Achieving bowl eligibility is likely to be the most commonly shared goal of the 123 FBS college football teams that will lace it up for the 2012 season.
And in the modern era of college football, this means going .500 (6-6) if you’re a BCS team and posting at least a winning record if you’re not (unless, of course, you get lucky and there is an extra slot available).
Based on last year’s offering of 35 bowl games, a whopping 70 squads (or 57 percent of the field) will make the postseason in 2012.
So, which teams are most likely to go bowling this season based on their record of achieving a bowl bid year in and year out?
The following slideshow answers this burning question by ranking the top 10 longest bowl streaks in college football.
The teams highlighted here have not just gotten themselves bowl eligible (a target that has widened over the years), but they have actually received a bid and competed in a bowl game for a number of consecutive years that puts them in the top tier nationally.
As a disclaimer, if any of the teams in question were later forced to forfeit or “vacate” the result of bowl games due to an NCAA sanction, those contests still technically count for our list.
This is about getting to the game and actually playing it, not the result or the withdrawal thereof.
2006 Las Vegas Bowl Champs BYU
BYU, Clemson, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, Penn State and TCU are all currently in the midst of enjoying a bowl streak that sits at seven years.
This gives the septet a tie for the No. 10 spot nationally in terms of consecutive years going bowling.
BYU last sat out of the postseason in 2004 when it went 5-6 in the final season of then-coach Gary Crowton. The Cougars have earned a bowl bid every season since Bronco Mendenhall took over in 2005 and are 5-2 in postseason play during this stint.
Clemson’s last bowl-less campaign came via its 6-5 offering in 2004 under Tommy Bowden. Since then the Tigers are just 2-5 in postseason play, with the only wins coming in the 2005 Champs Sports Bowl (over Colorado) and the 2009 Music City Bowl (over Kentucky).
Missouri has gone bowling every year since 2005, making its last fruitless season 2004 when it dropped to 5-6 under then fourth-year head coach Gary Pinkel. The Tigers are 4-3 in their current bowl streak.
Nevada’s WAC home address (which changes to the MWC this fall) means that a bowl game was never guaranteed by simply going .500. This makes their seven-game streak all the more impressive. The 2004 5-7 Wolf Pack team was the last not to make the postseason, and since this date they’re just 2-5 in bowl competition.
The last postseason played without Oregon was in 2004 when the Ducks fell to 5-6 under then-coach Mike Bellotti. Oregon is 3-4 in bowl play since the year off.
Penn State’s 4-7 2004 campaign marked the second year of a two-year bowl skid. Since that date the Nittany Lions are 4-3 in postseason play.
After making six straight bowl appearances, the 2004 TCU Horned Frogs dropped to a Gary Patterson era low 5-6, leaving them out of the postseason. TCU is a sparkly 6-1 during its current streak, with the only loss coming to Boise State in the memorable 2010 Fiesta Bowl that capped off the 2009 season.
2005-06 Cotton Bowl Champs Alabama
The Crimson Tide have been to eight consecutive bowl games, giving them the No. 9 streak nationally.
The last postseason played sans Alabama was back in 2003, when the Tide dropped to 4-9 under first-year head coach Mike Shula.
Alabama is technically 5-3 in its current bowl streak, which includes counting its “vacated” victory over Texas Tech in the 2005-06 Cotton Bowl as a win, which it was (and I know this because I threw a baby gate in the surprisingly defensively charged 13-10 result).
The Crimson Tide have picked up two national titles in their eight-year bowl run.
2004-05 Fiesta Bowl Champs Utah
In keeping with their ongoing theme of getting things done quietly, year in and year out, Utah holds the eighth-best bowl streak in the nation, with nine straight.
The last bowl-less season for the Utes came in 2002, when they suffered a 5-6 finish under coach Ron McBride in his final season in Salt Lake City.
McBride’s exit after 13 seasons heralded the grand entrance of Urban Meyer in 2003 and then Kyle Whittingham in 2005, and Utah has been in the postseason every single year since.
