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 won close games at an unusually high rate.
Call it good fortune or good luck, but some teams overachieved this season based on these opportunistic factors. Here are five teams that were among the luckiest in 2013, the programs that could have had a very different season if not for a few key breaks.
1. UCF Knights (11-1)
No other 2013 team flirted with disaster as often as UCF did. The Knights won seven games by a final scoring margin of a touchdown or less, and they trailed in the second half in four of those victories. Prevailing in close games and tough circumstances is often celebrated in college football, and UCF will reap the rewards of an American Athletic Conference title and the school's first BCS bowl berth. But teams generally win only 50 percent of close games over time, and a regression to the mean is likely in store for UCF next season.