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Predicting Florida’s win shares for 2016: The pre-opener edition

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We’re going to do things a little differently this year.

Florida v South Carolina Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Longtime readers of Alligator Army — bless all five of you — have grown accustomed to our annual deployment of the win shares method of predicting a season. I still like it as a fun, somewhat rigorous means of determining just how much success we really think the Gators are likely to have in a given year.

The way it works is simple: Come up with your percentage change for a team to win a given game, however you will, and convert it to a decimal value. (100 percent is 1.00, for example.) Then do that for every game, and tally the numbers to come up with a predicted win total for the season.

Thus, here are my 2016 win shares for Florida, on the day of the Gators’ season opener.

Opponent Win Share
Massachusetts 1.00
Kentucky 0.90
North Texas 1.00
at Tennessee 0.45
at Vanderbilt 0.80
LSU 0.35
Missouri 0.75
vs. Georgia 0.55
at Arkansas 0.40
South Carolina 0.85
Presbyterian 0.95
Florida State 0.30
Total 8.30

I think this set of predictions, which is only slightly more bullish than the 8.0 wins S&P+ forecasts, reflects a few truths about this year’s schedule.

  • Florida’s non-Florida State non-conference opponents are so bad — Massachusetts is No. 125 in the initial Sagarin ratings of 2016, North Texas is No. 162, and Presbyterian No. 222 — that it seems impossible for the Gators to have anything but those three wins granted. I haven’t wanted to give 1.00 values to any games, but my values this year will be done in five percent increments
  • The SEC East is in enough of a lull — and Florida’s in-division road trips are so helpfully limited to Volunteer State sojourns — that divisional games against Tennessee and Georgia are the only ones that seem like coin flips, pushing the Gators’ floor higher and making another SEC East title seem very much within the penumbra of reasonable expectations.
  • Five Big Games — at Tennessee, LSU, vs. Georgia, at Arkansas, and at Florida State — are likely to define this season. If they win more than two of them, the Gators will probably surpass preseason expectations.

But expectations change. Florida fans just wanted to see a better team than Will Muschamp’s last in 2015; when those Jim McElwain-led Gators charged out to a 7-0 record, they had already exceeded expectations.

So I’m going to update my win shares predictions weekly, probably towards the end of the week, taking into account any changes for the Gators and for their opponents. (I already factored what I saw of South Carolina, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt this week into these predictions, but they may have made no more than 0.15 wins of difference.)

This, I think, will reflect my changing expectations for this team.

As always, though: I want to know what yours are, too. Please feel free to leave win shares in the comments of this post (and all future win shares posts!) and discuss yours and mine to your orange and blue heart’s content.