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College Football Teams to Bet or Fade in 2021 Using Returning Production Metrics, including Oklahoma, Alabama & Notre Dame

College Football Teams to Bet or Fade in 2021 Using Returning Production Metrics, including Oklahoma, Alabama & Notre Dame article feature image

UA Athletics/Collegiate Images/Getty Images. Pictured: John Metchie.

Returning production is one of the various tools to use when betting college football. It isn't always the be-all, end-all, but it's arguably more prevalent now than ever.

Players were granted an additional year of eligibility in the wake of COVID-19, and the transfer portal has gone bonkers. As a result, rosters have been shaken up all over the country.

Our own Collin Wilson developed his own TARP (Transfer Assets & Return Production) rankings to help provide more clarity on how each team stacks up in this department.

If you're in the market for some sleepers to bet — or fade — using returning production metrics as the foundation, these are your candidates.

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Bet 'Em


Head coach Lincoln Riley has reached the Playoff in three of his first four seasons, albeit without recording a win. This upcoming season is his best shot at a title, because no team in the entire nation owns a higher overall TARP rating than Oklahoma entering 2021.

Quarterback Spencer Rattler is the Heisman favorite for an offense that will light it up after clocking out top-10 in both EPA per pass play and rushing success rate last year — in other words, the sky is blue and water is wet.

However, the biggest X-factor is a defense fresh off a top-10 ranking nationally in Football Outsiders' DF+.

Former Tennessee safety and Top 100 prospect Key Lawrence comes over to Norman to shore up a secondary that lost Tre Brown, Tre Norwood and Brendan Radley-Hiles this offseason.


The formula to beat a team like Clemson requires a creative offense. The Tigers have lost seven games since 2015. Their opponents over that span have averaged 39.6 points per game.

North Carolina appears the biggest threat in the ACC to usurp the national powerhouse this season, but don't sleep on Miami. The offense is loaded.

Quarterback D'Eriq King — who slayed the AAC in 2018 with 50 total touchdowns at Houston– and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee were the perfect pair to kick-start a stagnant unit.

Lashlee simply picked up the pace, and in turn he struck gold.

Miami's Offense (2019 vs. 2020)

YearPlays Per GamePoints Per Game

The Hurricanes own the second-highest adjusted offensive TARP rating in the nation. King has a stockpile of weapons, including eight of his nine top pass-catchers from last year.

The icing on top is former Oklahoma wide receiver and multi-year starter Charleston Rambo, who'll see starting time right away after transferring.

Head coach Manny Diaz is just 12-12 against the spread in two years as the sideline boss. Something tells me this is the breakthrough year for The U — at least for bettors' pockets.


Gary Patterson was one of the best bets in college football throughout his first decade and a half at TCU. From 2000-14, he posted a 94-76-1 (55%) ATS clip and an overall winning percentage just south of 75%.

Then, 2016-19 happened, in which Patterson and Co. went a dismal 18-34 ATS (34.6%). The Horned Frogs ended the drought last year, going 7-3 against the number and posting the second-most profitable mark in the conference.

The 2021 roster is quietly stacked and one that's perhaps not being talked enough in the Big 12 picture.

The Horned Frogs return at least 86% of last year's production on both sides of the ball. The defense in particular should feast, after ranking third in Success Rate and fifth in Havoc Rate, nationally.

Fade 'Em


If there's any single program in the entire world that can withstand a full-on roster turnover, it's Alabama. Still, it's difficult to ignore the empty cupboard from last year.

The Crimson Tide just exhausted one of college football's most electric offensive units. What's left standing from the reigning title team is an offense dead-last nationally in returning skill position usage and negative in returning total expected points added.

The offense had game-breaking talent all across the board. However, there's only one way to go after the unit finished first in Success Rate and second in Finishing Drives last season: down.

Notre Dame

No team had a larger negative discrepancy between its opening Coaches Poll rank and Collin's Power Ratings than Notre Dame, which cracked the Playoff a year ago.

The biggest eyesore is an offense that's tied-last in the country in adjusted offensive TARP rating.

Wisconsin transfer quarterback Jack Coan offers little upside. Plus, he's missing last year's leaders in yards (Jayvon McKinley, 750) and touchdowns (Ben Skowronek, 5).

The offensive line was brilliant in 2020, but replacing three players selected in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft this past spring might be easier said than done.

The 2021 team as a whole could perform a whole lot different than last year's national title contender.


A Florida team chucking the ball all around the yard in 2020 was a fresh change of pace for head coach Dan Mullen, whose pass-play percentage has increased from 40.8% to 57.3% in a matter of two years. In turn, the offense put up close to 40 points per contest last fall.

Good luck getting anywhere near the number in 2021.

Quarterback Emory Jones is a Heisman sleeper already shooting up boards, but he'd need two campaigns to match Kyle Trask's numbers. The Gators are looking to replace more than 4,283 yards and 43 passing scores, much less after a season they went 5-6-1 versus the spread, due to a defense that couldn't tackle a stationary parking cone.

Florida's bottom-10 in the nation in returning skill position usage, and the offense is tied for last in adjusted offensive TARP.  The program could wind up pure fade material in conference play after a couple tune-ups in non-con.

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