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130-team rankings over the last 5 years show the Pac-12 cratered

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The top tier is established, Purdue and UAB lead the most-improved lists, and WHEW did FSU plummet.

Notre Dame v USC Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

On Monday, Feb. 11, I will post this year’s initial S&P+ projections for the 2019 season. The 2019 college football preview series will begin on the same day.

The rankings will once again be a mix of three factors: returning production, recent history, and recent recruiting. I tinkered with a new way of approaching recruiting rankings, one more related to two-deeps, but that will likely be a part of the late-summer projection updates. It wasn’t an option for use just yet.

Basically, to figure out who’s going to be good next year, the S&P+ formula asks three questions: Who’s been good? Who’s returning their good players? And how good is the talent coming in?

As a lead-up to the projections, we’re looking at each individual factor and what it has to tell us.

  • Last week, we looked at returning production, which said exciting things about teams like LSU, Florida, and Florida State and pushed back on the Texas hype machine.
  • After National Signing Day, we’ll look at shifts in recruiting.
  • In this post, let’s look at recent performance.

Here’s each team’s updated five-year S&P+ history.

This isn’t the same version that goes into the projections — for that version, there is extra weight given to more recent seasons — but it sets the table.

I’m also including some trend information. You can look at last year’s five-year history figure to see whose prospects are rising and falling.

One note: I periodically update the S&P+ algorithm and have recently done so. You can read more about the changes I’ve made here. I am in the process of walking through each season and the shifts these changes caused, but in the meantime you can look at all the updated rankings at Football Outsiders. The five-year averages below come from the updated numbers.

Another note: for the two most recent FBS additions — third-year Coastal Carolina and second-year Liberty — I am including their averages to date, but not trend information, for obvious reasons. I treated UAB as if the Blazers were not on hiatus for two seasons, though their five-year average doesn’t include 2015 or 2016.

