Powerhouses made college game better

By Kevin Olsen

This college football season has provided plenty of surprises, but the one thing it has lacked is nostalgia. It has just really made me feel old.

What happened to all of the college football powerhouses that dominated our adolescence? I don’t recall Boston College, Cal, or South Florida competing for national championships … well, ever. South Florida wasn’t even a Bowl Subdivision team when I started to truly pay attention to college football.

The past few years have seen the outright crumbling of the powerhouse schools that have dominated the landscape of college football for decades. I mean, was it really that long ago that Nebraska, Miami, Florida State, Notre Dame and Oklahoma were in the Top 10 year in and year out? Even compared to baseball dynasties like the Braves and Yankees, college football brought with it this aura of dominant teams that you knew were going to compete for the national title every year and would not disappoint (and don’t get me wrong, the Sooners are still very good, but they do not compare to teams they have had in the past 20 years).

These were college football dynasties. Barry Switzer’s and Bob Stoops’ Oklahoma teams, Bobby Bowden’s Florida State teams, Tom Osborne’s dominant Nebraska teams and a number of Miami coaches that led the Hurricanes to Top-5 finishes were things you could count on every year in college football.

Those Florida schools had so much talent every year, both winning games and delivering an unheard of number of first-round picks to the NFL. It was the same story every year in college football, the same teams competing for the biggest prize.

So why all of a sudden did these dynasties all come to an end at the same time? The biggest dynasty we have now is USC, and even it is being questioned after only a few years with surprising losses the past couple seasons.

The realignment of conferences, the constant changing of good head coaches and the tireless efforts of recruiting by schools all over the country have changed the game as we see it. Sure, I hated those Nebraska teams more than anything in the world, and you would never see me cheer for Miami or Florida State, but at least they were teams you loved to hate. You wanted to see your team come in and pull off the upset of the decade.

Now you see that upset every other week.

Nine out of the original Top-10 teams at the beginning of the season have already lost. That team you love to hate hardly exists anymore because all of a sudden everyone is beatable. Don’t get me wrong, I love the upsets just as much as anyone, and I love that different teams have the opportunity to do something special.

But there is still that part of me that wants to see two truly dominant teams collide – a game in which no one has any doubt that these are the top teams. It was only two years ago that USC met Texas for the game of the century, but so much has changed since then.

So what exactly does a season like this mean?

It means that college football is becoming just like every other sport; every year could be any team’s year. I understand there is always the cycle of new teams replacing the top dogs, but not at the rate we see now. It only takes one good year for a program to build on. It will be able to recruit better players because high school players have now seen results firsthand.

In turn, the powerhouse schools are losing recruits to schools like South Florida and Rutgers – and, yes, Illinois. Even the Big 12 will see top players going to previously struggling programs like Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State.

If Stanford can beat USC at the Rose Bowl and Appalachian State can beat Michigan at the Big House, we are only getting cheated at the end when it comes time for the BCS bowls.

There is no longer an appropriate way to gauge who is truly the best. At the rate this season is going, there could be a two-loss team playing for the national championship.

That is not the college football I grew up loving to watch.

Kevin Olsen is a senior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected]