How Much Does Your College Football Team Matter?
Alabama and Clemson have fought each other for college football's national championship in each of the last two seasons, but how much do those programs actually matter compared to every other FBS school?
Using a combination of formulas explained in detail on the following slide, we have ranked all 130 FBS programs based on national relevance. On-field success was 40 percent of the equation, but it's also crucial to recruit well, attract fans and produce NFL-ready talent in order to make a real impact on the national landscape.
It should come as no surprise that the SEC dominated this research project, with seven teams in the top 15. The ACC and Big Ten have given the SEC a run for its money on the field in recent years, but after taking more than a century's worth of data under consideration, no other conference even comes close.
Based on how it stacked up against everyone else, each program was given a score from 1-130 in five different categories. (130 for first place; 1 for last place.) Those five scores were then added together for an overall score^ between five and 650, listed in ascending order on the following slides. Here is how those rankings were meticulously calculated:
A ranking of how well the teams performed on the field (while playing at the FBS level) from 2001-16. Because of the independent schools, it wouldn't have been fair to factor conference championships into the equation. But this formula rewards teams for winning games, playing in bowls and having players who've competed for the Heisman. (Translation: Being nationally relevant.)
[(Bowl appearances + Bowl wins) * overall winning percentage] + (2 * national championships^^) + (2 * Heisman winners)
Same formula as Recent History, but covering everything from before 2001. Prior to the BCS era, points for national championships were rewarded to the team the Associated Press voted as champ.
The point in splitting up on-field success into two eras is twofold. First, it "penalizes" the teams that don't have a deep-rooted history, which is a key component of actually mattering. (12 programs received a 1 in this category, because they did not play any FBS games prior to 2001.) Second, it allows teams that used to be a lot better than they have been for the past 16 years—see: Notre Dame, Tennessee, Penn State, Ole Miss, etc.—to score some serious points in one category while still acknowledging that they haven't mattered as much lately.
Using Scout's team rankings from 2013-17, this is a measurement of how well each program has fared on the recruiting trail. After all, if you matter in college football, the best high school players should want to don your jersey. National ranks for the five years were added together and then sorted in ascending order.
Considering we're looking at how much these colleges matter to high schools, it's also worthwhile to measure how much they matter to the NFL. Using the NFL drafts from 2008-17, five points were rewarded for each first-round pick produced, three points for each second-round pick, two points for each third- or fourth-round pick and one point for each fifth-, sixth- or seventh-round pick. Once each school's player development points were calculated, they were ranked in descending order and given a score from 1-130.
It's one thing to win games and send guys to the NFL, but how many people are watching? This Fan Engagement score is a combination of average attendance at home games for the past five seasons and the number of followers^^^ on each team's official Twitter account. Yes, Michigan is at an unfair advantage here by having the biggest stadium in the country, but the teams with the most seats built that way because they knew they could fill them.
^There were a couple of ties in the overall score. Rank in Recent Success was used as the tiebreaker.
^^National championships were determined by AP poll. However, in 2003, the AP and BCS named different national champions, and we decided to count both LSU and USC as national champions for that season. But we didn't count USC's vacated title in 2004, so it kind of balanced out.
^^^Follower numbers for the purpose of ranking were captured on the morning of July 25, though any references in the text to a team's Twitter following is accurate through August 19. It should go without saying that this is the most fluid piece of data, so it was important to have a snapshot from the beginning of the exercise.
No. 130 Charlotte—No. 121 Massachusetts
130. Charlotte 49ers (28 points)
Charlotte had no football program—FBS or otherwise—until just a few years ago, so it's no surprise this is the only program that ranked in the bottom 10 in all five categories. The 49ers did produce a third-round draft pick (Larry Ogunjobi) this year, though, so this score is better than it would have been 12 months ago.
129. Georgia State Panthers (33 points)
Georgia State hasn't been around much longer than Charlotte and has a 10-39 record during that time—though it did manage to qualify for a bowl game in 2015.
128. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (40 points)
It's rather embarrassing for Charlotte and Georgia State to be ranked behind a team that has yet to play a game at the FBS level, but Coastal Carolina put out some strong NFL prospects in its FCS days, including 2008 second-round draft pick Jerome Simpson.
127. Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks (51 points)
The Warhawks have been around for a while, but they haven't done much. They have played in just one bowl game in 30 years and produced just one fifth-round draft pick in the past decade.
126. New Mexico State Aggies (66 points)
Dating back to 2005, no team has suffered more losses than New Mexico State (31-116). But ancient history saved the Aggies from landing at the bottom of the barrel, as they had a solid run under Warren Woodson from 1959-67, including an 11-0 season in 1960.
125. Akron Zips (67 points)
124. Kent State Golden Flashes (70 points)
Kent State's recruiting has just been marginally better than Akron's, and both MAC schools finished in the bottom 10 nationally in fan engagement. A handful of mid-to-late-round draft picks were the only thing keeping the Golden Flashes from falling even lower than this.
123. Eastern Michigan Eagles (72 points)
Lather, rinse and repeat for more MACtion. In addition to recruiting poorly and barely drawing in more fans than a high school game outside of Texas, Eastern Michigan's play has been troubling. The Eagles soared to a 7-6 record in 2016, but they were a combined 7-41 from 2012-15.
122. South Alabama Jaguars (72 points)
South Alabama is entering just its sixth season as a FBS program, but it has both played and recruited surprisingly well, given that lack of history.
121. Massachusetts Minutemen (77 points)
Because Massachusetts had a football program from 1882-1906, it received 20 points in the ancient history category. Recent success is another story, though, as the Minutemen are 10-50 since returning to the FBS in 2012.
No. 120 Texas State—No. 111 Georgia Southern
120. Texas State Bobcats (78 points)
Just like South Alabama, Texas State is recruiting at an impressive clip for a program only entering its sixth season at the FBS level. That isn't to say the Bobcats are stealing guys away from the various Power Five schools in the state, but they have put together top-100 classes in four of the last five years.
119. Idaho Vandals (92 points)
Idaho scored one point in fan engagement and just two points in recruiting pull, yet it managed to avoid a spot in the bottom 10. The Vandals can thank their 1998 Humanitarian Bowl win for a respectable ancient history score and 2010 first-round draft pick Mike Iupati for an even better player development score.
118. Old Dominion Monarchs (92 points)
For a program with no ancient history and no players drafted in the past decade, Old Dominion has an incredible fanbase. The Monarchs average better than 20,000 attendees per home game, and their official Twitter account has more followers than those of five ACC schools (Boston College, Duke, Georgia Tech, Syracuse and Wake Forest).
117. Florida International Panthers (93 points)
There's not a lot to report on the FIU front, but third-round draft picks T.Y. Hilton and Jonnu Smith were a big boost to this score. The Panthers also fared relatively well in recent success, with back-to-back bowl appearances in 2010-11.
116. UTSA Roadrunners (96 points)
Like Old Dominion, UTSA crushed it in fan engagement, scoring more than half of its overall points from ticket sales and social media presence. Despite just five years of FBS experience, the Roadrunners have an average attendance figure (26,412) that's better than nearly 50 other programs.
115. Buffalo Bulls (103 points)
The first team we've encountered that didn't rank in the bottom 10 in any category, Buffalo is just a little better than awful in four of the five realms researched. The Bulls have great player development, though, producing eight draft picks in the past decade, including 2014 No. 5 overall pick Khalil Mack.
114. North Texas Mean Green (104 points)
The Mean Green haven't had a single player drafted in the past decade, but not for lack of trying. They have played in six bowl games since 2001, earning at least a share of four Sun Belt regular-season titles during that time.
113. UAB Blazers (105 points)
In a roundabout way, not having a football program in 2015 or 2016 helped UAB in this exercise. For starters, its winning percentage didn't get any worse for those two years. The bigger reason, though, is it forced the Blazers to sign 41 recruits in 2016 to put together a roster for the upcoming season. That class ranked 71st nationally, which was their highest-ranked class since 2006 and the biggest reason they finished ahead of the bottom 17 programs.
112. UNLV Rebels (108 points)
For the most part, UNLV's past 16 seasons have fallen somewhere between disappointing and brutal, but the Rebels won a few bowl games prior to 2001 and scored well in ancient history—despite forfeiting all 11 wins from the best season (1984) in school history.
111. Georgia Southern Eagles (113 points)
Georgia Southern has only been competing at the FBS level for three years, but it has played well during that time and brought a lot of support with it from the FCS. Though they weren't factored into this equation, the Eagles won six national championships from 1985-2000.
No. 110 Florida Atlantic—No. 101 Rice
110. Florida Atlantic Owls (129 points)
The hiring of Lane Kiffin did not play a direct part in this ranking, but you can already see its impact in FAU's recruiting. The Owls had the nation's 68th-best class in 2017—best in Conference USA and its best in the past five years. And this team has already had some success on the player development front, with three third-round draft picks since 2011.
109. Ball State Cardinals (132 points)
Ball State is 0-7 all-time in bowl games, but by playing in that many postseasons and putting together an overall record one game over .500, (240-239), it scored higher than nearly two dozen other programs.
