College Football: Power Ranking the Top 50 Programs of All Time

Joe PenkalaCorrespondent IAugust 17, 2011

College Football: Power Ranking the Top 50 Programs of All Time

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    Throughout time, college football programs have been building and turning themselves into some of the most dominant programs in the nation.

    With national championships, conference titles, wins, Heisman Trophy winners, All-Americans and more, teams have found a way to separate themselves from the rest of the nation.

    Here is a look at the top 50 programs throughout the history of college football.

No. 50: SMU

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    SMU can be looked at in a lot of different ways, but if you give the Mustangs credit for their accomplishments—no matter how they achieved them—they have a good history.

    Over the past few years, June Jones has helped bring this program back to respectability and is looking to bring it back to prominence.

No. 49: Duke

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    Yes, that is right: Duke is on this list. While many young college football fans may not know this, Duke was a fairly dominant team from the 1930s through the early 1960s.

    Through the program's history, Duke has 17 conference titles and has had four consensus All-Americans play for the program.

No. 48: Purdue

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    Known as the cradle of quarterbacks, Purdue has been home to many terrific quarterbacks.

    Despite not winning a national title or having a Heisman Trophy winner, Purdue has had players like Drew Brees, Kyle Orton, Bob Griese and Gary Danielson come through the program.

    Recently, Purdue has been out of the Big Ten spotlight but is hoping that this is a year the program can get out of the lower half of the conference.

No. 47: Texas Tech

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    The Texas Tech Red Raiders have come on strong over the past decade and actually hold the distinction of being the only team in the Big 12 to not have a losing season since 1996.

    Along with a .564 winning percentage, Texas Tech has won 11 conference titles.

No. 46: Navy

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    Navy continues to be one of the most successful service academies in college football. It has won a national championship and is home to two Heisman Trophy winners: Joe Bellino and Roger Staubach.

    The Midshipmen are currently led by Ken Niumatalolo, who has kept them competitive no matter who they play.

No. 45: Utah

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    Another small program that has been on the rise over the past decade is the Utah Utes, who are one of the top mid-majors in the nation.

    While the Utes spent time in both the WAC and Mountain West Conference, they have now moved on to the newly formed Pac-12. By moving to the Pac-12, Utah hopes to continue its upward trend in college football.

No. 44: Illinois

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    Most of the success for the Illinois Fighting Illini came before the 1970s. Illinois has five claimed national championships—all before 1951—and 15 conference titles, only three of which have come in the past 40 years.

    Recently, the Illini have fallen off the map and may need to turn the page on the Ron Zook era.

No. 43: Stanford

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    With one national championship, 12 conference titles and 27 consensus All-Americans, Stanford has had some success throughout the program's history.

    Also impressive is the list of players who have been involved with the program, such as John Elway, Glenn Warner, Jim Harbaugh, Jim Plunkett, Ernie Nevers and Fielding Yost.

    Stanford was happily surprised in 2010 when Andrew Luck decided to pass on the NFL and set his sights on the school's second national title.

No. 42: North Carolina

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    Much like Kansas and Kentucky, the North Carolina football program has continued to live in the shadow of its basketball program.

    While they have won nine conference championships and produced players like Lawrence Taylor and Julius Peppers, the Tar Heels have not gained much national success.

    This past offseason, the program fired head coach Butch Davis, and it will be in a state of transition over the next couple of years.

No. 41: Cal

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    From 1920 to 1937, Cal won five national championships, but it has not won one since. The Golden Bears have also won 14 conference championships and produced 27 consensus All-Americans.

    Almost more famous than the program itself is "The Play" during the game between Cal and Stanford in 1982, when the Stanford band was caught on the field. It is a play that has lived through college football history and will never be forgotten.

    Coming into 2011, Cal will look to rebound from a tough year and make a run at getting to the Pac-12 title game.

No. 40: Army

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    While Army has a rich history from the early part of the 1940s, it has not been on the national radar for quite some time.

    Early on in college football, Army won three national titles and also produced three Heisman Trophy winners.

    Much like the other service academies, though, Army has had a hard time competing in today's college football landscape but is quickly closing that gap.

No. 39: Boston College

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    Boston College has been consistently good, but never great.

    The program is most commonly associated with the Doug Flutie Hail Mary in 1984, which helped him win the Heisman Trophy.

    The Eagles have one Big East championship from 2004 and have a program winning percentage of .586.

No. 38: Oregon

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    Over the past 10 years, Oregon has been coming onto the national scene stronger and stronger every year. If you judged the Ducks on their history from the early 1980s and before, they would have fallen a lot lower, but the speed at which they have risen has been impressive and noticed nationally.

