Contact Us
  • Comment

Seminoles don't have history on their side when it comes to repeat run

Posted: August 16, 2014 - 10:33pm  |  Updated: August 17, 2014 - 3:00pm
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher kisses The Coaches' Trophy after the BCS National Championship against Auburn on Jan. 6 in Pasadena, Calif.  AP
AP
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher kisses The Coaches' Trophy after the BCS National Championship against Auburn on Jan. 6 in Pasadena, Calif.

BACK-TO-BACK

College football teams that have won successive national titles through the final Associated Press poll or by winning the BCS National Championship game. The AP poll began in 1936. The BCS ran from 1998-2013. No team has won three in a row.

Team Years Coach

Minnesota 1940-1941 Bernie Bierman

Army 1944-1945 Earl Blaik

Notre Dame 1946-1947 Frank Leahy

Oklahoma 1955-1956 Bud Wilkinson

Alabama 1964-1965 Bear Bryant

Nebraska 1970-1971 Bob Devaney

Oklahoma 1975-1975 Barry Switzer

Alabama 1978-1979 Bear Bryant

Nebraska 1994-1995 Tom Osborne

USC 2003-2004* Pete Carroll

Alabama 2011-2012 Nick Saban

*-2004 title vacated because of NCAA sanctions.

TALLAHASSEE | Within the Florida State football program, the phrase “defending national champion” is almost as frowned upon as “go Gators.”

“We’re not defending anything,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher has said more than once during the build-up to the 2014 season.

As easy as the Seminoles made it look in going 13-0 to reach the national championship game in Pasadena, Calif. (where they beat Auburn 34-31, proving they could be tested and win), history says the Seminoles are fighting an uphill battle to win two in a row.

The Associated Press Top 25 preseason poll will be released Sunday and Florida State is expected to start at No. 1, the same position Fisher’s coaching brethren (USA Today poll) placed the Seminoles earlier this month by an overwhelming margin.

It’s easy to see why. Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston, running back Karlos Williams, wide receiver Rashad Greene, tight end Nick O’Leary and a senior-dominated offensive line are back from a unit that was second in the nation in scoring (51.6 points per game) and sixth in total offense (an ACC and school-record 519.1 yards per game).

End Mario Edwards Jr. and perhaps the best secondary in the land return from a defense that led the nation in scoring stinginess (12.1 points per game), was tied for second in turnovers and third in total defense.

Kicker Robert Aguayo scored more points than any kicker in NCAA history and missed only once. Kermit Whitfield, one of the heroes of the national championship game with his 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, helped FSU lead the nation in kickoff returns.

There are some big holes to fill: big-play wide receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw, running back Devonta Freeman, center Bryan Stork, linebacker Telvin Smith, cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan and safety Terrence Brooks are all playing in the NFL, with Smith and Shaw on the Jaguars’ roster.

But for each player who left, Fisher either has an experienced backup or promising freshman to plug in, including First Coast graduate Reggie Northrup at linebacker and Sandalwood’s Demarcus Walker at defensive end. Then there’s running back Dalvin Cook, Florida’s Mr. Football of 2013, and a bevy of talented freshman wide receivers.

Who would bet against that kind of talent and depth? The past and the future offer two reasons why Florida State might not repeat.

 

The rarity of repeating

From the start of the Associated Press poll in 1936 through the last season of the BCS era in 2013, only 11 teams have repeated as national champions. Of those 11, Oklahoma, Alabama and Nebraska combined for seven.

Bear Bryant coached Alabama to national titles in 1978 and 1979, the third time in the 1970s that a team repeated. Then it got even tougher as the NCAA created parity with scholarship reductions and less practice and team time. A national champion didn’t repeat again until Nebraska in 1994 and 1995.

Since then, it’s happened only twice on the field: Southern Cal in 2003-2004 and Alabama in 2011-2012. And the Trojans’ feat probably doesn’t count. USC won the AP title in 2003 (LSU won the BCS title) and the Trojans’ 2004 championship was vacated after the Reggie Bush scandal. That means on an official basis, no team except Nick Saban’s Tide has repeated in 19 years.

Take it a step further and the pool is reduced even more: With USC’s vacated title out of the mix, only two defending champs who were the preseason No. 1 team the following year have gone on to win consecutive national championships, Oklahoma in 1956 and 1975.

