An Elite Program is a program that has had an Elite Season (aka Elite Team) once in the past 7 years AND has done any one of the following as well:
- played in the National Championship game within the past 2 years
- played in the NC game and had another elite season in the past 3 years
- won the National Championship twice in the past 5 years
- had an Elite Season 3 times in the past 5 years
- had an Elite Season 4 times in the past 10 years
- had an Elite Season 6 times in the past 20 years
- had an Elite Season 10 times in the past 30 years
Here are the current Programs that fit the above criteria and an be called Elite Programs.
In the BCS/CFP era, the average number of Elite Programs per year is 10.9. 2020’s 14 Elite Programs is tied for the most ever in any one year since 1936. I believe this number is high for two reasons: 1. The CFP has added another game between Elite Teams. With the losers of the semifinal playoff games typically ending up in the top 5 with an Elite Season, and the winners guaranteed to be an Elite Program the next two years, there is more guaranteed competition on the highest level. 2. We’re probably nearing the end of a cycle. College Football is cyclical, and while it is mathematically and perceptionally possible to have 14 EPs every year, it is almost certainly not going to last. It’s far more likely we’re going to see 4-5 teams dropping out. Speaking of teams dropping out…
Elite Program Expiration Date
Eliteness doesn’t last forever. You don’t see Army, Tennessee, Nebraska, and Michigan on the list anymore. I mentioned above about how 14 Elite Programs is likely not sustainable. A “cycle change” should be expected over the next 5 years. In fact, the 14 EPs is an indicator that it has already began. This is a good segue to the current expiration dates for the Elite Programs. According to my research, this is how many years these programs have to go without an Elite Season to lose their Elite Program status.
- Georgia, 1 Year
- Michigan State, 1 Year
- Oregon, 2 Years
- Florida State, 2 Years
- Stanford, 2 Years
- Texas, 3 Years
- USC, 4 Years
- Alabama, 6 Years
- Oklahoma, 6 Years
- LSU, 7 Years
- Auburn, 7 Years
- Florida, 7 Years
- Ohio State, 7 Years
- Clemson, 7 Years
As you can see, 5 teams can lose EP status if they don’t have an Elite Season in the next 2 years. Two of these programs, Georgia and Michigan State, will have to do it this year.
Georgia needed to have an Elite Season in in 2019 to remain an Elite Program and they got it. They are an Elite Program by virtue of playing for the Natty in 2017 and having another Elite Season in 2019. They do not yet have enough Elite Seasons racked up in the past 10 to 20 years to hold on to Eliteness for any longer than the 2020 season. So, they are right back in the same boat where they were in 2019, needing an Elite Season in 2020 to remain an Elite Program in our eyes. Their yearly matchups against Florida and Auburn are always important, but next year, they also travel to Alabama on September 19th. That could be a season defining game for both teams. Georgia will open the season two weeks earlier at home against Virginia.
After 3 Big Ten Championships and 4 Elite Seasons in 6 years from 2010-2015, Michigan State has fallen off. The resurgence of Michigan and Penn State, along with the emergence of Wisconsin, Iowa, and now Minnesota, has reduced them to a good but not great program in the Big Ten. Many would argue that they are no longer an Elite Program already, but according to my research they will still benefit from Eliteness for one more year. 2020, however, will be their last stand as far as preserving their Eliteness goes. MSU will have out-of-conference matchups at BYU and at home against Miami to go along with their yearly battles against Michigan (home), Ohio State (home), and Penn State (away). One would think it would take winning 4 out of those 5 games to have an Elite Season. I think most people outside of Lansing would bet heavily against that happening.