Michigan Football – Elite or Overrated?

ESPN and SEC Network personality Paul Finebaum is on record a few years ago as calling Michigan fans “some of the most unrealistic people that I’ve ever encountered,” and said, “When you win a championship, call me back. I have never met a Michigan fan that had an ounce of humility or didn’t think his team was the greatest of all time regardless of the record.”

When asked what is the most arrogant college fanbase in America, Finebaum responded that Michigan has won half a national championship in about 60 years and “they talk like they’re Alabama, Ohio State, USC, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Penn State wrapped into one.”

Is the arrogance by Michigan’s football fans justified? Does Michigan football walk the walk and their fans just talk the talk? I thought I’d dig a little deeper into Finebaum’s assessment and look how Michigan compares to other schools.

Yes, Michigan is recognized as the all-time leader in wins, and has a higher winning percentage than any other program. No doubt helped by 62 wins by 1929 against powerhouses Albion (17), Case (26), Mt. Union (7), Oberlin (9) and Ohio Northern (3). Those five schools compiled a 1-62-1 record against the Wolverines. That certainly boosts Michigan’s all-time winning percentage.

Credit certainly must be given to the Wolverines for beating the likes of Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin to the tune of a 357-101-8 record and a winning percentage of .775.

Michigan’s won one-half share of one national championship (’97) in the last 69 years of college football. Since 1950, and we’re not talking a small sampling size of data, we’re talking since the Korean War,  that’s 69 seasons of data. Does anyone dispute the fact that 69 years is not a small data range? Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?

Michigan’s last outright national championship was 1948. In 1997, Michigan was co-national champions along with Nebraska. That’s one-half of a national championship since 1950. According to https://www.ncaa.com/news/football/article/college-football-national-championship-history, the list of schools that have won at least a share of a national championship* since 1950 looks like this:

12- Alabama (‘61*, ‘64*, ‘65*, ‘73*, ‘78*, ’79, ’92, ’09, ’11, ’12, ’15, ’17)

7 – Ohio State (‘54*, ‘57*, ‘61*, ’68, ‘70*, ’02, ’14)

7 – Oklahoma (’50, ’55, 56’, 74*, ’75, ’85, ’00)

7 – USC (’62, ’67, ’72, ‘74*, ‘78*, ‘03*, ’04)

6 – Notre Dame (’49, ‘64*, ‘66*, ‘73*, ’77, ’88)

5 – Miami (’83, ’87, ’89, ‘91*, ’01)

5 – Nebraska (‘70*, ’71, ’94, ’95, ‘97*)

4 – Texas (’63, ’69, ‘70*, ’05)

3 – Clemson (’81, ’16, ’18)

3 – Florida (’96, ’06, ’08)

3 – Florida State (’93, ’99, ’13)

3 – LSU (‘58*, ‘03*, ’07)

3 – Michigan State (’52, ‘65*, 66*)

2 – Auburn (‘57*, ’10)

2 – Penn State (’82, ’86)

2 – Tennessee (’51, ’98)

1 – Brigham Young (’84)

1 – Maryland (’53)

1 – Pitt (’76)

1 – Georgia (’80)

1 – Syracuse (’59)

1 – Arkansas (‘64*)

1 – Colorado (‘90*)

1 – Georgia Tech (’90*)

1 – Iowa (‘58*)

1 – Michigan (‘97*)

1 – Minnesota (‘60*)

1 – Mississippi (’60*)

1 – UCLA (‘54*)

1 – Washington (’91*)

Sixteen schools have won multiple national championships since 1950, and another five have won a single undisputed national championship before getting to schools such as Michigan that have won a share of a national championship in the past 69 seasons. If Michigan fans think of Michigan as elite or upper echelon, shouldn’t the Wolverines have won more than just a half-share of one national championship in the past 69 years? Does that sound elite to you?

How about we compare Michigan to the rest of college football another way? Let’s look at a list of schools and how many seasons since 1950, that they had one loss or less (we’ll allow for ties even Michigan’s three in 1992), and won a major bowl game (Cotton, Fiesta since 1987, Orange, Peach since 2014, Rose and Sugar) or a playoff game that season. For this discussion, let’s call that a “very good year.”

Which schools had the most very good years (1 loss or less & a major bowl game or playoff win) since 1950?

16 – Alabama (’61, ’62, ’65, ’66, ’75, ’77, ’78, ’79, ’92, ’09, ’11, ’12, ’15, ’16, ’17, ’18)

12 – Oklahoma (’53, ’55, ’57, ’58, ’67, ’71, ’75, ’78, ’79, ’83, ’86, ’00)

(’54 and ’56 could not make consecutive bowl appearance as conference champion.)

12 – USC (’52, ’62, ’67, ’69, ’72, ’74, ’76, ’78, ’79, ’03, ’04, ’08)

10 – Texas (’61, ’63, ’64, ’68, ’69, ’72, ’81, ’04, ’05, ’08)

9 – Ohio State (’54, ’57, ’68, ’73, ’96, ’98, ’02, ’14, ’15)

(’61 opted not to go to Rose Bowl and in ’10 wins were vacated)

8 – Florida State (’87, ’88, ’92, ’93, ’94, ’97, ’99, ’13)

8 –  Nebraska (’63, ’70, ’71, ’82, ’94, ’95, ’97, ’99)

8 –  Penn State (’68, ’69, ’71, ’73, ’82, ’86, ’94, ’05)

8 – Washington (’59, ’60, ’77, ’81, ’84, ’90, ’91, ’00)

7 –  Miami (’83, ’87, ’88, ’89, ’91, ’00, ’01)

7-   Notre Dame (’70, ’73, ’77, ’88, ’89, ’92, ’93)

(’53 and ’66 Notre Dame chose to not go to a bowl game)

5 –  Clemson (’50, ’81, ’15, ’16, ’18)

5 –  Georgia (’59, ’66, ’80, ’83, ’02)

5 – Tennessee (’50, ’70, ’85, ’89, ’98)

4 – Auburn (’83, ’87* tie in Sugar Bowl, ’04, ’10)

4 – Florida (’96, ’06, ’08, ’09)

4 –  LSU (’58, ’61, ’62, ’03)

3 –  Arkansas (’64, ’68, ’77)

3 –  Michigan (’64, ’92, ’97)

3 – Michigan State (’53, ’55, ’13)

(’66 could not go to the Rose Bowl consecutive years as conference champion.)

3 – Wisconsin (’93, ’98, ’17)

Look how far down the list one must go to find Michigan. Since 1950, 17 schools have more 1-loss or less seasons with a major bowl victory and/or won a playoff game that year than Michigan. 17 schools! In only three of the past 69 seasons has Michigan had one loss or less and won a major bowl game that same season. Three out of 69, and I’m including 1992 in which Michigan had three ties that season.

As you can see, some schools have done it many, many more times than Michigan. Ohio State, Michigan’s rival, has done it three times as many as Michigan’s three times, accomplishing the feat nine times. Arkansas, Michigan State and Wisconsin also match Michigan with three one-loss or less seasons with a major bowl victory over the past 69 years. Does that strike you as being elite?

We’ve looked at national championships and very good years since 1950. I’ll even lessen the criteria on this next comparison. Since 1950, how many 10-win seasons with a bowl victory, any bowl victory, it could have been the Poulan Weedeater Bowl, it doesn’t matter, just so it’s a bowl victory has Michigan had compared to other schools.

For this discussion, let’s call a 10-win season with a bowl win, any bowl win, a “good year.” I think most schools would consider that a good year, although granted, a 10-win season at Alabama isn’t looked upon the same as a 10-win season at UCLA, but one would think a 10-win season and a bowl win shouldn’t get a coach fired. Although winning nine games is not always good enough, just ask Les Miles at LSU or Frank Solich at Nebraska.

We know Michigan seemingly can’t beat Ohio State to win a conference title, but they still could and should win 10 games in a season and then go on to a bowl game and meet an opponent that had an equivalent amount of success that season. You’re no longer playing against the likes of Illinois, Indiana, Purdue, etc.  Which schools had the most good years (10 wins & a bowl game win or playoff win) since 1950?

22 – Alabama (’52, ’61, ’62, ’66, ’75, ’77, ’78, ’79, ’80, ’86, ’91, ’92, 94, ’96, ’09, ’10, ’11, ’12, ’15, ’15, ’17,  ’18) not including ’93 and ’05 both vacated.

18 – Oklahoma (’55, ’57, ’58, ’67, ’71, ’75, ’78, ’79, ’80, ’85, ’86, ’00, ’01, ’02, ’10, ’11, ’13, 16)              (’54 & ’56 consecutive bowl appearances prohibited by conference.)

18 – Penn State (’68, ’69, ’71, ’73, ’74, ’77, ’80, ’81, ’82, ’86, ’91, ’93, ’94, ’96, ’99, ’05, ’09, ’17)

17 – USC (’52, ’62, ’67, ’69, ’72, ’74, ’76, ’78, ’79, ’02, ’03, ’04, ’06, ’07, ’08, ’13, ’16)

16 – Florida State (’77, ’87, ’88, ’89, ’90, ’91, ’92, ’93, ’94, ’95, ’97, ’99, ’10, ’12, ’13, ’16)

16 – Georgia (’59, ’66, ’71, ’80, ’83, ’92, ’97, ’02, ’03, ’04, ’07, ’08, ’12, ’14, ’15, ’17)

15 – Nebraska (’63, ’70, ’71, ’80, ’82, ’84, ’86, ’94, ’95, ’96, ’97, ’99, ’00, ’03, ’09)

15 – Texas (’61, ’63, ’64, ’69, ’72, ’75, ’81, ’01, ’02, ’04, ’05, ’06, ’07, ’08, ’18)

14 – Ohio State (’54, ’68, ’73, ’86, ’93, ’96, ’98, ’02, ’03, ’05, ’14, ’15, ’17, 18)

12 – Clemson (’78, ’81, ’87, ’88, ’89, ’90, ’12, ’13, ’14, ’15, ’16, ’18)

12 – Tennessee (’50, ’70, ’71, ’72, ’87, ’89, ’95, ’96, ’98, ’01, ’04, ’07)

11 – LSU (’58, ’61, ’87, ’96, ’01, ’03, ’05, ’06, ’10, ’13, ’18)

11 – Notre Dame (’70, ’73, ’74, ’77, ’88, ’89, ’91, ’92, ’93, ’15, ’17)

10 – Washington (’59, ’60, ’77, ’79, ’81, ’82, ’84, ’90, ’91, ’00)

10 – Wisconsin (’93, ’98, ’99, ’05, ’06, ’09, ’14, ’15, ’16, ’17)

9 – Auburn (’72, ’74, ’83, ’86, ’89, ’97, ’04, ’06, ’10)

9 – Florida (’93, ’96, ’97, ’98, ’01, ’06, ’08, ’09, ’18)

9 – Miami (’83, ’87, ’88, ’89, ’90, ’91, ’00, ’01, ’03)

8 – Michigan (’80, ’85, ’97, ’98, ’99, ’02, ’11, ’15)

7 – Oregon (’00, ’01, ’08, ’11, ’12, ’13, ’14)

7 –  UCLA (’82, ’87, ’88, ’97, ’05, ’13, ’14)

As you can see, 18 schools, count them, 18 schools since 1950, have more 10-win seasons with a bowl victory than the University of Michigan. Alabama, Oklahoma, Penn State, USC, Florida State and Georgia have at least twice as many 10-win seasons with a bowl victory since 1950 than Michigan. Still think Michigan is elite? Leaders and Best? For as beloved as Michigan coaching legend Bo Schembechler was, he never won a national championship and his bowl record was 5-12.  His major bowl record was even worse at 2-10.

