Bill Connelly released his final preseason SP+ projections on Wednesday, and for the most part, it is what you’d expect.
Michigan sits at third in the projections with a 28.6 rating. Defending national champion Georgia sits in first place with 29.2, and Ohio State is just behind at 29.0. Alabama sits in fourth (28.1), and then there’s a big drop to LSU in fifth (23.3).
SP+ projections are based on returning production, recruiting and recent history, and Connelly described it as a “a tempo- and opponent-adjusted measure of college football efficiency.” Since the last update in the spring, the gap between Alabama and the top three has tightened, with the Crimson Tide now sitting just 1.1 points behind Georgia, as opposed to the 3.8-point gap in May.
It might seem a bit odd to have Ohio State above Michigan, given its new quarterback and offensive coordinator and the Wolverines’ two consecutive victories. But in 2021, Michigan ended the season with a 23.4 SP+ rating compared to Ohio State’s 29.3 — and only one team had a Big Ten title to show for it. In 2022, Michigan finished with a 31.3 to Ohio State’s 30.7, but the final preseason projection had Michigan almost 10 points below the Buckeyes, with a 21.4 compared to Ohio State’s 29.7. All that to say — things can and will change once these teams take the field.
The gap between the top two teams in the Big Ten looks as tight as it’s been in a long time, but Penn State is right behind them in sixth with a 23.2 rating, rising past Tennessee who was in sixth in the last update. The next highest Big Ten team is Wisconsin, at 19th.
SP+ isn’t a perfect metric (as demonstrated above), but it’s a helpful tool in measuring expectations for opponents this season. Here’s a look at where each of Michigan’s 2023 opponents ranked on this list.
- East Carolina: 87
- UNLV: 110
- Bowling Green: 129
- Rutgers: 77
- Nebraska: 59
- Minnesota: 27
- Indiana: 83
- Michigan State: 46
- Purdue: 58
- Penn State: 6
- Maryland: 41
- Ohio State: 2
Michigan’s non-conference schedule still looks very weak, with Bowling Green projected to be the fifth-worst team in the FBS, and ECU and UNLV not faring much better.
The Big Ten schedule is more of a mixed bag, with the road matchup with Penn State and The Game projected to be the toughest games for Michigan. An early season road matchup with Minnesota also looks like one of the tougher games on the schedule.
That said, the Wolverines’ strength of schedule is still ranked 40th, well below Ohio State and Alabama, whose strength of schedules are both ranked in the top-10. (Georgia’s is ranked 45th). With two tough opponents breathing down their neck in the Big Ten, Michigan has very little margin for error on the rest of its schedule if it wants to make its third consecutive playoff appearance.