TAMPA, Fla. -- Clemson won its first national championship since 1981 on Monday, and, well, you might have noticed that the Tigers were a bit happy about it. Last year, for the first time, in a nod to our annual Tortured Fan base Rankings in the NFL, NBA and MLB, we began a new tradition: a look at the 25 college football fan bases who are most desperate for a championship. And last year, Clemson was … No. 2. This is a storied college football fan base that believed it belonged among the elite top-tier college football programs. Now they have their proof.
They'lll still want to win next year. But it won't be as urgent. It can't be. Now, Alabama on the other hand … things are about to get even more intense in Tuscaloosa, if that's even possible.
So now it's time for some new rankings. Some of these teams haven't won a title in years, or ever; others may have just won a title a couple of 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.
A few things to keep in mind:
- Historical droughts matter. You'll never be truly satisfied. But there's no question that a fan base that has had to wait 30 years is going to be hungrier than one that has had to wait five.
- Current quality is key. Nebraska fans surely believe they should be No. 1 on this list, and if it were just about passion, they might be. But Nebraska is very, very far from a national championship, and has been for quite some time. So the Cornhuskers can't rate that highly on this list, considering, at this point, simply winning their side of the Big Ten would feel like a major step forward. This is why a team like, say, Penn State is making a big jump this year. It darned near made the playoff. A title is now a realistic thought process.
- You gotta get real. Trust me, this Illini alum thinks the school of Red Grange and Dick Butkus should be a football powerhouse. But, uh, it's not. You should probably make a bowl game or two before you receive consideration here.
All right, let's do it.
Honorable Mentions: Arkansas, Iowa, Georgia Tech, TCU, Mississippi, Stanford, West Virginia.
25. Michigan State (Last Title: 1966). This year was a total nightmare in every way: It was almost surreal how it all went down. (The Spartans lost to Illinois!) That playoff appearance already feels like a decade ago.
24. Virginia Tech (Last Title: Never). A sneaky-great fan base, with an up-and-comer coach, Justin Fuente, who one of these years is gonna get this team at just the right time. Keep a close eye on the Hokies.
23. Wisconsin (Last Title: Never). Would Wisconsin have made the semifinals had it trounced Penn State convincingly in the Big Ten championship game? It's possible, right? Until a major challenger asserts itself in the Big Ten West, the window looks open for the Badgers for a few years.
22. Nebraska (Last Title: 1997). It doesn't look like the Cornhuskers are particularly close to being that challenger. Their fans believe they should be a national championship contender every year. That might be true, but only if that year is 20 years ago.
21. Texas A&M (Last Title: 1939). All told, the Aggies might have had a better shot at a national title if they had not come to the SEC at all. That's a massive hill to climb every year. Particularly now that Nick Saban is mad.
20. Oregon (Last Title: Never). Uh-oh. After moving all the way up to No. 7 last year, it's a free fall all the way down here, and considering the sudden mess this program is in, that title-game loss to Ohio State seems a loooong time ago. The Ducks wanted a title to verify that they were an elite program. We got our verification: They're not one.
19. UCLA (Last Title: 1954). That little moment where USC was wobbly seems to be over. And now the Bruins are getting passed by the Washington schools. Save us before you go, Josh Rosen.
18. Clemson (Last Title: 2016). Someone once asked George Carlin what doing cocaine made you feel like. "It makes you feel like doing more cocaine," he said. Clemson winning a title isn't going to make them not want another one.
17. Oklahoma State (Last Title: Never). That Central Michigan loss may forever haunt the Cowboys, but they had a nice little hop forward this year nonetheless. Plus, if you're talking about urgency …
Experienced a ministroke. Will be another 'Old Man Makes a Comeback' story. Back to working in the office. I think. Kidding. More later.- T. Boone Pickens (@boonepickens) January 9, 2017
16. Florida State (Last Title: 2013). It has been two years, so they're surely starting to get a little itchy.
15. Washington (Last Title: 1991). Hey, they didn't look half bad in the CFP semifinal now did they? I mean, it wasn't pretty, but it was a lot less ugly than when most teams play Alabama. Maybe this is the first step? Ask Clemson: Getting in the bracket just makes you that much hungrier.
14. Miami (Last Title: 2001). Put it this way: If Mark Richt wins a title at Miami, the whole town of Athens, Georgia, might march down there and burn the place to the ground.
13. Auburn (Last Title: 2010). We'll see just how hungry and crazy Tigers fans have become if they have an excellent season again next year -- like they just did this year -- and they still go ahead and fire Gus Malzahn. And Alabama is about to come back hard.
12. LSU (Last Title: 2007). This year was supposed to be a year of title contention, but that went out away the very first game of the season. The Tigers will expect to rebuild on the fly, but there are more immediate hills to climb before they start thinking about a title.
11. Tennessee (Last Title: 1998). The Volunteers drop from last year -- when they were No. 9 -- because they suddenly seem a lot farther from a potential title than they've been in quite a while. This was the year it was supposed to all come together. Instead, they wasted some ridiculous good luck and didn't even end up winning their own division. A reboot, another one, seems imminent.
10. Ohio State (Last Title: 2014). The last team to win a title that wasn't Alabama or Clemson is still certainly reeling from that nightmare shutout semifinal loss, which surely had Urban Meyer eating tons of sad pizza by his sad self. With a young team, there will now be even more fire to get back and make the memories of that sad pizza go away.
9. Texas (Last Title: 2005). Give Tom Herman one year to get things back on track here. (That would be one more year than Charlie Strong got!) Then he'll be expected to win about 10 titles in a row.
8. Florida (Last Title: 2008). We've learned that Jim McElwain can win the SEC East. But this doesn't look like a team that's close to Alabama. But keep beating Georgia, and they'll keep getting the chance.
7. USC (Last Title: 2004). Look who's back. The Trojans looked like the best team in the Pac-12 by the end of the year -- they arguably beat Washington worse than Alabama did -- and they finished off one of the most exciting Rose Bowls in years. They're going to be a consensus playoff pick next year. The stakes were just raised. They're out of the thicket.
6. Alabama (Last Title: 2015). Nick Saban is almost certainly not going to sleep until September, and probably not even then.
5. Notre Dame (Last Title: 1988). That … did not go well. How many years until Notre Dame isn't that special anymore? Go another 30 years without a title and you'll find out right quick.
4. Penn State (Last Title: 1986). The Nittany Lions were only No. 13 in the rankings last year, but they zoom up this year after one of the more surprising turnarounds in recent college football memory. You can make an argument they're the Big Ten East favorite next year, which means they are back to feeling like they are Penn State again. Which means: No more talk of recovery. They're back on the championship path.
3. Oklahoma (Last Title: 2000). It feels like the Sooners have had a ton of opportunities to win a title since 2000, doesn't it? With the Big 12 as it is … it's about time to get one, no?
2. Georgia (Last Title: 1980). The Bulldogs might be more desperate than anyone on this list -- they carry their drought around them like a sack of sad koalas on their back -- but this year was a step backward. Kirby Smart was brought in to be Nick Saban. He is not currently Nick Saban.
1. Michigan (Last Title: 1997). Will they rue missing an opportunity this year? Ohio State is only going to keep getting better, and Penn State might have passed them both from behind. And how long is this going to continue to interest Jim Harbaugh? Michigan has been able to believe it can Be Michigan Again thanks to his loopy brilliance. But if he can't bring him that lusted-after title, who can?