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.
Today we're looking at the projections for the Big Ten, which includes two tightly contested divisions and a surprise winner in the Legends.
Big Ten Leaders
1. Ohio State Buckeyes
Projected finish: 10-2
Win total range: 9-3 to 12-0
Chance to win Big Ten: 30 percent
The Buckeyes went undefeated but unrewarded last season, and Urban Meyer's success in Year 2 has been consistent at every stop he's made in his career. Ohio State returns nine starters on offense, including Heisman-hopeful quarterback Braxton Miller, and a leap forward on that side of the ball will make the difference between a mere conference leader and a national championship contender. The Buckeyes produced a respectable 2.7 points per drive a year ago (29th nationally) but went three-and-out on more than a third of their possessions (70th). Our model favors Ohio State in each individual game, and both division challengers, Wisconsin and Penn State, have to make the trip to Columbus.