108. UTEP Miners (135 points)
It has been 50 years since UTEP won a bowl game, but this was a good team during the two decades after World War II. The Miners played in the Sun Bowl seven times in 20 years, with a 5-2 record. But that has done nothing for their current state of recruiting. Only Coastal Carolina and Idaho have done a worse job of pulling in high school talent over the last five years.
107. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (151 points)
Ancient history did MTSU no favors, as the Blue Raiders only became an FBS program in 1999. But this team has been solid, playing in bowl games in six of the last 11 seasons and consistently recruiting at an above-average level for a Group of Five program.
106. Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns (152 points)
From 2011-14, ULL reeled off four consecutive 9-4 seasons that ended with wins in the New Orleans Bowl. As a result, recent success is the Ragin' Cajuns' strong suit. But they had to slog through 38 straight seasons without a bowl game to get to that point, and they've only had a handful of players selected in the NFL draft.
105. Troy Trojans (159 points)
Troy made its FBS debut in 2001, so it was saddled with just one point in ancient history. But the Trojans steered clear of the bottom 25 by going 3-3 in bowl games, posting an overall record five games above .500 (100-95) and producing eight NFL draft picks, including 2008 first-rounder Leodis McKelvin and 2009 second-rounder Sherrod Martin.
104. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (162 points)
Like Troy, Western Kentucky is devoid of ancient history. It became an FBS team in 2007 and didn't amount to much until 2011. But over the past six years—all winning seasons—the Hilltoppers are 53-25 and have become the standard of excellence for high-octane offense, averaging at least 44 points per game in three straight seasons.
103. New Mexico Lobos (171 points)
New Mexico is the lowest-ranked team on the list to score at least a 27 in both recent success and ancient history. In fact, the Lobos put up a 46 and 48, respectively, despite an overall record dating back to 1931 that is 124 games below .500 (392-516-17). Playing in seven bowl games in the last 15 years and 12 overall was enough for them to approach an average rank in both categories.
102. Miami (Ohio) RedHawks (172 points)
From 1973-75, the RedHawks went 32-1-1 with three straight victories in the Tangerine Bowl (now the Citrus Bowl). They also went 13-1 in 2003. But their fan engagement score (20 points) keeps them just outside the top 100.
101. Rice Owls (173 points)
Rice has been playing college football for more than a century and has as many winless seasons as years with at least 10 victories (three of each). From 1964-91, the Owls finished .500 or worse in 28 consecutive seasons, but they made enough appearances in the Cotton Bowl, Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl in 1937-60 to put up a strong ancient history score.
No. 100 Appalachian State—No. 91 Western Michigan
100. Appalachian State Mountaineers (174 points)
Despite a 33-year hiatus from FBS and only 13 total seasons at this level, App State had a nice showing in this exercise. Fan engagement is strong, thanks in large part to three straight FCS championships from 2005-07. (As well as the famous 2007 upset of Michigan.) The Mountaineers also produced nine draft picks from 2008-13.
99. San Jose State Spartans (178 points)
SJSU's fan engagement is abysmal, but the on-field product isn't half bad. The Spartans have played and won three bowl games since 2006 and had a good run from 1978-92 featuring four other bowl appearances.
98. Arkansas State Red Wolves (179 points)
Despite an 11-0 record in 1975, Arkansas State has one of the worst ancient histories among teams that actually played FBS games prior to 2001. In 19 seasons, they failed to qualify for a bowl game—even in that undefeated season, somehow—and had an overall record of 79-128. But the Red Wolves finished in the top 100 in each of the other four categories.
97. Army Black Knights (180 points)
As will be the case with Navy and Air Force, it's more than a bit unfair to penalize Army for not doing a great job of recruiting high schoolers or producing draft picks while it prepares young men to serve our country. Regardless, the Black Knights received just six points each in recruiting pull and player development. But they did put up a 90 in ancient history—to this point, no other team has topped 64 in any category—because of two national championships and three Heisman winners.
96. Central Michigan Chippewas (184 points)
CMU has played in eight bowl games in the past 11 years, good for a solid 60 in recent success. But the Chippewas are nothing special in the other four categories—even though they produced 2013 No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher.
95. Ohio Bobcats (186 points)
Just like Central Michigan, Ohio fared well in recent success due to eight bowl games (2-6 record) in the last 11 years. But the Bobcats put forth unimpressive numbers in the other categories. That said, they have had eight players drafted in the past 10 years, including a few second- and third-rounders.
94. Wyoming Cowboys (189 points)
Wyoming played in 10 bowl games (four wins) prior to 2001, ranking well ahead of a lot of Power Five teams in the ancient history category. It's just too bad the really ancient history dragged the Cowboys down a bit. If we could pretend their 90-198 record from 1905-48 never happened, their overall score would have gone up another seven points.
93. Tulane Green Wave (191 points)
Here's some more ancient history: Tulane went 88-25-7 from 1928-39, partaking in one Rose Bowl and two Sugar Bowls. After an 11-0 regular season, the Green Wave played in the only bowl game in 1931, losing to USC with the national championship on the line. Quite the far cry from the team that has finished .500 or better just once in the last 14 years.
92. Bowling Green Falcons (193 points)
With eight bowl games and three other winning seasons in the last 16 years, BGSU scored better in recent success than any other team in the bottom 40. Unfortunately, going 115-86 since 2001 did little to nothing for its other categories. The Falcons have only had two players drafted in the past decade and have struggled to put butts in seats.
91. Western Michigan Broncos (217 points)
The 24-point gap between Western Michigan and Bowling Green is the widest in the rankings, making this a clear dividing point if we were to group teams into tiers. And the Broncos owe most of it to now-former head coach P.J. Fleck. Average attendance in 2016 was 63 percent higher than it was in 2012, and three of the program's four highest draft picks came in the last two years.
No. 90 Air Force—No. 81 Connecticut
90. Air Force Falcons (222 points)
Air Force has not had a player drafted since 1999, but this branch of the U.S. Military has had plenty of success on the football field. The Falcons have played in 26 bowl games in 61 seasons, nine of which have come in the past 10 years.
89. Utah State Aggies (225 points)
In Utah State's first 96 years of playing college football, it went 1-4 in bowl games and only twice (1960 and 1961) won more than eight games in a season. From 2012-14, the Aggies won 11, nine and 10 games, respectively, and won three consecutive bowl games. This isn't a stellar ranking, but it's a heck of a lot better than they would have fared if we had conducted this exercise in August 2011.
88. Northern Illinois Huskies (232 points)
Last year (5-7) wasn't their finest, but the Huskies had one of the best recent success scores among Group of Five programs. They have a winning percentage of 64.1 since 2001, with three victories in 10 bowl game appearances. From 2010-14, NIU won at least 11 games five straight times. Both Larry English (2009) and Jimmie Ward (2014) became first-round draft picks with the Huskies.
87. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (235 points)
Hawaii has neither a strong suit nor a major weakness, ranking in the top 100 in all five categories without landing in the top 60 of any. But the Hawaii Bowl has been good to the Rainbow Warriors. They are 4-3 in that game since 2002.
86. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (239 points)
With 10 wins in 21 bowl appearances, Tulsa scored better than the national average in both recent success and ancient history. But, evidently, no one has been paying attention. The Golden Hurricane are outside the top 100 in both average attendance and Twitter following, and they have produced just two (late-round) draft picks in the past decade.
85. Memphis Tigers (243 points)
From 1960-2002, Memphis played in just one bowl game, but winning the 1971 Pasadena Bowl was enough to give the Tigers an ancient history rank in the top 100. They had a score between 44-58 in each of the other four categories—better than most Group of Five programs, but not nearly good enough to make a real impact on this list.
84. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (243 points)
The last three years have been a godsend to Louisiana Tech's national relevance. The Bulldogs won bowl games in 2014, 2015 and 2016 and had six players drafted in 2016 and 2017 combined, including 2016 first-rounder Vernon Butler. Their numbers are still below the national average across the board, though.
83. Temple Owls (246 points)
Temple went 31-148 from 1991-2006, putting a real damper on both its recent and ancient winning percentages. But the Owls have done an impressive job with recruiting pull, fan engagement and player development for a program that has spent a total of 16 weeks in the AP poll in the past 69 seasons.
82. SMU Mustangs (251 points)
The death penalty handed down in 1987 crippled SMU for more than two decades. But the Mustangs weren't required to vacate any wins as a result of that recruiting scandal, so those four straight seasons with at least 10 wins counted nicely toward their ancient history score. Eight other bowl appearances prior to that string of dominance didn't hurt matters, either.
81. Connecticut Huskies (253 points)
Though the Huskies have yet to win more than nine games in a season in program history, they have been killing it in the NFL draft over the past decade. Notre Dame (38) is the only team from outside the Power Five conferences with more draft picks in the last 10 years than Connecticut (23).
No. 80 Duke—No. 71 Vanderbilt
80. Duke Blue Devils (260 points)
In basketball, Duke would be a lock for the top five. But in football, the Blue Devils are dead last in national relevance among the Power Five teams. Despite qualifying for a bowl game in four of the last five seasons, Duke has an all-time record 28 games below .500 and has only had four players drafted in the past decade.
79. Toledo Rockets (268 points)
Transitioning from the worst in the Power Five to the best in the MAC: Toledo has an all-time winning percentage of .593 and has won 10 bowl games in the last 50 years. From 1969-71, the Rockets won 35 consecutive games, which is the fifth-longest streak in FBS history and the longest streak of the past six decades.
