The 2018 preseason AP Poll is now out, and as expected, there were a lot of reactions from fans depending on where their team was.
One of the most popular reactions came from fans of UCF, the 2017 self-proclaimed national champs checking in at No. 21 in the poll.
Sure, it’s a little odd to see the team that went undefeated, won the AAC, and upset Auburn in the Peach Bowl last season barely crack the top 25. But looking at past preseason AP Polls, it’s actually pretty normal for one season’s star non-power to start out in the 20s or worse.
In 1998, Tommy Bowden’s Green Wave team went 11-0, and interim head coach Chris Scelfo coached the team to a Liberty Bowl victory over BYU. In the next preseason AP Poll, Tulane was unranked and went 3-8.
In 1999, Bob Pruett’s Thundering Herd finished 13-0 with a Motor City Bowl win over BYU. The next year, his team was unranked in the initial poll, then went 8-5.
2004 Miami (Ohio)
Ben Roethlisberger’s RedHawks had gone 13-1 and finished No. 10 in the country. Without Roethlisberger the next year, Miami was unranked in the preseason poll and went 8-5.
Boise State’s pretty used to this
In 2006, first-year Broncos head coach Chris Petersen led the program to a 13-0 season, capped off by that incredible Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma.
But in 2007, Boise State checked in at 24th in the initial preseason poll. The Broncos would go 10-3 and finish unranked.
Then in 2012 after the Broncos’ 12-1 season the year before, they were ranked in that same 24th spot the next year. They’d finish No. 18, a slight jump up.
Utah was unranked in the initial poll following the Utes’ 12-0 season in 2004 and Urban Meyer’s departure for Florida. The 2005 Utes finished 7-5.
Then in 2009, after Kyle Whittingham led the Utes to a 13-0 year, his team was unranked in the first AP Poll. This time, the Utes finished No. 18.
Oh yeah, this has happened to UCF before, too!
And it wasn’t too long ago, either. Remember that 12-1 season during Blake Bortles’ last season? The Knights were unranked in 2014 in the first poll and then went 9-4.
Houston was the most recent mid-major to get snubbed
In 2015, Tom Herman’s Cougars had a 13-1 year, capped off with an upset victory over Florida State in the Peach Bowl and a No. 8 ranking. They then started the next year down at No. 15, which still proved too high for UH despite a win over Oklahoma.
Boise State and TCU are the best examples for UCF to follow here.
The Broncos have had multiple top-five preseason rankings before, but they did it by having consistent big seasons, rather than having a winless season right in between two New Year’s bowls, as UCF has done recently.
And there are certainly fair questions about 2018 UCF.
The Knights are replacing their coaching staff and best defenders, but return what should be an awesome offense. Statistical rankings have the Knights higher than No. 21, but not much; S&P+ ranks UCF No. 17 entering the season after ranking the Knights No. 7 at the end of last year.
The only ranking that matters is the College Football Playoff top 25, so we’ll see where the Knights are by then.
While the Playoff committee could do a better job during the season of rewarding non-powers who are clearly having excellent years, the preseason AP Poll has a pretty good track record of not overreacting to a single good season, based on these teams listed here.