In college football, each team plays only a dozen regular-season games and luck can play a significant role in the outcome of many of them. For the most part, successful seasons are the product of dominant and efficient offensive and defensive performances throughout the year. But some team records are heavily influenced by other factors.
As part of our drive-based FEI ratings analysis at Football Outsiders, we calculate the value of non-offensive factors such as special teams and field position that can have a disproportionate impact on the outcome of certain games. Some turnovers mean more than others. Some teams lost close games at an unusually high rate.
Call it bad fortune or bad luck, but some teams underachieved this season based on these opportunistic factors. And the pendulum may swing in their favor next year -- the top two teams we named as unluckiest in 2012, Michigan State and Oklahoma State, combined to win 22 games in 2013.
Here are five teams that were among the unluckiest in 2013, the programs that could have had a very different season if not for a few key breaks.
Wisconsin Badgers (9-3)
Unlike the other unlucky teams on this list, the Badgers had a very successful season and will play in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1. But they still qualify as unlucky according to our analysis because of their 0-3 record in close games, including a controversial two-point loss to Arizona State in which the Badgers were denied an opportunity to attempt a game-winning field goal because of a situation botched by the refs and by Wisconsin. Two weeks later, the Badgers lost by seven points on the road at Ohio State, a game in which the Buckeyes had a 10.5-point advantage on field position alone.