Central Michigan 3-5

Eastern Michigan 5-7*

Kent State 3-5

Miami (Ohio) 7-9*

Ohio 6-8

Northern Illinois 6-8

Toledo 9-11*

Western Michigan 6-8

MOUNTAIN WEST

Air Force 5-7+

Boise State 8-10*

Colorado State 3-5

Fresno State 1-3

Hawaii 5-7

Nevada 1-3

New Mexico 6-8

San Diego State 8-10*+

San Jose State 2-4

UNLV 4-6

Utah State 2-4

Wyoming 7-9*

PAC-12

Arizona 4-6

Arizona State 6-8*

California 2-4

Colorado 3-5

Oregon 6-8*

Oregon State 4-6

Stanford 8-10*+

UCLA 6-8*

USC 9-11*

Utah 6-8*+

Washington 9-11*+

Washington State 7-9*+

SEC

Alabama 10-12*+

Arkansas 6-8*

Auburn 9-11*

Florida 7-9

Georgia 8-10*

Kentucky 5-7*

LSU 8-10

Mississippi 6-8*

Mississippi State 7-9*+

Missouri 4-6*

South Carolina 5-7*

Tennessee 7-9

Texas A&M 6-8

Vanderbilt 3-5

INDEPENDENTS

Army 6-8*

Brigham Young 7-9*

Massachusetts 2-4

Notre Dame 6-8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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