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Who is college football’s version of the pre-2018 Philadelphia Eagles?

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You know, a big and passionate fan base yearning for a title while its rivals get to point at banners?

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 28 Mississippi State at Texas A&M Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Until this January, life as a Philadelphia Eagles fan was mostly misery. The team’s last championship came in 1960, six years before the creation of the Super Bowl. Philly made only two of the first 51 Super Bowls, losing Super Bowl XV by 17 points to the Raiders despite going to New Orleans as the favorite and then losing Super Bowl XXXIX to the Patriots in a game most remembered for Donovan McNabb vomiting and Andy Reid managing the least-urgent comeback in history. Philly fans were most noted for their misplaced passion, as evidenced by the courtroom and jail at the Vet, as well as their proclivity for throwing batteries.

And then, the Eagles won the Super Bowl and their fans went through the seven stages of celebration.

So which fan bases in college football would produce a similar reaction if their teams won a national title? To answer that question, we need to look at four factors:

1. How long is the team’s national title drought?

This seems obvious, right? Life’s been hard for today’s Tennessee fans, for example, but most of them were alive during a national title.

2. How big and intense is the fan base?

The Eagles winning the Super Bowl was a bigger deal than, say, the Titans or Cardinals doing the same because the Eagles have a large fan base, as one would expect for a team that has been around since 1933 and that is in a part of the country that is especially passionate about pro sports. (There’s no accounting for taste.)

3. Has the team been good enough to come close?

We’re not looking for teams that are consistently terrible. No one looks at Iowa State or Vandy and waxes lyrical about their title droughts.

4. Does the team have rivals that have been successful in recent years?

We’re looking for instances of relative deprivation. Part of what made the Eagles’ title drought so maddening for their fans is that they play in a division where their three rivals are Dallas (five Super Bowl wins), Washington (three) and the Giants (four).

So with that in mind, let’s go through 11 candidates:

Texas A&M

Say hello to the most obvious claimant. The Aggies have not won a national championship since 1939, despite having a massive fan base that pushed the program to fifth in attendance and first in revenue generation. If this were European soccer instead of a sport where schools cannot pay the players, the Aggies could Manchester City their way to championships, but “amateurism” gets in the way and they can only pay exorbitant sums for a head coach:

Since winning the national title, A&M is 36th in winning percentage and has finished 11 times in the top 10 under six different coaches. So the Aggies have been good enough to win another title. And while they have been singing “goodbye to Texas University,” the Aggies’ archrival has four national titles since A&M’s last.

Virginia Tech

The Hokies have never won a national title in football. In fact, as any UVA fan will tell you within 15 minutes of meeting, Virginia Tech has not won a title in any NCAA team sport. The program has fans, as evidenced by finishing 24th in attendance and 41st in revenue. The Hokies are 19th in winning percentage since Frank Beamer arrived in 1987 and have seven top-10 finishes over that period. But the closest the Hokies have come is taking a lead into the fourth quarter of the 1999 title game before Michael Vick’s magician hat ran out of rabbits.

The case against the Hokies is that their state rival has also never won a football title and has been in the doldrums for the better part of two decades. How much angst can a fan base have when it has dominated its state since 2003?

Wisconsin

Depending on whom you believe, the Badgers’ last national title was either in 1942 or never. Wisconsin is 14th in winning percentage since Barry Alvarez arrived in 1990 and has eight top-10 finishes over that period. But the Badgers have neither won nor played for a national championship in that span. That said, they were a narrow loss in Indianapolis away from a possible playoff berth in each of the past two seasons.

If the Badgers do make a playoff game, then their loyal fan base — one that propels Wisconsin to 15th in attendance and 11th in revenue, not to mention one that can take over the Rose Bowl — will descend like locusts. And if they win a title, the host city’s alcohol reserves will be tested.

The Badgers’ demerits are that their fans are not exactly jealous of the success of nearby rivals like Minnesota and the fact that UW’s enjoyed plenty of great seasons but with only a handful of true near-misses. (However, Minnesota fans can claim a bunch of old titles that everyone’s mostly forgotten, much like a couple of the Eagles’ NFC East rivals.)

South Carolina

Sixteenth in attendance, 17th in revenue, and no national titles. In fact, South Carolina can claim only one conference title: a 1969 ACC crown that came in a year in which the Gamecocks lost four games, all by double digits.

