College Sports

Ranking The Top 50 College Football Programs

Mike - September 7, 2019
College Sports

Ranking The Top 50 College Football Programs

Mike - September 7, 2019
Photo Credit: Pioneer Press

28. Minnesota Golden Gophers:

While you may not think the Golden Gophers of the Big 10 conference are one of college football’s greatest programs, they indeed are. They’ve racked up 695 wins heading into this season. They were also members of the Big 10 conference when it was called the Western Conference in its first season of 1896. Their program dates back to 1882.

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Minnesota also won seven national championships from 1904-1960. While it’s been quite some time since they’ve reached those lofty heights, Minnesota has maintained a rich, storied tradition with several high-profile rivalries.

Photo Credit: Chat Sports

27. Michigan State Spartans:

The Spartans are another Big 10 powerhouse who can lay claim to a period of unparalleled success. They won six national championships from 1951-1966. They also have nine Big 10 conference championships to their credit. Overall, Michigan State won 701 games before 2019 since their debut in 1896.

Photo Credit: The New York Times

Like the University of Minnesota, Michigan State is still trying to reignite that type of success in the current era of college football. That doesn’t mean they’re a bad team, by any means. You need only look at the fact they produced All-Pro NFL running back Le’Veon Bell in recent years as proof. The Spartans uphold the strong traditions of the Big 10 conference and always will.

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25 (tie). Colorado Buffaloes:

The storied Buffaloes from Boulder used to compete in the Big 12 conference, but now they’re looking to make noise in the Pac-12. The Buffs boasted 705 wins heading into this season, an impressive number to be certain. Their rich history dates back to 1890.

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Interestingly enough, they’ve only won one national championship, and it was in 1990 – 100 years after their debut. They’ve also made 29 bowl games, but have only won 12 of those. Nonetheless, the University of Colorado has produced many NFL-level talents. The Buffs will rate as one of the best and brightest college football programs for many years to come.

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25 (tie). Wisconsin Badgers:

Wisconsin adds to the growing number of Big 10 teams among the greatest college football programs. It seems that they’re always in the mix, and that’s resulted in 14 conference championships. However, their only national titles are unclaimed versions way back in 1906, 1928, and 1942. They’ve made it 30 bowl games.

Photo Credit: Badger of Honor

Overall, the Badgers had 705 wins heading into the 2019 season. Their program’s history dates back to 1889. The Seattle Seahawks’ Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson was an integral cog for the Badgers at one point. He’s now the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL.

Photo Credit: The New York Times

24. Navy Midshipmen:

Similar to rival Army, the Midshipmen aren’t exactly at the pinnacle of college football as of right now. However, they’ve still had a very successful program since their first season in 1879. They’ve won 711 games total. Their only national championship was way back in 1926.

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Navy has made it to 23 bowl games, splitting them at 11-11-1 overall. Their most famous football alum is most likely Dallas Cowboys legend Roger Staubach. There’s no doubt the Navy passed is among the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all-time.

Photo Credit: KNWA

23. Arkansas Razorbacks:

Back to the SEC with Arkansas, the Razorbacks have ‘quietly’ racked up 715 wins. Their program’s history dates back to 1894. The Razorbacks have one claimed national championship from 1964 and one unclaimed one from 1977.

Photo Credit: KNWA

They’ve also made 42 bowl games and have won 13 conference titles. When talking about the most elite SEC teams, Arkansas’ name doesn’t often come up. They’re still up amongst the most storied college football programs of all-time.

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22. Syracuse Orange:

The Syracuse Orange of the ACC has earned their spot among the greats. They totaled 719 wins heading into this year. They boast one national championship from 1960 since their inaugural year of 1889.

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The Orange also has five conference titles and has made it to 26 bowl games, winning 16. Perhaps they aren’t perennial national title contenders, but Syracuse has produced some great talent for the NFL. Their biggest stars are all-time greats Jim Brown, Marvin Harrison, and Larry Csonka.

