When looking at the final BCS rankings, it’s interesting to see how times have changed in college football. The traditional powers are scarce in the top 10.
LSU has a strong tradition and Alabama has always been a powerful program, but look at some of the others. Oklahoma State, Stanford, and Oregon have not seen many 11 win seasons. Kansas State and South Carolina have been as likely to lose 10 games as they are to win 10 in a season. Baylor at number 12?
These teams have all earned their spot in 2011, but let’s consider the big picture. These are the top 10 college football teams of all time:
*All totals since 1945
The Volunteers have gone 518-232-23, with two national championships. Tennessee has consistently produced talented players at all positions and became known as Wide Receiver U. Peyton Manning and Reggie White were two of the best who have ever played the game. General Neyland, Johnny Majors, and Phil Fulmer are the notable coaches for Tennessee. The program is currently in a down cycle, but do not look for it to continue much longer.
9. Penn State
Joe Paterno’s record of success and longevity will likely never be duplicated. The Nittany Lions have amassed a 547-195-9 record with two national championships along with five other undefeated seasons. Linebacker U. produced Jack Ham, Shane Conlan, Lavar Arrington, and many others. It will be interesting to see how the next chapter of Penn State football unfolds under new leadership.
The Cornhusker resume includes a 541-226-9 record. Not located in one of the more populous states, Nebraska has consistently produced tough, physical football teams. Strong offensive linemen (Dave Rimington has a trophy named for him), hard charging I-backs, and the Black Shirts defense have been staples of the program. Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne provided tremendous stability on the sideline for 36 years (1962-1997), while winning four national championships.
The maize and blue have a 523-204-15 record. Bo Schembechler ranks as the best Wolverines coach of the modern era. During his 21 seasons, Michigan was consistently a top-10 program. Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson won the Heisman Trophy and there were two national championships (1948 and 1997). After three down years with Rich Rodriguez, Michigan looks to be a resurgent program under Brady Hoke. 115,000 fans in the Big House would agree.
The Trojans have a 512-232-23 record and possess, perhaps, as much star power as any program on the list. USC has produced seven Heisman winners- Mike Garrett, O.J. Simpson, Charles White, Marcus Allen, Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, and Reggie Bush. Add other greats like Anthony Munoz, Bruce Matthews, Junior Seau, and Ronnie Lott, and it is easy to see why the Trojans have been so successful. John McKay, John Robinson, and Pete Carroll have been the top coaches for a program with six national championships (and no, we aren’t counting 2003). With a fertile recruiting base in southern California, look for the Trojans to remain relevant for years to come.
5. Notre Dame
If this were 20 years ago, the Irish would be number one. A 508-222-15 record still deserves a top-5 ranking. Seven national championships and six Heisman winners add to the Notre Dame legacy. Players like Alan Page, Paul Hornung, Joe Montana, Chris Zorich, and Rocket Ismail helped the Irish to many impressive victories. The only knock on Notre Dame is the lack of recent greatness. Maybe Brian Kelly will be the man to restore the level of success experienced under Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, and Lou Holtz. By the way, does any team have a better fight song?
4. Ohio State
The Buckeyes sport a 529-188-20 mark, which is skewed a bit by last season’s forfeits. Woody Hayes and Jim Tressel were the top coaches for a program with four national championships and six Heisman winners. Archie Griffin is still the only player to win the Heisman twice. The Ohio State University has never experienced a prolonged down period, and the dotting of script Ohio ranks as one of the game’s best traditions. With Urban Meyer being named the next coach, could we see another “10 year war” with Michigan?
549-210-11 record for the Longhorns. Darrell Royal (20 years) and Mack Brown (14 years) have been the top coaches. Notable players include Ricky Williams and Earl Campbell, both Heisman winners. Football is king in the Lone Star State and Texas has rewarded the faithful with three national championships. Texas holds the record for being ranked for 162 consecutive weeks from 2000-2010. The Longhorns are currently in rebuilding mode, after posting a 12-12 mark the past two seasons. This program has too many advantages to stay down for long. Bevo won’t stand for mediocrity.
The Crimson Tide checks in with a 528-239-19 record. Alabama football has one primary name- Paul W. (Bear) Bryant. Coach Bryant walked the sidelines for the Tide for 25 seasons (1958-1982) and amassed a 232-46-9 record with five national championships. His hound’s tooth hat carries more tradition than most team’s actual uniforms. Bart Starr, Kenny Stabler, and Joe Namath all played under center for Alabama. Gene Stallings (1992) and Nick Saban (2009) have also coached the Tide to national championships. Mark Ingram brought home the program’s first Heisman Trophy in 2009.
Boomer Sooner has compiled a 579-182-13 record. Bud Wilkinson, Barry (hanging half a hundred on you) Switzer, and Bob Stoops have led Oklahoma to great periods of success. The Sooners have produced five Heisman winners (Billy Owens, Steve Owens, Billy Sims, Jason White, and Sam Bradford). Other notable players include Tommy McDonald, Brian Bosworth, Tony Casillas, and Adrian Peterson. And of course it could be argued, but did anyone run the wishbone option as beautifully as Jamelle Holieway? Oklahoma has won seven national championships and Bob Stoops has kept the Sooners in the running almost every year. Nine wins feels like a disappointing year in Norman these days. All of this adds up to give Oklahoma the nod for top program in college football.
It was a subjective list. Remember, we are looking long-term. Feel like I slighted someone? Let me know.