ESPN has released its final preseason SP+ rankings ahead of the 2023 college football season, and their algorithms fall short of projecting Arizona to make a bowl game.
SP+, created by ESPN staff writer Bill Connelly, is a tempo- and opponent-adjusted measure of each team’s efficiency that takes into account returning production, recent recruiting rankings and recent history.
The SP+ rankings (paywalled on ESPN.com) have Arizona ranked No. 67 nationally, two spots ahead of ASU. Arizona is ninth in the rankings among Pac-12 teams; USC tops the conference at No. 10, followed by No. 13 Oregon and No. 14 Utah. Somewhat surprisingly, Cal is six spots ahead of Arizona despite coming off a 4-8 season.
The Wildcats, as a reminder, went 5-7 last year. SP+ predicts Arizona to achieve that same record this season, with the algorithm projecting an average five wins including three conference wins.
SP+ is fairly high on Arizona’s offense, ranking the group No. 29 nationally. The defense, however, is ranked No. 118.
SP+ rewards programs with returning production, using a formula “based around the percentages and positions that correlate the strongest with year-to-year improvement and regression.”
Arizona’s offense returns 77% of its production, which ranks No. 19, while the defense returns just 41%, ranking No. 124.
In short, SP+ predicts Arizona’s inexperience on defense to be the team’s Achilles heal, which is a logical take. Whether Arizona’s offense can overcompensate and push the team above its projected win total of five games is to be seen.
Arizona’s over/under win total on DraftKings Sportsbook also happens to be five, with odds currently favoring Arizona to go under (-120) than over (+100).
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.