2021 College Football Rankings: Brett McMurphy’s AP Top 25 Poll Ballot vs. Our Betting Power Ratings
Christian Petersen/Getty Images. Pictured: Tyler Nanney (left) and Treven Ma’ae (right).
The Preseason AP Poll has been released, which means it’s time for some football.
Our College Football Insider Brett McMurphy serves as a proud AP voter, but he’s not the only member on staff who has strong feelings toward the top teams in college football.
Collin Wilson’s betting power ratings are fueled by his projections, which aim to judge the true quality of a team based on advanced metrics, coaching changes, year-over-year roster continuity (TARP), and a host of other underlying components.
Below, Collin advocates for his positions against Brett’s from a betting perspective. Let’s get to it.
Brett McMurphy’s Preseason AP Top 25 Ballot
AP denotes Brett McMurphy’s Associated Press Top 25 ballot.
PR denotes Collin Wilson’s College Football Betting Power Ratings.
There are not many differences between the top five of Brett McMurphy’s AP ballot and the Action Network’s power ratings, but that does not leave a lack of storylines.
The largest discrepancy falls within the opener of Clemson and Georgia. McMurphy sees Georgia as the better team, per his ballot, but Clemson is currently -3 in the market.
The early betting indicates that investors agree with McMurphy in his rankings as this number opened Clemson -4.5 at a number of shops.
There are stories piling up on the Georgia side a couple of weeks before kickoff.
The most talented tight end in college football, transfer Arik Gilbert, did not scrimmage with the Bulldogs due to personal reasons on Saturday. Wide receivers Jermaine Burton and Kearis Jackson were held out due to injury.
JT Daniels has the skill set to attack the Clemson backfield, but his primary weapons may be in doubt for the opener.
The Aggies come in at No. 6 on McMurphy’s ballot, four spots above the Action Network ranking of 10th.
The separation between Texas A&M and Iowa State, Wisconsin and Penn State is a single power rating point. There are reasons to love the Aggies this season as they host Alabama and draw South Carolina from the East.
A&M may have the most explosive backfield in the entire nation with Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane, but there’s a quarterback battle to recognize. Both Haynes King and Zach Calzada continue to battle for starting duties, each bringing a different element to the pro-style offense.
Texas A&M is loaded, but without explosive plays on offense, the ceiling continues to be just outside the College Football Playoff.
The Ducks took hits in TARP thanks to the transfer of quarterback Tyler Shough.
Although there are two highly-touted freshmen waiting in the wings, the efficiency ceiling has been lowered with Anthony Brown. Questions remain about whether or not Brown will be the starter after the Ohio State game, especially after a lackluster first scrimmage in fall camp.
There’s no doubt that Mario Cristobal has made Oregon the recruiting capital on the West Coast, but that has yet to translate to the College Football Playoff.
Another power rating knock on the Ducks is the move to Tim DeRuyter as defensive coordinator. The former Cal coordinator had sinking numbers in Success Rate and Havoc through four years in Berkeley.
Although Kayvon Thibodeaux will get all the deserved attention for his pass rush abilities, the Ducks have done nothing to shore up a rush defense that finished 91st in Opponent Success Rate.
Jack Coan won the quarterback position early in camp, taking pressure off freshmen Tyler Buchner and Drew Pine.
There is a bit of fool’s gold in Coan’s numbers from his 2019 campaign at Wisconsin after recording 18 touchdowns and just 5 interceptions. Coan did have 12 big-time throws but escaped the turnover department on multiple occasions with 14 turnover-worthy plays.
There are questions within the offensive line and receiving targets after last year’s College Football Playoff run.
Marcus Freeman takes over as defensive coordinator after Clark Lea left for the Vanderbilt head-coaching position. The Lea and Mike Elko 4-2-5 was the backbone of Notre Dame’s success after a disastrous 2016 season.
Freeman will change schemes to a 3-3-5, asking for more pressure out of a defensive line with one less down lineman.
There are only 4.5 power rating points that separate Notre Dame from ranking in the Action Network’s top 15, but there is agreement from McMurphy’s AP ballot and myself that this Irish team will not contend for the Playoff.
McMurphy is not as high on the Badgers as the Action Network entering the season.
Basing a power rating on 2020 game summaries may not apply to Wisconsin, as quarterback Graham Mertz dealt with shoulder injury and COVID-19 ravaged the team throughout the season.
Fall camp is underway, and there have been signs of improvement from the offense.
Mertz has shown flashes of his former self, but his timing with Kendric Pryor has been the biggest positive out of Camp Randall. Running Jalen Berger has shown flashes of creating highlight yards after contact.
