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Believe it or not, Alabama has been the best team in college football over the last 5 years

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My preseason S&P+ projections are basically a mix of three factors: returning production, two-year recruiting, and recent history. I talked about recruiting and returnees last week at SB Nation, but before posting preliminary 2016 projections at SBN tomorrow, I thought I could go ahead and post the last piece as well.

Here are the last five years of S&P+ ratings for each team. (If a team hasn't been in FBS for five full years, I'm just using the averages of their performances to date.) You'll never believe who's atop the rankings.

Team 2011 S&P+ 2012 S&P+ 2013 S&P+ 2014 S&P+ 2015 S&P+ 5-YEAR AVERAGE Rk
Alabama 27.5 28.5 22.2 28.3 30.0 27.3 1
LSU 28.7 15.4 15.9 16.5 18.6 19.0 2
Ohio State 6.2 12.7 18.4 30.2 24.0 18.3 3
Oregon 21.2 22.1 12.5 23.7 11.6 18.2 4
Oklahoma 21.5 17.5 10.7 17.7 22.6 18.0 5
Stanford 16.6 17.0 21.2 16.6 18.4 18.0 6
Florida State 10.9 13.8 25.6 13.7 20.0 16.8 7
Georgia 15.2 18.5 16.4 22.6 10.0 16.5 8
Notre Dame 16.4 21.7 9.6 12.1 18.8 15.7 9
Baylor 10.0 11.5 21.2 17.2 15.6 15.1 10
Texas A&M 16.7 23.0 16.4 10.4 7.7 14.8 11
Michigan State 12.8 13.9 12.2 18.6 15.9 14.7 12
Clemson 5.5 9.6 14.3 15.5 27.4 14.5 13
USC 13.9 12.8 15.7 14.2 14.9 14.3 14
Wisconsin 16.5 14.1 14.1 12.8 10.3 13.6 15
Oklahoma State 25.4 14.4 17.6 0.0 9.9 13.5 16
Michigan 19.0 11.4 6.9 6.8 21.1 13.0 17
Florida 6.4 22.4 9.7 11.6 14.3 12.9 18
Boise State 23.0 11.3 5.9 15.4 7.8 12.7 19
Ole Miss -2.0 13.1 6.9 23.0 21.2 12.4 20
Arkansas 12.3 7.4 0.3 23.1 15.3 11.7 21
UCLA 3.0 8.9 14.4 19.0 12.4 11.6 22
Auburn 4.6 -2.6 20.4 23.6 9.7 11.1 23
Mississippi State 2.4 6.4 13.4 17.8 15.0 11.0 24
TCU 11.6 6.9 5.1 19.4 11.4 10.9 25
Team 2011 S&P+ 2012 S&P+ 2013 S&P+ 2014 S&P+ 2015 S&P+ 5-YEAR AVERAGE Rk
Tennessee 7.2 7.4 6.5 14.2 12.5 9.6 26
Missouri 10.8 7.5 18.7 13.0 -2.9 9.4 27
South Carolina 9.8 15.8 17.5 7.9 -4.1 9.4 28
Penn State 15.4 9.8 4.7 6.1 10.4 9.3 29
Arizona State 6.1 5.0 18.2 10.2 5.1 8.9 30
Kansas State 6.0 18.9 9.1 11.9 -2.4 8.7 31
Nebraska 11.7 12.0 2.1 10.3 7.1 8.6 32
Virginia Tech 9.2 7.7 13.0 8.9 4.2 8.6 33
Texas 11.2 13.3 8.3 10.0 -0.3 8.5 34
BYU 2.1 12.8 10.7 6.1 8.9 8.1 35
Louisville -0.1 3.3 13.4 12.9 10.9 8.1 36
Miami-FL 7.0 4.5 8.2 12.7 6.0 7.7 37
Georgia Tech 0.0 11.0 7.6 18.7 1.0 7.6 38
Washington 2.4 5.9 12.1 -1.3 17.1 7.2 39