In the past 69 seasons, Michigan had one more 10-win season with a bowl victory than Oregon or UCLA. No one thinks of Oregon and UCLA as elite. No one. I ask you, how could a school and its fanbase rationalize that there are 18 schools with more 10-win seasons with a bowl victory than its school and consider itself elite? Is that not the definition of overrated? The very definition of overrated is having a higher opinion of (someone or something) than is deserved. They should put a picture of Michigan football and its fans next to the definition in the dictionary.

Well, what about recently? Michigan hasn’t won a Big 10 conference title in football since 2004. That’s 14 seasons ago.  Which teams have won Big 10 conference titles since 2005?

6 – Ohio State

3 – Penn State

3 – Wisconsin

2 – Michigan State

0 – Michigan

Does that strike you as Michigan being elite? Leaders and Best?

Michigan has also lost 14 of their last 15 games against their rival Ohio State. That’s hardly a rivalry, that’s more like Navy versus Notre Dame and Kentucky versus Florida. In fact, Navy has beaten Notre Dame and Kentucky has defeated Florida since the last time Michigan beat Ohio State.

In his four years at Michigan, the Wolverines’ ballyhooed head coach Jim Harbaugh has a record 1-9 vs. top 10 teams, 1-3 in bowl games, and 0-4 vs Ohio State. In each of the past three seasons, the Wolverines continued their tradition of ending the year poorly with a season-ending loss against Ohio State and then a bowl-game loss. In 2016, it was a 1-3 finish over the last four games, in 2017, an 0-3 finish, and in 2018 an 0-2 finish to the season.

For all the hubris that Michigan fans have, it’s hardly warranted compared to other schools. Michigan is the most overrated blue-blood football program. Their supporters always point to their past, but it’s been longer than 70 years ago since Michigan truly was elite. No one under the age of 75 remembers Michigan winning two national championships in their lifetime. Those that attended Michigan and experienced the 1948 national championship would now be in their 90s.

By comparison, Clemson and Alabama students still in school have experienced two national championships. If you want to watch highlights when Michigan was truly amongst college football’s elite, you will not find it on ESPN Classic. You might have to watch the History Channel because Michigan hasn’t been truly elite for a long, long time.

Photo credit:  larrysphatpage on Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:  https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/

 

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Sorry Pitt fans, Pitt is not Running Back U. Not even close.

Living in Southwest Pennsylvania, I often hear Pitt fans boast about how they are Running Back U based upon the success of Tony Dorsett, Curtis Martin, LeSean McCoy, and James Conner in the NFL. They have been successful yes, but well, that’s about it as far as Pitt goes – for the past 50 years.

Certainly, credit goes to Pitt for two of the NFL’s greatest running backs in Dorsett and Martin, but I believe that speaks to the quality of football players from Southwest Pennsylvania as much as anything else.

https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/2018/09/25/southwest-pennsylvania-breeding-ground-for-the-ncaa-and-the-nfl/

For those that believe that it is what a college player does in the NFL that makes up a so-called position U, I get that, but when I ask the following questions no one who follows that notion answers them:  If a college produced 10 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks in a 15-year time period, but they all amounted to squat in the NFL, that school wouldn’t be considered Quarterback U?  That’s ridiculous, of course it should. One shouldn’t dismiss what a player accomplished in college if he didn’t do well in the NFL. Charlie Ward won the Heisman Trophy at Florida State and he opted to play in the NBA instead of the NFL, but since he didn’t choose to play in the NFL, doesn’t his winning the Heisman Trophy have any meaning to Florida State and Florida State’s quarterback history?

The other question I pose to which I never get a response from those that feel it’s what a player does in the NFL that matters is: What about players that play a different position in the NFL than in college?

For example, should Terrelle Pryor count as a wide receiver for Ohio State? It’s what a player does in the NFL that matters they’ll say, but Pryor never played wide receiver at Ohio State, so why does what he accomplishes as a wide receiver count towards Ohio State being Wide Receiver U?

What about Antwaan Randle El? Does he count towards Indiana as Wide Receiver U? He played quarterback at Indiana. What about Derrick Ramsey, the tight end from Oakland? He played quarterback at Kentucky. Should he count towards Kentucky being Tight End U?  Julian Edelman, the Patriots wide receiver played quarterback at Kent State University. Does Kent State get credit towards Wide Receiver U based on Edelman’s pro career when he played quarterback in college?

What about Matt Cassell?  Does he count towards USC being Quarterback U?  He never started a game at USC and had only 33 pass attempts and had 20 completions in his collegiate career.

That’s why to me, it’s what the players produce at that position while they’re in college that should count towards that school being deemed a position U.

Since 1969, Penn State has produced 10 All-American running backs (Charlie Pittman ’69, Lydell Mitchell ’71, John Cappeletti ’73, Curt Warner ’81 & ‘82, D.J.Dozier ’86, Blair Thomas ’89, Ki-Jana Carter ’94, Curtis Enis ’97, Larry Johnson ’02 and Saquon Barkley ’16 & ’17). In that same time frame, Pitt has produced only five (Tony Dorsett ’73-’76, Craig Heyward ’87, LeSean McCoy ’08, Dion Lewis ’09 and James Conner ’14).

Pitt’s number of five All-American running backs would not even be in the top 14 of schools with All-American running backs since 1968.

The schools that have produced the most All-America running backs since 1968:

10 – Alabama, Penn State, Stanford

9 – USC, Wisconsin

8 – Ohio State, Texas, UCLA

6 – Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State

For the sake of discussion, we’ll consider that it’s what a school’s players accomplish in the NFL that matters and see if Pitt fans boasting they are Running Back U and especially so over Penn State has any validity.

I think we would all agree that 14,813 yards rushing is a lot of yards rushing. That would be good for fourth place all-time in NFL history and only 458 yards short of the career rushing total of the great Barry Sanders. Well, that 14,813 yards represents the difference between the rushing yards gained by Penn State’s running backs in the NFL and those from the University of Pittsburgh all-time.

I used both schools list of players that played in the NFL from their respective media guides. Then I entered that player’s name in https://www.pro-football-reference.com/. If there’s anyone I missed, please by all means point them out to me as a comment and their rushing yards.

The breakdown for Penn State and Pitt’s running backs yards gained in the NFL is as follows:

Penn State                          74757            Pitt                                        59944
Richie Anderson                 3149            Kevan Barlow                       3984
Saquon Barkley                   1307           Tom Brown                                29
Gary Brown                         4300            Dick Cassiano                            84
John Cappelletti                  2951            Bob Clemens                                9
Ki-Jana Carter                      1144           James Conner                        1117
D.J. Dozer                                691           Jim Cunningham                     337
Chuck Drazenovich              330           Tony Dorsett                         12739
Jeff Durkota                              66           Bill Dutton                                169
Omar Easy                                  4           Bobby Epps                               771
Curtis Enis                            1497           Carles Gladman                         29
Sam Gash                                327           Nick Goings                            1470
Mike Guman                       1286            Marshall Goldberg                1644
Franco Harris                   12120            Craig Heyward                       4301
Dick Hoak                            3965            Jack Itzel                                      11
Tony Hunt                                25            Ben Kish                                    344
Larry Joe                                  18            George Kracum                        169
Larry Johnson                     6223           Dion Lewis                               2101
Roger Kochman                    232           Curtis Martin                         14101
Tim Manoa                            938            LeSean McCoy                      10606
Eric McCoo                              54            Randy McMillen                     3876
Sean McHugh                        301           Brandon Miree                           57
Mike Meade                           261           Mike Nixon                                    5
Brian Milne                           126            Larry Peace                                   2
Lydell Mitchell                   6534            Lousaka Polite                          296
Booker Moore                       420            Billy Reynolds                          585
Lenny Moore                      5174            Curvin Richards                       181
Michael Robinson                422            Mike Sebastan                            83
Fran Rogel                           3271            LaRod Stephens-Howling      670
Evan Royster                         416            Adam Walker                           115
Matt Suhey                          2946            Heinie Weisenbaugh                59
Steve Smith                         1627
Blair Thomas                      2236
Leroy Thompson               1390
Bob Torrey                              61
Wally Triplett                       321
Curt Warner                       6844
Kenny Watson                   1651
Jon Witman                          129

Penn State running backs have rushed for 74,751 yards and Pitt’s running backs have rushed for 59,944 yards in NFL history and Penn State has produced twice as many All-American running backs. Whether you go by what players do while in college, or what they accomplished in the NFL, sorry Pitt fans, Pitt is not Running Back U by either method. Penn State is a far greater Running Back U than Pitt.

Saquon Barkley photo courtesy of: pennstatenews on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Darrin Hall photo courtesy of:  SGSFilms on Visual Hunt / CC BY

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:  https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/.

Pitt Football’s 10 most ignominious and memorable defeats

With Pitt’s return to the Sun Bowl to face Stanford to close out Pitt’s 2018 football season, the infamous 3-0 loss in the Sun Bowl 10 years earlier was revisited by the press and Pitt fans as a game Pitt fans would like to forget about. That got me to thinking, what were Pitt football’s 10 most ignominious and memorable defeats?

Which is the greater defeat and embarrassment?  Losing in record fashion with an incredible amount of talent to a good opponent at home or losing at home to a large underdog with far-lesser talent?  Or let a game that seems well in hand get away in record fashion? Pitt’s been there and done that.

Before we get to the 10 most ignominious and memorable defeats in modern Pitt football history, those Pitt losses that earn the distinction of dishonorable mention:

November 23, 1968 – at Pitt Stadium, it was third-ranked Penn State 65 Pitt 9. In what would be the third-loss in a row amidst a 10-game losing streak to Penn State head coach Joe Paterno, Penn State scored the first nine times they had the football and had a 45-9 lead at halftime. The Nittany Lions rushed for 456 yards and 618 yards of total offense. Penn State held Pitt to negative 17 yards rushing on 27 attempts.

November 6, 1971 – Notre Dame 56 @ Pitt 7 – How dominant was Notre Dame against Pitt this day? Notre Dame rushed for 464 yards and had 534 yards of total offense. Pitt would make only seven first downs on the afternoon and gained only two yards of offense in the second half.

November 16, 1996 – @ #14 Notre Dame 60 Pitt 6 – Pitt did its part in waking up the echoes for Notre Dame. The 60 points scored by the Fighting Irish were the most points they had scored in a game in 10 years and their 54-point margin of victory, the largest margin of victory in nearly 20 years. Notre Dame scored 40 points in the second quarter and led 40-0 at halftime and at one point in the game led 53-0 before Pitt would score a 4th quarter touchdown.

December 5, 2009 – Cincinnati 45 Pitt 44 @ Heinz Field.  Pitt had a three-touchdown lead in a game with just 1:26 on the clock before halftime in a game that was for the Big East championship and a trip to the Sugar Bowl.  The ensuing kickoff to Mardy Gilyard and his 99-yard touchdown return changed everything.

November 9, 2017 – UNC beats Pitt 34-31 with a third-string quarterback at Heinz Field making his first collegiate start. It would be North Carolina’s first win over a Power 5 conference foe in 369 days and the Tarheels only one in 2017. If any play typified Pitt’s night was when Quadree Henderson was heading for the pylon on a jet sweep, got stripped of the ball just before the goal line and a North Carolina linebacker picked it up and raced 64 yards before being tackled.

