Preseason polls get cursed at and over-analyzed by most fans outside of the SEC, because their argument is that the country and media outlets prop up several different SEC teams, and eventually one will come out either unscathed or become a one-loss conference champion and play for a national championship. Several talking heads have expressed waiting until a few weeks into the season before ranking the top 25 and doing away with preseason polls altogether. Hell, I want to add more preseason polls, because it gives us something to talk about and makes for some great preseason commentary.
But with preseason expectations come teams that don’t live up to that hype during the season. And I came across a fascinating website by Chris Stassen that compares teams’ annual performances relative to preseason expectations.
Strassen’s preseason and postseason polls were complied by different media outlets added over time, including Athlon, Sporting News, Phil Steele and Lindy. You can see an example of the 2003 preseason compilation here and 2012 compilation here. Post season rankings are based on final AP rankings.
Over the last decade (2003-2012), the SEC has won eight national championships with LSU, Florida and Alabama all winning multiple titles – Auburn hoisted the crystal ball once as well.
But which teams during that time continually underachieved with respect to their preseason hype? Kentucky is the only current SEC member never to start or finish the season ranked. Missouri and Texas A&M are added for comparison, even though they were Big 12 members for most of the time period.
|Team||Combined Delta (2003-2012)|
As you can see from the chart above, Tennessee is the biggest underachiever of the last decade in comparison to preseason expectations with a combined difference in preseason and postseason ranking of -35. 2005 was the Vols’ worst year after starting third and finishing unranked. That’s good for a difference of -23 in ‘05 alone.
Florida is right on Tennessee’s heels with -29.5, and the Gators will be ranked close to the top 10 to begin 2013 once more.
On the contrary, Alabama is one of the two best performers that have lived up to the hype. In fact, they’ve surpassed expectations. Along with Bama, Ole Miss has consistently been a steady overachiever at a +17.5 differential.
The biggest underperformer in college football has been Oklahoma. If you thought Tennessee underperformed, Oklahoma is nearly double with a differential of -69. Yes, Big Game Bob is at his worst in big games, and only two years did OU actually live up to the hype of their preseason expectations during that time.
Here is a breakdown per season, starting in 2012 and finishing in 2003:
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