In the last 37 years, nine defending national champions who were designated as the preseason No. 1 team by AP have failed to hold up under the pressure of being America’s target.

None had terrible seasons: Oklahoma in 1987 and Miami in 1992 played in No. 1-vs.-No. 2 bowl games for the national championship. The 1990 Miami and 2009 Florida teams were in the mix until the end of the regular season.

The defending national champions who also were preseason No. 1s since the 1975 Sooners are a combined 89-13 (.872) and finished an average of fourth in the final AP poll.

But that didn’t satisfy the fan bases. Finishing second or third in the final poll and winning double-digit games has never been a good enough consolation prize at college football’s most elite programs.

So Florida State will feel pressure.

Their most important player had an answer for that.

“I’ve felt pressure [playing football] since I was 4 years old,” said Winston, the defending Heisman Trophy winner. “We can’t live in the past. We have to make sure nothing goes below our standards.”

 

Tougher system

If history doesn’t hurt the Seminoles, the College Football Playoff might.

The four-team system for deciding a national championship begins with a committee deciding the participants who will square off in two national semifinals in New Orleans and Pasadena. The two winners play in Arlington, Texas, on Jan. 12, 2015.

What that means for the four semifinalists is one more postseason game against a high-caliber opponent. To ensure themselves of making last year’s BCS National Championship, FSU only had to beat Duke in the ACC championship game, a 45-7 rout.

If the Seminoles reach the playoffs, they will have to win two games in less than two weeks against teams from a pool the oddsmakers and pollsters have established to include Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon, Auburn, South Carolina, Ohio State or UCLA — after a 13-game season that will include Oklahoma State, Clemson, Notre Dame, Miami and Florida.

Instead of a month after a conference championship game to prepare for one bowl game, the four teams in the playoff would have three weeks to get ready for the CFP semifinal and 10 days for the championship game.

“It’s cool,” said FSU cornerback P.J. Williams. “The more times we can be on that big stage, the better. We love it.”

“Time for a new trophy,” added running back Karlos Williams.

Youthful enthusiasm is a wonderful thing. But Fisher said negotiating such a minefield will be difficult.

“It’s uncharted territory for everyone … no one knows,” he said. “If we’re fortunate enough to be in that situation … getting that calculation of how hard you work guys and how are you going to handle the travel back and forth and all logistics? Everybody is going to have the same chance [and] the same problems.”

 

Staying hungry

It’s the college football version of the movie “The Hunger Games.”

The trophy is in the case and the rings are on their fingers. FSU’s vast reserve of returning talent could easily give rise to overconfidence and complacency.

Consider the coaches who have never taken teams to two championships in a row: Woody Hayes, John McKay, Darrell Royal, Ara Parseghian, Urban Meyer, Steve Spurrier, Vince Dooley, any of the four coaches who won national championships at Miami — and Bobby Bowden.

Players on the 2014 FSU team say Fisher and his staff have been relentless about not letting the team rest on that night in the Rose Bowl.

“We’re not complacent because our coaches won’t allow it,” said tackle Cameron Erving.

Fisher said he and his staff have a difficult balancing act. In trying to put the 2013 season in the past, does he risk losing the positives gained from the experience? To keep the players “hungry,” how far does a coach go in pushing the team physically and mentally?

“There’s a fine line between staying hungry and forgetting the last one, and remembering what you did to give you the confidence,” he said.

Winston said what’s important to remember is that there’s only one thing this year’s Florida State team can play for: this year’s championship.

“To stay hungry, you need the chip on your shoulder,” he said. “We have to play with a purpose. As long as we know our purpose, we’ll have the chip on our shoulder.”

It won’t be easy.

Only 14 percent of the defending national champions in college football since 1936 have met that purpose.

To borrow from the graffiti written on a building in “The Hunger Games,” the odds have never been in their favor.

That goes for the 2014 Seminoles, no matter how much they dominated in 2013.