I started out by talking about the memorable 3-0 Pitt loss in the 2008 Sun Bowl to Oregon State, but once you go through this list, quite honestly, it only rates a dishonorable mention.

December 31, 2008 – Oregon State 3 Pitt 0 in the Sun Bowl. It was the lowest-scoring bowl game since Air Force and TCU tied at 0-0 in the 1959 Cotton Bowl. Oregon State played without their two star offensive players, Jacquizz and James Rodgers. As Paul Zeise, who covered the game for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote, “Players and coaches all would love to forget this Sun Bowl….there haven’t been many worse football games ever played, and certainly not in modern day football. The 2008 Sun Bowl was easily the most dreadful football game I ever attended.”

Which brings us to the 10 most ignominious losses in modern Pitt football history:

10. September 21, 2003 – Toledo upsets #9 Pitt 35-31. To that point Pitt was the highest-ranked team to ever play in the Glass Bowl in Toledo and the Panthers let a 10-point lead mid-way in the fourth quarter get away. Pittsburgh-native sophomore quarterback Bruce Gradkowski led the Rockets on their two final drives of 98 and 83 yards to beat the highly-ranked Panthers. Gradkowski completed 49 of his 62 passes and threw for 461 yards against the ninth-ranked Panthers.

9. August 30, 2008 – Bowling Green upsets #25 Pitt 27-17 at Heinz Field. In the 2008 season opener at Heinz Field, the Panthers were a 13-point favorite and had a 14-0 lead, outgaining the Falcons 137 to 6 in the first quarter. Going into this game, Pitt had never lost to a MAC team at home, winning all 24 of their previous games against MAC schools. It was Pitt’s worst upset home loss since losing to South Florida in 2001.

8. September 21, 1996 – Ohio State 72 Pitt 0. It was the worst defeat in school history. Thankfully, it didn’t happen in front of a home crowd but rather in Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. The Buckeyes had a 52-0 halftime lead and the game wasn’t as close as the score indicated. The Panthers would amass four first downs, total, and only 120 yards of offense for the game. How bad was Pitt that day? David Boston returned a punt for a touchdown for Ohio State late in the fourth quarter with Ohio State having only eight players on the field.

7. September 8, 2018 – Penn State 51 @ Pitt 6 – in what would be Pitt’s worst-loss ever at Heinz Field, and it would come against their bitter rival Penn State. Pitt was still in the ballgame at halftime, trailing 14-6. The 45-point loss would be Pitt’s worst defeat since a 60-6 loss to Notre Dame in 1996. It was the worst-home loss since Notre Dame beat Pitt 56-7 in 1971. The 45-point margin was the worst loss to Penn State since a 65-9 loss to Penn State in 1968.

6. September 1, 2012 – Youngstown State 31 Pitt 17. Division 1-AA Youngstown State beats Pitt at Heinz Field. This was the season opener and the start of the Paul Chryst era and it also turned out to be Pitt’s first-ever loss to a lower-division team. It’s one thing to lose to Penn State or Ohio State. It’s entirely another matter to lose to Youngstown State.

5. September 8, 2001 – USF 35 Pitt 26 – USF was in their first year as a full FBS member and a 22-point underdog against Pitt when they visited Heinz Field back in 2001. USF led at halftime 14-7 and would score touchdowns on their first two possessions of the second half to take a 28-7 lead. The Bulls would gain 443 yards of offense on the day and sacked Pitt quarterback David Priestly six times and held Pitt’s running attack to 12 yards on the afternoon. At the time, it was arguably the most stunning loss in Pitt football history.

4. January 2, 2015 – Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl – Leave it to Pitt to lose in historic fashion. With less than 11 minutes left in the game, Houston trailed Pitt by 25 points, 31-6. The game should be over, right? But no, Pitt happens. The Cougars would end up winning 35-34 as Pitt blew the largest fourth-quarter lead ever in the history of college football bowl games and it happened in less than 11 minutes of game time! The Cougars had 292 yards of offense …. in the fourth quarter. The term Pitting grows in lexicon stature as a result as Pitt takes Pitting to new depths.

3. October 28, 2014 – Georgia Tech 56 Pitt 28 – Pitt lost four fumbles in their first six plays, and lost five fumbles on their first five possessions. I kid you not, on Homecoming no less, and Georgia Tech took advantage and scored 28 first-quarter points. Georgia Tech set a record for most points scored by an opponent at Heinz Field with 56 and set a Heinz Field rushing record rushing with 465 yards. The following was written in an sbnation.com article about the game, “Outstanding ineptitude, thy name is Pitt.”

https://www.sbnation.com/college-football/2014/10/28/7080621/pitt-homecoming-georgia-tech-eve6

Even deadspin.com chimed in and when the title of the article is: “The Pitt Panthers Are Desecrating The Game Of Football.” That’s not good.

https://deadspin.com/the-pitt-panthers-are-desecrating-the-game-of-football-1650799211

2. September 16, 2017 – Oklahoma State 59 @ Pitt 21 – The Cowboys scored on each of their first seven possessions and had 516 yards of offense…by halftime and led Pitt 49-14. Oklahoma State would finish with 676 yards of total offense, 572 of that through the air and the Cowboys had four 100-yard receivers in the game.

In a game that was televised by ESPN and during the second half non-game action shots would become the lasting images of this debacle. Images of fans sleeping in the stands at Heinz Field with no one around them for rows in each direction and then displayed on the Heinz Field scoreboard: Those students that stay throughout the game will get a free beverage. It wasn’t worth it. It was Pitt’s worst loss ever at Heinz Field, till the following season against Penn State.

Why is this game number two on the list instead of Penn State’s drubbing of Pitt in 2018? Unlike the Pitt-Penn State game of 2018 this game was no longer competitive well before halftime. Everyone knew it was over and all that was left was for the television cameras to show fans asleep in the stands during the second half of the game.

Drum roll please. The most ignominious and memorable defeat in Pitt football history is:

1. November 29, 1981 – Penn State 48 #1 Pitt 14 – Just say the score and Pitt fans know it all too well. The 34-point defeat is still, to this day, nearly 38 years later, the largest margin of defeat for a number one-ranked team ever home or away, and it happened at Pitt Stadium. What made it even harder to take was that Pitt led 14-0 and was driving for another touchdown and Pitt’s all-time greatest quarterback Dan Marino was intercepted in the end zone and that changed the momentum of the game and Pitt’s national championship hopes would begin to slip away. Talk about a momentum swing. It unleashed a Penn State tsunami scoring 48 straight unanswered points against the top-ranked Panthers.

Why is this the choice as the most ignominious loss in Pitt history? Even though it was against a quality opponent, Pitt’s 1981 team was ranked number one in the nation and had far too much talent to lose at home – to their arch-rival – on the final game of the regular season – with a national championship on the line – by five touchdowns. This game had so much riding on it and how it turned out, the score is forever remembered by Pitt fans in infamy.

Interestingly, a Pitt loss has made this list in four of the past five seasons. One never knows what the 2019 football season might bring.

Photo credit: SGSFilms on VisualHunt.com / CC BY

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:  https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/.

 

 

 

How many NCAA titles would Joe Paterno have won if he had the college football playoff?

Is it easier or harder for a head coach to win a national championship in college football now than it was years ago? College football analyst Kirk Herbstreit stated he believe it was easier today for a head coach to win a national championship because of the college football playoff which gives more teams an opportunity to win the national championship.

If we were still using the old poll system, Alabama would not have played for the national championship this past January and Nick Saban would not had the opportunity to win his sixth national title. Think about that. Alabama would have been on the outside looking in on the national championship picture and would not have played for a national championship but instead just played in a bowl game.

A school that didn’t even win its division, let alone play for a conference championship, won the national championship. That would have never happened in the pre-BCS, pre-playoff era. National championships were harder to come by because of reduced opportunities, poll politics and bowl affiliations.

In today’s current format, all you need to do is finish in the top four and you have a shot at a national championship. In the past, before the playoff system and the BCS, a team could be ranked #2 and not had a shot at a national title if the #1-ranked team had a conference-affiliated tie to a bowl game or for that matter, if the #2-ranked team did as well. The #2-ranked team had to hope the #1-ranked team lost as they seldom met in a bowl game to decide the national championship.

For example, years ago, if Alabama was #2 and USC was #1, USC would have faced the Big 10 Conference representative in the Rose Bowl as the Rose Bowl had automatic tie-ins to the PAC-8, 10 or 12 and the Big 10 conferences. Therefore, if USC won, Alabama could not prove on the field head-to-head versus USC who the real national champion was.

A counter argument is teams now play more games and therefore have additional opportunity to lose those games, but you can win a national championship today without winning your division or even playing in your conference championship game. Alabama did it in 2017. Ohio State made the four-team playoff in 2016 without winning the Eastern division of the Big 10 conference.

It makes one wonder, how many final fours would Penn State been in under Joe Paterno? Let’s look back at the polls during Paterno’s years when he had an outstanding team, and when Penn State would have been in the college football playoff conversation.

At the end of the 1968 regular season, the top four ranked teams in the country were: Ohio State, USC, Penn State and Georgia. Penn State was 10-0 and Ohio State had a 9-0 record. The Buckeyes defeated number two-ranked USC 27-16 in the Rose Bowl and Penn State beat 6th-ranked Kansas 15-14 in the Orange Bowl. Penn State would finish the season ranked second, undefeated and uncrowned. It was the consensus that Ohio State was the best team in the country in 1968. A Penn State-Ohio State game would have been a titanic battle of two strong running attacks against two outstanding run defenses.

In 1969, at the end of the regular season, the Nittany Lions were ranked second behind Texas and ahead of Arkansas and Ohio State. It has been well documented how Penn State ended up not getting to play Texas in the Cotton Bowl to determine a national champion on the field that year. For those that may not be aware, bowl game invitations were extended by bowl game committees in November before the end of the regular season to get the bowl committee’s desired team locked in as quickly as possible. Ohio State was ranked number one and in the midst of a 22-game winning streak and it looked like they would go undefeated and repeat as national champions.

Ohio State was heavily favored to beat Michigan and they would repeat as national champions.  On November 17th, the top four ranked teams in the country were: Ohio State, Texas, Arkansas and Penn State. Number two-ranked Texas had yet to play third-ranked Arkansas. It seemed highly unlikely that fourth-ranked Penn State would have an opportunity to play for the national championship and Penn State’s players elected to return to the Orange bowl in Miami which they enjoyed a great deal the year before and avoid the existing racial tension in Dallas, Texas.

Michigan under first-year head coach Bo Schembechler pulled off an incredible upset defeating the Buckeyes 24-12. After the Ohio State loss, in a battle of then the top-two teams in the country, #1 Texas defeated #2 Arkansas 15-14, and that’s why Texas was ranked number one with a commitment to the Cotton Bowl and Penn State was ranked number two with their commitment to the Orange Bowl.

James Vautravers does an excellent job discussing whether Texas or Penn State should have been ranked number one in his article found online at: http://www.tiptop25.com/champ1969.html. At the time, Texas’ wishbone offense ran roughshod against all their Southwest Conference foes. In the 1972 Cotton Bowl, with time to prepare, Paterno’s defense held Texas’ vaunted wishbone attack without a touchdown for the first time in 80 games going all the way back to 1964 in one of the most lopsided games in Cotton Bowl history, winning by a score of 30-6.

