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A Look at the Best Worst Seasons in Recent College Football History

OSU is higher on the list than you might think.



There are innumerable ways to measure success in any industry. This is partly why talking about sports is so much fun. Would you rather win 10 conference titles in a row but no national championship or go 1-11 for nine straight years before a magical 15-0 season? There’s not a right answer, and your own response will be based on how you define success. That’s a perfect formula for fun debate.

I was reminded of that this week when a reader named Dave Kroeger sent an email looking at the best worst seasons for college football teams in the last decade. It sounds absurd — the best worst — but it’s actually a really cool measure of who has had sustained success for a long period of time. It should be no surprise that OSU grades out well by this particular standard.

Here’s a snippet of his original email.

This year — even more than in 2014 — there have been many comments that can be summed up as “the sky is falling” for OSU football.  This is understandable, given a 7-win 2018 season following the disappointment of the 10-win “didn’t live up to pre-season expectations” 2017 season.

Many would add the fact that we enter 2019 with a new QB and a new OC so forward-looking concern is not unwarranted. I get it.  However, most of us follow Oklahoma State football myopically — looking only at our record, conference standing, and national ranking.

A bad season is felt every Saturday we lose a game and especially on Big 12 Conference Championship weekend.  And while we may enjoy seeing a blueblood lose on a given weekend (go Boilermakers!), we really don’t monitor other programs as closely and certainly don’t feel the disappointment of their “bad seasons.”

I decided to take a look at several elite programs. What I found really surprised me.  Virtually all teams have down years within a decade – not just the Tier 2 teams trying to break the glass ceiling.

I pulled data for all P5 teams plus Notre Dame, BYU, and Boise State — 67 total.  Only eight teams with a winning record in each season for the last decade – Alabama, Boise State, LSU, Oklahoma, Stanford, Wisconsin, Oklahoma State, and Penn State.

Here’s a look at all the teams at six or better.

Program Best Worst Season Season(s) Conf.
Alabama 10 2010 SEC
Boise State 8 2013 G5
LSU 8 2014, 2016 SEC
Oklahoma 8 2009, 2014 Big 12
Stanford 8 2009, 2014 Pac 12
Wisconsin 8 2012, 2018 Big Ten
Oklahoma State 7 2014, 2018 Big 12
Penn State 7 2010, 2013, 2014 Big Ten
Clemson 6 2010 ACC
Georgia 6 2010 SEC
Miami 6 2011 ACC
Ohio State 6 2011 Big Ten
Texas A&M 6 2009 SEC
Virginia Tech 6 2018 ACC

You know who’s not on here? Florida State, Michigan, Texas, USC, Washington, Florida, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oregon, Tennessee, TCU and Ole Miss. Back to Dave.

I was not shocked to find Alabama at the top of this list.  But I was very surprised to find only six other Power 5 teams (Stanford, Oklahoma, LSU, Wisconsin, Penn State, and Oklahoma State) that achieved winning records (as measured by a minimum 7 wins) in each of their last 10 seasons (Boise State did as well). That’s pretty stunning!

Some of our fans would call that “mediocrity” and would quickly trade that in for a single season of CFP glory … and I will admit that has great appeal if it resulted in a post-1945 National Championship!  But I think we should recognize and appreciate the consistent excellence that Cowboy football has achieved.

I agree. I recently made the argument that we have to step outside the tunnel vision we use as it relates to Rickie Fowler, and I feel the same way about how we view college football.

I’m sure not everyone agrees, but I thought this was a fun look at recent history and exactly where OSU stands nationally. Thanks for sending, Dave.


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