Below is a chart (click to enlarge) showing the win-loss record, winning percentage, number of BCS bowl appearances and BCS bowl wins, and win-loss record in bowl games between 2002-2010 (this season counts towards the overall record).
This is just a snapshot, but it shows 10 programs that have great college football tradition or have been incredibly successful the last decade. I could have chosen 10, 20, or even 50 more teams, but I think even this small sample size is interesting.
There may be nothing here that surprises you, but the “blind resume” helps remove biases, if only for a few seconds before you realize which teams are represented. Strip away the jerseys and helmets from some of these prestigious programs and they simply don’t compare to the truly elite programs of the past decade.*
*I didn’t go back to the start of the decade because I didn’t think it was necessary. In 2002, current college seniors were around 12 or 13 years old. Kids in next year’s incoming class were 8 or 9 at that time. The following chart shows how 10 well-known programs performed during these kids’ football-watching, “where should I go to college?” years.
- Team A’s winning percentage is unreal.
- Seven BCS appearances in the last eight years is unbelievable, too, and Teams B and C both did it.
- Speaking of BCS appearances, if you rank them by that category, suddenly Teams A and D, who are near the top as far as winning percentage, sink to the bottom.
- 9-4 equates to a .692 winning percentage. Given all the cupcake games, you really don’t want to be under 70%, yet four teams here are (Teams G-J).
- Teams I and J have won less than two-thirds of their games, have lost a combined five of eight bowl games, and have not won a BCS bowl game despite appearing in five.
OK, so if you’re a serious college football fan and you spend more than a minute looking at the above chart you can probably replace the letters with the actual schools. But here they are, anyway, for simplicity’s sake:
Like I said, I wasn’t going for the “wow” factor here. But you may have shared some of my reactions, which expand upon the previous bullet points:
- So, yeah, Boise State has won a lot of games the last eight years.
- Were you not slightly surprised by Ohio State’s impressive numbers? Perhaps I had simply been blinded by my obligatory hatred for the Buckeyes.
- When it comes to BCS invites, Boise and TCU are at obvious disadvantages since they don’t play in conferences with automatic qualifiers. I can say with 100% confidence that, many of these years, they have been more deserving than the Big East and/or ACC champ, and often times have had a better team than the champs from other AQ conferences.*
- Shame on you, Miami, Alabama, Michigan, and Notre Dame, four historical powers. Miami was a national title contender at the start of the decade but played .500 football from 2006-08, while Alabama won it all last year but had some down years as well. As for Michigan and ND…
- …well, 3-9 doesn’t help your winning percentage. As far as the BCS appearances, Ohio State’s success and inclusion in three national title games certainly didn’t hurt Michigan, often the Big Ten’s second-best team. Notre Dame was helped by being, well, Notre Dame, and the Irish were painfully outmatched in their two BCS appearances.
*To clarify: In some years, we’ve seen some weak teams in BCS bowl games, teams I know Boise and/or TCU (and sometimes other non-AQ teams) were better than, even when you consider the schedule strength. In other years, Boise and others may have had great (possibly even undefeated) seasons, but given the disparity in schedule strength one can’t say whether they were truly more deserving. The latter is obviously why many fans would prefer a playoff.
So that’s what recruits know. They know Florida and their two national championships. They know USC and Ohio State consistently playing in high-profile bowl games. They know Boise and TCU and the often-overlooked Virginia Tech churning out the 10-win seasons. And, sadly for me (a Michigan alum) and many of my readers (Michigan and ND fans), they know Michigan as a very respectable but not dominant program that fell apart in 2008 and is still trying to rebuild, and Notre Dame as “just another team.”
Programs rise, programs fall, but tradition lasts forever. I’m not sure any of the highest-profile schools will ever completely fall off the national radar, even if more room is needed for the newcomers.
But depending on what recruits value—and that’s another argument altogether—it may become harder for the historically significant but currently dysfunctional programs to return to their winning ways, as more and more elite players grow up knowing the college football landscape that is represented in the above chart.