How Tough Is Defending Your Title?

Just how hard is it to repeat as national champion these days? As Texas takes its 20 game winning streak into the 2006 season, I thought I?d take a look at how the top teams have fared a year after their national championship season.

A few notes about this brief study before we continue.

First, I had to pick a metric and stick with it. As such, we?ll use the Associated Press Final Season Poll. With apologies to LSU, the BCS hasn?t? been around forever, so this will have to do. It?s a minor point, anyway.

Second, this study is confined to results since 1980. Going further back doesn?t make as much sense for a number of reasons, the most important being that the game and football landscape has changed quite a bit since 30 years ago. With those qualifiers in mind, let?s take a look.

The table below lists the year, the national champion for that year, and the team?s final poll position in the following year. (NR indicates the team did not finish ranked in the AP Top 20 the following year.)

National Champions
Year National Champ Next Year
1980 Georgia 6
1981 Clemson 8
1982 Penn State NR
1983 Miami 18
1984 BYU 16
1985 Oklahoma 3
1986 Penn State NR
1987 Miami 2
1988 Notre Dame 2
1989 Miami 3
1990 Colorado 20
1991 Miami 3
1992 Alabama 14
1993 Florida St. 4
1994 Nebraska 1
1995 Nebraska 6
1996 Florida 4
1997 Michigan 12
1998 Tennessee 9
1999 Florida St. 5
2000 Oklahoma 6
2001 Miami 2
2002 Ohio St. 4
2003 USC 1
2004 USC 2
2005 Texas ???

A few quick thoughts:

*For starters, repeating is clearly not easy. Only the 1994-95 Nebraska Cornhuskers and the 2003-04 USC Trojans were able to pull it off. The latter, of course, was not crowned BCS champion in 2003.

*The average finish of a national champion the following year is 6.04.

*Miami has been awfully good the last 25 or so years.

It?s been 20 games since Texas has felt the sting of losing, but history suggests we?re due for one this year. If Vince Young were returning, the story might be different, but with a freshman behind center, defending the title will be quite the challenge. I?m certainly not going to predict yet that we won?t, but as history tells us, the road to repeating these days is tremendously difficult.

--PB--

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