Dogged Sage's Blog
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Before the first college football season of the two thousand teens kicks off in a few weeks, I think a review of the single digit years is appropriate. In the process of determining the rankings for programs, I decided, for the sake of brevity, to consider only those teams, which had advanced to the mythical national title game at least once. However, given the hopelessly rigged system of determining who plays in the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) title game, I am including the programs that also experienced one or more undefeated seasons. A total of thirteen teams won a BCS title, finished undefeated or both during the past ten seasons. I ranked each of them after reviewing the following criteria:

Record versus Division 1-A opponents:
Number of winning seasons:
Number of shared conference/divisional titles:
Number of outright conference titles:
Record in bowl games:
Record in BCS bowl games:
Number of BCS title game appearances:
Number of BCS titles:

The readers should note a few elements of my rankings. First of all, they are not based solely on an objective standard like number of BCS titles or overall wins. Secondly, only wins versus Division 1-A opponents, Football Bowl Subdivision in NCAA's newspeak, are included so teams will not have inflated totals of wins playing undermanned teams from lower classifications. Also, since some conferences recognize more than conference champion while others have a conference title game resulting in one champion, I have equated a shared conference title with a berth in a conference championship game. Lastly, only teams that advanced to their conference's title games are credited as a divisional champion for a particular season. Even though they may have finished with the same record as another team, which advanced to the title game, if a team was denied a trip to its conference's championship game due to tiebreakers, then I have not counted that finish as a "divisional championship". Therefore, I presented my rankings of the programs of the decade in ascending order.

#13 NEBRASKA
Record versus Division 1-A opponents: 81-44 (64.8%)
Number of winning seasons: 7
Number of divisional titles: 2
Number of outright conference titles: none
Record in bowl games: 5-3
Record in BCS bowl games: 0-1
Number of BCS title game appearances: 1
Number of BCS titles: none
Summary:  These past ten years saw Nebraska fall from a perennial top ten member to a perennial also-ran in the weakest division of the conferences with conference title games.  A telling statement about the Cornhuskers??? performances is the fact that their most notable accomplishment in ten years was falling backside first into the BCS championship game despite not even winning their own division that season.

In addition to providing a huge store of ammunition to anti-BCS pundits, that dubious feat and subsequent mauling by Miami foreshadowed a meager decade for the Big Red. Streaks of winning seasons and bowl appearances were halted.  The Children of the Corn became spoiled and grew impatient for conference and national titles under Frank Solich. Then, they saw their beloved program slid even lower as the radical experiments of Bill Callahan ended in four years of disaster. Only time will tell if Bo Pelini???s first two seasons are building a foundation to return to prominence or if Nebraska will simply exchange mediocrity in the Big Twelve for mediocrity or worse in the Big Ten.

#12 ALABAMA
Record versus Division 1-A opponents: 77-48 (61.6%)
Number of winning seasons: 6
Number of divisional titles: 2
Number of outright conference titles: 1
Record in bowl games: 4-3
Record in BCS bowl games: 1-1
Number of BCS title game appearances: 1
Number of BCS titles: 1
Summary: The Crimson Tide ended this span of ten years as kings of the mountain. However, that one season cannot mask the preceding nine years of controversies, terminations of coaches and NCAA probation.  The coaching carousel in Tuscaloosa was spinning far too often to build continuity vital to long-term success.  Five different men held the position during this span.

Nick Saban has righted the most successful program in the history of the Southeastern Conference. His three years alone account for forty percent of the wins and both SEC title game appearances in the single digit years.  Given Saban???s history, one can logically wonder how long will he remain at Alabama. His ego may push him back into the NFL to prove that is two-year washout in Miami was just a fluke.

#11 FLORIDA STATE
Record versus Division 1-A opponents: 81-44 (64.8%)
Number of winning seasons: 10
Number of shared conference/divisional titles: 1
Number of outright conference titles: 4
Record in bowl games: 5-5
Record in BCS bowl games: 0-4
Number of BCS title game appearances: 1
Number of BCS titles: none
Summary: A program that had assumed Atlantic Coast Conference titles and top five finishes in the polls as annual birthrights in the 90s was barely avoiding the murky waters of irrelevancy from swallowing Bobby Bowden???s hard-fought legacy as the decade progressed.  Sadly, the man who lifted the Seminoles from the status of everyone???s homecoming opponent to everyone???s entry on an annual list of contenders for the national championship had to retire before he wanted to do so.  Bowden became a victim of his own success; therefore, finishing one or two games above .500 and in a fourth rate bowl game would not pacify the faithful in Tallahassee, especially not in successive years.

 If Jimbo Fisher cannot re-establish the level of success of the 90s, then those who forced out Bowden will undoubtedly began to pine for the ???good old days???.  If the excellence continues in Gainesville along with the Gators' dominance of their annual series versus Florida State, the Seminole Nation will extend Fisher even less patience.

