College football's preseason SP+ rankings and takeaways

FSU might not match its 2023 season, but the Noles have upside. Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images

College football's offseason might have changed dramatically through the years thanks to transfers, changes in the recruiting calendar, et cetera. But there is at least one constant in this topsy-turvy world: It's early-February, so I'm cranking out winter SP+ projections.

The official 2024 recruiting cycle is in the books, and while we will see loads of further player movement in April and May, after spring football, things are relatively stable for the moment. So let's take our first step toward the 2024 season.

I base SP+ projections on three primary factors, weighted by their predictiveness:

1. Returning production. The returning production numbers are based on rosters I have updated as much as possible to account for transfers and attrition. Combine last year's SP+ ratings and adjustments based on current returning production numbers, and you're pretty far down the projections road.

2. Recent recruiting. This piece informs us of the caliber of a team's potential replacements (and/or new stars) in the lineup. It is determined by the past few years of recruiting rankings in reverse chronological order (the most recent class carries the most weight). Beginning last season, I also began incorporating transfers -- both the quality and the volume -- into the recruiting rankings part as well.

3. Recent history. Using a sliver of information from previous seasons (2-4 years ago) gives us a good measure of overall program health. It stands to reason that a team that has played well for one year is less likely to duplicate that effort than a team that has been good for years on end (and vice versa), right?

I will update these numbers in May and August after there have been further transfers and roster changes. And I learned my lesson last year: While I have historically begun my season preview series in February following the release of these projections, I am waiting until May this time around. There's no point in telling you about my 10 favorite players in Conference USA or something when seven of those players might leave a week after the preview goes up.

A reminder on SP+: It's a tempo- and opponent-adjusted measure of college football efficiency. It is a predictive measure of the most sustainable and predictable aspects of football, not a résumé ranking. Along those same lines, these projections aren't intended to be a guess at what the AP Top 25 will look like at the end of the season. These are simply early offseason power rankings based on the information we have been able to gather to date.