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 #24 team on the BangTheBook.com Preseason Top 25 is the Iowa Hawkeyes.
This is a very pessimistic take on Jake Rudock, who proved that he can roll out and throw and be an asset in the play-action passing game. Rudock’s not going to put up huge numbers, but that won’t be asked of him this season anyway. The Hawkeyes are going to run the football and that means that Rudock simply needs to extend some drives on 3rd-and-6+ and take care of the football. He struggled with taking care of the football last season with an 18/13 TD/INT ratio, but he doesn’t take sacks and can make some plays with his legs.
Running Backs (9/10)
Mark Weisman, Jordan Canzeri, and Damon Bullock combine to make the deepest running back unit in the Big 10 Conference. Weisman ran for nearly 1,000 yards last season and he’s more of a between-the-tackles guy, while Canzeri can get outside the tackles. Canzeri tore his ACL two years ago and should be 100 percent this season. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Iowa roll with some full house backfields with a fullback and give the opposing defense some different looks.
Wide Receivers (6.5/10)
The passing game problems weren’t all on Rudock. Gone are the days of Marvin McNutt and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos. The Hawkeyes leading receiver last season had 40 receptions for under 400 yards. There isn’t a whole lot of help or a star player in this group, but they run block well and should have a better rapport with Rudock in his second full season at the helm.
Offensive Line (13/15)
This is a hard-working group that features the best offensive lineman in the country in left tackle Brandon Scherff. Kirk Ferentz almost always has an offensive line that protects the quarterback and opens holes in the running game. A lack of skill players tends to drag down the yards per carry or yards per play numbers, but they definitely do their job.
Defensive Line (13/15)
The trenches are always a point of emphasis at Iowa and seven of the top eight on the depth chart from last season return. There will be added pressure on this group with five losses in the back seven. Like most everything else at Iowa, no one player stands out, but the entire unit plays well together and that led to a 3.6 yards per carry mark last season. They aren’t a big blitzing defense, so the interior of the defensive line needs to be solid and it is.
Three starters are gone and two of them were NFL draft picks. Normally that would mean a significant downgrade, and there is a downgrade, but the Hawkeyes seem to just reload rather than rebuild at this position. Each of the linebackers had over 100 tackles last season and accumulated large percentages of the tackles for loss and sacks that the defense registered. This is a question mark, but Ferentz produces quality at this position.
Defensive Backs (8/10)
Top cover corner BJ Lowery moved on, but the Hawkeyes consistently find quality at this position as well. The second season of Phil Parker’s defense led to improvement across the board and even though there are some substantial losses, these players have been coached up in the system for two seasons.
The Hawkeyes have found various levels of success under Kirk Ferentz over the last 15 seasons. The play on both sides of the ball improved last season in the second year for both coordinators. Phil Parker has been in the program for a long time, but 2013 marked his second season as the defensive coordinator. Ferentz has held this job for a long time and his buyout should keep him in it a while longer, but his teams tend to be consistent and it’s easy to know what to expect.
There are a handful of teams tied with ratings of 79.5, but the Hawkeyes have the second-lowest coaching mark of those teams. This team is strong in the trenches and with the trenches making up 30 percent of the formula to find these ratings, that’s significant and it’s why the Hawkeyes crack the top 25. They aren’t a flashy team and they don’t get a lot of buzz or respect because they play so many ugly games, but they run the ball well, block well, and have not allowed more than 24 points per game in any of the last seven seasons.
Most teams are dependent on their quarterback play and the Hawkeyes aren’t. Rudock’s sole job in this offense is to take care of the football and complete some play-action passes. That’s not a lot to ask of a team that lacks big play receivers. Time of possession is key for the Hawkeyes and there’s reason to believe that they can control the clock. The defense has questions, but Ferentz has a knack for maximizing an individual’s talent because of the scheme and that elevates a team.
Don’t sleep on the Iowa Hawkeyes this season with a weak schedule and a lot of consistency. It sneaks them into the Top 25 at #24.
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.