Data from the Phil Steele College Football Preview
Most Returning Starters
19: Virginia, Utah State
18: Vanderbilt, Purdue, New Mexico, Colorado State, Buffalo, Florida Atlantic
17: South Carolina, Illinois, Arizona, UCF, New Mexico State, Louisiana-Monroe
Just Missed The Cut (16): Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, Miami, Northwestern, Indiana, Duke, Boston College, USC, Oregon State, Stanford, USF, Cincinnati, Utah, Memphis, Louisiana Tech, Toledo, Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State
Fewest Returning Starters
10: Michigan, Texas Tech, Tulsa, Navy
9: North Carolina, Notre Dame
8: Florida, UAB
Just Missed The Cut (11): Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio State, Baylor, Nebraska, Iowa State, Boise State, Fresno State, Ohio
One of several easy-to-spot factors Phil Steele analyzes is returning starters. Teams with a great many returning starters tend to improve upon their win total from the previous season. USC is the only BCS team from last year to make that list. When we look at teams with the fewest returning starters, both BCS Championship Game participants are here in Florida and Ohio State. Much like Super Bowl teams, I guess we can see that top college football teams can be gutted after a title run. Overall on that list, we have five of last year's ten BCS participants.
I realize the trend is for teams without many returning starters to suffer, I hunch we'll see some improvement from that group. Keep in mind Ohio State had but nine returning starters last year and only went on to hold the number one ranking the entire season until the title game defeat against Florida. Good programs stay good for a reason as they can combine high expectations with good coaching and loaded rosters ready to replace departed stars. Having a guy like Troy Smith coming back among those nine returners tends to help as well.