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2018’s 3 likeliest teams to very briefly be ranked in the 20s because they started 4-0 against nobody

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These are the squads that could get a glorious moment of pride before being humbled and never appearing again.

NCAA Football: Florida-Head Coach Dan Mullen Press Conference Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

One of college football’s great traditions is a mediocre team starting 4-0 or 5-0 against a cupcake schedule, briefly getting ranked, and then getting slaughtered and ejected from the rankings altogether, never to return.

The epitome of this genre is 2013 Maryland. Randy Edsall’s Terps started 4-0 by beating a murderer’s row of FIU, Old Dominion, UConn, and a West Virginia that would finish 4-8. The Terps jumped to No. 25 in the AP Poll, their first ranking since 2010. Then they went to Florida State and lost 63-0. They never got back to the top 25 and lost the Military Bowl to Marshall.

These are 2018’s best candidates to be preseason-unranked teams that start perfect against a light schedule, get ranked, and then get bounced all the way out of there:

Florida

  • First four games: Charleston Southern, Kentucky, Colorado State, at Tennessee
  • S&P+ odds of being undefeated through then: 37 percent
  • Next game: at Mississippi State (28 percent win probability)

The Gators start with an FCS team, an auto-win against a team that might or might not choose to try and cover receivers (Florida’s beaten UK 31 times in a row btw), a good mid-major, and whatever Tennessee is. It’s easy to imagine the hype machine revving up just in time for Dan Mullen to lose a homecoming game in Starkville. If the Gators lose then, they’ve got another possible loss coming against LSU and a probable blowout against Georgia. They might never get enough oxygen to get ranked again.

Baylor

  • First four games: Abilene Christian, at UTSA, Duke, Kansas
  • S&P+ odds of being undefeated through then: 28 percent
  • Next game: at Oklahoma (15 percent win probability)

The Bears were 1-11 in 2017. They’ll start out nowhere near the top 25 in 2018, although they should be significantly improved. S&P+ gives them a 71 percent chance of winning at UTSA, though the Roadrunners scored an upset in Waco last year. Matt Rhule’s not far removed from leading Temple to an AAC championship, and a lot of people will fairly give him a mulligan after his first season at BU. That could lead to a ranking, before Oklahoma presumably whomps Baylor in Norman.

Arizona

  • First four games: BYU, at Houston, Southern Utah, Oregon State
  • S&+ odds of being undefeated through then: 31 percent
  • Next game: USC (41 percent win probability)

In this household, we’re excited about Arizona’s 2018. The S&P+-projected win total for the Wildcats is 7.5, which means anything from six to nine wins would make sense. But let’s consider the possibility that Zona starts out great, gets everyone excited, and then tanks down the stretch. It wouldn’t be out of character for a Kevin Sumlin-coached team. There’s also a game at Utah two weeks after USC, leaving open the possibility that one loss leads to another and makes it hard to climb back up.