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Power Ranking the 25 Most Successful College Football Programs of the BCS Era

Jonathan McDanalContributor IIIJuly 17, 2013

Power Ranking the 25 Most Successful College Football Programs of the BCS Era

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    When 2013's college football season comes to a close, the BCS era will have spanned 16 seasons of the sport. Power ranking the 25 most successful programs of the era so far was a daunting task, but it was more than worth the effort.

    Here are the criteria that were used, and then we'll go over how each section was scored:

    1. National championships and appearances in national championship games
    2. BCS bowl wins and appearances
    3. Conference titles, outright or shared
    4. Overall win/loss record from 1998-2012
    5. Overall margin of victory from 1998-2012

    Now that the system is laid out a little, here is the detailed explanation of how the 47 teams who appeared in at least one BCS bowl were narrowed down to 25 and ranked.

     

    National Championships and BCS Bowls (Sections 1 and 2)

    Each of the 47 teams was given a score based on how well it did throughout the era. Points were awarded for BCS appearances in the form of the four BCS bowls and BCS title games. (During the period when the BCS games rotated the hosting of the title game, title points were awarded for that game.)

    Title game win: 10 points
    BCS bowl win: 7.5 points
    Title game loss: 5 points
    BCS game loss: 2.5 points

    After this round, the 19 lowest-scoring teams were dropped from consideration. Every one of them scored five or fewer points during round one.

     

    Conference Titles (Section 3)

    Each team was recognized for winning an outright (five points) or shared (2.5 points) conference title, regardless of conference. The reason no conferences were favored in this area is that the weaker conferences may be "easier" to win, but they are harder to sell to recruits as well.

    Plus, some weaker conference champions are overlooked by the BCS precisely because of the schedule strength, or lack thereof. This is where they get their recognition.

     

    Win/Loss Record (Section 4)

    The overall win/loss record was easily sorted out. From 1998-2012, each team's record was accumulated. The overall winning percentage was divided by 10 to give a reasonable point value to everyone. (A 75-percent win ratio would equal 7.5 points.)

    Also, 2.5 points were awarded for each undefeated season that a team achieved. The lone exception was Ohio State's 2012 season. Since the Buckeyes were sanctioned out of the postseason, they missed out on what would have been the most difficult game of the season.

    As such, the Buckeyes were awarded 1.25 points for that perfect regular-season run. (Although, it turned out not to make a difference in their ranking, even if they were given the full 2.5.)

     

    Margin of Victory (Section 5)

    Margin of victory was even simpler to score than the win/loss records. Quite simply, the points scored and points allowed by each and every team from 1998-2012 were added up. The total points allowed were subtracted from the total points scored, and the result was divided by 100.

    This means that if a team scored 6,000 points and allowed 3,500 over the past 15 years, the resulting score would have been: (6,000-3,500)/100 = 25. Granted, the math almost never turned out quite that pretty, but it works.

    Two more teams were dropped from consideration at this point. Both The Kansas Jayhawks and Washington Huskies had negative margins of "victory" over the past 15 years. That is not successful at all.

     

    Sanctions

    All sanctions were ignored for the making of this list. Results on the field trumped everything. While it would make sense to recognize USC's vacated national championship, that would require that we also ignore all of Penn State's wins from 1998-2011.

    That's just ridiculous.

     

    Final Score

    The final score was as intuitive as it seems. Each section was given a point value (BCS bowls and national championships were rolled into one section), and they were added up. The highest-scoring team was first, and the 25th-highest was 25th.

    No ties had to be broken for this piece, and the scores are much closer than one might think.

     

    *All information was gathered from TotalFootballStats.com. Where total points scored per season were not available, each individual game's score from 1998-2012 was added together to form the "margin of victory" total.

25. Oklahoma State Cowboys

2 of 26

    BCS Games Score: 7.5 (1-0 BCS)

    Conference Title Score: 5 (One outright)

    Win/Loss Record Score: 6.08 (110-71)

    Margin of Victory Score: 12.05 (6,061-4,856)

    Final Score: 30.63

    Oklahoma State didn't have a spectacular run through the BCS, but it certainly took advantage of the Big 12's buying power on the recruiting trail. Justin Blackmon was one of the best wide receivers in recent memory, and he carried the Cowboys all the way to a 2012 Fiesta Bowl win over Stanford.

    The 'Pokes have yet to be a consistent contender at the top of their conference, but times are changing. For the most part, the conference is rebuilding in 2013. That won't help OSU climb up this particular list, but it can help them nab an upper-tier slot during the first playoff era.

