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 #8 team on the BangTheBook.com Preseason Top 25 is the Auburn Tigers.
Nick Marshall had a solid season as a junior transfer from junior college and more is expected of him in his second season under Gus Malzahn. Marshall threw for 1,976 and ran for 1,068 more, with 26 total touchdowns. There’s a lot of talent at wide receiver for Marshall, but his accuracy is in question and the Marshall-led offense only outgained the opposition by an average of 18 yards per game in conference play. As a passer, Marshall leaves a little bit to be desired, but as a runner, he’s one of the best in the country.
Running Backs (9/10)
There might as well be an asterisk next to the “9” as this could very easily become a perfect score once a replacement for Tre Mason is identified. Mason ran for 1,816 and 23 touchdowns last season on 317 carries. No other running back had more than 91, though basically everybody that touched the ball in the running game had an impressive yards per carry mark. Obviously there’s plenty of talent here, so it’s a matter of Cameron Artis-Payne or Corey Grant taking over the job and running with it.
Wide Receivers (8/10)
Auburn wide receivers after 14 yards per catch as a team and the top four in receptions and yards return. This is clearly a team that wants to run and the wide receivers do get thrown a bone every now and then. Big plays make up a lot of the production with this group, so it’s tough to get a feel for how reliable these guys are on a play-by-play basis. For example, second-leading receiver Ricardo Louis caught 28 passes with a long of 73 yards. In 27 receptions, he only averaged 9.3 yards per catch. There’s talent here, but it’s not the bread and butter of the Malzahn offense.
Offensive Line (15/15)
Even with the loss of second overall NFL Draft selection Greg Robinson, this is one of the country’s best offensive lines. The Tigers ran for a mind-blowing 6.3 yards per carry and return four of those five starters. There are 113 career starts of experience with this group. What’s scary is that two returning starters are only sophomores and Phil Steele’s projected starter at left tackle is also technically a sophomore. This is an elite group now and for the foreseeable future.
Defensive Line (12/15)
Suffice it to say that defense was not Auburn’s strong suit last season. That job gets even tougher on the defensive line with the departure of Dee Ford for the NFL. The Tigers allowed 4.6 yards per carry last season and that number ballooned to 4.9 yards per carry in conference play. The second year of play under defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson may lead to improvements, but the loss of a first-round draft pick weakens an already suspect group. That being said, there’s still a lot of talent here that has a high ceiling.
Because of the speed with which Auburn scored, a lot of guys got experience on defense as the Tigers rotated players in and out to try and stay fresh. That’s certainly true of this group as Auburn’s leading tackler had only 75 tackles. There’s playing time available for true freshman Tre’ Williams and athleticism all over the depth chart.
Defensive Backs (8/10)
The Tigers didn’t have a bad secondary in terms of completion percentage against, but big plays were the downfall of the defense and that had to be a point of emphasis in the offseason. What evened everything out is that the Tigers defense produced many big plays of their own. Chris Davis is gone, he of the “Kick-Six” fame, but top cover corner Jonathon Mincy is back and talented players with high ceilings are all over the depth chart.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody. Gus Malzahn has been a rising star in the coaching ranks and he took a 3-9 team to a 12-2 season and the National Championship Game. His complex offensive scheme is nearly impossible to defend and the program is going to sell itself in terms of recruiting. Ellis Johnson has plenty of defensive coordinator experience, Rhett Lashlee is a rising star at offensive coordinator after being promoted to that role at age 29, and the recruits will just keep on coming in waves.
Auburn will have sky high expectations entering this season and it’s my belief that they should be tempered a tad. Auburn went 12-2 ATS last season because oddsmakers kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and for the defense to really tail off. The Tigers benefited from a lucky tip against Georgia after blowing a sizable lead and of course the famous (or infamous) ending to the Iron Bowl. Auburn was also outgained at home by Mississippi. This is a very good team, but asking the defense to cover big numbers could be a fool’s errand.
That’s the negative view of Auburn. The positive view is that they’re so talented that they are easily in the top 10 of the Preseason Top 25 here at BangTheBook. This is a team that should improve in the second-year under Malzahn because of the complexity of his offense and the continuity it takes to play it. This is an Auburn team that nearly lost at home to Washington State to start the season and wound up in the National Championship Game 13 games later. And, to top it off, they were probably a fake punt away from winning the crystal football.
This is a very strong team, but a slightly conservative approach is suggested with the Tigers. It’s a testament to Gus Malzahn that “slightly conservative” qualifies as being the #8 team in 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.