Best CFB Programs Without a National Title
5. Missouri (630 wins)
Forty current FBS schools claim at least one national title since the first college football season in 1869. Yet there are several teams that have never held the distinction. With that, we rank the five Best CFB Programs Without a National Title.
The Tigers enter 2013 with one less total win than Virginia. Yet Mizzou has made many more appearances on the sport’s highest postseason stages, reaching a total of eight Alliance/BCS bowls: five Orange Bowls, two Sugar Bowls and one Fiesta Bowl.
In addition, Mizzou came within one win of playing for the national title in 2007. The Tigers entered the Big 12 Championship as the nation’s top-ranked team — only to lose to Oklahoma, 38–17, and fall to both No. 7 in the rankings and the Cotton Bowl.
That could very well represent the closest the Tigers come to sniffing a national title for quite some time as they enter their second year in the take-no-prisoners SEC after a 5-7 debut in 2012.
4. Oregon (603 Wins)
Before Rich Brooks arrived in Eugene, Oregon football was usually a doormat for Pac-12 powers like USC and Washington. That all changed when the Ducks reached the 1995 Rose Bowl.
Once Brooks bolted for the NFL, Mike Bellotti took over and elevated the program to the next level with the help of uber-booster and Nike founder Phil Knight. That included a 2001 season in which the Ducks went 11-1, won the Fiesta Bowl and nearly claimed a national title. Chip Kelly took things up another gear in 2008 after taking the reigns of the programs, as the Ducks won at least 10 games in each of his five seasons, played in the BCS National Championship Game and won the Fiesta Bowl and Rose Bowl.
For new head coach Mark Helfrich, the “status quo” has never sounded so difficult.
3. Wisconsin (644 wins)
Lost in the Big Ten shadows cast by Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State is a Badgers program that has enjoyed stints at or near the top of college football at the turn of the 19th century (winning the first Big Ten title ever in 1896), during the 1950s (with RB Alan Ameche as their star) and in the last 20 years under head coaches Barry Alvarez and Bret Bielema.
Wisconsin’s quest for that elusive national title has been a case of “almost but not quite.” In 1962, the Badgers finished the year No. 2 after a 42–37 loss to top-ranked USC in the Rose Bowl. Later on, each of Alvarez’s three Rose Bowl-winning seasons — 1993, 1998 and 1999 — could have resulted in something more had it not been for an upset loss in each one.
With Bielema — who went 68–24 in seven seasons in Madison — now at Arkansas, can the Badgers keep their place as a perennial Big Ten (and thus national title) contender?
2. Virginia Tech (695 wins)
The Hokies boast the second-most victories ever for a program without a national title to its name. Even before the arrival of Frank Beamer as head coach prior to the 1987 season, Tech had amassed 479 wins since it started playing football in 1892.
It was under Beamer, however, that VT became a national power. Big East titles in 1995 and ’96 resulted in berths in the Sugar and Orange Bowl, respectively. An undefeated regular season in 1999 (with then freshman QB Michael Vick in a starring role) paved the way to the program’s lone national title game berth, a hard-fought loss to a stacked Florida State squad in the 2000 Sugar Bowl.
And impressively, the Hokies won either 10 or 11 games and finished in the Top 20 each season from 2004–2011. They’re no doubt hoping that last year’s disappointing 7–6 campaign is an anomaly rather than a sign of a program on the way down.
1. West Virginia (708 wins)
Of the 14 current FBS programs with 700 or more wins, only the Mountaineers can’t claim a national title. And they have come painfully close on two occasions.
In 1988, Don Nehlen’s squad was led by dynamic QB Major Harris and enjoyed an unblemished regular season. But in the de facto national title game against top-ranked Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, Harris separated his left shoulder, largely contributing to the Irish’s 34–21 victory.
What transpired in 2007 was even more gut-wrenching. QB Pat White and RB Steve Slaton paced an explosive offense, and the Mountaineers only needed a win against 4–7 Pitt in the regular season finale to earn a berth in the national title game. Inexplicably, the offense ground to a halt in a 13–9 upset loss.
Those close calls and West Virginia’s gaudy win total make them the best program never to win it all. Well, at least WVU fans have got this title to hang their hats on.