 

Garry Smits: (904) 359-4362

 

The preseason No. 1 curse

Only three teams have ever won a national championship, been voted the preseason No. 1 by the Associated Press, then repeated as national champions. Here are the defending champions who were ranked first to begin the following season, and that season’s result (the AP did not begin issuing a preseason poll until 1950):

 

Year Team Record Final AP ranking

1950 Notre Dame 4-4-1 unranked

1956 Oklahoma 10-0 1st

1957 Oklahoma 10-1 4th

1959 LSU 9-2 3rd

1960 Syracuse 7-2 19th

1963 USC 7-3 unranked

1966 Alabama 11-0 3rd

1967 Notre Dame 8-2 5th

1969 Ohio State 8-1 4th

1972 Nebraska 9-2-1 4th

1973 USC 9-2-1 8th

1975 Oklahoma 11-1 1st

1986 Oklahoma 11-1 3rd

1990 Miami 10-2 3rd

1992 Miami 11-1 3rd

1996 Nebraska 11-2 6th

2002 Miami 12-1 2nd

2004 USC 13-0 1st*

2005 USC 12-1 2nd

2009 Florida 13-1 3rd

2010 Alabama 10-3 10th

2012 Alabama 11-2 7th

*-Title vacated because of NCAA sanctions.

 

Preventing two in a row

Here are five examples of defending national champions who were preseason No. 1 team in the following year’s AP poll and denied back-to-back titles:

 

1957 Oklahoma Sooners

Final record: 10-1 (4th in AP)

What happened: Sooners dropped to No. 2 after 14-13 victory over a mediocre Colorado team at home, then lost to Notre Dame 7-0 three weeks later. Oklahoma then won its last three by a combined 133-34 but Auburn won the national title.

 

1966 Alabama Crimson Tide

Final record: 11-0 (3rd).

What happened: Notre Dame jumped to No. 1 with a 38-0 rout of Oklahoma at Norman, then held onto the top spot even after coach Ara Parseghian purposely played for a 10-10 tie against No. 2 Michigan State. In the meantime, Alabama survived some lackluster efforts against Mississippi (17-7), Tennessee (11-10) and Mississippi State (27-14) but won its last four games of the season by shutouts and routed Nebraska 34-7 in the Sugar Bowl. The schedule hurt: The Tide’s only ranked opponent that season was the Cornhuskers at No. 6.

 

1986 Oklahoma Sooners

Final record: 11-1 (3rd)

What happened: OU lost the third game of the season in a blockbuster No. 1 vs. No. 2 game at Miami, 28-15 and it was an unsuccessful uphill fight the rest of the way. The Sooners outscored their last nine opponents by an average of 43-5, rolled Arkansas 42-8 in the Orange Bowl. No. 2 Penn State edged the No. 1 Hurricanes 14-10 in the Fiesta Bowl for the title

 

1992 Miami Hurricanes

Final record: 11-1 (3rd).

What happened: UM survived Wide Right II against FSU to win 19-16 and breezed into the national championship game at the Sugar Bowl against Alabama as heavy favorites. The Tide then routed the Hurricanes 34-13.

 

2009 Florida Gators

Final record: 13-1 (3rd).

What happened: UF had a few close calls during the SEC season (the Gators beat Arkansas 23-20, LSU 13-3) but Tim Tebow still got them to the SEC championship game where it was No. 1 Florida vs. No. 2 Alabama. The Tide won 32-13 and went on to win the national championship.

BACK-TO-BACK

College football teams that have won successive national titles through the final Associated Press poll or by winning the BCS National Championship game. The AP poll began in 1936. The BCS ran from 1998-2013. No team has won three in a row.

Team Years Coach

Minnesota 1940-1941 Bernie Bierman

Army 1944-1945 Earl Blaik

Notre Dame 1946-1947 Frank Leahy

Oklahoma 1955-1956 Bud Wilkinson

Alabama 1964-1965 Bear Bryant

Nebraska 1970-1971 Bob Devaney

Oklahoma 1975-1975 Barry Switzer

Alabama 1978-1979 Bear Bryant

Nebraska 1994-1995 Tom Osborne

USC 2003-2004* Pete Carroll

Alabama 2011-2012 Nick Saban

*-2004 title vacated because of NCAA sanctions.

Comments (2)

ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Stecker
1688
Points
Stecker 08/17/14 - 08:42 pm
0
0
Premium Member

Yes it was, jax1985. But the

Yes it was, jax1985. But the amazing thing is that FSU got any coverage at all in the TU. They would much rather write about a sorry UF team.

And thanks for this cool signature that I got from you:

DALLAS 2 DALLAS

jax1985
268
Points
jax1985 08/17/14 - 07:14 pm
0
0

What an incredibly negative

What an incredibly negative piece.

Back to Top