The Book 2022: ESPN FPI and SP+ Pre-Season Football Rankings

Two more of the 2022 pre-season ratings have been released and both have a similar outlook for Boston College.

Remember, that both of these are just starting points and will be adjusted as the season progresses, based on results.

Bill Connelly's SP+ is a predictive system based on the following three factors:

1) Returning production - seems to make sense that if you bring back a lot of players, you are likely to improve...of course that assumes you have good players! For BC, this is the first fly in the ointment for 2022. The Eagles return just 12 starters on both sides of the ball (5 offense and 7 defense). Four of those losses are along the offensive line, with just Christian Mahogany returning. One of the returnees though is Phil Jurkovec, although his returning production is skewed in this metric because of the shoulder injury which limited his snaps.

Jurkovec and Emmett Morehead return just 45.2% of BC's total passing yards. For many teams, the transfer portal has offset this, but the Eagles have a scant few transfers to add to their production pool this season to add to those numbers.

Notre Dame transfer TE George Tacaks, who had just three catches last year for the Irish playing behind 3rd team AA Michael Mayer, is the only one of real mention and his numbers are far from eye popping.

Check this Athlon article for ACC returning starters from April 6.

Returning production accounts for roughly 2/3rd of the number.

2) Recent recruiting - weighted more highly for recent classes, this helps pull the BC number up somewhat, with the Eagles sitting at 40th (6th ACC) per 24/7 Sports as an example. Boston College was 37th (8th ACC) in 2021 and 61st (11th ACC) in 2020, for Jeff Hafley's three classes. The 2019 and 2018 classes which would allow you to go five years deep, came in at 64th (13th ACC) and 71st (14th ACC) respectively under Steve Addazio.

The transfer portal didn't help BC much at all in this case, with the Eagles #103 (10th ACC) for the 2022 season.

Recruiting rankings account for roughly 20% of the number.

3) Recent history - accounts for about 17% of the number and looks at your trends over the past 2-4 years, with the thought process is that ultimately, you will regress to your mean. If we use the Book as an example, BC's average power ranking over the past four seasons is 58.5 (72 in 2021, 51 in 2020, 72 in 2019 and 38 in 2018). That give us a number where we should expect to see the Eagles, although the rating and not the ranking is what would actually be evaluated.

What does SP+ say then?

It has BC at #76 in the country (12th in the ACC) with a rating of 0.0, which means that the Eagles are the absolute average team.

You can use SP+ to estimate scores of games and therefore season records, which SP+ would have the Eagles at 4-8 overall. Beating Maine, Connecticut and Rutgers and losing to Notre Dame and going 1-7 in the ACC, with just a win over Duke to show for 2022.

ESPN's FPI is well known, but in all honesty, only a moderately accurate one in terms of forecasting the season. Last season, FPI was only accurate in picking winners just under 70% of the time, with it's best quality picking absolute error or how close the spread prediction was the actual outcome.

For reference, in 2021, The Book was one percent behind FPI in terms of picking winners and within 0.2 points in terms of absolute error.

At its heart, it is a power rating system, which won't look very much like the Top 25, because a 5-7 team in a Power Five conference could well be better than a 9-3 or 10-2 team in a Group of Five conference. It is predictive and uses the same factors as does SP+ (just measuring a different way) and adding in coaching tenure as a factor as well.

These are characteristics of most computer systems in that they aren't record based.

FPI is a bit kinder to Boston College, rating the Eagles 59th in the nation, 10th in the ACC and 6th in the ACC Atlantic, just ahead of Syracuse. It predicts BC to finish the season at 5.6 wins and 6.4 losses based on 20,000 simulations of games on their schedule. It diverts more from where it ranks Syracuse and Virginia Tech than it does from how it values the Eagles.

As mentioned earlier, so much of this is around returning production and for the Eagles that centers around the new offensive line and the play of Phil Jurkovec.

Something to note that is likely to ring true again this year. Outside of the Clemson game where BC was a 15 point dog, the other eight power five games, the Eagles were never more than a 2 pt favorite or a 6 point dog. Regardless of the outcome, games were and are likely to be viewed as close.

With the May 1 date for those entering the transfer portal to declare and be eligible to play in 2022, these ratings are likely to change, it's one of the big reasons that the dates for release of some of the more famous pre-season magazines like Athlon or Phil Steele have slid out...but don't be the least bit surprised that when those are released, even in Jeff Hafley's 3rd season in charge, BC is still hovering one game north or south of 6-6.