ESPN: Ranking all 130 college football teams in tiers for the 2021 season

MisterGopher

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Tier 7: The résumé-builders
Air Force, Appalachian State, Arkansas, Ball State, Baylor, Boston College, Buffalo, BYU, Cal, Colorado, Houston, Kansas State, Kent State, Liberty, Louisiana, Marshall, Memphis, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon State, Pitt, San Diego State, San Jose State, SMU, Stanford, Tulane, Tulsa, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest

We all know a great win when we see one. Two top-10 teams face off, one emerges a victor, and we've got ourselves a clear playoff contender. But those games actually are pretty rare. Last season, we had just nine regular-season games between top-15 teams, with only Alabama playing in more than one. In 2019, there were just 17 such games and only five teams (including all four that made the playoff) won more than one of them. That's why this tier of teams is so important. They're the solid C-plus students. These teams can help us split hairs between the elites.

It's a mistake to use "top-25 wins" on a playoff team's résumé because how much better is a win over No. 24 than one against No. 28? Identifying teams outside the top 25 that offer some measure of talent, coaching, star power or experience is critical because, while they're unlikely to make a run at the playoff, they provide real challenges to the teams that will. While Clemson, Oregon or Oklahoma might face just one other elite opponent in 2021, a steady diet of "not half-bad teams" offers its own challenges, too.

Will anyone in this group make a push for something more? Odds are, at least one will. Who saw Coastal Carolina coming last year? Or Minnesota in 2019? Or Washington State in 2018? You might want to argue for Liberty, though the Flames' 4-1 record in one-score games offers concern. They also were the only team in the playoff era to finish in the AP top 20 with an FPI ranking worse than 70th. Perhaps better cases can be made for App State (No. 26 in SP+), Virginia Tech (No. 28) or Minnesota (No. 34). And then there's BYU. The Cougars certainly weren't a one-man team in 2020, but the headline act from Zach Wilson was so impressive that it's hard to see this team repeating the performance with a new QB in 2021.

Somewhere in this mix are one or two legitimate top-20 programs and the rest likely provide cannon fodder for the elite teams looking to pad their résumés. In short, after we get past the truly interesting teams, this tier represents the rest of the top half of college football.

 

Joe Hardy

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Sorry, don’t agree with being two tiers below some other BIG schools. (Nebraska, really?) among others.
 

stocker08

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I don't understand the logic behind numbering these tiers. After the first three....there isn't really an explanation behind whether certain tiers are better or worse. Other than the last couple.
 

gophernut1

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If you look at the tiers as being teams that have a chance to make some noise in the national conversation I think you will get a lot more out of it. Tier 6 makes sense because they are national brands that have recruited well (noise can happen, but better chance it won't). Tier 4 and 5 (which one could argue we could be in) are teams with solid cores returning and/or a history of consistent winning. Minnesota had a great year 2 years ago, returns a ton of talent from 2020, but didn't show enough to prove we will make noise (yet pointed out we could). To me this is where we want to be. We haven't earned anything, but enough respect to say that we could make noise.
 

SixBySix

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But dig a little more.

At Nebraska, Frost's recruiting has been solid, with a fourth straight top-25 class set for 2021. For all the on-field shortcomings, there's a good case that Nebraska will enter the season as the most talented team in the Big Ten West. And while 2020 included some ugly performances, three of the Huskers' losses were by a TD or less.

But dig even further, and where would those classes be ranked if you remove all of the transfers/non-qualifiers they have lost over the past two years? I'd be willing to bet that they drop down right about to where we were, if not even lower.
 

MRJ

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Wow, it's gotten so bad for UConn and Kansas that they have their own tier.

Admittedly, I don't pay as much attention to programs other than the Gophers these days, but this reads like "there's dumpster fires and then there's UConn and Kansas."

Yikes.
 

MplsGopher

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Wow, it's gotten so bad for UConn and Kansas that they have their own tier.

Admittedly, I don't pay as much attention to programs other than the Gophers these days, but this reads like "there's dumpster fires and then there's UConn and Kansas."

Yikes.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_UConn_Huskies_football_seasons

UConn was always a DII and then DI-AA (FCS) team, with the rest of the New England public universities, in the Yankee conf. I think they only moved up to FBS because the Patriots were looking to get a new stadium and Connecticut agreed to build them one. They wanted UConn football to upgrade as well, and join the Big East, and play in the new stadium. They only ever got one bid to the DII or DI-AA playoffs, in 1998.

The Pats backed out, but the new stadium near Hartford was built anyway, and they decided to just have it go with UConn Big East football, which they did.

Tied for Big East championship in 2007 and 2010. Got the Big East BCS bid in 2010, lost fairly badly to Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. In the ten seasons since then, they've never won more than 6 games. Won 6 once, 5 twice, and the rest have been 3 or less. Didn't even play a season in 2020.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Kansas_Jayhawks_football_seasons

Kansas has had only a smattering of successful years. Glen Mason had a couple nice years, finished ranked #10 and in a three-way tie for 2nd place in the Big 8 back in 1995.

Then Mangino had that crazy 2007 year, finished 12-1 and won the Orange Bowl. Only lost to the even slightly more crazy year of Missouri. But he never won more than 8 games outside that year.

Since the 2010 season -- 11 seasons -- they haven't won more than 3 games.
 

MNVCGUY

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I don't understand the logic behind numbering these tiers. After the first three....there isn't really an explanation behind whether certain tiers are better or worse. Other than the last couple.

I think that is pretty much how you have to view it. First couple tiers are kind of in order as to where their rankings might be as well. After that it is more of a jumble with teams grouped but not really in any sort of particular order.
 

MNVCGUY

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And we're back to national media thinking we're nobody.

Not how I took that at all. Right in that section it mentions there are a few legit top 20 teams in the tier we are in.

But Nationally we are still very much in the prove it phase. 2019 was great but it is going to take multiple years like that for us to be truly seen as a legit force.
 

Word

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Not how I took that at all. Right in that section it mentions there are a few legit top 20 teams in the tier we are in.

But Nationally we are still very much in the prove it phase. 2019 was great but it is going to take multiple years like that for us to be truly seen as a legit force.
We're in the same tier as Ball State....
 

BigGopher69

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horrible list Minnesota is a much higher tier then half the teams on there. Ball State, San Jose State, Tulsa, Tulane Really ESPN? What a trash list
 

MplsGopher

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Tulsa has had a nice couple years, in the American. Ball State won the MAC over Buffalo and its bowl game over San Jose St, which had an incredible year up to that point, winning the MWC in undefeated fashion. Tulane is the odd one on that list.
 

kisarazu

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horrible list Minnesota is a much higher tier then half the teams on there. Ball State, San Jose State, Tulsa, Tulane Really ESPN? What a trash list
Hey, Ball State's only loss was to Miami (Ohio) and San Jose State's only loss was to Ball State. That's uh something. Their combined wins against P5 the past two years have been... uhh 1 (against the dumpster fire Arkansas). :unsure:
 

MNVCGUY

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We're in the same tier as Ball State....

I think people are getting hung up on this being some kind of ranking like top 25. My impression is that the Author tried to group teams in similar situations. National people aren't going to fully buy in until we have a few years of sustained high level success.

The tier we got put in for this story is the fringe top 25 teams. Some will do more and some will do less. While I think arguments could be made this is not the right tier for us I can understand why a National writer would see us that way.
 

pk2

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Air Force, Appalachian State, Arkansas, Ball State, Baylor, Boston College, Buffalo, BYU, Cal, Colorado, Houston, Kansas State, Kent State, Liberty, Louisiana, Marshall, Memphis, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon State, Pitt, San Diego State, San Jose State, SMU, Stanford, Tulane, Tulsa, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest

If I counted correctly, there are 29 schools on this list. Let’s say we could have a round-robin tournament in 2021, with all 29 teams, at a neutral site, with no fans allowed. What’s your prediction for the Gophers’ record?

Or perhaps we could have tiers within this tier. Teams the Gophers would definitely beat, teams they would definitely lose to, and toss-ups.

Call me provincial, but with BYU’s Wilson declaring for the NFL draft, I don’t see a “definite loss” on that list.
 

BTChamp

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Air Force, Appalachian State, Arkansas, Ball State, Baylor, Boston College, Buffalo, BYU, Cal, Colorado, Houston, Kansas State, Kent State, Liberty, Louisiana, Marshall, Memphis, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon State, Pitt, San Diego State, San Jose State, SMU, Stanford, Tulane, Tulsa, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest

If I counted correctly, there are 29 schools on this list. Let’s say we could have a round-robin tournament in 2021, with all 29 teams, at a neutral site, with no fans allowed. What’s your prediction for the Gophers’ record?

Or perhaps we could have tiers within this tier. Teams the Gophers would definitely beat, teams they would definitely lose to, and toss-ups.

Call me provincial, but with BYU’s Wilson declaring for the NFL draft, I don’t see a “definite loss” on that list.
I see an undefeated 28-0 season. First time in history. C'mon PJ make it happen.

Honestly though, of course I can see potential to losing to some of them, but I'm on that cliff of thinking 2019 is to be expected and 2020 was that low dip of PJs success chart. Not 11 wins every year, but being disappointed without 11 is ok. I like that feeling. I haven't had that feeling in now 49 years on this planet.
 

BTChamp

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But dig even further, and where would those classes be ranked if you remove all of the transfers/non-qualifiers they have lost over the past two years? I'd be willing to bet that they drop down right about to where we were, if not even lower.
You're hitting on a subject that is a lot more important than a lot of people realize. Transfers. I know "what ifs were candy and nuts", but what if Pinckney and Wright were signed out of high school? Dew Treadway? St. Juste? Signing classes are ultra important, but with the new wave of transfers, and the massive amount of change moving forward, maybe need to rethink how to rank classes. Not saying change anything, but maybe factor transfers in?
 

Nax5

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Did we expect more?

One trip to the Outback Bowl a year ago /= great hype.
Man, I hope 2019 wasn't a flash-in-the-pan. It's actually easier to just be mediocre for years and years. But then to taste success for once...Don't take it away! :LOL:
 

A_Slab_of_Bacon

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Man, I hope 2019 wasn't a flash-in-the-pan. It's actually easier to just be mediocre for years and years. But then to taste success for once...Don't take it away! :LOL:
I hope so too.

I just wouldn't expect national attention until we do it more often.
 

MNVCGUY

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You're hitting on a subject that is a lot more important than a lot of people realize. Transfers. I know "what ifs were candy and nuts", but what if Pinckney and Wright were signed out of high school? Dew Treadway? St. Juste? Signing classes are ultra important, but with the new wave of transfers, and the massive amount of change moving forward, maybe need to rethink how to rank classes. Not saying change anything, but maybe factor transfers in?

Totally agree that the addition of transfers can change the dynamic of a class but think it would be tough to re-rank the classes with them factored in. In large part because the rankings for grad transfers would be based on an evaluation that was 4-5 years old and probably not really valid.

Take a guy like Gibbons for example - he doesn't have a ranking on 247 so he would hurt our class or a guy like Shaw who was a .79 out of high school but has been a two year starter so clearly would be ranked higher than that now. In order to include transfers in rankings they would basically need to give them all new rankings and I highly doubt the recruiting sites want to open that can of worms.
 

BTChamp

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Totally agree that the addition of transfers can change the dynamic of a class but think it would be tough to re-rank the classes with them factored in. In large part because the rankings for grad transfers would be based on an evaluation that was 4-5 years old and probably not really valid.

Take a guy like Gibbons for example - he doesn't have a ranking on 247 so he would hurt our class or a guy like Shaw who was a .79 out of high school but has been a two year starter so clearly would be ranked higher than that now. In order to include transfers in rankings they would basically need to give them all new rankings and I highly doubt the recruiting sites want to open that can of worms.
Yeah I was somewhat shit faced when I wrote that so I wasn't exactly thinking about reranking classes or anything, but was just trying more to support the previous comment about how transfers can make a change. I think they do have overall program rankings. Maybe that's where transfer worth would come into play. I don't know. It's not an exact science by any means but just interesting to look into.
 
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