Introduction to College Football
The history of college football spans nearly a century and organized statistics date back to 1936. Now, with over one hundred teams participating in these programs, it is intriguing to assess which are the best college football programs of all time. Most people remember the best programs of their era; however, that doesn’t necessarily mean those particular programs are the best of all time. In order to evaluate which programs are best, ESPN, the national sports website, has organized a point system better known as the Prestige Rankings. According to these rankings, ESPN places the Oklahoma Sooners as the number one team of all time. The always excelling USC program is ranked second, while Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Nebraska rounding out the top five.
When it comes to college football, the Oklahoma Sooners have been so good, for so long. To this day, they hold the record for the most consecutive games won (47.) While this record will likely never come close to being broken, they also scored a .765 winning percentage since the World War II era. In other words, they won 76.5% of their games. Thirty-nine different times, the Sooners finished atop their conference, another statistic that has not come close to being broken.
University of Southern California (USC) Trojans
In this era, the USC college football program has been one of the best, if not the absolute best. USC is rated highly because of its potent offense throughout the ’70s and the seven Heisman winners the program has produced. In the last seven seasons alone, the Trojans have raised seventeen All-American football players. Their ranking has a lot to do with their near flawless 2004 season.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Since 1936, the Ohio State Buckeyes have only had five losing seasons. Couple this astounding number with a resounding five college football championships, and there is little debate that the Buckeyes are a top three program of all time. Three of their losing seasons were between 1936-1960. According to ESPN, if the Buckeyes had defeated Florida and LSU in recent title games, their ranking would have skyrocketed ahead of the USC Trojans program.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The leader in consensus All-Americans with 77, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish won four titles in a seven year span during the 1940’s, and added two more to their legacy in the 1970’s. While they had tremendous success early on, they haven’t done much of anything since 1994. In fact, the Fighting Irish are ranked 30th in the country, and their struggles are well documented.
With five national titles, three Heisman winners, and thirty bowl appearances, there is no denying the Cornhuskers the number five spot on the Prestige Rankings. Surprisingly, however, Nebraska had 17 losing seasons in a 21 year span between 1941-1961. In the past five seasons, the Cornhuskers have failed to even make the rankings.
While these are the best college football programs of all time, the Florida football program should be considered an honorable mention. This includes Florida, Florida State, and Miami. Rankings, in general, can be constructed using different statistics; however, the Prestige Rankings take multiple statistics into account, and have thus ranked the five best college football teams of all time.