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Alabama, No. 2 in way-too-early S&P+ rankings, faces seven Top 30 opponents in 2018

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Alabama WILL play somebody, Pawwwwl.

CFP National Championship presented by AT&T - Alabama v Georgia

Never. Gets. Old.

Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Bill C over at the SBNCFB hub has cranked out some post-NSD S&P+ rankings for 2018. His formula has been tweaked somewhat from years past:

The preseason S&P+ projections are a simple mix of three factors: recent history, returning production, and recruiting. To come up with 130-team projections, I create projected ratings based on each factor. Here’s how the process works:

Recruiting is easy. I create a rating based on these two-year recruiting rankings. The recruiting-based projection makes up about a quarter of the overall S&P+ projection.

For returning production, I apply projected changes (based on each team’s returning offensive and defensive production, which are on different scales) to last year’s S&P+ averages. The projection based on returning production accounts for a little more than 50 percent.

For recent history, I get a little weird. I found last year that the previous year’s S&P+ ratings — which make up the starting point for the returning production figures — were carrying a little too much weight. So what you see below is a projection based solely off of seasons two to five years ago. Recent history now carries less weight in the overall formulas, under 20 percent.

I honestly don’t know what to do about the recent history factor. Past performance is, experientially at least, a better predictor of what teams’ future behavior: Georgia always comes up a play short, Urban Meyer will always underperform in at least one game (usually on the road,) Alabama will lose one game and struggle its way through two more, Oklahoma State will break your heart no matter how much talent it has. Perhaps break the analyses down into quintiles? I suspect that what’s good for the goose in the middle 25 may not be as applicable to the gander in the bottom 25. There’s only so much tweaking that you can do to the inputs of inferential analyses without completely massaging the results.

In any event, Alabama finds itself sitting at No. 2, just behind Ohio State at No. 1. Recent usual suspects Clemson (3) and Washington (4) round out the Top 5.

Auburn (5) and Georgia (6) join the Tide in the Top 10. Mississippi State (14), LSU (16), Texas A&M (24) and Ole Miss (25) are the other SEC squads in the Top 25.

The other opponents on Alabama’s schedule are:

So, that’s five opponents on Alabama’s schedule in the S&P+ Top 25, with Alabama facing seven in the Top 30. And, much like Fresno State, Arkansas State will likely be a decent end-of-season win as well, as the Red Wolves are always contenders or winners of the Sun Belt (UGA had their own version of this last season with a 10-win CUSA champ Appalachian State on the resume.) So, 75% of the slate is quite quality. And, it certainly doesn’t look so bad on paper.

Let’s go ahead and pre-empt the “Alabama hasn’t played anyone” narrative now, shall we?

Complete rankings and methodology here.