On Monday morning, barely one month removed from the end of the 2018 college football season, our esteemed Manager Emeritus kicked off the first round of internet slap fights for the coming season by unleashing his 2019 S&P+ projections on the world.
It’s a big day for Bill (as you can see by the furious storm of activity on his Twitter page), but it’s also a big day for us here at Rock M Nation, as we look to fill your feeds with that sweet, delicious offseason content.
So, just for grins, let’s take a closer look at Missouri’s projections, and what they say about the coming year.
Overall Ranking: 16th
Missouri slots in at No. 16 in the country, sandwiched between two Pac-12 teams (Washington and Utah). Here’s what Bill had to say about the Tigers:
It thinks more highly of LSU (fourth versus a consensus of about ninth), and it doesn’t punish Auburn for always having a ridiculous schedule — the Tigers are projected eighth as opposed to the Way Too Early consensus of something around 23rd. It values another set of SEC Tigers (Missouri) more highly, too, and it’s more bullish on a couple of Big Ten teams as well (Wisconsin and Michigan State).
Missouri has consistently come in around the bottom — or “just-missed” — parts of Way Too Early Top 25 lists, and these rankings back up the claim that the Tigers are a Top 25 team. Last year’s rankings had Missouri even higher; they were No. 12, just ahead of CFP participant Notre Dame. This bears out the idea that the Tigers were a much more talented team than their record and fell victim to bad luck more often than not, particularly in losses to Kentucky and South Carolina.
Being a Top 25 team, however, doesn’t automatically mean you’re considered a contender in the SEC. Missouri is eighth — EIGHTH! — in the conference and third in the SEC East. Here’s where No. 16 would put them if they were in each of the other Power Five conferences.
ACC: 2nd (Clemson, 3)
Big 12: 2nd (Oklahoma, 5)
Big 10: 5th (Ohio State, 7; Michigan, 9; Wisconsin, 11; Penn State, 14)
Pac-12: 2nd (Washington, 15)
Having an elite team doesn’t mean much in the SEC. It’ll always be an uphill battle to the top.
Recruiting Impact: 38th
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
This shouldn’t be much of a surprise considering Missouri’s recruiting standing in the SEC. Missouri checks in at thirteenth in conference by this measure, only leading Vanderbilt.
I’ll be interested, though, to see if Missouri gets a boost by next year. The 2019 freshmen and sophomores have a chance to show out on the two-deep, and there should be some producers among the underclassmen (ex: Daniel Parker, Tyler Badie, Jalen Knox, Anthony Watkins, Jalani Williams, Jack Buford, etc.)
If Barry Odom can round up another strong class in 2020, the Tigers could see their recruiting star continue to rise.
Returning production: 12th
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.
Here’s where things get a little complicated. As you can tell from Bill’s blurb, Missouri doesn’t actually rank 12th in returning production. Rather, this deals more with quality of returning production than quantity. In reality, Missouri ranks 81st in returning production — 94th on offense, 57th on defense.
Now before you go typing away about, “BUT KELLY BRYANT,” keep in mind that this is where transfers factor in, and the process of accounting for them isn’t always easy.
From Bill’s piece of calculating returning production:
I used categories like the ones above, weighted for largest effect — so returning quarterbacks, receivers, and defensive backs carry more heft — to create numbers for offense and defense. I have updated 2018’s rosters for 2019, accounting for NFL declarations and, as much as possible (since it’s impossible to keep up with all of them), transfers.
Projections are, in and of themselves, a more comprehensive and defined guessing game, and transfers can get even murkier. There’s no way to accurately account for how players like Kelly Bryant or Jonathan Nance will perform in new environments, so it’s always probably safest to underrate them.
In any case, it’s hard to be upset about what Missouri is returning on both sides of the ball. Even S&P+ agrees that while the Tigers aren’t returning a lot of bodies, they’re getting back a lot of production.
Here’s how Missouri’s schedule breaks down by the S&P+ projections. Bold denotes a home game.
Wyoming (92); West Virginia (38); SEMO (N/A); South Carolina (18); Troy (69); Ole Miss (39); Vanderbilt (53); Kentucky (37); Georgia (2); Florida (6); Tennessee (21); Arkansas (48)
Like we’ve mentioned, the 2019 schedule lines up nicely for Missouri to reach nine or ten wins. If you chalk up Georgia and Florida as losses (which isn’t a guarantee by any means) and count Kentucky on the road as another, you’re still sitting at a record of 9-3. If you win all the games you should win by S&P+ rankings, you’re 10-2. Get a little lucky and 11-1 or (knock on wood) 12-0 aren’t off the table.
Ultimately, the S&P+ rankings are more valuable than things like Way Too Early Top 25 lists. They’re based in data and proven production. So Tiger fans can take some hope away from this list.
However, until the Tigers take the field at War Memorial Stadium in Wyoming this August, none of it really matters. It’s really just another feather to put in your cap when looking ahead to the 2019 season.
But the S&P+ projections do bear out the major narrative of the coming season — that this has the potential to be Barry Odom’s best team, both in advanced statistics and on-field production. Nobody remembers that the Tigers were 12th in the 2018 S&P+ (except maybe Bill), but everyone remembers that they went 8-5 and lost a tough bowl game.
With some injury luck, a successful NCAA appeal and more good bounces, we could be discussing one of the better seasons in recent Tiger football history by this time next year.