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College Football Rankings: Rating the Top 25 by Famous Alumni

David LutherFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 10, 2017

College Football Rankings: Rating the Top 25 by Famous Alumni

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    With college football now underway, the nation will soon become obsessed with polls, rankings and standings. After all, those are the things that really matter in today's BCS system, and programs are willing to do whatever it takes to gain an edge in the rankings.

    These programs will be picked apart by pundits and analysts as the season, getting grades on everything from quarterback performance to coaching to fan support.

    But what if we gave our Top 25 ratings based not on the immediate football situation, but based on the star power the school has produced over the years?

    Here are our college football ratings by famous alumni.

    Note: Since the B/R Top 25 Poll for Week 1 won't be released until early Tuesday morning following the Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech game, we're using the B/R Top 25 Preseason Poll.

No. 25: Florida

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    The University of Florida was founded in 1853 and has been producing some top-notch alumni even since.

    The long list of notable Florida alumni include many politicians, including 10 US Senators, eight US Ambassadors, 40 members of the US House of Representatives and 11 governors (including 10 Florida governors).

    Florida has also educated countless stars of stage and screen, numerous business executives, renowned scientists and eight astronauts.

    But Florida has probably made its biggest alumni impact on the NFL gridiron.

    Literally hundreds and hundreds of former Florida Gators have gone on to play in the NFL, and there isn't a single roster in the league that hasn't been graced by multiple Gators over the years (Houston has had the least number of former UF players, at three).

    Famous Alumni Rating: B+

No. 24: Notre Dame

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    As proud as Notre Dame is of its football program, it's probably prouder of its academic standing.

    Notre Dame accepts only the best and brightest of students, and there are few graduates of Notre Dame that fail to greatly impact society.

    Famous folk like former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and all-around famous guy Regis Philbin have received some sort of degree from the University of Notre Dame.

    Notre Dame has also produced world leaders, including two former presidents of Central American nations.

    We'd also be remiss if we didn't mention the two Nobel Prize winners from Notre Dame; James Muller was a co-recipient of the Peace Prize in 1965, and Eric Wieschaus received the Prize in Medicine in 1969.

    And, of course, there's the seemingly unending supply of football greats that have come out of South Bend.

    Joe Montana and Joe Theismann are just two of the numerous football superstars that first received acclaim with the Fighting Irish.

    Notre Dame has also produced numerous NBA, MLB, and NHL stars, and there have even been 11 Irish that have become Olympians.

    Pretty impressive for an institution with an undergraduate student population of 8,400.

    Famous Alumni Rating: A

No. 23: Boise State

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    A small, public university in Idaho has had a much bigger impact than ever thought on the college football scene.

    And while Boise State is relatively new to the process of producing great NFL talent (fewer than a dozen former Broncos have gone on to NFL careers), Boise State knows a thing or two about producing some great alumni.

    Governors, Congressmen, actors, scientists and business executives across the nation can proudly sport their Boise blue as alumni.

    Still, Boise State was established as a state university in 1974 (having been an episcopal college since 1932) and doesn't have the 150-year footing so many institutions have. One day, there's little doubt Boise State will take its place among the great institutions of the west, but for now, it's a little thin on notable alumni.

    Famous Alumni Rating: C-

No. 22: Oklahoma State

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    Oklahoma State, like so many other great schools, has produced its fair share of famous alumni.

    In football, the Cowboys have been known to churn out some all-time greats, including Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders.

    But Oklahoma State is probably making its biggest impact on professional sports in golf.

    Ricky Fowler is widely known as a golfer who only wears his trusty Oklahoma State orange on Sundays, and with his first ever PGA TOUR victory under his belt in 2012, his dedicated fan base is only going to grow.

    Oklahoma State has also produced numerous other PGA Tour stars, including Bo VanPelt, Mark Hayes and Charles Howell, III.

