If you are in the camp of returning starters equating to success, then get some money down on Notre Dame, UCLA, Tennessee and Vanderbilt post-haste.
According to numbers provided by the esteemed Phil Steele in his 2015 Spring Guide, the Irish return 19 starters — 9 offensively, 10 defensively — which, for the moment, is the most of any Power Five team. The other three schools return 18 starters for the 2015 season. The Vols and Bruins return 10 starters each on offense, while the Commodores return nine on each side of the ball. Michigan, North Carolina, Baylor and Texas Tech are right behind that trio, though, with 17 returners apiece.
It should be noted that, of the seven teams mentioned thus far, three of them weren’t bowl-eligible with those starters in 2014: the Commodores, Red Raiders and Wolverines.
Of the four College Football Playoff participants, defending champion Ohio State returns the most with 15 (nine offense/six defense); that number would jump to 17 if all three quarterbacks who started games in 2014 were included. Oregon is next up in that group with 12 (7/5), while Alabama (4/7) and Florida State (4/7), which both lost in the semifinals, have 11 each returning.
Just as interesting, the Ducks, Seminoles and Tide will also be replacing their starting quarterbacks.
Of the Power Five conferences, Kansas returns the least number of starters with eight (4/4); given the fact that the Jayhawks won just three games for the second year in a row, that might not be a bad thing. Others bringing up the rear include the nine each for the ACC’s Boston College (3/6) and Louisville (5/4); the 10 each for the Big Ten’s Maryland (6/4) and Rutgers (5/5); the 10 each for the Pac-12’s Oregon State (8/2) and Washington (6/4); and the nine for the SEC’s Mississippi State (5/4).
While OSU has the market on returning quarterbacks individually, the ACC has it conference-wise. Of that league’s 14 members, 11 of them (78.5 percent) return their starters under center. The Big 12 and Pac-12 each return seven signal-callers, although that equates to 70 percent for the latter and 58.3 percent for the former. Both the Big Ten and SEC return nine players at that position (64.3 percent).
The overall leader in returning starters in of FBS actually comes from a Group of Five member, with Appalachian State of the Sun Belt returning 10 starters each on both sides of the ball for a total of 20. The other Group of Five leaders include the AAC’s Temple and MAC’s UMass (19 each); and Conference USA’s FIU and Western Kentucky and the Mountain West’s Boise State (16 each).