Nobody enjoys preseason projections more than I do, and I especially enjoy the ones that apply advanced analytics. Regarding college football, the leading analytic light is Brian Fremeau, who writes for ESPN Insider and Football Outsiders. (And yes, I still get a kick out of the Insider/Outsiders dichotomy. I’m easily amused.)
For ESPN, Fremeau has offered his conference projections for 2014. He slots Georgia second behind South Carolina in the SEC East and Georgia Tech fifth — fifth of seven, I remind you — in the ACC Coastal.
From his Georgia forecast:
Georgia may be one of the best candidates across the country to bounce back in 2014 after a very difficult season. Four of the Bulldogs’ five losses last year came by five points or fewer, and turnovers played a part in all of those games. The other major factor was a defense that just couldn’t get stops, allowing 42 percent of opponent drives to cross the Georgia 30-yard line (89th nationally).
Fremeau’s numbers suggest that the Bulldogs will finish 9-3 overall and 5-3 in league play, which doesn’t sound like a huge bounce after 8-5 and 5-3. He assigns them an eight percent chance of winning the SEC and an 11 percent chance of going 11-1 or better. He also writes that his model gives Georgia a 79 percent chance of at least splitting its first two games against Clemson and South Carolina.
More SEC: Alabama — big shock — is tabbed to finish first in the West and is assigned a 59 percent chance of winning the SEC. Auburn, which just played for the BCS title, is projected third in its division, behind LSU but ahead of Ole Miss. Florida is picked fourth in the East, which would surely leave the Gators in search of a new coach. Missouri, the defending East champ, is picked third in the division.
As for the ACC: Fremeau has Tech going 7-5 again and finishing fifth behind Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Duke. (But ahead of Miami, which has beaten Tech five years running.) From his Tech capsule:
The Yellow Jackets aren’t given much of a chance in our projections to contend for an ACC title, mostly because the division schedule is unkind with road trips to Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Pittsburgh. To stay in contention with that crowd, the Yellow Jackets need to get opponents off the field more regularly. Georgia Tech forced three-and-outs on only 29 percent of opponent drives (90th nationally) in 2013.
(You’ll recall that, two months ago, Fremeau identified Tech as among the nation’s most stable programs. He notes that 7-5 would “be right in that wheelhouse.”)
The Jackets are given a two percent shot at winning the ACC and a one percent chance of going 11-1 or better. Florida State, which will begin the season ranked No. 1 in the polls, is assigned a 69 percent chance of winning the conference and 65 percent chance of going 11-1 or better. (No word on whether crab legs were factored into this model.) ACC newbie Louisville is picked second in the Atlantic Division, ahead of Clemson.