Recording 10 victories during a season is a benchmark for top programs in college football, even though it’s been watered down in recent years with expanded schedules.
Brian Kelly will attempt to join Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz with back-to-back double-digit win totals at Notre Dame.
Alabama has won at least 10 games five years in a row under Nick Saban. Oregon did it all four years with Chip Kelly (2009-12) while finishing 46-7, and even did it a year earlier with Mike Bellotti (10-3).
In eight seasons under Les Miles, LSU has won 85 games, or just over 10 per season. Until his ouster in 2011, Ohio State’s Jim Tressel recorded a double-digit victory total six straight seasons from 2005-10. Stanford has made its mark the past three years with consecutive ledgers of 12-1, 11-2 and 12-2.
The flip side is that 10 wins don't possess the same value as 10 or 20 years ago. Twelve- and 13-game regular season schedules, conference playoffs and 35 bowl games provide extra opportunities to reach 10. Nebraska, for example, has finished 10-4 in three of the last four seasons under Bo Pelini. Not bad … but it isn’t the same value as when you actually played only 12 games.
Notre Dame didn’t even start having 11-game regular season schedules until 1974, and it began playing 12 regular season games annually in 2006.
On the heels of last year’s 12-1 finish, Notre Dame will attempt to reach a double-digit victory total two consecutive years for only the fifth time in its history. Here were the other four:
1. 1973 (11-0) & 1974 (10-2)
In his final two seasons, Ara Parseghian produced 21 wins, highlighted by conquests of 11-0 Alabama teams in the 1973 Sugar Bowl (24-23) to win the national title and in the 1975 Orange Bowl (13-11) to reach the coveted 10 wins.
2. 1988 (12-0) & 1989 (12-1)
The 24 victories over two seasons — highlighted by a school record 23 straight — are the Notre Dame standard and held by head coach Lou Holtz’s juggernaut. For the Fighting Irish to break that, they would have to go 13-0 this season.
What is particularly notable is that 11 of those 24 victories occurred against teams that finished in the final AP Top 18 — and seven of them in the Top 10.
3. 1991 (10-3) & 1992 (10-1-1)
Reaching that 10th victory necessitated first defeating head coach Steve Spurrier’s 10-1 and No. 3-ranked Florida Gators in the 1992 Sugar Bowl (39-28), and then vanquishing R.C. Slocum’s 12-0 Texas A&M Aggies in the 1993 Cotton Bowl (28-3).
Yet both of those seasons were “letdowns” in the eyes of many Irish faithful. That’s what happens once the monster gets fed. It becomes insatiable.
4. 1992 (10-1-1) & 1993 (11-1)
The 1993 campaign expanded the streak of 10-win seasons to a school record three in a row. The following year, Notre Dame dropped to 6-5-1, and it was the beginning of the end of the Holtz era, which would finish after the 1996 season.
Interestingly, there has been a precipitous drop after each of Notre Dame’s last three seasons in which it posted at least 10 victories.
• From 11-1 in 1993 to 6-5-1 in 1994.
• From 10-3 in 2002 to 5-7 in 2003.
• From 10-3 in 2006 to 3-9 in 2007.
Reaching that 10-win milestone in 2013 might constitute another step in building a program rather than just a team.