78. Nevada Wolf Pack (272 points)
Actually winning bowl games has been a struggle, but the Wolf Pack have played in one in 10 of the last 12 years, resulting in a strong recent success score. Along with the next team on this list, Nevada was one of only six Group of Five teams to register at least 43 points in all five categories.
77. Colorado State Rams (273 points)
Colorado State has been playing college football for 11 decades, but the first eight did more harm than good for its score. From 1902-89, the Rams were 58 games below .500 and only played in one bowl game. From 1990-present, though, they're 24 games above .500 and have ended seasons with bowl games more often than not.
76. Marshall Thundering Herd (277 points)
Like Colorado State, Marshall would have fared better if we had ignored its early days. The Thundering Herd went 52-153 in their first 20 seasons and then dropped to the FCS level for 15 years. But they came back with a vengeance in 1997, winning 35 of their first 39 games and going 10-2 in bowl games in the past 20 years.
75. Kansas Jayhawks (280 points)
Kansas did have a few good years in the mid-2000s, but no current FBS team has been worse since 2010. The Jayhawks have averaged exactly two wins and 10 losses over the past seven years—including a pair of season-opening losses to FCS teams. Yet they bring in more than 33,000 fans per home game and have a Twitter following at least twice as large as 38 other programs.
74. San Diego State Aztecs (280 points)
It's a bit comical that Kansas and San Diego State are tied in total points, considering they could not be on more divergent trajectories of late. Since 2010, the Aztecs have played in seven consecutive bowl games, winning 11 games in each of the last two seasons. Because of that success, they have become a small factory for draft picks, producing 20 in the past decade.
73. Navy Midshipmen (281 points)
As previously mentioned, Navy is at a distinct disadvantage in these rankings, because its players are preparing for something other than a career in the NFL. Only two Midshipmen have been drafted since 1998, and their recruiting pull is the worst among our top 80 teams, by far. But they just keep winning, playing in bowl games in 13 of the last 14 seasons. In fact, Navy's recent success score is better than those of Michigan, Penn State, Tennessee and Notre Dame.
72. Iowa State Cyclones (287 points)
If nothing else, Iowa State's fans are loyal to a fault. Despite posting a sub-.500 record in each of the last six seasons, the Cyclones have had an average attendance of more than 54,000 people per home game dating back to 2012. During that same time, the Miami Hurricanes have only averaged 52,112 fans per game.
71. Vanderbilt Commodores (296 points)
It's a surprise to see a team from the SEC in the bottom half of the rankings, but Vanderbilt had the worst score in the conference in four of the five categories and edged out Kentucky by just one point in the fifth (player development). But the Commodores still recruit better than 83 other teams and have played in bowl games in four of the last eight years.
No. 70 Wake Forest—No. 61 Purdue
70. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (300 points)
In 109 years of program history, Wake Forest has played in just 11 bowl games with an all-time record 212 games below .500 (432-644-31). Suffice it to say, the Demon Deacons did not score well in recent or ancient history. They were only able to avoid posting the worst overall score among power conference teams because of respectable recruiting pull and player development, anchored by first-round picks Kevin Johnson and Aaron Curry in the latter category.
69. Washington State Cougars (301 points)
Mike Leach has made Washington State fun to watch, but do the Cougars really matter yet? It has been 13 years since they either started or finished a season in the AP Top 25, and they have won just four conference championships in their 97-year history.
68. Northwestern Wildcats (301 points)
There's a ton of football history at Northwestern, but most of it isn't worth mentioning. From 1892-1994, the Wildcats played 145 games below .500 and competed in a grand total of one bowl game (1948 Rose Bowl). But this has become a respectable program since then, as it has been recruiting well enough to consistently compete in the Big Ten.
67. Indiana Hoosiers (302 points)
It's hard to believe Indiana ranks this well, considering it has finished .500 or better only once in the past 22 years. But the Hoosiers have impressive fan engagement and recruiting pull for a team that doesn't win often.
66. Central Florida Knights (307 points)
Let's give it up for UCF's social media team, as the Knights have more than 100,000 followers on Twitter. No other Group of Five team is above 80,000, and there are Power Five teams that have fewer than 20,000 followers. There isn't much of an ancient history for a program that joined the FBS ranks in 1996, but UCF scored well in the other four categories—in spite of posting winless seasons in 2004 and 2015.
65. East Carolina Pirates (309 points)
Though it doesn't have any strong suits, East Carolina is solid across the board, scoring at least 55 points in all five categories. The Pirates have participated in 14 bowl games in the past 26 years and helped an unheralded recruit by the name of Chris Johnson find his first-round calling as CJ2K.
64. Southern Miss Golden Eagles (309 points)
From 1994-2011, Southern Miss finished 18 consecutive seasons with a winning record, but a combined 4-32 record from 2012-14 is largely to blame for its subpar fan engagement and recruiting pull. Still, with an 11-9 record in bowl games since 1980, the Golden Eagles have one of the highest relevance scores among Group of Five programs.
63. South Florida Bulls (327 points)
Like with UCF, there's minimal ancient history to consider here, as South Florida became an FBS program in 2000. But the Bulls scored at least 70 points in each of the other four categories. First-rounders Jason Pierre-Paul and Mike Jenkins are among the 18 players they have had drafted since 2008.
62. Cincinnati Bearcats (334 points)
Going 4-8 this past season was nothing special, but recent history had been kind to the Bearcats. They have played in 13 bowl games in the past 18 years and earned at least a share of the Big East regular-season title four times in a span of five years. With a 100 score in recent success, Cincinnati was the only team on this slide to hit triple digits in any category.
61. Purdue Boilermakers (338 points)
Purdue is 9-39 over the last four seasons and has not had a player selected in the first four rounds of the draft since 2013. The Boilermakers have won 10 or more games in a season just once (1979) in the program's 125-year history. But they somehow have an all-time record 42 games above .500 and have played in 17 bowl games. That was enough to finish in the top half of these rankings.
No. 60 Fresno State—No. 51 Oregon State
60. Fresno State Bulldogs (346 points)
Despite a 1-11 record last season, recent history was Fresno State's biggest strength. The Bulldogs have played in 12 bowl games in the last 16 years and would have checked in a couple of spots higher than this had they posted a better record than 4-8 in those contests.
59. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (348 points)
Rutgers ranked above the national average in every category except for ancient history—where it has, by far, the worst score among the power-conference teams. Though Scarlet Knights football dates back to 1869, they only played in (and lost) one bowl game prior to 2005. But at least they had a couple of undefeated seasons along the way.
58. Syracuse Orange (353 points)
The polar opposite of Rutgers, ancient history was the only category in which Syracuse was more than marginally above the national average. In addition to an 11-9 record in 20 bowl games before 2001, the Orange won the national championship in 1959 and had a Heisman winner in 1961 (Ernie Davis). As a result, a program that hasn't had a 10-win season since 2001 finished in the top 25 in one of our five categories and avoided finishing in the basement of power-conference teams.
57. Virginia Cavaliers (362 points)
Somehow, it's surprising that Virginia is simultaneously this high and this low. Though the Cavaliers have not fared well in the standings for the past dozen years, they've recruited well and have had 17 players drafted. However, it's tough to make up for a 114-year record slightly below .500 (562-567-37) with a few 5-star recruits and first-round picks.
56. Colorado Buffaloes (370 points)
Like Syracuse, Colorado crushed it in ancient history with a score of 110. Most of those points can be attributed to the Buffaloes going 78-15-4 while winning five bowl games from 1989-96. They also won the national championship in 1990 and had a Heisman winner in 1994 (Rashaan Salaam). Their overall pre-2001 winning percentage of 61.5 helped counterbalance their lamentable 41.6 winning percentage since then.
55. Illinois Fighting Illini (371 points)
Though Illinois has had trouble winning games for the past several decades, it has done a fine job of turning its players into draft-worthy assets. There have been five Fighting Illini selected in the first round in the last 10 years—Rashard Mendenhall, Vontae Davis, Corey Liuget, A.J. Jenkins and Whitney Mercilus—and a total of 23 players drafted. As a result, they had a better score in that category than teams like Boise State, Utah, TCU and Nebraska, which have been drastically better at producing wins.
54. Kansas State Wildcats (372 points)
Take out what Kansas State has accomplished over the last three decades with Bill Snyder as the head coach, and it is a sad state of affairs. Snyder has won 65.7 percent of his games, with 18 trips to bowl games. But in the other eight decades of program history, the Wildcats won 34.6 percent of games and made just two bowl appearances, scoring a combined total of 13 points in those two losses.
53. Houston Cougars (373 points)
The last two years under Tom Herman were great, but the Cougars have been solid for the last seven decades. They have an overall record 78 games above .500 and have played in 25 bowl games dating back to 1951. Despite better recent and ancient history scores than the power-conference programs directly ahead and behind, Houston's average marks in the other three categories kept it outside our top 50.
52. Kentucky Wildcats (386 points)
Kentucky has not finished above .500 in SEC play since 1977—for real, look it up—but not for lack of trying or support. The Wildcats ranked in the top 30 in both recruiting pull and fan engagement. Unfortunately, that still left them in 12th place among SEC teams in both categories, which explains why they haven't won more than eight games in a season since late in Ronald Reagan's first term as U.S. President.
