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 #1 team on the BangTheBook.com Preseason Top 25 is the reigning national champions, the Florida State Seminoles!
The reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston, will try to become the first back-to-back Heisman Trophy winner since Archie Griffin did it for The Ohio State University in 1974 and 1975. Despite the fact that Florida State’s safety net, Jacob Coker, transferred to Alabama, there’s no ignoring the numbers that Winston put up in his redshirt freshman season. Winston accounted for over 4,000 passing yards and 40 touchdowns, as well as four more rushing touchdowns. He is an elite talent and the sky is the limit for the Seminoles so long as Winston stays healthy (and eligible).
Running Backs (10/10)
Leading rusher Devonta Freeman departs, as does third-leading rusher James Wilder. The Seminoles do return Karlos Williams, a converted defensive back who ran for eight yards per carry on his 91 rushing attempts last season, and should get contributions from Mario Pender, a top ten running back recruit that was ineligible last season. True freshman Dalvin Cook was the #2 running back recruit in the 2014 class and he should get some experience as Florida State projects to be more than a two-touchdown favorite against everybody this season.
Wide Receiver (9/10)
The losses are heavy here as Kelvin Benjamin was a first-round draft choice of the Carolina Panthers and Kenny Shaw’s 933 receiving yards need to be replaced. Leading receiver Rashad Greene is back, however, and he caught 24 more passes than any other receiver. Senior Nick O’Leary is the conference’s top tight end with Eric Ebron gone from North Carolina and the Seminoles’ recruiting class will produce depth. Kermit Whifield, who averaged 36.4 yards per kick return, may lack the size at 5’7”, but the speed and explosiveness are there.
Offensive Line (15/15)
The offensive line opened up plenty of holes en route their second consecutive season of 5.6 yards per carry. They also allowed just 35 sacks, though Winston’s mobility had something to do with that. Part of the power ratings process is also understanding where other parts of the team can help a certain unit and Winston’s mobility clearly helps elevate this group. The projected starting five on the offensive line are all seniors with plenty of experience, so this is one of college football’s top offensive lines.
Defensive Line (15/15)
Some people may undervalue the Florida State defensive line because a big name like Timmy Jernigan left. What’s important to remember here is that Florida State destroyed almost everybody they played last season and that means that the backups got valuable experience. It’s a fairly young group, but their potential is high enough to give the Seminoles a perfect score in the trenches.
Perhaps the only area where the Seminoles are “lacking” is at linebacker. And by “lacking”, that simply means that a lot of production has graduated or moved on to the next level and it may take a little time to replace those players. Keep in mind that most of these players on defense were recruited by Mark Stoops, who is now the coach at Kentucky. Last year’s defensive coordinator, Jeremy Pruitt, moved on to Georgia, so this will be the third defensive coordinator in three seasons. Compared to the rest of the ACC, however, the talent gap is wide.
Defensive Backs (9.5/10)
It was tough to put up gaudy stats on defense because the two-deep becomes the three-deep when you’re winning by 40+. The Seminoles lost LaMarcus Joyner and Terrance Brooks to the NFL, but it’s not like the replacements are inexperienced. One corner, Ronald Darby, was the ACC Rookie Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 and the other corner, PJ Williams, led the team in pass break-ups. Even with the opposition chucking the ball around the yard to try and play catch up last season, the Seminoles secondary only allowed 52 percent of passes to be completed. Florida schools have an embarrassment of athletic riches at their disposal and it shows.
It’s hard to argue with what Jimbo Fisher has done in his four seasons at the helm. The Seminoles are 45-10 with a national championship (31-23-1 ATS). The only reason this isn’t a full 15 is because of the aforementioned change at defensive coordinator with the third straight season with a new guy. In the ACC, it shouldn’t have too much of an impact, but every coordinator has different ideas and ways of running things. It could lead to a continuity issue early on, but there’s a ton of talent at the coaches’ disposal.
The Seminoles are the most talented team in the country and play in the weakest, by far, of the five power conferences. Another thing about power ratings is that there needs to be an understanding that lines are going to be inflated for certain teams. Rate an elite team too low and your numbers will suggest betting against them. As evidenced by Florida State’s 11-2-1 ATS mark last season, that’s probably not a profitable endeavor. Florida State is deserving of the top spot, but it’s also important to be aware of how a team is going to be lined. The expectations are sky high and rightfully so.
Florida State lost some talent, but they’re one of the schools with the luxury of reloading year after year. In the era of the College Football Playoff, the SEC draws lessened appeal from recruits that want to play for the crystal football. While it’s a given that the SEC will have a team in the final four every year, if not two, going to Florida State right now is clearly the best chance to play for a national championship. That, coincided with Florida’s difficulties post-Urban Meyer, has given Florida State one of the nation’s best recruiting classes in the country again this year and that shows no signs of slowing down.
Florida State grabs the top spot and it’s highly unlikely that they will relinquish it unless Jameis Winston gets hurt.
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.