In Search of a Breakout Season

In 2014  there were 17 Power Five conference schools that had a winning season with an LTI (explained in two previous posts) less than .70.    Coforepr supposes that any surprise challengers for a spot in the 2015 season’s four-team national playoff will come from this group.  Okay, TCU would not be a surprise because the Horned Frogs almost made it a year ago and came in at #3 in the final AP poll, but the other teams would.  Only two of them managed a Top 10 finish – Baylor at #7 and Georgia Tech at #8.
But which of the 17 are the most likely contenders?

Coforepr ranked the teams on five criteria, and points were assigned accordingly.  Best in a category was 17 points, second best 16 points, and so on.  In the case of ties, the designated points were shared equally.  For example, the best 2014 record was 12-1:  17 points.  Next was
11-2:  16 points.  But then two teams went 11-3.  These two teams combined should have received 29 points (15 + 14), so each got 14.5 points.

The criteria…
a)  returning starters…They’ve already prevailed and now they’ve got an extra year of experience under their belts.
b)  Lost Talent Index…The lower, the better.  It can’t help your 2015 effort when your 2014 MVP’s are in the NFL.
c)   2014 record…Success breeds success.
d)   2014 strength of schedule…How did your opponents perform in their other games?
The S of S for an average FBS team is .500, but that includes all of the Group of Five conferences.
e)  margin of victory/defeat in bowl game…Bowls are theoretically even match-ups, so a team’s performance is often a springboard, good or bad, into the upcoming season.

The rankings below are a composite of the five sub-rankings.  In other words, coforepr added up all the points.  Highest possible total would be 85.

UNEXPECTED CONTENDERS?
Rank    Team                                     Starters     LTI     Record     S of S    Bowl           Points
1     Tennessee                                     18           0         7-6         534.       +17               65
2     Notre Dame                                  19          .11       8-5         518.6      + 3               58.5
3     Virginia Tech                                 16          .27       7-6         519.3      +16              55
4     Texas Christian                             14          .44      12-1        502.1      +39              53.5
5     Mississippi                                    16          .32        9-4         549.3      -39              53
6     Georgia Tech                                13          .61       11-3        525.4      +15             51
7     Texas A & M                                  15          .57        8-5        536.2       +8               50
8     Oklahoma State                            16          .08       7-6         516.9       +8               49.5
9     Baylor                                             17         .39       11-2        494.7       -1               48
10   North Carolina State                     14          0           8-5        506          +7              47
11   Arizona                                           12          0          10-4       516.3       -8               44
12   Rutgers                                           10          .48        8-5        518.5      +19             42
13   Wisconsin                                      13           .698     11-3       515.4      +3 (OT)       37
14   Kansas State                                  12           .46       9-4         517          -5               35.5
15   Maryland                                       10           .36        7-6         518         -24             27.5
16   Duke                                               12           .62       9-4         487          -5              24.5
17   Boston College                                9           .40       7-6         511.2       -1 (OT)      24

Comments…
***Tennessee…From a .500 regular season to Top 10 in the country in one year?  Very possible.
***Notre Dame…Will they be better off without Golson?  Coach Kelly won’t say so, but he
believes it.
***Virginia Tech…Watch out, Urban Meyer!  Hokies will be coming after you again.
***Texas Christian…Should open the season at #2 in the polls, right behind Ohio State.
***Mississippi…Rebels would have been at the top of this list if not for that Peach Bowl drubbing at the hands of T.C.U.
***Baylor…Bears were hurt in these rankings by their weak schedule, just as they were hurt by it last year in consideration for the playoff.  But if they can find a replacement for Bryce Petty at quarterback…

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