There are a handful of model-driving rankings systems around the college football blogosphere, one of which we’ll reference pretty frequently here. Bill Connelly’s SP+ system is that model. It’s predictive and one of the best out there.

Connelly’s early 2022 projections are coming out soon at ESPN, and they’re built on three tenants: recent success, recent recruiting success, and returning production. For the final piece of it—returning production, which was released Tuesday—the SP+ system takes into account snaps and actual production rather than simply looking at starts.

Here are Connelly’s rankings of the Pac-12 schools, with their national standing in parenthesis:

  1. Stanford — 88% overall returning (3rd), 94% on offense (2nd), 82% on defense (15th)
  2. Arizona State — 74% overall returning (33rd), 77% on offense (32nd), 71% on defense (47th)
  3. Washington — 74% overall returning (36th), 81% on offense (25th), 67% on defense (69th)
  4. Oregon State — 73% overall returning (40th), 68% on offense (61st), 78% on defense (29th)
  5. Arizona — 72% overall returning (44th), 76% on offense (35th), 67% on defense (64th)
  6. Utah — 66% overall returning (58th), 71% on offense (50th), 61% on defense (88th)
  7. Oregon — 63% overall returning (76th), 58% on offense (90th), 69% on defense (59th)
  8. Colorado — 63% overall returning (78th), 78% on offense (31st), 47% on defense (121st)
  9. USC — 59% overall returning (93rd), 59% on offense (83rd), 59% on defense (95th)
  10. UCLA — 59% overall returning (94th), 61% on offense (78th), 57% on defense (102nd)
  11. California — 55% overall returning (114th), 37% on offense (126th), 72% on defense (45th)
  12. Washington State — 52% overall returning (119th), 32% on offense (128th), 72% on defense (43rd)

Some notes on what this all means.

Over the years, his SP+ system has found that turnover in the secondary has a greater impact on the model than turnover in the front seven, and that offensive line continuity and pass-catcher retention have the bigger impact on the offense.

Connelly baked transfer production into his model. However, for a team like Washington State, which saw starting quarterback Jayden de Laura depart and replaced him with former FCS quarterback Cameron Ward, the numbers will look a little deflated. Connelly wrote: “Because the translation from lower levels to upper is extremely inconsistent, I don’t do this for players transferring up from FCS or Division II. I used to, but it didn’t produce predictive value.” So take Washington State’s bottom-of-the-barrel ranking with a small grain of salt.

The national average for this year was around 66% returning production.

In most instances, looking at returning production is a key insight into which teams will be better in 2022 than they were in 2021. Sometimes it’s noticeable, sometimes it’s marginal. The top 10 in Connelly’s returning production rankings last season featured UCLA, Washington State, Oregon State, Utah, and Oregon.

Pretty good hit rate considering all improved their winning percentage by at least a 10th of a percentage. UCLA went from a 0.429 win percentage to 0.667. Washington State went from 0.250 to 0.538, Oregon State from 0.286 to 0.538, Utah from 0.600 to 0.714, and Oregon from a 0.571 win percentage to 0.714.