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Predicting Vanderbilt’s 2018 schedule using S&P+

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Time for a reality check, I guess.

NCAA Football: Missouri at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

As Bill Connelly mows through his season preview series, it’s going to be a while before he comes to the SEC and Vanderbilt.

But we have his preseason S&P+ projections from February, which have Vanderbilt as the 75th-best team in FBS with a rating of -1.0 (0 is exactly average.) We’ve taken the projected spreads (using 3.5 points for homefield advantage) and plugged them into a spread-to-moneyline converter to get the likelihood of winning each game. The results:

  • #83 Middle Tennessee State (Sept. 1): Projected spread: 5.4 points; odds of winning: 65%
  • #101 Nevada (Sept. 8): Projected spread: 10.2 points; odds of winning: 77%
  • at #7 Notre Dame (Sept. 15): Projected spread: -25.9 points; odds of winning: 0%
  • #35 South Carolina (Sept. 22): Projected spread: -4.7 points; odds of winning: 37%
  • UR Tennessee State (Sept. 29): Not ranked in S&P+ so we’ll just say 99% chance of winning this one.
  • at #6 Georgia (Oct. 6): Projected spread: -26.6 points; odds of winning: 0%
  • #32 Florida (Oct. 13): Projected spread: -5.7 points; odds of winning: 35%
  • at #64 Kentucky (Oct. 20): Projected spread: -6.3 points; odds of winning: 32%
  • at #52 Arkansas (Oct. 27): Projected spread: -8.2 points; odds of winning: 26%
  • at #30 Missouri (Nov. 10): Projected spread: -13.4 points; odds of winning: 17%
  • #25 Ole Miss (Nov. 17): Projected spread: -8.4 points; odds of winning: 25%
  • #79 Tennessee (Nov. 24): Projected spread: 4.1 points; odds of winning: 62%

So, let’s note a few things.

First off, there are only three FBS games in which Vanderbilt will be favored based on S&P+. That one of those is against Tennessee should make you giggle, but the other two are the teams you would expect. And the closest thing to an automatic win, leaving aside the Tennessee State game, comes out to about 77% odds of winning. So if the bottom completely falls out on this team, 2-10 or even 1-11 is a very real possibility.

Second, not to get nitpicky, but some of Bill’s numbers (looking at you, Arkansas) seem a little inflated. The preseason S&P+ projections rely a lot on returning production, recruiting rankings, and a weighted 5-year average, so when the bottom really falls out on a team -- as it did for Arkansas, Florida, and Tennessee in 2017 — the numbers can project a dead-cat bounce. That might be somewhat likely in Florida’s case, since the Gators really did seem to be mailing it in after Jim McElwain got fired at midseason; on the other hand, Arkansas and Tennessee seemed to have some deeper issues that are going to take a while to fix. Of course, Tennessee is already projected to be worse than Vanderbilt, but I think Arkansas being a better team than Kentucky seems like a stretch.

With all that said — we have every right to be positive, but the rough projections for win total still add up to 4.75 wins. Even if you add a bit to the win percentage against Arkansas, that gets you to maybe a 5-win projection. Now, if Vanderbilt is better than the 75th-best team in the country, you start to get into six-win territory. But again, lose a bunch of relative tossups and this season could get ugly.