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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Top Undefeated College Football Teams Denied a Title since 1970

BCS bashers have united that the college football title game system never worked and was unfair to someone.  Thankfully for them (and most college football fans), 2013 marks the last time it will exist as college football moves to a 4-team playoff in 2014.  Some are thinking it's one year too late, with six teams undefeated as of this post (Alabama, Florida State, Baylor, Ohio State, Northern Illinois, and Fresno State), none playing each other, and only two spots in the BCS Championship Game.  History says that undefeateds drop off at seasons end (rivalry games, conference title games, etc.) but this year (everyone always says) will be different.  However they were saying this with Oregon in the mix, and they lost a surprising game at Stanford (same Stanford team that lost to Utah).

But back to the matter at hand, fans get up in arms at the mere thought that an undefeated team is denied a chance to win a title.  And they act like it's never happened before and a crime against humanity.  These fans have short memories.  During the BCS (and well before the BCS) we've had undefeated teams not included in the title game and it's part of the fabric of college football.  With a limited sample of games and over 100 teams, some are bound to get through and get through in a manner that they do not demonstrate superiority to at least one other team (bigger conference, better bowl game, etc.).  Here's a list (since 1970) of teams that ran the table but didn't get a shot at the title (excluding teams on probation):

1970 - Arizona State (11-0) - As members of the WAC (and the weaker schedule to go with it), the Sun Devils only got to play in the Peach Bowl (destroying North Carolina), while outscoring opponents 401-148 over the season.  Three other powerhouses (Nebraska, Ohio State, and Texas) were awarded shares of the National Championship.  Of those, Nebraska was the only other undefeated, however they had tied USC.  ASU finished the AP #6
1970 - Toledo (12-0) -As members of the MAC, Toledo wasn't given serious consideration for a major bowl.  Instead they played the Tangerine against William and Mary.  The Rockets outscored their opponents 384 - 88 over the season finishing #12 in the final AP poll.
1973 - Penn State (12-0) - Okay, enough with the small conferences, Penn State played a major conference schedule (although was an independent) rolling over Stanford, Pittsburgh, Iowa, and LSU (Sugar Bowl).  This run could only get them to #5, with #1 Notre Dame finishing undefeated, but the other three teams with a loss or a tie.  Somehow Alabama with a loss claims a National Title as well, even with a loss to Notre Dame.
1975 - Arizona State (12-0) - Again, as WAC champions they didn't play a major conference schedule, but they did beat Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl.  Oklahoma, with one loss to Kansas at home, was awarded the National Championship as Arizona State finished #2 in the AP Poll
1982 - SMU (11-0-1) - Including a team with a tie here, because all other teams had a loss.  SMU (from the powerhouse Southwest Conference) defeated Pittsburgh in the Cotton Bowl, their only tie was to Top 10 Arkansas.  Instead, (independent) Penn State grabbed the National Title despite suffering a 3-TD loss to Alabama, which didn't even finished ranked in the AP.
Eric Dickerson and the Pony Express ran over everyone they played.

1994 - Penn State (12-0) - Now a member of the Big 10, you figure the power schedule would carry the Nittany Lions to a title.  However, locked into the Rose Bowl, they could "only" play Oregon while two other undefeateds, Nebraska and Miami, squared off in the Orange Bowl.  Penn State had to settle for #2 while Nebraska won the National Championship.
Kerry Collins could not pass his team into a National Title chance
1998 - Tulane (12-0) - The Conference USA champions ran the table, but lacked a marquee win and allowed 24 points a game, lacking that dominating swagger.  This got them a Top 10 finish, but undefeated Tennessee took home the National Championship hardware.
1999 - Marshall (13-0) - Only three years removed from National Title at Division I-AA, the Thundering Herd stormed through the MAC on their way to a Motor City Bowl victory.  Without a marquee win (Clemson and BYU the best, but both unranked) they finished #10 in the AP Poll, while undefeated Florida State won the title with a win over regular season undefeated Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.
2004 - Auburn (13-0) - You would think an SEC team would get a guaranteed berth to the BCS Championship game, but you would be wrong.  Not when two powerhouse teams (Oklahoma and Southern California) were also undefeated.  This being the first year that USC could pass the Rose Bowl and go to the BCS Championship Game.  USC rolled Oklahoma (a title later revoked due to the Reggie Bush scandal) leaving Auburn wondering what might have been, with the SEC winning 7 straight national titles beginning two years later (many of those teams with one loss).
Auburn rolled over everyone in the SEC, but didn't play for the BCS Hardware

2004 - Utah (12-0) - The Urban Meyer-led Mountain West Champions became the first "BCS Buster" in being invited to the Fiesta Bowl, but matched against a suspect Pittsburgh Big East Champion.  Defeating Texas A&M, BYU, and Arizona along the way wasn't enough to get the Utes into the title mix, with the aforementioned USC, Oklahoma, and Auburn also undefeated.  Utah finished #4 in the AP.
2006 - Boise State (13-0) - The Boise State empire begins as the WAC champions beat Oregon State, Utah, and Oklahoma on their way to a perfect season.  Meanwhile 1-loss Florida leapfrogged the Broncos to face undefeated Ohio State in the BCS Championship Game, leaving Boise to languish at a #5 finish, even after the upset of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
Boise State defeats Oklahoma in a memorable Fiesta Bowl

2008 - Utah (13-0) - For the second time in 4 years, Utah ran the table without much consideration for a National Championship.  Defeating Michigan, TCU, and Oregon State, then Alabama in the Sugar Bowl wasn't enough.  Even though both participants in the National Championship Game (Oklahoma and Florida) suffered a defeat during the season.  Utah finished #2 in the final AP poll without a chance to prove their worth against Florida.
2009 - Boise State (14-0) - For the second time in 4 years, the Broncos finished the year undefeated without a sniff of a title chance.  With Alabama and Texas as powerhouse undefeateds, the Broncos faced off with undefeated TCU in the Fiesta Bowl, edging the Horned Frogs, but only rising to #4 (#3 and #2 were one-loss teams to title winners Alabama).
2010 - TCU (13-0) - Still members of the MWC, the Frogs didn't get consideration for the BCS Championship game with Oregon and Auburn both finishing undefeated in deeper conferences.  TCU still beat Oregon State and Baylor.  TCU was invited to the Rose Bowl to play Big 10 Champion Wisconsin, and outmuscled the Badgers to a BCS game victory.  Enough to get them to #2 in the final AP poll behind the undefeated Auburn Tigers.
TCU stood up to Big 10 Champion Wisconsin
While many of these were from smaller conferences, several were from the big boys.  Unfortunately, today's college football climate is built around National Championships instead of Conference titles, and finishing #2 (or not playing the BCS Championship Game) is considered a failure.  The above situations are the fabric of college football to date, and a playoff will include more teams, but never enough, and in 30 years there will probably be another list like this one of those excluded from a title shot.

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