#10 UTAH
Record versus Division 1-A opponents: 84-36 (70%)
Number of winning seasons: 8
Number of shared conference titles: none
Number of outright conference titles: 3
Record in bowl games: 8-0
Record in BCS bowl games: 2-0
Number of BCS title game appearances: none
Number of BCS titles: none
Summary:  Utah???s move to the soon-to-be Pacific Twelve occurred several years too late to help its program compete for BCS titles. So much of rankings in the polls depend upon legacy of sustained success over decades. Both the 2004 and 2008 squads deserved to be included in any eight-team playoffs or a ???plus one??? scenario after the BCS games are played. Unfortunately, Utah had to overcome decades of obscurity playing in a conference with very few large media markets and little history or nation-wide respect.

Twice finishing undefeated and dominating a major conference opponent in a BCS bowl in a span of five years undoubtedly contributed to their invitation into the Pacific Ten. The Utes built a respectable reputation for themselves over those ten years.  In the preceding decade, Utah finished with eight wins and eight losses versus the Pacific Ten. When the Utes were able to lure West Coast teams to Salt Lake City, the Utes won five of the seven contests. Additionally, they grabbed wins in both bowls against Pacific Ten teams. Undercutting Utah???s case for acclaim was the Utes??? one lone victory in seven games occurring at Pacific Ten members??? stadiums.  Utah also fared well in games against the other BCS conferences: SEC (1-0), Big 12 (1-1), Big 10 (3-1) Big East (3-0) and ACC (2-1).  The future appears promising for Utah and the prospects of another undefeated team settling for a consolation prize of meaningless BCS bowl game seem remote.

#9 BOISE STATE
Record versus Division 1-A opponents: 104-17 (85.95%)
Number of winning seasons: 10
Number of shared conference: 1
Number of outright conference titles: 6
Record in bowl games: 6-4
Record in BCS bowl games: 2-0
Number of BCS title game appearances: none
Number of BCS titles: none
Summary: Boise State captured the affinity of fans of underdogs by barging its way into the ???old boys club??? of the BCS then upsetting Big Twelve champion Oklahoma in one of the most memorable college football games in history.  That one game has contributed much to the growing reputation of the Broncos as a perennial power.  Another opportunity to stage another seismic stunner was wrongfully denied to them last season. An invitation to play Florida in the Sugar Bowl or Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl should have been extended to the Broncos instead of the so-called ???Mid-Major Bowl??? in Glendale.

However, an overview of their results over a ten-year span slightly diminishes the luster of that magical evening in the Fiesta Bowl. On the bright side, the Broncos did score two wins in the only two games versus Big Twelve members, both in bowl games in addition to a 4-5 record against the Pacific Ten. However, Boise State???s four losses in four contests versus the Southeastern Conference diminished their reputation. Additionally, a third of their bowl wins took place in their home stadium. Another one of these <span style="font-style:italic;">de facto</span> home games disguised as a bowl game resulted in a loss. Time will tell if the Broncos??? domination the Western Athletic Conference will continue in the Mountain West. If they do, that should lead to more chances to prove their worth to the BCS for an automatic bid for their new conference.

#8 AUBURN
Record versus Division 1-A opponents: 74-39 (65.49%)
Number of winning seasons: 9
Number of divisional titles: 2
Number of outright conference titles: 1
Record in bowl games: 6-3
Record in BCS bowl games: 1-0
Number of BCS title game appearances: none
Number of BCS titles: none
Summary: The Tigers confounded the prognosticators throughout most years. Auburn floundered when they received much pre-season acclaim, such as in 2003 when the team started the season ranked as number six in both polls but ended the year unranked. The previous season, Auburn was listed among those ???also receiving votes??? yet finished number fourteen in the media???s poll and number sixteen according to the coaches. After being embarrassed by their overrating of Auburn in 2003, the media listed the Tigers as their seventeenth team and eighteenth by the coaches. That contributed to Auburn???s inability to leap over Southern California or Oklahoma into the BCS title game. Additionally, in 2008, the Tigers found themselves as number eleven in both major polls but did not receive a single vote in either post-season survey.

The 2004 Auburn Tigers serve as the poster child for the anti-BCS forces. An undefeated team from one of the six automatically qualifying conferences had to settle for a victory in the Sugar Bowl while campaigning at the last minute for Associated Press voters to give it their national title as a consolation prize. No matter how much tinkering the fossils behind the BCS perform, nothing short of additional games beyond the bowls can ever rectify this injustice from re-occurring.

