The Preseason AP Top 25 poll won’t come out until next month, but here at BangTheBook.com, we’re giving you a Top 25 from a betting perspective. Using power ratings to determine the top 25 teams in college football, readers will have the opportunity to look at what the preseason Top 25 might look like if designed by a bettor. Each article will feature a preview of that team with a write-up for each position and an explanation of why the position group was rated that way and some further insight into the methodology of creating power ratings.
The Methodology: Each team is rated up to 100 with eight different position groups considered. Quarterbacks, offensive and defensive lines, and coaching are graded on a scale of 4 to 15, while running backs, wide receivers, linebackers, and defensive backs are graded on a scale of 4 to 10 in half-point increments.
Groups are rated on returning production, potential, previous performance, and a handful of other variables. Information was gathered from all corners of the college football world, including preseason magazines, websites dedicated to specific teams, national college football websites, and more.
The #10 team on the BangTheBook.com Preseason Top 25 is the LSU Tigers.
This is one of the two areas of concern for LSU entering the season. Zach Mettenberger became a pretty good pocket passer under the tutelage of Cam Cameron and he took his talents to the NFL. That leaves LSU with 29 career passing attempts of experience at this position. The five players vying for playing time are talented, but three are sophomores and two are redshirt freshmen. Somebody will emerge from this group and ride Cameron’s coattails into becoming a solid NCAA QB, but none of them would appear to be at that point just yet.
Running Backs (9.5/10)
With the cloudy quarterback situation and the losses at wide receiver, LSU projects to run a lot this year. The burden will fall on true freshman Leonard Fournette, the #1 running back recruit in this year’s class. At 6’1”, 244 lbs, he has the chance to be a bruising runner. Seniors Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee will help, but will also be there to mentor Fournette.
Wide Receivers (7.5/10)
Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham had 77 and 59 receptions, respectively, last season. The next leading receiver, running back Jeremy Hill, had 18. In terms of returning WRs, the leading receiver is Travin Dural, who had seven receptions for 145 yards. Landry and Beckham are both gone now and the Tigers are very inexperienced. Couple that with an inexperienced quarterback and the LSU offense looks suspect. Malachi Dupre, the #1 recruit at WR in this year’s class, will play and there are plenty of highly-touted recruits that will see reps.
Offensive Line (14/15)
This looks like the unit that will have to stay healthy and productive if LSU wants to achieve their goals this season. Four of the five starters from last season’s team that ran for 5.0 yards per carry are back. The only reason this group does not get a 15 is because of a true freshman running back, an inexperienced quarterback, and a very inexperienced group of wide receivers. That will lead to some sacks and possibly lower production, which will reflect poorly on the offensive line. If the skill position guys develop faster, the offensive linemen will elevate their play and LSU becomes a very dangerous team.
Defensive Line (13/15)
Two interior linemen left the LSU defensive line and that could create some problems exacerbated by an offense that may have problems extending drives, at least early in the season. LSU regressed to allowing 3.9 yards per carry, the most they’ve allowed in the last six seasons, and their 27 sacks was the lowest total since 2009. There’s obviously talent here, but perhaps not the same level we’re used to seeing from LSU.
This is a solid group, but there’s no star player to be found. The Tigers allowed 3.9 yards per carry overall, but they allowed 4.5 yards per carry in conference play. With a potential weakness at defensive tackle, the linebackers will have to step up and defend the run in the middle of the field. They should be more than capable, but there’s no star player here. Just a lot of solid talent and some highly-touted recruits on the depth chart.
Defensive Backs (9.5/10)
We’ve come to expect elite athleticism and game-changing playmakers out of the LSU secondary and that won’t change. The Tigers were young at cornerback last year and had a very small drop-off from their usual standard, which means that the expectation is for improvement this season. With no big losses, unlike the past several years, the continuity will be better and the performance should be as well.
It’s hard to argue with what the somewhat eccentric Les Miles has accomplished at LSU. Seven of his nine seasons at the helm have ended with double-digit win totals. For bettors, however, Miles is only 52-61-4 ATS. Cam Cameron is one of the most brilliant offensive minds in college football and the job he did with Zach Mettenberger was thoroughly impressive. Defensive coordinator John Chavis has 25 years of experience as a DC. There’s a lot of brilliance on this coaching staff and a lot of recruiting power. It’s Miles’s ATS record and the occasional slip-ups that prevent a perfect score out of this group.
Will LSU be a team that has value for bettors this season? A 21-14 win over Iowa following a 31-27 win over Arkansas to wrap up the season may remain fresh in bettors’ minds as the Tigers start the 2014 campaign with a very tough game against Wisconsin. The losses on offense are big and it’s reasonable to be concerned about the Tigers being a one-dimensional offense for most of the season. Even with Mettenberger for most of the year, the Tigers ran the ball 61.6 percent of the time last season.
In all honesty, the Tigers are a fairly tough team to rate because there’s a lot of uncertainty on offense, but there’s so much talent and athleticism from their perennial top-10 recruiting classes. A “down” year for LSU under Miles has been an 8-5 or 9-4 season and it seems like the depth in the SEC might be down a little overall this season. It’s a team that bettors should follow closely because a rash of fast-developing freshmen and sophomores can turn this team into a legitimate National Championship contender, but they will probably make mistakes along the way.
Either way, from a talent perspective, LSU is a top-10 team and that’s exactly where they’re placed in these power ratings.
Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.