I’ve been out talking to the people and cajoling with the College Football fans; the season is just a few short weeks away and I have to say it feels great.
While I have been known as Miami Mitch for quite some time and was born and raised in Miami, I actually call the wonderful city of Chicago my home today.
I’ve been fortunate to live in different parts of the country throughout my life and it’s always great to see how deep team loyalties run.
While in Chi-Town there is a natural Illinois, Northwestern and Notre Dame fan base and loyalty we do find there to be many teams represented fairly strongly and emphatically by their fan base. I love it.
I have to say being a 'Canes fan isn’t always easy. While the trophy case in Coral Gables pretty much speaks for itself, Miami does have a reputation that runs far worse than it actually is.
While I’m not in full defense mode and will address graduation rates and the misconceptions surrounding them, as well as police blotter stats in my weekly Getting Real series, I want to talk about the game itself and what happens on the field, especially in the win and loss column.
One would think that it would be easy to figure out the 10 or 20 winningest programs of the past 10 years or so, but most fans aren’t even close.
ABC makes it sound as if certain teams are always on top and that a year with two losses is an aberration for those schools who usually reside in the conferences where they own the TV contract.
Well I think a lot of people are going to be surprised by the truth, and you all know that I’m just the one to spring it on you so here it goes: No team in Division 1-A college football has averaged fewer than two losses over the past ten years and only five have averaged fewer than three losses.
While Brent Musburger speaks as if Pete Carroll and USC play for the National Title every year or that Michigan is usually undefeated when they lose to Ohio State annually, this is far from being true.
Let’s take a look at the top programs of the past decade, as history and trends have a way of repeating themselves in college football.
10) Tennessee (93-34; .732)
The rivalry between the Vols and Gators continues, as the Vols knock the Gators from the Top Ten by having an identical number of losses, but the Vols managing one more win.
UT took home the National Title in 1998 and has only had one losing season since. It’s rare that I see the Vols projected near the top at the start of the season, but they have played in a January Bowl eight of the past 10 years. Pretty impressive stuff.
The Wolverines have been one of the steadiest teams making the list, while their best season was two losses and they only did that once (2006).
While many wonder when Michigan will finally get over the hump, they have been over it for quite some time, appearing in three Rose Bowls and an Orange Bowl over the last 10 years. All the while, they never missed a bowl game or had a losing season. Not too many teams in the country can say that.
While USC has been a true historical powerhouse, they certainly had a long dry spell, which really didn’t end until fairly recently. In 1998, USC went to the Sun Bowl at 8-5 and didn’t make another Bowl game until 2001, when they finished the season at 6-6 after losing the Las Vegas Bowl 10-6 to Utah.
Just the fact the Trojans made this list is a testament to the job Pete Carroll has done but still it hardly makes the Trojans the machine that the networks would make you believe they are.
7) Miami, Fla. (95-30; .760)
The Hurricanes arrive on the list in fairly decent shape despite having lost seven and six games over the past two seasons, nearly half the total of the other eight years combined.
The Canes make the list primarily doing it “Cane Style” putting together the longest winning streak of the past 10 years at 34 in a row, that joins other previous Miami streaks among the longest in history.
If Miami hopes to remain on this list over the next few years, they’re going to have to right the ship in Coral Gables.
6) Georgia (99-30; .767)
Despite having a one-loss season to their credit and a pair of two-loss seasons, the Bulldogs arrive on the list as one of four teams in our top 10 not to win a National title over the span.
While they have the same amount of losses as Miami, they have played in their conference championship three times and Georgia has been consistent in going to a bowl each of the past 10 years.
I think the Dawg faithful would trade it all for a National Title and to add the trophy to the case in Athens. While many of the publications think this will be their year, we talk often about the absolutely brutal path the Bulldogs will have to go down to get it done.
5) Virginia Tech (99-29; .773) - Is there no better proof that Frank Beamer is the best coach in the game today and possibly one of the best in the history of the game than where VT is on this list?
Ahead of FSU, Penn State, Michigan and all but four teams in the country fall the Hokies. It’s been quite a run and it’s all been Beamer (with a lot of help from defensive whiz Bud Foster).
They don’t get the recruits the others get, and until recently they didn’t have the facilities, but it’s living proof that if you play hard, you can get it done even against all the odds.
4) Ohio State (98-27; .784)
The good news for the Buckeyes was in 2002 when they went 14-0 and beat Miami as a prohibitive under dog and took home the National Title; the bad news of course is that they have been on the losing end of the title game for the past two years.
OSU has amassed an amazing record and has been no stranger to January Bowl games but it has to take it’s toll being on the field to watch another team celebrate time after time. Many have Ohio State penciled in for the Title game, I would say leave it in pencil as they are no lock to get there.
3) Oklahoma (102-28; .785)
It’s tough to call a team with as stellar record as the Oklahoma Sooners a team in decline, but it seems that this where they may be headed.
While Oklahoma had made a boatload of January bowls and took home yet another National Title for the program in 2000, the Sooners have been on the wrong end of some seriously non competitive BCS Bowl games including two losses in games for the National Championship, a loss to non BCS Boise and getting routed once again last year by West Virginia.
While once again, the Sooners will be near the top of the polls we have to question whether they have done enough to be competitive outside of the Big 12.
While Oklahoma started this 10-year run not as well as some of the others, the biggest difference seems to be that the Sooners used to play five road games in an 11-game schedule, now they play at the most four in a 12-game schedule. Hmmmm...
2) Texas (103-25; .805)
If recruiting rankings mean anything, Texas would be the National Champion almost every year. The Longhorns and Head Coach Mack Brown are outstanding at bringing in some of the best-ranked talent year after year.
If you listened to the guys on TV and if you just looked at records, you would think Texas was a powerhouse, a regular machine; this is far from the case.
Of schools ranked within the top 10 winners, Texas has gone to the fewest BCS Bowl games (two) of any of the schools on the list from BCS conferences (which is nine of them).
What this shows us is that while Texas looks great on paper especially against lesser foes, they seldom bring it to the table when it’s time to lay their chips down.
It will be interesting to see just how long the faithful in Austin will be satisfied with going to the Holiday Bowl and San Antonio Bowl as regularly as they do.
1) Boise State (102-24; .809) - It’s tough for me not to put an asterisk here, as Boise doesn’t play in a BCS conference; and up until a few years ago, very few people even knew they existed.
I’ll give major kudos to Chris Petersen and Dan Hawkins for the job they’ve done and did with the Broncos, but if I’m Florida or Florida State who is at 11th and 12th on this list I’m probably wearing a sneer about right now.
So what exactly does all of this mean? To me it just shows once again that no one is world beaters year after year. At the end of the day, the game is far more cyclical than we can even remember on a year-to-year basis.
As we look over these past records, it’s hard to say that someone else can’t emerge. What we should also remember is that when we look at the rankings or talk about programs, that it is very hard to find a team that is “always” good.
If we expanded this list to the top 25 programs of the last 10 years, schools like Alabama, Penn State and Notre Dame would still not be on the list. This is one that changes regularly and it will be interesting to see where it sits in a few years.