Returning production is never the be-all, end-all in college football, but it's still important. Good players at the peak of their athletic careers typically only get better, giving an edge to programs that can reload on an annual basis.
The betting markets obviously take this into account, too. Experience can provide a significant advantage, especially in certain situations.
As we peer ahead to the 2020 season, here are some notable teams trending up, and down, based on returning production.
Last season was a total rebuild for Georgia Tech. The program brought in head coach Geoff Collins from Temple to succeed Paul Johnson, and with that came a swift identity change. The Yellow Jackets abandoned their triple-option offense and completely started from scratch, leaving them with virtually their entire defense and more than 66% of the offense coming back for 2020. Georgia Tech put out a pretty bleak product in 2019 but could be a lot more fun this fall in the second year of a new system.
Maybe, just maybe, we were a year too early on Nebraska. After showing signs of life in 2018 under head coach Scott Frost, the Cornhuskers were considered a sneaky national title contender last season. However, they ended up missing a bowl berth altogether. But they're essentially reloading on offense, bringing back the second-most production in the country behind only Cal. Expect a lot more shootouts from Nebraska.
I wouldn't consider myself a hot take extraordinaire, but I do think we need to talk more about Rice. Yes, 3-9 Rice. Last year, the Owls suffered four losses by single digits and won their final three games of the year. If there was ever a team looking to build off some momentum, it's this one. And they can! Rice returns the most defensive production in the country, which isn't too shabby for a unit that allowed 28 points or fewer in each of its final five games last season.
Utah's collapse to Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game, which probably cost the team a trip to the College Football Playoff, stings even more with the roster turnover. The Utes will lose the most defensive production of any team in the country and are in the bottom-third of the nation in offensive production. The conference could be pretty wide open next season, but Utah is far from a front-runner.
LSU is going to regress in 2020. What a take, I know. Teams that lose their Heisman-winning quarterback, wunderkind passing game coordinator, and seven or eight other offensive contributors aren't expected to score close to 50 points per game and compete for a national title. LSU isn't a full-on fade, but the Tigers will probably be a bit more overvalued than normal right out of the gate.
The Falcons were one of the more underrated stories of 2019, winning 11 games and stamping the envelope with a bowl win over Washington State. However, unlike LSU, Air Force might actually be a team to fully fade.
Mid-majors oftentimes see spikes in short bursts like these. Air Force has been a consistent winner in the Mountain West, having made a bowl appearance in 10 of the last 13 years, but the Falcons are certainly peaking and have only one way to go. Considering they're losing the eighth-most defensive production and are in the bottom-20 in returning offensive production - huge, considering their scheme - the Falcons aren't a team I'm going to be rushing to bet every week.
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.