April 24, 2009

Mailbag: Hokies begin quest for three of a kind

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Dynasties don't come easy.

A search of college football conference champions since the end of World War II shows that only 16 programs have won or shared at least four consecutive league crowns.

More than triple crowns
Here's a list of college football programs that have won or shared at least four consecutive college football championships since World War II.
Team (conference)No.Years
Oklahoma (Big 7)121948-59
BYU (WAC)101976-85
Florida State (ACC)91992-2000
Oklahoma (Big Eight)81973-80
USC (Pac-10)72002-08
Ohio State (Big Ten)61972-77
Texas (SWC)61968-73
Alabama (SEC)51971-75
Arizona State (WAC)51969-73
Boise State (WAC)52002-06
BYU (WAC)51989-93
Michigan (Big Ten)51988-92
Nebraska (Big Eight)51991-95
Texas Tech (Border)51947-51
Ohio State (Big Ten)42005-08
Florida (SEC)41993-96
Oklahoma (Big Eight)41984-87
Miami (Big East)42000-03
Michigan (Big Ten)41947-50; 1971-74
Marshall (MAC)41997-2000
Nebraska (Big Eight)41963-66; 1981-84
North Texas (Sun Belt)42001-04
USC (Pac-8)41966-69
The record is held by Oklahoma, which won 12 consecutive championships from 1948-1959 in the old Big Seven Conference. BYU, now a member of the Mountain West Conference, had 10 consecutive Western Athletic Conference championships from 1976-85. Florida State won nine titles in a row in the ACC from 1992-2000.

Currently, the longest streak is owned by USC, which has seven consecutive Pac-10 titles.

Long runs like those make three-year streaks look mundane. Yet, winning three consecutive conference championships is a great accomplishment that one heralded program hopes to attain this season.

Which one? That answer is found in this week's mailbag.

Three of a kind

From Steve in Blacksburg, Va.: What are the chances of Virginia Tech making it three ACC championships in a row?

Virginia Tech's 2008 ACC championship came as something of a surprise. This season, the Hokies will be the consensus pick to win the league.

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor heads a list of eight returning offensive starters. Tailbacks Darren Evans and Ryan Williams will ensure a productive running game. The Hokies' defense always is tough and that won't change with seven starters back on that side of the ball. Last season, Virginia Tech held 10 opponents to fewer than 20 points; the Hokies could duplicate that feat this season.

Oh, yeah, Frank Beamer is still in charge, which is another point in Tech's favor.

Last season, the ACC wasn't a powerful conference. It should be better this season. That will make winning a third consecutive championship more difficult. Georgia Tech projects as a top-15 team and the Hokies must go to Atlanta, so that could be treacherous. Overall, though, Virginia Tech looks like the class of the ACC; for the most part, the schedule is advantageous, too, with Miami, Boston College, North Carolina and North Carolina State traveling to Blacksburg.

Virginia Tech has posted at least 10 victories in each of the past five seasons. I'm anticipating that streak to reach six and for the Hokies to win another ACC title.

Travel problems

From Walter in Pennsylvania: Do you think northern teams are at a disadvantage by playing bowl games in southern climates, often against southern teams that typically are closer to home?

That question has been raised before. At the least, it's an interesting theory. But it's also a lame excuse. Has Big Ten and Big East football gotten to the point where its fans feel they need snow and ice to win? I hope not.

Bowls are played in warmer climates for two main reasons the elements usually aren't a factor in the game and fans are more likely to travel for a respite from the cold of winter.

Seriously, how many college football fans would travel to, say, Cleveland, in January to see their team play in a bowl? Obviously, some would, but Pasadena, Calif., Miami, Phoenix and New Orleans and even San Antonio, Orlando, Fla., and Dallas are more attractive destinations, especially in January.

It certainly can be argued that LSU had an advantage when it played Ohio State and Oklahoma in New Orleans in BCS championship games. After all, the Tigers were playing just an hour from their campus. But then explain why Texas beat USC in Pasadena in '05. No team has a better home-field advantage in a BCS championship game than the Trojans in Pasadena.

Maybe I'm missing the point, though. Perhaps because Texas is a warm-climate school, that game isn't relative to this argument. In that case, let's look at the 2009 Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., in which Iowa defeated South Carolina ; the 2008 Capital One Bowl in Orlando, in which Michigan defeated Florida ; the 2007 Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, in which Penn State defeated Texas A&M ; and the 2002 BCS championship game in Arizona, in which Ohio State beat Miami.

Warm climate or not, the field is 100 yards long. Plus, some bowls are in domed stadiums, so the weather isn't an issue either way.

The bottom line is the teams from northern climates haven't been losing bowl games because of venue. They just haven't been as good as the teams they were playing.

Mixed signals

From Erik in Mesa, Ariz.: Who will win the quarterback competition at Arizona State ? And will the offensive line be able to keep him upright?

Senior Danny Sullivan came out of the spring ahead of sophomore Samson Szakacsy and true freshman Brock Osweiler. Sullivan has thrown just 87 college passes (completing 40), but that's 87 more than the other guys combined.

Whoever is starting when the season opens Sept. 5 against Idaho State will need better protection than the Sun Devils have provided recently. Arizona State has surrendered 89 sacks in the past two seasons combined.

Some major work was done this spring in an effort to fill those holes. Players changed positions, with Garth Gerhart the brother of Stanford running back Toby Gerhart nailing down the starting job at center and Tom Njunge looking solid at right tackle. But questions remain at right guard.

Coach Dennis Erickson also made a big move to help the offensive line by going to a zone-read offense. Linemen won't have to hold blocks as long and the quarterback won't keep the ball as long.

Still, the line will need to make dramatic improvement for the Sun Devils to be a factor in the Pac-10. You'd like to assume the changes in personnel and formations will have positive results. But there are a lot of unknowns associated with the Sun Devils this season.

Attracted to gold?

From David in Salem, Ore.: Urban Meyer used to be an assistant at Notre Dame and has called it his "dream job." Many speculate that he may leave Florida for Notre Dame after this season. If he does, do you think the USC-Notre Dame or Pete Carroll vs. Meyer will become the nation's top rivalry?

First, I don't think Meyer will coach Notre Dame in 2010. I believe Notre Dame will have a strong season in '09 and that Charlie Weis will remain as the Irish coach.

Still, the scenario you presented absolutely would be compelling. Meyer and Carroll are the two best coaches in college football, and USC and Notre Dame are among the most historic programs. The rivalry matching those teams and coaches would rival Ohio State-Michigan, Texas-Oklahoma and Auburn-Alabama as the nation's best.

Of course, if Notre Dame resurfaces as a national championship contender (and USC remains one), that rivalry would be one of the best in the country regardless of the coaches.

Top of the mountain?

From Joe in Wheeling, Pa.: Do you think West Virginia has established itself as one of the country's top programs?

West Virginia is among the nation's elite. That cannot be argued.

Over the past seven seasons West Virginia has 67 victories, has won at least eight games each season, has won or shared four Big East titles and has two BCS bowl victories. Only a handful of programs can match those credentials.

The question facing WVU is whether it can remain among the nation's elite. Much of the Mountaineers' success coincided with Patrick White's emergence as one of the country's top quarterbacks.

White has finished his eligibility. Does that mean the Mountaineers' run of excellence is finished, too? It would seem foolish to think there will be no decline without White.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.
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