National Signing Day has come and gone. We know who is off to the NFL Draft, and most of who will be transferring. And now that the final embers of the 2017 season have been extinguished, we can all turn to the 2018 season. For the first time, we now have some data-informed projections of where all 130 FBS programs could shape up for this coming season. And it’s calling for BYU to improve significantly from last year’s debacle.
Bill Connelly of SBNation.com released the first preseason S&P+ rankings this morning, and BYU is listed at 76th, just ahead of Utah State (and also Tennessee, because lol). If that holds, it would be a pretty significant improvement over last year, when BYU finished 101st, by far their worst finish since S&P+ started tracking data, back in 2005. You all watched BYU football last year. You know why BYU’s 2017 metrics would be terrible.
Jumping 25 spots in one season would be a pretty big improvement, but perhaps not as much of one as some fans would like. After all, 76th is still a below average FBS football program, and with BYU’s schedule, it would be no guarantee of bowl eligibility. S&P+ projects 7 BYU opponents as better teams, paced by Washington (4), then Wisconsin (13), Boise State (26), Utah (28), Arizona (33), Cal (65), Northern Illinois (69), and Utah State just a spot below BYU. If those rankings are accurate, BYU would need to spring an upset or two to hit the postseason.
If you’re reading this and wondering what the heck S&P+ even is, it’s an advanced stats measures per-play performance adjusted for pace and opponent (unlike a metric like, total rushing yards). Since there are no plays in 2018 to measure, a preseason ranking looks at recruiting rankings, returning production from last season, and historical performance. It’s not perfect, but it’s more data informed than say, the AP Poll (which isn’t going to rank BYU or most of BYU’s opponents).
If you want to take the optimistic approach here, you can note that BYU has more returning production than nearly anybody in the country. Combined with a new, more experienced offensive coaching staff, and probably improved injury luck, maybe more dramatic improvement is possible. A skeptic might note that most of that returning production wasn’t effective last season, and BYU just had a highly disappointing 2018 recruiting class. In fact, BYU’s two-year recruiting performance has dropped more than anybody in the country other than UMass. Not great!
A lot can change between now and the start of football season that could impact this ranking, from graduate transfers to injuries to suspensions. But for now, we have the data-informed first preseason prediction of what 2018 BYU football will be.