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Using preseason S&P+ ratings to project Florida State’s season

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One of the best projection systems is out with early numbers

NCAA Football: Florida at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Connelly’s interesting (and ridiculously accurate on the whole) college football S&P+ projection system preseason rankings are out. It’s always fun to see where Florida State and its opponents rank. And in general, it’s just a fun read.

And we can use these rankings to cobble together a rough season win total projection. This isn’t super scientific, and things will change, but February is an absolute dead zone for college football coverage.

FSU, unsurprisingly, is 28th. The Seminoles are just 6-10 in their last two conference seasons. They come in 15th in recruiting, 43rd in returning production, and 4th in weighted five-year average (definitions of these elements from Connelly, bellow).

For recruiting, I create a rating based on these weighted four-year recruiting rankings. The weighting (67 percent this year’s class, 15 percent last year’s, 15 percent the year before that, three percent the year before that) is based on what makes the ratings most predictive.

For returning production, I take each team’s returning offensive and defensive production (which are on different scales) and apply projected changes to last year’s ratings. The ranking you see below is not where they rank in returning production but where they would rank after the projected changes are applied to last year’s S&P+ averages. This piece makes up a vast majority of the overall S&P+ projections.

For recent history, I’ve found that getting a little weird predicts pretty well. This number isn’t a strict five-year average — last year’s ratings already carry heavy weight from the returning production piece. Instead, what you see below is a projection based solely off of seasons two to five years ago. Recent history doesn’t carry much weight in the projections, but it serves as a reflection of overall program health. We overreact to one year’s performance sometimes.

I’d imagine that some FSU fans feel 28th is way too high given how the Seminoles looked in 2018, while some might think it is too low. I can’t imagine fans complaining about FSU being a top-30 caliber squad after what it put on the field in 2018.

But we can use the S&P+ rankings to create rough Vegas spreads. And from there, can convert those spreads to rough moneylines, thus giving an approximate win probability.

Using rough home-field advantage numbers, we can arrive at the above spreads. The spread to win probability conversions are from Boyd’s Bets. I have seen various interpretations of college spread to moneylines, so feel free to use another method in the comment section if you wish. Personally, I would not give FSU a 0 percent chance at Clemson or UF, nor would I give it a 100 percent chance over ULM.

Based on the February S&P+ projections, FSU would be:

  • A favorite of 21+ twice
  • A favorite of 14+ thrice
  • A favorite of 7+ six times
  • A rough coin flip four times
  • An underdog of 14+ twice

That sets up to a projection of 7.22 wins, meaning that based on S&P+, this would roughly result in outcomes of 7-5, 8-4, or 6-6. On average, a projection of two more wins in the regular season than FSU had in 2018. And 5-7 or 9-3 aren’t out of the realm of possibility, either, though you’d likely have to project decidedly poor injury luck (like FSU had in 2018 with the offensive line) for the former, or great injury luck, bounces, and the collapse of other opponents for the latter. If you’re in the 4-8 or 10-2 camps, well, you might want to check how much you’re factoring in your hate/love for FSU in your projections.

This exercise can also help to demonstrate some tougher and easier stretches in the schedule. Starting 2-1 against Boise, ULM, and at UVA is just as likely as starting 1-2. But the stretch between Clemson and Florida featuring at Wake, Syracuse, Miami, at Boston College, and Alabama State sets up for a potential four wins.

For the future of the Willie Taggart era, FSU really needs to find a way to win at least seven games in the regular season, giving it a realistic shot to get to eight with a bowl. This schedule should provide that opportunity.