#7 MIAMI
Record versus Division 1-A opponents: 87-33 (72.5%)
Number of winning seasons: 7
Number of shared conference/divisional titles: 1
Number of outright conference titles: 3
Record in bowl games: 5-4
Record in BCS bowl games: 3-1
Number of BCS title game appearances: 2
$Number of BCS titles: 1
Summary: This other heavyweight throughout the 90s from the Sunshine State also slid into lean times as the single digit years proceeded. The Hurricanes started the decade being wrongfully excluded from the national title game in favor of Florida State whom they had beaten during the regular season. They took out their frustrations on all opponents in the next season, concluding by **** corn in Pasadena then seemingly flinging it at anyone whom they held as responsible for their exclusion the previous season. A controversial pass interference penalty in overtime helped deny them a repeat in 2002.

Hurricane fans searching for an excuse for the downturn have grasped at few causes but none seem totally explicative. Miami struggled after its defection to the ACC, failing to win even a divisional title in its new conference. The Hurricanes only conference titles occurred as members of the Big East. The Hurricanes only lost more than one conference game in two of their thirteen seasons in the Big East. In the ACC, Miami has lost at least three conference games per season in five of it six seasons.
Larry Coker received a massive amount of blame as ill-suited to carry the mantle of Schnellenberger, Johnson and Erickson although he did serve on Butch Davis??? staff and lead the team to three straight Big East titles and one national title. The talent-laden state of Florida can prove the Hurricanes with more than enough players to succeed. The questions is whether or not coaches can be found to lead them back to greatness of the two previous decades.

#6 OKLAHOMA
Record versus Division 1-A opponents: 108-24 (81.82%)
Number of winning seasons: 10
Number of divisional titles: 7
Number of outright conference titles: 6
Record in bowl games: 5-5
Record in BCS bowl games: 2-5
Number of BCS title game appearances: 4
Number of BCS titles: 1
Summary: Oklahoma started the decade by emerging from its irrelevance during the 1990s, including five straight non-winning seasons, by stunning the nation en route to the BCS title in 2000.  The success continued in winning more than half of the Big Twelve conference championships in the decade. However, their trouncing at the hands of a mediocre Kansas State in the 2003 conference title game preceded losses in its last five BCS bowls caused snide whispers of ???Choke-lahoma??? among critics. Fair or not, fans remember results in bowl games more than all the wins in the regular season. In these past ten years, the Sooners have finished perfectly mediocre in that regard. With their conference losing two high-profile programs, Big Twelve championships will garner less respect nationally, making post-season wins increase in value in terms of respect and rankings.

Barring committing mass murder or losing again to Oklahoma State in consecutive years, Bob Stoops' job is not jeopardy. However, the Sooner Nation will expect another national title in the coming decade in addition to continued domination of the slimmed down Big Twelve.

#5 OHIO STATE
Record versus Division 1-A opponents: 100-25 (80%)
Number of winning seasons: 10
Number of shared conference titles: 3
Number of outright conference titles: 3
Record in bowl games: 5-5
Record in BCS bowl games: 4-3
Number of BCS title game appearances: 3
Number of BCS titles: 1
Summary: The same problem that plagued Oklahoma has tarnished the tremendous level of success for Ohio State. Despite multiple conference titles and berths in the BCS title game, too many losses in bowls diminished the Buckeyes' view in many fans' opinions. Overlooked is their perennially serious contention for the Big Ten championship not experienced since Woody Hayes punched his way into retirement. Despite the addition of a conference championship game in 2011, no indication of a drop-off in the Buckeyes' elite status in the Big Ten and nationally appears possible.

Despite some ugly losses in bowls, Jim Tressel need not worry about his professional future. Any impatient Buckeye fans only have to be reminded of John Cooper's impotence against their archrivals from Ann Arbor plus his abysmal record in the post-season.  If only Tressel could put an end to the Buckeyes' infamous futility versus the Southeastern Conference in bowls, his legacy in Columbus would be complete.

#4 TEXAS
Record versus Division 1-A opponents: 110-19 (85.27%)
Number of winning seasons: 10
Number of divisional titles: 3
Number of outright conference titles: 2
Record in bowl games: 7-3
Record in BCS bowl games: 3-1
Number of BCS title game appearances: 2
Number of BCS titles: 1
Summary: In 1998, Mack Brown arrived in Austin with this mission: restore Texas to a national powerhouse and perennial domination of its conference. On both counts, he has succeeded tremendously. The Longhorns developed a nasty habit of flopping late in the season just as a trip to the national title game seemed tantalizingly close. Too often for the pleasure of the fans clad in burnt orange, promising seasons ended up with consolation prize trips elsewhere. With so many trips to the Holiday Bowl, the Longhorns seemed as at home in San Diego as Shamu was.