Meanwhile, South Carolina fans have watched Dabo Swinney take Clemson to three straight Playoff berths, including the 2016 national title. So the pent-up joy that would erupt if the Gamecocks won a title would be considerable.

The case against South Carolina is that the program has not come especially close, making it closer to the Lions than the Eagles. Steve Spurrier’s three top-10 finishes from 2011 to 2013 are the only such marks in program history.

Oklahoma State

The case is the same as South Carolina’s, only substitute Oklahoma for Clemson, reduce the size of the fan base a little (30th in attendance and 37th in revenue), and add in the prospect of T. Boone Pickens telling the world to kiss a fat man’s ass.

Oregon

Just a hair behind Oklahoma State in attendance and a few places ahead in revenue (because Phil Knight loves his Ducks more than T. Boone loves his Pokes?) is Oregon. The Ducks have never won a title but have come close. They had close calls in 2001 (finished No. 2), 2007 (in position until Dennis Dixon’s knee injury), 2010 (lost the title game on the final play), and 2014 (Zeke Elliott). The Ducks are ninth in winning percentage since hiring Mike Bellotti in 1995 and have eight top-10 finishes over that period. They even wear green and have an avian mascot.

The only thing stopping Oregon fans from being the Eagles of the West is a different way of spending time outdoors.

Iowa

This season will mark the 60th anniversary of Iowa’s only claimed title. The program is in the top 25 in attendance and revenue and is just outside the top 25 in winning percentage since hiring Hayden Fry in 1979. The Fry-Ferentz era has produced seven top-10 finishes, but only misery in Pasadena. Forget a championship; just imagine the celebrations if Iowa won a Rose Bowl.

Ole Miss

Two years after Iowa won its last national title, Ole Miss was the king of college football. The program is 24th in revenue and 26th in attendance, so there are enough passionate Rebel fans to make a splash. Given that Ole Miss hasn’t won a conference title since 1963 and has never played in the SEC Championship, just winning the division would be cause for celebration.

That said, there are some meaningful stylistic differences between Ole Miss fans:

And Philly fans:

Arkansas

The Hogs have not won a national title since 1964, despite an underrated fan base (23rd in attendance and 14th in revenue) and a pattern of success (21st in winning percentage since World War II with 14 top-10 finishes over that period).

Play the fourth quarter of the 2010 Auburn game out differently — Arkansas led 43-37 before surrendering the last 28 points — and this section might be about Auburn’s title drought instead.

Michigan State

The Spartans have dominated their archrival for a decade. They have won a pair of Big Ten titles, recently finishing in the top 10 for three straight years. They have handed Urban Meyer 50 percent of his conference losses at Ohio State. Their fans are top 20 in attendance and revenue.

And yet they have not won the program’s first title since 1966. With more returning production than any other FBS team, is 2018 the year?

Georgia

Twenty-four days before the Eagles lost their first Super Bowl in the Superdome, the Bulldogs won the national title in the same building.

Dawg fans have been waiting for another ever since, packing Sanford Stadium and filling the coffers of a rich athletic department. Their team has finished 11 times in the top 10 since 1980, nearly winning or playing for titles in 1982, 1992, 2002, 2007, 2012, and most agonizingly in 2018. Meanwhile, the Dawgs have watched Florida win three national titles and Georgia Tech win a piece of one.

With an epic haul of recruits in 2018, the wait might be over soon. And then Hummer TV Guy can drive up the ramp of the High Museum.

Poll

Which team is the college equivalent of the Eagles?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    Arkansas
    (15 votes)
  • 24%
    Georgia
    (197 votes)
  • 1%
    Iowa
    (13 votes)
  • 6%
    Michigan State
    (50 votes)
  • 5%
    Oklahoma State
    (46 votes)
  • 1%
    Ole Miss
    (11 votes)
  • 5%
    Oregon
    (40 votes)
  • 2%
    South Carolina
    (17 votes)
  • 26%
    Texas A&M
    (207 votes)
  • 6%
    Virginia Tech
    (49 votes)
  • 8%
    Wisconsin
    (67 votes)
  • 9%
    Other (to the comments!)
    (79 votes)
791 votes total Vote Now