51. Oregon State Beavers (387 points)
At long last, we have a program that is either at or above the national average in all five categories. However, as you can probably surmise from the fact that Oregon State still isn't in the top 50, it did not exceed those plateaus by much. But thanks to 1962 Heisman winner Terry Baker—ancient history was their weakest category—at least the Beavers had a respectable showing across the board.
No. 50 Arizona—No. 41 North Carolina State
50. Arizona Wildcats (392 points)
For a program with no national championships, no Heisman winners and a sub-.500 record over the past 16 years, Arizona has an impressive following. The Wildcats ranked in the top 45 in both Twitter followers and average attendance for the past five years. They also ranked in the top 45 in recruiting pull, otherwise known as the Rich Rodriguez effect.
49. Boston College Eagles (394 points)
While the 2010s haven't been kind to Boston College (overall record of 37-51), recent history was easily its top category. That's because the Eagles won seven consecutive bowl games from 2001-07 and put together an overall record 46 games above .500 (81-35) from 2001-09. Player development also helped BC's score, thanks to top-10 picks Matt Ryan, B.J. Raji and Luke Kuechly.
48. Minnesota Golden Gophers (399 points)
It's a shame for Minnesota that it wasn't until the mid-1930s that there were multiple bowl games and an AP poll to declare national champions, because the Golden Gophers dominated the early decades of college football. From 1892-1935, they went 253-77-25 with 11 undefeated seasons. Though none of those years counted toward their championship total, they still won four AP titles from 1936-60 and had a strong score in ancient history.
47. Boise State Broncos (401 points)
The top seven teams in recent history score have each had at least two combined national championships and Heisman winners. Boise State finished at No. 8 in the category without any titles or Heismans, thanks to the highest overall winning percentage dating back to 2001 (84.2 percent). The Broncos were also one of just 13 teams to appear in at least 15 bowl games in the last 16 years. But an "ancient" history that only dates back to 1996 limited their ceiling.
46. Maryland Terrapins (406 points)
Maryland had a respectable score in all five categories, faring best in recruiting thanks to a top-20 class in 2017. But what's most interesting about the history of the Terrapins is that they were named the 1953 national champions despite losing to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. Now we have two postseason games to determine a champ, but it used to be that the No. 1 team in the final AP poll of the regular season was crowned the champion, regardless of bowl result. How quaint!
45. California Golden Bears (424 points)
California scored at least 73 points in each of the five categories, but its gold mine was player development. 2016 No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff was just the tip of the iceberg, as the Golden Bears have produced five first-rounders and 35 total draft picks since 2008. Not bad for a program that hasn't had a 10-win season in more than a decade.
44. BYU Cougars (427 points)
BYU's recruiting pull and player development has only been so-so, but the Cougars sure do win a lot of games in spite of that. They won a national championship in 1984 and had a Heisman winner (Ty Detmer) in 1990. With an all-time record 158 games above .500, they were one of just 15 teams to score at least 104 points in both recent and ancient history. Unless you count Notre Dame, BYU is our highest-ranked program from outside the power conferences.
43. Texas Tech Red Raiders (447 points)
Every team in the overall top 42 finished in the top 50 in player development, but a score of just 65 in that category hurt Texas Tech. Producing 2017 No. 10 overall pick Patrick Mahomes II was a nice step in the right direction, but he was only the 12th player drafted from the Red Raiders in the past decade. Aside from that, this is a top-35 program with 37 bowl appearances in 85 years.
42. Mississippi State Bulldogs (448 points)
Similar to Kentucky on the previous slide, life in the SEC has allowed Mississippi State to crush it in both recruiting pull and fan engagement. But the results on the field have been just OK. The Bulldogs only have one conference championship in program history, and that came all the way back in 1941. Recent success has pushed them over .500, but they entered the 2010 season with an all-time losing record.
41. North Carolina State Wolfpack (448 points)
In North Carolina State, we've reached the point in this exercise where most of the teams have no significant weakness. The Wolfpack rank in the top 50 in all five categories; however, they don't rank in the top 30 of any category. Despite zero national championships and zero Heisman winners in its 112-year history, N.C. State has consistently been a good-not-great program.
No. 40 Baylor—No. 31 Stanford
40. Baylor Bears (449 points)
No points were deducted for ongoing scandals, so Baylor was able to put together a solid score. However, recruiting pull already isn't nearly as good as it was three years ago, which will eventually have a negative impact on this program's top category: player development. If we were to crunch these numbers again in five years, the Bears might be lucky to still be in the top 50, despite Robert Griffin III's Heisman year.
39. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (452 points)
Among teams with no national championships and no Heisman winners, Georgia Tech had the highest ancient history score. The Yellow Jackets also ranked in the top 30 in recent history. They have played in 44 bowl games, which puts them in 13th place on the all-time leaderboard. But, evidently, not many people are watching, as they had the lowest fan engagement score of any team in our top 45.
38. Utah Utes (458 points)
Utah's ancient history is nothing special, but did you know the Utes have won more bowl games since 2001 than any other team? The Utes have only played in 13 bowls during that time, but they won 12 of those games. Factor in an overall winning percentage of 69.0 over the last 16 years and this program had a mighty impressive recent history score.
37. Arizona State Sun Devils (466 points)
In its 84-year history, Arizona State has won 62.0 percent of all games played, with a bowl record of 14-14-1. The Sun Devils arguably should have won the 1975 national championship, but their 12-0 record only got them to No. 2 in the final AP poll. Even without that title, ancient history was one of the three categories in which they put up at least 100 points.
36. Pittsburgh Panthers (469 points)
National championships in 1937 and 1976 and a Heisman winner in 1976 (Tony Dorsett) contributed nicely to Pittsburgh's ancient history score. But even without any titles since the bicentennial, their rank in recent history was almost as strong. In fact, the Panthers ranked top 40 in every category but fan engagement. As someone who went to college just outside Pittsburgh, I'm not surprised. If it's not the Steelers or fries and coleslaw on a sandwich, yinz don't really care.
35. Louisville Cardinals (469 points)
The highest-ranking team to post a score below 64 in any category, Louisville's 55 in ancient history sticks out like a sore thumb against an otherwise stellar resume. But the Cardinals were nothing special from 1962-1997, boasting an overall record 25 games below .500 in their first 36 years of existence. Fortunately, they have played in 16 out of a possible 19 bowl games since that rough start.
34. Oklahoma State Cowboys (479 points)
Oklahoma State had a nice run in the late 1980s with Heisman winner Barry Sanders, but the Cowboys have played in more bowl games in the past 15 years (14) than they did in their first 88 combined (13). It wasn't quite able to win any titles or produce any more Heisman winners, but OK State has won two out of every three games played since the start of 2002.
33. Washington Huskies (485 points)
Though Washington reached the College Football Playoff last season and has an active streak of seven bowl appearances, recent history was its worst category by a country mile. In case you need a refresher, the Huskies went 1-11 in 2004 and had an 0-12 season just four years later. Were it not for that rough patch, they might have finished in the top 20, because they put up at least 100 points in each of the other four categories.
32. North Carolina Tar Heels (485 points)
With eight first-rounders among the 36 players North Carolina has had drafted in the past decade, the Tar Heels have the highest player development score of any team outside our top 16. But because they vacated 16 wins in 2008-09, their recent history score was right at the national average. Even if those wins counted, though, 2015 was their only season since 1997 with more than eight victories. That recent score was never going to be great.
31. Stanford Cardinal (486 points)
With four consecutive top-25 classes, Stanford has become a major player on the recruiting circuit. And this program already had a strong winning tradition and a knack for turning players into top prospects. Now that the Cardinal are consistently recruiting well, they're becoming a real force to be reckoned with.
No. 30 Missouri—No. 21 UCLA
30. Missouri Tigers (493 points)
Missouri finished in the top 30-40 in four of the five categories, but it fared particularly well in player development. Though the Tigers have only produced 29 total draft picks—less than half of what LSU (65), Alabama (65) and USC (62) have done—eight of those 29 picks were in the first round.
29. TCU Horned Frogs (494 points)
Though TCU hasn't been quite as unbeatable as Boise State or Ohio State, a 73.8 winning percentage since 2001 gave the Horned Frogs a fantastic recent history score. Under Gary Patterson's tutelage, they have won at least 11 games in nine of the last 14 years, finishing five of those seasons in the Top 7 of the AP poll. In substantially less recent history, Davey O'Brien won the Heisman while leading TCU to the 1938 national championship.
28. Iowa Hawkeyes (500 points)
Iowa's recruiting pull is among the worst in the Big Ten, but the Hawkeyes bring in fans, churn out pros and win a lot of games in spite of their lack of 5-star talent. This program has played in 28 bowl games in the last 36 years and had a Heisman winner (Nile Kinnick) way back in 1939.
27. South Carolina Gamecocks (502 points)
With nearly 300,000 followers on Twitter and just a shade under 80,000 attendees per home game, fan engagement is South Carolina's strong suit. The Gamecocks also did well in recruiting pull thanks to five consecutive top-25 classes. Too bad their ancient history didn't follow suit. The East Coast's USC was 0-8 in bowl games prior to 1994 and has never won a national championship.
