Is it a point of pride, downright insulting or both when it comes to being considered underrated in college football?
Being underrated implies a lack of respect.
But it’s also a wonderful motivational tool for coaches.
All this week we’ve been exploring the notions of being underrated and overrated in college football, but after this only one team will be able to claim to be the most underrated of all-time … or at least during the poll era that dates back to 1936.
The following list was painstakingly compiled by using each year’s preseason and postseason Associated Press Poll. The difference from where a team was initially projected to where it finished was measured in points, so if a team was preseason No. 1 and postseason No. 3 it scored minus-2.
The scores for every team, every year were then added up, resulting in this top-10 list.
10. Washington State: It barely edged Auburn for the final spot. Only three times have the Cougars been listed in the preseason poll, compared to 11 times in the final ranking. The coach who did it best was Mike Price (1989-2002), who in 2002 had his team all the way up to No. 3 before taking a loss in the Rose Bowl and finishing No. 10.
9. Baylor: Of the seven times Baylor was ranked in the preseason AP poll, three were from 2014-16 when the program was falling into a scandal. From 1972-92, Grant Teaff only had one team in the preseason poll, but 10 worked their way in and five finished ranked.
8. Kansas State: When Bill Snyder took over in 1989 the program was so bad that it had tried to notch all-time win No. 300 for three years (27 games) and failed. He also went 1-10 his first season, but from 1993-95 the Wildcats went from unranked to No. 20, 19 and 7 to spark the program’s heyday.
7. BYU: The Cougars had never been ranked before LaVell Edwards took over in 1972. The first six times it finished in the AP Poll, including 1984 when Brigham Young won the national championship, it began the season unranked.
6. Oregon: Although the Ducks have been playing football since 1916, they could only boast one season ranked (No. 9 in 1948) until 1994. However, since then Oregon has been a pretty big force in college football, including eight top-10 finishes.
5. Boise State: It wasn’t until the late Pokey Allen was the coach (1993-96) that the program moved up to what’s now called the Bowl Subdivision level. It was under Chris Petersen (2006-13), the only two-time recipient of the Paul “Bear” Bryant National Coach of the Year Award, that the Broncos became a perennial Top 25 team.
4. Utah: The Utes have been playing football since 1905, but only twice have they been in the preseason AP Poll, No. 20 in 2004 (when they finished No. 4) and No. 19 in 2009. Even in 2008, when Kyle Whittingham’s team finished No. 2, Utah was overlooked in the preseason rankings.
3. TCU: When Dutch Meyer’s team won the 1938 national title, few thought the Horned Frogs could run the table. Of course, they had a pretty good player named Davey O’Brien, who won the Heisman Trophy. Since 2001, when TCU was still in Conference USA, Gary Patterson’s team has finished ranked in all but six seasons.
2. Boston College: The Eagles have only been ranked in the preseason AP Poll four times, and never higher than No. 19. This is a program that has played in 23 bowl games since 1982, so the Eagles should be known for more than Doug Flutie and Frank Leahy’s two-year coaching stint prior to taking over Notre Dame.
1. Missouri: The Tigers have been ranked in the preseason AP Poll just 10 times, despite having won 12 conference championships over the years. Gary Pinkel’s 2007 team went all the way from unranked to No. 1 before taking a loss in the Big 12 Championship Game and eventually finishing No. 4. Dan Devine did nearly the exact same thing in 1960, with the lone loss having since been forfeited by Kansas for using an ineligible player.
This is the fourth in a five-part series. On Friday, the story will list the most overrated teams of all-time.