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 later this summer, but we can take a sneak peak at preliminary projections through the lens of our drive-based FEI ratings.
For this series, we first ran preliminary projections for team, offense 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 then calculated the frequency with which each team claimed a conference crown.
On Monday we're looking at the projections for the SEC, which features a handful of top programs with one team clearly favored to win the league title.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
Projected finish: 11-1
Win total range: 10-2 to 12-0
Chance to win SEC: 62 percent
There's no such thing as absolute certainty in college football, but Nick Saban has built a program in Tuscaloosa that comes close. The Crimson Tide have produced three championships in the past four seasons along with a handful of the most dominant single-game performances our team efficiency ratings have ever measured. Our model situates Alabama head and shoulders above the rest of the conference -- the Tide won at least a share of the SEC West title in 908 of the 1,000 simulated seasons.
Alabama was only truly vulnerable last season when it turned the ball over. In games versus LSU, Texas A&M and Georgia (games in which Alabama outscored its opponents 77-74), the Crimson Tide lost more than 25 points in scoreboard value on turnovers. Against its other FBS opponents, Alabama gained more than 67 points in scoreboard value on turnovers. This fall, against a schedule with few potential pitfalls and armed with elite talent across the field, Alabama is the clear front-runner to win the SEC.