Editors’s Note: This article was originally published on SavvyGameLine.com by the same author. Some text has been re-used and tailored to the current discussion.
In the two months since Savvygameline released its preseason rankings for all 130 college football teams, we’ve poured over team blogs, media days, sports news outlets, etc. We’ve agonized and scratched our heads and assorted body parts (although not each other’s) and all of it to answer just one question:
Who are the starting quarterbacks?
With today’s grad-transfer rules, the answer to that question is more elusive than ever. The good news is, that information abounds like never before and Savvy now has “solid confidence” who the starters will be for 91% of the teams compared to 87% a year ago.
For the fourth straight year, Alabama starts as the top team on the Savvy Index (shown below). That doesn’t mean the Tide will stay on top because, as we saw last year, the Index had no problem defying its own top-ranked team to predict Clemson’s “upset” win in the national championship game.
Rather than squabble much about which of those twins is the most-beautiful, let’s move on to the PAC-12 and also look at some of the Savvy top 25 that don’t play well with others who produce national rankings.
The University of Oregon was named the top team in the PAC-12 in Savvygameline’s top 50. The Ducks return the North’s best set of producers while Washington and Washington State have uncertainty at quarterback and Stanford is Savvy-projected to have rushing issues greater than last season.
While Oregon is favored, it’s not by much and it comes with a caution that Washington State is not to be taken lightly. The Cougars have everything they need to win the North except a quarterback who is already proven.
Utah is the clear leader in the South. The Ute’s closest rival is USC, a team that is ranked 20 positions lower and is in the midst of a baffling abnegation of its legendary offensive blueprint. Arizona is a team to pay attention to because if Khalil Tate is healthy and given the reins, he could turn the PAC-12 South upside down.
The Bulldogs are generally seen as a top-five team, but Savvy has them in the second five because our system analytics project that Georgia won’t bring any better pressure this season than it did in 2018 (100th ranked). Also, Georgia won fewer games last season than the one before.
- Ohio State
Many sources have OSU in the top five, but Savvy has the Buckeyes 13th, primarily because Savvy’s module for assessing new coaches doesn’t produce many optimistic marks for Ryan Day.
- Texas A&M
The Aggies are commonly shown as a top-ten team, but the Savvy Index puts them at 32nd. Coincidentally, 32nd is exactly where TAMU’s defense finished in 2018, and based on Savvy’s projections of returning production, that defense is going to fall off in 2019.
- Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish aren’t in the top ten of many analysts’ rankings, but Savvy has this team third with some of the highest defensive projections of any team in the country. Savvy’s only hedge for Notre Dame is a lack of depth at receiver after three of the top four graduated and only 40% of its “effective production” returns.
- UCF and Stanford
Savvy ranks Central Florida 25th, which is ten spots below the popular prophets of pigskin previews, and the Index ranks Stanford 18th, which is about ten spots above. It won’t be long before we know more about both because they play each other in Florida on September 14th.
Until the Badgers prove otherwise, Savvy is convinced this is not a top ten team. Instead, the Index is starting Wisconsin 33rd because projections at all levels of the defense are markedly lower than a year ago and because the Badgers lost their starting quarterback to graduate-transfer.
- A note about Nebraska:
In my view, Savvygameline has snubbed Nebraska. Most pundits see the Cornhuskers as a top-25 team, but Savvy doesn’t list them in the top 50. It’s hard to find sufficient justification for either of those rankings. Yes, it’s a NU day in Huskerville under Scott Frost, but this team has some significant talent deficits that didn’t change in one recruiting cycle. Those deficits will be noticeable and agonizing on defense (ranked 94th last year). I personally would start this team somewhere in between, like perhaps 35th. On Savvy’s behalf, let me add that the Index has bumped this team up more than 25 spots from its final 2018 ranking.
Now that we are 91% certain of the starting quarterbacks, the ranking list below is likely to be the final preseason ranking publication before the start of the season. If there is more shifting of personnel than expected, we will provide an update of these rankings probably in mid-August.
Savvy Index 2019
|14||N Carolina St.|
|45||San Diego St.|