When UCF ran a win streak to 25 in 2018 it was a big deal. But the Knights still had many critics who questioned if their resume was playoff worthy. Pollsters appeared to once again have a voting ceiling on the Knights. UCF got no higher than 7th in the final playoff committee ranking.
What if I told you a team bettered the run by UCF and didn't lose a game for three seasons and yet never could break the wall of national acceptance and never tasted the top 10 in any poll during their incredible run?
In 1967, Toledo lost their season opening game to Ohio before winning their final nine games to finish the season 9-1. Back then, there were not as many bowl games as today and the Rockets didn't get to play an 11th game that season. They won their first three games in 1968 and the win streak reached 12 but they finished 5-4-1 and lost their last three games.
In 1969, the Rockets began an incredible run. They won their opening game then a few more. But despite the unbeaten start, no ranking came with the success. Back then the AP Poll was still ranking the top 20 teams and rarely could a team from the MAC get listed among the nation's best. The argument was always about "who do they really play" when it came to why schools from the midwest league could not get ranked.
Toledo's win streak reached nine and they finally got into the poll sliding in at number 20. Seven teams with two or more losses were ranked ahead of the Rockets. They won their regular season finale to get to 10-0 but pollsters kept them at 20. They came to Orlando and won the Tangerine Bowl. Their reward was to drop out of the final AP Poll despite being one of only three teams to finish 11-0. The other two? Texas and Penn State, who finished 1-2 and a USC team that went 10-0-1 finished third.
In 1970, Toledo was not ranked in the pre-season poll and didn't enter the rankings until the win streak reached 18 and they sat 6-0 for the season and were ranked 20th. They won the following week and dropped out of the poll. They finished the regular season at 11-0 and got up to 15th. Again, the Rockets came to the Tangerine Bowl and won to get their second straight 12-0 season and finished 12th in the final AP Poll. Four teams with two or more losses were ranked ahead of Toledo, including two teams with three losses.
In 1971, with a win streak at 24, Toledo had a new coach in Jack Murphy. Murphy had been an assistant under Frank Lauterbur- who took the job at Iowa. Where did Toledo start the season in the AP Poll? They were not ranked. After a 2-0 start and a win streak now at 26, they got into the poll at 20. But despite a win in their next game, they dropped out again. They got back in a week later and stayed ranked as the season progressed and they kept winning. They finished the regular season at 11-0 and ranked 14th. Again, they came to Orlando and won a third straight Tangerine Bowl and stretched their win streak to 35. They finished 14th in the final AP Poll.
The Toledo Rockets won 35 consecutive games. Three straight unbeaten seasons and never tasted the top 10 in the AP Poll. The argument was then, as it is with G5 teams today, is that the schedule is not as challenging as the larger brands. It is correct, Toledo did not play a schedule that included multiple ranked teams at any point during its run. But 35 in a row is still 35. It remains the fifth longest win streak in college football history. The streak ended with the opening game in 1972 with a loss at Tampa and despite a 35 game win streak, Toledo was not ranked in the pre-season poll.
Final thought: Oklahoma owns the longest win streak in college football at 47.