The Utes are a whopping 8-1 during their current streak. The only loss came in the 2010 Las Vegas Bowl to Boise State, and the wins include triumphs over Pitt in the 2004-05 BCS Fiesta Bowl and over Alabama in the 2008-09 BCS Sugar Bowl.
2002 Alamo Bowl Champs Wisconsin
Wisconsin, West Virginia, Southern Miss and Boise State are all tied at No. 7 nationally, with 10 consecutive bowl appearances apiece.
Wisconsin has been bowling every year since its 2001 product went 5-7 under Barry Alvarez. Since then the Badgers are 4-6 in bowl play, including back-to-back BCS Rose Bowl losses over the past two seasons.
West Virginia last missed the postseason in 2001, when it dropped to 3-8 under first-year head man Rich Rodriguez. The Mountaineers are an even 5-5 in their current streak, which includes a perfect 3-0 mark in BCS play (38-35 over Georgia in the 2005-06 BCS Sugar Bowl, 48-28 over Oklahoma in the 2007-08 BCS Fiesta Bowl and 70-33 over Clemson in the 2011-12 BCS Orange Bowl).
Tied with Boise State (below) for longest streak by a non-BCS team, Southern Miss has earned a bowl bid every season since 2001 when it went 6-5 under coach Jeff Bower. The Golden Eagles are 5-5 over their last bowl appearances, but none of their five wins have come over a team from a BCS conference.
It’s perhaps no surprise that Boise State has been ripping it up with an extra game for a decade, but it’s important to remember that the Broncos didn’t move up the FBS ranks (Division I-A) until 1996.
Boise State last missed the postseason in 2001, when it posted an 8-4 record in its first year in the WAC under Dan Hawkins but was left out of the bowl picture. The Broncos are 6-4 in their current run, which includes BCS wins over Oklahoma in the memorable 2006-07 Fiesta Bowl and then over TCU in the 2009-10 Fiesta Bowl.
Ohio State Captures the 2002-03 BCS Title in the Fiesta Bowl
Coming in it at No. 6 nationally, perennial powerhouses Ohio State and LSU have been in the bowl picture for the past consecutive 12 seasons.
Ohio State last sat home after the final gun of the regular season in 1999 when it went 6-6 under John Cooper in his second-to-last season in Columbus. The Buckeyes are technically 6-6 in the last dozen bowl games, which includes counting their win in the 2010-11 BCS Sugar Bowl over Arkansas.
Eight of Ohio State’s current string of 12 bowl games have been played at the BCS level, and during the streak the Bucks are 1-2 in BCS Championship play.
The Buckeyes' 12-game steak is destined to end in 2012 when NCAA sanctions will leave them out of the bowl equation regardless of on-field performance.
LSU has gone bowling each and every season since going a very un-Tiger-like 3-8 in Gerry DiNardo’s final season back in 1999. DiNardo’s dismissal led to the hiring of Nick Saban in 2000 and then Les Miles in 2005, and goes it without saying that LSU hasn’t looked back since.
The Tigers are 8-4 in their current streak, which includes five BCS bids and a 2-1 performance in the BCS title game.
2001-02 Cotton Bowl Champs Oklahoma
Oklahoma makes the top five of our illustrious list by virtue of holding a 13-game bowl streak that began back in 1999.
The last Sooner team not to earn a bowl bid came in 1998, when Oklahoma dropped to 5-6 in the final year of the John Blake era.
Blake’s replacement in Norman was none other than Bob Stoops who has never, in 13 years, ended a season without a bowl bid firmly in hand.
Oklahoma is 7-6 in it current bowl streak, which includes eight BCS bids and a 1-3 record in BCS championship play.
2007-08 Sugar Bowl Champs Georgia
The state of Georgia has a solid grasp on the No. 4 slot on our list, with both Georgia and Georgia Tech enjoying 15-year long bowl runs that are still going strong.
Perhaps the least surprising of the in-state rivals, Georgia has been bowl bound every year since 1997 when it went 10-2 under then-coach Jim Donnan, a campaign which included a 33-6 victory over Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl.
The last Bulldog team to be left home in late December/early January was the 1996 squad that went 5-6 under Donnan. Georgia is an impressive 11-4 in the current streak, which includes a 2-1 record in BCS play.
