Another preseason ranking, another mid-teens entry for the 2019 Penn State Nittany Lions. Bill Connelly (stats guru, now with ESPN) released his preseason SP+ (no more '&') rankings for the upcoming season, and the Lions are 16th.
Where SP+ differs from vote-tallied polls, such as the AP Poll and the Coaches Poll, is that it relies on three statistical factors to determine its order. Those three factors are:
- Recent History - you're likely to perform at a similar level to your last five years.
- Returning Production - having more talent at critical positions coming back is better.
- Recent recruiting - two-year recruiting averages can give some insight into what programs will gain after lost production is considered.
Now, general program knowledge will tell you that there are two metrics that help Penn State and one that hurts. Losing Trace McSorley and Miles Sanders means James Franklin needs to replace nearly all his rushing and passing production. That said, the program is on an obvious upward trajectory and recruiting has been wonderful. In my opinion, this is as low as the Lions will rank all year, major key injuries notwithstanding.
- You see six Big Ten squads in there, but no Nebraska like every other preseason poll. Think about the determining factors and how poorly Nebraska fills each one of them.
- The rest of the conference shakes out: No. 30 Minnesota, No. 39 Nebraska, No. 48 Purdue, No. 51 Indiana, No. 63 Northwestern, No. 68 Maryland, No. 92 Illinois, No. 111 Rutgers (worst P5 team).
- Obviously the formulas really love the SEC, which isn't surprising. The top three divisions in college football by this metric are the SEC West, the SEC East, and the Big Ten East.
We'll have an SP+ feature for you every week during the season, so keep an eye out for my nerdy ramblings.