Toledo 16.1 -0.9 7.7 -0.3 12.9 7.1 40
Utah State -1.5 14.9 10.1 3.6 7.3 6.9 41
North Carolina 5.9 1.9 11.1 2.1 10.6 6.3 42
Pittsburgh 1.6 5.4 8.5 7.9 8.2 6.3 43
Utah 0.6 -0.9 10.8 8.0 11.4 6.0 44
Arizona 0.8 8.4 11.3 9.5 -0.8 5.8 45
Georgia Southern 2.0 8.4 5.2 46
West Virginia 7.4 6.6 -8.2 8.0 12.0 5.2 47
Iowa 1.8 0.6 10.5 -0.6 7.3 3.9 48
Cincinnati 3.6 4.8 -0.3 8.8 -0.5 3.3 49
Houston 9.6 -4.6 7.0 -5.8 7.6 2.8 50
Team 2011 S&P+ 2012 S&P+ 2013 S&P+ 2014 S&P+ 2015 S&P+ 5-YEAR AVERAGE Rk
California 6.4 2.9 -7.9 0.3 9.9 2.3 51
Texas Tech -3.7 8.1 3.5 0.0 3.5 2.3 52
Marshall -0.5 -8.1 3.0 14.1 2.4 2.2 53
Navy -2.8 -6.0 0.8 5.7 13.0 2.1 54
Minnesota -3.5 -2.0 -2.8 9.1 9.1 2.0 55
Northern Illinois 4.4 4.1 0.6 -2.2 0.8 1.5 56
Oregon State -1.1 13.2 7.5 -1.1 -11.4 1.4 57
Boston College -1.1 -6.7 4.8 8.4 1.4 1.3 58
Bowling Green -0.1 -4.0 4.7 -9.1 14.2 1.1 59
Syracuse -2.2 7.0 2.4 -2.0 0.2 1.1 60
Northwestern -3.5 6.3 0.7 -3.9 5.5 1.0 61
San Diego State -0.5 4.0 -3.5 -2.9 7.3 0.9 62
NC State -4.1 -3.4 -2.0 4.0 9.7 0.8 63
Western Kentucky -10.7 -2.8 -4.7 3.9 17.5 0.6 64
Louisiana Tech 5.5 4.2 -23.2 9.9 5.8 0.4 65
Duke -1.5 -1.7 6.1 -1.0 -0.6 0.3 66
Vanderbilt 11.3 3.3 -0.1 -10.9 -2.3 0.3 67
Arkansas State -1.4 4.6 -2.2 1.0 -1.0 0.2 68
Virginia -1.2 -6.3 -1.5 7.9 -0.3 -0.3 69
Central Florida 2.2 8.0 10.3 -0.8 -22.3 -0.5 70
Iowa State 0.9 5.0 -1.8 -8.3 0.5 -0.7 71
East Carolina -1.0 -5.9 4.2 -0.9 -0.7 -0.9 72
Illinois 2.5 -9.3 -1.4 -0.1 3.7 -0.9 73
Temple 4.2 -9.5 -8.9 -0.3 6.9 -1.5 74
Indiana -14.5 -4.8 10.3 -3.9 3.9 -1.8 75
Team 2011 S&P+ 2012 S&P+ 2013 S&P+ 2014 S&P+ 2015 S&P+ 5-YEAR AVERAGE Rk
Tulsa 12.6 3.1 -3.1 -15.5 -6.8 -2.0 76
Maryland -3.2 -10.9 -1.3 3.3 1.8 -2.1 77
Fresno State -6.9 9.0 6.9 -9.7 -9.8 -2.1 78
South Florida 5.0 -0.7 -8.5 -13.7 6.5 -2.3 79
Appalachian State -12.5 7.7 -2.4 80
Washington State -9.0 -9.7 3.7 -0.5 2.9 -2.5 81
Purdue -2.2 -1.3 -4.0 -2.1 -3.9 -2.7 82
Nevada 2.4 -3.8 -2.9 -2.2 -8.8 -3.1 83
Rutgers 2.2 -0.1 -5.8 -0.6 -12.4 -3.3 84
San Jose State -7.2 11.3 -4.0 -13.6 -4.4 -3.6 85
Kentucky -6.4 -3.3 -3.4 1.5 -6.9 -3.7 86
Western Michigan 1.4 -11.2 -18.1 0.1 5.9 -4.4 87
Memphis -27.3 -5.6 -3.0 5.1 5.8 -5.0 88
Ball State -0.9 3.3 1.0 -14.2 -14.2 -5.0 89
Ohio -3.4 -7.8 -6.5 -9.4 1.6 -5.1 90
Southern Miss 6.7 -10.7 -16.0 -10.7 5.0 -5.2 91
Air Force -6.3 -13.0 -15.0 2.2 5.9 -5.2 92
Wake Forest 0.0 -8.5 -0.7 -12.4 -4.9 -5.3 93
UL-Lafayette -8.3 -1.4 -7.0 0.4 -13.0 -5.8 94