Paterno proved, with time to prepare, that Penn State could stop the wishbone offense and he had a better team in 1969, particularly on defense, than he did in 1972 when Penn State shut down Texas’ offense. Penn State may well have been the best team in the country in 1969, however, Penn State would again finish the season ranked second, again undefeated and uncrowned. Good luck convincing a Nittany Lion fan that Penn State would not have won the 1969 national championship had there been a playoff system.

In 1973 after going through the season undefeated, Penn State found itself ranked sixth before the bowl games took place. That year Alabama, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Michigan were also undefeated and at that time Eastern football was not regarded as highly as in other parts of the country. Oklahoma, however, was on probation and ineligible to play in a bowl game. Bill Connelly breaks down how he thought the 1973 four-team playoff would have been in his article found online at: https://www.footballstudyhall.com/2016/6/27/12040028/1973-college-football-season-michigan-ohio-state-alabama-notre-dame.

With the biases that existed by voters in the Associated Press Poll against Eastern football, I do not believe Penn State would have been one of the four teams chosen to make the playoff and with how the Nittany Lions struggled with 13th-ranked LSU in the Orange Bowl, Penn State may not have fared as well against Alabama or Notre Dame.

Penn State under Paterno had four opportunities to play in the game win the national championship and had a record of 2-2 in them. The first was Penn State’s 1978 team that played in a #1 vs. #2 showdown in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama but the Nittany Lions lost 14-7 to Bear Bryant and the Crimson Tide as Alabama’s defense had a goal-line stand for the ages denying Penn State a tying touchdown in the fourth quarter.

At the end of the 1981 season, Penn State was playing perhaps the best football of any team in the country. Penn State defeated Notre Dame 23-21 and you may recall Penn State destroying #1-ranked Pitt on the road 48-14 which still is the worst loss by a number one-ranked team at home in college football history and then the Nittany Lions went on to defeat USC 26-10 in the Fiesta Bowl. However, because of a loss in week seven to Miami 17-14 and a second defeat two weeks later to Alabama 31-16, the Nittany Lions fell to number 14 in the polls and worked their way back up to number six in the final regular season polls and would not have been selected to a four-team college playoff in 1981. Penn State finished the season ranked third in the nation and very much looking forward to 1982.

If you bought golf balls with Joe Paterno’s likeness on them, the joke was they were guaranteed to go up the middle every time, but Penn State’s 1982 team was the first national championship team to have more passing yards than rushing yards on offense, and in addition, the Nittany Lions played the toughest schedule in the country that year.  Penn State’s national championship in 1982 against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl was a national championship game showdown leaving no doubt as to which team deserved the national championship.

Penn State’s 1985 team lost in the Orange Bowl to Oklahoma 25-10 as the Nittany Lions went into that game ranked #1 in the country but lost to the #3 Oklahoma Sooners but many sensed that Penn State’s 1985 team was a year ahead of schedule.

The following season, Penn State won its second national championship in five years defeating Miami 14-10 in the Fiesta Bowl, winning the Duel in the Desert in a national championship game format which ultimately led to the BCS format pitting the number one and two teams against each other in a national championship game.

Even though Penn State finished ranked third in the final AP Poll in 1991 with an 11-2 record, they likely would have been left out of the four-team college football playoff. That year Washington and Miami both finished the regular season with 11-0 records and Florida and Michigan were both 10-1 and ranked ahead of 10-2 Penn State in the AP Poll as was a 10-2 Florida State team. In the Coaches Poll, Penn State was ranked fifth behind 10-2 Florida State in the final regular season poll.

Just say 1994 to a Penn State football fan and they know. The undefeated 1994 Penn State team had perhaps the greatest balanced offense in the history of college football. The ’94 team averaged 250.9 yards per game rushing and 269.3 yards per game passing and averaged 47.8 points per game and that’s with the starters out of the lineup for most of the games by the fourth quarter.

Along the way, the ’94 team destroyed traditional powerhouses USC 38-14, leading 35-0 at halftime, and Ohio State by a 63-14 score and those scores could have been even more lopsided had Paterno chose to keep his starters in longer. The 1994 season saw Penn State ranked number one in week seven, beat a number 21-ranked Ohio State team by 49 points that had in their starting lineup:  Joey Galloway, Eddie George, Terry Glenn, Bobby Hoying, Orlando Pace, Sean Springs, Korey Stringer and Mike Vrabel, and yet Penn State dropped in the rankings to number two because third-ranked Nebraska beat number two Colorado 24-7 in Lincoln, Nebraska.

1994 was another undefeated season for Joe Paterno and Penn State to finish ranked second in the polls. For a team that never scored fewer than 31 points in a game and for the national championship to not at least be shared was a travesty. 1994’s national championship was viewed as a present to Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne after failing to win it so many times in the past.

In 2005, Penn State finished the regular season ranked third in the BCS rankings behind undefeated USC and Texas. Ohio State, a team Penn State defeated earlier in the season 17-10, was ranked fourth. Texas would go on to defeat USC in perhaps the greatest college football game of all time to win the national championship. As good as Penn State’s defense was that year, it’s doubtful they had the offense to stay with juggernauts Texas or USC. Penn State struggled with #22 Florida State in the Orange Bowl winning in overtime 26-23.

In 2008, a loss in game 10 at Iowa sent undefeated and third-ranked Penn State down to number seven in the polls. At the end of the regular season, 11-1 Penn State could only climb back up to sixth in the AP Poll. Ahead of the Nittany Lions were all one-loss teams:  Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, and USC. USC would go on to beat Penn State 38-24 in the Rose Bowl.

1969 and 1994 were undoubtedly the two most likely years that Penn State would have won a national championship had there been a four-team playoff. One could also state that Paterno’s 24-12-1 record in bowl games makes for an even stronger case for success in the college football playoffs. Penn State certainly would have made the college football playoff in those years and Paterno could have, and most likely would have, won at least two more than the two national titles he did under the old poll system.

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:  https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/.

Photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/pennstatelive/6709551815/”>pennstatenews</a&gt; on <a href=”https://foter.com”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”&gt; CC BY-NC</a>

 

 

 

Alabama @ LSU – Alabama’s First Test Towards History?

If there’s been one story that stands out in the 2018 College Football season thus far, it would be the outstanding play of Heisman-Trophy frontrunner Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and how well defending national champion Alabama, particularly their offense, is playing thus far.

Imagine after eight games averaging more than 50 points per game and being touted as perhaps the greatest offense in college football history and defeating your first eight opponents by an average of 38.5 points per game. How could a team that good lose?

For fans and media alike that are ready to coronate Alabama as undefeated national champions and the greatest team ever, as ESPN analyst Lee Corso so aptly puts it, “Not so fast my friend.” That team wasn’t this year’s Alabama squad but rather the 1983 Nebraska Cornhuskers. The Cornhuskers went 12-0 and faced the fifth-ranked Miami Hurricanes in the Orange Bowl and lost 31-30 and the national championship on a missed two-point conversion.

After eight games this year, Alabama’s average margin of victory is 38.3 points per game defeating their opponents by 37, 50, 55, 22, 42, 34, 29, and 37 points respectfully, with the best team the Crimson Tide faced being then #22-ranked Texas A&M. On Saturday, November 2nd, Alabama will face its stiffest test of the season thus far when they travel to Baton Rouge to play the fourth-ranked LSU Tigers.

Another team that had a comparable average margin of victory, that being 37.8 points per game, and like Alabama was defending national champion and being touted as perhaps the greatest college football team of all-time were the 1969 Ohio State Buckeyes. In a run-first, lower-scoring era, the Buckeyes defeated their opponents that season by margins of 62, 27, 33, 27, 41, 29, 55 and 28 and then ran into Bo Schembechler and the Michigan Wolverines pulling off one of the greatest and most memorable upsets in college football history beating the Buckeyes 24-12.

Even a team as talented as the 2001 Miami Hurricanes had close calls defeating Boston College by only 11 points, 18-7, and 14th-ranked Virginia Tech by only two points 26-24. You may recall the 2002 Miami Hurricanes were also looking to repeat as national champions and went undefeated during their regular season but lost in a controversial national championship game in overtime 31-24 to Ohio State.

After eight games last year, Alabama was also 8-0 and had defeated their first eight opponents by an average of 33.2 points per game, and that team did not manage to go undefeated on its way to an eventual national championship.

The 1971 Nebraska Cornhuskers on their way to a second consecutive national championship defeated their first eight opponents that season by 27, 28, 27, 36, 36, 55, 28 and 24 points respectfully winning by an average of 32.6 points per game. Older Alabama fans remember how good that team was beating number two-ranked Alabama 38-6 in the Orange Bowl.

The one team that this year’s Alabama squad is beginning to be compared to is the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers who are generally acclaimed as the greatest college football team ever. The ’95 Huskers margin of victory over their first eight opponents was 36.5 points per game. That season saw Nebraska defeat their opponents by 43, 40, 49, 42, 14, 57, 24, 23, 59, 38, 37 and 38 points respectfully. The closest game Nebraska had that season was against Washington State winning 35-21.

Will 2018 Alabama be eventually compared to the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers or be like the 1983 Nebraska team? The rest of this season will determine that.

Let’s not coronate Alabama as national champions and the greatest team ever until that crown is earned. There are games to be played before any coronation ceremonies are to take place and Alabama’s first big test is on Saturday in Baton Rouge, but we could indeed be watching perhaps the greatest college football team ever.

Photo credit: shelby wants to be riding on Visualhunt / CC BY-ND

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:  https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/.

 

 

How many NCAA titles would Bobby Bowden have won if he had the college football playoff?

Is it easier or harder for a head coach to win a national championship in college football now than it was years ago? College football analyst Kirk Herbstreit stated he believe it was easier today for a head coach to win a national championship because of the college football playoff which gives more teams an opportunity to win the national championship.

If we were still using the old poll system, Alabama would not have played for the national championship this past January and Nick Saban would not had the opportunity to win his sixth national title. Think about that. Alabama would have been on the outside looking in on the national championship picture and would not have played for a national championship but instead just played in a bowl game.

A school that didn’t even win its division, let alone play for a conference championship, won the national championship. That would have never happened in the pre-BCS, pre-playoff era. National championships were harder to come by because of reduced opportunities, poll politics and bowl affiliations.

In today’s current format, all you need to do is finish in the top four and you have a shot at a national championship. In the past, before the playoff system and the BCS, a team could be ranked #2 and not had a shot at a national title if the #1-ranked team had a conference-affiliated tie to a bowl game or for that matter, if the #2-ranked team did as well. The #2-ranked team had to hope the #1-ranked team lost as they seldom met in a bowl game to decide the national championship.

For example, years ago, if Alabama was #2 and USC was #1, USC would have faced the Big 10 Conference representative in the Rose Bowl as the Rose Bowl had automatic tie-ins to the PAC-8, 10 or 12 and the Big 10 conferences. Therefore, if USC won, Alabama could not prove on the field head-to-head versus USC who the real national champion was.

A counter argument is teams now play more games and therefore have additional opportunity to lose those games, but you can win a national championship today without winning your division or even playing in your conference championship game. Alabama did it in 2017. Ohio State made the four-team playoff in 2016 without winning the Eastern division of the Big 10 conference.