    Oh, and there's gazillionaire T. Boone Pickens, who, to his great credit, delights in giving back some of that hard-earned wealth to his alma mater.

    Famous Alumni Rating: B-

No. 21: Ohio State

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    The Ohio State University.

    For many, it's a statement of pride. For the rest of the world, it's a statement of arrogance.

    No one is quite sure why folks from Ohio State need to empathize the “the” in the school's title, or even why it's there in the first place, but Buckeyes can't wait to tell you they're from The Ohio State University (as if there were more than one).

    For the record, it's The Pennsylvania State University and The University of Michigan, too.

    But in order to be arrogant about something, it has to be pretty good to begin with, and there's no question that Ohio State is a great institution.

    Four Nobel Laureates, nine Pulitzer Prize winners, countless actors, poets and artists, two current US Senators, six current members of the US House of Representatives, over 200 Olympic athletes, over 50 of which have won medals and more NFL players than you can shake a stick at, including many Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees.

    Ohio State was also home to the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin.

    New Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer is also on the list of Ohio State alumni, receiving his Master of Arts degree in 1988 after earning his bachelor's degree from Cincinnati.

    Famous Alumni Rating: B+

No. 20: Stanford

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    Contrary to the recent past, Stanford is not typically known for its football program.

    It is, however, generally recognized as one of the top, if not the top academic institution in the western United States.

    This “Harvard of the West” is a hot bed of academic activity and has become known for its influence on the technology world. Much of the research and innovations for technology we today take for granted was thanks to Stanford University and its alumni.

    The iPhone in your pocket? Thank Stanford alumnus Scott Forstall (Apple VP for iPhone software).

    That quick Internet connection? Thank Stanford alumnus Vint Cerf (co-inventor of TCP/IP internet protocol).

    Your favorite radio station? Thank Stanford alumnus Charles Herrold (creator of world's first radio station).

    Stanford even beats out the University of Florida when it comes to astronauts, having produced 17.

    Stanford has even produced two US Presidents (Herbert Hoover and John Kennedy), two current US Supreme Court Justices (Stephen Breyer and Anthony Kennedy) and two former Justices (Sandra Day O'Connor and William Rehnquist).

    Stanford is no slouch on the football field, either, having produced at least 40 NFL players, including the most famous and most recent superstar, Andrew Luck.

    Famous Alumni Rating: A

No. 19: Texas

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    The University of Texas at Austin is a big school in a big state that loves all things big.

    And Texas alumni have made big contributions to the world.

    Doctors, lawyers, scientists, artists, actors, musicians and politicians are all proud Longhorns, and Texas grads are poised to continue to influence the world around them for many years to come.

    Football is king in Texas, and just in case you didn't know, the NFL is chock-full of former Texas players.

    Former Longhorns who have gone on to careers in the NFL include greats like Ricky Williams, Chris Simms, Shaun Rogers and Vince Young.

    Texas even produced legendary Dallas Cowboys head coach Tom Landry.

    Famous Alumni Rating: B+

No. 18: Kansas State

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    Kansas State University is enjoying a renaissance of sorts in football.

    Coaching legend Bill Snyder returned to the program to engineer yet another powerful K-State comeback, and the Wildcats feel right at home back in the Top 25.

    During his 20 seasons over 23 years at KSU, Snyder has seen a lot of talented young football players—many of which went on to great success in the NFL. And there are many more non-Snyder players who can call Kansas State their college home.

    From Michael Bishop to Larry Brown, some great Wildcat names have impressed as pros. Henry Childs, Lynn Dickey, Josh Freeman and Clarence Scott are some big names to come out of Manhattan, Kansas, and even TCU head coach Gary Patterson played college ball at KSU.

    Famous Alumni Rating: C

No. 17: Virginia Tech

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    The Hokies won't take the field for the first time in 2012 until Monday night, but that doesn't mean Virginia Tech is behind the times.

    Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University's list of alumni is a veritable who's who eastern technical and academic excellence.

