Walking Up A One Way Street: College Football Teams With Nowhere To Go
As the picture of Nick Saban and his Crimson Tide visiting with President Barack Obama proves, Alabama is now at the top of the mountain.
While the Red Elephant football team honored their Commander In Chief with a No. 1 jersey, the nation looks on with admiration due any champion in college sports.
But where does Alabama go from here?
The probability of a return trip for the Crimson Tide as BCS Champion is slim and none. Despite their high pre-season ranking, the truth of the matter is no team has repeated back to back as BCS Champion since the system was invented following the 1997 season.
Oh, there have been many who tried mightily.
Take for instance the 2002 Miami Hurricanes and the 2005 USC Trojans. Both of these powerhouses believed they would double down as champions, and they each came close to back to back titles.
The '02 Hurricanes extended their unbeaten streak through the regular season, only to lose a titanic battle with Ohio State in the final seconds of the BCS Title clash.
Miami devotees could only shake their heads in disbelief. They had believed themselves invincible.
The 2005 Trojans juggernaut maintained its unbeaten streak into the BCS Title Game with Texas. Only the margin of a fantastic performance by Vince Young kept USC from repeating back to back.
Their title snatched from their fingers in the final seconds, the Trojan faithful could not believe any team could defeat the supermen of Troy.
Some can point to defending champion Florida State, whose 2000 team made it all the way back to the BCS Title game, only to lose to Oklahoma.
Just another example of great players and great coaching not being able to pull off the magic trick of repeating back to back.
Even Saban himself tried to repeat and failed.
In 2003, his LSU Tigers defeated Oklahoma for the BCS Title and believed themselves to be in perfect position for a repeat performance in 2004.
However, it was not to be. Despite Saban's coaching skill and the talent of his Tigers, he had not counted on Auburn putting together an unbeaten season in 2004.
Saban's LSU outfit in '04 defeated both Alabama and Florida, but they ended the season 9-3. And no back to back BCS Titles.
Others, like Tennessee in 1999 and Ohio State in 2003, just could not quite stay in the mix for a BCS Title bid a year after they had won it all.
Simply put, if history is any guideline, Alabama has gone as far as they can go and their time in the sun will follow the path of all the prior unstoppable champions hoping to repeat.
The following is a presentation of five college football teams who achieved great success in 2009, but likely will go backwards in 2010 despite all the optimism surrounding each program.
The journey backward from glory is like walking up a one way street.
No. 5 Stanford Cardinal
One of the most surprisingly successful teams in 2009 was the Stanford Cardinal.
Inspired by crafty coach Jim Harbaugh, led by a battering ram rushing attack and anchored by a wealth of confidence, the Cardinal stunned everyone by destroying USC in the Coliseum by a final count of 55-21 on the way to a Sun Bowl appearance.
By defeating Rose Bowl-bound Oregon, as well as the Trojans, the events of last season have seemingly taken on a life of their own.
This will lead to an overly hopeful outlook for 2010.
Many things worked to the advantage of Stanford last year and the Cardinal truly appeared to catch lightning in a bottle.
Despite some key returning stars, the men from Palo Alto will be fortunate to match last year's eight-win total.
No. 4 Minnesota Golden Gophers
It's a sign of the times.
The once mighty Gophers have won six national championships in college football. Unfortunately, the most recent was exactly 50 years ago.
When coach Tim Brewster replaced Glen Mason after the 2006 season, happy days were seen ahead in the land of the great north.
After beginning 1-11, Brewster has righted the ship by going 13-13 over the past two years and achieving bowl appearances.
Additionally, the Gophers finally left the horrific confines of a dome stadium for a new outside building that is a glorious palace for football.
The problem for this year is most of the key components and reserves from the past two seasons have moved on.
Though Minnesota may return to bowl contention next season, it does not seem reasonable to hold Brewster responsible if the Gophers slide back toward the bottom of the Big Ten in 2010.
There just aren't enough bullets in the gun.
No. 3 Mississippi Rebels
In the history of SEC football one question stands out when discussing championships: Why hasn't Ole Miss won more titles?
Oh, by all means let us point the way to the teams of John H. Vaught and the mythical national titles of 1960 and '62. Yes, those mighty Rebs were awesome and rarely lost in the 1960s.
We are all in agreement on the great old teams of Oxford but, in the past 40 years the Rebels have struggled on the gridiron compared to their neighbors LSU and Alabama.
In the past two seasons, Mississippi has achieved a highwater mark in going to back to back Cotton Bowls. Very impressive, certainly they are to be congratulated.
It appears Ole Miss has walked up the proverbial one way street and there is nowhere for them to go but backwards.
Losing too many play-makers and depth will scar them, having too many rugged games will finish them for 2010.
But don't lose hope, the pride of the men from the Magnolia State should garner enough wins to achieve bowl status. But in the SEC where nearly everyone goes to a Bowl, is that enough to satisfy a hungry fan base?
No. 2 Cincinnati Bearcats
Now here is a program that has gained steady ground for several years.
Progress that culminated in an undefeated 2009 regular season, Big East Championship, and a date with Florida in the Sugar Bowl.
We've all heard the 1970s Paul Simon ditty "Slip Slidin' Away," and that is exactly what former coach Brian Kelly did.
Prior to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, Kelly took the head post at Notre Dame. The Bearcats paid the price in the Big Easy by losing to the Gators, 51-24.
The Bearcats will begin with great optimism in 2010, but there are significant losses in key areas, not just the head coach. For a team that gave up 300 points last year, they must strive for improvement in the defensive area.
Effectively, Cincy achieved its greatest success last season.
Unless they can move on to playing in the BCS Title game there is no where to go except backwards.
No. 1 Texas Longhorns
Let's face it, when you're number two you've got to try harder.
Last year the Longhorns could depend upon the leadership and brilliance of quarterback Colt McCoy to rescue them from grave danger. This season that responsibility falls upon an unproven youth named Garrett Gilbert.
Gilbert has potential; you would not be on scholarship in Austin if you couldn't play. The fact of the matter is he is an unknown in tight spots, and that is a situation anyone in the Big 12 conference is likely to face on a regular basis.
The one item we do know about Gilbert is he is not McCoy. He does not have years of starting under center in the most intense and challenging situations.
When McCoy went out of the BCS Title game with an injury, the Longhorns seemed to lose confidence. It will be up to young Gilbert to establish his credentials early in the season, long before the going gets tough.
So the talent is there but, the leadership question will be on the minds of all fans of the burnt orange this fall.
Having made it to the BCS Championship game a year ago, Texas must move ahead and take the title or face the reality of going down the ladder.
Rightly or wrongly, Garrett Gilbert will be blamed or congraulated for the results this year.