College football as we know it began in the fall of 1869,
less than five years after the end of the Civil War. In a sense,
the story and traditions of college football are as old as
modern America. Having begun on a hard-scrabble field in the
difficult years after America’s first crisis, college football
is now a multi-billion-dollar business that attracts millions of
fans each year to college campuses from British Columbia to
Though today the NFL is the big brother in the family, with
vast revenues and coverage across the world, NCAA football is a
close second. Now that college football has instituted a
traditional playoff system, and is considering compensating
student-athletes for their participation, it’s difficult to
think of college football as anything but professional sport. It
was, after all, responsible for the spread of professional
football in the first place.
For the moment, the NFL dominates college football in terms
of TV viewership, though live college games tend to draw larger
crowds to stadiums than their NFL counterparts. Going to college
football games is a tradition in many households. Most of us
have allegiance to one or a few different colleges and
universities, even if we never matriculated beyond high school.
If you’re looking for the definition of American sport, look to
NCAA football competition. The plots are thick, the cast lists
epic, and competition as fierce as in any major American sport.
This page will introduce you to college football, a sport
with a long and interesting history, a galaxy of unique
traditions, and more than 1,000 teams vying each year for a
national title. Here’s a list of all the sections included, and
you can just click a button if you’d like to jump straight to a
If we were putting together a documentary on the history of
college football, we’d start with an imagined scene from that
very first game, played between Rutgers and Princeton. We
imagine a shot of a crisp November morning, trees yellowing in
the background, and there in the background a field of gentlemen
tossing a modified soccer ball back and forth between them. A
small crowd of onlookers talks quietly amongst themselves. A man
puffs on a pipe and laughs at the antics on the field.
We’d contrast that shot with footage from the modern game.
Backbreaking hits, the crunch of Teflon and plastic, the slap of
flesh and turf during a hard sliding grab. We’d show close-ups
of crazed fans with faces painted so deeply their pores show,
and wide-angle shots of The Big House and its 100,000+ fans.
We’d show photos of athletes from the 19th century, either
anemic-looking or on the obese side of fat, next to the
chiseled, perfected, mulled-over bodies of modern athletes.
We’d do that to show the contrast between the origins of
collegiate-level football and the modern game. Sure, it’s a
cheap trick. But it would do very quickly what we would struggle
to do with 500 or 600 words.
College football is said to have started on that field in
1869, though the game played at that time resembles today’s game
very little. In fact, some historians of the game consider the
true birth of college football to be in 1874, with the dawn of
Harvard’s “gridiron” rules and style of play. Still, it can’t be
argued that two colleges fielded teams and played a game called
“football” in November of 1869.
The First College Football Season
We know that Rutgers and Princeton played two games against
one another in the span of two weeks that November. This is
traditionally called the “first college football season,” though
the teams each won their home contest and both had a legitimate
claim to the title of “National Champion.” In fact, historians
consider both teams the legitimate champion that year – to the
extent that historians concern themselves with this detail at
What did the two games played between Rutgers and Princeton
look like? It’s hard to say, for two reasons. First of all, the
rules of football hadn’t been codified, and depended mainly on
word-of-mouth and local tradition. In fact, the two games played
that year used two different sets of rules, established
beforehand by the home team.
Historian Park H. Davis records that this early version of
football banned running while holding the ball, required that
each team field 25 players at a time, and was played on a field
with dimensions similar to a modern soccer field, using a
spherical ball of the type used by soccer teams. It sounds more
like rugby than modern football, and that’s because it was
little more than a modified version of rugby that was intended
to be more civilized. Imagine that – football, a civilized
First College Football Game
Rutgers won that first game by a score of 6-4 – why such an
odd score? At that time, touchdowns were worth just four points
and field goals were worth just two. Rutgers managed to kick a
field goal and score a touchdown, while Princeton’s kicker
missed multiple kicks attempting to tie the score. Davis and
other historians indicate that Rutgers won the first game by
being smaller and faster than their opponents.
Princeton wanted a rematch, on their home turf, played by
their rules. The main difference, according to David, was that
players who caught a pass were given a free kick, and a chance
at scoring 2 points. The rule was designed to cut into Rutgers’
speed advantage, and it worked. Princeton won the game by
kicking four field goals and holding Princeton scoreless, for a
final score of 8 to 0.
