Cal tops recruiting underachievers

Which programs win the least with the most talent? We rank the top five

Updated: January 31, 2013, 11:36 AM ET
By Brian Fremeau | Football Outsiders
Jeff TedfordAP Photo/Rick BowmerJeff Tedford may have remained Cal's head coach had he produced more with the team's ample talent.

As we get closer to national signing day on Feb. 6, class rankings continue to be a major focus. However, it is also important to weigh those rankings in conjunction with other recent classes signed.

On Wednesday, we took a look at teams that overachieved on the field over the past three seasons relative to the talent they managed to accumulate on the recruiting trail. But what about the underachievers? To identify those programs, we took a look at teams with top-25 recruiting profiles and calculated their success rates in games in which they had a talent advantage. Not surprisingly, most of those teams made a recent coaching change.

Note that this list doesn't represent the biggest underachievers from 2012 alone. USC may have set the new standard for single-year underachievement by fielding one of the most talented programs in the country in 2012 and still managing to lose six games. USC escapes the list below due to our three-year window.

Two of the teams on our list last year -- Notre Dame and Florida State -- course-corrected in 2012 and performed in alignment with talent expectations. We expect a turnaround from at least one or two of the teams below, as well.

Here are the five teams that have underperformed expectations the most over the past three years.


1. California Golden Bears

Average program recruiting rank: 22nd
Three-year record as more talented team: 10-14 (.417)

Cal's dismal record in 2012 (3-9 overall, 2-7 in conference play) prompted the firing of head coach Jeff Tedford in December, and the Bears' underachievement relative to recruiting success made the decision that much more necessary. Cal opened the season with a 31-24 loss to Nevada, a team that ended up .500 in Mountain West play and ranked 100th in program recruiting over the past three years. The Bears lost the turnover battle against the Wolf Pack, establishing a theme that would carry through the entire season. Cal coughed up 30 turnovers on the season, 17 of which came in its five-game skid to end the campaign.

Brian Fremeau

ESPN Insider
• Has been a contributor to ESPN Insider and ESPN The Magazine since 2009
• Creator of the Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI), a measure of college football team efficiency
• Contributor to Football Outsiders and his own site, bcftoys.com