Programs poised to take next step

Kevin Hogan and the Stanford Cardinal are the reigning Pac-12 and Rose Bowl champions. Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The most successful college football teams in a given year are very rarely one-hit wonders. Traditionally elite programs have more financial resources to attract top coaches and recruits to help maintain consistency in performance on the field.

Program FEI was developed as a way to capture that consistency in performance, a measure of five-year drive efficiency adjusted for the strength of the opposition faced. PFEI is a baseline metric for our annual projections, correlating very strongly with next-year success. It also illustrates program trajectory more clearly.

Which programs have been most consistently improving over the past five years? Since 2008, only 17 programs have seen their Program FEI ratings climb at the conclusion of each season. That list includes the healthiest programs in the country, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Oregon Ducks, two favorites to contend for the national championship this fall. Alabama and Oregon have lost only 17 combined games over the past five seasons and are the two most likely teams to go undefeated in 2013 according to our FEI projections.

Several other programs on the rise may also figure into the national championship conversation according to our projections. Others are simply seeking to take another step forward as a program. Here are five teams that could jump to another level in 2013:

Stanford Cardinal

PFEI Rank: No. 7

The Cardinal are best positioned to advance into the PFEI top five at the end of the 2013 season, a meteoric rise over the past five seasons unmatched in college football. From 2004 to 2008, Stanford won only 19 FBS games and ranked 67th in our PFEI ratings. In the four years since, the Cardinal have won 42 FBS games, played in three BCS bowl games, and are the defending Pac-12 and Rose Bowl champions heading into this fall.