SEC – Returning Starters in the Matrix – 2012

Quick Links to other 2012 Returning Starter Articles
2012 Returning Starters chart – All AQ and non-AQ Teams
National Overview of Returning Starter Stats and Importance

SEC Returning Starters Stats over the last 4 years

QBs and Kickers

  • QB returns 26 times for +17 games above previous season teams total
  • QB does not come back 22 times for -14 games under previous team total wins
  • Zero kickers back -7 games below previous season win total
  • 1 kicker back -4 games below previous season win total
  • 2 kickers back +15 games ABOVE previous season win total
  • QB and both kickers 12 times and plus 19 games.  Only 2 of 12 did not post a better win total the next year. WOW!


  • Teams returning 8 or more starters on Offense (15 times) were -6 games WORSE than their win total from the year before
  • Teams returning 6 or fewer on Offense were -12 worse in total wins than the year before
  • Teams returning 5 or fewer on Offense (9 times) had worse records the next year 3x, no change in win totals 4x and only twice won more games and both were just +1.
  • Conclusion: High returning starters number of Offense in the SEC is worthless for predicting the next season success or lack thereof.  However, SEC teams returning 5 or fewer on Offense are likely to not move their win total much (o or +1) or fall hard (30% odds).


  • 80% of the time (16 of 20 teams) that a top #25 #FARR team from the SEC in the last 4 year returns 7 or more starters on Defense, they win MORE games the next year. 2012 = Auburn, Gators, UGA, USC and the Vols
  • SEC teams returning 7 or more on Defense are +19 games over previous season win totals
  • SEC teams returning 6 or fewer on Defense are -16 games under previous season win totals
  • Conclusion: Validates that this is a Defense driven league and the best recruiters win football games.  Only 1 team with 7+ returning starters on Defense, its QB back and both kickers have failed to improve their record the next season.  Average improvement is nearly 2 full games. 

Total Returning Starters

  • SEC teams with 14+ total returning starters are +20 over the previous season and 65% (21 of 32) posted as many or more wins the next season.
  • Teams with less than 14 starters back are -17 games under the previous season win total and 8 of 14 have a lower win total (57%)
  • MISC: Only 15 of 48 times has an SEC, in the last 4 years, has gone +/- 3 game or more season over season.  Of those 15 teams 11 had s at least 15 to 21 returning starters.  7 of the 8 that dropped 3 or more did not return their QB.

Team Breakdowns

FARR definition:  To understand the simplicity of the CFBMatrix, you need to understand the FARR (field adjusted recruiting ranking).  Over the last 8 years, I have created a adjusted recruiting ranking and home/away field adjustment for every AQ school (working non-AQs now).  This one tool correctly projected 81% of all SEC game outcomes in 2011 back in May of 2011.  The recruiting ranking aspect is very different in that it factors out lost players and is adjusted for the last 4 years of recruited and retained talent.  The entire site is based in this information with the goal of being the most easily understood and most accurate form of public pre-season information.  And for those that want the next step, it is very good for win totals, straight up and ATS oddsmaking.

Alabama:  Coming off 11 wins leaves little space for improvement. Returning QB and both kickers is significant and SEC teams rarely drop more than 3 games.  Based on the RS stats for the SEC, Alabama’s best odds lie between 10 and 12 wins in 2013.

Arkansas: Just going off the numbers of returning starters, the Hogs are staring right at 10+ wins again.  Expectations should be sky high in Fayetteville.  The QB and both kickers and 15 in total.  Only thing holding back the Hogs is recruiting versus the elites of the SEC

Auburn: This is one of my favorites for improved win total in 2012.  They return over 7 on defense and have a top 25 CFBMatrix FARR ranking.  Odds from the last 4 years put them at an 80% chance of 8 or more wins in 2012.

Florida: We know that losing your starting QB in the SEC is really no big deal and that the returning starter numbers on offense are a relative coin flip.  The Gators bring back 10 on defense and, like Auburn, a top 25 FARR team.  I still maintain hiring a head coach away from a system that has under produced its talent could be trouble.  Muschamp was terrible last year and has the talent.  Given the returning starter metrics of performance for the SEC and what the Gators return in 2012, if he doesn’t win more games in 2012, you need to find a new coach.

Georgia:  With 9 starters back on D, the Dawgs win total odds strongly favor 10 or more in 2012.  Still, we know back to back 10+ wins is a tough road.  Only 39% of the teams with a shot at it in the last 4 year succeed.  But just doing the odds within the SEC, this team has to be the favorite in the East again off the strength of 9 starters on D and +15 in total returning starters.

