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 #2 team on the BangTheBook.com Preseason Top 25 is the Alabama Crimson Tide!
It’s fair to wonder what Jacob Coker will bring to the Alabama offense as Alabama all-time passing leader, Mr. Katherine Webb, er, I mean, AJ McCarron, departs for a potential NFL future. Of course, the same was wondered when John Parker Wilson and Greg McElroy left Alabama. McCarron broke Wilson’s passing yards record and McElroy was part of the 2009 National Championship team. Given Nick Saban’s penchant for recognizing talent and all of the skill at Coker’s disposal, things are setup for him to succeed. If not Coker, Blake Sims has been in the program for a while. Quarterbacks don’t have to perform miracles at Alabama.
Running Backs (10/10)
TJ Yeldon is one of the country’s elite running backs and the depth behind him wasn’t half bad either. Yeldon ran for 1,235 and 14 touchdowns, while backups Kenyan Drake and Derrick Henry added nearly 1,100 yards on 127 carries. Henry has more of the Eddie Lacy body type at 6’3”, 240, so this is a trio that can do some serious damage. This is a phenomenal group running behind one of the nation’s top offensive lines. As a corollary to the quarterbacks section, that’s part of why an unknown like Coker is rated so well. It’s easy to ask him to complete a pass every now and then with the skill players around him.
Wide Receivers (9/10)
There’s a little bit of uncertainty with this group since the quarterback position is an unknown, but like everything else on the Crimson Tide, this group oozes talent. There are highly-touted recruits waiting in the wings behind guys like Amari Cooper and DeAndrew White. Sophomore OJ Howard, who had 14 receptions for 259 yards and a couple touchdowns, was the #1 tight end in his recruiting class. The talent is here. The question mark is the guy throwing to this group. Something that gets underrated is the run-blocking ability of wide receivers and being able to do that is a prerequisite for seeing the field under Nick Saban. That adds a bit of value to this group as well.
Offensive Line (15/15)
The Tide lost LT Cyrus Kouandijo to the Buffalo Bills in the second round and three-year starter RG Anthony Steen, but this is a unit that reloads 5* talent on a regular basis and this season is no different. Cam Robinson, the country’s #1 offensive line recruit, is the projected starter at LT and outstanding players that have been blocked by veterans are moving up the depth chart. This unit will still produce around 5.5 yards per carry and limit sacks. The most sacks the Tide has allowed over the last three seasons is 23. No reason to expect anything less from this version.
Defensive Line (14/15)
Both starters at defensive end need to be replaced and the Tide regressed last season in yards per carry and sacks, dropping from 2.4 to 3.3 and 35 to 22. Just like every other position, the two-deep (and probably three-deep) is loaded with top-notch recruits and very large men. The projected starters at defensive end, according to Phil Steele, are 315 and 320 pounds. This group will be productive, but there are some losses in the back seven that will also affect their overall performance.
This may be a pessimistic take on the Tide linebackers, who will be without CJ Mosley after he left for the NFL. While other positions sometimes get the hype in the draft because of Tide players, Alabama has churned out several quality NFL linebackers in the Saban era. One will develop, but they may not be there just yet. This is a highly-touted, very talented area of the team, but there are some experience concerns. Suffice it to say that this group will be strong again.
Defensive Backs (9.5/10)
HaHa Clinton-Dix and Vinnie Sunseri were selected in the NFL Draft, but a lot of these guys got regular playing time and they match up athletically with opposing wide receivers. While some schools have to take a lot of 5’10” or shorter cornerbacks and hope for the best, Alabama’s two-deep is littered with guys that are 6’ or taller. Last season’s overall defensive performance may have lacked the Saban Stamp of Approval, so expect defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, one of the best in the business, to be more creative this season.
As if there was any doubt what Alabama would score in this category. Nick Saban is a premier recruiter and a premier coach in college football. The offense could get a huge shot in the arm from offensive guru Lane Kiffin, which is not as much of a gamble as people made it out to be, as the new offensive coordinator. The aforementioned Kirby Smart is truly one of the top DCs in the country and he’s been able to handpick a head coaching job for years and has not left the program. This is, arguably, the best coaching staff in college football.
It’s unlikely, but some people could come into the season undervaluing the Crimson Tide because of what they lost and what happened in their final game of the 2013 season when they lost to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. The losses are big from a name recognition standpoint with McCarron, Clinton-Dix, Kouandijo, and Mosley, but this is the University of Alabama. One 5* leaves, another 5* enters. They’re not reinventing the wheel season after season.
Are there question marks on the team? Absolutely. Jacob Coker could fall on his face and put so much reliance on the running game and the defense that Alabama stumbles. Compared to losses from some of the other SEC West teams, like Manziel, Adams, and Joeckel at Texas A&M, like Mettenberger, Hill, Landry, and Beckham at LSU, Alabama will be just fine.
Nick Saban doesn’t do underachieving well and the last second loss to Auburn and the no-show in the first half against Oklahoma are what defined the Tide’s season. Because of talent and coaching, they’re still the #2 team in the country by this set of 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.