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Ranking the Top 10 College Football Programs of All Time

The Associated Press has been ranking the best teams in college football from start to finish of each season since 1936.

Over 80 years and 1,103 polls, a total of 165 schools have been ranked and 44 of them have been ranked No. 1 (Minnesota was the first).

To determine the all-time Top 25, the AP formula counted poll appearances (one point) to mark consistency, No. 1 rankings (two points) to acknowledge elite programs and gave a bonus for AP championships (10 points).

Using parts of the regular season formula and plus points for things like bowl appearances and championships, the Associated Press just named its top programs of all-time.

The bottom half of the top-10 included a few later bloomers to college football’s elite status, but they’re there.

6 NEBRASKA (901 Points)

Total appearances:717, 65% of all polls

First appearance:1936

No.1 ranking:72

Championships:Four (last 1995)

Best full decade:1990s appeared in 100% of polls.

Worst full decade:1950s appeared in 5.17% of polls.

Poll point:Mostly under coach Tom Osborne, the Cornhuskers were unranked in only three polls combined during the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s _ appearing in 99.35 percent over three decades.

7 MICHIGAN (894 Points)

Total appearances:806, 73.07% of all polls

First appearance:1938

No.1 ranking:34

Championships:Two (last 1997)

Best full decade:1970s appeared in 100% of polls.

Worst full decade:1960s appeared in 26.98% of polls.

Poll point:The Wolverines were first team to appear in every poll over the course of a full decade, when they did it in the 1970s under coach Bo Schembechler.

8 TEXAS (822 Points)

Total appearances:703, 63.74% of all polls

First appearance:1940

No.1 ranking:44 1/2

Championships:Three (last 2005)

Best full decade:2000s appeared in 99.40% of polls.

Worst full decade:1990s appeared in 47.34% of polls.

Poll point:The Longhorns have not had a top-10 rankings since Sept. 19, 2010, the program’s longest such streak since Nov. 26, 1984-Nov. 4, 1990.

9 FLORIDA STATE (714 Points)

Total appearances:540, 48.96% of all polls

First appearance:1964

No.1 ranking:72

Championships:Three (last 2013)

Best full decade:1990s appeared in 100% of polls.

Worst full decade:1950s no poll appearances.(Florida State started football program in 1947).

Poll point:From Nov. 11, 1990-Sept. 9, 2001, the Seminoles were never ranked lower than 11th under coach Bobby Bowden.

10 FLORIDA (674 Points)

Total appearances:562, 50.95% of all polls

First appearance:1950

No.1 ranking:41

Championships:Three (last 2008)

Best full decade:1990s appeared in 98.82% of polls.

Worst full decade:1940s no poll appearances.

Poll point:The Gators had no top-three appearances before Nov. 26, 1984 and then 95 top-three appearances after.

Here's Nos. 5-1:


Total appearances:743, 67.36% of all polls

First appearance:1936

No.1 ranking:90 1/2

Championships:Five (last 2004)

Best full decade:1970s appeared in 89.86% of polls.

Worst full decade:1940s appeared in 47.43% of polls.

Poll point:The Trojans were top-ranked 42 times from Dec. 7, 2003-Sept. 21, 2008 under coach Pete Carroll.

4 ALABAMA (993 Points)

Total appearances:745, 67.54% of all polls

First appearance:1936

No.1 ranking:74

Championships:10 (last 2015)

Best full decade:1970s appeared in 91.22% of polls.

Worst full decade:1950s appeared in 18.97% of polls.

Poll point:From Nov. 3, 1980-Oct. 26, 2008, Alabama was only ranked No. 1 once _ the final poll of the 1992 season. The Tide has been top-ranked 43 times since under coach Nick Saban.

3 NOTRE DAME (1,042 Points)

Total appearances:766, 69.45% of all polls

First appearance:1936

No.1 ranking:98

Championships:Eight (last 1988)

Best full decade:1940s appeared in 96.59% of polls.

Worst full decade:2000s appeared in 45.18% of polls.

Poll point:Notre Dame was ranked at least once every season from the first poll in 1936 through 1961.

2 OKLAHOMA (1,055 Points)

Total appearances:784, 71.08% of all polls

First appearance:1938

No.1 ranking:100 1/2

Championships:Seven (last 2000)

Best full decade:1950s appeared in 94.83% of polls.

Worst full decade:1960s appeared in 28.57% of polls.

Poll point:Oklahoma has been top-five in percentage of poll appearances in five decades (1950s, ’70s, ’80s, 2000, ’10), most of any program.

1 OHIO STATE (1,112 Points)

Total appearances:852, 77.24% of all polls

First appearance:1936

No.1 ranking:105

Championships:Five (last 2014)

Best full decade:1970s appeared in 92.57% of polls.

Worst full decade:1940s appeared in 55.68% of polls.

Poll point:There have only been three seasons during the 80-year history of the AP poll in which the Buckeyes were not ranked at least once, the fewest poll-less seasons of any program.

-- Glenn Erby

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