Bettors were blessed (or cursed…) with a crazy week in college football once again. The LSU Tigers had a shocking offensive explosion, the Minnesota Gophers threatened the Ohio State Buckeyes, and the Nebraska Cornhuskers blew a late lead. What do all three of these teams have in common?
Tons of underclassmen starting. LSU and Minnesota are trending in the right direction on offense. Meanwhile, Nebraska watched their underclassmen do underclassmen things. Last week the returning production article featured an underclassmen analysis table for the Power 5 teams. It is only right Bang the Book presents a very sharp-bettor-friendly Non-Power 5 table.
The table below breaks out each Non-Power Five team based on Freshmen and Sophomores listed as starters on the depth chart. At the top of the table is an average of each column for reference across the NCAA. The lowest numbers in each column are highlighted dark red, the midpoint is white and the higher numbers are green.
Why has Connecticut struggle so much on defense? There is a multitude of reasons, but one of them can be seen below. Take a look at the top of the table, the Huskies are starting 10 underclassmen on that side of the ball. The high scoring games make sense. On offense, UConn is only starting four Sophomores and no Freshmen.
The correlation is very interesting when looking at starting Underclassmen related to inconsistent effort, or just flat out poor play. Southern Miss has been inconsistent all season. Bowling Green…well, we know what happened to Bowling Green. With these top teams, look for some improvement from the youth. Do not blindly back them, but pay attention for signs of improvement in statistical categories they were struggling in.
Some of the teams from the top off to a hot start like Appalachian State and Hawaii may be in for a let down. If the Underclassmen have not experienced the pain of a trap game loss, they are more likely to slip up. On the flip side, they may let their nerves get the best of them going into a primetime matchup.
Some interesting teams from the bottom of the table are Utah State, UCF, Louisiana Tech, Eastern Michigan, Cincinnati and Houston. All of these teams have looked great in the early going. And none of them have relied on many underclassmen. In the early going of the season the starters are caught up with the speed of college football. Additionally, they have had two or more full years to develop strength, quickness, and an understanding of the game.
To recap, look to back these younger teams as the youth continue to gain experience. Consider fading some of these teams that carried over all upperclassmen. Perhaps the less experienced teams can begin to close the gap. It makes sense the upperclassmen are more prepared for the start of the season and will therefore look better. However, in big games the upperclassmen experience of calming nerves or a sense of finality could still give them an edge. Lastly, remember to apply these metrics next year when looking for teams that could surprise bettors in the beginning of the year.