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ESPN SP+ ranks the top college football teams for 2024

Bill Connelly of ESPN has released his SP+ rating for the 2024 season. The metric views Georgia, Ohio State, Oregon and Texas as the four best teams in college football heading into the upcoming season.

The ranking adds credence to the widely accepted notion that the above four teams are the top contenders for the 2024 College Football Playoff and national title.

Connelly’s ratings metric covers three areas: returning production, recruiting and on-field success. Last season’s cycle saw all four of the above teams fare as well as anybody in the three categories with the potential to do more damage in 2024.

The rankings outside those four might surprise. Here’s a look at where Connelly and his SP+ metric has the top 15 teams for the next football season.

Georgia

Syndication: Online Athens
Syndication: Online Athens

Georgia sees the top ranking for the 2024 season. The Bulldogs return an unusually high amount of starters from the previous year with a particularly strong return on offense. Some would argue the Bulldogs are in their own tier.

Ohio State

Sep 23, 2023; Manhattan, Kansas, USA; <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaf/teams/kansas-st/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Kansas State Wildcats;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Kansas State Wildcats</a> quarterback <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaf/players/311597/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Will Howard;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Will Howard</a> (18) scores a touchdown late in the fourth quarter against the UCF Knights at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

The Buckeyes went 11-2 in 2023 despite not much production at quarterback. They could see more from Kansas State transfer Will Howard, although the signal caller was feast or famine in the Big 12. Additions like Alabama safety Caleb Downs and Ole Miss running back Quinshon Judkins make the team an interesting one to follow next season.

Oregon

Oregon head coach Dan Lanning leads a spring practice with the <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaf/teams/oregon/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Ducks;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Ducks</a> in Eugene, Ore. Thursday, April, 13, 2023.<br>Syndication: The Register Guard

The Ducks go from Bo Nix at quarterback to Oklahoma signal caller Dillon Gabriel. As production goes, there isn’t much drop off between the players. The move to the Big Ten will see Oregon faces more smash mouth playing styles, but that could bode well given their speed at skill positions.

Texas

<a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaf/teams/texas/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Texas Longhorns;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Texas Longhorns</a> Director of Football Performance Torre Becton warms up the team in the hallway before taking the field to compete against <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaf/teams/tcu/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:TCU Horned Frogs;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">TCU Horned Frogs</a> in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, November. 11, 2023, at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas.

Few would predict stability for the Texas football program after struggling in their first season of the Sarkisian era, yet that’s what Texas has. The team enters its third season with the same starting quarterback, head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator. Add in four of five offensive linemen returning and several defensive starters back and Texas looks like a team that could start reloading more than rebuilding in future seasons.

Michigan

Oct 14, 2023; Ann Arbor, <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaf/teams/michigan/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Michigan;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Michigan</a>, USA; Michigan Wolverines defensive lineman <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaf/players/333365/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Mason Graham;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Mason Graham</a> (55) runs the ball after he recovers a fumble in the second half against the Indiana Hoosiers at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

If there’s one SP+ rating that I don’t think will live up to expectation, it’s the Michigan Wolverines. It’s an analytical ranking, so we’re not going to argue with numbers. The inexperience doesn’t appear to be weighted enough, and losing the starting quarterback, top running back, top receiver and entire offensive line would project to bode poorly for the Wolverines. The cupboard isn’t bare at every position, but the lack of continuity is an area of concern.

Alabama

Dec 2, 2023; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaf/players/323486/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Jalen Milroe;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Jalen Milroe</a> (4) runs for a first down with <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaf/teams/georgia/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Georgia Bulldogs;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Georgia Bulldogs</a> defensive back <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaf/players/334020/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Daylen Everette;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Daylen Everette</a> (6) pursuing at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Alabama defeated Georgia 27-24 to claim the SEC Championship. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

The Crimson Tide got gutted by departures over the offseason. Albeit, their 2024 prospects are higher than Michigan’s in my estimation. The team returns arguably the biggest matchup nightmare in college football in starting quarterback Jalen Milroe. With the deep routes that DeBoer will presumably scheme up for Milroe the Alabama passing attack should be as explosive as any in the country.

Penn State

Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps nobody has been better at beating the teams they should beat than Penn State over the last few seasons. The Nittany Lions have been fortunate to face several of those teams. That trend continues as the Big Ten gave the team one of the easier schedules in the conference. The schedule might project for another 10-2 season, but it might not be an indicator of strength.

Ole Miss

Jan 1, 2022; New Orleans, LA, USA; Mississippi Rebels head coach Lane Kiffin reacts after a play against the <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaf/teams/baylor/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Baylor Bears;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Baylor Bears</a> during the first half of the 2022 Sugar Bowl at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t let the No. 8 SP+ ranking mislead you. Ole Miss is a Top 5 team for the upcoming season and perhaps a near lock to reach the 12-team playoff next season. The Rebels renovated their defensive line into what could be one of the best in college football through the transfer portal. Add in a lethal receiver room and Jaxson Dart at quarterback and the Rebels look like an 11-win team.

