An Early Look At What The Computers Say About The Cougs

PASADENA, CA - OCTOBER 8: Wide receiver Marquess Wilson #86 of the Washington State Cougars carries the ball against the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl on October 8, 2011 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Optimism obviously abounds with regards to the WSU Cougars football team right now, but at least one source thinks we all should be tempering our optimism a little bit.

SB Nation's own Bill Connelly -- who also manages Rock M Nation and Football Study Hall, contributes to Football Outsiders and is just an all-around good guy -- is the man behind S&P+, an efficiency based metric that you saw Craig cite often when writing opponent previews back in the fall. S&P+ combines with the Fremeau Efficiency Index to form Football Outsiders' official NCAA rating metric, F/+. (If you're curious, you can learn about the differences between S&P+ and FEI here.)

For the past couple of years, Connelly and FEI creator Brian Fremeau have worked on preseason F/+ projections, and they've got a rough version of their 2012 projections up now over at Football Study Hall. So far, they are incorporating returning starters, two-year recruiting rankings, and 2011 performance. So how do their laptops see the Cougs in 2012?

Just 97th overall -- up only three spots from the final F/+ rankings of 2011.

Here's how the entire Pac-12 stacks up:

Rank North Rank South
5 Oregon 6 USC
9 Stanford 33 Utah
55 California 58 UCLA
59 Washington 60 Arizona State
74 Oregon State 67 Arizona
97 WSU 101 Colorado

Looking at what goes into these projections, it's not difficult to see why the Cougs don't rank highly. They do return a fair number of starters, but not an exceptional amount -- and they return those starters to a team that's been one of the worst BCS conference teams in history. And the Cougars have been nothing more than a mediocre recruiting team over the past two years. Additionally, the final F/+ projections don't yet but are going to include more years of past performance and updated roster attrition -- neither of which are going to be kind to the Cougs, either.

Obviously there are factors that can't be measured in numbers, most obviously the impact of changing coaches -- specifically the impact of hiring a guy who ostensibly should be a better coach than his predecessor. Still, it makes me wonder if we're not overestimating the improvement this team should be expected to make.

Thoughts?

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