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Historical Analysis: The Elite Company Of 10 Wins

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Anybody questioning what the Bearcats have to play for in the Belk Bowl Sunday only need to peruse the archives of the last three-plus decades in college football to understand. 

Living in the revitalization era of University of Cincinnati football enjoying 10-win seasons becomes as normal as pre-game parachuters at Nippert Stadium. 

Saturday in the Belk Bowl the Bearcats will aim for a sixth 10-win season in seven years. 

Along the way, the trio of coaches and hundreds of players who assisted in this run at times made the feat look as easy as dropping onto the X at midfield. As any parachuter will tell you, it's not quite so easy. 

The same can be said for the winding path that brings UC to Charlotte chasing the latest No. 10. Brian Kelly, Butch Jones and now Tommy Tuberville can build on a run only currently enjoyed by four other programs in all Division I: Alabama, Oregon, Oklahoma and Boise State (does not count vacated seasons).

An impressive stat that would join current college football royalty.  

This attempt won't come in a BCS bowl or as part of a conference championship like the Bearcats hoped, but chasing down No. 10 should be put in even greater perspective than joining the group of four. 

Breaking out the research train unearthed the larger achievement at stake. 

I took a look at college football since 1980 (incredibly subjectively since that is the year I was born) and found only 15 teams in the last 33 years have completed the achievement of six 10-win seasons in seven years. 

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That includes all levels of Division I. 

The group is Florida, Ohio State, Oregon, Virginia Tech, Alabama, Georgia, Kansas State, Oklahoma, USC, TCU, Boise State, Florida State, Miami, Nebraska and Texas. 

Consider the hundreds of millions of dollars dedicated to college football programs over the last three decades. Consider how many illustrious programs never touched this level of consistent excellence. 

Hearing arguments about advantageous conferences don't hold water here -- this includes all conferences inside and outside the BCS. 

Just 15 programs. That's all. 

A win Saturday would also mean the Bearcats hit a second run of three straight 10-win seasons. That feat hasn't been as difficult to pull off during my lifetime but also worth discussing the company. 

These are the teams who've achieved it with the consecutive 10-win seasons in parenthesis: Florida State (14), Miami (10), Texas (9), Virginia Tech (8), Boise State (7), Alabama (6), Oregon (6), Florida (6), Nebraska (5), Oklahoma (5), Ohio State (5), SMU (4), BYU (4), TCU (4), Tennessee (4), Stanford (4), Kansas State (4), Georgia (4), Texas A&M (4), Northern Illinois (4), Clemson (4). 

All these schools topped out at three consecutive 10-win seasons: Marshall, South Carolina, West Virginia, LSU, Michigan, Colorado, USC, Utah, Washington State, Iowa, Wisconsin. 

No need to take time analyzing the list, it's 32 total programs. Still, that's only 25 percent of the current FBS. The Bearcats can join that group twice and trim royalty by more than half. 

When did any UC fan think they would join the top 12 percent of college football in a category based in length of success over the last three decades? Nobody. 

Outsiders might view this as a game where the Bearcats have little to play for. In the short view, sure, that point could be argued. But seeing the historical context of this current run so much more is at stake. 

Brendon Kay, Greg Blair and Ralph David Abernathy will be playing for guys like Tony Pike, Derek Wolfe and Dominik Goodman. Around the halls of the Lindner Center and locker room below Nippert Stadium, that means more than any bowl trophy or national exposure. 

What does chasing a 10-win season mean? Quite a bit. 

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