It’s been two weeks since Clemson dramatically was crowned champions of the College Football Playoff over Alabama, putting a close on the 2016 season. The dust is settled and recruiting pushes are the focus across the country, but how about one final look back at what happened last season?
I’m a devoted follower of S&P+, which measures a team’s efficiency, explosiveness, field position, drive finishing and turnovers (it’s pretty intuitive; for a brief primer click here, for a full glossary, click here). I generally use S&P+ rankings as a way to see which teams did the things necessary to be successful, though they don’t tell the whole story — a few bad fourth quarters, strange coaching decisions and/or special teams gaffes can skew a team’s record down, for example (see: Notre Dame).
So let’s take a quick look at which teams over-performed their S&P+ ranking:
West Virginia (S&P+: 29, final record: 10-3)
The Mountaineers were the lowest-ranked 10-win Power 5 team by S&P+, and their No. 29 ranking put them behind two sub-.500 teams that we’ll get to later.
Georgia (S&P+: 68, final record: 8-5)
Georgia finished one spot ahead of fellow SEC East side Mizzou, which went 4-8. The Bulldogs won two games they were expected to lose by S&P+ (over Mizzou and Auburn).
Boston College (S&P+: 86, final record: 7-6)
Steve Addazio’s dudes were the lowest-ranked Power 5 team to finish with a record over .500 and finished only two spots ahead of 2-10 Virginia.
And now, the underperformers:
LSU (S&P+: 4, final record: 8-4)
By S&P+, LSU did the things necessary to get them into the College Football Playoff, though they didn’t show up in three of their five games against top-15 opponents (even if those games resulted in close losses). For a team that changed coaches mid-season, though, eight wins sounds about right.
Notre Dame (S&P+: 26, final record: 4-8)
Seven of Notre Dame’s eight losses came by eight points or fewer, and the toxic combination of awful early-season defense (in losses to Texas, Michigan State and Duke), brutal special teams mistakes (in losses to Michigan State, Duke and N.C. State), head-scratching coaching decisions (in losses to N.C. State, Stanford and Navy) and second-half nosedives (in losses to Stanford and Virginia Tech) were the perfect recipe for a team that did enough things right to at least make a bowl game finishing with an embarrassing 4-8 record.
Ole Miss (S&P+: 27, final record: 5-7)
Ole Miss had a greater than 50 percent win expectancy against Alabama (63 percent) and Arkansas (70 percent) and lost both games. But the Rebels’ final three games were horrid, with win expectancies of 18 percent, zero percent and zero percent against Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.