National Title Odds and Returning Production

The calendar turns to July, which just brings us one month closer to the return of college football.

I know, I know. I’ll wait for you to wipe away the tears of anticipation.

Betting odds are up for the national title, with all the usual suspects.

Top 10, via Draftkings

3Ohio St+400
6Iowa St+2800
7Texas A&M+4000

One of the first things I look at when looking at preseason futures (usually win totals, but it applies here) is returning production. This use to come in the form of returning starters, and usually ripped straight out of the Phil Steele guide, one of the few magazines I buy every year.

But now we are able to take a closer look at returning production thanks to better access to stats. So I immediately turn to Bill Connelly’s work at ESPN (formerly Football Outsiders), and his returning production number.

So, looking a the above table and adding in Bill’s number:

TeamOddsReturning Production %
3Ohio St+40050
6Iowa St+280088
7Texas A&M+400061

A few notes: Bill weights production, i.e. extra credit for QBs returning, etc. The national average this year is 75.8 percent, which is much higher than the previous seven years when it was 62.6. With the covid year, there is simply more players returning this year.

Only two of the Vegas favorites are above the national average: Iowa St. and LSU.

All that said, however, this is not a be-all, end-all handicap. Especially at this top-end level with programs that tend to have five-star kids sitting behind five-star kids. These are reload teams, mostly, not rebuild teams.

But it is not a bad place to start a handicap. When I’m looking at win totals, I always look at returning production. It weights my decision. At the lowest level, it is a good tiebreaker, if I handicap all other factors as at the number.


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