    From military leaders to innovators in the business world, Virginia Tech's reach far exceeds the meager expectations during its humble beginnings in the 1870s.

    The football program, with Frank Beamer at the helm, has become an annual contender for the ACC title, and that success doesn't come without a roster full of NFL-worthy talent.

    Some of those football greats include Frank Beamer himself, Michael Vick, DeAngelo Hall, Tyrod Taylor and Kevin Jones.

    If the Hokies continue to compete at the highest levels of the FBS, you can expect that list to grow rapidly.

    Famous Alumni Rating: C+

No. 16: Nebraska

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    Nebraska is the newest member of the Big Ten, and its list of noteworthy alumni seems to fit right in with the rest of its conference compatriots.

    Nebraska has produced three Nobel laureates, six Pulitzer Prize winners, a world leader (President and Prime Minister of Latvia), US Senators, Governors, Congressmen and women, writers, artists, poets and business leaders.

    Nebraska has also spit out some great football players over the years, led by names like Ndamukong Suh, Irving Fryar and Roger Craig.

    Famous Alumni Rating: B

No. 15: Texas Christian

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    Now that the TCU Horned Frogs have joined the Big 12, we're going to start seeing much more purple on our nightly highlights.

    But even though TCU has lived in the relative obscurity of the Mountain West for the last couple of decades doesn't mean there aren't some very famous Frogs in our midst.

    Larry Brown, former Super Bowl (XXX) MVP was a Horned Frog, as was Pro Bowler and former college coach Guy Morriss.

    But perhaps the most famous TCU alum of the modern era is NFL superstar LaDainian Tomlinson, 2006 NFL MVP.

    Famous Alumni Rating: C

No. 14: Clemson

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    Clemson University has placed a lot of Tigers into the professional sports world over the years, and the football program's annals are chalked full of impressive talent.

    Kenny Flowers, Jacoby Ford, Tye Hill, Terry Kinard, Michael Dean Perry, Levon Kirkland and William “Refrigerator” Perry are all Clemson Tigers.

    Clemson has also produced a number of senators, congressmen and governors over the years.

    Famous Alumni Rating: C+

No. 13: Michigan State

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    Michigan State University is today one of the nation's largest institutions and graduates thousands of students every year.

    Michigan State's long history, starting in 1855 as the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan—the nation's first agriculture college—is full of landmark events that have generated some of the nation's top leaders in science, medicine, education, politics and, of course, agriculture.

    In addition to members of Congress, MSU has educated a former Prime Minister of Jordan, several US Governors and numerous foreign politicians.

    And although the football team hasn't always been at—or even near—the top of the Big Ten conference standings, that hasn't stopped several Spartans from making a big impact on Sundays.

    Flozell Adams, Morten Andersen, Plaxico Burress, TJ Duckett, Wayne Fontes, Mark Ingraam, Bubba Smith and Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees Herb Adderley and Joe DeLamielleure all wore the Green and White.

    Just as impressive is the face that all of those players actually left MSU with a degree in hand.

    Famous Alumni Rating: B

No. 12: Wisconsin

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    Just because the Badgers football team has never won a national title doesn't mean the University of Wisconsin hasn't produced some great alumni over the years.

    Wisconsin was the college home of a whopping 13 Nobel laureates, including Wisconsin alumna Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

    Wisconsin has also seen a heap of alumni attain lofty positions in politics, business and entertainment.

    The football program has produced hundreds of NFL stars over the years; so many in fact, it's hard to get an accurate number.

    Suffice it to say that any trip to both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame would include a plethora of Wisconsin Badgers.

    Famous Alumni Rating: B+

No. 11: West Virginia

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    West Virginia is perhaps the newest program included on any list of national powers.

    The Mountaineers don't have a historically powerful program and only joined what is now the FBS in 1978.

    Since that time, WVU has won seven Big East conference titles.

