On Tuesday night, the College Football Playoff selection committee released its first top 25 of the 2016 season. There were a few surprises, most notably Texas A&M in the top four ahead of Washington, but otherwise nothing too shocking in the moment, given what we've seen in the first nine weeks of the season.
However, think back to our perceptions of teams in August. What would we have said about Wisconsin being eighth? Nebraska 10th? Penn State 12th? Colorado 15th? Perhaps most notably, what would we have said when we saw who is not in the first top 25?
Twelve of the 25 teams in the preseason AP poll are not ranked this week. That includes every team from No. 8 to No. 18 in the preseason except for Washington. Some are more surprising than others, but any team that started the year ranked -- many of which had playoff hopes -- and is outside the top 25 in November is dealing with some level of disappointment.
So what's gone wrong, and can the most disappointing seasons be salvaged?
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The Biggest Disappointments
Preseason top-25 teams that have losing records and could miss the postseason.
Preseason rank: 10
Remaining games: Navy, Army, Virginia Tech, at USC
What's gone wrong: The thrilling overtime loss at Texas to open the season ended up having no impact on rankings; it was merely a game to see which team had a better chance of achieving bowl eligibility. Last year, Notre Dame won 10 games despite dealing with horrendous injury luck, and its only regular-season losses were by two to ACC champion Clemson and two to Pac-12 champion Stanford. Even with many key players gone, the Fighting Irish looked poised to duplicate that success. They haven't been close. The defense was repeatedly burned early in the season, resulting in the firing of coordinator Brian VanGorder, and the offense has been inconsistent lately despite the talent on the offensive line (Quenton Nelson, Mike McGlinchey) and at quarterback (DeShone Kizer). All of Notre Dame's losses continue to look worse than originally thought, too: Texas, Michigan State, Duke, N.C. State and Stanford are a combined 18-22.
November outlook: The Irish have to win three of their last four games to get to six wins and bowl eligibility. The last time they went 6-6, in Charlie Weis' final season in 2009, they turned down a bowl bid. They still have a chance after surviving Miami's comeback last week, but they have only one remaining game in South Bend, against ACC Coastal leader Virginia Tech. Notre Dame has to travel to USC, who is back on the upswing, and the next two games are against military academies and their option offenses: Navy in Jacksonville and Army in San Antonio. The Irish can't afford to lose either of these games.
Preseason rank: 11
Record: 3-5 (1-4 SEC)
Remaining games: Georgia Southern, at Texas A&M, at Vanderbilt, Mississippi State
What's gone wrong: Playing the hardest schedule in the country, according to the Sagarin ratings, has backfired horribly. Ole Miss squandered double-digit first-half leads in losses to Florida State and Alabama, and it has been unable to recover. The Rebels blew out Georgia, but they've lost three straight: a close game a Arkansas, then double-digit losses to LSU and Auburn in which their run defense was gashed. The Rebels entered the season with the SEC's best returning QB in Chad Kelly, and he's been solid, but they can't run the ball or defend the run.
November outlook: Things look better than many other teams on this list. The trip to Texas A&M will be tough to win, especially given how well the Aggies have run the ball, but games against Georgia Southern, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State are all winnable, so Hugh Freeze can get the Rebels to bowl eligibility for the fifth straight year. This is undoubtedly a better Ole Miss team than its record indicates, and it has simply come up short in big games and missed chances to close out opponents like FSU and Alabama. Of course, 3-5 is 3-5, and after back-to-back major bowl appearances, it's made for a rough past year when combined with the NCAA investigation.
Preseason rank: 12
Record: 2-6 (0-5 Big Ten)
Remaining games: at Illinois, Rutgers, Ohio State, at Penn State
What's gone wrong: When the Spartans won 36-28 at Notre Dame in their second game, it looked like another landmark victory for a team coming off three straight AP top-six finishes. Michigan State has not won a game since then, while Notre Dame turned out to be one of the season's most overrated teams. The defending Big Ten champions have gone 0-5 in the Big Ten, losing to Wisconsin, Indiana, Northwestern, Maryland and Michigan, and they were also dominated by BYU. Three quarterbacks have played (freshman Brian Lewerke is now out for the season), the defense has underperformed and the running game has been inconsistent. The Spartans have regressed in every phase of the game.
