Oregon, Stanford (again) in national hunt

Brian Fremeau and sabermetricians at Football Outsiders already are breaking down the college football numbers and looking ahead to the 2014 season. The early results have a familiar ring for Pac-12 fans.

According to the pre-spring FEI projection model, including a team's likelihood to contend for one of the four spots in the inaugural college football playoff, Oregon and Stanford are among the top-10 teams heading into 2014, with the Ducks ranked No. 2 behind Alabama and Stanford ranked sixth.

An explanation of the methodology:

Our drive-based FEI ratings include a number of transition factors that remain to be calculated, but the core piece of the formula is the annual Program FEI ratings. Program FEI is a measure of five years of drive efficiency data, weighted for more recent seasons, and it has a strong correlation to the next year's success.

At this point in the offseason, we've also included returning starter data and a specific factor that accounts for the replacability of the quarterback for those teams that are looking for a new starter this fall.

As for the Ducks, they have the highest likelihood of finishing 11-1 or better -- 69 percent -- than any other team:

Traditional defensive powerhouses Michigan State and Stanford will both make a road trip to Eugene this year, and Oregon's explosiveness has been neutralized by the Cardinal two years in a row. The projection model likes the Ducks at home, however, and Oregon is the only Big Five conference team that currently projects to have at least a 70 percent win likelihood in each of its games.

Stanford, meanwhile, with a more difficult overall schedule than Oregon, has a 20 percent likelihood of finishing 11-1 or better.

The Cardinal rank alongside Oregon and Alabama as the only programs with a top-10 finish in our opponent-adjusted FEI ratings in each of the past four seasons. Each year it seems as if a drop-off in performance may be in store, but head coach David Shaw has proven to be able to find the right balance of offensive, defensive and special teams efficiency to keep Stanford on top.

Of course, Oregon was the favorite the past two seasons when Stanford ended up winning the Pac-12 title.

UCLA, which also figures to be highly ranked during the preseason, doesn't make the list.