24. Penn State Nittany Lions

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    BCS Games Score: 10 (1-1 BCS)

    Conference Title Score: 0

    Win/Loss Record Score: 6.45 (120-66)

    Margin of Victory Score: 16.86 (4,980-3,294)

    Final Score: 33.31

    Penn State earned this spot by playing consistently good football for most of the past 15 seasons. The Lions won almost two out of every three games they played since 1998.

    If the 2012 season was any indication, the Lions will be around for a long time to come. Fans just have to wait a few more years to see them after rivalry weekend.

23. Stanford Cardinal

4 of 26

    BCS Games Score: 20 (2-2 BCS)

    Conference Title Score: 10 (Two outright)

    Win/Loss Record Score: 5.2 (93-86)

    Margin of Victory Score: 1.25 (4,859-4,734)

    Final Score: 36.45

    Lately, Stanford has become the most SEC-style team in the Pac-12. The Cardinal are a bruising, crushing force on both sides of the ball, and that brand of football has put them back near the top of the conference.

    Sadly for the Cardinal, the entire BCS era didn't play out like the later years did. Fortunately, college football isn't going anywhere. The Cardinal can succeed as long as they like, they just won't have the "BCS" tag anymore.

22. Tennessee Volunteers

5 of 26

    BCS Games Score: 12.5 (1-0 NCG) (0-1 BCS)

    Conference Title Score: 5 (One outright)

    Win/Loss Record Score: 8.92 (122-68 and one undefeated season)

    Margin of Victory Score: 12.64 (5,232-3,968)

    Final Score: 39.06

    Tennessee kicked the era off by winning the 1998 season's national title. That would be the first and last BCS bowl that the Volunteers would win. Tennessee is a strong program with a lot of history, so the Vols were not completely hopeless.

    Despite enduring the Lane Kiffin/Derek Dooley debacles for the last 25 percent of the period, you still have a solid finish here for Tennessee. If Butch Jones turns things around quickly, the Vols could start the next generation on the right foot, too.

    Just don't expect a 2014 national title. It could happen, but the odds are low.

21. Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    BCS Games Score: 12.5 (0-1 NCG) (1-0 BCS)

    Conference Title Score: 5 (One outright)

    Win/Loss Record Score: 6.87 (134-61)

    Margin of Victory Score: 20.38 (6,063-4,025)

    Final Score: 44.75

    The Cornhuskers moved from the Big 12 to the Big Ten during the BCS era, and that hasn't really helped or hurt them at this point. The 'Huskers have a winning percentage of 68.7 over the past 15 years, and that's good enough to keep them in the "familiar face" category during bowl season.

    Nebraska is yet another expected addition to this list. Nebraska's fanbase just wishes that the BCS would have come in the mid-90s. That way they could count one of the most legendary four-year college football periods toward this piece.

20. Louisville Cardinals

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    BCS Games Score: 15 (2-0 BCS)

    Conference Title Score: 10 (One outright and two shared)

    Win/Loss Record Score: 6.52 (122-65)

    Margin of Victory Score: 15.45 (6,062-4,517)

    Final Score: 46.97

    Louisville has struggled a bit over the years, but they always seem to come back before they're written off as lost for good. The 2012 season is a prime example of that, as the Cardinals took down a highly ranked SEC squad in the Sugar Bowl.

    Louisville will definitely improve its score this next season. If the Cardinals land in a BCS bowl again, they will definitely pass the No. 19 team on here.

19. Auburn Tigers

8 of 26

    BCS Games Score: 17.5 (1-0 NCG) (1-0 BCS)

    Conference Title Score: 10 (Two outright)

    Win/Loss Record Score: 11.44 (121-67 and two undefeated seasons)

    Margin of Victory Score: 10.72 (4,851-3,779)

    Final Score: 49.66

    Auburn has two undefeated seasons with two SEC titles to ride along with them. Noticeably, the Tigers do not have a second national championship appearance. They definitely made the most of the hand they were dealt, and they are one of the few BCS-AQ teams on the list that can boast a perfect record in bowl games.

    Auburn's biggest area for improvement is the margin of victory, but Tigers fans would just like to get the victories first. They'll worry about margin later.

18. Georgia Bulldogs

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    BCS Games Score: 17.5 (2-1 BCS)

    Conference Title Score: 10 (Two outright)

    Win/Loss Record Score: 7.37 (143-51)

    Margin of Victory Score: 19.75 (5,726-3,751)

    Final Score: 54.62

    Georgia is yet another team on this list who has started to come back to prominence at the end of the age. The Bulldogs have been to the last two SEC title games, and they are getting closer to victory at each visit.

