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College Football Streaks: Part One
by Larry Ness - 08/10/2004
The 2003 college football season ended with a split national championship when, despite being ranked No. 1 in both so-called human polls, USC was left out the BCS title game. LSU beat Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, assuring the Tigers of a national championship as voted by the coaches' poll, but USC's Rose Bowl win over Michigan a few days before the Sugar bowl game kept the Trojans atop the AP poll.
Just last week, the NCAA introduced a new selection process for determining college football's top teams. The writers' poll, the coaches' poll and a combination of computer rankings will now each comprise one-third of a team's ranking. Also, criteria such as strength of schedule, team record and quality wins have been eliminated.
If this new system would have been in place last year, LSU would have finished first in the final BCS standings and played No. 2 USC in the Sugar Bowl. Whether these changes are for the better is debatable, but what's not debatable is that the only real way to crown a true champion is the establishment of a playoff system.
Co-national champions USC and LSU enter the 2004 college football season on winning streaks of nine and eight games, respectively. USC was a perfect 9-0 ATS in those nine wins, capturing its final eight regular season games by an average margin of 31.2 ppg, before taking care of Michigan in the Rose Bowl by two touchdowns.
LSU was not quite as impressive, as its eight wins came by an average margin of victory of 21.9 ppg. A three-point win at Mississippi and a 21-14 win over Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl kept LSU's margin of victory about ten points per game less than USC's, but the Tigers still went an impressive 7-1 ATS.
While USC and LSU enter this season as co-national champions, they do not enter the year with the longest current winning streaks in college football. Boise State of the WAC enters the year on an eleven-game winning streak (just 6-5 ATS), and Miami-Ohio of the MAC comes into the 2004 season on a 13-game winning streak (10-3 ATS).
On the other end of the spectrum, Army finished the 2003 season as the first Division 1-A team to ever finish a year 0-13! With losses in its final two games of the 2002 season, Army enters this year on a nation-worst 15-game slide. During its losing streak, Army is 4-11 ATS, with just two of its losses coming by less than double-digits.
Right behind the Cadets is SMU. The Mustangs went 0-12 (3-9 ATS) in 2003, three times just missing out on a win. They lost to Baylor 10-7, to Nevada 12-9 and to UTEP 21-19. Tied for the nation's third-longest current losing streak at ten consecutive losses are Iowa State and Illinois.
Iowa State, a school that went to bowl games in three consecutive years from 2000 through 2002, opened the 2003 season with two wins and then lost its final ten games of the year by a whopping average of 34 ppg! No one will find it surprising that they also went 0-10 ATS during that time!
Illinois, a school that just two years ago played in the Sugar Bowl during a 10-2 season, also ended the 2003 season on a ten-game losing streak. While they were more competitive than Iowa State, the Hoosiers did lose five games by at least 26 points and after a 6-3 loss at UCLA (at +10), failed to cover any of their final nine losses!
Also of note entering the 2004 season are these winning streaks; the nation's longest current home winning streak belongs to Boise State at 18 straight (11-6 ATS). Ohio State at 16 straight (10-6 ATS) and USC at 15 straight (11-4 ATS), are right behind the Broncos.
Since Miami, Florida lost at Virginia Tech last November, ending the Hurricanes' 17-game regular season road winning streak, no school enters the 2004 season with a road winning streak worth mentioning.
Army not only holds the distinction of owning the nation's longest current overall losing streak, the Cadets also lead the way with thirteen straight home losses (2-9-1 ATS).
Last year, three schools ended long road losing streaks. Tulsa snapped its road losing streak at 17 straight games, while Idaho and UTEP ended road losing streaks at 16 games. Still going into the 2004 season however, are Eastern Michigan's 25-game road losing streak (8-17 ATS), Baylor's 19-game road losing streak (6-13 ATS) and 13-game road losing streaks by Indiana (3-9-1 ATS) and Vanderbilt (4-9 ATS).