Floors, ceilings and biggest variables for each Top 25 team

The college football offseason is painfully long, and over the course of the 7½ months between the national title game and Week 0, we can talk ourselves into quite a bit. The first time a potential Alabama starting quarterback throws an interception in spring ball, we'll convince ourselves that Nick Saban's Crimson Tide are due for a genuine setback. By August, we'll decide they're as loaded as ever.

Here's where the advanced stats can help us a decent amount. While outliers happen every year based on injuries, close games and the whims of 18- to 22-year-olds and a pointy football, a solid projections system can help us define the most likely range of outcomes for teams.

With 2023 recruiting in the rearview mirror, transfer portal movement quiet for now and my initial SP+ projections released into the wild, now's as good a time as any to set some standards for the teams that conventional wisdom tells us will have the highest standards this fall. For each of the teams in Mark Schlabach's Way-Too-Early Top 25, plus a select few others, let's use SP+ to establish ceilings and floors, and let's talk about the single biggest variable affecting which one they gravitate toward. (Hint: If they have a new starting quarterback, that's probably the biggest variable.)

Now, we have to be careful in how we set the parameters. SP+ gives Auburn a 0.01% chance of going 12-0 at the moment, but does that mean the Tigers' ceiling is 12-0? Sure, technically, but we're going to keep things more realistic: The ceilings and floors listed below basically come from the middle 80% of the projections. I lopped off the extreme projections -- Georgia with a 0.2% chance of going 7-5! Michigan with a 0.1% chance of going 6-6! Temple with a 0.1% chance of going 11-1! Nebraska with a 0.02% chance of going 12-0! -- and looked only at the projections landing between the 10% and 90% ranges.

Because I'm tamping down the outliers, you'll quickly find that most teams have a range of either three or four wins between their respective ceilings and floors. But this exercise does a solid job of separating teams into tiers of expectations. Only three teams start out with a 12-0 ceiling. Everyone else is going to need some breaks to get there.

1. Georgia Bulldogs

Ceiling: 12-0 | Floor: 9-3
Initial SP+ rank: 1 | Odds of finishing 11-1 or better: 62%