Think getting to #1 is a big deal?
You should. Because, if your team isn't one of the usual suspects, it doesn't happen often.
Parity in college football is nice to talk about, but when it comes to the top of the polls, it's essentially non-existent.
If it seems like it's always the same teams at the top, this is because the same teams are always at the top. In fact, since 1961, only seven college football teams have made a first-time appearance at #1.
That's seven new #1 teams in 50 YEARS. Including Oregon.
And it's been a loooooong time since a new name appeared at #1 in the AP poll.
How long ago was it? More than a few members of the current Oregon team had not yet been born.
There have been 303 weekly AP polls since the last time it happened. Only 17 different teams have been voted #1 since then, and 88% of the #1 rankings have been held by just eight different teams -- Florida State (53), Miami (40), Florida (39), USC (39), Ohio State (32), Nebraska (29), Oklahoma (20) and Alabama (14).
It was so long ago, the University of Washington was a national championship contender....
The year? 1990. The team? Virginia.
Yes, Virginia, the same team that's going through its own version of The Suffering lately.. and a team that had at the time emerged from another down period. Before hiring George Welsh in 1982, UVa had only two winning seasons in 29 years. Welsh made them winners; in 1990 the Cavaliers, coming off a 10-3 campaign and an ACC championship in 1989, were led by future all-pro WR Squirmin' Herman Moore and QB Shawn "No Relation" Moore, and were ranked #15 preseason. The team moved up quickly through attrition. By Sept 25 the Cavs were #7; a week later they were #4. Losses by #1 Notre Dame and #2 Florida State pushed Virginia to #2, and when Michigan lost a nailbiter in Ann Arbor on October 6, Virginia pounded NC State 31-0 and found itself at the top of the polls for the first time in its history.
The Cavs stayed at #1 for three weeks; a loss to eventual UPI national champion Georgia Tech dropped them out of the top 10. Since 1990, Virginia has never been ranked higher than #6 (2004).
Before Virginia, the last new face appeared in 1984:
1984 BYU center and current ESPN talking head Trevor Matich, via famousmormons.net
BYU also ascended to the top slot through attrition, but the rise of the Cougars was at once timely and unencumbered by competition. Unranked to start the year, they knocked off a highly overrated #3 Pitt team 20-14 on the road to open the season (Pitt would wind up 3-7-1). BYU entered the AP poll at #13 after that game, and just kept moving up as the season went along, rolling through a schedule that didn't force them to play a game against a team with a winning record. They beat Baylor in Provo and jumped five spots to #8; a few weeks later they pummeled Colorado State on the road and rose to #5 on losses by Ohio State and Florida State. By mid-November, BYU was at #3. The next weekend, #1 Nebraska and #2 South Carolina were upset victims; the Cougars knocked off Utah, 24-14, and on November 20, 1984, the Cougars found themselves ranked #1 for the first time in school history.
Having reached the top, BYU merely needed to beat a 1-9 Utah State team in Provo, and then hold on against 6-5 Michigan in the Holiday Bowl to stay at the #1 spot over the Orange Bowl winner (11-1 Washington) and claim their only national championship. Their reign was not exactly undisputed. And the Cougars haven't been back at the top since.
Other first-timers in the two-platoon era, along with number of weeks at #1 since the first appearance:
Washington (Oct 18, 1982) -- 12
Clemson (Final poll, 1981) -- 1
Purdue (Preseason, 1968) -- 3
Arkansas (Oct 18, 1965) -- 1
That's it. Kind of disgusting when you look at it like this, isn't it?
Let's hope Oregon has a bit more staying power than the other new kids on the block.