    Moving to the Big 12 this year may open the next chapter in West Virginia's climb towards that first-ever national championship, but until the Mountaineers take on some of the heavy hitters from their new conference, it's probably too soon to tell how long that next jump will take.

    Because WVU is relatively new to the Division I scene, it lags a bit when it comes to top professional talent. While there are a number of former Mountaineers making waves in the NFL, the program hasn't been producing NFL talent for decades and decades, like those of Michigan, Alabama, USC, Florida, Texas or Oklahoma.

    Because of that, WVU's rating remains relatively depressed—for now.

    Famous Alumni Rating: C-

No. 10: Michigan

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    The University of Michigan isn't only one of the top, if not the top public university in the nation, it's also home to the college football program with more wins than any other.

    Michigan has produced seven Nobel laureates, eight NASA astronauts, 18 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, 26 Rhodes Scholars, countless business and political leaders and a president of the United States (Gerald Ford, who also played football at U-M).

    Michigan has also been a consistent source for top NFL talent over the years, as players such as Tom Brady, Anthony Carter, Dan Dierdorf, Jim Harbaugh, Tom Harmon, Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson all earned their helmet stripes in Ann Arbor.

    Reading a list of Michigan alumni is like reading a list of who's who in most academic or athletic fields, and it's difficult to find a more prestigious group of people all educated at one institution.

    Famous Alumni Rating: A

No. 9: South Carolina

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    It would be difficult to find any SEC program that didn't have a list of alumni playing on Sundays. South Carolina is no exception.

    While South Carolina may not be able to challenge the sheer numbers of pro players produced by programs like Florida or Alabama, Gamecocks players are becoming a staple in the NFL.

    SC has also been the school of choice for political leaders from the state, including 33 governors of South Carolina.

    Famous Alumni Rating: B

No. 8: Arkansas

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    Poor Arkansas. Where else in the nation could you find a program as strong as the Razorbacks football team with the same lack of regional respect or national media coverage?

    Arkansas is a great program that just happens to have the misfortune of being stuck directly in the shadow of a couple of the very limited number of programs that outshine the Hogs.

    But don't think for a minute that Arkansas doesn't produce some of the best talent in the nation, not only in the NFL, but across the professional spectrum.

    Numerous NFL players over the years can trace their big-time football roots back to Arkansas, and there are more than a few former Hogs enshrined in Canton, Ohio.

    In addition to football stars, the University of Arkansas is known for educating future political and military leaders as well, including numerous US Senators, Congressmen, governors and former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Vernon Clark.

    Famous Alumni Rating: B+

No. 7: Florida State

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    With its location in Tallahassee, Florida, it's probably not a galloping shock that Florida State has been the college home for countless state and national lawmakers.

    Florida State is also a top institution for business and academic leaders and has even been the undergraduate home for four Rhodes Scholars.

    But when it comes to famous alums, Florida State gets its biggest bang for the buck on the gridiron.

    Florida State is a professional football player generator like few other programs in the nation. There isn't a single NFL franchise that hasn't been touched by the Seminoles, and with Florida State's resurgence in the ACC, the influence is likely to continue.

    NFL greats like Randy Moss, Ron Simmons, Leon Washington, Charlie Ward, Lawrence Thomas, Deion Sanders and Warrick Dunn all played for the Seminoles.

    Even ESPN's Lee Corso played his college ball in Tallahassee.

    Famous Alumni Rating: A-

No. 6: Georgia

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    Georgia, like so many other top SEC programs, is well-regarded as an NFL talent pool.

    Professional stars like Boss Bailey, Champ Bailey, Terrell Davis, Hines Ward and Herschel Walker electrified the nation as Bulldogs before putting their own stamps on the NFL game.

    Georgia is also recognized as a top business institution and has produced business executives and entrepreneurs, as well as local, national and international political leaders.

    Famous Alumni Rating: B+

No. 5: Oklahoma

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    The list of Oklahoma alumni is about as broad as you can expect from a university. From actors to politicians to business leaders to athletes.