Photo Credit: Pitt Panthers

21. Pittsburgh Panthers:

The Panthers are an under-the-radar powerhouse. They bring quite the record of past success. Pitt brought 724 wins into this year. Pittsburgh also has nine claimed national titles to their credit, but not any from recent years. They won eight titles from 1915 to 1937 and then again in 1976. Pitt has eight unclaimed titles as well, including two from 1980 and 1981.

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Their history dates back to 1890. There’s no question that the university has produced some unreal football talent such as Heisman winner Tony Dorsett, legendary Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, and future Hall of Fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

Photo Credit: Gator Sports

20. Florida Gators:

The highly-touted Gators appear with 725 wins heading into this season, a remarkable feat considering their first season was in 1906. They have three claimed national titles from 1996, 2006, and 2008. The Gators had two unclaimed titles from 1984 and 1985 and also eight conference championships.

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Florida has made 44 bowl games. They’ve proved a factory for producing top NFL talent, with legendary running back Emmitt Smith coming out of Florida. The Gators always seem to be at the forefront of NCAA football, and their success is obviously a big reason why.

Photo Credit: San Francisco Chronicle [/caption

19. Washington Huskies:

Longtime Pac-12 members Washington brought 734 wins into 2019 dating back to their first season in 1889. The Huskies have two claimed national championships from 1960 and 1991, while also possessing three unclaimed titles from 1910, 1984, and 1990.

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They’ve won an incredible 17 conference titles. More recently, Washington impressed in the newest rankings system for college football by making it to a BCS playoff game in 2016. The university is also known for producing a long string of quarterbacks who played in the NFL.

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18. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets:

ACC Coastal member Georgia Tech is one of college football’s all-time greatest programs. They have 735 wins prior to this season, dating back to their first season in 1892. The university also has four claimed national titles from 1917, 1928, 1952, and 1990.

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John Heisman, whom the revered Heisman Trophy was named for, was a coach at Georgia Tech. They also boast three unclaimed national titles and 16 conference championships. The Yellow Jackets produced NFL greats like receivers Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas.

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17. Texas A&M Aggies:

Another highly respected team from the SEC, Texas A&M brought 741 wins into 2019 dating back to their first season in 1894. They’ve made it to 40 bowl games, winning 18 of them. Texas A&M has three national titles from 1919, 1927, and 1939.

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While it may have been a while since Texas A&M has found truly elite success, they still bring one of the most feverish fanbases in college football. Their nearly 103,000-seat stadium proactively moves along with the throng of humanity there to cheer them on. Current head coach Jimbo Fisher, once the head man at Florida State, is looking to resurrect the Aggies to their long-lost glory in his second season this year. The Aggies are and always will be a legendary college football program.

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16. Virginia Tech Hokies:

The Hokies bring a rich tradition of success. They’re currently competing in the Coastal division of the ACC. The program has secured 743 wins before 2019. Virginia Tech first debuted in 1892.

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They’ve appeared in 32 bowl games and have won 11 conference titles. Virginia Tech has never won a national championship, however, falling to Florida State in 2000. Back then; quarterback Michael Vick was running wild in college football before he became one of the NFL’s most notorious criminals of all-time.

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15. Clemson Tigers:

The Tigers are not only towards the top of college football’s all-time great programs, but they are college football’s best current program as well. The fashion in which they demolished perennial powerhouse Alabama last year was a sight to behold. It could be stated that they have taken over the top spot in terms of feared programs in the sport.

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In terms of historical success, they brought 744 wins into the season. Their first season was in 1896, and they’ve won an alarming 24 conference titles. The Tigers have won 24 bowl games overall. They have three national titles, coming in 1981, 2016, and 2018. The University of Clemson has produced a ton of NFL talent in recent years, most notably Houston Texas quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Photo Credit: West Virginia Mountaineers

14. West Virginia Mountaineers:

The Mountaineers bring yet another rich tradition of college football thanks to their 750 wins heading into 2019. Competing in the Big 12 conference, West Virginia has been battling on the gridiron since 1891. They have one national championship to speak of, way back in 1922.

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They do boast 15 conference titles. Finally, West Virginia produced one of the NFL’s most notorious players ever in Adam “Pacman” Jones. But he’s not indicative of their entire program, which is one of the most successful of all-time.