    The Ducks have won eight conference championships, including the last two in the Pac-10, but have not won a national title.

    Between their uniforms and current play, Oregon finds itself climbing up the national rankings every season and has done so faster than any other team in the nation.

No. 37: Oklahoma State

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    When Barry Sanders came to Oklahoma State, he took the program to a new level.

    In 1988, Sanders had a historically great season and capped it off with a Heisman Trophy.

    The program as a whole has won eight conference championships and has a team in 2011 that will be ready to challenge for a ninth.

No. 36: Virginia Tech

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    Virginia Tech is currently led by one of the best coaches of its time in Frank Beamer. Not only have Hokies fans had Beamer as their coach, but they have also seen players such as Michael Vick, Bruce Smith, Lee Suggs and more.

    Virginia Tech has also won seven conference championships but is still in search of its first national title.

No. 35: Wisconsin

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    Wisconsin is home to two Heisman Trophy winners, Alan Ameche and Ron Dayne, and has also seen 22 consensus All-Americans.

    On top of the individual successes the program has seen, it has won 12 conference titles and has more than 600 victories.

    With the recent addition of Russell Wilson for the 2011 season, Wisconsin has hopes of adding its first national title.

No. 34: Minnesota

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    With six national championships to its name, Minnesota has a solid lineage of players who have left the program and found success in the NFL.

    Minnesota's one Heisman Trophy was won by Bruce Smith in 1941. Since then, players such as Bronko Nagurski, Charlie Sanders, Leo Nomellini, Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney have passed through.

    While recent success has not been there, the Golden Gophers are still one of the top 50 programs in college football history.

No. 33: Maryland

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    Maryland currently competes in the ACC and has been doing so for quite a while.

    The program has been able to win 11 conference championships—most recently in 2001—and has also won one national championship.

    With new coach Randy Edsall, the program is hoping to get back to its winning ways.

No. 32: West Virginia

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    West Virginia has been a program that has remained consistent through the ages.

    With a winning percentage over .600 and 14 conference championships, the only thing missing for the Mountaineers is a national championship.

    While the Big East is viewed as a weak conference right now, West Virginia is still a top-20 team that could do some damage in 2011.

No. 31: Syracuse

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    More important than Syracuse's four conference championships and one national championship may be the lineage it had at running back.

    Between 1956 and 1966, Syracuse had Jim Brown, Ernie Davis and Floyd Little carry the ball out of the backfield.

    Last year, Syracuse was one of the surprise teams in the nation, and it will hope to build on that momentum in 2011.

No. 30: TCU

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    TCU is a program that not only had success early on but has also gotten back toward the top of the rankings the past few years. TCU has two national championships and also a Heisman Trophy winner in Davey O'Brien (1938).

    Along with O'Brien, the Horned Frogs have had Sammy Baugh and LaDainian Tomlinson come through the program.

    In 2010, the team finished No. 2 in the final polls, its highest finish in program history.

    TCU will be spending one more season in the Mountain West Conference before making the move to the Big East in 2012.

No. 29: Arizona State

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    Arizona State truly saw itself get noticed nationally during the 1960s and 1970s. During that time, the Sun Devils posted 176 victories and got the program to a new level.

    Despite all that success, they have yet to win a national championship but have won 17 conference titles.

    Over the years, ASU has been home to Pat Tillman, Jake Plummer and Terrell Suggs.

No. 28: Pitt

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    Pittsburgh is home to an impressive alumni list that includes Dan Marino, Tony Dorsett, Larry Fitzgerald, Mark May and Mike Ditka. While you could stop there and be impressed with the program's history, the list certainly goes on.

    On top of the Hall of Fame cast that has come through the school, Pittsburgh has also won nine national titles and two conference titles.

No. 27: Iowa

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    On top of having one of the best looks in college football, Iowa has won a national title, had a Heisman Trophy winner and won 11 conference championships.

    The Hawkeyes are hoping to return to the Rose Bowl in 2011 for the first time since 1990.

No. 26: Clemson

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    Another team to have won a national championship in its history is the Clemson Tigers. Clemson won its national title in 1981 and has also added 17 conference titles.

    Clemson continues to recruit well and hopes to win its first conference championship in 20 years.

No. 25: BYU

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    BYU's program has had some great accomplishments and achieved two of them in the same season.

    In 1984, the Cougars went undefeated and won the national championship. On top of the title, Ty Detmer won the Heisman Trophy that year.

    BYU has also been home to legendary coach LaVell Edwards, as well as players like Steve Young and Jim McMahon.

    In 2011, BYU moved to being an independent, and it will be interesting to see how it handles the transition.