Georgia Tech’s 15-year run started way back in 1997 when the George O’Leary-coached Yellow Jackets went 7-5 and beat West Virginia 35-30 in the Carquest Bowl in Miami, Fla.
The last bowl bonanza played without the Ramblin’ Wreck was in 1996, when Georgia Tech went 5-6 under O’Leary in his second year in Atlanta. The Yellow Jackets are just 5-10 in their last 15 bowl games and haven’t won a bonus game since beating Syracuse 51-14 in the 2004 Champs Sports Bowl.
2008-09 Orange Bowl Champs Virginia Tech
The Frank Beamer-led Hokies have been to 19 consecutive bowl games, which means they were last left home watching TV during the holiday season all the way back in 1992.
It’s important to note that Virginia Tech didn’t move up to Division I-A (now the FBS) until 1978 and then were an independent team until they joined the Big East in 1991 (they left for the ACC in 2004).
Therefore, the Hokies have played in a bowl game every season since the third year they initially signed on with a Division I-A conference.
Virginia Tech’s last bowl-less campaign came back in 1992, went it went 2-8-1. The ’92 campaign included a duo of wins over FCS James Madison and FCS Temple and finished with six straight losses that were broken up by a tie with NC State in mid October.
The breakthrough season came in 1993, when the Hokies went 9-3 and beat Indiana in the Independence Bowl.
Virginia Tech is 8-11 in its current bowl streak and a dismal 1-5 in BCS play. The Hokies' last bonus-round victory came over Tennessee in the 2009 Peach Bowl.
2008-09 BCS Champs Florida
We have to go all the way back to 1990 (that’s 21 years) to find a Florida Gator team that didn’t go bowling at season’s end.
And the 1990 squad went 9-2 and finished No. 12 in the AP poll under first-year head coach Steve Spurrier, only missing the bowl festivities by virtue of a NCAA-fueled postseason probation.
Prior to the sanction hiatus of 1990, you have to speed back to 1986 to find the next Gator team that didn’t appear in a bowl game (this group went 6-5 under then coach Galen Hall).
In 1991 Florida bounced back with a 10-2 finish, an SEC title and a loss to Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl, and the Gators have been bowling ever since…for 21 straight seasons.
Florida is 12-9 in its current streak, which includes a 5-1 record in BCS play and a 2-0 mark in the BCS title game.
If you want to be more impressed, this means that the Gators have been bowl eligible through four coaching changes, and this includes the almost three-year long Ron Zook experiment.
2006 Emerald Bowl Champ Florida State
Coming in at No. 1 in dominant fashion, Florida State is in the midst of a mind-blowing 30-year bowl streak.
This means that the Seminoles, in the ever-changing world of college football, have been to a bowl game each and every year since 1982.
So, the last time Florida State was not in a bowl game, 1981, was also the year that Ronald Reagan was sworn into office to replace Jimmy Carter.
In the apt words of Frank from Everybody Loves Raymond: “Holy Crap!”
Bobby Bowden was in his sixth season in Tallahassee when the ‘Noles laid a 6-5 egg and missed the bowl festivities in 1981, but since the ’82 squad went 9-3 and made the Gator Bowl, FSU has racked up 30 straight.
The Seminoles are a mind-numbing 22-7-1 in their current bowl streak. They haven’t lost one since losing the 2007 Music City Bowl to Kentucky, and their 30-year run includes seven Orange Bowls, three Fiesta Bowls and six Sugar Bowls.
Yes, these guys haven’t been to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl every other year—this is by and large top-tier stuff.
Unfortunately, Florida State is only 1-5 in BCS play and is 1-2 in title tilts since the BCS took over the world in 1998.
Even with the current over-saturation of bowl games, Florida State’s bowl streak, especially if it continues to build upon its 30-game foundation, ought to stand for many years to come.
When you look at a list that includes Oklahoma, LSU, Alabama, Florida and Ohio State and consider the fact that Florida State has blown the field away, you get a sense for the significance of its run.
Add into this how quickly the mighty can fall, as was illustrated in Texas’ 5-7 performance in 2010, and the Seminoles' achievement is nothing short of remarkable.