It's hard to believe the 2010 college football season will be the 142nd season played. We can only imagine what that first game played between Rutgers and Princeton way back in 1869 was like, and how college football evolved into what it is today. Although I'm a Buckeye, I have to give some props to Michigan for helping to get college football on the national map. We have to consider them one of the "founding fathers" if you will. After all, they had already played 10 seasons and won 19 games before most of today's big time programs played their first game. Since then, there have been plenty of great programs demonstrate consistency in winning over the years. I'm not just talking about winning football games on a regular basis season after season, I'm talking about programs who consistently won high profile games, conference championships and national championships. I examined all 25 of these programs and determined my top 10 of all-time. We've seen other people come up with their top 10 all-time programs, but I believe I've determined mine a little differently. Yes, conference and national championships are important when doing the type of research I did, but there is so much more to a program than championships. As we all know, prior to the BCS starting in 1998 (130 seasons after the Rutgers-Princeton game), the national champ was decided by a poll, and some polls and foundations crowned different champions for a single season. A little further back in history, the champion was determined before the bowl games were played. I'm not saying the national champions of the past weren't deserving, however some of them did lose their bowl game, so I think you know what I mean. I did give programs credit for winning national championships, and conference championships as well. But those were just two of 16 areas examined:
- Total number of wins
- Overall winning percentage
- Wins over season-ranked top 25 teams (1936-2009)
- Winning percentage against season-ranked top 25 teams
- Wins over season-ranked top 10 teams
- Winning percentage against season-ranked top 10 teams
- Number of 10 or more win seasons
- Number of undefeated, untied seasons
- Number of winning seasons
- Number of losing seasons
- Wins over opponents considered major at gametime
- Bowl game wins
- Number of top 25 rankings in the final polls (since 1936)
- Number of top 10 rankings in the final polls
- Number of conference championships (outright and shared recognized by the associated conference)
- Number of national championships (outright and shared recognized by the NCAA)
If a program placed first in any of the above categories, the program earned 30 points. Programs that tied received the same number of points. Programs placing second earned 24 points, third earned 23 points and so on. If two programs tied for second in a category, both earned 24 points and the third place program earned 22. The same concept was used for ties in other placings. Pretty easy math.
I tried to come up with enough areas to look at each program's full body of work. So without further delay, here are my top 10 programs of all-time based on my criteria:
1. MICHIGAN: Michigan earned 389 points, placing first in seven of the 16 categories above. Michigan is first in total wins, winning percentage, has the most undefeated seasons, the most winning seasons, the most wins over opponents considered major at gametime, and the most top 25 and top 10 final rankings. Michigan might have had a few tough seasons lately, but if history tells us anything, they'll be back winning a boat load of games and contending for championships very soon. They are so entrenched at the top, it would take a decade or two of Michigan losing year after year and the next best programs winning games and championships consecutively over the same period to even catch up.
2. OKLAHOMA: The Sooners earned 381 points and placed first in four of the 16 categories. Michigan and Oklahoma combined for nearly 70 percent of the first place points. Quite impressive if you ask me. Oklahoma placed first in winning percentage against season-ranked top 25 and top 10 opponents, has the most 10 or more win seasons, and was tied with three other programs for the least number of losing seasons.
t3. ALABAMA: The Crimson Tide have been rolling, and rolling and rolling over the years. They earned 346 points and tied with USC for first in number of bowl game wins with 32 victories. The Tide placed high in most of the 16 categories, as expected out of one of the nation's best all-time programs. There has been some great coaches throughout college football's history, and Alabama was one of the lucky ones to have arguably the greatest in Bear Bryant.
t3. TEXAS: Alabama and Texas tied for third place in my top 10, both with 346 points. I would say the Longhorns have been rolling, and rolling and rolling as well, but it just wouldn't sound right. They have been hookin' most of their opponents over the years though, because when you aren't losing, you're winning and Texas is one of the four programs tied for the least number of losing seasons at just 12 in their storied history. They are also second to Michigan in all-time wins.
5. NOTRE DAME: Notre Dame earned 341 points, and had I been able to give them points for conference championships, they probably would've came in second behind Michigan. I'm sure the Irish would have won a few in their day, in any of the major conferences. I absolutely loved the story of Rudy...just a small part of arguably the most storied program in college football history. Notre Dame placed first in three of the 16 categories examined. The Irish have won the most NCAA recognized national championships and have the most wins over season-ranked top 25 and top 10 teams. This past decade hasn't been too kind to the Irish, but under new leadership they seem poised to make a comeback. Like Michigan, if history tells us anything...look out for the Irish.
6. USC: Southern Cal came in right behind Notre Dame with 339 points, tying Alabama with the nation's most bowl victories at 32. USC has been one of the most consistent programs in college football, and is well deserving of top 10 all-time discussion. They have dominated the PAC 10 conference for most seasons and came in 4th for most conference championships. They've done nothing but prove their worth season after season. Their opponents in those 32 bowl victories would confirm that. Coming in 2nd best for number of NCAA recognized national championships is no shabby stat either.
7. OHIO STATE: The Buckeyes are another one of those consistent programs, never down for too long. They come in 7th all-time with 326 points earned tying for the least number of losing seasons at 12. This tradition and history rich program has done battle for Big 10 supremacy with their friends up north for over 100 years. Since the early 1900's, Ohio State and Michigan have battled for all or part of 70 Big 10 championships, and placed 1-2 in the league 15 times since the 1968 season. The Buckeyes came in 2nd for most wins over opponents considered major at gametime and number of top 25 final rankings.
8. NEBRASKA: When I think of Nebraska football, one word comes to mind...power. Nebraska has had some of the most powerful teams in all of college football, knocking their opponents every which way all over the football field. With 298 points earned, they come in strong at #8 all-time. The Cornhuskers are the nation's winningest team the last 50 years and is only one of seven programs to reach 800 or more wins all-time. Nebraska has won 46 conference championships, more than any other program.
9. TENNESSEE: If there is one song associated with college football that I absolutely love, it has to be Good Ole Rocky Top. But that song is not why the Vols come in at #9 in my all-time top 10 programs with 260 points. The reason is for what they've accomplished on the football field, and that my friends is a lot. This program produced perhaps the greatest QB to ever play the game in Peyton Manning, along with a laundry list of other great players. And what can be said of Neyland Stadium, one of the most exciting venues in all of college football, a place where Tennessee can't seem to lose very often. They have won 507 games there...3rd winningest all-time on home field.
10. PENN STATE: Penn State rounds out the top 10, and deservingly so with 246 points earned. Joe Paterno, the coach with the most wins in division 1A, is the face of this great program and it will indeed be a sad day for college football when he steps aside. The Nittany Lions come in 2nd all-time in bowl victories with 27. Like the Cornhuskers, Penn State is one of just seven programs with over 800 wins. The Lions are 8th nationally with seven undefeated/untied seasons.
An all-time top 10 list wouldn't be the same without some honorable mentions, so here are the programs who came in 11-15, and are deserving of a place at the table with the big dogs ranked above them:
LSU 214 points, Georgia 211 points, Florida State 200 points, Miami (FL) 187 points, Auburn and Florida 184 points