With spring practice winding down and the long days of the offseason ahead, ESPN began rolling out its early predictions for the 2014 season this week. Today it released (In$ider) its projection for the SEC, which includes the ranking of each team, its projected finish, its chances of winning the SEC, and its chances of finishing either 11-1 or 12-0 (the record it will likely take to obtain inclusion in the new four-team playoff).
The projections, derived from Brian Fremeau's Fremeau Efficiency Index ("FEI"), smiles on the Gamecocks. Fremeau placed the Gamecocks in the top spot in the SEC East, and gave the team a 20% chance to win the SEC, with a 26% chance of achieving a record of 11-1 or better in the regular season. Since those seasons do not always necessarily overlap (the Gamecocks could go 12-0 and lose the SEC Championship Game, or they could win the SEC while going 10-2 in the regular season), it seems to suggest that that South Carolina has somewhere between a 10-17% chance of winning the SEC and obtaining entry into the four-team playoff next season. I think most of us would take that.
Much of Fremeau's projections are driven from past success, under the theory that teams that have succeeded in the past will continue to succeed. It's not perfect, but it's sensible. And, as his website shows, the Gamecocks have succeeded quite a bit in the last five years, clearly establishing themselves as a top 25 program on a year-in and year-out basis, and creeping into the top 10 last season - the fourth straight year they've improved in the measure (dating back to the leap they made between 2009 and 2010).
If you have Insider, it's worth going over to take a look at not just the projection for the Gamecocks but for the rest of our SEC brethren. And if you don't (or even if you do), what do you think is the right projection for the Gamecocks next year? Do you think - especially given the potential issues with the defensive line and in the secondary - this projection flatters South Carolina, undersells them, or gets it just about right?