Tony Gonzales in the 1996 USC game, the fifth win of that season. It was all downhill from there... (via media.scout.com)
This was sparked by a conversation in the the report card thread, in which I mentioned that I hate getting that sixth win when we start 5-0.
So this got me interested in looking at the historical records. I'm fond of this site for querying data, but in particular it's this set of records that's the most useful for this purpose. On a quick scan of the records, I've found six teams that couldn't make the jump to 6-0 (1952, 1991, 1993, 1996, 2005, 2007). There's also the string of 1948-1950, in which we managed three straight seasons where we got to 6-0, but I think we're starting to get a little back in the history. So let's look at the five teams that fit into the Pac-10 era.
1991 was probably our best team before the 2004 one. They started out 5-0 with victories over Pacific, Purdue, Arizona, UCLA, and Oregon before running into the juggernaut that was the 1991 Washington Huskies, who would go on to win the national championship. However, in that 5-0 span, the only team that finished with a winning record was UCLA.
1993 was also not a bad season. We eventually ended up in the Alamo Bowl, extracting revenge on the Iowa Hawkeyes for their win over us in the 1959 Rose Bowl (*sob*). That season started 5-0 with victories over UCLA, San Diego State, Temple, San Jose State, and Oregon (and wow, look at that non-conference schedule). Again, the only team with a winning record in this span was UCLA, although San Diego finished 6-6. Again, it was Washington who killed the streak, and while they weren't as awesome as they were in 1991, they were still a decent team.
1996 was the Year of Mooch. It was another bowl season, although we'd end up losing this bowl to Navy. Again, we started 5-0 with wins over San Jose State, San Diego State, Nevada, Oregon State, and USC. We should have known the wheels were going to come off that bus when it took 2OT to defeat Oregon State or that the main reason we beat SD State was because their all-world running back was hurt and couldn't play. Of course, the big bit here was the defeat of USC on their own turf, but USC would finish 6-6 that year. Both SDSU and Nevada had winning records that season, but this was tempered by the fact we were killed by Washington State, which did not have a winning record. At some point, I'll write more about that game...
And then there was the absolute misery of the Holmoe years, where we were lucky to win five games in a season, let alone five in a row to start the season.
2005 was the year of Joe Ayoob, and the bit you all forget is that, after Nate got hurt against Sac State, is that Ayoob managed to lead us to a bunch of victories. On the other hand, the wins were against Sac State, Washington, Illinois, New Mexico State and Arizona, none of which would finish that season with a winning record. And then UCLA (who did end 10-2) ran all over us, and it took until the Stanford game (and Steve Levy!) to get the sixth win we'd need to be bowl eligible.
And then there was 2007. *sigh* Do I really need to go over that one again? That said, Tennessee and Oregon both finished with winning records, as did Oregon State, the eventual giant-killer.
Now, if (and I admit, that's a big if with both Oregon and USC in the way, not to mention a trip to Minnesota) we get to 5-0, the sixth game will be against UCLA down in SoCal. I'm hoping this is the year we break the streak, but there's a lot of ifs before we get there.
Yeah, I'm a Cal fan. How could you tell?