Florida State, Nebraska, Virginia Tech, Florida and LSU possess five of the nine longest bowl streaks of all-time. Though neither streak is active, these teams have been household names when the bowl season kicks off.
Times have changed. Even with more and more bowls — there are 42 this year — and with 6-6 being good enough to qualify for postseason play, it is possible that all five teams will fail to make the cut this year. To add some perspective, it was 1978 the last time Florida and Florida State were not part of the bowl season, which that year consisted of 15 games.
As the 2021 college football season heads into its next-to-last-week, one of the aforementioned teams has been eliminated from bowl play and the others have some work to do if they are to extend their season beyond Thanksgiving weekend.
Florida State (4-6)
Bobby Bowden built a program that ultimately would own the college football record for most consecutive seasons (36) with a bowl game appearance, a remarkable run that stretched from 1982 to 2017 and included five presidential administrations. While the 2017 team under Jimbo Fisher and interim coach Odell Haggins — the former left Tallahassee for Texas A&M before the final regular season game — had to win its last three games to become bowl eligible, the unthinkable happened in 2018 when the ‘Noles were home for the holidays. Now, the program is in danger of failing to make the cut for the third time in four years. In fact, since defeating Wake Forest on October 20, 2018, the Seminoles are 14-23.
There is no question this year’s team has shown much improvement under Mike Norvell. The way they came back against visiting Miami on Saturday shows there is much life in the program. In order for a lifeline to be extended into December, Norvell’s team must win its final two games, both on the road, against Boston College and rival Florida.
The Cornhuskers have been eliminated from bowl play for a fifth — fifth!! — straight season. Until FSU bested their mark, the ‘Huskers had the record of 35 straight seasons of making a bowl. That came to an end in 2004, a year after the administration decided Frank Solich’s 58-19 mark and lack of national championships was not up to par. The keys were handed to Bill Callahan and nearly two decades later they are still trying to recover in Lincoln.
Though Bo Pellini’s tenure included three 10-win seasons and two bowl wins in a four-year stretch, Nebraska has won only five bowl games in 18 years. The Cornhuskers, who have had a lot of tough luck this season in losing all seven of their games by single digits, last played on New Year’s Day at the end of the 2012 season.
Virginia Tech (5-5)
It took a pandemic-disrupted 2020 season for the Hokies to have what was the nation’s longest active bowl streak (27) snapped. A 4-2 start unraveled into a 5-6 finish. Like Florida State, if Virginia Tech is to return to the bowl season, the job will have to get done on the road. Justin Fuente’s team needs a win at either Miami this week or Virginia next week to extend the season.
The Hokies’ 27-game bowl streak, the fourth-longest, began in 1993 when they were a member of the Big East. On multiple occasions, the streak was kept alive by winning their final regular season game, most recently in 2018 when they defeated Marshall. The game with the Thundering Herd, who like the Hokies had a September non-conference game canceled due to Hurricane Florence, was scheduled on a tentative basis two weeks before it was played. An overtime win against visiting Virginia on Thanksgiving weekend put Virginia Tech at 5-6 and within a win of bowl eligibility. That triggered the date with Marshall.
The Gators enjoyed a 22-year bowl streak from 1991 to 2012 that included three national championships. They head into the final two games of this season needing to win one in order to avoid a third bowl-less season in the last nine. After being dominated at South Carolina and needing to come from behind to outslug FCS member Samford, Dan Mullen’s team is sputtering big time as it heads to Mizzou this week. If they cannot defeat the Tigers to secure bowl eligibility, they will try their luck at home against rival Florida State next week.
Florida’s bowl streak, the seventh longest, began with Steve Spurrier’s second season at the helm of his alma mater. His first resulted in a 9-2 mark, but NCAA sanctions resulting from Galen Hall’s three-year tenure prevented the Gators from participating in the postseason. Otherwise, the streak would have been 26 and the longest of any SEC team. Instead, Alabama (1959-83) has the longest in conference history at 25, a mark that will be matched by Georgia this bowl season. The Bulldogs’ streak is the longest active run in college football.
The Tigers had a 20-year bowl streak that is the ninth-longest. It began in 2000 and was snapped last season when a self-imposed bowl ban prevented a 5-5 team from playing another game. In order to return to the bowl season in Ed Orgeron’s final year in Baton Rouge, LSU must win its last two games, both at home, against Louisiana-Monroe and Texas A&M. Failure to do so will result in the program’s first bowl-less and losing season since it went 3-8 under Gerry DiNardo in 1999.
LSU got its streak started in Nick Saban’s first season roaming the sideline in Death Valley. Saban was the first of three coaches to win a national title this century when his Tigers did so 2003. Les Miles hoisted the national championship trophy in 2007 and Orgeron in 2019.