2018's Top Overachievers and Biggest Underachievers

January 9, 2019 by CFP Staff

Every year, college football fans are eager to discover how well, or how badly, their team is expected to perform in the upcoming season. Magazines such as Phil Steele, Athlon's and Lindy's hit the newsstands as early as Memorial Day weekend, and a few of the top college football websites also offer their predictions. A ton of research and effort goes into the mix.

Since 1999, CollegeFootballPoll.com has been the host site of the Congrove Computer Rankings which began in 1993. The rankings are recognized as a national champion selector by the NCAA.

Based on those rankings - comparing preseason to final - we thought it would be fun to see which teams lived up to expectations in 2018, and which of those failed miserably. For this purpose, we compared the difference in the power rating of each team between week 'zero' (the preseason) and the end of the year.

Most people interpret this as being a huge miss by the messenger. But as all teams are assessed by the same comprehensive data, the results are actually evidence as to which teams did, or did not, live up to what should have been.

Top 10 Underachievers

Team Power Points Lost
Louisville -23.20
Southern California -13.29
New Mexico State -12.41
Michigan State -12.15
Arkansas -9.54
Northwestern -9.13
Wisconsin -8.99
Virginia Tech -8.90
Stanford -8.37
South Carolina -8.26

Louisville's on-field performance was horrendous in comparison to expectations. The Cardinals were 2-8 when Bobby Petrino was fired and finished the season 2-10. But Michigan State made the loudest thud as a 12-0 prediction became a 7-6 reality, despite the return of practically every starter from its 2017 team that went 10-3.

Northwestern is a bit of a surprise on the list of underachievers as the school won its division, but the computer projected the Wildcats to go 11-1. Northwestern had one really bad loss (Akron) and a close call to a downtrodden Rutgers team . The Wildcats were only 8-4 in the regular season and finished 9-5.

Virginia Tech's downturn began with a stunning loss to Old Dominion, AFTER opening with a win at Florida State. In comparison, the results of those two games should make anyone's head explode. A young Hokies' defense held the Seminoles to 3 points, only to get blistered 19 days later for 49 points by the Monarchs. Justin Fuente's team was NOT expected to be great to begin with. They were predicted to go 7-5, and the prediction wasn't off by much as they finished 6-6 before losing their bowl game vs. Cincinnati.

And that leads us to 2018's top overachiever, Cincinnati. The Bearcats were preseason-ranked 114th and were saddled with the prospects of a 3-9 season. Instead, Luke Fickell's second year as head coach saw the team improve from 4-8 in 2017 to 11-2 in 2018. Cincinnati is No. 25 in the computer's final rankings.

The 2nd- and 3rd-ranked overachievers wound up losing their head coach at the end of the season. Texas Tech lured Matt Wells away from Utah State and Scott Satterfield was plucked from Appalachian State by Louisville.

Oddly enough, Clemson and Alabama are in the top ten rankings of overachievers. Clemson was expected to go 12-0 and Alabama was picked to go 11-1. But the manner in which each school consistently dominated their opponents led to both of them adding a substantial amount to their power rating.

Top 10 Overachievers

Team Power Points Gained
Cincinnati +16.71
Utah State +13.48
Appalachian State +11.37
BYU +10.30
Ohio +9.78
Clemson +9.08
Alabama +8.95
Florida +8.81
Syracuse +8.64
Army +7.96