Bill Connelly runs the excellent FootballStudyHall blog here on SB Nation, where he discusses how we can better go about quantifying what causes college football teams to succeed and fail. As part of that project, he creates a set of ratings known as S&P+ (success + points per play, with schedule factored in). The ratings tend to look favorably on the Gamecocks, mostly because the Gamecocks tend to play very good football of late. Carolina finished 12th in the 2013 final ratings, though some may take issue with the fact they come in behind two teams they beat.
So no system is perfect, and as Connelly himself admits, this is a first run. I'll let him describe the methodology:
And that's where we get to the part that keeps me giddy about Carolina football. The Gamecocks come in 13th place in his 5-year weighted average ratings (and that'll likely improve in the 2015 projections, as the 2009 season - where Carolina finished 23rd in the ratings despite a 7-6 record - comes off the books. Connelly rates the projected impact from the Gamecocks' returning starters as 6th best in the nation, and places our last two recruiting classes at 16th, in line with other sites ratings of that group.
The result? Fourth. The Gamecocks start the 2014 season in the S&P+ ratings the same place they finished it in the national polls. That'd put them second in the SEC, trailing only the juggernaut from Tuscaloosa, and just above LSU. Here's how the Gamecocks' slate of opponents comes out in the ratings:
As you can see, the Gamecocks face a pretty tough slate, with five games against top 25 teams, three of which come on the road. On the other hand, they do avoid a top 5 match-up and get the two toughest opponents at home, which plays slightly to their advantage as a truly elite team if they want a chance to run the table.
Before you jump all over these ratings as farcical, let's give them credit for what they do and acknowledge what they don't. They're clearly imprecise, and programs that are recently ascendant (Auburn comes to mind, though their five-year average continues to include a national championship rating) will be undervalued. Still, they're an interesting conversation starter and an excellent point of departure.
The full list can be found here. Thoughts on where Carolina (or its opponents) fall? Find us in the comments.
- National Signing Day 2014 results: South Carolina Recruiting Class Superlatives
- Gamecock Basketball versus Tennessee: Game Time, TV Schedule And More
- Gamecock Baseball TV Schedule: SEC releases TV schedule for 2014 season
- The South Carolina Recruiting Constellation
- Steve Spurrier's signing day presser, via Google Translate