    If they can make it back this season, there's a good chance they'll add to every one of their scores. If they tack a national championship onto the end of the season, they could jump up as high as No. 13 in this scoring system.

17. Michigan Wolverines

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    BCS Games Score: 22.5 (2-3 BCS)

    Conference Title Score: 12.5 (One outright and three shared)

    Win/Loss Record Score: 6.76 (127-61)

    Margin of Victory Score: 15.34 (5,521-3,987)

    Final Score: 57.1

    Love them or hate them, the Michigan Wolverines have made it to five BCS bowls in 15 opportunities. Michigan is a steady winner no matter what the trend in college football is, and they proved themselves yet again through the BCS era.

    The Wolverines may not have captured any national titles in the past decade, but they were steadily showing up in the games that mattered.

16. West Virginia Mountaineers

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    BCS Games Score: 22.5 (3-0 BCS)

    Conference Title Score: 17.5 (One outright and five shared)

    Win/Loss Record Score: 6.63 (124-63)

    Margin of Victory Score: 15.11 (5,742-4,231)

    Final Score: 61.74

    West Virginia is the king of the shared conference title. No team on this list even tied the Mountaineers' five shared titles. They also have a perfect 3-0 record in BCS bowl games over the years, including the 70-33 dismantling of the Clemson Tigers in the 2012 Orange Bowl.

    West Virginia can improve their scoring margin, even with Geno Smith's fantastic aerial support moving on to the NFL. All they need now is a defense.

15. Utah Utes

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    BCS Games Score: 15 (2-0 BCS)

    Conference Title Score: 17.5 (Three outright and one shared)

    Win/Loss Record Score: 11.83 (125-58 and two undefeated seasons)

    Margin of Victory Score: 18.22 (5,393-3,571)

    Final Score: 62.55

    Utah was the leader of the WAC there for a good bit, and the Utes had a legitimate argument for a national championship appearance back in 2008. While others looked at them with severe disdain, Alabama proceeded to hand them the perfect ammunition.

    The Tide fell victim to a team that simply showed up and refused to lose, and Utah finished the season 13-0 with a victory over the SEC Championship loser. Utah's success is currently masked by the fact that they moved to the Pac-12, but they will start winning again before too long.

14. TCU Horned Frogs

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    BCS Games Score: 10 (1-1 BCS)

    Conference Title Score: 20 (Four outright)

    Win/Loss Record Score: 10.09 (142-45 and one undefeated season)

    Margin of Victory Score: 25.28 (5,892-3,364)

    Final Score: 65.37

    TCU is the opposite of West Virginia. The Horned Frogs don't share titles well, and it's because they simply take them whenever they want. Well, that was true before the move to the Big 12. Now they'll have to work a little harder until the recruiting game starts swinging their way.

    The Frogs had the seventh-highest score in "Win/Loss Record," and that was simply due to the fact that they were playing a different level of football than the members of their old conference. TCU consistently won year-in and year-out in the Mountain West, and that scored them a spot right here.

    Due mostly to TCU and Boise State, the annual "BCS buster" has been the highlight of many late-season conversations and headlines.

13. Wisconsin Badgers

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    BCS Games Score: 22.5 (2-3 BCS)

    Conference Title Score: 17.5 (Three outright and one shared)

    Win/Loss Record Score: 7.06 (137-57)

    Margin of Victory Score: 20.50 (5,901-3,851)

    Final Score: 67.56

    Wisconsin came out of nowhere to earn a top-15 slot here. The Badgers scored 15 of their 17.5 conference-title points by three-peating for the Big Ten title. That also put them right in the middle of the Rose Bowl each of last three years.

    The Badgers are still aiming to come home with the Rose Bowl trophy, but a fourth trip in a row would be a sight to behold, win or lose.

12. Miami Hurricanes

15 of 26

    BCS Games Score: 30 (1-1 NCG) (2-0 BCS)

    Conference Title Score: 17.5 (Three outright and one shared)

    Win/Loss Record Score: 9.45 (130-57 and one undefeated season)

    Margin of Victory Score: 21.52 (5,754-3,602)

    Final Score: 78.47

    Miami's legendary 2001 squad was a part of the BCS era, and they put a lot of points on this scoreboard. The Hurricanes split national title games, but the other BCS bowls they went to were both wins.

