Back to reality
Why do national runners-up struggle so much the next season?
Hangover [hang-oh-ver] n. -- Any aftermath of or lingering effect from a distressing experience.
very preseason, head coaches tell us how ready his team is for the upcoming year. When has a coach said they weren't? It would be refreshing. Whether the team went 0-12 the year before or won the national championship, it's the same rhetoric each year. There is a 'but' in there, though. A total of 125 teams will compete at the FBS level in 2013. One will win the national title in Pasadena, Calif. while 123 will all have their seasons come to an end before Jan. 6, 2014. That leaves one team. One team left feeling nothing like the others. That's the team that loses the national title game.
We're looking at you, Notre Dame. It's what has been described as the "BCS Hangover." Sure, there have been some teams that have been able to get over a loss in the BCS title game and go on to have fantastic seasons -- even to win it in their next try (Florida State). But there are those that have struggled mightily to do anything the following season after coming so close to the crystal football.
The 2010 Texas Longhorns are the best (or worst if you bleed burnt orange) example of a "BCS Hangover." A year after losing a brutal BCS title game to Alabama at the Rose Bowl, the Longhorns fell to the bottom of the Big 12 South for the first time, and finished with a 5-7 record. Those things don't happen in Austin.
"It seemed like there was a hangover," Texas head coach Mack Brown said after the team's final game of the season in 2010. "I said from the first scrimmage of the year that I didn't see what I wanted. At Rice [the season-opener] I walked out of there mad."
Only Nebraska in 2002 lost as many times as Texas the year after losing the BCS championship game, when the Cornhuskers went 7-7 following the 37-14 thrashing they took against Miami (Fla.). And Oklahoma has lost at least four games twice after losing in the national title game the year before (2004-05). Throw in Florida State in 2001 (8-4) and those are the biggest "BCS Hangovers."
But why does it happen? Any number of reasons can contribute to that stale taste of defeat lingering longer than most. There's a reason those teams were in the national title game -- it's called talent. And when you have a lot of talent, you're going to lose a lot of talent the following year. That's the only real answer out there, because even one of the best coaches of all time never quite understood what was going on during that 5-7 year at Texas in 2010.
"Why didn't we play with emotion early?" Brown said. "Why didn't we play better? Why didn't we score points like we had? Why did we give up too many big plays on defense? Why was our kicking game inconsistent when we had really good players and I thought it would be the best we'd ever had? Those are the things that are puzzling and will be on my shoulders to look at."
There's also complacency. Nick Saban knows a thing or two about that from the winning side of things. He's been a broken record the year after winning each of his titles.
"This team will be defined by what they do, not what we’ve done.”
That's one way to combat players from becoming complacent.
By no means did LSU have a "hangover" a year ago following its loss to Alabama in the national title game, but the Tigers didn't make it back to the title game in 2013. And there still remains only one team to have won it after losing it the year before. Still, LSU head coach Les Miles said all the right things before trying to become the second.
"I've never been 13-1," Miles said. "I certainly enjoyed it for a long stretch. We were the No. 1 team in the country for 11 straight weeks and answered that bell well. It's hard for me to talk about coming off a season of great achievement with a hangover."
When you're a true fan, you believe everything your head coach says. From national champion Alabama all the way down to 0-12 Southern Miss from a year ago, we may believe it to. But the Fighting Irish? The jury's out following last year's blowout loss to Alabama in the national title game. All because of the dreaded hangover. We doubt Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly will be calling Mack Brown for too much advice on how to avoid it. Bobby Bowden on the other hand ... that's a call he needs to make.
|YEAR||NATIONAL RUNNER-UP||FOLLOWING YEAR||YEAR||NATIONAL RUNNER-UP||FOLLOWING YEAR|
|1998||Florida State||12-0||2006||Ohio State||11-2|
|1999||Virginia Tech||11-1||2007||Ohio State||10-3|
|Bold indicates only school to win the BCS national championship after losing in the title game the previous season.|