Florida State finished ranked fourth or higher in the final football polls for an incredible 13 seasons in a row (1987-1999) and it leads one to wonder, how many final fours would Florida State been in under Bobby Bowden? Let’s look at the years Florida State would have been in a four-team college football playoff.

Florida State won a national title in 1993 and 1999 and it would be difficult for anyone to deny that Florida State wasn’t the best team in the country those years. In addition, the Seminoles remarkably had three other opportunities to play for the national championship in bowl games in 1996, 1998 and 2000 for what amounted to appearing in five national championship games in eight seasons. However, Florida State came up short on the field of play those three years so we can rule out those years as possibly ending with a national championship.

To recap those seasons, Florida State was undefeated at 11-0 and ranked #1 at the end of the 1996 regular season and faced #3-ranked Florida in a rematch in the Sugar Bowl. The Gators turned the tables on the Seminoles and captured the national title winning 52-20. The Seminoles finished the season ranked third.

In 1998, Florida State was ranked #2 and faced #1 Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl for the national championship and the Volunteers prevailed 23-16. The Seminoles finished with an 11-2 record and ended the season ranked third in the final AP poll.

Two years later it was another number one versus number two battle for the Seminoles as Florida State again was ranked #2 and squared off against the #1 team in the country, this time the Oklahoma Sooners in the Orange Bowl. Oklahoma won 13-2 over Florida State and the 11-1 Seminoles finished fifth in the season-ending poll.

What about the other years Florida State finished in the top four of the final regular season poll and did not have an opportunity to play for the national championship?

In 1979, Florida State was ranked fourth after the final regular season poll behind Alabama, USC and Ohio State. The Seminoles would lose in the Orange Bowl 24-7 to number-five ranked Oklahoma 24-7 so winning the national championship via a four-team playoff would have been unlikely.

The following year, 1980, Florida State was ranked second before the bowl games behind Georgia, with Pitt ranked third and Oklahoma fourth. With only a one-point loss to Miami (10-9) earlier in the season and despite beating then number four-ranked Pitt 36-22, Florida State lost 18-17 in the Orange Bowl again to Oklahoma. Florida State would finish the year with a 10-2 record and ranked fifth.

Perhaps the most likely year Florida State would have benefited from a college football playoff was 1987. At the end of the regular season, the top four ranked teams in the country were: Oklahoma, Miami, Florida State and Syracuse. The only loss the Seminoles suffered was a one-point loss to Miami 26-25. Florida State would go on to defeat fifth-ranked Nebraska 31-28 in the Fiesta Bowl and finish the season 11-1 and ranked #2 behind only Miami. How would Florida State have fared in a rematch against Miami? No doubt Bowden and the Seminoles wish they had that opportunity.

At the end of the regular season in 1988, the top four teams in the country were: Notre Dame, Miami, West Virginia and Florida State.  The 1988 season saw Florida State finish the season ranked third after defeating seventh-ranked Auburn 13-7 in the Sugar Bowl. The Seminoles finished with an 11-1 record with the one loss coming in Week One to Miami 31-0. Notre Dame and Miami were, in all likelihood, the two best teams in the country in 1988, therefore, a realist would not think the Seminoles would have fared well in a playoff.

In 1992, the top four teams in the final regular season poll were: Miami, Alabama, Florida State and Texas A&M. Again, the only loss that season for Florida State was against the Hurricanes in Miami by a 19-16 score. Florida State defeated 11th-ranked Nebraska 27-14 in the Orange Bowl to finish the season 11-1 and ranked second in the final poll. Alabama beat favored Miami 34-13 in the Sugar Bowl to win the national championship.

At the end of the 1997 regular season, the four highest-ranked teams were: Michigan, Nebraska, Tennessee and Florida State. The only loss the Seminoles suffered was a 32-29 defeat in Gainesville to the Florida Gators. The Seminoles defeated ninth-ranked Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl 31-14 and finished the season third in the final poll.

One could state that Bowden’s impressive 22-10-1 record in bowl games bolsters the argument that he could have likely won more than the two national titles under the old poll system and in a college football playoff format but that’s mitigated by the three-national championship bowl game losses.

The best chance may well have been in 1987 for Florida State and legendary coach Bobby Bowden for another national championship in a four-team playoff format like today.  If only it existed then. 

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:  https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/.

 

Southwest Pennsylvania – Breeding Ground for the NCAA and the NFL

For a region not as heavily populated as some areas of the country, Southwest Pennsylvania has produced a large number of college and pro football greats over the years. Not only does Southwest

Pennsylvania lay claim to the birthplace of professional football, but throughout the years it has also served as a fertile breeding ground for college and professional football.

The players that have come from Southwest Pennsylvania reads like a who’s who of college and pro football greats. In breaking it down by position, an All-Southwest PA team might look something like this:

No part of the country has produced more great quarterbacks and no position is as deep on this squad as quarterback. The starting signal caller would be Joe Montana, thought of as the greatest quarterback in NFL history till Tom Brady, and the backups aren’t too bad either. One would be Johnny Unitas, the greatest quarterback in NFL history before Joe Montana. In 1999, The Sporting News ranked Joe Montana the third greatest football player ever and Unitas fifth. The other backup quarterback is none other than Dan Marino, and Marino retired as the NFL’s all-time leading passer in yards thrown, touchdowns and completions and may have been the best pure passer ever.

Quarterbacks earning honorable mention would include NFL Hall of Famers Joe Namath and Jim Kelly; Gus Frerotte, who threw for over 21,000 yards and made a Pro Bowl; Johnny Lujack, a Heisman trophy winner at Notre Dame; Sandy Stephens, an All-American at Minnesota and Big 10 Conference MVP who led the Golden Gophers to a national championship and is in the College Football Hall of Fame; Terry Hanratty, who led Notre Dame to a national championship and finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy balloting; Chuck Fusina and Richie Lucas, who both went to Penn State and both were runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, and Lucas is in the College Football Hall of Fame; Babe Parilli, a two-time All-American that led Kentucky to Sugar and Cotton Bowl victories and finished in the top four of the Heisman Trophy balloting twice and was the 4th overall pick in the first round of the 1952 NFL draft; Charlie Batch, a three-year starter for the Detroit Lions, and Terrelle Pryor, who led Ohio State to two BCS bowl victories and was MVP of both the Rose and Sugar Bowl.

As for the starting running backs, this lineup has two of the NFL’s all-time greats: Tony Dorsett, a Heisman Trophy winner at Pitt and NFL Hall of Famer; and another NFL Hall of Famer in Curtis Martin. Few backs were as good as Dorsett in college football history. Dorsett broke the record for most yards rushing in NCAA history, and upon his retirement from pro football, he was second all-time in NFL history in career rushing yards with 12,739. Dorsett was the first player ever to win the Heisman Trophy, a national championship, a Super Bowl and be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Martin, who also went to Pitt, retired as the fourth leading rusher in NFL history with 14,101 yards.

Running backs that earn honorable mention include Larry Brown, who was selected to four Pro Bowls,  rushed for over 1,000 yards twice and was the NFL’s leading rusher in 1972; Chuck Muncie, a three-time Pro Bowler that rushed for more than 1,000 yards twice in his career; Cookie Gilchrist, the first player to rush for over 1,000 yards in the AFL and league MVP and is a member of the Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame; Mercury Morris, who rushed for over 1,000 yards in a season with the Miami Dolphins, Dick Hoak, who played 10 years in the NFL was named to a Pro Bowl; Fran Rogel, who played eight years in the NFL and was also named to a Pro Bowl and Ed Modzelewski, an All-American at Maryland and Sugar Bowl MVP and was the sixth overall pick of the first round of the 1952 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

One would think having so many great quarterbacks from Southwest Pennsylvania there would also be a lot of great wide receivers as well, but that’s not the case. The best would be Steve Breaston, a 1,000-yard receiver in 2008 in his six-year NFL career; Brian Baschnagel, a nine-year NFL veteran and Greg Garrity, a seven-year NFL veteran. Currently, Tyler Boyd is in his third year with the Cincinnati Bengals.

With Southwestern Pennsylvania having been known for steel mills and hard-working, blue-collar jobs, one would think the offensive line would be very good, and it is. The starting offensive line would consist of: NFL Hall-of-Famer Russ Grimm, Rich Saul, a six-time Pro Bowler in the NFL; Bill Fralic, a four-time NFL Pro Bowler and a three-time All American at Pitt and one of college football’s all-time greatest offensive lineman and the second overall pick of the 1985 NFL draft; Jeff Christy, a three-time Pro Bowler and Jimbo Covert, a two-time NFL Pro Bowler.

The offensive linemen that would earn honorable mention would include: Ron Saul, who played 12 years in the NFL; Al DeMao, who played in the ‘40s and ‘50s and was voted one of the 70 greatest Washington Redskins; Steve August, the 14th overall pick of the 1977 NFL draft and played eight years in the NFL; A.Q. Shipley, winner of the Rimington Award at Penn State as college football’s best center and current member of the Arizona Cardinals; Dan Mozes, winner of the Rimington Award at West Virginia; Jim Wilson, an All-American tackle at Georgia in 1964 and Stefan Wisniewski, an All-American at Penn State currently playing for the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.

If any position on this team symbolizes western Pennsylvania’s hard work ethic, it would be tight end. Two players stand out above the rest with two others currently making his mark in the NFL. The first would be Mike Ditka, a Pitt All-American and NFL Hall of Famer, and Ted Kwalick, a Penn State All-American and a three-time NFL Pro Bowler. Both Ditka and Kwalick were voted to Sports Illustrated’s NCAA All-Century Team. Having attended Woodland Hills High School, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is a force in the NFL and current Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James merit honorable mention.

The kicker would have to be the ageless one, Hall of Famer George Blanda. When Blanda retired at the age of 48, he was the NFL’s all-time leading scorer and was a very good quarterback in the AFL. The backup kicker would be Fred Cox, who played at Pitt and was the Minnesota Vikings placekicker in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Cox was selected to one Pro Bowl in his 15-year career with the Vikings and was one of the last of the straight-on kickers.

Handling the punting duties would be Ohio State great Tom Skladany. Skladany was a two-time All-American in college and a Pro Bowler in the NFL. His backup would be Pat McAfee, an All-American at West Virginia, who played eight years for the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL.

In turning to the defense and beginning with the defensive line: Hall-of-Famer Jason Taylor, a six-time Pro Bowler and two-time AFC Defensive Player of the year. Taylor was also named to the NFL 2000’s All-Decade team and recorded 139 ½ sacks in his career; Aaron Donald, NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2017 and a four-time Pro Bowler in his four seasons in the NFL. Donald won every major award that a defensive lineman possibly could except the Heisman Trophy in his final season at Pitt.

Dick Modzelewski, an All-American at Maryland and the Outland Trophy winner in 1952. Modzelewski played on the great New York Giants teams in the ‘50s and set a then-NFL record for durability, playing in 180 consecutive games; Leon Hart, a Heisman Trophy winner at Notre Dame and the last lineman to win the Heisman Trophy. Hart also won the Maxwell Award while at Notre Dame and was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame and was an NFL Pro Bowler in his eight-year career in the NFL.

Honorable mention:  Sean Gilbert, an NFL Pro Bowler who played 11 years in the NFL: Bruce Clark, a Lombardi Award winner at Penn State who played in one Pro Bowl in the NFL; Greg Meisner, who played on some of the University of Pittsburgh’s greatest teams and played 11 seasons in the NFL and Leo Wisniewski, who played three years in the NFL.

