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College Football SP+ Preseason Rankings: Where does Louisville land?

Let the 2021 preview content continue.

NCAA Football: Music City Bowl-Mississippi State vs Louisville Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Last week I wrote about two of my favorite offseason milestones: 1. ACC releasing team schedules for the upcoming season and 2. Bill Connelly’s returning production rankings. What I embarrassingly forgot to remember was that there’s a third milestone that completes my holy trinity of the early off season: Bill Connelly’s Preseason SP+ Projections($)!

For the uninitiated nerds who have not followed Connelly’s SP+ (formerly “S&P+. why? some legal mumbo jumbo apparently) analytics in the past, let me get you up to speed real quick. SP+ is data set of tempo- and opponent-adjusted components of the five factors of college football: Efficiency, explosiveness, field position, and finishing drives. Per Connelly, the fifth factor, turnovers — which are largely based on luck — are informed marginally by sack rates.

When Connelly puts together the rankings for all 130 FBS schools he uses these predictive ratings, as well as his returning production numbers, recent recruiting (most recent classes weigh more than ones from three years ago), and recent program success/lack thereof.

In short: it’s awesome and it’s the closest thing us joes have to the secret algorithms Vegas and Mr. Bovada use. If you want a meatier explainer you can check it out here.

So, when Connelly releases his preseason SP+ rankings for every FBS team it’s a wonderful occasion because unlike human polls, this system actually is a terrific predictor and helps give us at least a slight idea of what the upcoming season will look like.

Because this is behind a paywall and I don’t Mike to get sued by Disney and ESPN, I’m going to hold back from revealing the ratings and rankings for all 130 FBS schools, I’m just going to give y’all a glimpse at what Louisville and the teams on their schedule look like:

*SP+ rating: Using the five-factors concept above, the S&P+ ratings take into account efficiency, explosiveness, and factors related to field position and finishing drives. The number you see is an adjusted scoring margin specific for this specific season’s scoring curve.

Off. SP+ rating: A team’s offense-specific S&P+ rating, presented in the form of an adjusted scoring average.

Def. SP+ rating: A team’s defense-specific S&P+ rating, presented in the form of an adjusted scoring average (and since this is defense, the lower the average, the better)*

Quick takeaways:

· SP+ is still very high on Louisville’s offense despite what it lost after last season. That’s encouraging, even with the loss of Ledford.

· On the flipside SP+ still isn’t a believer in the defense. This same unit rose to 75th in the country last year after entering the preseason projected 84th. Would not be surprised at all to see this unit improve on their projected SP+ rating.

· This schedule is going to be tough.

· Only three teams look like guaranteed wins (EKU, Cuse, Duke)

· UCF and Ole Miss being projected so high makes me hate our out of conference schedule even more. Hopefully UCF’s new AD doesn’t nail the hire.

· Looks like seven (7!) games are going to be virtually 50/50. Hopefully lucks on our side again like it was in 2019

· With how noisy UK fans have been this offseason I was pretty surprised to see UofL ten spots ahead. Crazy what a bowl win can do to a fan base’s mentality after an awful season.

· Clemson. Lol.


All in all it looks like the season can go really well, not well at all, or super mediocre. Which is hilarious since it’s not like any of us had an idea of how this upcoming season was going to go in the first place.

Let us hear your thoughts below…