Photo courtesy of Nebraska athletics
With more than 40 FBS bowl games, making a postseason bowl in major college football is easier than ever before. Some schools, however, haven’t seen it that way of late.
In what will be a 2-part series, we’ll be looking at which schools have the longest droughts without a bowl appearance. In cases where teams received a bowl invitation but had the contest canceled or were forced to drop out during the COVID-19 pandemic, that will be counted as a bowl appearance.
Without further ado, here’s the longest bowl drought in each Power 5 conference:
Program: Georgia Tech
Last Bowl: Lost to Minnesota 34-10 in Quick Lane Bowl on Dec. 26, 2018
Overview: Georgia Tech’s last bowl appearance came in Paul Johnson’s 11th and final season in Atlanta. The Yellow Jackets finished 7-6 that season and were embarrassed by Minnesota in the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit. 2018 was also the last year that both Duke and Syracuse made a bowl game but their contests came after Georgia Tech’s, making the Yellow Jackets’ bowl drought the longest in the conference. Prior to the current stretch, Georgia Tech had not missed a bowl in three consecutive years since the mid-1990s.
Last Bowl: Defeated Minnesota 42-21 in Insight Bowl on Dec. 31, 2008
Overview: Kansas currently holds the longest bowl drought among all Power 5 programs. In the late-2000s, Kansas appeared to be a program on the rise. In 2007, Kansas won the Orange Bowl and finished in the top 5. The following season, the Jayhawks went 8-5 and defeated Minnesota in the Insight Bowl. After a 5-0 start in 2009, Kansas lost its final seven games, fired head coach Mark Mangino and hasn’t been to a bowl since. Over the last 13 years, Kansas doesn’t have more than one Big 12 win in any season and just eight total.
Last Bowl: Lost to Tennessee in Music City Bowl on Dec. 30, 2016
Overview: Thinking back to Scott Frost’s playing days at Nebraska, the prospect of missing a bowl game in any season would seem unfathomable. Doing so in five straight seasons would be out of the question. Nevertheless, that’s where the Cornhuskers are as Frost enters his fifth season as head coach. During his tenure, Nebraska had gone a dismal 15-29. The Cornhuskers have not played in a bowl game since 2016. The 5-year hiatus is the longest for Nebraska since the Bill Jennings era, which spanned from 1957 to 1961.
Last Bowl: Lost to Purdue in Foster Farms Bowl on Dec. 27, 2017
Overview: Over the past six years, Arizona has just one winning season and that came in the final year under Rich Rodriguez. The Wildcats finished 7-6 and unranked before Rodriguez was fired after being accused of sexual misconduct. Arizona is a combined 5-24 over the last three seasons and just 3-20 in Pac-12 play. The Wildcats have finished ranked in the AP Poll just once since 1999.
Last Bowl: Lost to Baylor in Texas Bowl on Dec. 27, 2018
Overview: In 2021, 13 of the SEC’s 14 schools qualified for a bowl game. The exception was Vanderbilt. The Commodores suffered through their eighth straight losing season. Vanderbilt has just eight total SEC wins over the last eight seasons and has gone winless in conference play three times during that stretch, including in each of the last two seasons. Since 1949, Vanderbilt has finished ranked in the AP Poll just twice. The Commodores finished ranked after back-to-back 9-4 seasons under James Franklin in 2012 and 2013.
Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.