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13. Auburn Tigers:

Once you reach this level in the discussion of great college football programs, the true elite teams of the SEC begin to show their dominance. We begin with the Auburn Tigers, who boast 767 wins prior to 2019 and started playing in 1892.

Photo Credit: Bleacher Report

The Tigers own two claimed national championships and three unclaimed national championships. They’ve won a solid 24 of their 43 overall bowl games. Year in and year out, it seems these Tigers are always in contention for the pinnacle of college football. Needless to say, they produce a ton of NFL-level talent as well. Some of their most famous names are two-sport star Bo Jackson and Super Bowl quarterback Cam Newton, who won a title at Auburn.

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12. LSU Tigers:

Moving on from Auburn takes us to one of their most hated rivals in Louisiana State University (LSU). These Tigers have won three claimed national championships in their storied history dating back to 1893. They have five unclaimed national titles as well. The Tigers brought 797 wins into the 2019 season.

Photo Credit: The Athletic

The Tigers also boast five players in the NFL Hall of Fame including Y.A. Tittle and Steve Van Buren. But these days, they’re more known for their superstar receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and his current teammate Jarvis Landry. The Tigers will always be on of college football’s most storied programs – they just need to beat Alabama to get back to the top this year.

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11. Georgia Bulldogs:

The Bulldogs merely add onto the massive pile of SEC teams at the top of college football’s greatest programs. Georgia won two claimed national titles in 1942 and 1980 and also has three unclaimed national titles. They won 819 games heading into this season, proving their rich history that dates back to 1893.

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Georgia has also produced NFL greats like Herschel Walker and Garrison Hearst. They have 15 conference titles and nine division titles. The Bulldogs are just like their name suggests – tough, and they keep fighting back to the top of the college football ranks each year. You’d have to in order to reach the level of success they’ve attained.

Photo Credit: Bleacher Report

10. Tennessee Volunteers:

As illustrious as Georgia is, the Volunteers have them beat ever so slightly. The time-honored team from Knoxville had 838 wins at the start of 2019. Their achievements since their inauguration in 1891 read like a laundry list of all-time great accomplishments. Tennessee has six claimed national titles and eight unclaimed national titles. They’ve made it to 52 bowl games, winning 28 of those.

Photo Credit: University of Tennessee Athletics

While they aren’t up at the top level of college football like they once were, Tennessee will always be one of the most storied in NCAA history. It really wouldn’t surprise anyone if they soon rose back up to a prominent position. Like many of their SEC counterparts, they’ve produced a multitude of NFL-caliber talent; most notably all-time great quarterback Peyton Manning.

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9. USC Trojans:

Taking a break from SEC teams, the time-honored Trojans were certain to show up on the list of college football’s most legendary teams. While their 839 wins heading into 2019 are enough, the list of accolades USC has racked up since their first season in 1888 is truly mind-blowing.

Photo Credit: USC Annenberg Media

They have won 11 claimed nation titles with six unclaimed national titles. They also have an unreal 39 conference titles to their credit. USC has produced a veritable windfall of NFL talent as well. They have six Heisman Trophy winners, ranging from controversial running back OJ Simpson to another controversial running back in Reggie Bush. USC will always among the most discussed of all college football programs.

Photo Credit: Bleacher Report

8. Penn State Nittany Lions:

Penn State is no doubt one of the most revered college football programs of all-time, but controversy has sullied their name in more recent years. Nevertheless, in terms of on-field success, they’re one of the greats. They brought 887 wins into this season and debuted all the way back in 1887.

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Penn State football has won 29 of the 49 bowl games they’ve played, taking home 2 claimed national championships in 1982 and 1986. They also have five unclaimed national championships. They’ve produced a long list of NFL talent, which can be witnessed today in the form of New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley.

Photo Credit: Dallas Morning News

7. Oklahoma Sooners:

It was only a matter of time until the Sooners made an appearance on this historic list. They’re simply too good not to appear, having won 896 games since debuting in 1895. Oklahoma has ruled over the Big 12 for a large portion of the conference’s existence.

