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 #3 team on the BangTheBook.com Preseason Top 25 is the Oregon Ducks.
Marcus Mariota bypassed a chance to be drafted following his redshirt sophomore season to stay at Oregon and keep enjoying the cool uniforms. In all actuality, Mariota was hampered by knee and ankle injuries and still managed to post a 31/4 TD/INT ratio and accumulate over 4,300 yards through the air and on the ground. Mariota was less accurate from a completion percentage perspective, but he seemed to grow up a lot as a thrower, especially later in the season when the nagging knee injury hindered his mobility. He’s a force to be reckoned with and a Heisman candidate this season.
Running Backs (10/10)
Nike, the company that supplies Oregon with all of their awesome uniforms, also happens to be the name of the Greek goddess of victory. She also had wings. Oregon running backs can fly without the wings. De’Anthony Thomas is gone, but injuries limited him to less than 600 net yards rushing. Byron Marshall and true sophomore Thomas Tyner will carry the load and true freshman Royce Freeman will likely see some carries as well. Running backs that got a carry averaged 6.2 yards per carry or better last season. Count on over 2,000 yards and 25 or more touchdowns from this group, and that doesn’t even include what Mariota adds in the running game.
Wide Receivers (7/10)
Every team has some sort of weakness. For the Oregon Ducks, it’s at wide receiver. Josh Huff led the Ducks with 62-1140-12 last season and departed for the NFL. The top returning wide receiver, Bralon Addison, had a strong campaign with 61-890-7. Unfortunately for he and the Ducks, Addison tore his ACL in April and will probably miss the entire season, especially with the possibility of a redshirt for missing the whole season. That leaves Keanon Lowe as the “leading” receiver from last season with 18 receptions. There’s a lot of talent and a lot of speed at this position, but very little experience and not much of a track record to speak of. The Ducks can run on almost everybody, but Mariota’s prowess as a passer is a dimension that the offense could miss.
Offensive Line (15/15)
Returning players bring back 108 career starts to this offensive line. In what can be a rather tricky scheme to block in, center Hroniss Grasu, a two-time first team Pac-12 player and a second team All-American, is the linchpin. He’s a senior and two other seniors are expected to start. There’s depth and athleticism all over the depth chart for the offensive line. With 6.3 yards per carry and just 18 sacks allowed, this group will have another strong season and is one of the country’s best units.
Defensive Line (14/15)
Like everything else at Oregon, this unit is full of athleticism, far more than is normally seen from a defensive line. It’s big and athletic, with a defensive end measuring 6’7”, a defensive tackle measuring 6’8”, and top recruits throughout. There were some losses from last season and some depth losses as well, so that’s an area of concern that should be monitored throughout the season as this could be the defense’s biggest weakness. The Ducks defense allowed just 3.8 yards per carry.
A couple of seniors anchor the linebacking corps, including leading tackler Derrick Malone. The other spot should be up for grabs with a number of talented recruits looking to establish themselves. The Ducks like to rotate a lot of guys in on defense to keep everybody fresh, in part because they score so fast when they get the ball, so depth shouldn’t be an issue with this group because a lot of guys have had playing time in the past or will get plenty this season. There’s not a big playmaker in the group, so while it’s solid, it’s lacking the “it” factor.
Defensive Backs (8.5/10)
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu decided to return to school for his senior season rather than go to the NFL and that’s a good thing for the Ducks secondary since he is the only returning starter. The Ducks had 17 interceptions against 14 touchdowns as a pass defense last season and that ratio could go down a little bit given the lack of experience at safety. Nevertheless, this group has plenty of athletic ability and some freshmen that will be knocking on the door for playing time. Opponents completed just 56.5 percent of their passes against the Ducks last season.
Mark Helfrich did well in his first season as the new Oregon head coach after Chip Kelly went to the NFL. But, he was thoroughly outcoached in the Stanford game by David Shaw and the biggest loss to the team from 2013 to 2014 might be the loss of defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti. Aliotti, who stayed on a year longer than he wanted to in order to help with the transition after Kelly left, has stepped down and Don Pellum has taken over. Not much will change with the defense because Pellum has been in the program, but Helfrich will be without his most trusted advisor.
Oregon is the first of three teams tied with a score of 91. They get the nod as the #3 team because they have the lowest rating in the “Coaching” category, so their overall player personnel rating is higher. This is still a strong deep despite some of the question marks and athleticism can hide a lot of flaws. The silver lining to the Addison injury is that it has given Helfrich and offensive coordinator Scott Frost time to adjust and come up with even more creative ways to get the ball to playmakers out in space.
Oregon has had roster turnover before and they’ve rattled off double-digit win seasons every year since 2008 with consistent defensive performances each year since then. They don’t rebuild, they reload, and they’ll find people to get the ball to on offense and find playmakers to make plays on defense. As long as Mariota stays in one piece, or relatively close to it, the Ducks are a National Championship contender.
The talent advantage and the return of Mariota are reason enough to put Oregon at #3 on our Preseason Top 25.
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.