November outlook: When Mark Dantonio arrived in East Lansing, the Spartans had missed the postseason three years in a row under John L. Smith. He has yet to stay home for the holidays, with nine straight bowl trips, including the Rose Bowl and two Cotton Bowls (one of which was a playoff game). Now, Michigan State has to win out just to get to the postseason, a task that feels almost impossible. Yes, they'll almost certainly notch Big Ten wins against Illinois and Rutgers, but this has not looked like a team capable of beating Ohio State or Penn State, let alone both.
Preseason rank: 16
Record: 3-5 (1-4 Pac-12)
Remaining games: at Colorado, Oregon State, USC, at California
What's gone wrong: The offensive line has been a disaster. Prized sophomore quarterback Josh Rosen has been under pressure all season, and now it's possible that his season is over, according to Bruin Report, because of his shoulder injury. He's gotten little support. No team is rushing for fewer yards than UCLA, at just 85 yards per game and 2.8 per carry. With sacks included, UCLA has been held under 100 rushing yards five times, including -1 yard against Arizona State. The defense is actually 22nd in yards per play allowed, and all five losses -- Texas A&M, Stanford, Arizona State, Washington State, Utah -- have been by single digits, but that's not going to make anybody feel better about the way this season has gone in a winnable Pac-12 South.
November outlook: This is a hard-luck team that's had its problems compounded by the inability to block. Rosen is out indefinitely, and the Bruins have to win three of four to get to avoid missing a bowl for the first time since 2010. It's hard to believe, given the amount of talent on the roster, and it's probable that they'll do no better than a 2-2 split in the final four weeks. At this point, there is absolutely no reason to rush Rosen back into the lineup.
Preseason rank: 24
Record: 3-5 (1-4 Pac-12)
Remaining games: at USC, Stanford, at Utah, at Oregon State
What's gone wrong: The problems that plagued Oregon last year got worse, particularly on defense. Mark Helfrich hired Brady Hoke as his new coordinator, and the Ducks are 106th in yards per play allowed, 125th in points allowed, 118th in yards per rush allowed and 96th in defensive passer rating. Beyond the emergence of freshman LB Troy Dye, there hasn't been much to get excited about. Offensively, the Ducks have switched QBs from Montana State transfer Dakota Prukop to freshman Justin Herbert, who has shown positive signs but just had a breakout performance against the nation's worst pass defense. That win against Arizona State snapped a five-game losing streak in which the Ducks gave up an average of 49.8 points.
November outlook: The Arizona State win was nice, but November may not be pretty. Three of four games are on the road against the Trojans, Utes and Beavers, and Oregon's defense could be a cure for Stanford's problems on offense. The Ducks should still beat Oregon State, but then again the Beavers did beat Cal and lost to Utah and Washington State by a total of nine points, so they're capable of being competitive. Oregon has gone bowling in 18 of the past 19 seasons, but winning three of four to get to six wins is unlikely, even if Herbert shows more signs of growth.
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High expectations have resulted in 4-4 starts and losing conference records entering November.
Preseason rank: 13
Record: 4-4 (2-3 Big 12)
Remaining games: at Baylor, Oklahoma State, at Texas, Kansas State
What's gone wrong: Defense was the problem early in the year, and now the offense has hit a wall, scoring a total of 58 points in the past three games against Kansas, West Virginia and Texas Tech. There were certainly hurdles entering this season, but this team still looked like it could be a Big 12 contender with a healthier defense under Gary Patterson, plus Texas A&M transfer Kenny Hill stepping in at QB in an offense that had weapons. But the Horned Frogs fell in big holes against Arkansas and Oklahoma and fell short in comeback efforts, and the past three weeks have been a mess: a 24-23 win over Kansas, a 34-10 loss to West Virginia and a 27-24 loss to Texas Tech.
November outlook: TCU should be able to win two of four to get to bowl eligibility, but the way the team played in October inspires little confidence. Hill is now being challenged at quarterback by Foster Sawyer, and there is no sure win left on the schedule, even if all four opponents are beatable.
Preseason rank: 18
Record: 4-4 (2-4)
Remaining games: at Kentucky, Auburn, UL Lafayette, Georgia Tech
What's gone wrong: Kirby Smart faced a tough first season for a variety of reasons: He's a Nick Saban protégé replacing Mark Richt, who won 75 percent of his games at Georgia and was fired after going 9-3. There were questions in the defensive front and at receiver, and the Bulldogs are rolling with a talented but raw true freshman quarterback in Jacob Eason. Plus, it does not appear that star RB Nick Chubb is playing at the same level he was before his knee injury. Throw in a massively underperforming offensive line, and this has become a brutal season. The Bulldogs beat North Carolina and won on a late TD at Missouri. They lost on a Hail Mary to Tennessee. They inexplicably lost 17-16 to Vanderbilt. And they were blown out by Ole Miss and dominated by Florida's defense.