    The Hurricanes have seen a lot of success and a lot of failure over the past 15 years, but a new time of success is on the horizon. Look for them in the ACC title game at the end of 2013. Dark-horse bid or not, they have a lot of talent on their roster.

11. Alabama Crimson Tide

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    BCS Games Score: 35 (3-0 NCG) (0-2 BCS)

    Conference Title Score: 15 (Three outright)

    Win/Loss Record Score: 9.32 (131-61 and one undefeated season)

    Margin of Victory Score: 21.33 (5,341-3.208)

    Final Score: 80.65

    Alabama has made the comeback of the century (it's only 2013), but that still can't bring the Tide all the way up to the top of this list. The era was well over a decade long before Alabama started winning again.

    While Nick Saban can't fix the past, he has definitely built the dynasty of the future in his short tenure. If Alabama hadn't been through so many terrible coaches (and sanctions), the Tide could have been a lot higher.

10. Texas Longhorns

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    BCS Games Score: 30 (1-1 NCG) (2-0 BCS)

    Conference Title Score: 10 (Two outright)

    Win/Loss Record Score: 10.28 (151-43 and one undefeated season)

    Margin of Victory Score: 30.72 (7,052-3,980)

    Final Score: 81

    Yes, Texas lost head-to-head against Alabama back in the 2010 title game, but the Longhorns enjoy a 0.35-point lead over the Crimson Tide right now. The 2013 season could make all the difference, but it isn't difficult to see that Texas might just make that impossible.

    The Longhorns will contend for their third conference title, and there is an outside shot at a rematch of the 2010 BCS National Championship Game to end the era.

    The Longhorns have been traditionally successful, and the BCS system definitely didn't hold them back. With some focus and drive, the 'Horns could move up three more spots at the end of 2013.

9. Oregon Ducks

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    BCS Games Score: 30 (0-1 NCG) (3-1 BCS)

    Conference Title Score: 22.5 (Four outright and one shared)

    Win/Loss Record Score: 7.41 (140-49)

    Margin of Victory Score: 23.22 (6,846-4,524)

    Final Score: 83.13

    Oregon has risen to new heights of success. It all happened under head coach Chip Kelly and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich. Oregon has owned the Pac-12 for the past few seasons. Even when the Ducks managed to find a way to stay out of the conference title game, they still were selected for a top-tier bowl.

    The win-loss ratio is going to go up for the next few seasons, but nothing will ever erase the fact that Oregon wasn't doing much before Kelly got there. Oregon is comfortably in the top 10, but the Ducks could really use a national title to secure themselves here.

8. Virginia Tech Hokies

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    BCS Games Score: 22.5 (0-1 NCG) (1-4 BCS)

    Conference Title Score: 25 (Five outright)

    Win/Loss Record Score: 7.55 (148-48)

    Margin of Victory Score: 28.44 (6,073-3,229)

    Final Score: 83.49

    Frank Beamer did nothing but win in the ACC up until 2012. The Hokies had an uncharacteristically terrible season that ended in heartache. For the first time in a long time, they weren't really in contention for the ACC title.

    Virginia Tech was mostly consistent for the past 15 years, and they won their way to No. 8. If Logan Thomas can find his talent again in 2013, Hokies fans can write 2012 off as an unfortunate accident. If not, don't expect the Hokies to stay this high on the list.

7. LSU Tigers

20 of 26

    BCS Games Score: 40 (2-1 NCG) (2-0 BCS)

    Conference Title Score: 20 (Four outright)

    Win/Loss Record Score: 7.29 (140-52)

    Margin of Victory Score: 23.57 (5,760-3,403)

    Final Score: 90.86

    Nick Saban built a monster at LSU, and the Tigers turned around and hired another builder of monsters. As a result of this unusually successful run of coaches in Death Valley, LSU has maintained its position near the top of the SEC for a decade.

    The Tigers have four SEC titles, two national titles and a winning percentage over 70 to show for their efforts over the past 15 seasons. On top of that, they are 4-1 in BCS games with the only loss coming in the national championship rematch against Alabama in 2012.

    So far, LSU has proven itself nearly unbeatable at the summit of college football, and that's deserving of a spot just outside the top five.

6. Florida Gators

21 of 26

    BCS Games Score: 47.5 (2-0 NCG) (3-2 BCS)

    Conference Title Score: 15 (Three outright)

    Win/Loss Record Score: 7.47 (145-49)

    Margin of Victory Score: 28.44 (6,324-3,480)

    Final Score: 98.41

    The Florida Gators come in at No. 6 on the list by virtue of the Urban Meyer reign. The Gators had everything they needed to dismantle almost any team in the SEC while he was there. However, that doesn't cover the entire span of the BCS.

