When the clock hits quadruple zeros tonight at the Rose Bowl, the Bowl Championship Series era of college football will meet its end, and one of the strangest trends in sports will come to completion.
In the 16-year history of the BCS, every single champion will have played its home games on natural grass.
This trend was clinched on the night of December 7 when Florida State and Auburn claimed their seats in the national title game, but how we got there proves the voodoo power the college football gods grant to the streak. For a grass vs. grass matchup to happen, Auburn had to beat Missouri (turf) in the SEC Championship, and then Michigan State (grass) had to knock off Ohio State (turf) in the Big Ten title game later that night.
Is it just luck, or does natural grass just build a tougher team? Probably a little of both, leaning on the former.
The 1997 national championship was split by Nebraska, then playing on the old astroturf, and Michigan, who played on natural grass on the time but has since transitioned to an artificial surface. Ohio State won the 2002 national championship while playing its home games on natural grass and made another in 2006, then switched to turf in 2007 and lost to LSU. Texas won its 2005 title while playing on natural grass, switched to turf in 2009 and then promptly lost to Alabama.
Only two other artificial turf teams joined 2007 Ohio State and 2009 Texas in the BCS national championship - 2001 Nebraska and 2010 Oregon - and both lost.
Over the same time frame, natural grass teams hold a slight 4-3 advantage over artificial surface teams in the Super Bowl. Four of the last six Super Bowl champions played their home games on an artificial surface.
As the clock strikes midnight - literally - on the BCS tonight, the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12, where 24 of the combined 36 teams play on artificial surfaces, hope the black magic bestowed upon on natural grass follows the system out the door, while the SEC and ACC, where 21 of the combined 29 teams (counting Notre Dame) play on natural grass, hope to keep the streak alive.