Linebackers:  Joe Schmidt, NFL Hall of Famer for the Detroit Lions and was named to the 1950’s NFL All-Decade team and was a 10-time Pro Bowl selection. In 1999, Schmidt was ranked number 65 on The Sporting News’ list of the 100 greatest football players. Schmidt played for Pitt and was also inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. We have another NFL Hall of Famer at linebacker in Bill George, who played for the Chicago Bears and was an eight-time first team All-Pro selection. George, like Schmidt, was also named to the 1950’s All-Decade team. In 1999, The Sporting News ranked George number 49 of the 100 greatest football players. Lavar Arrington would round out this position as a three-time Pro Bowler and a Butkus and Bednarik Award winner while at Penn State.

Honorable mention:  Myron Pottios, a three-time Pro Bowl selection in his 11-year NFL career; Paul Posluszny, a two-time Bednarik Award winner at Penn State, and selected for the Pro Bowl once in his 11-year career; Brandon Short, an All-American at Penn State and made the Pro Bowl once in his seven-year NFL career; Mike Lucci, named to one Pro Bowl in his 12-year NFL career; Jim Laslavic, who played 10 years in the NFL; Rich Milot, who played nine years in the NFL; John Skorupan, an All-American at Penn State and had an eight-year career in the NFL; Eric Ravotti, who played three years in the NFL and Sean Lee, who was named to the Pro Bowl in 2016 and is in his ninth season with the Dallas Cowboys.

At defensive back, we have Darrell Revis, one of the greatest cornerbacks in NFL history, and at the other cornerback spot we have Ty Law, a five-time Pro Bowler with 53 career interceptions in a 15-year career. The two safeties would be Tom Flynn, who had a five-year NFL career, and Mark Kelso, who played eight seasons with the Buffalo Bills.

As for the coaching staff, you have your pick of three Super Bowl-winning head coaches. There’s Da Coach, Mike Ditka, who coached the Chicago Bears to a Super Bowl victory. There is also Bill Cowher, former head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers who coached them to victory in Super Bowl XL, and there’s Mike McCarthy, current head coach of the Green Bay Packers, that coached the Packers to a Super Bowl victory. Two other head coaches that deserve mention are Marty Schottenheimer, who won 205 regular season games and his teams qualified for the postseason 13 times, and Chuck Knox, who amassed 193 wins in the NFL with his teams qualifying for the playoffs 11 times.

It’s unlikely that any region less populated than Southwest PA could produce a lineup that could match this one.

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:  https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/.

Photo credit: fabfiver5 on Visual hunt / CC BY

Which school is Secondary/DB U?

You have probably heard the names Linebacker U or Tailback U associated with college football programs with perhaps more than one school proclaiming to be a position U. Which schools truly deserve that distinction?

I used the following criteria to determine which school is truly a position U:

  1. One can certainly debate how good a player was in college. However, when it comes to being named an All-American, there is no debate. If a player was named an All-American, he had to be very good. Rather than add to a school’s claim of being “position U” with players who weren’t All-Americans, and debate how good they were, such as the University of Miami’s quarterbacks Jim Kelly and Bernie Kosar or Auburn’s running backs William Andrews, Joe Cribbs, James Brooks, Lionel James, and Ronnie Brown, only 1st, 2nd and 3rd-team All-Americans factored into the selection and evaluation process.
  2. Only a player’s collegiate performance was taken into account and considered, and not what they accomplished as a professional. If a Heisman Trophy winner or an All-American was a bust in the NFL, that doesn’t diminish what they accomplished at the collegiate level. Their performance as a pro does not factor in or influence this selection process.

Also, occasionally a position change occurs for a player from his college to professional career so which position does the school get credit for? For example, should Terrelle Pryor count as a wide receiver for Ohio State?  That’s absurd. That’s why only their college career should count towards a being a position U.

In comparing each school’s All-Americans from the past 50 years, obviously some were greater than others. Past and recent greatness as well as consistency through the years are what constitute a school being chosen as a position U.

This is my look at the defensive secondaries in my series on which school should be known as Secondary/DB U.

When you think about the last line of defense and what makes a great secondary, it’s speed, speed, speed. It should come as no surprise then that three of the top five schools to be considered as Secondary/DB U are SEC schools.

LSU ranks fifth on the list for Secondary U with 17 All-Americans (nine cornerbacks and eight safeties) over the past 50 seasons. In 12 of the last 15 seasons, LSU had a safety or cornerback named All-American. Those players were: Covey Webster ’03 & ’04, LaRon Landry ’06, Chad Jones ’07, Craig Steltz ’07, Patrick Peterson ’09 & ’10, Morris Claiborne ’11, Tyrann Mathieu ’11, Eric Reid ’11 & ’12, Tre’Davious White ’14 & ’16, Jalen Mills ’15, Jamal Adams ’16, Donte Jackson ’17 and Andraez Williams in ’17 as well.

Peterson won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back in 2010 and Clairborne won it in 2011. One can see how in the past 15 seasons, LSU could possibly be Secondary U. However, prior to 2003, the Tigers only had defensive backs Tommy Casanova ’69-’71, Mike Williams ’74, James Britt ’82, and Greg Jackson ’88 be named to an All-America team.

Some might wonder why isn’t Miami or Texas in the top five for Secondary U. Neither Miami nor Texas have the numbers of All-American cornerbacks the past 50 seasons to make the top five. Miami had only five and Texas six which doesn’t measure up to LSU at number five with nine.

Number four on our list for Secondary U are the Florida State Seminoles. The Seminoles had 19 All-American defensive backs in the past 50 seasons (13 cornerbacks and six safeties with Jalen Ramsey counting as two since he was All-American at both positions).

The Seminoles defensive backs that have been All-American were: James Thomas ’72, Monk Bonasorte ’79 & ’80, Bobby Butler ’80, three-time All-American Deion Sanders ’86, ’87 & ’88, LeRoy Butler ’89, Terrell Buckley ’90 & ’91, Corey Sawyer ’92 & ’93, Clifton Abraham ’94, Tay Cody ’00, Chris Hope ’00, and Myron Rolle in 2008. Sanders and Buckley both won the Thorpe Award, Sanders in 1988 and Buckley in 1991.

For the past six seasons, the Seminoles had at least one defensive back named All-American. Those players were: Xavier Rhodes ’12, Terrence Brooks ’13, Lamarcus Joyner ’13, P.J. Williams ’14, Jalen Ramsey in 2014 as a safety and as a cornerback in 2015, Tarvarus McFadden ’16 and Derwin James in 2016 & 2017. Having only six safeties  named All-American keeps Florida State from being higher on the list. Florida State’s   six All-America safeties cannot match the 10 of our number three school as Secondary/DB U, the Ohio State Buckeyes.

The Buckeyes are number three as Cornerback U (https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/2018/06/09/which-school-is-cornerback-u/) and number four as Safety U (https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/2018/06/09/which-school-is-safety-u/) which adds up to make Ohio State number three on our countdown to Secondary/DB U. It’s that balance of 10 All-American safeties and 11 All-American cornerbacks that has the Buckeyes at number three and not that long ago at number one.

Those Ohio State All-American defensive backs were: Ted Provost ’69, Jack Tatum ’69 & ’70, Tim Anderson ’70, Mike Sensibaugh ’70, Neal Colzie ’74, Tim Fox ’75, Ray Griffin ’77, Shawn Springs ’96, Antoine Winfield ’97 & ’98, Damon Moore ’98, three-time All-American Mike Doss ’00, ’01 & ’02, Will Allen ’03, and Donte Whither in 2005.

In eight of the last 10 seasons, an Ohio State defensive back has been named All-American. Those Buckeyes are: Malcolm Jenkins ’08, Kurt Coleman ’09, Chimdi Chekwa ’10, Bradley Roby ’12 & ’13, Vonn Bell ’15, Malik Hooker ’16, Marshon Lattimore ’16, and Denzel Ward in 2017.

A pair of Buckeyes have won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back, Winfield in 1998 and Jenkins won it in 2008.

With a total of 22 All-American defensive backs in the past 50 seasons, the University of Florida is number two on our list as Secondary/DB U. Florida’s 10 All-American safeties earned Florida the number five spot as Safety U and their 13 All-American cornerbacks has them at number two for Cornerback U which added up to the number two spot as Secondary/DB U.

Florida’s 22 All-American defensive backs were: Steve Tannen ’69, Tony Lilly ’83, Adrian White ’86, Jarvis Williams ’86 & ’87, Louis Oliver ’87 & ’88, Richard Fain ’89 & ’90, Will White ’90, Lawrence Wright ’95, Antoine Lott ’96, Fred Weary ’97, Lilo Shepard ’00 & ’01, Kaiwan Ratliff ’03, Reggie Nelson ’06, and Ryan Smith in 2006.

Interestingly, Wright won the Jim Thorpe Award in 1996, a year he wasn’t named All-American.

In eight of the last nine seasons, the Gators have produced an All-American defensive back. Those players were: Joe Haden ’09, Ahmad Black ’10, Janoris Jenkins ’10, Matt Elam ’12, three-time All-American Vernon Hargreaves III ’13, ’14 & ’15, Jalen/Teez Tabor ’15 & ’16, Marcus Maye ’15 & ’16, and Duke Dawson in 2017.

One must consider the balance and combination of All-American cornerbacks and safeties, and by doing so the choice here for Secondary/DB U is Alabama. Over the past four decades plus, Alabama exemplifies balanced excellence in the secondary with 11 All-American cornerbacks and 12 All-American safeties.

The Crimson Tide were number two as Safety U and number four as Cornerback U which added up to be number one as Secondary/DB U. Alabama’s 23 All-American defensive backs with Minkah Fitzpatrick counting as two since he was All-American at both positions were: Mike Washington ’73 & ’74, Don McNeal ’79, Tommy Wilcox ’81 & ’82, Jeremiah Castille ’82, Kermit Kendrick ’88, John Magnum ’89, George Teague ’92, Antonio Langham ’92 & ’93, and Kevin Jackson in 1996. Langham won the Thorpe Aware in 1993.

Nick Saban’s first year at Alabama was in 2007 and it didn’t take long to see Saban’s defensive influence paying dividends for the Crimson Tide. For the past 10 seasons, Alabama had at least one defensive back, and some years two, named All-American. Those players were: Rashad Johnson ’08, Javier Arenas ’09, Mark Barron ’09, ‘10 & ’11, Robert Lester ’10, Dre Kirkpatrick ’11, DeQuan Menzie ’11, Dee Millner ’12, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix ’13, Landon Collins ’14, Eddie Jackson ’15 & ’16, Marlon Humphrey ’16, Ronnie Harrison ’16 & ’17, and Minkah Fitzpatrick in 2016 as a cornerback in 2016 and as a safety in 2017. Fitzpatrick won the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back in 2017.

It is that remarkable & unmatched run of excellence that has propelled Alabama past Florida and Ohio State as Secondary/DB U.

Interesting fact:  USC, Miami and Notre Dame had fewer All-America defensive backs in the past 50 seasons, 14, 14 and 15 respectively than Colorado did with 16.

Alabama Cap photo credit courtesy of Lisa Zins and can be found at:  https://visualhunt.com/f2/photo/38902198311/f5b8b9b956/

Florida gator Photo credit: photo-gator on Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC

Florida State Photo credit: RMTip21 on Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

LSU Tiger Photo credit: Chiceaux on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Ohio State Photo credit: buckeyekes on Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA

 

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:  https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/.

