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Fact List

Elite Teams (aka Elite Seasons)

Historically, Non-Elite programs are running uphill to have an Elite Season and Elite Programs are running downhill to field one. 

  • Since 1994, the average FBS team has an Elite Season about 4% of the time.
  • Since 1994, Elite Programs have an Elite Season about 41% of the time (4 out of 13 last year).

Elite Programs

  • So far, in the Playoff Era (2014-2018) the selection committee has selected 16 Elite Programs and 4 Non-Elite Programs (Clemson 2015, Washington 2016, Georgia 2017, and Notre Dame 2018). That’s 80% Elite Programs.
  • No team has been selected for the College Football Playoff without either being an Elite Program or defeating one that season. Clemson 2015 (1), Washington 2016 (3), Georgia 2017 (2), and Notre Dame 2018 (3) all had to go through Elite Programs to get there.
  • From 1998-2013, the BCS NCG also chose 80% Elite Programs and only selected 2 programs that had never been elite before out of 32 teams over 16 years (Virginia Tech 1999, Oregon 2010). 39 programs (of 130) can lay claim to being elite at one time or another in the past 83 seasons.
  • Michigan is the winningest program in college football history so, it is no surprise that they have also been an Elite Program more often than any other program (67 years). Interestingly though, their run as an Elite Program came to an end in 2010 and their last elite season was under Lloyd Carr all the way back in 2003.
  • By current conference alignment: 8 ACC teams (9 with Notre Dame), 8 SEC teams, 9 Big Ten teams, 6 Pac 12 teams, and 4 Big 12 teams have been Elite Programs since 1936.

College football is cyclical

Every team goes through ups and downs. Consistent eliteness over the past 83 years is very rare.

  • Once a program becomes an Elite Program, the average tenure is 9.96 years.
  • Only 19 programs have been elite in 10 (roughly 1/8 of the time) of the past 83 years.
  • Only 17 programs have been elite in 21 (1/4 of the time) of the past 83 years.
  • Only 7 programs have been elite in 41 (1/2 of the time)of the past 83 years.
  • Only 4 programs have been elite in 62 (3/4 of the time) of the past 83 years (Michigan, Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State).

Weighted Recruiting Composite

WRC and the Natty

Star rating of one individual player may not matter as much, but team talent level matters a lot.

  • A team in the top 4 of that year’s WRC has won 6 of the last 8 National Championships (The two outliers are both Clemson in 2016 and 2018).
  • A team in the top 6 of that year’s WRC has won 11 of the past 14 National Championships.
  • From 2006-2018, the average WRC ranking of a National Champion is 5.3.
  • The lowest a National Champion has been ranked is 14th (Clemson 2016 and 2018).

The 2019 WRC

One aspect of the Eliteness Effect is recruiting. Nothing helps your staying power more than getting to the top of the mountain. (Note: Clemson is really messing up my perfect score here as their two NCs are the primary outliers. As a fan, I’m not complaining though.)

  • The top 3 have won 3 of the last 5 National Championships.
  • The top 7 have won 8 of the last 10 National Championships.
  • The top 14 have won the last 17 National Championships.
  • The top 26 have won the last 28 National Championships.

The 2019 Top 8 are all Elite Programs.

Elite Teams and The WRC

  • The average Elite Team WRC rank in the CFP era is 13.9.
  • 25 of the 34 Elite Teams in the CFP era were ranked in the top 14.

Team Expectations Based on Their WRC Ranking

  • If you want to have legitimate National Championship expectations, you need to be ranked in the top 5 of the WRC.
  • If you want to have HOPES of winning the National Championship, you need to be ranked in the top 14 of the WRC.
  • If you want to have Elite Program expectations (field three Elite Teams over 5 years), you need to be ranked in the top 14 of the WRC.
  • If you want to have Elite Program hopes, you need to be ranked in the top 23 of the WRC.
  • If you want to have Elite Team expectations in the CFP era, you need to be ranked in the top 14 of the WRC.
  • If you want to have Elite Team hopes in the CFP era, you need to be ranked in the top 73. The lowest ranked Elite Teams: UCF ’17 (73), Baylor ’14 (38), TCU ’14 (37).

CFB Team Tier System

In this post we will take a look at the tiers below the Elite Level. All 130 teams in the FBS fall into one of six tiers that are based on the same principles (Collective Opinion/ Circle of Proof) used to find the Elite Teams. Here are the six tiers from strongest to weakest:

  • Elite Teams
  • Big Boy Football Teams
  • Fringe Top 25 Teams
  • Mediocre Teams
  • Weak Teams
  • Bottom Feeders

We’ll start with the tier below the Elite Teams, Big Boy Football. Like the term “Elite” and its usage within the college football lexicon, I also set out to define some other terms that are also oft used. So, what exactly is the “Big Boy Football?”

Big Boy Football Teams (2nd Tier) are the non-elite teams in the Final AP Top 15 and any Top 25 Team that has defeated a Top 15 Team.

From time to time, I will use the term “Big Boy Football” or “Big Boy or Better” as a descriptive term in an article. Now you will know exactly what I mean.

Fringe Top 25 Teams (3rd Tier). This tier includes the remaining teams in the Final AP Top 25 and any team with a winning record that has defeated a Final AP Top 25 Team.

Mediocre Teams (4th Tier) are any team left with a winning record (or any team with a .500 record that has beaten an FBS team with a winning record). Collective Opinion now becomes tied to a team’s record with one simple question: winner or loser?

Every year, there is a tier that has more teams than normal. Last year it was “Weak Teams.” The year before that it was “Fringe 25 Teams.” This year, it is “Mediocre Teams.” In fact, at 50 teams, this is the highest number of “Mediocre Teams” ever.

Weak Teams (5th Tier) are any team left with a .500 record or any team with a losing record that has defeated an FBS team with a winning record. These are your losers with a pulse. They have proven they can beat a winning team, but most of the time, they fall short.

Bottom Feeders (6th and Bottom Tier) are teams that have a losing record and did not beat an FBS team with a winning record.

The Tiers and The Snapshots

Snapshot” is the term I use for taking a selected amount of years and assigning a national program ranking based on the “Elite Teams and Tiers” Point System. This post features 2-year rankings (the year listed plus the previous year).

Here is the point system for tiers:

  • 5 points – National Champion.
  • 4 points – National Championship Game Participant.
  • 3 Points – Elite Season (Any team that finishes in the Top 5 of the Final AP Poll or any team in the Top 15 that has defeated another Elite Team).
  • 2 Points – Big Boy Season (the non-elite top 15 teams in the final AP Poll and any top 25 team that has defeated a top 15 team).
  • 1 point – Fringe Top 25 Season (Any team left in the top 25 or has a winning record and has defeated a top 25 team).
  • 0 Points – Mediocre Season (any team left with a winning record or any team with a .500 record that has beaten an FBS team with a winning record).
  • -1 Points – Weak Season (Any team left with a .500 record or a team with a losing record that has beaten an FBS team with a winning record).
  • -2 Points – Bottom Feeder (A team with a losing record that has not beaten an FBS team with a winning record)

HCR

The HCR is only a few years old and I am still compiling data. So far, a coach ranked in the top 5 the previous year wins the National Championship the next year. Of course, that’s because Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney have won the last 4 NCs, so that probably won’t hold.