No. 24: Colorado

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    While Gary Barnett put together some good teams from 1999 to 2005, Colorado won its national championship in 1990.

    Later in the decade, Rashaan Salaam won the school's only Heisman Trophy.

    The Buffaloes also gave the nation one of its more memorable plays when Kordell Stewart silenced the Michigan crowd with a Hail Mary connection to beat the Wolverines.

    In 2011, Colorado joins Utah and heads to the Pac-12 for a fresh start in a new conference.

No. 23: Michigan State

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    The Michigan State Spartans had a dominant stretch from the 1950s through the mid 1960s. During that period, the Spartans won six national championships and put themselves on the map.

    Along with its national titles, Michigan State has won seven conferences titles, including the 2010 title.

    When the 2011 season begins, Michigan State will be one of the favorites to make a run at the Big Ten's first conference championship game.

No. 22: Ole Miss

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    Currently with the 26th-most wins in the nation, the Ole Miss Rebels have won three national titles and six conference titles, but all of this success came from 1963 and before.

    Since that year, Ole Miss has had intermittent success and is still waiting to regain its championship form.

    Under Houston Nutt things have yet to take off, and 2011 will be an important season for the current Ole Miss head coach.

No. 21: Texas A&M

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    Texas A&M first began playing football in 1894 and currently plays in the Big 12.

    The Aggies have won one national title and 18 conference titles since then and have been home to a Heisman Trophy winner, John Crow.

    Under current coach Mike Sherman, the Aggies are primed for a solid run in 2011.

    The interesting aspect around the Aggies will be if this historic program stays in the Big 12 or makes a move to the SEC in the coming years.

No. 20: Georgia Tech

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    Currently coached by Paul Johnson, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets have won four national championships throughout their history. Along with the four titles, Georgia Tech has won 16 conference championships.

    Most recently, the Yellow Jackets sent superstar Calvin Johnson to the NFL, and they are hoping to get back to their winning ways.

No. 19: Arkansas

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    Another team out of the SEC that has been playing since 1894 is the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Razorbacks have won a national title and 13 conference titles.

    The most interesting note about Arkansas is its poor performance in bowl games; it currently has a record of 12-23-3 in its history and hopes to inch back toward .500 in 2011.

    With the 2011 season right around the corner, Arkansas will not only have to replace Ryan Mallett—who went to the NFL—but also starting running back Knile Davis, who was lost to injury during summer workouts.

No. 18: Auburn

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    After seeing one of the best seasons by an individual player, the Auburn Tigers are on cloud nine as the defending national champs.

    The Tigers have two national championships and 11 conference titles. Much like other top SEC programs, they have a history of generating outstanding players.

    Auburn has now seen three Heisman winners in its program's history and has had an impressive 66 consensus All-Americans.

No. 17: Washington

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    Washington was one of the main powers of the early 1990s, but NCAA sanctions set it back, and it is still looking to regain its championship form.

    Before sanctions crippled the program, the Huskies won four national titles and 15 conference championships.

    New coach Steve Sarkisian has gotten them back on track recently, and the Huskies could start competing for conference titles again.

No. 16: UCLA

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    While recently things have been tough for UCLA Bruins fans, they have won a national championship and 17 conference titles.

    UCLA has done a nice job of grooming NFL players, including NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman.

    Bruins fans are hoping that the program can turn a new page and get back to competing for the conference championship.

No. 15: Georgia

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    One of the SEC teams that has an extremely rich history is the Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia began playing in 1892 and has won two national championships and 12 conference titles.

    Georgia has also produced 29 consensus All-Americans and two Heisman Trophy winners—Herschel Walker and Frank Sinkwich.

No. 14: Florida

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    Florida is a program that has truly come into form over the past few decades and has seen outstanding coaching and players alike.

    To go along with its three national titles and eight conference titles, Florida has been home to three Heisman Trophy winners.

    The Gators have had Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer as head coaches, and Gainesville was also home to one of the game's greatest leaders, Tim Tebow.

No. 13: LSU

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    Much like Georgia, LSU has a rich history and will be looking to add to that in 2011.

    The Tigers have won three national championships, including one as recent as 2007. They also have won 13 conference titles.

    LSU has also been able to produce incredible talent, as it has seen 41 consensus All-Americans come through the program. Its sole Heisman winner was Billy Cannon in 1959.

    Coming into 2011, LSU is viewed as a top-five team and will certainly compete to put a fourth national championship in its trophy case.

No. 12: Miami

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    "The U" has had one of the best track records of producing solid NFL talent. Not only has Miami had success in sending players to the next level, but it has also won five national championships and nine conference titles.

