Which five teams managed to be the most surprising of 2017? There were a whole slew of great ones, but these were the most impressive five.
Daily Five: 2017’s Most Surprising Teams
There were some amazing stories this season, from Iowa State, to North Texas, to Memphis, Boise State and Purdue. But to be among the five most surprising teams of 2017, you had to make a massive jump.
How is this done? It starts with where the teams were put in the 2017 CFN Preseason Rankings – based on opinions, beliefs, and how good the teams were supposed to be.
And then, that ranking goes against what actually happened and how the season played out, with the final rankings according to our 2017 CFN Historical Season Formula Rankings – objective, and not based on opinions.
Basically, it’s what we missed. We didn’t quite see these five teams coming – to put it mildly.
5. Army (10-3)
2017 CFN Preview Ranking: 96
From the Preview: What Army does well, it does as well as anyone in the country. What it does poorly, it does as poorly as anyone in the country. Expect another bowl season – and maybe another win over Navy.
2017 CFN Historical Season Ranking: 18
We got the bowl season and the win over Navy thing right, but missed on just how good the Knights really were, especially defensively. They lost to Ohio State on the road – no shame there – and the losses on the road to Tulane and North Texas were by a total of seven points. They turned out to be just that good – at least, they were that good doing what they do.
4. UAB (8-5)
2017 CFN Preview Ranking: 130
From the Preview: It’s not like the program was rocking and rolling before going away, and now it’s starting from scratch.
2017 CFN Historical Season Ranking: 52
There were a few UAB die-hards who bothered us throughout last offseason saying their team would end up going bowling. Yeah, right – after two years off from playing football? HA! … And UCF was going going to finish as the only unbeaten team in college football.
But the Blazers were terrific in a few good tight games, and not just among the dregs, either. They managed to beat four teams that finished with winning records in a stretch of five wins in six games.
3. UCF (13-0)
2017 CFN Preview Ranking: 80
From the Preview: Scott Frost’s team has enough returning talent at some key spots to improve, but after not beating anyone who’s any good, the Knights have to start winning the bigger games.
2017 CFN Historical Season Ranking: 1
To be fair, at least for a while, the idea that UCF couldn’t beat the better teams seemed to be relatively valid. After all, it struggled and stunk against the good ones in 2016 and … whatever. The Knights were incredible from the start.
The win over Auburn in the Peach Bowl legitimized everything else the Knights did, including starting out 12-0 with an American Athletic title. Beating Memphis twice was fine, surviving USF was solid, and beating Navy way good, but taking down the team that beat the two teams in the College Football Playoff National Championship?
2. Fresno State (10-4)
2017 CFN Preview Ranking: 103
From the Preview: Jeff Tedford can only do so much in his first season. The passing game should shine right away, but the D won’t stop anyone.
2017 CFN Historical Season Ranking: 23
The passing game was okay under Tedford, but that defense turned into something amazing. The O scored 168 more points than it did in 2016, the defense allowed 120 fewer points, and the team won nine more games after failing to beat an FCS team in 2016.
After winning just ten games in its previous three seasons, Fresno State ripped off ten wins in one season with a bowl victory over Houston. There was a clunker against UNLV, but the other three losses were to Alabama, Washington, and Boise State – all on the road.
1. Florida Atlantic (11-3)
2017 CFN Preview Ranking: 97
From the Preview: Lane Kiffin really is a great coach, but he’ll also be Kiffin – get ready for the circus, good and bad. The offense and running game should be fantastic.
2017 CFN Historical Season Ranking: 12
That went well.
Within reason, could Florida Atlantic have ever dreamed of anything more amazing than what happened in Lane Kiffin’s first year?
FAU didn’t just rip off ten straight wins to close things out. It didn’t just win the Conference USA Championship. It didn’t just roll through its bowl game 50-3. It didn’t just go to a bowl game in the first place. It didn’t just win more games than it did in its previous three years. It didn’t just rip through everything in its path – beating everyone by double-digits after the 1-3 start.
It did it with pizzazz.
It did it with Lane Kiffin being Lane Kiffin.