Who had the most impressive 2016 season on a pound-for-pound basis in FBS? Clemson? Western Michigan? USC?
The answer is none of the above. It’s Idaho.
The year started with Idaho’s conference announcing the Vandals (alongside New Mexico State) were being evicted. They began this season knowing the ’16 campaign would be their second-to-last in FBS. The Vandals were 4-8 in 2015. And 1-10 the year before that. And 1-11 the year before that, and the year before that. You get the point.
Idaho opened with a win over Montana State, then expected losses to Washington and Washington State. It was at that point Paul Petrino’s team took off.
The Vandals ripped off wins in eight of their final 10 games, losing only road games at Troy (distance of trip: 2,495 miles) and at Sun Belt champion Appalachian State (2,499 miles). Idaho won five games in a row and nine in the season, including games at Louisiana-Lafayette (2,327 miles) and Texas State (2,079 miles) in back-to-back weeks.
And it didn’t hurt that the season ended with Idaho winning a bowl game on their rival’s blue turf — a rival that refuses to play them — while Boise State was off losing its bowl game to 6-6 Baylor.
It was for those reasons I submit that what Idaho accomplished was the most impressive feat of 2016.