Alabama won college football's national championship on Monday, which should satisfy its fans for roughly three or four weeks before they begin to demand another one. Fans of professional sports teams are desperate for championships but tend to be realistic about it. The Jaguars have never won a title, but you don't see their fans losing their minds about it every December. There's a pragmatism in professional sports that college fans don't have. Passion overtakes all.
Which is great! Without the lunacy of college football fans, Paul Finebaum would still be writing columns for the Birmingham Post-Herald, and Nick Saban would be the world's most intense Cinnabon manager. Passion is what makes it matter. But with that passion comes impatience. Now that the College Football Playoff is here, fans demand success, immediately, or the hatchet will fall. Even Georgia, august Georgia, is throwing away Hall of Fame coaches because it wants a championship so badly. Teams and their fans have always wanted to win. But now it's all-encompassing. And it's everywhere.
Thus, in a nod to our annual Tortured Fan base Rankings in NFL, NBA and MLB, we thought we'd start a new tradition: a look at the 25 college football fan bases who are most desperate for a championship. Some of these haven't won a title in years, or ever; others may have just won a title a few days ago. But all of them have coaches constantly looking over their shoulders. You win now, or you're out the door. That's how college football works now, and probably will from now on. Every team wants to a win a championship. But these teams need to win a championship. Maybe not this precise year. But very, very soon.
Honorable Mentions: Arkansas, Baylor, Iowa, Georgia Tech, TCU, Virginia Tech, West Virginia.
25. Wisconsin (Last title: Never). The intensity of athletic director Barry Alvarez is the X-factor here: He's clearly difficult for his coaches to deal with, and he apparently lusts after the national title he was never able to procure.
24. Oklahoma State (Last title: Never). T. Boone Pickens has spent so much money on this program and has never quite broken through. At 87, one suspects Pickens' urgency here is high.
23. UCLA (Last title: 1954). The Bruins have underperformed the last couple of seasons, but with Josh Rosen, they've got a chance to take a big step forward. 1954 is a long time ago.
22. Mississippi (Last title: 1962). Eventually, it's not going to be enough to just have Alabama's number. This is a tough place to have sustained success, but it's also a place with a proud tradition, and a team that's peaking right now.
21. Michigan State (Last Title: 1966). The Spartans needed everything to fall right this year and still were blitzed in their semifinal game. The Big Ten is getting tougher, not easier. The window might have closed already.
20. Nebraska (Last title: 1997). The Cornhuskers would be higher on this list -- the fan base certainly is desperate to recapture past glory -- but they're so far from the national title conversation right now that it's difficult to take them seriously as a contender. Let's get to .500 first, OK?
19. Texas A&M (Last Title: 1939). The move to the SEC was a jump in weight class that the Aggies have handled ably … but there's a lot of chaos around here right now. And not every fan base has a former Secretary of Defense haunting the message boards.
18. Stanford (Last title: 1940). Stanford was this close to the playoff this year, and you can't help but wonder if the Cardinal would have given Clemson a better game than Oklahoma did. They'll be replaying that Northwestern game in their minds for years.
17. Florida State (Last title: 2013). Obviously, there is a ton of passion here, but the Seminoles did just win a BCS title two years ago. That has to buy them some leeway, right?
16. Ohio State (Last title: 2014). Of course, maybe not.
15. Alabama (Last title: 2015). Man, a title just doesn't go as far as it used to, does it?
14. Miami (Fla.) (Last title: 2001). Mark Richt has returned to his alma mater to try to restore its glory, but it sure ain't 2001 anymore. Have you looked in the stands during a Hurricanes game lately? Lots of people dressed up as seats. It's a long way back, but the diehards all believe it's their birthright. We'll see.
13. Penn State (Last title: 1986). The Scandal is at last in their rearview mirror, but it's worth noting that recruiting trends were already starting to move against the Nittany Lions before that happened. If you doubt the impatience and passion of Happy Valley denizens, ask them how they feel about James Franklin right now.
12. Auburn (Last title: 2010). Definitive proof that winning a championship doesn't satiate you: It just makes you crazier for more. The Tigers went 7-6 this season after high preseason expectations, and now their coach, Gus Malzahn -- who was brought in to be the savior after they fired the guy who had just won a championship -- is in trouble, again. All SEC coaches who aren't Nick Saban should always, always rent rather than buy.
11. USC (Last title: 2004). The Trojans haven't been able to return to their Pete Carroll peak, and all told, they haven't been particularly close. Right now, with all the chaos of the last two seasons, they'll settle for stability for a couple of years. After that, though, a playoff appearance better be impending.
10. Florida (Last title: 2008). It'll be strange to watch Will Muschamp on the opposite sideline once a season, but hey, that's the SEC. The Gators won the East last year, but much improvement will be expected next season, which might tell you all you need to know.
9. Tennessee (Last title: 1998). The 2015 season was supposed to be the year the Volunteers became the Volunteers again: Now it's 2016, and it'll soon be 2017. Remember: They used to scream at Phillip Fulmer all the time too.
8. LSU (Last title: 2007). Les Miles stared down the executioner, impressively, but that trick only works once. Now that there's blood in the water, he best not lose more than twice in 2016.
7. Oregon (Last title: Never.) The Ducks came this close in the first-ever playoff, but there's a real sense that they're falling backward under Mark Helfrich. Did they miss their chance? No school needs the vindicating branding that is a national championship more than Oregon. But they seem farther away right now than they have in nearly a decade
6. Oklahoma (Last title: 2000). For a blueblood college football school that's in a winnable conference to have gone this long without a title is surprising. The semifinals appearance this year bought them some time, but there is restlessness here.
5. Notre Dame (Last title: 1988). Seriously, that's almost 30 years. There are coaches too young to remember the last Notre Dame championship.
4. Texas (Last title: 2005). It has been a decade since Vince Young, and Texas has spent a large part of that decade setting itself on fire in search of another ring. This is still simultaneously the best job for coaches in college football, and the worst.
3. Michigan (Last title: 1997). Jim Harbaugh is the chosen one, brought home to return the Ann Arbor faithful to the mountaintop that they believe is their sole possession. If Michigan makes the CFP next year, it's going to take over whatever stadium it's at.
2. Clemson (Last title: 1981). Coming that close and falling just short will only whet the appetite for next year. Some people have the Tigers in the No. 1 spot heading into 2016. As they have one more year with Deshaun Watson, this might be their last best chance. Clemson considers itself college football royalty. But it needs to win a title to prove it.
1. Georgia (Last title: 1980). ESPN believes the Bulldogs have the easiest recruiting job in college football. They have one of the most passionate (and downtrodden) fan bases in all of sports. They have looked around the 20 years and seen Alabama, Auburn, Florida, LSU and Tennessee all win titles, with none for them. Mark Richt was a wonderful person and a fantastic coach who nonetheless never could quite get over the hump, so they canned him. Nobody wants it more than Georgia. They're losing their minds over it. If Kirby Smart can't get the Bulldogs a title, either Georgia fans will have to re-evaluate their place in the pecking order, or burn the whole state to the ground. Maybe both.