November outlook: It's hard to imagine Georgia beating Auburn, given the way the Tigers are playing, but the other three games are winnable -- although Kentucky is somehow in second place in the SEC East and Georgia Tech is 5-3. The Bulldogs have already lost more games than Richt did last year, and they desperately need to get the running game going to make life a bit easier for Eason, who's averaging just 6.3 yards per pass attempt.
Preseason rank: NR
Record: 4-4 (2-3 Big 12)
Remaining games: at Texas Tech, West Virginia, at Kansas, TCU
What's gone wrong: Texas moved from unranked to 11th in the AP poll after the overtime win over Notre Dame that turned out to be not nearly as valuable as we thought. The Longhorns have found answers on offense under new coordinator Sterlin Gilbert, with freshman QB Shane Buechele playing well and the running game rolling behind D'Onta Foreman. But Charlie Strong had to demote defensive coordinator Vance Bedford, and the defense allowed 45-plus points in each of its first four games against Power Five opponents. No coach is under more pressure than Strong, with every game treated as a referendum on his future. He's 4-0 at home and 0-4 away from home, and while last week's upset of Baylor helps, we've learned in the past not to get too carried away with impressive Texas victories.
November outlook: That defense will be tested by Texas Tech and West Virginia the next two weeks. The Longhorns will almost certainly win at Kansas, and Foreman could have a huge day against Texas Tech. It's reasonable to believe that Texas can win at least two of those four and get back to a bowl game after missing the postseason last year. But Strong might have to do better than that to keep his job after going 11-14 his first two years.
Preseason rank: NR
Record: 4-4 (1-3 ACC)
Remaining games: Pittsburgh, at Virginia, at N.C. State, Duke
What's gone wrong: Miami played well in its first four games, but it was against an easy first month schedule that didn't tell us much. In Mark Richt's first season, the Canes moved all the way from unranked to No. 10 in the AP poll after beating Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic, Appalachian State and Georgia Tech. And then Florida State beat Miami on a blocked extra point, and everything has gone wrong. Miami has lost to FSU, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, wiping itself out of the ACC Coastal race while heading for a record that could be worse than last year's 8-5 mark. The Canes averaged 75 rushing yards per game in October, and the offensive line is struggling to protect Brad Kaaya.
November outlook: The defense has been improved this year, at least, and there are winnable games left after losing three of the past four by single digits. Winning out is unlikely, but a 3-1 finish wouldn't be impossible. The 4-4 record is a huge letdown after the early optimism, though, and the Canes need to find some semblance of a running game to finish strong.
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All Hope Is Not Lost
Minor disappointments thus far. They've fallen out of the top 25, but there's still hope for a decent finish.
Preseason rank: 8
Record: 5-3 (3-3 Pac-12)
Remaining games: Oregon State, at Oregon, at California, Rice
What's gone wrong: Despite the presence of 2015 Heisman finalist Christian McCaffrey, Stanford has scored only 17 touchdowns in eight games -- tied for the fewest TDs nationally with South Carolina and Buffalo. It ranks 108th in red-zone touchdown percentage … and has made a national-worst 15 trips into the red zone. Both Ryan Burns and Keller Chryst have played quarterback, replacing longtime starter Kevin Hogan, and Stanford ranks 117th in passer rating as a team. The Cardinal beat Kansas State, USC and UCLA to start the season, then lost three of four with six points in a 38-point loss to Washington and five points against Colorado. While defensive injuries -- particularly cornerback -- have had an impact, an offense that is 117th in yards per play is clearly the primary culprit for Stanford not having a chance to win the Pac-12 heading into November. Despite the struggles and despite an injury, McCaffrey still ranks 12th in yards from scrimmage per game, but his production is a long way off from last year.
November outlook: A difficult schedule lightens up down the stretch with four winnable games, including the Cardinal's only non-Power Five opponent: Rice, who is 1-7. After years of being one of the biggest games of the season, Stanford-Oregon has become an afterthought. Given the offensive problems, Stanford might not win out, but winning three of four to get to 8-4 heading into the bowls seems likely, and it wouldn't be the end of the world, given that the team finished 8-5 just two years ago before last year's recovery.
Preseason rank: 9
Record: 5-3 (2-3 SEC)
Remaining games: Tennessee Tech, Kentucky, Missouri at Vanderbilt
What's gone wrong: Everything over the past four weeks. Tennessee's luck ran out after a run of comeback wins (and a Hail Mary against Georgia), as it lost in overtime at Texas A&M and got crushed by Alabama. After a bye, the Volunteers were upset by South Carolina, and then coach Butch Jones confirmed that starting RB Jalen Hurd plans to transfer. A season that began with the highest expectations in over a decade is now teetering on disaster, with a two-game deficit in the SEC East behind Florida, whom the Vols beat for the first time since 2004. Injuries have been a huge problem, especially on defense. QB Joshua Dobbs is still an inconsistent passer. And the offense ranks 95th in yards per play.
November outlook: Even after the Alabama loss, there was hope because the schedule was frontloaded. And then the Vols lost to South Carolina, who has scored fewer points per game than every other FBS team. There's still hope, because Tennessee should beat all four remaining opponents. But after last Saturday, there are clearly no guarantees, and anything short of an SEC East title was bound to be considered a disappointment this year. To win the division, Tennessee needs to win out and hope Florida loses twice.
Preseason rank: 15
Record: 7-2 (4-2 AAC)
Remaining games: Tulane, Louisville, at Memphis
What's gone wrong: By no means is 7-2 with a win over Oklahoma bad for a school like Houston, but after climbing as high as No. 6, the Cougars have experienced a horrendous month. The Big 12 decided not to expand. Speculation about coach Tom Herman leaving has grown because of that, plus the early vacancy at LSU. Injuries have piled up. And the Cougars lost to both Navy and SMU while barely escaping with wins over Tulsa and UCF. Houston still has an excellent QB in Greg Ward Jr. and a defense that ranks 12th in yards per play allowed, but anything short of an American Athletic Conference title is going to be considered a disappointment.
November outlook: The Cougars will beat Tulane. Then, things gets interesting with Lamar Jackson and Louisville coming to town for a Thursday night game, following by a tricky trip to Memphis. Houston is a half game behind Navy in the AAC West, and the Midshipmen hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. There's still a path to the AAC West title, and thus still a glimmer of hope for a Cotton Bowl bid, but it's an uphill battle.
Preseason rank: 17
Record: 5-3 (3-2 Big Ten)
Remaining games: at Penn State, Michigan, at Illinois, Nebraska
What's gone wrong: The Hawkeyes were overachievers in an unbeaten regular season last year, but there was still hope for another strong first half of the season thanks to a beatable early schedule. Instead, the Hawkeyes lost to North Dakota State and Northwestern at home, and they also unsurprisingly lost to a top-10 Wisconsin team. QB C.J. Beathard hasn't played quite as well as hoped, ranking eighth in the Big Ten in passer rating, and Iowa scored only 14 points in two of its five wins. Iowa is a decent team, but perhaps this season was destined to be a letdown after the magic of 2015.
November outlook: Those early losses especially hurt because of what's still left. The Hawkeyes shouldn't have a problem beating Illinois, but Penn State, Michigan and Nebraska are a combined 21-3. Going 2-2 in the final four games should probably be considered successful, although this is a team that still wants to fight for the Big Ten West title, trailing Nebraska by just a game in the conference standings.
Preseason rank: 20
Record: 5-3 (4-2 Pac-12)
Remaining games: Oregon, at Washington, at UCLA, Notre Dame
What's gone wrong: The Trojans entered the season with what looked like the nation's toughest schedule, and it's still been difficult, even if it's not nearly as bad as it could have been (Stanford, Oregon, UCLA and Notre Dame all made this article, after all). But former interim coach Clay Helton's first full season began with a thud, as the Trojans were blown out by Alabama 52-6, didn't stand much of a chance in a 27-10 loss to Stanford and blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter to lose at Utah. USC has rebounded to win four straight games behind the impressive play of QB Sam Darnold, who replaced original starter Max Browne.
November outlook: We know there's plenty of talent on this roster, and Darnold has been sharp. Of course, three of those four wins have come against the Arizona State, Arizona and California defenses, which are all among the nation's worst statistically. It sets up an intriguing final run of games, given how much Oregon, UCLA and Notre Dame have struggled. Plus, the Trojans will try to play spoiler at Washington. Barring a collapse, Helton's job will probably be safe, but there's still a lot of pressure to take advantage of a November schedule that, beyond the Washington game, isn't nearly as bad as it could have been.