26. Michigan State Spartans (504 points)
Like South Carolina, Michigan State's forte was fan engagement. The Spartans rank ninth in Twitter followers and 20th in average attendance. Unlike the Gamecocks, the Spartans did win a national championship in 1952, which boosted their overall score by eight points.
25. Ole Miss Rebels (506 points)
Recent history has not been kind to Ole Miss, and it's not looking like things will get better any time soon. The Rebels have only played in eight bowl games since 2001, posting an overall record of 101-96. But they were bailed out by John Vaught's 25-year run as head coach, with a 74.5 winning percentage and 18 bowl appearances.
24. West Virginia Mountaineers (506 points)
Similar to the next two teams on the list, West Virginia managed to score well across the board without ever winning a title or a Heisman. The closest the Mountaineers came to glory was in the final three years of Rich Rodriguez's tenure, when they went a combined 33-5 with three straight finishes in the top 10 of the AP poll.
23. Virginia Tech Hokies (509 points)
Good luck finding a team that has been as consistently good as Virginia Tech has been since 1993. The Hokies have played in 24 consecutive bowl games and own an overall record of 224-85 (72.5 percent). As a result, they scored at least 100 points in four categories and had a respectable showing in ancient history, despite going 1-5 in bowl games in their first 89 seasons.
22. Arkansas Razorbacks (517 points)
Arkansas is the highest-ranked team that has never won a national championship or had a Heisman winner. With 42 bowl appearances and an overall record more than 200 games above .500, the Razorbacks made up nicely for that. Like most of the SEC schools, recruiting pull and fan engagement were big pluses for Arkansas.
21. UCLA Bruins (522 points)
UCLA just missed our top 20, but it's been a while since the Bruins finished outside the top 20 in recruiting. They've done at least that well in five straight years, including bringing in the No. 7 class in 2013. UCLA has also done a fine job of turning that high school talent into NFL potential, with 34 draft picks dating back to 2008.
20. Oregon Ducks
Overall Score: 534
National Championships: None
Heisman Winners: Marcus Mariota (2014)
Peak of Excellence: 2010-14
During and briefly after the Chip Kelly era, even when Oregon wasn't the best team in the country, it was always the most entertaining. The Ducks averaged 46.7 points per game in this five-year stretch with an overall record of 60-8. They were ranked in the Top 11 of every AP poll for five straight years.
But they couldn't quite emerge at No. 1 when it mattered most. The Ducks won four out of five bowl games in those five years, but they lost the 2010 BCS Championship against Auburn and the 2014 College Football Playoff Final against Ohio State.
Strongest Category: Recent History (119 points)
Despite a 0-2 record in national championships, Oregon has an overall record of 150-56 (72.8 percent) dating back to 2001. Much of that can be attributed to the aforementioned first half of the 2010s, but 2016 was just the second time in 20 years that the Ducks failed to appear in a bowl game. They also would have played for a title in 2001 if the BCS computers had liked them as much as the AP voters did.
Weakest Category: Ancient History (82 points)
Though the Ducks have had 10 10-win seasons since 2000, this program was nothing special before that. In its first 75 seasons, Oregon had an overall record of 356-362-34 with no more than nine wins in any season. It played in just nine bowl games with a 3-6 record and had no national championships or Heismans. Oregon only finished one of those seasons ranked in the AP poll (1948), and it wasn't until 1994 that it won an outright conference championship.
19. Wisconsin Badgers
Overall Score: 535
National Championships: None
Heisman Winners: Alan Ameche (1954), Ron Dayne (1999)
Peak of Excellence: 1896-1901
I won't pretend to have intimate firsthand knowledge of the William McKinley-era Badgers, but you have to go back to before the Great Depression to find the last time Wisconsin strung together more than two consecutive seasons with fewer than three losses. During this six-year stretch, the Badgers had an overall record of 51-6-1. No national championships were awarded back then, but they did win at least a share of the Western Conference title—college football's only conference during those years—in 1896, 1897 and 1901.
In less archaic peaks, 1998-99 was arguably Wisconsin's best two-year run. It won back-to-back Rose Bowls and had a 21-3 record in Ron Dayne's final two seasons of dominance. Including bowl games, Dayne finished his career with 7,125 rushing yards and 71 touchdowns, winning the Heisman in blowout fashion in 1999.
Strongest Category: Player Development (118 points)
For a program that doesn't recruit at a high level (more on that shortly), Wisconsin has done a phenomenal job of getting guys ready for the NFL. This past April, T.J. Watt and Ryan Ramczyk became the sixth and seventh Badgers selected in the first round in the past 10 years. Overall, Wisconsin has produced 36 draft picks since 2008, tied with Arkansas and North Carolina for 14th-most in the nation.
Weakest Category: Recruiting Pull (94 points)
The last time Wisconsin had a top-30 recruiting class was when it ranked 30th in 2005. Over the past five years, the Badgers have signed zero 5-star recruits and have landed fewer 4-star recruits (25) than Alabama has 5-star recruits (26). It boggles the mind that this program has had 15 consecutive winning seasons despite consistently recruiting like a middle-of-the-pack school.
18. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Overall Score: 552
National Championships: Four (1970, 1971, 1994, 1995)
Heisman Winners: Johnny Rodgers (1972), Mike Rozier (1983), Eric Crouch (2001)
Peak of Excellence: 1993-97
Nebraska ranked in the Top 10 of the AP poll at some point in each of Tom Osborne's 25 seasons as the head coach. But it was in his final half-decade at the helm when things came together most beautifully. Those Cornhuskers went a combined 60-3 with three undefeated seasons and a pair of national championships.
They weren't eking out victories, either. The average score in those 63 games was 42.8 to 14.6. They might have won a third title in 1997, had that not been the year before the BCS was instituted. Nebraska went 13-0, led the nation in scoring (46.7 PPG) and destroyed No. 3 Tennessee in the Orange Bowl (42-17), but it never got a chance to knock Michigan out of the top spot in the AP poll.
Strongest Category: Ancient History (126 points)
You could make the case that 1969-97 was actually Nebraska's peak, as it won four national championships, scored a pair of Heismans and went 29 years without suffering more than three losses in a single season. The Cornhuskers also had some smaller peaks in the mid-1960s, the 1930s and the entire stretch from 1900 to 1915, in which they had five undefeated seasons. As a result, they entered 2001 with an all-time winning percentage of 72.4, despite a losing record in 19 of those 101 years.
Weakest Category: Player Development (97 points)
Though the Cornhuskers have had 33 names called at the past 10 NFL drafts, most of them have been late-rounders. Ndamukong Suh and Prince Amukamara were their only first-round picks during that time with Ameer Abdullah (No. 54 overall in 2015) serving as their third-highest pick. In 2008, 2009, 2013 and 2017, Nebraska didn't have anyone selected in the first four rounds.
17. Penn State Nittany Lions
Overall Score: 561
National Championships: Two (1982, 1986)
Heisman Winners: John Cappelletti (1973)
Peak of Excellence: 1968-73
With two national titles in the span of five years, one would think 1982-86 makes the most sense as Penn State's peak. However, the Nittany Lions went a combined 14-9-1 in 1983-84 as a marginally above-average team in between those championship seasons.
Rather, the AP voters didn't properly appreciate several of Penn State's best years. The Nittany Lions went 62-6 from 1968 to '73 with undefeated seasons in 1968, 1969 and 1973. They finished in the Top Five of the AP poll in four of those years—including two years at No. 2—but they were unable to spend so much as a single week at No. 1. At least they did finally get some individual recognition in 1973 with John Cappelletti's Heisman.
Strongest Category: Fan Engagement (124 points)
Fallout from the Jerry Sandusky scandal hurt Penn State's on-field product from 2011 to '15, but the fans in Happy Valley kept attending. With an average attendance of 99,000 per game, the Nittany Lions ranked fourth in that stat, trailing only Michigan, Ohio State and Alabama. They also ranked 13th in Twitter following with more than 260,000 fans.
Weakest Category: Recent History (98 points)
The extremely recent history is great, as Penn State won the Big Ten in 2016 and is on the short list of strong candidates for the 2017 College Football Playoff. But the Nittany Lions had losing records in 2001, 2003 and 2004 and have only won five bowl games in the last 16 years.
16. Miami (FL) Hurricanes
Overall Score: 563
National Championships: Five (1983, 1987, 1989, 1991, 2001)
Heisman Winners: Vinny Testaverde (1986), Gino Torretta (1992)
Peak of Excellence: 1986-92
Though 2001 Miami was arguably the greatest college football team ever assembled—a season that came in the middle of a three-year stretch with a 35-2 record—the Hurricanes had previously put together arguably the greatest seven-year run in the sport's history.
Overall, they went 78-6 with three national championships and two Heismans. From November 1985 through December 1993, they were ranked in the Top 10 of the AP poll for 137 consecutive weeks. They spent at least one week at No. 1 in each year from 1986 through 1992 and finished each of those seasons in the Top Three.
Strongest Category: Player Development (120 points)
The last time Miami won at least 10 games in a season was in 2003. But even though "The U" isn't nearly what it used to be, it's still sending players to the NFL in droves. With nine draft picks this past April, the Hurricanes have had a total of 45 players selected in the past decade.