    Florida racked up an almost 75-percent win ratio over the past 15 years, and they came within 650 points of doubling their opponents' combined scores in the process. The Gators didn't do too badly this past season, either.

    If 2013 is anything like the rest of the era, Florida might be in for a third BCS title.

5. Florida State Seminoles

22 of 26

    BCS Games Score: 35 (1-2 NCG) (1-3 BCS)

    Conference Title Score: 32.5 (Six outright and one shared)

    Win/Loss Record Score: 9.46 (128-56 and one undefeated season)

    Margin of Victory Score: 24.84 (6,114-3,630)

    Final Score: 101.8

    Florida State capitalized on the BCS era by recruiting and developing some exceptional talent. The Seminoles rode that coaching success to six outright conference titles, one national championship and a total of seven appearances in the BCS postseason.

    While Florida State's overall record is impressive, its BCS bowl record is not. A 2-5 mark is not what you're shooting for when you're being invited to a major bowl roughly every other season.

4. Boise State Broncos

23 of 26

    BCS Games Score: 15 (2-0 BCS)

    Conference Title Score: 37.5 (Six outright and three shared)

    Win/Loss Record Score: 13.49 (163-29 and two undefeated seasons)

    Margin of Victory Score: 37.86 (7,573-3,787)

    Final Score: 103.85

    Boise State was one of the smaller schools that provoked controversy simply by posting ludicrous margins of victory every week. What Boise State did was win consistently enough that they could no longer be denied an opportunity to play in a BCS bowl.

    The Broncos responded by backing up their attitude. It's one thing to claim that you deserve a chance, but things can get out of hand quickly if you don't perform at your best when game day comes. Boise simply won every BCS game it played.

    Conference titles, twice the points of its opponents over the past 15 years and nine combined conference titles pushed Boise into the national spotlight. Winning when they got there is what has the Broncos respected by every team across the country at all times.

3. USC Trojans

24 of 26

    BCS Games Score: 52.5 (1-1 NCG) (5-1 BCS)

    Conference Title Score: 27.5 (Four outright and three shared)

    Win/Loss Record Score: 9.85 (139-50 and one undefeated season)

    Margin of Victory Score: 26.56 (6,390-3,734)

    Final Score: 116.41

    USC has seven combined conference titles, one perfect season and a national championship. Those aren't the most impressive factors, though. The Trojans scored a mighty 52.5 by going 6-2 overall in BCS games.

    Yes, a national championship was vacated, but it doesn't really matter. Even subtracting the points gained from that season, USC still would have been in the top five here. The Trojans have been a force in the Pac-12 for decades, and the BCS era was no exception.

2. Oklahoma Sooners

25 of 26

    BCS Games Score: 45 (1-3 NCG) (2-2 BCS)

    Conference Title Score: 37.5 (Seven outright and one shared)

    Win/Loss Record Score: 10.32 (154-43 and one undefeated season)

    Margin of Victory Score: 33.03 (6,998-3,695)

    Final Score: 125.85

    One national championship, eight BCS appearances, eight combined conference titles and almost a 4:1 win-to-loss ratio has put Oklahoma solidly in the top two programs of the era. The Sooners are incredibly successful, and these stats prove it beyond any doubt.

    The Sooners are the cream of the Big 12 crop, and the BCS era was almost as kind to them as was humanly possible. There is only one team that scored better than Oklahoma, and the margin was a scant 0.92 points.

1. Ohio State Buckeyes

26 of 26

    BCS Games Score: 60 (1-2 NCG) (5-1 BCS)

    Conference Title Score: 30 (Five outright and two shared)

    Win/Loss Record Score: 11.63 (149-40 and 1.5 undefeated seasons as discussed in the intro)

    Margin of Victory Score: 25.14 (5,634-3,120)

    Final Score: 126.77

    Even with the ding to Ohio State's score due to not playing in a bowl game after the 2012 regular season, the Buckeyes came out on top. Yes, it was a narrow victory, but last year's schedule was full of narrow victories for the Buckeyes.

    They're used to it by now. What wasn't narrow was the BCS score. USC came in second in that category with 52.5 points, and that made all the difference. Ohio State may not have as many national titles as others on this list, but it's the most successful program of the era.

    That 5-1 record in non-championship BCS games crushed a lot of the competition. That category alone was worth almost half the Buckeyes' final score.

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