What Does It Take To Be Number One?

Every good website post should have a Nelly quote in its title.

The real season is fast approaching. Seriously, there are only four shopping days left until Notre Dame. And there is only one thing on your mind as a Wolverine fan, and it has been on your mind for nearly nine years. It is best thing that ever happened to the Michigan Wolverines, and the worst thing that ever happened to your psyche: The 1997 National Championship. Since that amazing New Year's Day in 1998, your expectations have been seasons of perfection at this time every year. No matter how high or how low the pre-season rankings have been, no matter who has left for the NFL, who has stayed for their 5th year, and no matter what has come out of your mouth, there is a little voice in the back of your head, and that little voice tells you that the next few months will be magical. It tells you that everything you've been doing, all of the smack you've been talking, and all the legacy and tradition you've been peddling for all these years is about to pay off again. You say 10-3, you mean 13-0. You talk about the tough schedule, and the hellish road slate that includes Notre Dame, Penn State, and Ohio State...you say 1-2, maybe 2-1 for those games...but you dwell on dreams of empty opponent's stadiums and chanting "it's great to be a Michigan Wolverine" smiling with teary eyes as it echoes off of Touchdown Jesus, Beaver Stadium's upper deck, and the Value City scoreboard.

So, you think Michigan will be playing in Arizona on January 8th? Let's look at the past 10 years of college football and the common components of the National Champions. Does Michigan have the six pieces to be number 1?

6. Survive a Scare: Fall deeply behind an inferior team, mount a heroic comeback to win. Stave off an upset, beating an inferior team by a touchdown or less. Nearly every one of the last 10 National Championship teams survived a scare. A few examples:

  • 1996 Florida defeats Vanderbilt 28-21. Vandy would end the season with a 2-9 record.

  • 1997 Nebraska defeats Missouri 45-38 on the "kicked pass heard 'round the world".

  • 1999 Florida State edges Clemson 17-14 in another edition of the Bowden Bowl. Clemson finished the season 6-6.

  • 2002 Ohio State just gets by Cincinnatti (7-7) 23-19, Wisconsin (8-6) 19-14, Purdue (7-6) 10-6 and Illinois (5-7) 23-16. Have I mentioned that this is the shittiest National Championship team ever?

  • 2004 USC beats Stanford 31-28. Stanford would post a 4-7 record.

  • 2005 Texas beats Oklahoma State 47-28 after trailing 28-9 in the second quarter. Oklahoma State finished the season 4-7.

5. Go Undefeated

  • Of the last ten champions, only 2003 LSU/USC and 1996 Florida have had a loss.

4. Have a player in New York for the Heisman presentation.

  • He need not win it, though 3 of the last 10 champs had Heisman winners (Wuerfful '96, Woodson '97, Leinart '04). Another four teams had a player in the top three, and one with a player finishing in the top ten.

3. Be on the cover of Sports Illustrated before you win the National Championship.

  • Seven of the ten made the cover before grabbing a trophy... only the 98 Volunteers, 99 Seminoles, and '01 Hurricanes missed it...of course, all saw cover shots after winning it.

2. Don't be a pre-season #1

  • Only two teams, '99 Florida State and '04 USC, have gone wire-to-wire to win it all.

  • Four of the ten were not even in the pre-season top ten.

1. Swagger

  • National Champions talk smack, shimmy, celebrate sacks, and hit hard. And on a rare occasion (plug those ears Bo) they even earn an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

As for the 2006 Wolverines:

  • #6: I'd like to bypass this one...but it is unavoidable. A fourth quarter deficit against Wisconsin, Minnesota, or Michigan State is inevitable.

  • #5: Looking good so far, but I've got a feeling that parity will allow a one loss team to make it to 'Zona this year.

  • #4: Mike Hart is on the radar

  • #3: If things go well, it could happen this week

  • #2: Check

  • #1: It's percolating right now. They need a big win to start rolling with it.