The big news in college football over the weekend was the release of the preseason AP Top 25. Predictably, Boston College wasn't included, though five ACC teams were -- Virginia Tech, Miami, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Florida State.
The Eagles have a lot of things going for them heading into the 2010 season. BC has a very favorable schedule that features four straight home games to open the season, and only two teams ranked in the preseason AP Top 25. They return a 1,500-yard rusher, a journeyman quarterback that, while he struggled, did throw for over 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns as a true freshman. BC also has one of the best offensive lines in the nation and with the return of All-American linebacker Mark Herzlich, features one of, if not the best linebacking corps in the conference.
Yet the press doesn't like the Eagles chances in 2010. Just one vote, coming from the most unlikely of voters -- Kirk Herbstreit of ESPN and WBNS-AM Columbus, Ohio fame. Your fruit basket is in the mail, Kirk.
I can't say I didn't see this coming. The Eagles have finished the season ranked in the Top 25 five of the last 10 years, yet only started one of those five seasons ranked in the preseason poll (2005, at number 22). And as expected, the Eagles bested preseason expectations that year, too, finishing the year ranked No. 18 in the final AP poll.
In program history, the Eagles have only started the season ranked in the preseason AP Top 25 four times -- in 1984, 1993, 1995 and '05. However, after the press lets teams, you know, play all the games, the AP has deemed BC one of the country's 25 best teams on fourteen occasions. The last time the Eagles finished in the final AP Top 25 was 2007, when quarterback Matt Ryan led the Eagles to an 11-3 record and a victory in the Champs Sports Bowl over Michigan State.
This got me thinking. Is there any program in college football more unappreciated by the AP than the Boston College Eagles?
Relying heavily on data from the College Poll Archive, I took a look at the entire history of the AP Top 25 -- both preseason and postseason. I wanted to take a somewhat science-y look at how Boston College has been slighted by the AP.
Comparing the number of times a program was featured in the preseason Top 25 against the final Top 25 poll, you get a better idea of the programs that finish in the Top 25 much more often than starting there.
Here's the top five programs that finish in the AP's Top 25 more often than they start in the Top 25 (preseason appearances / postseason appearances / delta).
1. Michigan Wolverines -- 43 -- 55 -- 12
1. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets -- 12 -- 24 -- 12
3. Boston College Eagles -- 4 -- 14 -- 10
4. Missouri Tigers -- 7 -- 16 -- 9
4. Minnesota Golden Gophers -- 5 -- 14 -- 9
4. Washington St. Cougars -- 2 -- 11 -- 9
As expected, BC's 10 season differential was the third highest of all FBS programs, behind only Michigan and Georgia Tech. Just for fun, you can take the opposite view and see who's getting a disproportionate amount of love from the AP in the preseason. The top five:
1. Ohio St. Buckeyes -- 56 -- 50 -- (6)
1. Washington Huskies -- 28 -- 22 -- (6)
3. USC Trojans -- 49 -- 44 -- (5)
3. UCLA Bruins -- 35 -- 30 -- (5)
3. Florida St. Seminoles -- 31 -- 26 -- (5)
3. Arizona St. Sun Devils -- 20 -- 15 -- (5)
Here, big state school, brand name football programs dot the list of most over-appreciated. BC fans have certainly grown used to the preseason hype surrounding their Atlantic Division rivals Florida State.
The above lists just show how many times each of these programs finished in the Top 25, without regard to where they placed in the poll. If you take the difference between the average rank both pre- and postseason, you get a sense of what programs annually beat the AP's expectations, and which ones fall short.
Here's the top five for teams that have finished in the AP Top 25 at least five times (and started there more than once, with deference to Southern Miss, Colorado State and Miami, Ohio). Below you'll find the program's average preseason ranking followed by an average postseason ranking and the difference between the two.
1. Utah Utes -- 19.50 -- 11.00 -- (8.50)
2. Boise St. Broncos -- 18.67 -- 10.50 -- (8.17)
3. Boston College Eagles -- 21.00 -- 15.29 -- (5.71)
4. Kansas Jayhawks -- 17.83 -- 12.29 -- (5.54)
5. Arizona St. Sun Devils -- 16.45 -- 11.13 -- (5.32)
Again, BC is the third best performer when it comes to beating the AP's preseason expectations. Interestingly, while Arizona State made the over-appreciated list above, on average the Sun Devils beat their average preseason AP ranking by over five spots.
And again for fun, here's a look at the top 5 under-achievers:
1. Mississippi Rebels -- 8.53 -- 12.00 -- 3.47
2. Oregon St. Beavers -- 10.50 -- 13.33 -- 2.83
3. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets -- 10.17 -- 12.46 -- 2.29
4. Michigan Wolverines -- 7.12 -- 9.15 -- 2.03
5. Louisville Cardinals -- 13.00 -- 14.86 -- 1.86
Interesting to note that the two programs that finished above BC in total AP Top 25 postseason finishes land on this list. On average, both Michigan and Georgia Tech finish in the AP Top 25 two spots lower than where they started.
So there you have it. Boston College is one of the least loved programs by the AP in the preseason. It's a fact. Proven by science.
Don't be shocked if you see BC again ranked when the AP comes out with its final Top 25 poll in mid-January.
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