Notre Dame

Sep 9, 2023; Raleigh, <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaf/teams/n-carolina/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:North Carolina;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">North Carolina</a>, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaf/players/326153/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Audric Estime;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Audric Estime</a> (7) is greeted by a teammate after scoring during the second half against the <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaf/teams/nc-state/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:North Carolina State Wolfpack;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">North Carolina State Wolfpack</a> at Carter-Finley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Irish have become a popular Top 10 pick in recent way-too-early rankings. It could have something to do with what they return. Connelly’s SP+ rankings give Notre Dame the No. 10 offense and No. 9 defense in college football. Will the Irish finally live up to expectations in head coach Mike Freeman’s third season?

LSU

Dec 3, 2022; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaf/players/313692/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint</a> (1) is hit following his reception by <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaf/teams/lsu/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:LSU Tigers;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">LSU Tigers</a> linebacker Harold Perkins Jr. (40) during the second quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers project to be one of the best offenses again in their next season. New starting quarterback Garrett Nussmeier looks to be a more accurate passer than his predecessor Jayden Daniels, though Daniels wasn’t lacking as a passer and brought more as a dual threat. Nevertheless, its the LSU defense that is cause for concern. They rank No. 3 in offensive SP+ and No. 34 on defense.

Missouri

Dec 29, 2023; Arlington, Texas, USA; Missouri Tigers wide receiver <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaf/players/333132/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Luther Burden III;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Luther Burden III</a> (3) runs upfield during the fourth quarter of the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic against the Ohio State Buckeyes at AT&T Stadium. Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch

Missouri is a legitimate 10-win contender for the 2024 season. It’s difficult to see them falling below 10 wins given the schedule they face next year. They rank No. 8 in offensive SP+ with a No. 24 ranking on defense. They will get their shot to make a statement with games against Alabama and Oklahoma. Outside of those games, the Tigers could win out.

Florida State

Dec 3, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaf/teams/clemson/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Clemson Tigers;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Clemson Tigers</a> quarterback <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaf/players/311712/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:DJ Uiagalelei;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">DJ Uiagalelei</a> (5)throws during the first quarter of the ACC Championship game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State without a quarterback didn’t impress. The Seminoles, though, will have a good quarterback in Oregon State transfer DJ Uiagelelei. The transfer portal provides several interesting reunions on the football field with Uiagelelei facing Clemson, his former team. The ACC’s clear frontrunner to win the conference’s playoff bid likely gets into the tournament.

Texas A&M

Sep 10, 2022; College Station, Texas, USA; Appalachian State Mountaineers running back <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/40587/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Camerun Peoples;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Camerun Peoples</a> (6) rushes against Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Tunmise Adeleye (30) in the second quarter at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

It’s difficult not to rethink negative projections for Texas A&M when you look at Connelly’s metric. New head coach Mike Elko is afforded the No. 12 offense and No. 23 defense in this metric. What the team returns on the defensive line and what the Aggies have at quarterback in Conner Weigman should keep them in every game. How well do these players fit offensive coordinator Collin Klein’s scheme?

Oklahoma

<a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaf/teams/oklahoma/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Oklahoma Sooners;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Oklahoma Sooners</a> running back Tawee Walker (29) runs past Texas Longhorns linebacker <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaf/players/315869/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Jaylan Ford;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Jaylan Ford</a> (41) during the Red River Rivalry college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the University of Texas (UT) Longhorns at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023. Oklahoma won 34-30.

The Sooners defense can be elite, and probably should be. Another year in head coach Brent Venables’ system for several key veteran defenders should take Oklahoma from a team that overthinks to a team that uses its instincts. Defensive assignments should be second nature. Even so, the offense is in question with several new faces. The Sooners replace their quarterback and all five linemen with five-star quarterback Jackson Arnold and portal additions and inexperience at offensive line. If new co-offensive coordinator Seth Littrell leads the team to a 10-win season, he’ll be atop the Broyles Award candidate list of the top assistant coaches in the nation.

Tennessee

Sep 30, 2023; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers running back Dylan Sampson (6) after scoring a touchdown against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the second half at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 30, 2023; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers running back Dylan Sampson (6) after scoring a touchdown against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the second half at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

The Volunteers became a defensive powerhouse last year on the football field. It was likely a welcomed sight for Tennessee faithful who grew accustomed to track meets a year prior. That defensive production could prove vital with a first year starting quarterback next season.

Story originally appeared on Longhorns Wire