Spring practices have wrapped up across the country, and there's not much more data we can pull into our projection model for the fall. At Football Outsiders, factors such as five-year program ratings, returning starters, quarterback reliance and more have featured into the projections. We'll publish final projections based on play and drive efficiency in the Football Outsiders Almanac this summer, but we can take a sneak peek at preliminary projections through the lens of our drive-based FEI ratings.
For this series, we first ran preliminary projections for team, offensive and defensive efficiency. Then we calculated win likelihoods in each scheduled game, producing a projected record and win total range. Running the win likelihoods through 1,000 simulated seasons, we calculated the frequency with which each team claimed a conference crown.
On Tuesday we're looking at the projections for the ACC, which features two intriguing division races.
Projected finish: 9-3
Win total range: 7-5 to 11-1
Chance to win ACC: 24 percent
The Tigers' two toughest games, according to our projections, are against nonconference opponents Georgia and South Carolina that bookend the season. In conference play, Clemson draws its toughest opponents, Florida State and Georgia Tech, at home in Death Valley. Home-field advantage is the primary factor that vaults Clemson to the top of our ACC projections.
The explosive tandem of quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins lead the way for an offense that scored 3.1 points per drive last year (eighth nationally). The bottom half of our projection window could come true thanks to a defense that struggles against big plays. In each of coach Dabo Swinney's four seasons, Clemson has given up a higher percentage of explosive drives (possessions that average at least 10 yards per play) than the year before.