In college football, returning production is an important stat that oftentimes needs context around it. The very nature of college forces high turnover after a few years and the emergence of the transfer portal exacerbated it. Are teams that return a small percentage of their roster in hot water his coming season? We’ll take a look at five teams below and what high turnover means for each of them.
When it comes to win totals and college football odds, roster turnover is heavily considered. Scroll to the bottom of this article to see the returning production for every FBS team heading into the 2022 season.
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Returning Production in College Football
Last week, we looked at contextualizing returning production and how to use the metric. Visit that article for a more in-depth analysis of the metric. To briefly summarize, returning production is a percentage of yardage, snaps, tackles, touchdowns, etc. that a team brings back year over year. It’s a good metric for early-season handicapping in certain situations but can easily be misused into a catch-all of projecting performance.
An example was Bowling Green. Despite them returning a nation-best 92% of their production, they’re projected for just 3.5 wins. Part of that 92% returning is quarterback Matt McDonald, who threw for 3.8 yards per attempt in 2020 and 6.3 yards per attempt in 2021. We must contextualize good and bad production.
This time around, we’re going to look at teams that don’t return a lot of production. What other factors can we look at to determine their 2022 performance?
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Where low returning production matters
There are a lot of teams we could analyze, but these two teams are particularly affected in different ways.
Nevada Wolfpack (28%)
Win total: over
FPI: -10.9 (1081st)
We’ve already gotten a look at Nevada sans what they lost: the Wolfpack were boat raced in the Quick Lane Bowl by Western Michigan, 52-24. Most notably out for Nevada is star QB Carson Strong (NFL), but they also lost head coach Jay Norvell to Colorado State. Oddsmakers see this as a death knell, projecting Nevada for three fewer wins than 2021, the second-biggest drop in college football.
- Forecast: There were a lot of factors that went into that Quick Lane Bowl dud; Nevada traveled back three time zones, had just lost their coach, the game kicked off at 11:00 a.m. ET, meaning it was an 8:00 a.m. game for them, etc. But I do believe that’s what we’re going to see out of Nevada this coming year. Not many programs lost as much as they do and starting from scratch in Reno isn’t a place you want to be.
Arizona State Sun Devils (57%)
Win total: over
FPI: 7.8 (41st)
Sometimes, losing players isn’t enough information– you have to understand how and why teams lost players. In this case, Arizona State wasn’t hurt by NFL departures or a head coaching change. The program is under investigation for NCAA violations and the Sun Devils burned through multiple coordinators just this offseason alone. Head coach Herm Edwards deflected blame to his assistants, leading to a collapse of locker room culture and a lot of transfers out. One video of Jayden Daniels’ former teammates defacing his locker after his transfer announcement went viral. Especially in college, distractions and locker room culture matter (see: 2021 Florida).
Like at Hawaii, major players left the program to escape the day-to-day; not because they weren’t playing or saw better opportunity elsewhere.
- Forecast: Don’t be surprised to see this team implode midway through the season before the bye week. They travel to Oklahoma State and USC and host Utah in the first five weeks. Just like the Gators of last year, if this team gets off to a rough start, turnover is imminent. If there’s any “One… two… three… Cancun!” nominees for this year, it’s Arizona State.
Where returning production doesn’t matter
Texas A&M Aggies (56%)
Win total: over
FPI: 15.7 (14th)
Departing players is a name of the game with high-level SEC teams. The Aggies lost a lot of players to the NFL (Kenyon Green, DeMarvin Leal, Isaiah Spiller), but they’re primed to reload. Texas A&M signed the highest-rated signing class ever by 247Sports this cycle (333.02 incoming roster score), including an embarrassment of riches on the defensive line. They also take at worst a lateral step at quarterback, cycling out Zach Calzada (Auburn) for Max Johnson (LSU). Oddsmakers project A&M for a half win over their 2021 total (8) despite returning the second-least production in the SEC.
- Forecast: A&M had some sky-high expectations in 2021 and just flat out failed to meet them. I’d be cautious when weighing that record recruiting class since very few of them will have an immediate impact. Give it another year or two for them to get fully integrated, and also keep in mind development– A&M is one of those programs like Texas and Miami that does a little with a lot.
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (45%)
Win total: over
FPI: -0.2 (76th)
At a smaller program like Coastal Carolina, high turnover is an issue and, oftentimes, windows are slammed shut with a departing player or class. The Chants lose a lot, many to the NFL, but they didn’t lose their key piece: superstar QB Grayson McCall. In fact, Coastal is one of 21 teams to return their head coach, both coordinators, and starting quarterback, so that 45% returning production (seventh-least) is incredibly misleading. Their schedule starts off favorably, with both Army and Buffalo coming at home. It’s not until Week 10 that the Chants’ slate ramps up; by then, this team will have plenty of cohesion.
- Forecast: Coastal won 10 regular season games last year and oddmakers have them down for over this season. With the most important pieces returning to the team and a backloaded schedule, I just don’t see the regression. Receivers are made in camp and Coastal has the second-highest incoming roster score in the Sun Belt according to 247Sports.
Where high turnover was necessary
Florida Gators (55%)
Win total: over
FPI: 11.9 (24th)
First and foremost, coaching turnover was necessary at Florida. Dan Mullen fully lost his locker room and, as a result, there was a change made. But on the player front, players needed to clear in order to make room for others. Emory Jones transferring out allows for Anthony Richardson to be a full-time starter– both in-game and in preparation. Richardson was handed the keys at times last year, resulting in exciting touchdowns, but also a lot of costly dumb plays. With a full offseason knowing he’s the guy, Richardson should be a more confident and more dynamic player this year.
- Forecast: There’s an old adage that usually refers to the NFL: “If you have two quarterbacks, you have none.” Clearing out players from the old, agitated Gators team that very visibly gave up on the season is a good thing. Let the young guns fly.
2022 College Football Returning Production Rankings
|Bowling Green State||92%|
|North Carolina State||82%|
|San Jose State||66%|
|San Diego State||55%|
|New Mexico State||55%|
|Middle Tennessee State||49%|