Photo courtesy of Michigan athletics
Since the Big 12 Conference revived its conference title game in 2017, every Power 5 conference now has a conference championship game. During the College Football Playoff era, it hasn’t been a prerequisite to be part of the 4-team playoff, but it certainly helps.
Some schools would simply be happy to get there. Below is a list of Power 5 teams that have yet to play for their conference’s title.
The ACC went from nine teams to 11 in 2004. In 2005, Boston College joined the conference and the 12 teams were split into two divisions. Since then, the conference has held a title game every year. Originally in Jacksonville, the game has been played in Charlotte in nine of the last 10 seasons.
Louisville has only been a member of the ACC since 2014, but has yet to win the Atlantic division. The Cardinals won the Big East in 2006 and 2012. Louisville finished tied atop the Atlantic standings in 2016, but lost the tiebreaker to Clemson.
NC State is the only team to be a member of the ACC since the inception of a championship game and has yet to play in it. The closest that NC State came was in 2010. The Wolfpack needed only to beat Maryland in the regular season finale, but lost, 38-31. The loss propelled Florida State to the ACC Championship game.
Syracuse has only been a member of the ACC since 2013, but hasn’t won a division title. The best season for the Orange as a member of the ACC came in 2018 as they finished 10-3. That season, Syracuse held a 23-13 lead over Clemson in the fourth quarter. Travis Etienne scored two touchdowns for the Tigers, including the game-winner with 41 seconds left in a 27-23 Clemson victory. Had the Orange held the lead, it would have been Syracuse and not eventual national champion Clemson that represented the ACC Atlantic in Charlotte.
The first Big 12 Championship came in the conference’s first year of 1996. Nebraska and Missouri left the conference after the 2010 season and from there, the conference went without a title game for six years. Despite only having 10 teams, it was revived in 2017.
Iowa State has enjoyed three straight winning seasons, but hasn’t won nine games since 2000. In 2000, the Cyclones finished 5-3 in Big 12 play, but a game behind both Nebraska and Kansas State in the then North division.
Among Power 5 teams, Kansas has the longest bowl drought. Since the inception of the Big 12, the Jayhawks have just three winning seasons. In 2007, Kansas started 11-0, but fell 36-28 to Missouri in the “Border War”. That contest would ultimately decide the North division.
Oklahoma State has a Big 12 title, but it came after the title game went on hiatus. The Cowboys went 12-1 overall in 2011 and won the conference outright. Unfortunately for Mike Gundy’s team, it finished No. 3 in the final BCS standings and just outside the national title game.
As a member of the Big 12, Texas Tech has just one 10-win season. That was the 2008 campaign under Mike Leach. That season, the Red Raiders finished in a 3-way tie atop the Big 12 South standings. With Texas Tech, Texas and Oklahoma all at 7-1 in conference, the Sooners won the tiebreaker and ultimately, the conference.
One of the newer members of the Big 12, West Virginia has gone just 14-13 in conference since the conference brought back the title game. The Mountaineers had won the Big East three times in seven years including in the year prior when they joined the Big 12 in 2012.
The Big Ten added a conference title game in 2011. Each of the nine Big Ten Championships have been played at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. In 2014, the Big Ten switched from Legends and Leaders divisions to East and West.
Illinois made a bowl game for the first time since 2014 this past season, but the Fighting Illini haven’t had a winning conference record since 2007 under Ron Zook. The last Big Ten title for Illinois came in 2001 under Ron Turner.
Indiana has just two winning seasons in the last 26 years. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, they haven’t sniffed a division title. The 5-4 finish in Big Ten play this past season was the best for Indiana since 1993. The last Big Ten title came in 1967.
Maryland did not join the Big Ten until 2014. As a member of the Big Ten, Maryland has had just one winning season and that was its first in 2014 under Randy Edsall. The Terrapins have never had a winning record in Big Ten play. A charter member of the ACC, the Terrapins last won that conference in 2001. Maryland never participated in the ACC Championship.
Maybe the most surprising team on this list, Michigan has more wins than any program in college football history. However, Michigan has not won the Big Ten since 2004 and has never won its division. The closest the Wolverines came was in 2016. In a battle for the Big Ten East, the Wolverines fell to Ohio State in overtime in Columbus, 30-27. In 2018, Michigan entered the final week of the regular season in the same position. It was blasted by the Buckeyes, 62-39.
After a 9-0 start this past season, Minnesota lost two of its final three regular season games. The Golden Gophers fell in November to both Iowa and Wisconsin. Had Minnesota won one of those games, it would have won the Big Ten West. Prior to that, Minnesota finished with a winning Big Ten record just once since the inception of a Big Ten Championship in 2013.
Since 2007, Purdue has had a winning record in Big Ten play just once and that came in 2018. The Boilermakers have never finished higher than a second-place tie in their division. The last Big Ten title for Purdue came in 2000 under Joe Tiller and with a quarterback named Drew Brees.
A member of the Big Ten since 2014, Rutgers hasn’t had a winning season since its first year in the conference. Over the last two seasons, the Scarlet Knights are a combined 0-18 in Big Ten play. It has lost 21 conference games in a row.
With the additions of Colorado and Utah, the Pac-12 has held a conference title game since 2011. The first three games were played at the home stadium of the team with the best conference record. Since 2014, it’s been played at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.
Since the inception of Pac-12 Championship, California has not had a winning record in conference. The Golden Bears last shared the then Pac-10 title in 2007. Its last Rose Bowl appearance came in 1958.
Oregon State has fared slightly better than California since the inception of a Pac-12 Championship, but the Beavers haven’t had a winning season since 2013 under Mike Riley. The 5-7 finish this past season was the best since 2014. Oregon State’s last conference title came in 1964. The Beavers did share the title with Washington and Oregon in 2000, but lost the tiebreaker.
Prior to this past season, Washington State had won at least six Pac-12 games in four consecutive seasons, but the Cougars have yet to appear in the title game. The last Pac-12 title for Washington State came in 2002 under Mike Price.
The SEC was the first conference to implement a championship game when it did so in 1992. The first two SEC Championships were played in Birmingham. Since 1994, the contest has annually been played in Atlanta.
Kentucky is just one season removed from a 10-win season, but the Wildcats haven’t really come close to representing the SEC East in Atlanta. The 5-3 SEC mark that season is the best Kentucky has done since the conference went to divisions. Kentucky’s last conference title came in 1950 under Paul “Bear” Bryant.
Ole Miss has finished second in the SEC West several times since 1992 and has even won major bowl games. The Rebels however, have finished tied for first place in the division just once. That came in 2003. Ole Miss ultimately lost the tiebreaker to the eventual national champion LSU Tigers.
Just a member of the SEC since 2012, Texas A&M’s best season since joining the conference was its first. The Aggies went 11-2 under Kevin Sumlin and with a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback named Johnny Manziel. Since then, Texas A&M has finished better than 4-4 in conference just once. It should be noted that as a member of the Big 12, Texas A&M played for the conference crown in 1997 and won it in 1998. The Aggies rallied to beat No. 2 Kansas State in overtime, 36-33.
Since 1983, Vanderbilt has had a winning record in conference just once. That came in 2012 under James Franklin. That year, the Commodores finished 5-3 in the SEC and 9-4 overall. That was still only good enough for fourth in the SEC East.