By Ian Echlin
Two teams in college football, historic programs in their respective divisions, carried 20-plus game winning streaks into a championship.
Now only one stands.
Alabama’s 35-21 loss to Clemson snapped the Crimson Tide’s 26-game winning streak. The Tide fell short of back-to-back national championships in Tampa, Fla., as their streak stretched back to a home loss against Mississippi on Sept. 19, 2015.
In NCAA Division II, Northwest Missouri State finished its season with a championship repeat and holds a current winning streak of 30 games. The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, on the Division III level, finished its championship season at 15-0 without a loss since a playoff semifinal last season, and the second longest active winning streak to Northwest Missouri.
The major college record is 47 held by Oklahoma in the late 1950s.
Of course, big time college football in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and D-II football in Maryville, Mo., are worlds apart. But each in their own world deals with some common issues.
Mainly how each program deals with the constant target that’s on its back. Granted, the Crimson Tide are under a microscope as a high-profile institution. But opponents who prepare for them don’t care about any of that. They just want to beat them like Clemson did in the title game.
Other programs try to emulate the success of the Tide and the Bearcats by siphoning their coaches. Adam Dorrel jumped ship from being the Bearcats head coach to a more lucrative deal at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas, on the FCS level as its head coach. At Bama, the highest profile departure was assistant coach Lane Kiffin who was named the head coach at Florida Atlantic University.
The other challenge for programs maintaining a winning streak is keep the revolving door moving for players coming in while sending off those who are on track to graduate. Though a number of Tide players will take a crack at the NFL, the number of football players who don’t have that shot at the NFL far outweigh those who do.
That’s the case on all levels.
The football season is over. They’re students again, at least until either spring practice or graduation.