Projecting a college football season isn't a perfect science. For all the data we can collect and analyze at Football Outsiders, there are many more variables that will play out during a 12-game season that never can be accurately predicted.
According to our data, about one of every five or six games played each season is won by the team ranked lower in our team efficiency ratings, a frequency that is consistent with most other college rating systems and polls. That means that during a 12-game season, most teams likely will lose at least once to a weaker opponent and win at least once against a stronger opponent. It is rare for teams to consistently play up to their potential every week.
Not every game has significant upset potential, of course. Take a national championship contender like the Oregon Ducks, for instance. Not only are the Ducks projected to be one of the strongest and most efficient teams in the country this fall, they'll rarely suit up against opponents that have a reasonable shot to beat them. Our drive-based FEI projections give Oregon a better than 80 percent chance of victory against 10 of its opponents and a better than 90 percent chance of victory against seven.
As a result, Oregon has a 79 percent chance of winning 10 or more games by our projections, better than any other team in the nation. The Ducks are the best bet to reach at least 10 wins, and their season ultimately will come down to only two games, against the Stanford Cardinal and USC Trojans. That makes for a rather narrow bell curve win distribution in 2012 hovering around 10.5 wins.
On the opposite end of that spectrum sits Miami, the team with the most volatile projections for the coming season and the first team on our list.
Average projection: 5.7 wins
Win-projection range: 11-1 (1 percent) to 2-10 (1 percent)