Each college football preseason brings about jitters, high hopes and even higher expectations for teams dreaming of the College Football Playoff.
It was just a few short months ago, as the season kicked off, that we created the Fan Happiness Index to measure the sentiments of each FBS fan base before the inevitable upsets began. The factors we utilized in our rankings included program power, rivalry dominance, coaching stability, recruiting trends, program revenue growth and positive/negative Twitter buzz among team supporters.
The week after a wild college football Saturday is the perfect time to take a look at how those sentiments might have changed since the preseason.
This version of the index features updates that help quantify the impact on fan morale:
• The in-season model of the index measures performance of the program relative to preseason expectation for each variable in order to capture the changes in those expectancies -- the true definition of happiness (or real sadness in some teams' cases).
• The coaching stability factor now includes the firing percentages from last month's Unreasonable Index.
• In regard to the Twitter factor, we noticed that some programs' fans turn negative really quickly during close games, in a way that is not in line with their team's chances to win the game. As a result, we combined in-game win probability and in-game Twitter sentiment to create a "Panic Factor."
Whose feelings have soured or sweetened since the preseason? Scroll past the table for some of this update's biggest takeaways.
Elation in Athens
Georgia tops our list with the happiest fans in all of college football. Ranked 13th in preseason FPI and coming off an 8-5 season, the Bulldogs find themselves at 9-0 and atop the selection committee rankings. Although an important date with Auburn looms, Bulldogs fans couldn't be happier.
Alabama being Alabama
Everything is as it should be in Tuscaloosa, where undefeated Alabama (No. 2 on the index) has moved just one spot since August. Nick Saban's seat is as hot as the North Pole, there are too many #RollTides to count on Twitter, and the Crimson Tide have the shortest Vegas odds to take home the national title. Alabama's battle with Mississippi State on Saturday ranks fourth in matchup quality for this week's games, but Bama is a 12.8-point favorite, according to FPI.
Notre Dame is back?
Some Notre Dame fans might not have fully bought into this sentiment just yet, but the fact that the Fighting Irish jump a whopping 71 spots on the index tells you things are good in South Bend. ND has a 35.5 percent chance of running the table and is favored at also surprising Miami this weekend. Win out, and the Irish are shoo-ins for the program's first playoff appearance. They'd have a 92.7 percent chance to finish top-four in strength of record. (But we'll cross that bridge when we get there).
Seminoles, Gators fans ready to flip calendar
The season started with such optimism for Florida State (No. 91 on the Index, down from their preseason showing at No. 2), but the Seminoles have had one of the most disappointing seasons of all FBS teams. The steady decline began in that Sept. 2 loss to Alabama, when the fans' hopes were carted off with quarterback Deondre Francois. The wound deepened with a humiliating blowout loss to Boston College that helps FSU rank in the top 10 for the most negative fan bases, according to our Panic Factor. The Seminoles still have a 67 percent chance to reach six wins and bowl eligibility, according to FPI, but let's face it, Noles fans are looking to next season.
Further south in Gainesville, the post-Jim McElwain Florida Gators (No. 124 on the index) need to beat South Carolina, UAB and Florida State to become bowl-eligible. The silver lining for weary Gators fans? Recruiting for next season ranks in the 93rd percentile, numbers that could help UF rise on this list in 2018 and beyond.
For more from ESPN Analytics, visit the ESPN Analytics Index.