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College Football 365 2018 Preview: Returning Experience Matters

How much of a role does experience play when it comes to success on the football field?

Year in and year out we hear about the importance of returning experience on a football team. The main reasons often alluded to are as follows; team familiarity, leadership, coaching, understanding of the systems in place, etc.. The list can go on forever and there are actual studies that prove the importance that returning starters bring to the table.

Culture is something that also plays a role and if you are a team filled with returning starters coming off of a highly successful year you can assume that the success will undoubtedly continue its upward trend. But what about the teams that lacked success the previous year, and also return a high number of starters? For example;

The Kansas Jayhawks who return 90% of their offense and 90% of their defense from last years team that finished 1-11 and last in the Big 12 conference. Kansas is an example of a program that lacks a winning culture and therefore we can assume minimal success even though they return 90% of their offensive starters including their starting QB from a year ago.

Team culture is something that is built and cultivated over time. For example; look at TCU, who was not a top-notch program before Gary Patterson arrived, in fact, they won a combined 48% of their games before Patterson, and since Patterson arrived, TCU has won 73% of their games.

Culture can be built, or restored by great coaches. Nick Saban is the best example of a football school (Alabama) that suffered mightily from about 1997, until 2007 when Nick Saban arrived in tuscaloosa. It took Saban a few years to bring the winning culture back at Alabama, and since his arrival they have been atop the college football world.

Let's compare two constants to one another, the winning culture at Alabama and the lack thereof at Kansas. What are the main diferences that we can identify. If we take a look at the 247 total team composite ranking (which has yet to update for the 2018 season so we are looking at 2017) and compare the total team talent of both Alabama, and Kansas you will find the obvious, a huge variation of talent.

The most significant surprise is that Kansas has ranked ahead of teams such as Purdue, or within a few spots of Minnesota, Boise State, Boston College, and their rival K-State according to the 247 sports 2017 total team rankings. So we could assume that Kansas has some potential and is not in as bad of shape as their previous years 1-11 record may indicate. So experience does matter even for a Kansas football team that has went 1-26 under their current head coach David Beatty since 2015. How many wins returning starters translates to is up for discussion. But we can safely assume that returning starters and quality of talent have a strong correlation.

To begin our preview of the 2018 season we are going to highlight returning starters on offense, defense, and returning starter at QB. Once we complete this exercise, we can begin to examine each teams production from a year ago using our 9 custom metrics and determine what teams to look out for, who is college football playoff material, and the teams that may take a step back in 2018.

*please note that we plan to add the updated 247 total team rankings and returning offensive and defesive lineman once all of the data has been compiled.

Returning starters are categorized by team and are ranked in order of total percentage of returning starters for offense and independent of defense. We will begin by analyzing at the national level and then work our way through each conference.

Returning Starters Offense: National Top 10. Click here to access the full view.

Offensive Experience Breakdown:

The top Three Power Five conference teams on offense all return a starter at QB. For Boston College they have EJ Perry who stepped in for the injured Darius Wade a season ago, Florida returns their true Sophomore QB Felipe Franks, and Michigan State returns Junior QB Brian Lewerke.

All three of the teams at the top will benefit from the returning experience If, Boston College can stay healthy, Florida can catch on quickly to their new offensive scheme under Dan Mullen, and Michigan State can continue to develop as they always seem to do with under the radar players. All three teams should see win total increases above last season dependent on multiple variables as is the case with every team in college football.

Below are the total team talent rankings from the end of 2017. Florida leads the way with the highest rated talent on their roster of the top three teams, with Michigan state third and Boston College at 65. For Boston College, this is a big year for Head Coach Steve Addazio. The Eagles head coach has amassed 31-33 record since taking over in 2013. The Eagles do return star Sophomore Tailback AJ Dillon, who will be an early Heisman trophy candidate in 2018.

The Team on the rise As of right now appears to be Michigan who is returning 90% of their offense in 2018. They also return a starter at QB (Brandon Peters) and transfer Shea Patterson who has been ruled eligible to play in 2018.

Patterson is assuredly going to be the wolverine's starter when they open against Notre Dame on 9/1, and he has some serious talent surrounding him at WR. Michigan Landed what many Michigan insiders hail their best ever wideout class during the 2017 recruiting cycle. Two of those receivers are Tarik Black and Donovon Peoples Jones. Both are big, fast, physical receivers on the outside. Patterson will be put into a position to be successful, but the one wildcard that will decide Michigans long-awaited championship hopes lies with the development of its offensive line which is now being

Michigan Has yet to win a big game on the road in the Harbaugh era, and they will have plenty of chances to do so in 2018 with a schedule that has them going on the road at Notre Dame, at Michigan State, and ending the season at Ohio State. If Michigan is going to win the Big Ten title in 2018, it will come on the heels of what appears to be the toughest schedule in all of college football in 2018.

Defensive Experience Breakdown:

Michigan, Michigan State, Florida, and Illinois, are both in the top ten offensive and total defensive starters returning list. The one team that does standout is Clemson who returns 81% of their defense, and even though they are not in the top ten of returning offensive starters, they return 72% of their offense and their starting QB Kelly Bryant who will be Heisman candidate in 2018. Clemson is an early playoff favorite.

The returning Starters list will play a role as we navigate through the nine key stats used for our Preseason Tendency Analysis. This weekend we are going to dive into the offensive side of the ball as we coordinate all of the offensive stats together by our returning starters list. Once we complete the entire list of 9 stats for our preseason preview, we can make some subject picks of who we believe the top 10 power five teams will be for the 2018 season.

Below is a conference by conference breakdown of all teams offensive and defensive returning starters, QB's for the 2018 season.

Big Ten

Pac 12

Big 12

ACC + Notre Dame



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