Ironically, a third game planned to break the tie was never
played, because school administrators were concerned that the
game was becoming more important than academics in the minds of
the student bodies. This charge would continue throughout the
life of college football.
The game spread to other nearby universities. By 1875, the
league swelled to include four new teams – Columbia, Yale,
Harvard, and Stevens Tech. Commonly-used house rules were
standardized league-wide in 1876 – a crossbar was added to the
goal posts to make kicks more difficult, modern field dimensions
were put in place, and team size was reduced from 25 players per
side to 15.
Walter Camp and the 1882 Rule Changes
Walter Camp was the head of the committee chosen to
standardize rules in 1880, and he pushed hard to turn the game
of brute force into more of a finesse sport. He recommended
limiting each team to 11 players per side, set up the line of
scrimmage system to replace the rugby-like scrum system then in
place, and created a system of downs for advancing the ball, all
of which we still use (in modified form) today.
Walter Camp, a former player at Yale, was the driving
force behind major changes to the game of football at the end
of the 19th century.
Camp’s rule changes in 1882 also included the marking of yard
lines on the field. Because of the way the field looked after
the marks were lain down, the field started to be called the
“gridiron.” After all of Camp’s suggestions were implemented,
the game was found to be better-paced, easier to follow, and
very popular among college students. By the year 1900, Camp’s
game had spread to more than 250 colleges across the country.
Camp had succeeded in his mission to turn the violent and
somewhat dull game he played at Yale into something that
audiences clamored for.
But there’s another reason for Camp’s constant attempts to
change the game – it wasn’t just violent, it was downright
dangerous. Between 1890 and 1905, as Camp and his cohorts
attempted to form a more perfect game from the early rules of
football, 330 college athletes died from injuries they got on
the field. Remember – these were the days before helmets, the
days of massive formations of two dozen players, and legal gang
tackling without pads, all of which could be life-threatening.
The Early Years, 1900 – 1936
We start our coverage of the history of college football in
1900 because that’s the first year that participation in
collegiate football was truly coast-to-coast, and also the first
year that the game resembled modern football contests, thanks to
constant rule changing in the two decades leading up to the
start of the 20th century.
At this point in football’s history, most teams played no
more than nine games per season, some played fewer. It was
during this period that post-season “bowl games” were first
played, named after the Rose Bowl, where the first such game was
held to raise money for charitable causes. Bowl games became
opportunities for bragging rights, and opportunities to
establish regional and national champions.
Goal posts were at the front of the end zone (until 1927,
when they were moved to their current location), and scoring
rules changed rapidly. In 1909, field goals were reduced to
three points, and in 1912, the value of touchdowns was increased
by rewarding six points. The forward pass was legalized in 1906,
but rule changes making it a viable offensive weapon weren’t
instituted until 1912.
Famously, the President of Harvard opposed football, saying
in 1905: “No sport is wholesome in which ungenerous or mean acts
which easily escape detection contribute to victory.”
Though the game had been cleaned up considerably, it was
still considered too violent by some schools. New rules were
needed if football was going to catch on at more schools and
continue a nearly fifty-year-old tradition. So more rule changes
President Theodore Roosevelt called for reforms to the game
of football in 1905, and just five years later, the group put
together to reform the game became the National Collegiate
Athletic Association. Born in 1910, the NCAA is still the major
force for the regulation, provision, and operation of college
The Golden Age, 1937 – 1969
In 1937, the NCAA started keeping official performance
statistics. Before that year, we don’t have many specifics about
player or team performances, except in old school news items or
the journals of players, coaches, or fans. And though the
statistics-keeping system in place between 1937 and 1969 was
flawed, it does allow us to research historical performance in
the NCAA, to some degree. Most NCAA records from this time are
based on player totals over the course of a season, rather than
per-game performance or the per-game average used in the NCAA
This Golden Age of college football was marked not with the
kind of sport-defining rule changes seen in the first part of
the 20th century, but by formalizations to the game that make it
easier to watch as a fan or coach. For example, the use of
numerals on uniforms as a way to identify players wasn’t
formalized until 1939. After 1939, every college that
participated in the NCAA had to use a numeral system. In 1967,
this system was further formalized so that each position is
given a specific range of acceptable numbers.
The system put in place in 1967 is basically still in place today.