 

 

Which school is Offensive Line U?

You have probably heard the names Linebacker U or Tailback U associated with college football programs with perhaps more than one school proclaiming to be a position U. Which schools truly deserve that distinction?

I used the following criteria to determine which school is truly a position U:

  1. One can certainly debate how good a player was in college. However, when it comes to being named an All-American, there is no debate. If a player was named an All-American, he had to be very good. Rather than add to a school’s claim of being “position U” with players who weren’t All-Americans, and debate how good they were, such as the University of Miami’s quarterbacks Jim Kelly and Bernie Kosar or Auburn’s running backs William Andrews, Joe Cribbs, James Brooks, Lionel James, and Ronnie Brown, only 1st, 2nd and 3rd-team All-Americans factored into the selection and evaluation process.
  2. Only a player’s collegiate performance was taken into account and considered, and not what they accomplished as a professional. If a Heisman Trophy winner or an All-American was a bust in the NFL, that doesn’t diminish what they accomplished at the collegiate level. Their performance as a pro does not factor in or influence this selection process.

Also, occasionally a position change occurs for a player from his college to professional career so which position does the school get credit for? For example, should Terrelle Pryor count as a wide receiver for Ohio State?  That’s absurd. That’s why only their college career should count towards a being a position U.

In comparing each school’s All-Americans from the past 50 years, obviously some were greater than others. Past and recent greatness as well as consistency through the years are what constitute a school being chosen as a position U.

This is my look at the offensive lines in my series on which school should be known as Offensive Line U.

If one were asked which school had the most All-American offensive linemen in the past 50 seasons, one might guess Nebraska, Michigan or perhaps USC would come to mind.

Nebraska used to produce All-American linemen that cleared paths for their running backs like a combine harvester going through a Midwestern wheat field. In 21 out of the 30 seasons from 1968 to 1997, Nebraska produced an All-American offensive lineman. That is no longer the case and hasn’t been for some time. Nebraska had only one All-American lineman since 2001 and that was Spencer Long in 2012.

Nebraska rates as number two for Offensive Guard U (https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/2018/06/09/which-school-is-offensive-guard-u/) and number four as Offensive Center U, (https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/2018/06/09/which-school-is-offensive-center-u/) however, the Cornhuskers have produced only six All-America offensive tackles in the past 50 seasons, the last being Outland Trophy winner Zach Wiegert in 1994. That is why Nebraska comes in as number seven for Offensive Line U.

In addition to Wiegert, several other Nebraska offensive linemen have captured some of college football’s top awards. Center Dave Rimington won the 1981 and the 1982 Outland Trophy and the 1982 Lombardi Award, and Dean Steinkuhler won both awards in 1983. Will Shields won the Outland Trophy in 1992, and Dominic Raiola won the Rimington Trophy, named after the great Cornhusker center, as the best center in the country in 2000.

Nebraska’s other All-American offensive linemen were:  Joe Armstrong ’68, Bob Newton ’70, Daryl White ’72 & ’73, Marvin Crenshaw ’74, Rik Bonness ’74 & ’75, Tom Davis ’77, Kelvin Clark ’78, Randy Schleusener ’80, Harry Grimminger ’84,  Mark Traynowicz ’84, Bill Lewis ’85, John McCormick ’87, Jake Young ’88 & ’89, Doug Glaser ’89, Brendan Stai ’94,  Aaron Graham ’95, Aaron Taylor in 1996 as a center and as a guard in 1997, Russ Hochstein ’00, and Toniu Fonoti in 2001.

Michigan had 25 All-American offensive linemen in the past 50 seasons and from 1970-1983, 12 Michigan offensive linemen were named All-American. Those Wolverines were: Dan Dierdorf ’70, Reggie McKenzie ’71, Paul Seymour ’72, Mark Donahue ’76 & ’77, Bill Dufek ’76, Walt Downing ’77, George Lilja ’80, Kurt Becker ’81, Ed Muransky ’81, William Paris ’81, and Tom Dixon and Stephan Humphries in 1983.

From 1986-2000, in 11 of those 15 seasons the Wolverines had an All-American offensive lineman. Those linemen were: John Elliott ’86 & ’87, John Vitale ’88, Greg Skrepenak ’90 & ’91, Dean Dingman ’90, Matt Elliott ’91, Joe Cocozzo ’92, John Runyan ’95, Rod Payne ’96, Jon Jensen ’98, and Steve Hutchinson in 1999 & 2000.  However, Michigan hasn’t produced an All-American guard since Hutchinson in 2000.

Michigan’s other All-American offensive linemen the past 50 seasons were: David Baas ’04, Jake Long ’06 & ’07, David Molik ’11, three-time All-American Taylor Lewan in 2011, 2012, and 2013, and Mason Cole in 2016.

This brings us to our number five school as Offensive Line U. There’s no doubt that USC is Offensive Tackle U (https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/2018/06/09/which-school-is-offensive-tackle-u/) and is third as Offensive Guard U but the Trojans have only produced two All-American centers in the past 50 seasons. Nonetheless, the list of USC All-American offensive linemen is an impressive one. When a school produces Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks and running backs, there had to be some great offensive linemen in front of them.

From 1969 to 1989, USC had an offensive lineman named All-American in 17 out of those 21 seasons. Those All-American Trojan linemen were: Sid Smith ’69, Marv Montgomery ’70, John Vella ’71, Pete Adams ’72, Booker Brown ’73, Steve Riley ’73, Bill Bain ’74, Marvin Powell ’75 & ’76, Pat Howell ’78, Brad Budde ’79, Keith Van  Horne ’80, Roy Foster ’80 & ’81, Bruce Matthews ’82, Don Mosebar ’82, Tony Slaton ’83, Jeff Bregel ’85 & ’86, Dave Cadigan ’87, and Mark Tucker in 1989.

USC’s All-American offensive linemen since 1989 were: Tony Boselli ’92 & ’94, Jacob Rogers ’03, Sam Baker ’05 & ’06, Taitusi Lutui ’05, Ryan Kalil ’06, Charles Brown ’09, Jeff Byers ’09, Matt Kalil ’11, Zach Banner and Chad Wheeler in 2016.

For our number four school as Offensive Line U, the Wisconsin Badgers, having a 1,000-yard running back every season is as predictable as a rooster crowing every morning. Leading that way for those running backs have been some outstanding offensive linemen in recent years. In fact, Wisconsin has produced at least one All-American offensive linemen in seven of the past eight years. Those linemen were: Outland Trophy winner Gabe Carimi in 2010, John Moffitt ’10, Peter Konz ’11, Kevin Zeitler ’11, Travis Frederick ’12, Rick Wagner ’12, Ryan Groy ’13, Kyle Costigan ’14, Rob Havenstein ’14, Ryan Ramczyk ’16, and in 2017, they produced three: Beau Benzschawel, Michael Dieter, and David Edwards.

The Badgers had great success in turning out All-America offensive tackles, 15 in the past 50 seasons, second only to USC with 17. Wisconsin had seven guards and five centers make All-American, numbers that kept the Badgers from the top three spots as Offensive Line U.

Wisconsin’s other All-American offensive linemen the past 50 seasons were: Dennis Lick ’74 & ’75, Ray Snell ’79, Jeff Dellenbach ’84, Paul Gruber ’87, Joe Panos ’93, Corey Raymer ’94, Jerry Wunsch ’96, Aaron Gibson ’98, Chris McIntos ’99, Casey Rabach ’00, Al Johnson ’02, Dan Buening ’04, two-time All-American “05 & ’06 and 2006 Outland Trophy winner Joe Thomas, and Kraig Urbik in 2008.

Ohio State is the number three as Offensive Line U as the Buckeyes were third for Offensive Center U, fifth for Offensive Guard U and rated an honorable mention for Offensive Tackle U.

You can’t run a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust offense like Woody Hayes did and not have great offensive linemen, and Ohio State had an All-American offensive linemen all but one year from 1968 to 1977, and for six consecutive years from 1993 to 1998.

Ohio State’s All-American linemen the past 50 seasons were: Dave Foley ’68, Rufus Mayes ’68, Jim Stillwagon ’69, Tom Deleone ’71, John Hicks ’72 & ’73, Steve Myers ’74, Kurt Schumacher ’74, Ted Smith ’75, Chris Ward ’76 & ’77, Ken Fritz ’79, Jim Lachey ’84, Jeff Uhlenhake ’88, Korey Stringer ’93 & ’94, Orlando Pace ’95 & ’96, Rob Murphy ’97 & ’98, 2001 Rimington Trophy winner LeCharles Bentley, Nick Mangold ’05, Mike Brewster ’10 & ’11, Justin Boren ’10, Jack Mewhort ’13, Taylor Decker ’15, Pat Elfein in 2015 as a guard and as a center in 2016. Elfein won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s best center in 2016 and Jamarco Jones, Michael Jordan and Billy Price were All-Americans in 2017 with Price winning the Rimington Trophy.

Hicks and Pace are two of the all-time great offensive linemen in college football history. In 1973, Hicks won the Lombardi Award and the Outland trophy and finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting in that year to Penn State’s John Cappelletti. For an offensive lineman to finish second in the Heisman Trophy balloting is truly a testament to Hicks’ outstanding play. Pace won the Outland Trophy in 1996 and the Lombardi Award twice, in 1995 and 1996.

Alabama is number two as Offensive Line U largely based on the Crimson Tide being Offensive Center U and fourth as Offensive Guard U.  Despite not having double-digit numbers in terms of All-American offensive tackles, four Alabama tackles have won the Outland Trophy. Chris Samuels won it in 1999, Andre Smith in 2008, Barrett Jones in 2011 and Cam Robinson in 2016.  In addition, Barrett Jones won the Rimington Trophy as the top center in the country in 2012 and Ryan Kelly won it in 2015.

From 1968 to 1988, in 14 of those 20 seasons, an Alabama offensive lineman was named All-American. Those Crimson Tide linemen were:  Alvin Samples ’68 & ’69, John Hannah ’71 & ’72, Jim Krapf ’71 & ’72, Buddy Brown ’73, Sylvester Croom ’74, Bob Cryder ’77, Dwight Stephenson ’78 & ’79, Jim Bunch ’79, Steve Mott ’82, Wes Neighbors ’85 & ’86, and Larry Rose in 1987 and 1988.

However, the next 19 years only saw one lineman for the Crimson Tide make All-American and that was Outland Trophy winner Chris Samuels in 1999.

Then Nick Saban arrives and the Alabama resurgence begins and for the last 10 consecutive seasons, Alabama has produced at least one All-American offensive lineman.  Those linemen were: Antoine Caldwell ’08, Mike Johnson ’08 & ’09, three-time All-American Barrett Jones in 2010 and 2011 as a guard and in 2012 as a center, William Vlachos ’11, Chance Warmack ’12, D.J. Fluker ’12, Cyrus Kouandjio ’13, Anthony Steen ’13, Arie Kouandjio ’14, Ryan Kelly ’15, Cam Robinson ’16, Jonah Williams ’16 & ’17, and Bradley Bozeman in 2017.

In looking at who Keith Jackson referred to as “the big uglies,” since 1968, Notre Dame

had 38 All-American offensive linemen, and tied for a distant second with 28 are Alabama and USC. Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin are next with 27 and then Nebraska with 26.