If there is a concern, it’s the growing list of injuries to the offensive line. Logan Bruss and Tyler Beach were held out with injury, as Logan Brown and Tannor Bortolini suffered injuries during practice last week.
The offensive line must be monitored, as any lingering injuries would take Wisconsin down in the power ratings to McMurphy’s rank of 12th.
Head coach Steve Sarkisian was pleased with the limited number of injuries this far in camp, a stark contrast from the Tom Herman era.
Both Casey Thompson and Hudson Card struggled in the Longhorns’ first scrimmage, with Sark commenting that “neither guy played up to the standard that I view as acceptable.”
The opener against Louisiana is a few weeks away, giving Texas plenty of time to figure out the starting quarterback and new defensive scheme from former Washington defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski.
Sarkisian has praised the depth and development of the secondary for Texas through camp, but the search for a nickelback continues. Texas lost all-chaos player Joseph Ossai and is searching for answers in the Havoc department.
While the secondary has been a positive point for the Longhorns throughout camp, the front of the 4-2-5 Kwiatkowski defense must be prepared before the opener against a lethal Louisiana rush attack.
The offense is humming for head coach Kyle Whittingham through one week of practice.
After a stellar spring game, Charlie Brewer is neck-and-neck with Cameron Rising for starting duties under center.
Transfers at the wide receiver and running back position have complemented the two quarterbacks, each of whom got the best of the Utes’ defense in the first scrimmage.
Head coach Dan Mullen has praised new quarterback Emory Jones for his grasp of the system after two years behind Feliepe Franks and Kyle Trask.
The biggest question with the Gators offense is filling holes on the offensive line. Brett Heggie took 833 snaps at center last season, leaving just 38 for the projected new starter in Kingsley Eguakun. Other offensive linemen are rotating through each position in search of a replacement left tackle.
While McMurphy is a few ranks ahead of the Action Network on the Gators, the main areas of focus through August are the offensive line and an improved rush defense for coordinator Todd Grantham.
The injury bug has set in on the Trojans defense through camp.
Wide receiver Gary Bryant, Darwin Barlow and transfer running back Keaontay Ingram have all been limited through practices. Transfer Jake Smith is out for the season with a foot injury.
While most offenses can plug and play passing targets, the Air Raid system run by quarterback Kedon Slovis requires perfect timing with receivers.
Although McMurphy has USC slotted in the top 20 for the AP poll, the Action Network downgraded USC in the offseason due to below-average returning production and second-order win total, a measurement of postgame win probabilities.
The Tigers do make the Action Network top 25, but there are still plenty of moving pieces in Baton Rouge.
On top of new coordinators with new schemes, injuries have taken a toll on the roster, ranging from quarterback Myles Brennan and defensive tackle Glen Logan.
Clemson transfer Mike Jones Jr. was one of the bigger gets for Orgeron’s defense, but he has struggled through camp and is in jeopardy of not starting.
The Max Johnson-to-Kayshon Boutte connection will be exciting, but there are still plenty of questions in camp from the rush offense to the health of shutdown corner Derek Stingley.
Answers are developing for Washington on the quarterback front, the one unit with questions on both the offense and defense.
Dylan Morris hit a pair of touchdowns in the first scrimmage, while the defense intercepted both transfer Patrick O’Brien and five-star blue-chip freshman Sam Huard.
McMurphy’s rank outside the top 20 is expected with so many questions around offensive coordinator John Donovan’s style of predictability. Still, this is a team that will easily jump in the AP poll to the top 15 with a victory over Michigan.
The biggest discrepancy between McMurphy’s ballot and the Action Network comes in the form of Liberty football.
Expectations are elevated for the Flames in Hugh Freeze’s third year with a quarterback who can devastate most opposing defenses.
Liberty is expected to be a favorite in every single game leading up to the showdown in Oxford against Ole Miss.
McMurphy’s rank is not a resemblance of where the team will end up by the end of the season but rather where the team sits right now.
There is no resistance on the schedule, and the Action Network power ratings have the Flames 4.5 power rating points outside of the top 25.
There should be complete agreement in the push of Liberty through the first two months of the season from both the Action Network power ratings and McMurphy’s AP ballot.
Indiana is the classic conundrum where oddsmakers disagree with AP voters.
There were good breaks in the Hoosiers’ favor through the 2020 season, as they came just a touchdown short of a perfect regular season.
This was still an offense that was outside the top 90 in Success Rate and relied on the big play in passing downs to put points on the board.
Success Rate is one of the few advanced metrics that is predictable year over year, and Indiana is due for a step back on the offensive side of the ball.
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