Bill Connelly recently came out with an article analying the returning production of 2017's college football teams. Rather than just using returning starts to analyze a teams upcoming season, he looks at all returning production as a percentage. One main takeaway is that some of the most telling stats are returning receiving yardage and passing yardage on offense and overall passes defended/overall tackles on defense. To get a more complete persepective, read the article here:
After reading this, I had a thought. Bill provided an expected increase or decrease in points above average for both offense and defenses for the 2017 season. I thought I would take his expected production changes and compare it to the 2016 numbers to see where Michigan and its 2017 opponents would fall in the 2017 rankings. NOTE: This is not an all inclusive analysis. Other factors such as coaching changes and recruiting classes are not considered. So lets get started.
MICHIGAN: Michigan's offense is expected to regress by 1.8 points per game and the defense should fall by about 7.9 ppg for an overall total of a 9.7 ppg regression. This is larger than any fall of all Big Ten teams from 2016 to 2017. That's really bad right? However, Michigan is falling from a height of 26.8 ppg, still having the maize and blue fall in at a projected 17.1 ppg above average. Based on where this would fall in the 2016 rankings, this would place Michigan at: VERDICT: 13th ranked team in 2017
Now onto the 2017 schedule plus a few notables.
FLORIDA: Projected offense increase of 2.7. Defense projected to drop by 2 ppg. The total increase of 0.7 would place the Gators at 15th (14.8 ppg above average) in the country, setting Michigan up for a potentially very evenly matched opening bout, especially when considering the neutral field.
CINCINNATTI: The Bearcats were not good in 2016 at -5.2 ppg. With an overall expected increase of only 1.6 ppg, UC will likely be bad again in 2017. That projection would only move them up to just inside the top 80 teams.
AIR FORCE: The Falcons were pretty solid in 2016, finishing 10-3 and 1.2 ppg above average. However, they're losing more production than every FBS team in the country. Expected the lose 4.7 ppg on offense and 8.6 ppg on defense, Air Force is expecting a drop of 13.3 points which would drop them to 113th overall in the 2016 rankings.
PURDUE: They were horrendous in 2016. They're gonna be really bad again. At -9.4 ppg already and expecting a small increase of only 1.7 ppg, the Boilers are still gonna be outside the top 100 teams.
MICHIGAN STATE: One of the classic Sparty narritives so far this offseason has been Michigan losing a lot. News flash to Sparty fans. Your team was terrible in 2016 and it looks like it's going to be again in 2017. MSU can expect to lose 4.2 points on offense and 2.2 on defense. All said, that would make the green giants the 78th best team. Good thing they have a big recruiting class comi....oh wait. /troll over
INDIANA: IU is an interesting case to look at. The Hoosiers can expect a small uptick at 0.8 ppg offensively, but an already solid defense could be looking at an increase of 5.4 ppg. All in all, this would put Indiana at 26th in the nation. However, the Hoosiers just fired Kevin Wilson for uh...things that happened. So it's hard to actually project they'll reach these heights. It could be a tricky road game for our Wolverines though.
PENN STATE: The Nits came on strong to finish the 2016 season, winning the Big Ten and narrowly losing to a tough USC team in the Rose Bowl. 2017 looks promising in Happy Valley with projected increases placing PSU 6th in the nation for 2017.
RUTGERS: Can the Scarlet Knights get any worse than they were? With a projected increase of 2.4 ppg, Rutgers is still going to be amongst the worst 20 teams in the nation.
MINNESOTA: The Gophers are projected to fall back a bit offensively and get a bit better defensively. Overall, they're expected to fall down about 1.4 ppg and would place right about the top 50. However, they'll also be in Year 1 of one of the hottest upcoming coaches in the country in PJ Fleck.
MARYLAND: DJ Durkin had a big rebuild to undertake when he took over the Terps in 2016 and they finished at -5.4 ppg. Bill expects them to step back by 3.5 ppg on offense and offset that with a 2.1 ppg improvement on defense. Overall, they might step back a bit before moving forward. They would fall just inside the top 100 teams.
WISCONSIN: This is going to be the Wolverines first trip to Madison in nearly a decade. The Badgers were very good in 2016. They're expected to improve to about 20 ppg above average overall in 2017. This has the making of a possible top 10 team.
OHIO STATE: It would have been nice to have them at home in 2016 instead of 2017, but being at home might be the Wolverines best chance to finally beat the Buckeyes. OSU is expected to improve by 1.5 ppg on offense but fall by 1.3 on defense. They should be about the same level of team again this coming season. That would make them a top 5 outfit. Once again, it's going to be extremely difficult to topple the Bucks.
Elsewhere in the Big Ten, Iowa looks to experience a strong drop in offense that would move the Hawks to somewhere right around the top 60 teams. Nebraska is expecting a similar offensive dropoff as Iowa. Would it be a big stunner to see the Huskers fall to the top 70ish range? Improvements for Northwestern might see them rise to the top 30. Could the Wildcats be a serious Big Ten West contender?
Also, Alabama should rightfully be the #1 team entering 2017. They finished as the #1 team to S&P+, finished 2nd in the national title race, recruit in a way that we've never seen recently, and are expected to be at basically the exact same level in 2017.