Notre Dame has produced double digits All-Americans at each of the offensive line position, 14 tackles, 13 guards and 11 centers and Notre Dame was Offensive Guard U and was second as Offensive Center U and third as Offensive Tackle U. No other school had top-three finishes in the three offensive line positions. Aaron Taylor counts as two in the count as he was an All-American at guard in 1992 and at in 1993 he won the Outland Trophy as a tackle. Larry Williams also counted as two as he was an All-American at two different offensive line positions.

From 1983-1996, in 12 of those 14 seasons, Notre Dame had an All-American offensive lineman. Notre Dame’s All-American linemen the past 50 seasons were: George Kunz ’68, Mike Oriard ’69, Jim Reilly ’69, Larry DiNardo ’69 & ’70, John Dampeer ’72, Gerry DiNardo ’74, Steve Sylvester ’74, Ernie Hughes ’77, Dave Huffman ’78, Tim Foley ’79, John Scully ’80, Larry Williams ’83 as a tackle and ’84 as a guard, Mike Shiner ’83, Mike Kelley ’84, Tim Scannell ’85, Chuck Lanza ’87, Andy Heck ’88, Tim Grunhard ’89, Mike Heldt ’90, Mirko Jurkovic ’91, Lindsay Knapp ’92, Aaron Taylor in ’92 & ’93, Tim Ruddy ’93, Ryan Leahy ’95, Dusty Ziegler ’95, Jeremy Akers ’96, Mike Rosenthal ’98, Mike Gandy ’00, Jeff Faine ’02, Eric Olsen ’09, Braxton Cave ’12, Zack Martin ’12, Nick Martin ’15, Ronnie Stanley ’15, Mike McGlinchey ’16 & ’17 and Nelson Quenton also in 2016 and 2017.

You get the idea. Notre Dame has the players and the numbers at every offensive line position. That is why Notre Dame is Offensive Line U.

Interesting fact:  USC has produced only two All-America centers in the past 50 seasons, Tony Slaton in 1983 and Ryan Kalil in 2006.

Alabama Cap photo credit courtesy of Lisa Zins and can be found at:  https://visualhunt.com/f2/photo/38902198311/f5b8b9b956/

Michigan Marquee Photo credit: IAN RANSLEY DESIGN + ILLUSTRATION on VisualHunt / CC BY

Nebraska Herbie Husker Photo used courtesy of: beatboxbadhabit and found at: https://visualhunt.com/photo/296858/ CC BY

Notre Dame Photo credit: Urthstripe on Visual Hunt / CC BY

Ohio State Photo credit: buckeyekes on Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA

USC Flag Photo credit: csulb gal on Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Wisconsin Badger Photo credit: Instagram: @Maitri on Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:  https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/.

 

 

Which school is Defensive Line U?

You have probably heard the names Linebacker U or Tailback U associated with college football programs with perhaps more than one school proclaiming to be a position U. Which schools truly deserve that distinction?

I used the following criteria to determine which school is truly a position U:

  1. One can certainly debate how good a player was in college. However, when it comes to being named an All-American, there is no debate. If a player was named an All-American, he had to be very good. Rather than add to a school’s claim of being “position U” with players who weren’t All-Americans, and debate how good they were, such as the University of Miami’s quarterbacks Jim Kelly and Bernie Kosar or Auburn’s running backs William Andrews, Joe Cribbs, James Brooks, Lionel James, and Ronnie Brown, only 1st, 2nd and 3rd-team All-Americans factored into the selection and evaluation process.
  2. Only a player’s collegiate performance was taken into account and considered, and not what they accomplished as a professional. If a Heisman Trophy winner or an All-American was a bust in the NFL, that doesn’t diminish what they accomplished at the collegiate level. Their performance as a pro does not factor in or influence this selection process.

Also, occasionally a position change occurs for a player from his college to professional career so which position does the school get credit for? For example, should Terrelle Pryor count as a wide receiver for Ohio State?  That’s absurd. That’s why only their college career should count towards a being a position U.

In comparing each school’s All-Americans from the past 50 years, obviously some were greater than others. Past and recent greatness as well as consistency through the years are what constitute a school being chosen as a position U.

This is my look at the defensive lines in my series on which school should be known as Defensive Line U.

For a school to be named Defensive Line U, ideally you want is balance in outstanding play and consistency at both defensive tackle and defensive end for sustained periods of time.

Notre Dame had 14 defensive tackles named All-American the past 50 seasons, but only five All-American defensive ends and none since Frank Stams in 1988. During that same time, Michigan had 12 All-American defensive tackles but only three All-American defensive ends.

It is the balance and consistency of outstanding play the reason why the top five schools make our countdown to Defensive Line U.

At number five for Defensive Line U is the University of Texas. With 10 All-American defensive tackles and nine All-American defensive ends, Texas rates as number four Defensive Tackle U (https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/2018/06/09/which-school-is-defensive-tackle-u/) and an honorable mention for Defensive End U (https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/2018/06/09/which-school-is-defensive-end-u/) and with good reason.

From 1999 to 2014, Texas had an All-American defensive lineman in all but four of those years beginning with Casey Hampton ’99 & ’00, followed by: Cory Redding ’01 & ’02, Rodrique Wright ’04 & ’05, Tim Crowder ’06, Brian Orakpo ’08, Sam Acho ’10, Alex Okafor ’11, Kheeston Randall ’11, Jackson Jeffcoat ’13, and Malcolm Brown in 2014.

The Longhorns produced two Lombardi Award winners in Kenneth Sims ’81, and Tony Degrate in ’84. They also had an Outland Trophy winner in Brad Shearer in 1977. The other Longhorn All-American defensive linemen were: Loyd Wainscott ’68, Bill Atessis ’70, Doug English ’74, Steve McMichael ’78 & ’79, Shane Dronett ’91, and Tony Brackens in 1995.

At number four for Defensive Line U are the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Nebraska has a rich All-American tradition along the defensive front. During the past 50 seasons, Nebraska had 11 All-American defensive tackles and eight All-American defensive ends. From 1971 to 1980, the Cornhuskers had a defensive lineman named All-American in seven of those 10 seasons beginning with Larry Jacobson ’71, Rich Glover ’71 & ’72, Willie Harper ’71 & ’72, John Dutton ’73, Bob Martin ’75, Mike Fultz ’76, George Andrews ’78, and Derrie Nelson ’80.

Jacobson won the Outland Trophy in 1971. Glover was so great that in 1972 he won both the Outland and the Lombardi Award. In 1971, Nebraska had three All-American defensive linemen. Some other notable Nebraska defensive linemen that were All-Americans were: John Dutton ’73, Danny Noonan ’86, Neil Smith ’87, Jason Peter ’97, Grant Wistrom, two-time All American in ’96 & ’97 and the 1996 Lombardi award winner, Outland Trophy winner Ndamukong Suh in 2009 and then two-time All American Jared Crick in 2010 and 2011.

Our number three on the list for Defensive Line U are the Florida State Seminoles. The Seminoles are Defensive End U with 12 All-Americans in the past 50 seasons and have eight All-American tackles during that same time.

In six of the last eight seasons, Florida State had an All-American defensive lineman. Brandon Jenkins ’10 & ’11, Bjoern Werner ’12, Timmy Jerrigan ’13, Mario Edwards ’14, Eddie Goldman ’14, and DeMarcus Walker in 2016.

Florida State’s other All-American defensive linemen were: Willie Jones ’78, Ron Simmons ’78, ’79 & ’80, Odell Haggins ’88 & ’89, Derrick Alexander ’93 & ’94, Peter Boulware ’96, Reinard Wilson ’96, Andre Wadsworth ’97, Corey Simon ’98 & ’99, Lombardi Award winner Jamal Reynolds in 2000, Alonzo Jackson ’02, Travis Johnson ’04, Brodrick Bunkley ’05, and Everette Brown in 2008.

Penn State is the number three Defensive End U with their nine All-American defensive ends the past 50 seasons and fifth as Defensive Tackle U with 10 All-American defensive tackles which added up to being number two as Defensive Line U.

Penn State’s All-American defensive linemen in the past 50 seasons were: Mike Reid ’69, Bruce Bannon ’72, Randy Crowder ’73, Mike Hartenstine ’74, Randy Sidler ’77, Matt Millen ’78, Bruce Clark ’78 & ’79, Walker Lee Ashley ’82, Tim Johnson ’86, Lou Benfatti ’93, Courtney Brown ’99, Michael Haynes ’02, Jimmy Kennedy ’02, Tamba Hali ’05, Aaron Maybin ’08, Jared Odrick ’09, Devon Still ’11 and Carl Nassib in 2015.

Penn State had three defensive linemen win the Lombardi or Outland Award in the past 50 seasons: Reid, the Outland in 1969, Clark the Lombardi in 1978 and Nassib the Lombardi in 2015.

If you’re going to have a good defense, the first prerequisite is you must have a good defensive line. It is a football adage that defense all starts up front and nobody had more All-American defensive lineman in the past 50 years than Alabama.

Since 1968, Alabama had 26 All-American defensive linemen, 14 were defensive ends and 12 were defensive tackles, but it’s more than just sheer numbers that make Alabama defensive line U. In the ‘70s and the ‘90s the Crimson Tide made it an almost annual tradition to have a defensive lineman named All-American.

For 12 consecutive seasons from 1971 to 1982, Alabama had at least one defensive lineman named All-American. Those linemen were: Robin Parkhouse ’71, John Mitchell ’72, John Croyle ’73, Mike Raines ’73, Leroy Cook ’74 & ’75, Bob Baumhower ’75 & ’76, Wayne Hamilton ’77, Marty Lyons ’78, Byron Braggs ’79 & ’80, E.J. Junior ’79 & ’80, Warren Lyles ’81 and Mike Pitts in 1982.

From 1991 to 1997 the Crimson Tide had the following All-American defensive linemen:   Dameian Jeffries ’91, Robert Stewart ’91, John Copeland ’92, Eric Curry ’92, Shannon Brown ’95, Michael Myers ’96 and Chris Hood in 1997. In five out of the seven years during that time, Bama had at least one All-American defensive lineman, and in 1991 and 1992, they had two All-American defensive linemen.

The Crimson Tide is currently on another impressive run of All-American defensive linemen. In seven of the past 10 seasons, Alabama had an All-American defensive lineman. Those players were: Terrence Cody ’08 & ’09, Marcell Dareus ’10, Josh Chapman ’11, A’Shawn Robinson ’15, Lombardi Award winner Jonathan Allen in 2016 and most recently Da’Ron Payne in 2017.

Alabama’s other defensive linemen in the past 50 seasons were: Sam Gellerstedt in 1968, and Jon Hand in 1985.

Alabama is Defensive Tackle U and runner-up for Defensive End U which adds up to the Crimson Tide clearly being Defensive Line U.

Interesting fact: The past 50 seasons touch upon six decades,1968 to 2017, and only two schools had at least one All-American defensive lineman in the late ‘60s and in each of the following decades. Those two schools were Alabama and Penn State.

Alabama Cap photo credit courtesy of Lisa Zins and can be found at:  https://visualhunt.com/f2/photo/38902198311/f5b8b9b956/

Florida State logo Photo credit: RMTip21 on Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

Nebraska Herbie Husker Photo used courtesy of: beatboxbadhabit and found at: https://visualhunt.com/photo/296858/ CC BY

Penn State Photo on Visual Hunt

Texas sign Photo credit: wallyg on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:  https://johnbaranowski.wordpress.com/.