Weakest Category: Fan Engagement (102 points)
Miami is the first team we've encountered that scored at least 100 points in each category, but its fan engagement could be better. The 'Canes rank 39th in average attendance with a little over 52,000 fans per game.
15. Tennessee Volunteers
Overall Score: 575
National Championships: Two (1951, 1998)
Heisman Winners: None
Peak of Excellence: 1927-32
Less than a decade before college football added AP polls and national championships, Tennessee was all but unbeatable. During a bygone era when scoring came at a premium, the Volunteers had an overall record of 53-1-5 while allowing 2.9 points per game. They shut out their opponent in 39 of 59 games in those six seasons.
More recently, the Vols had a good four-year stretch under Phillip Fulmer, punctuated by a 13-0 national championship in 1998. Led for three of those seasons by some QB named Peyton Manning, Tennessee went 45-5 and scarcely spent a week outside the Top 10 of the AP poll.
Strongest Category: Fan Engagement (127 points)
Four teams rank in the top seven of both Twitter following and average attendance, and Tennessee is one. The Vols have half a million followers on Twitter and have averaged more than 97,000 attendees per home game over the past five years—bolstered by back-to-back six-figure totals in 2015 and 2016. It's quite the loyal group, considering Tennessee is just 35-28 in those five seasons.
Weakest Category: Recent History (97 points)
It's a good thing the 11-2 record and Citrus Bowl victory in 2001 counts as recent history. Otherwise, Tennessee's score in this category would've been a bit ugly. Even with that strong campaign included, the Volunteers have won less than 60 percent of their games over the course of the last 16 seasons. They haven't won 10 games in a year since 2007.
14. Texas A&M Aggies
Overall Score: 575
National Championships: One (1939)
Heisman Winners: John David Crow (1957), Johnny Manziel (2012)
Peak of Excellence: 1991-94
Shortly before transitioning into the Big 12, Texas A&M was the king of the Southwest Conference. The Aggies had a combined record of 42-5-1 in these four seasons, though they went 0-3 in the 1991-93 Cotton Bowls against Florida State (1991) and Notre Dame (1992-93).
Of course, one of the reasons A&M played so well is because it was paying some of its players. The Aggies were banned from postseason play and not allowed to play televised games in 1994 because a booster was found to be paying players for positions requiring little or no work. But the NCAA never forced them to vacate any of those wins, so it can still count as their most dominant years.
Strongest Category: Recruiting Pull (122 points)
Switching from the Big 12 to the SEC has been huge for Texas A&M's recruiting. The Aggies had the 34th-best class in the nation in their final season in the Big 12 (2011), but they haven't had a year outside the top 18 since then. The cream of the crop came in 2014 when they ranked No. 5 with 5-star recruits Myles Garrett, Speedy Noil and Kyle Allen.
Weakest Category: Recent History (103 points)
Johnny Manziel's Heisman campaign in 2012 was one heck of a ride, but that has been Texas A&M's only season with 10 or more wins since 1998. Though the Aggies have played in bowl games in eight straight years, they have only finished three of the past 17 seasons in the AP Top 25. Just pencil this team in for four to six losses per year and you should get at least one preseason prediction right.
13. Texas Longhorns
Overall Score: 579
National Championships: Three (1963, 1969, 2005)
Heisman Winners: Earl Campbell (1977), Ricky Williams (1998)
Peak of Excellence: 2001-09
The first three and last four years of the Mack Brown era weren't stellar, but the nine years in the middle were mighty special. Texas won at least 10 games in each of those seasons, including an undefeated national championship campaign in 2005. They also played in the 2009 BCS Championship but had no answer for Alabama's Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson.
Overall, the Longhorns went 101-16 and did not spend a single week outside the AP Top 25. Unfortunately, they couldn't get a leg up on Oklahoma, going 4-5 in the Red River Rivalry during this time. As a result, Texas only has two Big 12 championships to show for the best decade in program history. It was such a good decade, though, that Texas ranked 13th in recent history, despite a 46-42 record over the last seven years.
Strongest Category: Ancient History (123 points)
2001 was the start of this program's most dominant stretch, but Texas was also darn good in the previous century. The Longhorns had a 70.4 winning percentage from 1902 through 2000, playing in 40 bowl games with 18 wins. As noted above, they had a pair of national championships and a pair of Heisman winners in that period, which boosted their score into the top 10 in the category. Including 2005, Texas has had seven undefeated seasons.
Weakest Category: Player Development (111 points)
It's getting tougher to nitpick at some of these teams, as Texas ranked in the top 20 in all five categories. However, Longhorn football hasn't been the greatest audition for the NFL in recent years. They've had just four first-round picks and four second-round picks in the last 10 years. And keeping with the theme of four, Texas has had four players taken in the first four rounds in the last four years combined. The Longhorns didn't have a single player drafted in 2014 but somehow won two fewer games the following season.
12. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Overall Score: 582
National Championships: Eight (1943, 1946, 1947, 1949, 1966, 1973, 1977, 1988)
Heisman Winners: Angelo Bertelli (1943), Johnny Lujack (1947), Leon Hart (1949), Johnny Lattner (1953), Paul Hornung (1956), John Huarte (1964), Tim Brown (1987)
Peak of Excellence: 1946-49
Notre Dame has spent at least one week at No. 1 in the AP poll in 26 of the last 79 seasons. The Fighting Irish have also had 15 undefeated seasons, seven of which were not among the 26 years they made it to No. 1. Picking a peak in this program's history is like trying to identify the highest point on Mount Everest.
There is one four-year stretch that clearly stands out from the rest, though. The Fighting Irish went 36-0-2 from 1946 to 1949, winning three national championships and earning a pair of Heisman trophies. With the possible exception of Michigan's run on the following slide or Army's going 27-0-1 with two titles and two Heismans from 1944 through 1946—How in the world was Army that good during World War II?—Notre Dame's reign at the end of the 1940s was the best in college football history.
Strongest Category: Ancient History (127 points)
The Fighting Irish had a 75.6 winning percentage prior to 2001, which was the highest of any current FBS team. They also won more national championships (eight) and Heismans (seven) during that time than any other program.
But lack of conference affiliation kept Notre Dame from playing in anywhere near as many postseason games as it deserved. While Alabama was putting together a 28-22 record in bowl games, Notre Dame only played in a grand total of 24. With so much emphasis in our formula on bowl appearances and wins, the Fighting Irish were unable to claim the top spot in this category, though they absolutely deserve it.
Weakest Category: Recent History (88 points)
Notre Dame ranked in the top 10 in four of the five categories, but its recent history score is garbage compared to every other team in the overall top 13. Those 15 combined titles and Heismans look great in the trophy room, but they've all been gathering dust since at least 1988. The Fighting Irish have only won four bowl games since 1993 and have had six seasons at or below .500 since 2000.
As someone whose formative years of watching college football came in the 1994-2004 range, I never understood why Notre Dame was always playing nationally televised games. And things haven't gotten much better since then.
11. Michigan Wolverines
Overall Score: 584
National Championships: Two (1948, 1997)
Heisman Winners: Tom Harmon (1940), Desmond Howard (1991), Charles Woodson (1997)
Peak of Excellence: 1901-05
Michigan had some sensational runs under Bo Schembechler in the 1970s and 1980s and had a few great seasons under Lloyd Carr in the 1990s, but the Wolverines will never be as untouchable as they were in the early 1900s.
For those five years, Michigan went 55-1-1, outscoring its opposition by a grand total of 2,821 to 42. That's not a typo. The Wolverines averaged 49.5 points per game while allowing 0.7. In 1901, they didn't give up a single point and won one game by a score of 128-0. In fact, there were nine shutouts from 1901 to 1904 in which the Wolverines scored at least 80 points. Their only loss during this half-decade was a 2-0 game against Chicago.
Strongest Category: Fan Engagement (130 points)
It has been 20 years since Michigan was last ranked No. 1 in the AP poll, but the Wolverines took home the top spot in fan engagement. The size of the Big House put them at No. 1 in average attendance with room to spare, but they also ranked No. 2 in Twitter audience with nearly three-quarters of a million followers.
Weakest Category: Recent History (101 points)
Michigan's recent history isn't nearly as bad as Notre Dame's, but it isn't great. The Wolverines are 4-9 in bowl games dating back to 2001 and have suffered at least six losses in five of the last nine seasons. Things have been looking up since Jim Harbaugh took over as head coach in 2015, but it has been more than a decade since Michigan last added to its stockpile of 42 conference championships.
10. Auburn Tigers
Overall Score: 590
National Championships: Two (1957, 2010)
Heisman Winners: Pat Sullivan (1971), Bo Jackson (1985), Cam Newton (2010)
Peak of Excellence: 1957-58
For the most part, Auburn football has been like a brood of cicadas. Every once in a while, it'll pop up, destroy everything in its path and then disappear again for a few years. Not every instance is as pronounced as it was surrounding the 2010 title when Auburn's five-year arc of win totals was five, eight, 14, eight and three, but it's impossible to find any examples in the past century when it was dominant for more than two consecutive years.
But the Tigers had one hell of a two-year feeding cycle in the late 1950s. Led by one of the stingiest defenses in the post-WWII era, Auburn went 10-0 and allowed just 28 points en route to the 1957 national championship—including a 40-0 win over Alabama in the Iron Bowl. The Tigers went 9-0-1 the following season and only gave up 62 points.
