Spring practices have wrapped up across the country, and there's not much more data we can pull into our projection model for the fall. At Football Outsiders, factors such as five-year program (FEI) ratings, returning starters, quarterback reliance and more have featured into the projections. We'll publish final projections based on play and drive efficiency in the Football Outsiders Almanac later this summer, but we can take a sneak peak at preliminary projections through the lens of our drive-based FEI ratings.
For this series, we first ran preliminary projections for team, offense and defensive efficiency. Then we calculated win likelihoods in each scheduled game, producing a projected record and win total range. Running the win likelihoods through 1,000 simulated seasons, we then calculated the frequency with which each team claimed a conference crown.
On Wednesday we're looking at the projections for the Pac-12, which features three contenders -- and one clear favorite -- to win the conference title in 2013.
1. Oregon Ducks
Projected finish: 11-1
Win total range: 10-2 to 12-0
Chance to win Pac 12: 49 percent
A mid-November overtime loss to Stanford was the only blemish on last season's record, and the Ducks are loaded for another run at a championship this fall. Quarterback Marcus Mariota, running back De'Anthony Thomas and almost every receiving threat from a year ago is back on an offense that averaged more than 49 points per game. Last season, the Ducks ranked among the top 10 nationally in almost every efficiency metric we measure, and they'll have little trouble putting points on the board in 2013.
The question marks for the Ducks are on defense, as the team lost several key contributors along its defensive line. The real secret to Oregon's success has been its ability to keep opponents from matching it stride-for-stride. On value drives -- possessions that begin on the offense's side of the 50-yard line and cross the opponent's 30-yard line -- Oregon has consistently outpaced the rest of college football, offensively and defensively. In five of the past six seasons, the Ducks have ranked among the top three in net points per value drive.