Ranking the Most Overrated Teams in College Foootball
There has been no shortage of parity in this year's college football season, with favorites in the Big Ten and Big 12 conference both losing early as the SEC continues to be a week-in, week-out battle.
The Group of Five conferences have also experienced some surprising upheaval. One of the nation's top mid-major teams has fallen short of expectations, while others like Coastal Carolina and Liberty have come out of nowhere.
With all of that in mind, we set out to rank the five most overrated teams in college football based on their performance so far relative to preseason expectations. To that point, each team's position in the preaseason AP poll is included for reference.
All five teams are now unranked in the AP Top 25 after entering the season prominently featured in the national landscape. That means you won't find Auburn and Oklahoma on the list, among others, since they have both regained some momentum and clawed back into the rankings.
Let's get to it.
5. UCF Knights
Preseason AP Poll Rank: 21
What Went Wrong?
After a 10-3 season in 2019, UCF was one of just two Group of Five teams ranked in the preseason AP poll, checking in one spot behind Cincinnati at No. 21.
It's not hard to see why expectations were high.
Quarterback Dillon Gabriel threw for 3,653 yards and 29 touchdowns as a true freshman, and the season ended on a high note with a 48-25 victory over Marshall in the Gasparilla Bowl.
With ample returning talent, the Knights looked poised to battle with Cincinnati, Memphis and SMU in an impressive collection of AAC teams.
Convincing road wins over Georgia Tech (49-21) and East Carolina (51-28) had them up to No. 11 in the AP poll heading into their third game, but they suffered an upset loss to Tulsa for the second year in a row.
That was followed by a one-point loss to Memphis, effectively dropping them out of the national picture as a two-loss AAC team without a signature win.
They'll have a chance to shake things up against undefeated Cincinnati on Nov. 21, but their hopes of landing a New Year's Six bowl have been dashed.
4. North Carolina Tar Heels
Preseason AP Poll Rank: 18
What Went Wrong?
Prior to Notre Dame linking up with the ACC for the 2020 season, it looked like North Carolina had the best chance of giving Clemson a run for conference supremacy.
Quarterback Sam Howell was poised to improve after a brilliant freshman season in which he threw for 3,641 yards and 38 touchdowns, and he had a pair of 1,000-yard receivers back in Dazz Newsome and Dyami Brown.
On the defensive side, standout linebacker Chazz Suratt also returned to lead the way, and all signs pointed to a Tar Heels squad that was ready to make some noise on a national level.
Instead, a pair of three-point losses loom large.
Two weeks ago, they lost 44-41 on the road to a Virginia team that was mired in a four-game losing streak, failing to capitalize on a 443-yard, four-touchdown performance from Howell. That knocked them out of the rankings and likely ended their hopes of nabbing a marquee bowl game.
The emergence of a rushing attack that is averaging 239.4 yards per game and 5.6 yards per carry has been a positive, with Javonte Williams piling up 767 yards and 14 touchdowns on the year.
However, the team as a whole has fallen short of expectations, failing to take the significant step forward many were expecting.
3. Michigan Wolverines
Preseason AP Poll Rank: 16
What Went Wrong?
Jim Harbaugh has had the Michigan Wolverines on the doorstep of national title contention more than once during his time as head coach, leading the team to three 10-win seasons in his time at the helm.
However, when the dust settles, his teams have often been more hype than substance, and that is the case once again here in 2020.
The Wolverines tacked 49 points and 478 total yards on a ranked Minnesota team in their opener, and just like that they were knocking on the door for a spot inside the Top 10 in the AP poll once again.
However, things have rapidly deteriorated in the weeks since, with losses to Michigan State (27-24) and Indiana (38-21) sending them tumbling out of the rankings.
They rushed for 13 yards on 18 carries against the Hoosiers on Saturday, heaping a ton of pressure on first-year starter Joe Milton to air it out in a passing game that simply hasn't clicked. On the other end of the field, the defense allowed 912 yards in those two losses while failing to force a turnover.
A lot of fingers can be pointed in a lot of different directions, but this Michigan team just isn't very good.
2. LSU Tigers
Preseason AP Poll Rank: 6
What Went Wrong?
The LSU Tigers had a record-tying 14 players selected in the 2020 NFL draft from their national championship team, including Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow at No. 1 overall and four other first-round picks—K'Lavon Chaisson (No. 20 overall), Justin Jefferson (No. 22 overall), Patrick Queen (No. 28 overall) and Clyde Edwards-Helaire (No. 32 overall).
Despite that mass exodus, the general consensus was that there was still enough talent on the roster for them to be a serious threat in the SEC West.
A 44-34 loss in their opener against Mississippi State in which they allowed an absurd 623 passing yards to K.J. Costello served as a rude awakening, and they suffered their third loss of the season two weeks ago in a 48-11 blowout against Auburn.
The quarterback play has been good enough filling the big shoes that Burrow left behind, but the running game has averaged a middling 3.5 yards per carry, and the team has become one-dimensional as a result. Meanwhile, the defense is surrendering 478.6 yards per game, up from a stout 344.3 yards per contest a year ago.
There's no reason to believe the Tigers will be down for long, but with a 2-3 record, this is already a lost season for a squad that began the year inside the Top 10 with hopes of a repeat.
1. Penn State Nittany Lions
Preseason AP Poll Rank: 7
What Went Wrong?
Even after All-American linebacker Micah Parsons opted out of the 2020 season, Penn State still looked like the biggest potential threat to overthrow Ohio State atop the Big Ten.
Dual-threat quarterback Sean Clifford returned behind an experienced offensive line, Journey Brown was set to anchor the running game after an 890-yard, 12-touchdown season last year, and standout tight end Pat Freiermuth was poised to build on a stellar sophomore campaign that some him crack 500 receiving yards and haul in seven scores.
The defense lost some key starters even before Parsons opted out, but there was enough talent on the roster to believe others could fill the void.
Instead, they are 0-3 after a 35-19 loss to Maryland on Saturday in which they looked absolutely lost, turning over the ball three times and falling behind 35-7 before a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns.
Clifford is completing just 56.6 percent of his passes with five interceptions, and the defense has been unable to even the scales, leading to a minus-five turnover differential through three games.
Their next game is against a Nebraska team that is also searching for its first win, and the Nittany Lions are just playing for respect at this point.
All stats courtesy of Sports Reference.