College Football's 10 Most Successful Postseason Programs of All-Time
Bowl wins, bowl appearances, bowl winning percentage, disputed national championships: It's not easy to sort through, especially in the early 20th century, when the system for crowning a champion was even murkier than it is today.
Some teams claim a certain number of championships while also noting other years where a certain poll thought they were worthy.
Other teams claim championships for any year in which any poll claimed them No. 1, while others still dispute some of their titles.
National championships played a significant role in determining this list. After all, isn't that the ultimate goal? But that was not the determining factor considering how muddled that topic can get.
It's sometimes unclear who is deserving while sorting through the mess, but one thing is certain: These are the top 10 bowl programs of all time.
Honorable Mention: Texas Longhorns
It's hard not to put Texas in the top 10. With 25 bowl victories, good enough for seventh all-time, and anywhere from four to 15 national titles (depending who you believe), it would seem the Longhorns are a lock to be on this list.
Alas, the downfall of Texas is the number of bowl games it has played in (49, second most all-time), which drops its winning percentage down to a pedestrian .510, well below most teams on the list.
While it's commendable that the Horns were able to make it to 49 bowl games, this is about success in those games, not sheer number of appearances.
The era of dominance for the Longhorns was the 1960s, winning two national championships in 1963 and 1969, while 1961 and 1968 were potential championship seasons not recognized by Texas or the NCAA.
No. 10: Tennessee Volunteers
I've always hated those abhorrently orange checkerboard end zones, but Tennessee still deserves to be on this list.
The university claims six national titles, although four were not recognized by the AP or Coaches (1938, 1940, 1950, and 1967) and three came after losses in their bowl game (1940, 1951, and 1967).
Not having been alive for any of that, it's hard to make a judgment, but it seems the only uncontested national championship was in 1998.
Despite all of that, though, the Vols have posted 25 bowl wins in 48 tries, good enough for a .521 winning percentage and No. 10 on the list.
No. 9: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
From 1916 through 1952, Georgia Tech was a force to be reckoned with in college football.
John Heisman graced the sidelines for the Yellow Jackets in the early 1900s and coached the team to the most lopsided victory ever in college football, a 222-0 thrashing of Cumberland.
But I digress. Tech has four national championships: 1917, 1928, 1952, and 1990. Overall they are 22 of 38 in bowl games for a winning percentage of .579.
Their era of dominance was the early half of the 20th century, coached by Heisman and shortly thereafter William Alexander.
No. 8: Miami Hurricanes
Miami has won 18 bowl games, playing in 33, good enough for a .545 winning percentage.
Perhaps known more for their swagger than their actual success, Miami backed up the talk in the late '80s and early '90s, winning four championships in 1983, 1987, 1989, and 1991 while losing to Penn State in the 1986 national championship, which forever changed college football.
Adding to that success, the Hurricanes experienced a resurgence in the early 2000s, winning the title in 2001. Another dramatic loss to Ohio State the next year triggered a stumble, leaving many Miami fans wondering, what if that pass interference flag was never thrown?
No. 7: Florida State Seminoles
Florida State has endured many hardships over the years, especially to our No. 8 team (wide right anyone?). But they've had their fair share of success in bowl games.
They've won 22 of 38 bowl games for a .579 winning percentage. Bobby Bowden finally won his national championship in 1993 and then again in 1999.
From 1987 through 2000, the Seminoles seemed unstoppable, winning at least 10 games and finishing in the top five every single year. They won 11 bowl games and both of their national championships during that span.
That is unprecedented and alone puts them on this list.
No. 6: Nebraska Cornhuskers
The Big Ten will be welcoming in the No. 6 bowl program of all time in 2011. They have won 24 of 46 bowl games for a .522 winning percentage, admittedly a tad low for this ranking.
But the Huskers have been at the front of the bowl landscape for the past 40 years. Add to that five (according to Penn State fans, four) national championships in 1970, 1971, 1994, 1995, and 1997.
Obviously, Nebraska was most dominant in the mid-'90s, winning three out of four, although they split with Michigan in 1997 and SHOULD have split with Penn State in 1994.
I know, I know—sour grapes much?
No. 5: Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia officially won two national championships, one in 1942 and one in 1980 led by Herschel Walker. Other potential championship years not recognized by the university were 1927, 1946, and 1968.
All-time the Bulldogs have won 26 of 45 bowl games for a .577 winning percentage.
There is no doubt they were most feared during the years Walker graced the campus, although they only managed one championship during his time there.
No. 4: Oklahoma Sooners
The Sooners have the third highest bowl winning percentage of all time, .581. They've won the fifth most games (25) while appearing in the seventh most games (43).
They've won seven official national championships (1950, 1955, 1956, 1974, 1975, 1985, and 2000) while being credited with a few more not recognized by the university or the NCAA.
The most dominant era for Oklahoma would be the mid to late 1970s under Barry Switzer's wishbone offense.
No. 3: Penn State Nittany Lions
It's hard to beat Joe Paterno in a bowl game, and almost all of Penn State's bowl success can be contributed to him.
His bowl record is 24-11-1, accounting for all but three Penn State bowl victories. Joe has also been on the sidelines for over 55 percent of all games that the Nittany Lions have EVER played, dating back to 1886.
Twenty-seven wins in 42 tries is good for a .643 winning percentage, second or first all-time depending on a few NCAA rulings.
The Nits have won only two official national championships (1982, 1986) but have been credited with up to seven depending on how you interpret the 1911, 1912, 1968, 1969, and 1994 seasons.
The most dominant era for the Lions would be the '80s, winning seven bowl games and two of three national title opportunities.
No. 2: Alabama Crimson Tide
Things get extremely complicated with our top two teams, and it's not easy to separate them.
What hurts Alabama is the astounding number of bowl games they've played in (57), which dwarfs the No. 1 team by nine games despite having the same number of wins.
They have eight national championships according to the AP while claiming five others from various sources that have been used to determine a champion at one time or another.
But despite being tied for the most bowl wins (31*) and most agreeing they have the most national championships, the Tide have just a .544 winning percentage, only good enough for seventh best on the list.
*Alabama did win the 2006 Cotton Bowl but vacated the victory due to NCAA probation.
No. 1: USC Trojans
It's hard to ignore the sins of the USC program over the past few years. But even without the past few years, the Trojans could make a case for No. 1.
They've won 31* bowl games in 48 tries. That's the same number of wins as Alabama in nine fewer games, a winning percentage of .646, which is first all-time.
USC claims 11 national championships, though most were not given by the AP and were after Rose Bowl victories in their own backyard.
*The Trojans did win the 2005 Orange Bowl, but that victory has since been vacated.
Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan?
You might have noticed the absence of three of the most storied programs in college football history.
While they account for anywhere from 23 to 32 national championships between them, they all have sub-.500 records in bowl games—nowhere near adequate enough for this list.