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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 have 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 (7 out of 14 last year).

Elite Programs

  • So far, in the Playoff Era (2014-2019) the selection committee has selected 20 Elite Programs and 4 Non-Elite Programs (Clemson 2015, Washington 2016, Georgia 2017, and Notre Dame 2018). That’s 83% 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 Programs 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 10.12 years.
  • Only 20 programs have been elite in 10 (roughly 1/8 of the time) of the past 84 years.
  • Only 17 programs have been elite in 21 (1/4 of the time) of the past 84 years.
  • Only 7 programs have been elite in 41 (1/2 of the time) of the past 84 years.
  • Only 5 programs have been elite in 62 (3/4 of the time) of the past 84 years (Michigan, Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma).

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 2 of that year’s WRC has won 3 of the last 6 National Championships (50%).
  • A team in the top 6 of that year’s WRC has won 12 of the past 14 National Championships (85%). Clemson, at #14, was the outlier in 2016 and 2018.
  • From 2006-2019, the average WRC ranking of a National Champion is 5.4.
  • 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 such outliers. As a fan, I’m not complaining though.

  • The current top 4 have won 4 of the last 6 National Championships.
  • The current top 10 have won the last 14 National Championships.
  • The current top 18 have won the last 22 National Championships.
  • The current top 21 have won the last 29 National Championships.

9 of the top 10 in the 2020 WRC are Elite Programs.

Elite Teams and The WRC

  • The average Elite Team WRC rank in the CFP era is 14.8.
  • 31 of the 45 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 6 of the WRC.
  • If you want to have any 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 16 of the WRC.
  • If you want to have Elite Program hopes, you need to be ranked in the top 30 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).

Head Coach Rating

Top Coaching Performances by Year 2010-2019

YearCoach of the YearTeamScore
2019P.J. FleckMinnesota22.9%
2018Dabo SwinneyClemson24.4%
2017Scott FrostUCF24.1%
2016Dabo SwinneyClemson24.4%
2015Nick SabanAlabama23.8%
2014Art Briles***Baylor23.0%
2013George O’LearyUCF24.4%
2012Nick SabanAlabama23.8%
2011Nick SabanAlabama23.8%
2010Gary PattersonTCU23.4%
*** rulebreaker