The preseason is an exciting time for college football fans, as possibilities abound. Of course, the realists out there know when they’re facing down a season plagued by losses. Fans of preseason top-ten teams seldom have such reservations, however, as thoughts of conference and national championships tend to characterize their goals for the season ahead. But history suggests that some of them should temper those lofty expectations.
That’s because, for nine straight years, at least one team ranked in the AP’s preseason top-ten has finished entirely unranked, and in seven of those seasons, multiple squads who began in the top ten finished without a number next to their names.
Here’s a look at where those preseason top-ten teams to wind up outside the top-25 have began since the streak commenced:
- 2007: No. 10 Louisville
- 2008: No. 7 LSU, No. 9 Clemson, No. 10 Auburn
- 2009: No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 9 Oklahoma State
- 2010: No. 4 Florida, No. 5 Texas, No. 9 Iowa
- 2011: No. 8 Texas A&M
- 2012: No. 1 USC, No. 10 Arkansas
- 2013: No. 5 Georgia, No. 10 Florida
- 2014: No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 9 South Carolina
- 2015: No. 6 Auburn, No. 8 USC, No. 9 Georgia
Why bring this up now? Because Florida State, which began the year at No. 4, is perched precariously on the precipice of joining the unranked, currently slotted at No. 23. Two other preseason top-ten teams have already dropped out of the top-25: LSU (the Tigers started at No. 5) and Notre Dame (preseason No. 10).
Depending on against whom future losses would occur, the ‘Noles may not be able to drop too many more games if they hope to retain a ranking. That said, FSU has faced a brutal early schedule, including the best offenses in the country, and could very well climb the ranking as a more forgiving late schedule arrives. Florida State has not finished unranked in the AP poll since 2009.
One thing that these underachievers have in common is conference affiliation: present-day SEC teams account for more than twice as many of these squads overrated in the preseason (10) than any other conference (the Big 12, with four) during the present streak.