A look at the longest active bowl streaks in college football, as well as those that came crashing down this season. Florida State preserved its three-plus decade streak while Oregon and Michigan State couldn’t keep things going.
With bowl season once again in full swing, several familiar faces will be squaring off in the best bowl games this season.
For the third consecutive season, Alabama will represent the SEC in the College Football Playoff, this year facing Washington in the Peach Bowl semifinal game. The other CFP semifinal, the Fiesta Bowl, features Ohio State and last season’s runner-up, Clemson.
Elsewhere, Florida State has continued its bowl streak, and will square off against Michigan in the Orange Bowl game that figures to be one of the postseason’s best matchups. Other games featuring traditional powerhouses include the Music City Bowl between Tennessee and Nebraska, the Sugar Bowl between Auburn and Oklahoma, and the Rose Bowl between Penn State and USC. As far as Bowl Seasons go, this is one of the better ones in recent memory.
While some teams are going bowling for the first time in their program’s history, others are making history with yet another consecutive bowl appearance. Below is a look at the programs with the longest active bowl streaks, as well as those starting new streaks and those streaks who came screeching to a halt in 2016.
1. Florida State: 35
Starting with a Gator Bowl appearance in Bobby Bowden’s seventh season in Tallahassee, the Seminoles have been a part of the postseason for each of the last 35 years. The Seminoles’ 9-3 record this year has pulled them into a tie for the longest bowl streak ever in college football, equalling the mark set by Nebraska between 1969 and 2003. Overall the FSU is 24-9-1 during the streak, including a 11-game win streak between 1985 and 1995.
2. Virginia Tech: 24
As is the case with the Seminoles, the Hokies’ streak started in the seventh season of their legendary coach Frank Beamer. Though Justin Fuente replaced Beamer on the sideline this year in Blacksburg, things have proceeded as normal for Virginia Tech when it comes to the postseason. The streak has seen various peaks, with Sugar Bowl appearances in 1999, 2004 and 2011, as well as three trips to the Orange Bowl during the Tyrod Taylor Era. The Hokies will look to reach .500 for the streak this year as they currently sit at 11-12.
3. Georgia: 20
While Georgia failed to live up its preseason-ranking in the first year under Kirby Smart, the former Bulldog defensive back was able to guide his alma mater to its 20th straight postseason appearance. The streak began under Jim Donnan, the predecessor to longtime coach Mark Richt, and has seen the Bulldogs win two Sugar Bowls (2002, 2007). This season, Jacob Eason will look to become the third freshman quarterback to win a bowl game during the streak—joining Quincy Carter and Matthew Stafford—when the Bulldogs face TCU in the Liberty Bowl.
4. Oklahoma: 18
Unlike the programs above OU on this list, the Sooners streak has all taken place under one coach. Bob Stoops has led Oklahoma to a bowl game every season he’s been in Norman, including taking the Sooners to four BCS National Championship games, winning the title in 2000. Before Stoops stepped on campus, Oklahoma’s longest bowl streak was eight games from 1975 to 1982 under Barry Switzer. Even more, Stoops’ eight bowl wins during the streak are the most by any coach in Sooners’ history.
5. LSU: 17
When Ed Orgeron takes the sideline for LSU’s bowl game he’ll become the third coach to lead the Tigers during the longest bowl streak in program history. The others are the man Orgeron replaced this year, Les Miles, and former Tigers coach and current nemesis Nick Saban. The current Alabama coach went 3-2 in Baton Rogue to begin the streak—including a BCS title in 2003—while Miles was 7-4 in bowl games, adding his own BCS title in 2007. Despite the Tigers success during the streak, LSU hasn’t won consecutive bowl games since Miles started his tenure with four straight bowl wins from 2005 to 2008.
T-6. Boise State: 15
The first non-Power Five team to appear on this list, the Broncos have not only been to 15 straight bowl games, but have made it to the postseason 17 times in their 21 seasons since they moved up from the FCS.
T-6. Wisconsin: 15
The Badgers can claim the title of the Big Ten’s most consistent program, as they are the only team from the conference to boast an active double-digit bowl streak. While teams like Ohio State and Michigan have struggled with ineligibility and down seasons, respectively, Wisconsin dealt with the ups and downs of four different coaches in 15 seasons while never missing the postseason and earning three Rose Bowl berths. However, while the Badgers consistently make the postseason, they’ve struggled to end their year with a W, going 6-8 over the life of the streak and losing four straight New Year’s day bowls from 2010 to 2013.
