Credit - Indiana Public Media

IU Football No. 28 in 2021 SP+ Rankings

We like ESPN staff writer Bill Connelly’s SP+ model because it is a data driven system using logical inputs — and thus unbiased.

But biased Indiana fans likely won’t like what is says for the 2021 season.

Connelly released his SP+ ratings recently for the coming season and Indiana comes in at No. 28 in the predictive analytical system.

Connelly bases his preseason projection on three factors:

1. Returning Production.  This is the measure of how much of a team’s roster is returning, weighted to account for the positions that typically make a more meaningful impact.  Indiana is the No. 36 team in the country and third in the Big Ten East after Rutgers and Maryland when it comes to returning production.  There are likely holes in the efficacy of Connelly’s system as it relates to IU.  Specifically, early signs at fall camp suggest the Hoosiers may have upgraded the running back position with Stephen Carr, and the wide receiver position with D.J. Matthews.  But their relative lack of production last year is probably working against Indiana.  Moreover, since Michael Penix, Jr. didn’t play the full season, his production may be weighted.

2. Recent Recruiting.  This component assesses how much the returning production will be bolstered by recent recruiting success.  Indiana’s No. 37 2019 recruiting class was one of its best ever, while the No. 58 2020 and No. 53 2021 classes took a step back in the rankings.  It isn’t clear whether Connelly looks at player ratings or just the raw team rankings in his model.

3. Recent History.  It is a minor factor in the SP+ formula, but Indiana’s upward trajectory influences its place in the standings.  After consecutive 5-7 seasons, Indiana finished the 2019 season with an 8-5 mark and the 2020 season 6-2.  IU was No. 26 in Connelly’s final 2020 rankings.

All things considered, Indiana comes in at No. 28 in Connelly’s well-known system.  That puts Indiana behind six teams in the Big Ten overall, five of which they will face in 2021.

Three of the usual suspects in the Big Ten East sit above Indiana in the SP+ rankings.

National power Ohio State is No. 4, while Penn State is No. 10, and Michigan is No. 17.  Indiana hosts Ohio State in 2021 and they will travel to Michigan and Penn State.

IU is above Big Ten East foes Maryland (No. 38), Michigan State (No. 51) and Rutgers (No. 83) in the SP+ rankings.  Indiana will host Rutgers and Michigan State and travel to Maryland in 2021.

Here is how the rest of Indiana’s 2021 opponents are ranked in the SP+ system:

  • Iowa (No. 16 / away)
  • Cincinnati (No. 19 / home)
  • Minnesota (No. 24 / home)
  • Purdue (No. 52 / away)
  • Western Kentucky (No. 107 / away)
  • Idaho (FCS not ranked / home)

From a wins and losses perspective, this is how the model looks at Indiana’s season:

  • Likely wins: Idaho (99%), Rutgers (92%), at WKU (88%), Michigan State (76%)
  • Relative toss-ups: Minnesota (58%), at Purdue (57%), at Maryland (49%), Cincinnati (43%), at Michigan (42%)
  • Likely losses: at Iowa (33%), Ohio State (32%), at Penn State (31%)

The SP+ rankings are more skeptical of Indiana than the human models.  Both the preseason AP top-25 and the coaches poll slot the Hoosiers in at No. 17.  IU opens the 2021 season on Sept. 4 at Iowa.

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