    And former Sooners have made an important impact on professional football, among other sports.

    Former Sooners include Billy Sims, Sam Bradford, Roy Williams, Brian Bosworth, Bobby Kimball, Lee Roy Selmon and countless others.

    It's probably safe to say that the worlds of both college and professional football would be very different today without the Oklahoma Sooners.

    Famous Alumni Rating: A-

No. 4: Oregon

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    Considering the University of Oregon was founded in 1876—much later than most of its eastern US counterparts—it has made amazing progress towards the top of both the academic and athletic rankings.

    In addition to granting degrees to notable alumni from across the academic spectrum, Oregon's Ducks have become one of the top athletic programs in the NCAA.

    While Oregon hasn't reigned long at the top of the Pac-12, its tenure there has been fairly dominant, thanks to some top talent that, not surprisingly, made its way to the NFL upon leaving campus.

    But even before the modern success for the Ducks, Oregon still had some great NFL talent to its credit. Dan Fouts, who graduated in 1977, made his way to six Pro Bowls before his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Bob Berry left Oregon in 1964 and made his own mark on the Pro Bowl. Ahmad Rashad also suited up for the Ducks before earning his degree in 1972.

    Famous Alumni Rating: B+

No. 3: Louisiana State

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    Louisiana State University was founded just prior to the outbreak of the Civil War.

    Despite the turmoil of its early years and the Confederacy's impending defeat, LSU has become a jewel of America's higher education system.

    As great as LSU is at football, it might surprise many to learn that the famous football players only make up a small fraction of notable LSU alumni. LSU is famous for producing some of the most well-known names in Louisiana politics (both good and bad), countless entertainers, particularly in music, and brainy academic leaders, which include current or former presidents of LSU, Louisiana Tech, Northwestern State and others.

    But we'd be remiss if we didn't mention all of the football superstars who cut their football teeth as Tigers.

    Billy Cannon, Kevin Faulk, Joseph Addai, Randall Gay, Josh Reed and Jim Taylor are just a small sampling of the LSU players who became successful football players after departing Baton Rouge. To name them all would take far too much time.

    Famous Alumni Rating: A-

No. 2: Alabama

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    The Crimson Tide are doing their best to prove to everyone that they are the pinnacle of college football.

    And they're doing a pretty good job.

    Of the hundreds and hundreds of Alabama football players to suit up for the Crimson Tide over the years, a surprisingly larger percentage of them have gone on to the NFL. And that number seems to be growing by leaps and bounds every year.

    Among the former Tide to play in the NFL, seven have been enshrined at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio: John Hannah, Don Hutson, Ozzie Newsome, Bart Starr, Derrick Thomas, Dwight Stephenson and, of course, Joe Namath.

    Alabama also has over 35 alumni currently playing the NFL.

    The University of Alabama has also created more than its fair share of football coaching greats. Dabo Swinney, Mike Shula, Bobby Bowden, Mike Riley, Bear Bryant and Hootie Ingram are just a few successful coaches who are alumni of Alabama.

    Famous Alumni Rating: A-

No. 1 Southern California

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    The Southern California Trojans begin the 2012 season in familiar territory: atop college football rankings.

    USC also ranks near the top of any ranking of famous alumni—and not just football players.

    Southern Cal has educated some of the world's greatest minds, including no fewer than nine world leaders, US Senators, Congressmen, countless entertainers (particularly in the film industry), media personalities and curiously more NASA astronauts than Florida and Florida State combined.

    But with the long-term success of Trojans football, it shouldn't surprise anyone that the longest category of famous alumni from USC related to the gridiron.

    All-Americans. Heisman Trophy winners. Pro Bowlers. Pro Hall of Famers. Super Bowl winners. Legendary coaches. The list is almost endless.

    Not bad for a private school with an undergraduate population of under 18,000.

    Famous Alumni Rating: A

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