Strongest Category: Recruiting Pull (124 points)
Auburn has found a sweet spot as a program with consistently great-but-not-quite-elite recruiting pull. The Tigers have had eight consecutive classes in the Nos. 5-11 range, as rated by Scout. That's a lot better than being in the Nos. 15-21 range, and it gives them one of the best recruiting scores in the nation. However, they have been behind Alabama and LSU in each of the last five seasons, so they aren't gaining any ground in the SEC West.
Weakest Category: Player Development (109 points)
Hard to throw stones at a program averaging 3.2 draft picks per year, but Auburn has just four first-round and four second-round picks since 2008—not one of which has come in the last three years. Considering the Tigers bring in multiple 5-star recruits on an almost annual basis, it's weird that they don't produce more stars.
9. Clemson Tigers
Overall Score: 599
National Championships: Two (1981, 2016)
Heisman Winners: None
Peak of Excellence: 2012-Present
In Clemson's first 112 seasons, it ranked in the Top Eight of the final AP poll just three times. (There was no AP poll for the first 34 years, but based on its win-loss record in each of those seasons, it's a safe assumption Clemson wouldn't have been ranked.) But it has been Top Eight in three of the last four years, including an active streak of two trips to the national championship game.
Clemson is 60-9 over the last five seasons. Dabo Swinney—with plenty of help from Deshaun Watson, Tajh Boyd, Deandre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, Mike Williams, Artavis Scott, Wayne Gallman and others—has turned the Tigers into a perennial powerhouse. He has also changed the definition of #Clemsoning from blowing it in big games to winning national championships.
Strongest Category: Fan Engagement (125 points)
Memorial Stadium—AKA Death Valley—only has a listed capacity of 81,500, meaning Clemson has no hope of keeping up with the likes of Michigan and Ohio State when it comes to average attendance. But there's no cap on Twitter followers, where the Tigers rule the roost. When the research for this project started in early August, Clemson was No. 1 with 717,508 followers. It has since expanded its lead, gaining nearly 50,000 followers in the last three weeks.
Weakest Category: Ancient History (108 points)
Clemson's ancient history isn't terrible, but it's a bit telling that the Tigers have played in nearly as many bowl games in the last five years as they did in their first 75 years (seven). Their winning percentage prior to 2001 was just 58.8—compared to 69.5 since then—and a combined total of one national championship and Heisman did little to nothing to help matters.
8. Florida Gators
Overall Score: 606
National Championships: Three (1996, 2006, 2008)
Heisman Winners: Steve Spurrier (1966), Danny Wuerffel (1996), Tim Tebow (2007)
Peak of Excellence: 1993-99
This was a tough call between two great options. Florida went 13-1 three times in a span of four years in 2006-09, including winning two national championships. The one year the Gators suffered more than one loss, they still had Tim Tebow win the Heisman during a 9-4 campaign.
But they were better for longer in the 1990s, ranking in the Top 10 of the AP poll 117 times in the span of 119 weeks. Prior to a three-game losing streak at the end of the 1999 season, the Gators had an overall record of 74-11 and had won at least 10 games in six straight years. They were the SEC champions each year from 1993 to 1996, capped off by a national championship and Heisman trophy double dip in 1996.
Strongest Category: Player Development (126 points)
To put it lightly, Florida has had a few guys make it to the NFL. A total of 55 Gators have been drafted since 2008, including 14 first-round picks. 2012 was the only year in the past decade in which at least one Florida player wasn't selected in the first round, and that's only because most of the roster returned for a team that improved by four wins over the previous season.
Weakest Category: Ancient History (115 points)
It's getting a bit ridiculous to even mention a team's "weakest" category, since every team in the top 10 scored well across the board. Florida's ancient history consists of a 61.0 winning percentage, 28 bowl games, a national championship and two Heisman winners. However, there were plenty of duds along the way. Florida has had a .500 or worse record 31 times, including a quartet of winless campaigns (1904, 1916, 1946 and 1979).
7. Florida State Seminoles
Overall Score: 613
National Championships: Three (1993, 1999, 2013)
Heisman Winners: Charlie Ward (1993), Chris Weinke (2000), Jameis Winston (2013)
Peak of Excellence: 1987-2000
We don't often talk about college teams as dynasties, but that's precisely what Florida State had for about a decade-and-a-half. From 1987 through 2000, the Seminoles finished in the Top Five of the AP poll 14 consecutive times while refusing to suffer more than two losses in a season.
En route to two national championships and two Heisman trophies, Florida State pieced together a 152-19-1 record. This was an independent program for the first five years of the run, but the 'Noles earned at least a share of nine straight ACC titles upon joining the conference they call home to this day.
The unbelievable thing is you could erase those 14 seasons from history and Florida State would still have an all-time winning percentage of 63.5. With 35 straight bowl appearances and a total of 45 in 63 years of existence, there aren't many programs that have been consistently better.
Strongest Category: Recruiting Pull (127 points)
Florida State's recruiting slipped a little bit late in Bobby Bowden's career, but Jimbo Fisher hit the ground running. Beginning with the 2010 class, Florida State's average national rank over the last eight years has been 5.1. The Seminoles haven't yet been able to usurp the top spot from Alabama in any given year, but maybe a head-to-head win in the 2017 season opener could change that.
Weakest Category: Fan Engagement (118 points)
As was the case for Clemson, Florida State is at a disadvantage here because of stadium size. Seven schools had an average attendance of more than 100,000 last season, but the capacity of Doak Campbell Stadium is only 79,560. The 'Noles made up a little ground by ranking 10th in Twitter following, but they were nowhere close to No. 1 in either half of this category.
6. Georgia Bulldogs
Overall Score: 615
National Championships: One (1980)
Heisman Winners: Frank Sinkwich (1942), Herschel Walker (1982)
Peak of Excellence: 1980-83
Let's first point out Georgia's honorable mention of 1997-2008, when the Bulldogs finished 12 consecutive seasons in the AP Top 25 with a combined record of 10-2 in bowl games. But considering two of this program's three combined titles and Heismans came in the span of three seasons, that was a no-brainer first choice for its peak.
Herschel Walker didn't just win the Heisman in 1982. He also placed third in 1980 and second in 1981, finishing his three-year career with 5,259 rushing yards and 49 TDs on the ground. During his time between the hedges, the Bulldogs went 33-3 and won a national championship. They kept that momentum going for one year after his departure by going 10-1-1 and ranking in the Top Six of the final AP poll for a fourth straight season.
Strongest Category: Recruiting Pull and Fan Engagement (126 points each)
The Dawgs average more than 92,000 fans per home game, have well over half a million followers on Twitter and have signed a total of 72 4- and 5-star recruits over the last five years. The unfortunate reality for Georgia is that ranking fifth in the nation in both of these categories only means its SEC rank is third in recruiting pull and fourth in fan engagement.
Weakest Category: Ancient History (120 points)
Can we really gripe about Georgia's ancient history when it ranks third in FBS history with 30 wins in bowl games? The problem for the Bulldogs is that the bar for ranking in the top 10 in this category is just plain silly. Each of those teams won at least 70.2 percent of games played before 2001 and won multiple national championships. Compared to that, Georgia's 64.4 winning percentage and one title look rather pedestrian.
5. USC Trojans
Overall Score: 615
National Championships: Four (1962, 1967, 1972, 2003, 2004)
Heisman Winners: Mike Garrett (1965), O.J. Simpson (1968), Charles White (1979), Marcus Allen (1981), Carson Palmer (2002), Matt Leinart (2004), Reggie Bush (2005)
Peak of Excellence: 2002-08
Though most of this run was retroactively covered in asterisks because of the Reggie Bush scandal, 2000s USC had a seven-year stretch on par with what Alabama has been up to since 2008. Before wins, titles and Heisman trophies were vacated, the Trojans went 82-9 with two national championships and three Heismans while finishing seven straight years in the Top Four of the AP poll.
Secondarily, USC was almost unbeatable back before the AP poll even existed to award national championships. From 1922 to '33—USC's first 12 seasons with an FBS program—the Trojans went 109-16-3 with four Rose Bowl victories. During this time, they went more than a decade without losing more than two games in a single season.
Strongest Category: Player Development (129 points)
The Trojans ranked top six in four of the five categories, but it's the NFL draft where this program has been most relevant. Among its 62 overall draft picks, USC has produced 13 first-rounders in the past decade. The Trojans would have fared even better if we had looked at the past 15 years rather than just the past 10. They had seven more first-round picks from 2003 to 2007, including 2003 No. 1 overall pick Carson Palmer.
Weakest Category: Fan Engagement (106 points)
For some bizarre reason, USC does not have an official Twitter account dedicated to its football program. Rather, there's a generic "USC Athletics" account, which doesn't have anywhere near the number of followers of most of the programs in our top 10. But even in average attendance, USC only ranked 19th.
4. Oklahoma Sooners
Overall Score: 618
National Championships: Seven (1950, 1955, 1956, 1974, 1975, 1985, 2000)
Heisman Winners: Billy Vessels (1952), Steve Owens (1969), Billy Sims (1978), Jason White (2003), Sam Bradford (2008)
Peak of Excellence: 1953-57
Oklahoma had an incredible run from 1971 through '79, going 95-9 with two national championships and a Heisman winner. The Sooners also had a darn fine start to this millennium with a 60-7 record from 2000 to 2004, including another title and Heisman. But those teams were colossal disappointments compared to what this program did in the 1950s.
