When Penn State takes the field on Saturday night to take on Pittsburgh, there will be a ton on the line for the Nittany Lions and the Pittsburgh Panthers. Okay, there’s not actually that much on the line, or at least for Pittsburgh. For Penn State, a win obviously keeps all its goals for the season alive. For Pittsburgh, it’s just for bragging rights, which as we all know, they will never let go of.
That being said, there is one thing on the line Saturday night that Penn State could take from Pittsburgh with a win. That would be the “College Football Title Belt”. Never heard of it? Well, that’s okay. I’m here to explain to you everything you need to know about the made up championship belt that is on the line almost every weekend of the college football season.
What is the College Football Title Belt?:
The College Football Title Belt is not actually a real title belt as you could probably figure out yourself, but a made up championship belt (think boxing, WWE). The origins of the belt come from collegefootballbelt.com, which was the go-to source for all title belt information leading up to the 2017 season.
So how did the belt end up with Pittsburgh and therefore how does Penn State have a chance at winning the belt on Saturday? Well, it’s pretty simple actually.
To get to where we are today, we have to go all the way back to the first ever college football game. The date was November 6, 1869, and Rutgers squared off against what we now known as Princeton.
It was an exhilarating, barn burner of a game that ended with a 6-4 victory for Rutgers. With the win, Rutgers became the first title holder of the College Football Title Belt. Unfortunately for Rutgers (then known as the Queensmen), they lost to Princeton the following week and the belt with it. Rutgers hasn’t held the title belt since...
From there, the belt has changed hands of hundreds of times over the course of almost 150 years of college football. In order to save time, we’re going to skip to the 2016 season to track how the title belt got to Pittsburgh in the first place. If you’d like to learn more about the progression of the title belt, you can use web.archive.org’s Wayback Machine to get back to when CollegFootballBelt.com was up (stopped tracking following 2016) to learn more about the belt’s history.
The Title Belt starting in 2016
Heading into the 2016 season, the title belt belonged to TCU after the Horned Frogs won the belt from Baylor in late November of 2015. Here is the progression of the belt starting with TCU in the 2016 season;
- TCU loses to Arkansas on September 10, 2016: 41-38 in Double OT
- Arkansas loses to Texas A&M on September 24: 45-28
- Texas A&M loses to Alabama on October 22: 33-14
- Alabama loses to Clemson on January 9, 2017 (National Championship): 35-31
2017 Season - Clemson starts with the belt:
- Clemson loses to Syracuse on October 13: 27-24
- Syracuse loses to Miami on October 21: 27-19
- Miami loses to Pittsburgh on November 24: 24-14
Which is how we get to Saturday afternoon when Pittsburgh will look to defend the belt against the Nittany Lions. If Penn State walks out of Heinz Field with a victory, it will win the belt just the third time in school history and the first time since 1988.
Penn Sate’s History with the Title Belt
As referenced above, Penn State does have history with the title belt. The Nittany Lions’ first reign with the title belt started on October 25, 1986 when they defeated the then second-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide 23-3 in Tuscaloosa.
The Lions successfully defended their belt over the course of the next seven games including their Fiesta Bowl victory over Miami on January 2, 1987 that helped secure the second national championship in program history. Their first reign with the belt ended on September 12, 1987 when the Crimson Tide got their revenge with a 24-13 victory in Happy Valley.
The second reign for Penn State came a few months later when it took the belt back, this time from No. 7 Notre Dame with a 21-20 victory. This time, though, the reign lasted just a few weeks as a 35-10 loss in the Citrus Bowl to Clemson on New Years Day in 1988 ended the Lions last reign as the title belt holders.
Since then, the Lions have had three chances to win the belt back but fell each time. The most recent chance for the program to take back the belt was in 2010 against Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide easily dispatched of Penn State, 24-3.
Title Belt Quick Facts:
- USC has the most individual reigns with the college football title belt, holding it 13 different times in college football history. (RedditCFB)
- Princeton has held the belt for the most days in college football history with 6,883 days as the title holders. (RedditCFB)
- The most wins in title belt games (where the belt is on the line) belongs to USC as well, which has done so 57 times. The most losses in title belt games belongs to Washington, which has lost 18 title belt games in program history. (CollegeFootballBelt.com).
- The Big Ten team with the most reigns is Michigan with 6; Ohio State is just behind the Wolverines with 5. (CollegeFootballBelt.com).
Alright, this is a pretty long article for a made up title belt but it’s a fun part of college football for those who are aware of it’s “existence”. That being said, if you have any other questions regarding the college football title belt, feel free to leave a question in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer. That being said, I implore you to check out this helpful RedditCFB post from 2013 as well as the CollegeFootballBelt website via the Wayback Machine.