8. Alabama: 13
While Alabama is unquestionably the most dominant program of the last decade, it only ranks eighth when it comes to active bowl streaks. The Crimson Tide’s streak actually extends beyond the Nick Saban, as predecessor Mike Shula led Bama to three bowls in his final three seasons in Tuscaloosa, although he only won one of them. Saban is 7-3 in postseason play with the Crimson Tide, including four of the last seven national championships. Bama’s achilles heel when it comes to postseason play, however, seems to be the Sugar Bowl. Alabama has appeared in three Sugar Bowls under Saban, and lost all three times.
T-9. Clemson: 12
Last year’s national runner-up has not only been one of the most consistent teams when it comes to the postseason, but also one of the most successful of late. Ever since Dabo Swinney hired Brent Venables to run his defense after a 70-33 loss to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl, the Tigers have won a postseason game in four straight seasons. During that run they’ve beaten the likes of LSU, Ohio State and Oklahoma (twice) and held a second half lead during last year’s national championship game against Alabama. They’ll look to run that streak to five when they take on Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, with a trip to the national title game on the line.
T-9. BYU: 12
The second non-Power Five team on this list, the Cougars’ bowl fortunes turned around dramatically when Bronco Mendenhall took over the program in 2005. Before Mendenhall’s arrival, BYU had only made a bowl four times in the previous decade, and had never gone to more than two bowls in-a-row during those 10 seasons. Mendenhall not only went to a bowl every season in Provo, but at one point won a bowl in six out of seven seasons. In his first season in charge, Kalani Sitake has upheld the Cougars standards, continuing a bowl streak that is only dwarfed by a 17 season bowl streak under Lavell Edwards from 1978 to 1994.
11. Oklahoma State: 11
Like their in-state rival, the Cowboys’ bowl streak has come under just one head coach, with Mike Gundy guiding his alma mater to the postseason in all but one of his seasons in Stillwater. Of those 11 bowl appearances, four have come in BCS/New Year’s Six games.
T-12. Nebraska: 9
While their current streak doesn’t come close to stacking up against the Cornhuskers all-time record of 35 straight bowl appearances under Tom Osborne and Frank Solich, it still ranks second among current Big Ten teams. Some may argue that this streak shouldn’t be intact after the Cornhuskers went 5-7 last, but they were invited to the Foster Farms Bowl due to a high APR and lack of bowl eligible teams. The win over UCLA in that game brought the Cornhuskers to .500 during their current streak, and they’ll look to start their first bowl winning streak since the beginning of the Bo Pelini Era.
T-12. Pittsburgh: 9
The Panthers seem to be the epitome of “doing just enough to make it a bowl game” every year. During its streak, Pitt has finished the regular season with six wins four times, and have only won nine-plus games once in the past nine seasons. Just like the results, the approach has been consistent throughout the streak: rely on running backs to pound their way into the postseason. The postseason wins haven’t always been consistent, however, as the Panthers are only gone 3-5 in bowls since the beginning of the streak.
After going to eight bowl games in the 29 seasons before Jim Harbaugh arrived in Palo Alto, the Cardinal now hold the crown of the Pac-12’s most consistent postseason presence. Many of those appearances have come on the biggest stage, too, as the Cardinal went to four straight BCS bowls between 2010 and 2013. The peaks of their success have come in the Rose Bowl, where the Cardinal have won twice since 2009, tied with Oregon for the most wins in that timespan.
T-14. Texas A&M
Despite the Aggies’ current streak extending back to the final years of Mike Sherman’s tenure in College Station, most of their success has come since they moved to the SEC and hired Kevin Sumlin. The former Houston coach led the Aggies to three wins in his first three seasons at A&M, before losing last year to Louisville in the Music City Bowl. Sumlin’s biggest win came over his former boss Bob Stoops in the 2012 Cotton Bowl, where Heisman-winner Johnny Manziel accounted for 516 yards and four TDs in a 41-13 win over the Sooners.
Other College Football Bowl Streaks
Kansas State: 7
San Diego State: 7
Arkansas State: 6
Ohio State: 4
Colorado State: 4
NC State: 3
West Virginia: 3
Penn State: 3
Western Kentucky: 3
Western Michigan: 3
Central Michigan: 3
Air Force: 3
Middle Tennessee: 2
Southern Miss: 2
New Mexico: 2
Washington State: 2
Appalachian State: 2
Longest Bowl Streaks Snapped This Season
1. Oregon: 11
2. Michigan State: 9
3. Northern Illinois: 8
T-4. Mississippi State: 6
T-4. Notre Dame: 6
Longest Bowl Droughts Snapped This Season
1. Eastern Michigan: 28
2. Colorado: 8
3. Idaho: 6
T-4. Miami (OH)
T-4. Hawaii: 5
T-4. Kentucky: 5
T-4. Troy: 5