Our college football win totals takes yet another stab at the Southeastern conference, as I heat up the debate to which team can dethrone the Vegas favorite in Alabama.
In my opinion, the West division holds three teams with the capability of emerging as the frontrunner.
We trace back to Phil Steele’s premature Christmas trinket (yes, even in the summer) each season, including lengthy previews and his personal sabermetric formulas for increasing win (or loss) percentage.
For those unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, one subdivision of his work regards teams suffering marginal defeats a season ago and how it can factor into production the following campaign.
For the Arkansas Razorbacks, this equation breezes into their wheelhouse as head coach Brett Bielema’s crew possessed the short end of the stick for much of 2014.
Four tallies in the loss column by a touchdown or less and impressing the nation with matching conference wins versus Ole Miss and LSU (outscored both by a combined 47-0), a seven-win club may bode as an unsung in the SEC for 2015.
I pocket minimal trust in quarterback Brandon Allen, but the duo of Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins stationed in the backfield, the Razorbacks contain two 1,000-yard rushers from a season ago, complimented betwixt four returning big men up front.
If you’re seeking value, look no further, as Arkansas’ record was heavily skewed on loose leaf in 2014.
Pick: Arkansas Razorbacks Over 8.5 Wins (+120)
We compile a list of factors pertaining to the success of such teams.
We’ve touched on returning starters, head coaching, and even dabbled into sabermetrics. The core of many predictions can easily stem from scheduling, and one program that I feel holds a substantial advantage is the Auburn Tigers.
Refrain from knocking the SEC–they supply a plethora of capable non-conference opposition, and War Eagle remains no different: week one will measure the Tigers versus the Louisville Cardinals.
Bobby Petrino’s defense potentially returns five guys from the 2014 core, and while the unit as a whole boasted swell numbers last season, they managed to slip past three teams ranking in the top five of offensive efficiency a season ago in the ACC (Pitt, UNC, GT), while squandering an average of 33.2 to a handful of adequate offensive attacks in Florida State, Notre Dame and Georgia.
The red flags rise here, even with the alotted time Louisville is armed with in preparing for perhaps the quickest offense amidst the 2015 itinerary (we’ll weigh in shortly).
Following a showdown with the Cardinals, I graze over potential hectic road contests, yet the short scroll presents just a couple of disasters in LSU and Arkansas, with the Tigers welcoming such squads as Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Georgia, and Alabama to Jordan-Hare Stadium.
(And here we are) While the presence and flash of quarterback Nic Marshall may go for naught this fall, Gus Malzahn reloads his arsenal of playmakers with Jeremy Johnson under center and Duke Williams, a wide receiver qualified to emerge as the nation’s top threat.
The defense brings a trio of defensive backs and linemen to the forefront, so I believe the remnants of Auburn gradually build a nice centerpiece for 2015.
Pick: Auburn Tigers Over 8.5 (+100)
I’m seemingly giving in to my early notion of pleasing the fanbases considering the next team in the series of SEC West reps receives my utmost infatuation: the LSU Tigers.
To summarize last season, the Bengal faithful could outline their morale with a reluctant “eh.”
And that’s exactly how it went for Les Miles and his Tigers.
The non-traditional defense circumscribed with the deprivation of NFL talent, an inexperienced and occasional perplexed quarterback, and the absence of a go-to wide receiver, the aura simply carried a peculiar vibe.
Fear not, because LSU managed eight victories amidst question marks around the gridiron, and I praise the talent that returns.
You’d have to perceive Anthony Jennings to regroup with a year as the regular under center etched into his résumé, while the top three wide receivers from 2014 were underclassmen, including the highly touted freshman Malachi Dupre.
That’s not the scary part, either.
A force at tailback in Leonard Fournette administers the offense with a deadly balance, the freshman accumulating 1,034 yards on the ground and 11 scores in his initial year cloaked in purple and yellow.
A fifth-ranked defense via points surrendered in 2014 returns a respectable seven players, and will hope to rejuvenate back to the prototypical lockdown entity that Les Miles frequently permits.
It’s quite easy to state the positives as I type, but an obstacle-filled trial, especially with trips to Ole Miss, Alabama, and Mississippi State will surely test the waters in Louisiana.
I’ll vouch for them, however.
Pick: LSU Tigers Over 8 Wins (-115)