Biggest Returning Production Mismatches in College Football Week 1

Biggest Returning Production Mismatches in College Football Week 1 article feature image

Bruce Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Rashan Gary

  • Handicapping Week 1 in college football is all about returning production.
  • Returning production is a deep dive that focuses on the stats that fill the box scores, not just returning starters.
  • There are stark contrasts in Week 1 in returning production for certain offenses and defenses, which can provide betting value.

Week 1 Returning Production Mismatches

The old school method of handicapping a team’s experience was based on how many returning starters it had. But that doesn’t paint the entire picture.

That’s where returning production, tracked by, comes in. It takes in account every stat category from passing yards, offensive line starts, tackles for loss, sacks and a host of other advanced metrics from the season prior.

When handicapping Week 1 in college football, it’s important to know offenses that lose players at explosive positions (quarterback, wide receiver) and defenses that try to defend explosiveness (secondary, linebackers). Those positions have the most correlation with the next season’s success.

As Week 0 proved on Saturday, returning production needs to be part of your handicapping routine.

Offensive Advantages

All ranks based on 130 FBS teams. The higher number represents the offensive advantage in this section.

Wake Forest O (43) at Tulane D (123)

  • Odds: Wake Forest -6.5
  • Over/under: 56
  • Time: 8 p.m. ET Thursday

Notes: Wake true freshman Sam Hartman won the quarterback job with starter Kendall Hinton suspended for three games, and is protected by five offensive linemen with 128 career starts. Matt Colburn’s 904 rushing yards are joined by the explosiveness of wide receivers Greg Dortch and Scotty Washington.

Kent State O (8) at Illinois D (75)

  • Odds: Illinois -16.5
  • Over/under: 50.5
  • Time: 12 p.m. ET Saturday

Notes: Kent State is changing its offensive scheme with new head coach Sean Lewis, who is a product of the Dino Babers coaching tree. That means lots of spread passing concepts, a la Baylor from the Art Briles days.

Fortunately, Kent State’s quarterback, top six rushers and three wide receivers who led the team in targets all return to ease the transition.

Middle Tennessee O (10) at Vanderbilt D (105)

  • Odds: Vanderbilt -4
  • Over/under: 57
  • Time: 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Notes: QB Brent Stockstill is healthy, and the Blue Raiders offense will go as he does. Middle Tennessee’s top three running backs return, while Ty Lee brings 119 targets and 955 yards from 2017.

UTSA (104) D at Arizona State O (30)

  • Odds: Arizona State -18.5
  • Over/under: 54
  • Time: 10:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Notes: Herm Edwards has a seasoned offense, with Manny Wilkins back under center along with four of his top five targets. The Sun Devils will be looking for a running back as Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage are both gone.

Defensive Advantages

All ranks based on 130 FBS teams. The higher number represents the defensive advantage in this section.

Army O (121) at Duke D (25)

  • Odds: Duke -13.5
  • Over/under: 45.5
  • Time: 7 p.m. ET Friday

Notes: The Blue Devils return a large percentage of a defense that ranked sixth in defensive passing success rate. Duke also ranked 20th overall in havoc, and has plenty of revenge in mind after last year’s loss to the Black Knights.

Army will break in a new quarterback after Ahmad Bradshaw graduated this summer and was no longer eligible.

FAU D (8) at Oklahoma O (97)

  • Odds: Oklahoma -21
  • Over/under: 69
  • Time: 12 p.m. ET Saturday

Notes: Florida Atlantic returns 17 defenders who had at least 10 solo tackles in 2017. Oklahoma’s new quarterback, Kyler Murray, faces an Owls defense that ranked 23rd overall against explosiveness.

Texas State O (91) at Rutgers D (18)

  • Odds: Rutgers -16.5
  • Over/under: 46.5
  • Time: 12 p.m. ET Saturday

Notes: There aren’t a ton of advanced metrics to back up this defensive unit’s performance for Rutgers, but ranking 3rd in passing incompletions shows the aggressiveness of Chris Ash’s secondary.

Wash. State O (108) at Wyoming D (34)

  • Odds: WSU -3.5
  • Over/under: 47
  • Time: 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Notes: The Cowboys almost pitched a shutout in Week 0 against New Mexico State in a 29-7 victory. With a week of experience under their belt, they get a Washington State team with questions all over the offense and a new quarterback. And a history of dropping nonconference games.

Boise State D (9) at Troy O (117)

  • Odds: Boise State -11
  • Over/under: 49.5
  • Time: 6 p.m. ET Saturday

Notes: The Broncos were eighth in the nation at defending explosiveness, while ranking sixth in adjusted sack rate. Whether Troy puts Kaleb Baker or Sawyer Smith under center as its new quarterback, both will be harassed all night by Boise State’s defense.

>> Sign up for The Action Network’s daily newsletter to get the smartest conversation delivered into your inbox each morning.

Michigan D (15) at Notre Dame O (98)

  • Odds: Notre Dame -1
  • Over/under: 47.5
  • Time: 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Notes: The Wolverines secondary returns six players with at least 10 solo tackles. Defensive ends Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary can do what Georgia did in 2017 — come off the edge and play top-notch outside contain to shake Notre Dame’s mobile quarterback, Brandon Wimbush. The Irish lose almost everything on offense outside of Wimbush.

Central Michigan O (130) at Kentucky D (7)

  • Odds: Kentucky -17
  • Over/under: 49
  • Time: 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Notes: Seven defensive backs saw significant time for Kentucky in 2017, while linebackers Jordan Jones and Josh Allen accounted for 14% of the Wildcats’ tackles last year. Kentucky ranked an impressive fourth overall in defending passing downs explosiveness and could feast on CMU’s offense, which replaces just about everything.

How would you rate this article?