Despite a loss in the BCS title game after the 2009 season, Mack Brown has lifted his program to sustained success throughout the decade, both in conference and on the national scene. The struggles to beat Oklahoma in the middle of the decade irritated the Longhorn faithful but not enough to seriously demand his ouster. With tons of talent within its states borders, one could safely bet that he will lead the Longhorns back to a handful more Big Twelve championships and at least two more BCS title games before retirement.

#3 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
Record versus Division 1-A opponents: 102-26 (79.69%)
Number of winning seasons: 9
Number of shared conference titles: 3
Number of outright conference titles: 4
Record in bowl games: 7-2
Record in BCS bowl games: 6-1
Number of BCS title game appearances: 2
Number of BCS titles: 1
Summary: Sure, the NCAA probation announced earlier this year called into question the Trojans outstandingly successful run throughout the single digit years. Nevertheless, USC ran roughshod over the rest of the Pacific Ten with the exception of the two bookend years of the decade. Some cynics will disparage their wins in bowls since five of their seven wins occurred within commuting distance of their campus. However, their sole BCS title was secured on the opposite side of the United States in a stadium heavily filled with their opponents' fans.

With the departure of Pete Carroll and the impending scholarship limitations, one has to wonder if the glory days have ended for the Men of Troy. If they can continue to lure in the in-state blue-chip athletes by the bushel, then no discernable decline should occur.  

#2 LOUISIANA STATE
Record versus Division 1-A opponents: 94-31 (75.2%)
Number of winning seasons: 10
Number of divisional titles: 4
Number of outright conference titles: 3
Record in bowl games: 7-3
Record in BCS bowl games: 4-0
Number of BCS title game appearances: 2
Number of BCS titles: 2
Summary: After the Dark Ages of 1990s, which included only three winning seasons, LSU's program entered its Golden Age. After only having won two outright Southeastern Conference titles once within a decade (in the 1930s), the Fightin' Tigers won three in the ten year span. They won more national titles in this past decade (two) than the program had won in the previous eleven (one, in 1958). Just as critics may devalue the majority of USC's bowl victories, they could also say the same about four of LSU's bowl victories since they happened only seventy-five miles away from Baton Rouge. In LSU's defense, the Tigers defeated Georgia Tech twice in the Peach Bowl, a few miles from the Yellow Jackets' campus.

Despite winning an SEC and a national title, Les Miles remains in the shadow of the man who resurrected the struggling program in 2000, Nick Saban. With Saban now in charge of the hated Crimson Tide, every season includes a head-to-head referendum on Miles' current progress in succeeding the man who is now on the other side of the field from him. Regular victories over Alabama and trips to the SEC title game will allay most concerns over who is responsible for LSU's recent success. A few more national titles would bury those doubts.  

#1 FLORIDA
Record versus Division 1-A opponents: 96-30 (76.19%)
Number of winning seasons: 10
Number of divisional titles: 4
Number of outright conference titles: 3
Record in bowl games: 5-5
Record in BCS bowl games: 4-1
Number of BCS title game appearances: 2
Number of BCS titles: 2
Summary: As much as Steve Spurrier was revered in the Sunshine State and reviled elsewhere, his level of success never attained the lofty heights as Urban Meyer has. Spurrier did lead Florida to its first official Southeastern conference championship and it first national title. However, Meyer doubled the national title total in less than half of the time Spurrier spent in Gainesville.

The Ron Zook experiment between those two coaches led to winning seasons that would have sufficed at most programs. However, a decline from the domination to which the Gator Nation had grown accustomed would not be endured for long.

Despite Meyer's health problems and persistent rumors of a departure for South Bend, he has the opportunity to surpass "Bear" Bryant's total for wins and status as greatest coach in the history of the SEC.  

FINAL NOTES

Soon after establishing the criteria for inclusion on my list, I realized that several teams deserve to be rated higher than Nebraska. Georgia, Oregon and Virginia Tech spring immediately to mind. However, I had to draw a line at some point or I would end up reviewing more than a hundred ten programs. Frankly, I wish that I possessed that much time to devote to one column.

Auburn is ranked above Nebraska and Alabama, in part, based on a victory over the Cornhuskers in the Cotton Bowl and 7-3 record versus Alabama.
 
Although Oklahoma finished with just over two percentage points more than Ohio State, the Buckeyes did fare more successfully in BCS bowls, thus the higher ranking.

Unfortunately, LSU and USC were denied a chance to settle the question of who was the true national champion of 2003. Since they never played in the preceding ten years, I looked at their records against each other's conference to help to determine who deserved the second slot. LSU had 5-0 record versus the Pacific Ten; USC finished 4-0 versus the SEC.

To break the tie between Florida and LSU for "program of the decade", I consulted their head-to-head matches. Florida won six of the ten games over LSU.

COPYRIGHT JULY 2010 BY CHARLES KASTRIOT

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