    Alumni of the school include Jim Kelly, Clinton Portis, Edgerrin James, Kellen Winslow Jr., Michael Irvin, Andre Johnson and Vinny Testaverde.

No. 11: Tennessee

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    The SEC continues to represent well on this list with Tennessee up next.

    The Vols have won six national championships and 16 conference titles. During the program's history, Tennessee has had some terrific head coaches, including Robert Neyland and Phillip Fulmer.

    It is interesting to note that despite all of the talent to come through the Tennessee program, it has yet to win a Heisman Trophy.

No. 10: Penn State

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    Penn State has been home to one of the best coaches to lead a sports team since 1966.

    While at Penn State, Joe Paterno has won 401 out of the 818 games the program has won.

    The Nittany Lions have won seven national championships and three conference titles and have had one Heisman winner under Paterno.

    With its classic uniforms and JoePa at the helm, Penn State continues to stay in the national eye.

No. 9: Florida State

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    Florida State has been treated to having one of the best football coaches to live lead the program from 1976 to 2009. During his tenure, Bobby Bowden won more games than every other coach in the school's history combined.

    The Seminoles have two national titles, 15 conference championships and two Heisman Trophy winners and can still be seen almost every Saturday on ESPN.

No. 8: Nebraska

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    One of the most dominant programs of the 1990s, the Nebraska Cornhuskers were an offensive juggernaut. Behind coach Tom Osborne, they won three of their five national titles.

    Besides having one of the greatest coaches of all time, Nebraska has produced three Heisman Trophy winners and 53 consensus All-Americans.

    The Huskers are making the move to the Big Ten this year and already are considered a favorite to win the conference.

No. 7: Alabama

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    Alabama has won 13 national titles while also clinching 26 conference championships.

    On top of the team success, Alabama has a Heisman Trophy winner, produced many NFL players and has had 47 consensus All-Americans.

    The Crimson Tide were home to legendary head coach Bear Bryant and continue to be a force in the SEC.

    In 2011, the Tide will likely win eight games to become the eighth team with 800 wins or more.

No. 6: Texas

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    The program with the second-most victories and third-best winning percentage is the Texas Longhorns.

    Much like any of the programs in the top 20, the Longhorns have a great history and have been home to many great players.

    Texas has won four national titles and 32 conference championships. It has also had two Heisman winners and 53 consensus All-Americans.

    In the past decade, Texas was home to one of the most dynamic players to ever step foot onto a college field, Vince Young. Young had a dynamic career and only served to further the Longhorns program.

No. 5: Notre Dame

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    Notre Dame is the most polarizing program in the nation; you either love their failures or cheer on their victories.

    While the Irish have had a dip in their performance the past few years, Notre Dame has a history that rivals any other school's. The Fighting Irish have won 11 national titles—their last in 1988—and have had seven players win the Heisman.

    Between amazing players and historic coaches, the Irish often have their pick of recruits and are hoping 2011 is the year that get back to a dominant level.

No. 4: Michigan

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    Despite their recent dip in program performance, the Michigan Wolverines are still home to the program with the most wins in the FBS division.

    Not only has Michigan had a longevity of success, but it has also piled up the awards and accomplishments. The Wolverines have won 11 national championships and 42 conference titles and have produced three Heisman winners and 77 consensus All-Americans.

No. 3: Ohio State

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    The Ohio State University is the next team up on the list. Despite finding themselves in some current NCAA investigations, the Buckeyes have built one of the best programs in the nation.

    The Buckeyes are home to seven national championships and 37 conference titles, while also having six Heisman winners—most notably Archie Griffin, who is the only player to win two Heisman Trophies.

    No matter what happens with the current investigation going on at Ohio State, it is a program that will rarely find itself in a down year.

No. 2: USC

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    Much like Ohio State, USC has gone through its issues with the NCAA, but it is ready to come out on the other side of the penalties.

    The Trojans are a brand in college football that began back in 1888.

    They have seen players such as O.J. Simpson, Marcus Allen, Reggie Bush, Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and more.

    If you ignore the sanctions that have removed a national title and Heisman Trophy, the Trojans have won 11 titles, 38 conference titles and seven Heisman Trophies.

    No matter what has happened off the field, it is hard to argue with what USC has done on it.

No. 1: Oklahoma

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    The Oklahoma Sooners top my list of programs in the nation.

    The Sooners first began playing football in 1895 and have won seven national titles and 43 conference championships.

    Oklahoma has also seen countless stars go through the program, five of whom won the Heisman Trophy.

    With Landry Jones leading the 2011 team, many expect Oklahoma will challenge for the school's eighth national title.

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