First, a disclaimer. If you have no interest in how this project began, or how it works… if, in fact, you are not a football nerd…. don’t bother continuing. Just click the box below to just go straight to the rankings.
Ranking Every College Team Historically
It’s a simple question, right? Best team ever. Not this year. Not this decade. All of it; a team’s whole body of work. From the day they started playing top tier football, which program has been the best? Where does my team land?
It was a subject suggested in a comment a few weeks ago. It led to a mildly thought provoking conversation between my 15 year old and myself. We’re Wisconsin fans. For his whole 10 year football watching life, our Badgers have been remarkably consistent. Every year, we’re gonna win 8-10 games. Our running back and the whole O line will go to the NFL. You don’t hear us talking about National titles; we know who we are. The plus here is that we never suck. Talk to Michigan and Florida State fans; there’s a lot to be said for that. I had to explain to the kid that it wasn’t always like that. For years, we did suck. Wisconsin’s a great place to be a fan now; all of our teams are contenders. But there was a time when this place was a sports wasteland.
I also knew there was a time, in the early days of college football, when the Badgers were dominant. Lot of ups and downs, right? Seems like that’ll happen when you do something for a hundred years. But as a whole… ranked against the rest of the football world… where would your team land? I guessed somewhere in the 30s for our Badgers. It was interesting enough that we started to dig.
We started where most would: wins. Pretty good way to see who’s the best at winning would be wins, right? The top few teams were the ones most of us would expect, but as you passed them you started to see some teams that seemed out of place. Georgia Tech? I know they scored 200 and some points in a game like a hundred years ago, but I’m pushing 50 and I couldn’t remember a time when Tech was more than passingly relevant. And there my Badgers were at 19. How were we that high? Turns out that answer is simple. We’ve damn near been doing this since the civil war. Same with Minnesota, who’s right after us on that list. And the Gophers have sucked forever.
So while wins gave us a vague idea, it was no where near a difinitave answer. Which brought us to our next idea… winning percentage. You would imagine how often a team wins would be a great indicator of their succes, right? You’d be wrong, and so were we. The team with the highest all time winning percentage? Boise State. I”m pretty sure no one outside of Idaho is arguing that the Broncos are the best college football program in history.
We realized this wasn’t a quick answer, but one we were gonna have to dig for. As of yet, no one out there has taken the time to concoct a system to answer this question. You can see why… in the overall scheme of things it’s a seemingly subjective and irrelevant subject. But… COVID. We’ve got time.
And it took time; almost 3 weeks between the 5 of us. Since there wasn’t a system out there for this, we built one. And after weeks of tweaking and experimenting, we think we made a pretty good one. Again, if you’re not interested in how it works, and just want to see the damn rankings… you’re boring. Click the box below to skip to it.
We realized early that we would have to gather a bunch of information and organize it… and we wanted to do it in a way that we could share… simply and understandably…. with everyone.
More importantly, we wanted the whole thing to be simple and easy to understand as well. You ever seen the formula for QB rating? Holy sh@t. It’s like Stephen Hawking wrote the damn thing,
Here’s what we came up with when we were ranking every team college team historically.
What are the main measures of a college football program’s success? We came up with 7.
- Winning Percentage
- Conference Titles
- Bowl Games
- Players Sent to NFL
- Weeks in the Top 25
- Years in Year-End Poll
There are no doubt other factors that could be considered, but these were the most obvious, and the most easily quantifiable. How many conference titles or bowl trips are fixed numbers; no room for debate.
Our next step was to organize and rank this info by team. If you’ve seen our power rankings, the layout will look similar. Because one, we really like the helmet pics. It’s kind of our thing. And two… they’re simple Easy to read. Below, you’ll find 6 simple labeled boxes. Each will take you to one of the 7 posts above. You want to see where your team ranks historically in wins? Click “wins”. That easy.
We gathered them all, and ranked them from 1-130. And because the whole point of this thing is to rank the teams and compare them to each other, we did it in the simplest way possible. We gave them points according to that rank. #1 got 130 points, #2 got 129 points, all the way down to #130, who got a single point. We added up those 7 numbers. When you arrive at the actual rankings, you’ll see this under each team:
First, note: You’ll see “conf. titles” is red. If you click it, or any of the other headers, on any team in the ranking, you’ll go straight to that list.
The first 7 columns are the team’s collected totals. The last two? This is about measuring which teams are the most successful over time. We kept the first 7 categories on a level field, but in the end winning is the #1 measure. So for every winning season a team has, 2 points are added. For every non winning season. one point is deducted. The definition of a winning season in this case is a year in which you win more than you lose; no .500 seasons included. So the last two columns are just that; winning and non winning seasons. We didn’t use the rankings in the scoring total, but we ranked them anyway for readers. To see these, click below.
There were areas that weren’t perfect. Two of the more historically successful teams, Penn State and Notre Dame, weren’t in a conference for most of their history. Therefore they are both at the bottom in the ‘conference titles’ rank. To compensate, we added 3 points for each 10 win season. Most of the other discrepancies we found were smoothed over by the volume of variables we used.
So there it i, in a nutshell. Was it worth the insane number of hours we spent on it? If you’re a football nerd it is. All of this… arguing, comparing, competing… it’s why we do sports. It’s half the fun. And now, if you’ve bothered reading this all the way through, you’re ready, and you’ll understand exactly what you’re looking at. Just click that big box below, and begin arguing… although i think you may find it hard to. We may have stumbled our way through this, but what we came up with… it’s surprisingly accurate. Disagree? Tell us in the comments, of course. We read them all. And throughout the thing you’ll see ads for Amazon and Fanatics stuff. It’s all stuff we picked out because we thought it was cool. If you buy it, hell… do it here. the youngest… the 15 year old we started with back there… the one who does all of the pictures and graphics you see… gets to keep what he makes. Saving for a car. Doesn’t seem like he’ll get there all that fast doing this, but we’re enjoying it, so it all evens out. At any rate; thanks for sticking around. If you like what we do, follow us, share us, like us… all that stuff.
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Categories: sports articles