In another attempt to determine the most dominant programs in College Football over the last 8 seasons, we took a look at the number of major bowl game appearances for schools since 2008, which means either a BCS Bowl or a New Year’s Six Bowl Game since the era of the College Football Playoff was ushered in. We narrowed the list down to six schools with at least 4 such appearances. The Pac-12 is the only conference with two on the list, which could suggest quality, or simply parity.
Why the last 8 seasons, and not 4 or 10? With players supposedly leaving after four years of college, this means two four-year draft cycles, and we thought it represents a long enough (but not too long) time frame to judge and measure the best and most consistent in college football, often not letting a mass exodus or other problems affect them for too long, or at all. We also counted vacated wins and seasons, even if the NCAA or anyone else ignore them.
We didn’t give teams two appearances for making the CFP final, just for being selected to the Final Four. Maybe the most interesting names to find off the list are USC, LSU and Michigan, making only one major bowl game appearance over the last 8 seasons.
Florida State Seminoles: 4
For the Seminoles, who replaced Bobby Bowden with Jimbo Fisher in 2010, all of their major bowl game appearances came with the new HC, beginning in 2012.
- After a 12-2 season and winning the ACC, FSU went on to beat Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl
- In 2013, with Jameis Winston winning the Heisman on his freshman season, they went undefeated to win the national title, beating Auburn in the BCS championship game
- In 2014, Florida State won the ACC while going undefeated, but got crushed by Oregon in the CFP semifinal (Rose Bowl)
- For the first time in four years they missed out on the conference title, losing to Houston in the Peach Bowl, finishing the season with a 10-3 record.
Oklahoma Sooners: 4
The Sooners have made a major bowl game four times in the last eight years, all under Bob Stoops, their head coach since 2000.
- In 2008, after winning the Big 12 by crushing Missouri, the Sooners lost to Florida in the championship game, finishing the season at 12-2
- In 2010, Oklahoma narrowly beat Nebraska to win the Big 12 and went on to beat UConn in the Fiesta Bowl, finishing the season at 12-2
- In 2013, Oklahoma didn’t win the Big 12, but got invited to the Sugar Bowl, stunning Alabama 45-31
- Last season they won the Big 12 for the first time since 2012 but lost to Clemson 37-17 in the Orange Bowl, the CFP semifinal
Oregon Ducks: 5
The Ducks last 8 seasons are split 4 & 4 between Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich as the head coach, which included five consecutive top 10 finishes
- In 2009, with Kelly replacing Mike Bellotti, the Ducks won their first conference title since 2001 but lost to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, finishing the season 10-3
- In 2010 Oregon went undefeated through conference play, but lost 22-19 to Auburn in the national title game
- In 2011, they won the Pac-12 again, this time beating Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl 45-38 to end the season 12-2
- Kelly completed 4 seasons and 4 BCS bowls in 2012, with one loss costing Oregon a championship game seed, instead beating Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl
- In 2014, Helfrich at the helm now, they won the Pac-12 and the CFP semifinal (Rose Bowl), beating Florida State. They lost the championship game against Ohio State
Stanford Cardinal: 5
Like their division rivals, Stanford began their recent success with one coach, Jim Harbaugh, and then carried on with his successor, David Shaw, proving to be even more successful
- In 2010, under Harbaugh, Stanford made their first major bowl game since 1999, going 12-1 in the season to make the Orange Bowl, where they crushed Virginia Tech
- A year later, with Shaw in charge, Stanford were 11-1 before losing to Oklahoma State 41-38 in overtime, playing in the Fiesta Bowl
- 2012 marked Stanford’s first conference title since 1999, going 12-2 including a 20-14 win over perennial Rose Bowl losers, Wisconsin
- Stanford won the Pac-12 again in 2013, making another Rose Bowl, but ended up losing to Michigan State
- In 2015 Stanford won the conference after a one-year break, and dominated the Rose Bowl with a 45-16 win over Iowa
Ohio State Buckeyes: 6
The Buckeyes missed out on a major bowl game just twice since 2008: Once in 2011, the year after Jim Tressel left, and in 2012, going undefeated in the regular season, but ineligble to play a bowl game.
- The Buckeyes were Big Ten co-champions in 2008, going on to play Texas in the Fiesta Bowl and losing 24-21
- The Buckeyes won the Big Ten in 2009 outright, going back to the Rose Bowl and beating Oregon
- In 2010, going 11-1 in the regular season wasn’t enough for a conference title, and so they wound up in the Sugar Bowl, beating Arkansas
- The return, but not the big return, was in 2013, with Urban Meyer as head coach. Ohio State went 12-0 before losing the Big Ten championship game, and then to Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
- In 2014, Ohio State shook off an early loss to Virginia Tech to win the Big Ten, shock Alabama in the CFP semifinals (Sugar Bowl) and then beat Oregon to win the national championship for the first time since 2002
- Last season Ohio State had one loss ruin their bid to win the Big Ten and get back into the playoffs. They had to settle for the Fiesta Bowl and crushing Notre Dame
Alabama Crimson Tide 7
Alabama’s recent history is all about two words: Nick Saban. He came back, and the dominance in the SEC and nationally returned, big time, missing a major bowl game only once, and it was in a 10-3 season. Terrible.
- Alabama made their first major bowl game since 1999 in 2008, losing both the SEC championship game and the Sugar Bowl against Utah to finish the season 12-2
- In 2009 they won the national championship for the first time since 1992 (pre-BCS era), going 14-0, beating Texas in the championship game
- In 2011, after a down year by Saban’s standards, Alabama controversially got in to the BCS championship game against a conference rival despite losing to them in the regular season and not playing for the SEC title. They beat LSU 21-0 in the title game to claim a 2nd championship in 3 years.
- In 2012, it was another Alabama championship, not letting a regular season loss to Texas A&M get in the way, destroying Notre Dame in the title game
- 2013 Alabama lost in the Iron Bowl to Auburn on the final play of the game, downgrading them from SEC championship game to playing in the Sugar Bowl and losing to Oklahoma
- In 2014 Alabama won the SEC with one loss (Ole Miss), and went on to lose against Ohio State in the CFP semifinal (Sugar Bowl)
- Alabama won a 4th national title in the Saban administration, losing to Ole Miss again but not to anyone else, shutting out Michigan State in the CFP semifinal (Cotton Bowl Classic) and beating Clemson 45-40 in the final
And the rest:
One appearance: Arizona, Arkansas, UConn, Houston, Kansas State, Louisville, LSU, Michigan, Mississippi State, Northern Illinois, Penn State, UCF, Utah, USC, West Virginia
Two appearances: Auburn, Baylor, Boise State, Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Iowa, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Texas
Three appearances: Clemson, Florida, Michigan State, TCU, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin