Steele is pretty much always the first out with his returning starters list and according to his calculations, WSU is t-9th nationally.
The Cougars are also tied for second in the Pac-12 with Stanford, one behind Oregon’s 17 returning starters.
True, the number of returning starters is far from an exact predictor of future success. As Steele notes, the recent CFP title game featured two teams with among the fewest returning starters in the country (Clemson, 12; Alabama, 11).
It also should be noted there are a bevy of schools t-9th with 16 returning starters, so the teams with 15 starters rank t-25th on Steele’s list.
But the number of returning starters endures as a good starting point for discussion.
“You shouldn't discount the importance of returning starters,” writes Steele. “Last year there were 19 teams that returned 16 starters or more, including their QB. Of those 19 teams, 12 had a better record in 2016 than they did in 2015 … At the opposite end of the spectrum, there were 14 teams that returned 11 or fewer starters that did not have a returning starter at QB. Of those 14 teams, zero had a better record.”
Here are the returning starters in the Pac-12 in 2017, per Steele:
For the full blog entry, click here.
In case you were wondering, WSU returned 14 starters last year and finished 8-5 on the season. In 2015, WSU had 13 returning starters and went 9-4. Headed into last year, Colorado had the most returning starters in the Pac-12, with 16. UW and Arizona returned 15 starters heading into last year.