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How Notre Dame football fares in ESPN’s post-spring SP+ rankings

IMG_9992by:Tyler Horka05/21/24


ESPN staff writer Bill Connelly updated his preseason SP+ projections Tuesday. In his models, Notre Dame came out as the No. 10 team in the country.

Here’s a look at the entire top 25.

ESPN’s post-spring SP+ rankings

1. Georgia36.347.3 (2)11.0 (5)0.7 (4)
2. Ohio St.32.736.6 (20)4.0 (1)0.5 (20)
3. Oregon30.848.0 (1)17.2 (14)-0.2 (85)
4. Texas29.545.4 (4)16.0 (12)0.5 (17)
5. Alabama29.143.7 (7)14.6 (8)0.7 (2)
6. Michigan27.532.9 (32)5.5 (3)0.6 (7)
7. Penn St.26.836.1 (23)9.3 (4)0.4 (28)
8. Ole Miss26.644.0 (6)17.4 (15)0.5 (26)
9. LSU25.147.2 (3)22.1 (35)-0.1 (83)
10. Notre Dame24.039.1 (10)15.1 (9)0.2 (53)
11. Missouri23.141.4 (8)18.3 (18)0.3 (45)
12. Florida St.21.436.9 (16)15.5 (10)0.6 (8)
13. Texas A&M19.838.5 (11)18.7 (21)0.0 (73)
14. Clemson19.837.0 (15)17.1 (13)0.1 (66)
15. Oklahoma19.336.9 (17)17.5 (16)-0.3 (95)
16. Tennessee19.037.5 (14)18.5 (19)0.2 (52)
17. Kansas St.16.836.5 (21)19.7 (28)-0.3 (91)
18. Utah16.131.7 (39)15.6 (11)0.4 (34)
19. Miami14.436.9 (18)22.5 (36)0.7 (3)
20. Oklahoma St.13.737.8 (13)24.0 (41)0.3 (42)
21. USC13.644.0 (5)30.5 (87)-0.4 (100)
22. Iowa13.217.9 (117)4.7 (2)0.4 (30)
23. SMU12.936.3 (22)23.4 (39)-0.4 (99)
24. Arizona12.738.1 (12)25.4 (49)0.0 (79)
25. Kentucky12.433.5 (31)21.1 (31)0.4 (39)

What is ESPN’s SP+?

Everything in italics below is straight from ESPN’s website

Preseason projections are based on three factors.

1. Returning production. The returning production numbers are based on rosters I have updated as much as possible to account for transfers and attrition. The combination of last year’s SP+ ratings and adjustments based on returning production makes up more than half of the projections formula.

2. Recent recruiting. This piece informs us of the caliber of a team’s potential replacements (and/or new stars) in the lineup. It is determined by the past few years of recruiting rankings in diminishing order (meaning the most recent class carries the most weight). This is also impacted by the recruiting rankings of incoming transfers, an acknowledgment that the art of roster management is now heavily dictated by the transfer portal. This piece makes up about one-third of the projections formula.

3. Recent history. Using a sliver of information from the previous four seasons or so gives us a good measure of overall program health. It stands to reason that a team that has played well for one year is less likely to duplicate that effort than a team that has been good for years on end (and vice versa), right?

(One other reminder: SP+ is a tempo- and opponent-adjusted measure of college football efficiency. It is a predictive measure of the most sustainable and predictable aspects of football, not a résumé ranking, and along those lines, these projections aren’t intended to be a guess at what the AP Top 25 will look like at the end of the season. These are simply early offseason power rankings based on the information we have been able to gather to date.)

What it means for Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish should be one of the top 10 teams in the country and should nestle in safely in a 12-team College Football Playoff. Connelly’s models give Notre Dame, which is facing the 51st toughest schedule in the country per ESPN, a 44.4 percent chance of going 11-1 or better.

That record wouldn’t just get Notre Dame into the CFP but would likely assure the Irish, who cannot receive a first-round bye because they cannot win a conference championship, a first-round home game in South Bend.

Connelly isn’t saying Notre Dame will come in at No. 10 in the final CFP poll of the season. But he is saying Notre Dame has the tools to be a top 10 team, and in 2024 that means the Irish would be playoff bound.

The teams Notre Dame is sharing the 8-12 spaces with in Connelly’s rankings are all similar. They all have head coaches who have been at their current schools for five or fewer years, and they all have their programs pointed in the right direction. Nobody would be surprised if all five of the teams in that 8-12 range are in the playoff come late December.

Predictive models like Connelly’s are only so precise, though. There is bound to be a team that does not live up to loft expectations. Clemson, for instance, was No. 7 in Connelly’s final SP+ projections of 2023. The Tigers lost four games — and it would have been five if Notre Dame took care of business in a game when Clemson had a 4-4 record at the time of kickoff.

All of that to say, someone in Connelly’s rankings will inevitably flame out of the top 10. Notre Dame has a duty to adhere to in making sure it’s not that team.

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