2018 Sleeper College Football Teams

It happened again. After doing a study last year about characteristics of college football teams going from unranked to the top ten, the theory proved true again. The 2017 study can be found here. Every year there are around three teams who go from unranked to the top ten. Here are the history of teams that fit that criteria since 2010:

2010: Auburn (1), Stanford (4), and Wisconsin (7)
2011: USC (6)
2012: Ohio State (3), Notre Dame (4), Texas A&M (6), and Florida (9)
2013: Auburn (2), Michigan State (3), Missouri (5), and Central Florida (10)
2014: TCU (3), Georgia Tech (8), and Georgia (9)
2015: Stanford (3), Oklahoma (5), Houston (8), and Iowa (9)
2016: USC (3), Washington (4), and Penn State (7)
2017: Georgia (2), UCF (6), TCU (9)

Both Georgia and TCU fit the criteria to perfection and we actually guessed Georgia as one of the three teams to make the top ten. UCF is different since the criteria only applies to Power 5 teams. But, we have found a formula to track down potential Power 5 sleeper teams. It is a combination of two key areas, recruiting rankings and returning starters. And now… I give you the rules:

Rule 1- Four year recruiting average must be less than 60

Rule 2- Recruiting ranking of less than 35 for the senior class or the senior class ranking must be the highest of the four classes. If neither are the case, must have at least one top 30 class in the last four years.

Rule 3- Must have at least 13 total starters returning

The criteria cut the list from 44 unranked Power 5 teams last year to just 12. So without any more delay here are the 12 teams that statistically can go from unranked to the top ten this season ranked by recruiting rankings:

  1. Texas
  2. Texas A&M
  3. Florida
  4. Michigan
  5. Oregon
  6. South Carolina
  7. Arkansas
  8. Kentucky
  9. Missouri
  10. Arizona
  11. Texas Tech
  12. Georgia Tech

Now that we have the list here’s my three picks to make a run at the top ten:

1. Oregon Ducks

Arizona v Oregon

Not only do I have Oregon making the top ten, I think there’s a legitimate possibility of them making the College Football Playoffs. Justin Herbert is a stud and was 5-1 as a starter last year. Returning 14 starters and having a 18 four-year recruiting average, the Ducks are a prime candidate to make the top ten.

2. Michigan Wolverines

6_7637864This one kind of surprised me. Jim Harbaugh has struggled to find legitimate success at Michigan, but with 8 returning starters on defense, the defense is loaded. If Shea Patterson can just improve the offense moderately Michigan has a legitimate shot at finishing in the top ten.

3. Arizona Wildcats

6_7757094My final pick is a little out there. They have the most returning starters out of anyone on the list with 17, a new head coach Kevin Sumlin, and one of the most dynamic quarterbacks out there with Khalil Tate. They have a lower recruiting ranking, but this is a team that could surprise in a weak Pac-12 South division.

 

For the nerds out there, here’s the work:

Recruiting Rankings Elimination

SEC

2018

2017

2016

2015

4 YR AVG

1

Tennessee

20

17

14

4

13.75

2

Texas A&M

17

12

18

11

14.5

3

Florida

15

11

12

21

14.75

4

Ole Miss

31

30

5

17

20.75

5

South Carolina

18

21

25

20

21

6

Arkansas

48

27

23

22

30

7

Kentucky

37

29

33

38

34.25

8

Missouri

43

42

43

25

38.25

9

Vanderbilt

40

64

54

49

51.75

Big Ten

2018

2017

2016

2015

4 YR AVG

1

Michigan

21

5

6

37

17.25

2

Nebraska

22

23

26

30

25.25

3

Maryland

28

18

42

47

33.75

4

Iowa

41

41

47

60

47.25

5

Minnesota

38

58

46

63

51.25

6

Indiana

49

63

53

53

54.5

7

Illinois

52

45

73

48

54.5

8

Rutgers

57

43

64

57

55.25

9

Purdue

51

72

80

67

67.5

ACC

2018

2017

2016

2015

4 YR AVG

1

Florida State

11

6

2

3

5.5

2

North Carolina

23

31

35

28

29.25

3

Louisville

29

32

38

32

32.75

4

Pittsburgh

46

37

30

46

39.75

5

Duke

62

48

32

55

49.25

6

Georgia Tech

54

47

60

44

51.25

7

Syracuse

50

54

62

56

55.5

8

Virginia

60

57

63

50

57.5

9

Wake Forest

63

67

57

51

59.5

10

Boston College

69

66

78

60

68.25

Pac-12

2018

2017

2016

2015

4 YR AVG

1

UCLA

19

20

13

12

16

2

Oregon

13

19

27

16

18.75

3

Arizona State

36

35

24

20

28.75

4

Utah

34

33

37

45

37.25

5

Cal

42

73

31

34

45

6

Washington State

45

46

56

42

47.25

7

Arizona

58

44

48

43

48.25

8

Colorado

53

35

67

71

56.5

9

Oregon State

67

51

58

61

59.25

Big 12

2018

2017

2016

2015

4 YR AVG

1

Texas

3

26

6

10

11.25

2

Baylor

30

40

41

36

36.75

3

West Virginia

35

56

39

35

41.25

4

Texas Tech

73

49

44

32

49.5

5

Iowa State

55

53

55

64

56.75

6

Kansas State

71

60

72

55

64.5

7

Kansas

61

69

71

73

68.5

Returning Starters Elimination

SEC

Offense

Defense

Total

1

Tennessee

4

6

10

2

Texas A&M

7

7

14

3

Florida

10

6

16

4

Ole Miss

8

4

12

5

South Carolina

8

5

13

6

Arkansas

6

7

13

7

Kentucky

7

8

15

8

Missouri

9

6

15

Big Ten

Offense

Defense

Total

1

Michigan

6

8

14

2

Nebraska

5

7

12

3

Maryland

7

4

11

ACC

Offense

Defense

Total

1

Florida State

8

3

11

2

North Carolina

5

7

12

3

Louisville

7

2

9

4

Pittsburgh

4

7

11

5

Georgia Tech

9

6

15

Pac-12

Offense

Defense

Total

1

UCLA

4

6

10

2

Oregon

7

7

14

3

Arizona State

7

4

11

4

Washington State

4

7

11

5

Arizona

8

9

17

Big 12

Offense

Defense

Total

1

Texas

6

7

13

2

Baylor

6

5

11

3

West Virginia

7

4

11

4

Texas Tech

5

9

14

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