The Preseason AP Top 25 poll won’t come out until later this 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 #12 team on the BangTheBook.com Preseason Top 25 is the Oklahoma Sooners.
This is a clearly pessimistic take on Trevor Knight, who started five games as a redshirt freshman for the Sooners, including their Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. Was that game a sign of progress for Knight, who was 32/44 for 348 and four touchdowns, or a team taking advantage of an opponent that didn’t want to be there? Take away the Alabama game and Knight was 47/90 for 471 yards, five touchdowns, and four interceptions. A 52.2 percent completion percentage won’t get it done in the Big 12. There’s highly-touted depth here, but it looks like Trevor Knight’s the starter and he should be met with skepticism. The Sooners only completed 54.2 percent of attempted passes in conference play.
Running Backs (8/10)
The top two leading rushers from last season, Brennan Clay and Damien Williams, are gone, as is fourth-leading rusher Ray Finch. The third-leading rusher was Trevor Knight. With the future of true freshman Joe Mixon up in air, the Sooners will rely on a group of sophomores led by Keith Ford. The offensive line is good and Oklahoma should have another successful season running the ball against Big 12 defenses.
Wide Receivers (8/10)
Only two of Oklahoma’s top eight pass catchers return, so there’s a lot of inexperience in this group. There’s also a ton of top-rated talent. Blake Bell is also now listed as a tight end, so he gets lumped in here. If Knight can get this group the ball, they could certainly elevate the offense. If Dorial Green-Beckham somehow gets approval from NCAA to play this season, he’s the type of dynamic player that this group needs and it could certainly bump up this rating, as well as the quarterbacks’ rating.
Offensive Line (14/15)
The best offensive line in the Big 12 goes to Oklahoma, who ran for 5.2 yards per carry last season and has allowed 15 or fewer sacks in six of the last seven years. Three senior starters return and the two-deep features a lot of experience at every position across the line. If Knight is going to succeed, the offensive line should give him plenty of time to throw. This group could also elevate the running backs, which are a bit of a question mark. This is clearly the strength of the team. They did lose a four-year starter at center in Gabe Ikard, hence the 14 rating.
Defensive Line (13.5/15)
The Sooners should be stronger across the board on defense this season because they are now a couple years into their shift back into a 3-4 when Bob Stoops’s brother, Mike, was re-hired to run the defense. The Sooners run defense made big strides last season, dropping from 5.2 yards per carry to 4.1 yards per carry and aided in an increase of eight sacks. With three returning starters, those trends should continue.
This is a strong group filled with a lot of talent. Of the returning starters, two were on the Big 12 Second Team and another was the Big 12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year. Their improvement was a big part of the improved defensive numbers overall and they’re trending upward entering the 2014 season. The Sooners will have the best defense in the Big 12 and this part of the team is a big reason why.
Defensive Backs (8.5/10)
Freshman All-American Zack Sanchez is one of three returning starters, including two seniors. Sanchez broke up 13 passes and had a couple of picks as a rookie and he could be a Big 12 first-team defensive player when all is said and done this season. If projected starter Julian Wilson holds down the spot, that gives the Sooners a 6’2” corner opposite their best cover corner. The reason for the 8.5 rating is that most of the depth is inexperienced and it’s rare to see a team go through a season with both corners staying healthy.
“Big Game” Bob Stoops finally got that signature bowl win that the program had been searching for. It may not seem like it since Oklahoma seems to fly under the radar, but the program has averaged 10.5 wins per season over the last 10 years. Stoops was hired in 1999 and the team has not been a home underdog once in that span. In fact, they haven’t been a home underdog since October 28, 2000. The Sooners regularly have the best or second-best defense in the Big 12 and they’ve been the one team to play consistent defense over the last decade.
In the recently released Coaches’ Poll, Oklahoma is the #3 team in the country. Clearly, these power ratings have a less optimistic view of the Sooners. There’s talent, but one game against Alabama should not be the barometer for a team.
The Sooners were throttled by Baylor, dominated by a mediocre Texas team, and played a few Big 12 games that were entirely too close for comfort. Trevor Knight is the key to the season for the Sooners because their defense will be good, but the offense is a major question mark all around except for the offensive line. It’s clear that the perception of the Sooners is very high and that can be dangerous for a team that is not elite.
There’s plenty of talent and the best defense in the Big 12 is enough to give Oklahoma a solid spot in the top 15 at #12.
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.