Bud Wilkinson led the Sooners to an FBS record 47 consecutive wins. They won national championships in 1955 and 1956, went undefeated in 1954 and won the 1953 Orange Bowl against national champion Maryland. It wasn't just that five-year window, though. Oklahoma was the team to beat for more than a decade, finishing 11 straight seasons (1948-58) in the Top 10 of the AP poll, including 10 years in the Top Five.
Strongest Category: Ancient History (129 points)
Given all the above information, it should come as no surprise that Oklahoma crushed it in the ancient history calculations. Prior to 2001, the Sooners had a 71.6 winning percentage while winning 21 bowl games, seven national championships and a trio of Heismans. Though they weren't No. 1 in any of those stats, they did rank in the top six in each.
Weakest Category: Recruiting Pull (117 points)
Oklahoma had the eighth-best recruiting class this past February, but that was the first time the Sooners ranked in the top 10 since 2010. They have been consistently in the top 20, which was good enough for the best score in recruiting pull among all Big 12 teams. However, they haven't been nearly on par with the three remaining teams ranked ahead of them.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes
Overall Score: 625
National Championships: Five (1942, 1954, 1968, 2002, 2014)
Heisman Winners: Les Horvath (1944), Vic Janowicz (1950), Howard Cassady (1955), Archie Griffin (1974-75), Eddie George (1995), Troy Smith (2006)
Peak of Excellence: 2012-Present
Ohio State has always been good. At 74.5 percent, the Buckeyes have the highest winning percentage among programs with at least 1,000 games played. In 105 seasons, they have only posted a sub-.500 record nine times. But as far as prolonged stretches of dominance are concerned, what we're currently witnessing is as good as it gets.
Since hiring Urban Meyer, Ohio State is 61-6 with a national championship. It has spent at least one week in the Top Three of the AP poll in five consecutive years and is about to open its fifth straight season in the Top Six. The Buckeyes often get overlooked because Alabama always seems to be the team to beat, but they actually have a better winning percentage since 2012 (91.0) than the Crimson Tide do (90.1).
Strongest Category: Recent History and Recruiting Pull (129 points each)
In addition to the success dating back to 2012, Ohio State has won 84.2 percent of games played since the start of the 2002 season, resulting in the second-best recent history score in the nation. Thanks in large part to all those wins, Ohio State has had no trouble luring in top-notch high school talent year after year. The Buckeyes have had five straight top-seven classes and have the No. 1 rated class for the 2018 season.
Weakest Category: Fan Engagement (115 points)
Like USC, Twitter following was Ohio State's undoing—which is strange, since the Buckeyes rank No. 2 in average attendance. However, their official Twitter account was set up in April 2016. That's a good six to seven years later than most teams established their social media presences, giving them less time to attract an audience. A Twitter game on par with average attendance rank would have bumped Ohio State up to No. 2 overall, but it was never going to catch Alabama for the top spot.
2. LSU Tigers
Overall Score: 629
National Championships: Three (1958, 2003, 2007)
Heisman Winners: Billy Cannon (1959)
Peak of Excellence: 2003-07
The wild thing about LSU's five-year peak is that the Tigers changed coaches in the middle of it when Nick Saban thought it would be fun to coach the Miami Dolphins for two years, leaving the keys for Les Miles. Regardless of who was calling the shots, though, LSU was tough to beat. It went 56-10 with two BCS Championships (2003, 2007) and a pair of SEC titles.
Perhaps most important to the fans, though, LSU went 5-0 against Alabama during this time. Dating all the way back to the 1890s, it's the only time the Tigers have won at least three straight over the Crimson Tide.
Strongest Category: Four Categories (128 points each)
Oddly enough, LSU finished second overall without ranking in the top two in any category. But as luck would have it, the Tigers ranked third in the nation in recent history, fan engagement, recruiting pull and player development. They have won 77 percent of games since 2001 with two national championships, ranked top five in both average attendance and Twitter following, have had five consecutive top-seven recruiting classes and tied with Alabama for most total draft picks since 2008 (65).
Weakest Category: Ancient History (117 points)
For as solid as LSU has been for the last 16 years, 1958-59 was the only major highlight in the program's first 96 years. The Tigers played in 32 bowl games, but 10-win seasons were few and far between. Losing records abound, though, as they finished 25 percent of those 96 years with a sub.-500 record.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
Overall Score: 649
National Championships: 10 (1961, 1964, 1965, 1978, 1979, 1992, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015)
Heisman Winners: Mark Ingram (2009), Derrick Henry (2015)
Peak of Excellence: 2008-Present
Alabama has 11 undefeated seasons and has finished in the Top 10 of the AP poll 41 times. From 1961 to '66, the Crimson Tide went 60-5-1 and won three national championships. They were just as dominant from 1971 to '79, going 97-11 with two more titles. They also went 45-5-1 with another championship from 1991 to '94. It'd be hard to go wrong with any of those peaks.
But these past nine years have been ridiculous. Alabama won four national championships, played in a fifth and reached the College Football Playoff in a sixth. It has spent at least one week at No. 1 in nine straight seasons, finishing in the Top 10 all nine years. There was only one undefeated season in the bunch, but it's mind blowing that some of the current players were in third grade the last time Alabama wasn't a serious factor in the title picture.
Strongest Category: Four Categories (130 points each)
Alabama finished just one point shy of perfection, placing first in every category but fan engagement. And none of the four was even close. The Crimson Tide scored 16 percent better than the second-best team in ancient history, 18 percent better in recent history and 26 percent better in player development while boasting the No. 1 recruiting class in each of the last five seasons. It was tempting to leave at least one blank slide between LSU and Alabama to illustrate how wide the gap is.
Weakest Category: Fan Engagement (129 points)
With Alabama's more than 680,000 Twitter followers and a five-year average attendance mark north of 101,000, it's downright absurd to call fan engagement a weakness for the Tide. However, they only placed third in each of those categories, which was shocking, given their total dominance in the other areas researched.
In case you need help locating a team or simply want to see how a team stacks up against its conference foes, here's the full list of teams by conference.
ACC: 7. Florida State; 9. Clemson; 16. Miami (FL); 23. Virginia Tech; 32. North Carolina; 35. Louisville; 36. Pittsburgh; 39. Georgia Tech; 41. North Carolina State; 49. Boston College; 57. Virginia; 58. Syracuse; 70. Wake Forest; 80. Duke
Big 12: 4. Oklahoma; 13. Texas; 24. West Virginia; 29. TCU; 34. Oklahoma State; 40. Baylor; 43. Texas Tech; 54. Kansas State; 72. Iowa State; 75. Kansas
Big Ten: 3. Ohio State; 11. Michigan; 17. Penn State; 18. Nebraska; 19. Wisconsin; 26. Michigan State; 28. Iowa; 46. Maryland; 48. Minnesota; 55. Illinois; 59. Rutgers; 61. Purdue; 67. Indiana; 68. Northwestern
Pac-12: 5. USC; 20. Oregon; 21. UCLA; 31. Stanford; 33. Washington; 37. Arizona State; 38. Utah; 45. California; 50. Arizona; 51. Oregon State; 56. Colorado; 69. Washington State
SEC: 1. Alabama; 2. LSU; 6. Georgia; 8. Florida; 10. Auburn; 14. Texas A&M; 15. Tennessee; 22. Arkansas; 25. Ole Miss; 27. South Carolina; 30. Missouri; 42. Mississippi State; 52. Kentucky; 71. Vanderbilt
American: 53. Houston; 62. Cincinnati; 63. South Florida; 65. East Carolina; 66. Central Florida; 73. Navy; 81. Connecticut; 82. SMU; 83. Temple; 85. Memphis; 86. Tulsa; 93. Tulane
Conference USA: 64. Southern Miss; 76. Marshall; 84. Louisiana Tech; 101. Rice; 104. Western Kentucky; 107. Middle Tennessee; 108. UTEP; 110. Florida Atlantic; 113. UAB; 114. North Texas; 116. UTSA; 117. Florida International; 118. Old Dominion; 130. Charlotte
Mid-American: 79. Toledo; 88. Northern Illinois; 91. Western Michigan; 92. Bowling Green; 95. Ohio; 96. Central Michigan; 102. Miami (OH); 109. Ball State; 115. Buffalo; 123. Eastern Michigan; 124. Kent State; 125. Akron
Mountain West: 47. Boise State; 60. Fresno State; 74. San Diego State; 77. Colorado State; 78. Nevada; 87. Hawaii; 89. Utah State; 90. Air Force; 94. Wyoming; 99. San Jose State; 103. New Mexico; 112. UNLV
Sun Belt: 98. Arkansas State; 100. Appalachian State; 105. Troy; 106. Louisiana; 111. Georgia Southern; 119. Idaho; 120. Texas State; 122. South Alabama; 126. New Mexico State; 127. Louisiana-Monroe; 128. Coastal Carolina; 129. Georgia State
Independents: 12. Notre Dame; 44. BYU; 97. Army; 121. Massachusetts
Kerry Miller covers college football and college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.