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They’ve won 29 of the 52 total bowl games they’ve played and have won seven claimed national championships. Added on top of those are a remarkable 10 unclaimed national titles. The Sooners will keep stirring up action in their many rivalries, and they do so in style. Their most recent example of this is Cleveland Browns star quarterback Baker Mayfield, who won the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma.

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5. (tie) Nebraska Cornhuskers:

Like many of the battle-tested programs on this list, Nebraska is an all-time great that has seen much better times on the gridiron. True, they rank among the all-time greats with 897 wins prior to 2019 dating back to their first season in 1890. But the fact is they just haven’t been all that great in recent years.

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There was a time, however, when Tom Osborne’s Cornhuskers were by far the most feared team in the land. They have five claimed national titles and nine unclaimed national titles. The school has produced three Heisman Trophy winners. They once ruled over the Big 8, but haven’t seen as much winning since they moved to the Big 10. They’ve now enlisted the quarterback of their 1997 title-winning team, Scott Frost, to hopefully resurrect the program to its long-gone greatness.

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5. Notre Dame Fighting Irish:

Tied with Nebraska in wins at the outset of this season, the beloved Golden Domers of Notre Dame also have 897 wins in their storied history dating back to 1887. They’ve made it to 36 bowl games, winning 17. But their record in terms of national championships is truly staggering.

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Notre Dame has won 11 claimed national championships and 11 unclaimed national championships. The many eras of Notre Dame football are rightfully considered among the greatest in college football history. Topping it off, the school has produced seven Heisman winners.

Photo Credit: Bleacher Report

4. Alabama Crimson Tide:

The most dominant team in recent years is also one of the top five greatest of all-time based on wins. All told, Alabama won 905 games prior to the 2019 season. As impressive as Notre Dame’s championships are, Alabama simply takes the cake in that regard. If it were only based on title wins, Alabama would certainly be the greatest team of all-time. They have 17 claimed national championships and four unclaimed national titles.

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Alabama has also taken home 31 conference titles. You’d be hard pressed to argue they aren’t the best program ever in an overall sense. Their current head coach Nick Saban could certainly be called the greatest college football head coach ever, but some believe that title is reserved for fellow Alabama legend Bear Bryant. Regardless, Alabama churns out NFL talent like no other college ever has. A formerly unrivaled great who has only met their match in Clemson as of late.

Photo Credit: The New York Times

3. Texas Longhorns:

The Longhorns can lay claim to the great college football program in Texas. The team has 908 wins heading into 2019 dating back to their debut season in 1893. They’ve won four claimed national titles and five unclaimed national titles.

Photo Credit: The Boston Globe

The Longhorns have also produced two Heisman Trophy winners. Perhaps their crowning moment was when they won the title over the favored USC Trojans following the 2005 season thanks to the hot hand of quarterback Vince Young. True, not on the level of Alabama in overall titles, but an all-time great program nonetheless.

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2. Ohio State Buckeyes:

Despite all of the SEC teams listed among the collegiate football legends, the Big 10 shines through at the end. The Buckeyes brought 911 wins into the 2019 season, with their first year coming in 1890. They have eight national titles to their credit, all of them of the claimed variety. The “Scarlet and Gray” have won a whopping 39 conference titles.

Photo Credit: Sporting News

The program is known as a hotbed for college football to this day, and it produces a long list of NFL talent that never seems to slow down for even a year. Their seven Heisman Trophy winners are a testament to that. They did just lose head coach Urban Meyer, but the Buckeyes will reload and keep doing what they do best –winning football games. Their most bitter rival, in fact, is the only program left on this list…

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1. Michigan Wolverines:

The Michigan Wolverines are simply the top program in college football when it comes to wins. They emerged victoriously in 954 contests before 2019 since their debut in 1879. They also won 11 claimed national titles along the way. Added to that list are five unclaimed national titles.

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One of the Big 10’s most honored programs, the Wolverines have secured an unbelievable 42 conference titles. While they’ve slipped below that national title level in recent years, current head coach Jim Harbaugh is attempting to bring Michigan back to its onetime glory. Whether he does or not doesn’t matter in the long run, however, as Michigan is the most legendary team in college football history when it comes to winning games.