SMU 5.6 1.6 -5.2 -19.3 -12.0 -5.9 95
Colorado State -15.7 -10.1 -4.2 2.0 -2.1 -6.0 96
Connecticut -3.0 -3.7 -6.3 -16.3 -3.9 -6.6 97
Kent State -4.3 1.4 -6.4 -9.7 -15.2 -6.8 98
Rice -7.0 -9.9 0.3 -1.5 -17.9 -7.2 99
Middle Tennessee -19.8 -7.1 -6.5 -4.3 -2.2 -8.0 100
Team 2011 S&P+ 2012 S&P+ 2013 S&P+ 2014 S&P+ 2015 S&P+ 5-YEAR AVERAGE Rk
Colorado -7.1 -16.4 -6.7 -1.9 -8.5 -8.1 101
South Alabama -21.4 0.3 -2.8 -11.4 -8.8 102
Troy -13.9 -2.1 -8.9 -18.1 -4.5 -9.5 103
Central Michigan -11.5 -13.3 -16.7 -5.4 -0.9 -9.6 104
North Texas -6.3 -7.4 8.1 -20.5 -23.0 -9.8 105
Florida Atlantic -22.5 -9.8 -2.0 -9.1 -6.1 -9.9 106
Buffalo -13.4 -9.4 -1.0 -18.8 -7.2 -9.9 107
Kansas -7.7 -4.0 -8.8 -7.1 -22.5 -10.0 108
UTSA -17.3 3.1 -12.1 -14.4 -10.2 109
UL-Monroe -7.0 -5.2 -11.1 -8.0 -20.0 -10.3 110
Wyoming -7.5 -9.6 -11.6 -11.2 -14.6 -10.9 111
Akron -22.1 -14.3 -6.6 -10.9 -1.7 -11.1 112
UNLV -13.3 -12.0 -3.6 -15.0 -12.6 -11.3 113
Texas State -6.4 -14.8 -11.0 -14.3 -11.6 114
Miami-OH 0.2 -10.5 -24.4 -9.6 -15.9 -12.0 115
Florida International -5.9 -5.2 -24.2 -12.3 -13.3 -12.2 116
UTEP -3.5 -10.4 -22.3 -4.5 -22.4 -12.6 117
Tulane -22.4 -14.9 -0.2 -7.5 -18.2 -12.6 118
Georgia State -22.6 -11.5 -4.7 -12.9 119
Hawaii -10.3 -15.0 -4.6 -18.8 -16.1 -13.0 120
Old Dominion -15.1 -10.6 -13.8 -13.2 121
New Mexico -22.8 -13.6 -13.1 -6.5 -10.6 -13.3 122
Idaho -15.4 -14.8 -18.4 -11.6 -13.5 -14.7 123
Army -6.3 -14.5 -17.6 -19.8 -20.9 -15.8 124
Massachusetts -20.8 -20.1 -17.5 -8.1 -16.6 125
Eastern Michigan -12.8 -9.4 -22.4 -24.6 -18.3 -17.5 126
New Mexico State -12.2 -18.8 -27.9 -21.4 -15.7 -19.2 127
Charlotte -21.7 -21.7 128

For projections, I have previously used a weighted version of S&P+ that features recent seasons more heavily. But because of the way I have changed recording returning production -- shifting to "percentage of production returning" instead of simply "returning starters" -- and because of the enhanced weight this piece will receive in this year's projections, I'm finding better correlations by using a flat average. The returning production piece seems to offer all the necessary extra weight for 2015.

These averages paint you a pretty specific picture. Teams 2-6 are within one point of each other, and teams 7-14 are within 2.5 points of each other. Meanwhile, No. 1 is in a class of its own. There are unique challengers every year, but Alabama is guaranteed to occupy one of the top two spots in the ratings each and every year.