Blog Entry

Bullet's All-time Top 10 Programs

Posted on: January 25, 2010 9:44 pm

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


Since: Nov 17, 2009
Posted on: February 20, 2010 5:23 pm

Bullet's All-time Top 10 Programs

Hey I'm fine with however you want to measure the thing.  Doesn't matter to me.  I guess my overall point is that one win in 1900 shouldn't equal one win in 2009.  The game was different, the emphasis was different, the national landscape was different.  I don't think our football-fan ancestors in Ohio gave a rat's patooty what was happening in the SEC or Pac -10 at the time OSU was playing football.  I doubt anyone really cared about any football outside of who OSU may have been playing that day.  I don't think the players, coaches, AD's, or media did either.  At the end of the year if we won the conference...great!  No one debated back then which conference champion was better versus another.  If they had, we would've had a national poll or a national championship game long before the 1998 season.  Thus, I just don't think the same weight (or any weight) can be placed on the wins back then when the game wasn't national.

College football is now a national passion, and despite our conference allegiances, the real weight is placed on the national polls.  Conference championships are nice, but the real measurement is comparing teams from coast to coast.  With this in mind, the wins today mean much more, because in a sense, everyone is in it together chasing after one thing...the National Championship.  This wasn't the case back in the early part of last century.

My best analogy is comparing any business in 1900 to business in 2010.  If a supermarket sold 1,000 loaves of bread in 1900, they'd have $50 in sales at .05 per loaf.  If they sold 1,000 loaves of bread today, they'd have $1,000 in sales at $1.00 per loaf.  You can't just add up all of the sales over time and get a total.  1900 was a different time, thus things must be adjusted based on how things were then versus how they are today.  Inflation happens.  Changes in sports happen.  1 doesn't continue to equal 1 over the course of 110 years.  It just doesn't.

Whatever.  Perhaps I shouldn't have commented in the first place.  I think I'm more of a present-day and forward-looking guy anyway.  These debates about history, and attempts to compare one era versus another, are typically worthless because there is no right answer.  Or put a better way, there's no wrong answer, and most folks usually end up debates semantics, which I think we are doing in this instance as well.  Regardless, it's obvious you put a lot of time into this list, and for that I commend you.  I don't agree with the way it was done, but I commend you nonetheless.  I just wanted to toss out another perspective for kicks.


Since: Apr 14, 2008
Posted on: February 19, 2010 8:57 pm

Bullet's All-time Top 10 Programs

JT, I'm not sure I'm following you.  You state that Michigan has an unfair advantage, but if you look at when some of the other top 10 teams started playing, that unfair advantage doesn't really look that unfair.  Michigan had a total of around 17 wins before most of the other programs started playing.  College football began in 1869, and every game played since then is relevant to history and all-time statistics.  I doesn't matter how the game was played, or how they kept score.  The polls are just a small part of college football, and are the subjective part of it.  To look at college football history after a certain year isn't really examining the full extent of the history.  It would be like examining American history since 1940, and drawing conclusions based on those years.  What you end up with is half the story, and that is unfair.

Look, I'm an Ohio State guy myself.  When I look at Ohio State's accomplishments, I look at the stats beginning in 1890.  Otherwise, I end up with a half-filled cup.  I don't like to cheat myself that way, to be honest.   

Since: Oct 9, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2010 2:57 pm

Bullet's All-time Top 10 Programs

58 of the 65 major currently major programs were playing football in 1901.  If that's your beef, you don't have much of one.

Michigan has more wins, not because they've played longer, but because they've won a greater percentage than any one.  You did several categories didn't measure wins back in 1901 anyway, didn't you?

Since: Jan 8, 2008
Posted on: February 14, 2010 4:17 pm

Bullet's All-time Top 10 Programs

good call JT.  I agree but, you have to give Mich their Justice :)  But JT we don't have to worry because with Rich Rod as thier coach anything remotely looks like a BCS or Champ bowl for Mich is out of the picture :)

Since: Nov 17, 2009
Posted on: February 13, 2010 10:26 pm

Bullet's All-time Top 10 Programs

Nice work but you can't use "Total number" of anything.  Obviously you did, thus Michigan is #1.  They have an unfair advantage in such an argument because their program started so many years ahead of everyone else.  This is my #1 pet-peeve of Michigan fans...they claim 11 national championships, when 9 of them were before 1936 when there was no 'national championship' poll at all.  What a crock.  Just because you threw a few so-called athletes on a football field in 1901 and played a few other so-called athletes and you just so happened to record the scores in the history books...doesn't mean these wins should count the same as the wins should from 2009.  You just can't compare programs this way.

I suggest starting from 1936, when college football started to be measured on a national scale with a poll system and see what happens.  You'll most likely have the same teams but in a much different (and more accurate) order.


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