2014-18 S&P+ averages

Team Conference 2014-18 S&P+ 2014-18 ranking Change since 2013-17
Team Conference 2014-18 S&P+ 2014-18 ranking Change since 2013-17
Memphis AAC 7.7 41 2.5
Houston AAC 6.4 46 -0.5
Central Florida AAC 3.7 57 0.8
Temple AAC 3.3 60 2.7
Navy AAC 2.3 64 -2
South Florida AAC 2.1 65 2.9
Cincinnati AAC 1.5 68 -0.5
East Carolina AAC -6 90 -4.5
Tulsa AAC -7.8 96 1.5
Tulane AAC -10.6 106 0.9
SMU AAC -11.6 110 2
Connecticut AAC -15.5 122 -2.6
Clemson ACC 25.4 3 1
Florida State ACC 20 8 -7.4
Miami-FL ACC 14.7 21 -0.9
Louisville ACC 12.6 24 -6.7
Virginia Tech ACC 10.5 31 -2.2
NC State ACC 9.9 35 2
Pittsburgh ACC 9.4 36 -1.3
North Carolina ACC 7.6 42 -3.2
Georgia Tech ACC 7.4 44 -2.2
Duke ACC 3.7 55 0
Boston College ACC 3 62 -0.9
Virginia ACC 1.9 66 2.5
Syracuse ACC 0.6 70 1.5
Wake Forest ACC 0.2 75 1.3
Oklahoma Big 12 23.7 4 1.1
TCU Big 12 15.8 19 -1.1
Oklahoma State Big 12 13.6 23 -1.6
Baylor Big 12 11 28 -3.7
West Virginia Big 12 10.3 32 2.8
Texas Big 12 9 38 0.1
Kansas State Big 12 7.5 43 -4.4
Texas Tech Big 12 5.3 51 -1.1
Iowa State Big 12 1.6 67 2.4
Kansas Big 12 -14.3 119 -0.1
Ohio State Big Ten 26.6 2 -0.9
Wisconsin Big Ten 18.8 9 -1.4
Michigan Big Ten 18.8 10 2.2
Penn State Big Ten 16.9 15 2
Michigan State Big Ten 14.5 22 -1.7
Iowa Big Ten 9.9 34 -0.8
Nebraska Big Ten 8.5 39 -1.2
Minnesota Big Ten 6.8 45 0.8
Indiana Big Ten 3.7 56 0
Northwestern Big Ten 3.5 58 -0.4
Maryland Big Ten 0.4 73 -1.6
Purdue Big Ten -2.5 83 4.4
Illinois Big Ten -3.8 86 -0.8
Rutgers Big Ten -8.8 100 -0.8
Marshall C-USA 0.8 69 -1.5
Western Kentucky C-USA 0.5 71 -2.6
Louisiana Tech C-USA -0.5 79 2
Southern Miss C-USA -4.4 88 3.9
Middle Tennessee C-USA -4.8 89 1.6
Florida Atlantic C-USA -6 91 1.2
UAB C-USA -6.7 92 6.8
North Texas C-USA -10.3 104 0.2
UTSA C-USA -11.4 109 -3.1
Old Dominion C-USA -11.8 111 -0.6
Florida International C-USA -13.9 115 6.3
Rice C-USA -16.8 125 -5
UTEP C-USA -20.3 129 0.5
Charlotte C-USA -21.8 130 1.1
Notre Dame Ind 18.1 11 1.5
BYU Ind 5.1 52 -0.8
Army Ind -11.1 108 4.6
Massachusetts Ind -14.2 117 4
New Mexico State Ind -17.7 127 3
Liberty Ind -19.7 128
Toledo MAC 6.2 48 -0.5
Western Michigan MAC 0.5 72 3
Ohio MAC -1.4 81 3.1
Northern Illinois MAC -1.6 82 -1.8
Bowling Green MAC -7.3 94 -6.4
Miami-OH MAC -8.2 98 5.7
Central Michigan MAC -8.6 99 -0.2
Buffalo MAC -9.8 102 1.6
Akron MAC -10.5 105 -0.8
Eastern Michigan MAC -12.2 112 6.7
Ball State MAC -13.5 114 -5.3
Kent State MAC -15.6 123 -1.3
Boise State MWC 11.2 27 0.2
San Diego State MWC 6.2 47 2.2
Utah State MWC 2.5 63 2
Colorado State MWC -0.1 77 -2.7
Air Force MWC -1 80 3
Fresno State MWC -4.3 87 1.7
Wyoming MWC -7.7 95 3.4
Nevada MWC -8.9 101 3.3
New Mexico MWC -10.2 103 1.1
San Jose State MWC -13.3 113 -2.4
Hawaii MWC -14.3 118 0.8
UNLV MWC -14.7 120 -0.2
Stanford Pac-12 17.9 12 -1.7
Washington Pac-12 17.2 13 -0.1
USC Pac-12 17 14 -2.6
Oregon Pac-12 12.6 25 -4.3
Utah Pac-12 11.9 26 1
UCLA Pac-12 10 33 -4.1
Washington State Pac-12 5.7 49 0.6
Arizona State Pac-12 5.4 50 -2.5
California Pac-12 3.4 59 2.5
Arizona Pac-12 3 61 -2.2
Colorado Pac-12 -0.3 78 0
Oregon State Pac-12 -8 97 -5.6
Alabama SEC 33 1 0.4
Georgia SEC 22.7 5 1.6
LSU SEC 22.3 6 -0.9
Auburn SEC 20.5 7 -0.3
Mississippi State SEC 16.4 16 2.5
Ole Miss SEC 16.3 17 -0.5
Florida SEC 15.9 18 2.8
Texas A&M SEC 15.4 20 0.2
Tennessee SEC 10.9 29 0.1
Missouri SEC 10.7 30 0.3
Arkansas SEC 9.2 37 0.6
South Carolina SEC 7.9 40 -1
Kentucky SEC 3.9 54 3.1
Vanderbilt SEC 0.2 76 0
Appalachian State Sun Belt 4.9 53 1.7
Arkansas State Sun Belt 0.3 74 3.5
Georgia Southern Sun Belt -3.4 84 0.3
Troy Sun Belt -3.5 85 3.4
UL-Lafayette Sun Belt -7.3 93 1.1
South Alabama Sun Belt -10.8 107 -1.5
UL-Monroe Sun Belt -13.9 116 3.1
Georgia State Sun Belt -15.2 121 2.4
Coastal Carolina Sun Belt -16.2 124 -1.1
Texas State Sun Belt -17.7 126 -0.5

