ESPN computers catch up with Georgia, Bulldogs’ schedule eclipses other CFP teams
ATHENS — It took ESPN’s “SP+” computer model a couple of years to catch up, but it finally has Georgia as its preseason No. 1 team entering into a season.
The formula, which takes into consideration returning production, recent recruiting and recent team history — many of the same things poll voters do — had Georgia No. 2 last year and No. 6 entering the 2021 season.
Breaking things down even further in the most recent “Post-Spring College Football SP+ Rankings” pay-site article, the Bulldogs offense is rated as the ninth-best in the nation, while the defense is No. 3.
The USC offense, featuring Heisman Trophy winner and Georgia recruiting target Caleb Williams, is ranked No. 1.
That might explain why an active Internet poll reflects more UGA fans would like to see the Bulldogs play the Trojans than other elite programs.
The No. 1 defense, according to the ESPN computer model, is Iowa.
The Hawkeyes’ ranking reflects how computers can’t always take strength of schedule into consideration.
Iowa lost to Ohio State by a 54-10 count last season.
Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama and LSU round out the The ESPN SP+ Rankings Top 5.
Georgia has taken some criticism this offseason for its schedule, but the ESPN computer rankings show the Bulldogs play more Top 30 teams than the other three teams that were in the four-team CFP field last season.
Georgia’s five top-30 regular-season opponents in 2023, per the SP+ rankings are:
18. Ole Miss
Georgia, of course, was requested to drop its road trip to No. 13 Oklahoma on account of the Sooners’ pending 2024 conference admission.
Big Ten favorites Ohio State and Michigan, meanwhile, are playing four and two Top 30 ranked teams, respectively.
The Buckeyes’ schedule includes:
8. Penn State
15. Notre Dame
The Wolverines schedule includes:
2. Ohio State
8. Penn State
TCU, last year’s other CFP team, is preseason No. 20 and plays only three Top 30 teams:
No. 9 Texas
No. 13 Oklahoma
No. 23 Kansas State
The SP+ rankings also ranked how teams are expected to be impacted by incoming recruiting classes and transfer in 2023, and while the impact of Georgia’s freshmen class ranked second, the overhaul haul was rated 22nd.
Georgia’s returning production, based on the statistics of players coming back, was only 74th. Missouri (No. 2), Texas A&M (6th) and Auburn (11th) and LSU (16th) were the only SEC teams in the Top 25 of that category.