There are exceptions of course, but generally speaking, the beginning of the college football season is usually all about hype.
We have ideas on which teams will be good — thus the reason there’s a preseason AP Top 25 — and we kind of have an idea of which players are set to destroy their opponents (though things happen) but that’s still all hype.
At the end of the day, when the hits are for real anything can happen, and that’s why they play the game, right?
That’s the concept ESPN’s 538 took in its latest college football feature, written by Greg Guglielmo. Of course, as of with all things 538, it’s a statistical analysis determining which teams have underperformed their preseason rankings. Guglielmo took preseason AP rankings and compared them to the teams’ final AP rankings, casting a net from 1997 through 2016. He also included instances where teams received votes in a poll but didn’t actually make it into the Top 25.
Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame, Penn State and Texas have all been overrated according to the preseason polls. They’ve fallen from their expectations with greater frequency, per 538, though there was this caveat to consider:
But that doesn’t mean all of those teams should be judged the same way. Florida, Florida State, Ohio State, LSU and Texas have generally started from high preseason perches; they own five of the seven best average preseason rankings from 1997 to 2016. When you’re consistently ranked near the top, there’s a lot more room to go down than there is to go up.
High expectations can either drive a team towards the greatness of crumple a team under the pressure. There are also thousands of other factors to consider, like matchups, the strength of schedule, and even injuries — which can drastically change a season.
Still, it’s well worth noting that some of the top schools in the nation have historically been a bit overhyped, which is perhaps a direct result of their stature within the college football world, and it says a bit about the media hype machine as well.
In the world of football, they say the eye in the sky doesn’t lie, which is a reference to the film.
The numbers don’t lie either, as 538 will gladly tell you.