A slight slip turns into a stumble in Tallahassee

In this year’s team previews, I’ll be including a chart that looks at teams’ week-to-week ratings (again, using the new S&P+ formula) over the past five years. With Florida State suffering this cycle’s largest overall slide in five-year averages, let’s see if we can spot where the Noles’ slippage began:

Okay, that was pretty easy. The Noles dipped a bit in 2017, after quarterback Deondre Francois got injured, but great defense and my increased emphasis on priors in S&P+ kept them at least in the top 20. And then last year happened.

Since moving the five-year range forward one year means basically looking at the difference between each team’s 2013 S&P+ rating (now out of the range) and its 2018 rating, FSU replaced a dominant national title run with what was, per S&P+, its worst performance since 1976. That will certainly change your baseline moving forward.

Here are the 11 Power 5 teams that saw their averages fall the most:

(Why 11 and not 10? You’ll see.)

  1. Florida State (down 7.4)
  2. Louisville (down 6.7)
  3. Oregon State (down 5.6)
  4. Kansas State (down 4.4)
  5. Oregon (down 4.3)
  6. UCLA (down 4.1)
  7. Baylor (down 3.7)
  8. North Carolina (down 3.2)
  9. USC (down 2.6)
  10. Arizona State (down 2.5)
  11. Arizona (down 2.2)

My goodness, I just listed three ACC teams ... and half the dang Pac-12. And if I expanded this list to 14 teams, I would rope in two more ACC teams (Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech) and a seventh from out west (Stanford).

It’s not news that the Pac-12 has been struggling. It’s had a team in the College Football Playoff just once in four seasons, but that’s happenstance — this proves that the issues run deeper than simply not having a 12-1 or 13-0 conference champion. Only three Pac-12 teams (Cal, Utah, and Washington State) improved their averages on this list, and only Cal did so by more than just one point. Colorado stayed the same, Washington slipped ever so slightly, and the other eight teams all regressed. That is, to put it lightly, disconcerting.

Congratulations, by the way, to Oregon State for reaching the top three of this list two years in a row. (The Beavers were No. 1 last year.) That’s a pretty stiff slide there.

Here are your top 10 improving power conference teams:

The Power 5 risers haven’t risen at the same rate that the fallers have fallen — only one of the top 13 risers hails from a power conference — but some are still changing their lot in life.

  1. Purdue (up 4.4)
  2. Kentucky (up 3.1)
  3. West Virginia (up 2.8)
  4. Florida (up 2.8)
  5. Virginia (up 2.5)
  6. Cal (up 2.5)
  7. Mississippi State (up 2.5)
  8. Iowa State (up 2.4)
  9. Michigan (up 2.2)
  10. NC State (up 2.0)

Three SEC teams, one from the Pac-12, and two each from the other three P5s. Purdue replaced a 1-11 campaign in 2013 (S&P+ ranking: 106th) with a second straight top-50 performance, which was enough to lead the way. Boiler up.

As always, this list reminds us that college football’s top tier is pretty defined.

Your last three national championship programs — Alabama (2015, 2017), Ohio State (2014), and Clemson (2016, 2018) — lead, followed by a team that’s made three of the last four CFPs (Oklahoma) and a team that made the national title game just 13 months ago (Georgia).

Still, there are below-the-surface shifts in college football’s balance of power, especially in the ACC and Pac-12.