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It's never easy to label a college football team's identity. Rosters can significantly change on a yearly basis and coaching turnover will usually alter schemes. Who would have thought one year ago that LSU would be playing games with betting totals regularly in the upper-60s and Oregon would be playing a handful in the 40s?
Returning production is a neat tool to gain a better understanding of where a program is headed. It's not the be-all and end-all, and it certainly has its flaws. A team might be losing a bulk of its defense, but if those players are bad, it could be a blessing in disguise.
As we peer into the 2020 college football season, there are already a handful of teams that could become next year's LSU or Oregon based on returning production and how it might alter their totals from last season. Here are some schools that could surprise on both ends of the spectrum.
Average 2019 total: 49.7
High total: 59
Low total: 44.5
Minnesota was an over team last season, cashing nine of its 13 games. In hindsight, it shouldn't have been a surprise. Sure, the Golden Gophers didn't play at a breakneck pace (the offense ran 70.6 plays per game, good for 70th in the nation), but they were No. 16 in the country in yards per play and fell just shy of 35 points per game. We should have been all over them, pun intended.
Its stellar defense may have scared people off from Minnesota totals. It sat among the top 35 nationally in virtually every defensive category, including No. 12 against the pass, No. 17 in yards per play allowed, and No. 28 against the rush. But come 2020, the school will lose the sixth-most production on defense in the country.
Minnesota will bring back the 11th-most production on offense behind quarterback Tanner Morgan, who broke out last season with 3,253 yards and 30 touchdowns. If the Golden Gophers play even a little bit faster next season, they'll see more totals regularly in the upper-50s.
Average 2019 total: 55.9
High total: 65
Low total: 41
Texas State was a paper tiger in 2020. When the Bobcats brought in offensive-minded head coach Jake Spavital to run the show, many expected a run-and-gun offense that would carry a subpar defense coming off a No. 111 finish in the country in points allowed. However, the offense ended 2019 No. 121 nationally in points scored, while the defense finished No. 108 in points allowed.
These things happen. It often takes time for a new scheme to gel, especially in a conference like the Sun Belt, which isn't exactly brimming with talent. But in Year 2 under Spavital, with a good chunk of the offense coming back and the Bobcats losing four of their top six defensive backs and seven of their eight linebackers, they might finally become the shootout team we thought they'd be last season.
Average 2019 total: 56.6
High total: 68
Low total: 44
Baylor was another team that wasn't fast on offense but very efficient (No. 75 in plays per game, No. 36 in yards per play). The defense, meanwhile, played at an extremely high level. The Bears finished No. 16 in the country in scoring defense, a tough feat for a Big 12 unit. However, there are some things that could revert Baylor back to being an "over" team after going just 6-8 to that side of the total last season.
For starters, I think you'll see an overadjustment on Baylor totals with Dave Aranda as head coach. He's a defensive mind fresh off a national title with LSU, but let's not forget that the Bears have a new offensive coordinator in Larry Fedora, who's had some success over his career. He'll have a sizeable portion of the offense back.
Secondly, Baylor's losing the fourth-most production of any defense in the country. This is a unit that's due for regression after finishing No. 49 against the rush and No. 50 against the pass despite allowing fewer than 20 points per game in 2019.
Average total: 63.3
High total: 75
Low total: 51
LSU's offense did it all in 2019. It shattered records. It boasted a Heisman-winning quarterback. It won the Tigers a national title. Now, it has a target painted on its back and will be without its brilliant passing game coordinator and soon-to-be No. 1 pick under center.
Only two schools in the country will lose more offensive production. That inexperience will likely prevent bettors from seeing any totals in the 70s.
Average 2019 total: 62.5
High total: 72
Low total: 44
Head coach Hugh Freeze has improved Liberty's offense but could have done more over the last two years with a star quarterback/wide receiver combo in Stephen Calvert and Antonio Gandy-Golden. With those two departing, don't be surprised to see Liberty's offense become a middle-of-the-pack unit. The Flames should be able to improve on their No. 77 scoring defense as they're inside the top 15 nationally in returning production. Following a year with consistent totals in the 60s, the 50s will likely become the norm.
Average total: 53.6
High total: 63.5
Low total: 42
If we've learned anything from Herm Edwards' two seasons with Arizona State, it's that he wants to slow games down - run the ball, take few chances on offense, and don't break on defense. The days of Sun Devils shootouts are long gone no matter the personnel, and next year's roster probably won't change that - Arizona State is in the top 30 in returning defensive production and bottom 30 in returning offensive production.
Alex Kolodziej is a betting writer for theScore. He's a graduate of Eastern Illinois who has been involved in the sports betting industry for 12 years. He can quote every line from "Rounders" and appreciates franchises that regularly wear alternate jerseys. Find him on Twitter @AJKolodziej.