Kentucky: With a low number of returning starters, 14, and just 6 back on the defense oriented SEC the Wildcats are looking at stacked odds against them.  It doesn’t help that they have one of the lowest rated FARR talent bases in the SEC but they cannot reload.  8+ win seasons are fleeting in Lexington at best and 2012 is not going to be lightning in a bottle.  Best odds off SEC returning starter metrics for the Cats is 4-5 wins. 6 would be defying the numbers and a great season for Kentucky.

LSU:  2011 is a long way in the rear view mirror for the Tigers.  I feel that their 13 game win streak was one of the best ever, but in looking at the returning starter numbers, this could be a rough year in Death Valley (which BTW, the CBFMatrix shows they are tougher on the road than home).   I know fans, they are coming of 12 wins and there is nowhere to go but down.  I AGREE, the question is how far down?  In the SEC, less that half of your returning starters back is brutal.  Losing your starting QB, not too bad.  13 of 24 starters back is not pretty.  Of the 3 teams to have 10+ wins in the last 4 years and have similar returning starter numbers to LSU in 2012, they combined to win 14 fewer games the next season or nearly 5 fewer each.  In the SEC anything more than a 3 game drop is really unheard of, so that’s were I see LSU with these returning starter metrics; -3 games or 9 wins in 2012.  Still a top 10 FARR team in the Matrix. Expect the line to be O/U 10 in June.

Mississippi:  Here is the evil twin of LSU for 2012, where there is really nowhere to go but up.  Of the last 30 teams that had CFBMatrix FARR rankings of #40 or better, 24 took a sub .500 year and went .500 plus the next season.  Getting to 6 wins in the SEC West schedule is tough, especially when the AD figures that it wouldn’t be any harder to throw in the Longhorns for a OOC.  Bottom line, expect more wins at Ole Miss, but any jump over 2+ games to 5-7 or better is cause to get out the Old Charter and celebrate.

Mississippi State:  One of my favorites since the Matrix FARR predictions went 12-0 on the Bulldogs in 2011.  The returning starter numbers for MSU are terrible.  Over half the offense gone including the QB, the kicker is gone and only 6 back on defense.  Those kind of numbers have only happen 5 times in the SEC in the last 4 years and NONE of those teams improved their win total the next season.  6 wins in 2012 is against the odds, but in looking at the numbers, a hopeful win total off the returning starters metrics.

Missouri:  For those that are hoping the Tigers don’t do well in the SEC in 2012, the returning starters numbers for Missouri do not look promising.   they are a near mirror image of Mississippi State, but their schedule is much easier.  Less than 14 returning starters, less than 7 on defense and 5 on offense is a bumpy road.  The best odds of the RS metrics for the Tigers is 6-6 in 2012.  Best range is 5-7 wins.

South Carolina:  & back on D, returning the starting QB and both kickers in the SEC is usually solid gold.  Looking just at the SEC and Gamecock metrics, one would conclude that anything less than 10 wins is against the better odds.  However, in the national numbers 5 teams in the last 4 years have returned the QB and both kickers and 7 or more on defense.  4 of the 5 won fewer games the following season.  Tough one to call so the best odds for a range on total wins is 9-11 based on returning starter metrics.

Tennessee:  Only 1 of 11 teams in the last 4 years to return over 19 starters, return their starting QB and come off a 6-6 season or worse did not improve their record in the following season.  9 starters back on defense is also an 80% chance in the SEC of an improved record.  Look, the Vols shouldn’t even be below .500 at anytime with their talent.  But Dooley is the only 2+ year head coach in AQ football that does not have a home or road upset win versus the CFBMatrix (meaning pre-season picked to lose a game that it won!).  This team has the numbers to put them at 7 wins, comfortably, in 2012.  Otherwise, the Vols have played below the odds and Dooley needs to be put out of his misery.

Texas A&M:  New head coach and staff.  If they coach like they did at Houston with their FARR level and schedule, then this will be an easy team to predict.  But we are just talking returning starters.  This is a good year for A&M to enter into a defense conference without your starting QB back in the huddle.  Teams in the SEC, over the last 4 years, with a similar returning starter profile won more games the next season 7 out of 8 tries.  On average, they won 1.6 more games.  Coming off another disappointing season with just 7 wins, the metrics indicate very good odds for A&M to get to 8-9 wins in 2012.  -1 game for new coaches and 7 or 8 is a real solid year in College Station.

Vanderbilt:  Huge return of starters but the FARR ranking is still outside the top 40.  Franklin was magic in 2011, but the stats prove out that returning starter metrics don’t mean much if the talent is not good enough.  The numbers using FARR and returning starters show the odds about 25% of Vanderbilt improving their win total in 2012 over 2011.  However, there is very little data on teams in the SEC with this talent ranking and starter numbers.  5-7 wins is a range that holds the best odds for Vandy in 2012.


One Response to SEC – Returning Starters in the Matrix – 2012

  1. Pingback: Ask not for whom the urnge bell tolls… | Get The Picture

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