Which SEC teams most often fail to live up to preseason expectations?

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.

TeamCombined Delta (2003-2012)
Tennessee-35
Florida-29.5
Georgia-21
LSU-13.5
Auburn-1.5
Missouri-1
Texas A&M-1
Vandy3
Arkansas4
Miss State6
South Carolina11
Ole Miss17.5
Alabama26.5

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:

2012

TeamDeltaPreFinal
Texas A&M20.55.5
Florida12219
South Carolina3118
Vanderbilt323
Alabama1.52.51
Georgia1.575.5
LSU-11.52.514
Arkansas-1610

2011

TeamDeltaPreFinal
Arkansas8135
South Carolina5149
LSU352
Alabama011
Georgia-11819
Florida-422
Miss State-521
Missouri-719
Texas A&M-15.510.5

2010

TeamDeltaPreFinal
Auburn22231
LSU11199
Miss State1115
Missouri818
Texas A&M719
South Carolina422
Arkansas312
Georgia-422
Alabama-9110
Florida-224

2009

TeamDeltaPreFinal
Alabama5.56.51
Florida-213
LSU-71017
Ole Miss-7.512.520
Georgia-13.512.5

2008

TeamDeltaPreFinal
Alabama18246
Ole Miss1214
Florida451
South Carolina-125
Tennessee-818
Georgia-11213
Missouri-13619
Auburn-1511
LSU-179

2007

TeamDeltaPreFinal
Missouri224
Georgia12142
Auburn31815
LSU121
Tennessee01212
Arkansas-224
Texas A&M-322
Florida-7613

2006

TeamDeltaPreFinal
Arkansas1115
LSU693
Florida5.56.51
Tennessee-22325
Auburn-2.56.59
Georgia-71623

2005

TeamDeltaPreFinal
Alabama13218
Auburn31714
Georgia31310
LSU176
Florida-3.5912
Texas A&M-1016
Tennessee-233

2004

TeamDeltaPreFinal
Auburn9112
Tennessee01313
Georgia-437
Missouri-1115
LSU-12416
Florida-1214

2003

TeamDeltaPreFinal
Ole Miss1313
LSU12142
Georgia3107
Florida-0.523½24
Tennessee-21315
Alabama-2.523½
Auburn-215

Photo Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

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