FSU's poor start one of worst ever for team ranked in Top 3 preseason

Ira Schoffel, Managing Editor

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Florida State’s freefall from a preseason No. 3 national ranking to a 1-3 record through four games is not unprecedented in the history of college football, but it is extremely rare.

Since the mid-1960s, a span of 50-plus years, FSU is only the fifth college football team to get off to such a rough start after being ranked in the Top 3 of the Associated Press poll before the season.

The 1984 Pittsburgh team and the 1976 Arizona State squad hold the distinction for the worst starts ever among that group -- they each went 0-4 after starting their seasons with No. 3 rankings in the AP poll. Neither team was able to turn around its season; Pitt finished the year at 3-7-1 while the Sun Devils went 4-7.

* ALSO SEE: Second-half defensive collapse sinks FSU

The next worst starts were turned in by this 2017 FSU team and Alabama in 2000. The Crimson Tide started that year No. 3, went 1-3 in the first month and then finished the year at 3-8 overall.

Rounding out the five is the 1981 Oklahoma squad, with opened the year with a No. 2 ranking but went 1-2-1 in the first four games. That team was able to turn things around, finishing with a 7-4-1 campaign.

Here’s a look at the worst overall starts over the past 50 years by teams that entered their seasons with top-three national rankings.

Worst starts by Top 3 teams*


Rank Team

First 4 games

Season Record


No. 3 Pittsburgh




No. 3 Arizona State




No. 3 Florida State




No. 3 Alabama




No. 2 Oklahoma



* Over the last 50 years, based on preseason AP poll rankings.

Depending on how Florida State performs in the final two months of the regular season, the Seminoles also could be in contention for the worst overall seasons by teams who started out in the top three.

Since the mid-1960s, only five teams have opened up with such lofty rankings only to finish with sub-.500 season records: 1967 Michigan State (3-7), 1976 Arizona State (4-7), 1984 Pitt (3-7-1), 2000 Alabama (3-8) and 2005 Tennessee (5-6)


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