1-9: QBs, Kickers, and Punters
10-19: QBs, Wide Receivers, Kickers, and Punters
20-49: Running Backs, Corner Backs, Safeties
50-79: Offensive Linemen, Defensive Linemen, Line Backer
80-89: Wide Receiver, Tight End
90-99: Defensive Linemen, Line Backer
One major innovation that came from this period – the
two-point conversion. In 1959, the NCAA ruled that teams could
elect to run or pass the ball over the goal-line for two points
OR kick for one extra point. This rule took a long time, but
eventually proved influential, as the NFL would add two-point
conversions some four decades later.
The Modern Game, 1970 – Present
We consider the birth of the modern game to be 1970. That was
the first year that most NCAA college football teams had
distinct offensive and defensive squads, rather than fielding
all eleven players on both sides of the ball. It was also the
year that the league started keeping modern statistics, based on
a per-game average rather than season totals, imitating the new
stat systems in use in professional sports.
During this period, the standard 11-game season was
established. Modern conferences began to look like they do
today, though many were born, lived, and died in the span of a
few short years.
The goal post was widened, to make kicks a bit easier, then
narrowed when kicks became too easy. The NCAA first banned the
use of tees on field goal and extra point attempts in 1988.
Major rule changes during the modern era focus mainly on
postseason play. NCAA Division-IA and I-AA seasons now end with
a traditional playoff system supported by bowl games, though the
modern era was a time of great upheaval in regards to the
postseason. Tie games were totally eliminated from Division I-A
during the 1996 regular season, paving the way for overtime in
college football, and the creation of a game that’s more like
the NFL. The 1990s was a time of extreme growth for the NCAA at
all division levels, as the league swelled to more than 650
members by 1999.
NCAA Football Divisions
The National Collegiate Athletic Association is massive.
1,115 schools are participating in some form of NCAA athletics
this year, which represents a new record for participation. With
that many schools spread across four countries and a total of
eight time zones, the NCAA breaks up participating schools into
four divisions. The divisions are generally broken up by school
size, though some small schools participate in the league’s top
division, and at least one large school plays D-III sports.
Below is a guide to each of the four NCAA divisions.
Division I-A – The Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS)
The NCAA’s top division is where the schools with the largest
budgets and most high-profile staff and athletes compete. The
Football Bowl Subdivision is what most people think of when they
think of the phrase “college football.” The schools that play in
this division are the major athletic powers of the American
college system. They have huge football budgets, long lists of
full athletic scholarships to entice recruits with, elaborate
facilities on par with pro-level clubs, and nationwide coverage
by major sports networks.
Division I used to include schools now considered Division
I-AA; in 1978, these schools were divided into two groups –
principal and non-principal. This arbitrary division has
resulted in lots of switching around over the years, as teams
drop out of FBS, play into FBS, or change conferences. 128
schools currently participate in FBS competition, making it by
far the most exclusive division in NCAA football. Those schools
are broken up further into eleven conferences, based mainly on
TRADITIONAL POWERHOUSES IN FBS FOOTBALL
Some Famous Players From FBS Schools
O.J. Simpson (USC)
A two-time All-American, Heisman
trophy-winner OJ Simpson led the NCAA in rushing for two years
in a row while starting as defensive back on the other side of
Doak Walker (SMU)
The NCAA’s award for the top running back
in the league is named after Walker, who won two Cotton Bowl
trophies and a Heisman during his storied college career.
Herschel Walker (Georgia)
Still the only player in NCAA
history to finish in the top 3 in Heisman voting in each of his
years playing varsity football.
Barry Sanders (Oklahoma State)
Recorded what is considered
to be the greatest season of college football in 1988, scoring
at least two touchdowns in eleven consecutive games, and rushing
for more than 300 yards four times.
Division I-AA – The Football Championship Subdivision (FCS)
In 1978, the NCAA divided their top division into two groups
– principals and non-principals. Teams that were not considered
“principal” to college football were relegated to Division I-AA,
now called the Football Championship Subdivision, or FCS.
The main difference between I-A and I-AA is the number of
scholarships and amount of money the schools can give to
athletes. While D-I programs can give out the equivalent of 85
full-ride scholarships, D-II schools are limited to the
equivalent of 63 such offers. FCS teams are allowed to add five
more new players than FBS teams each year, to encourage
development of younger players at the intermediate level. But
teams in I-AA are limited to 95 players per team, compared to
105 for I-A teams.
FCS operates what might be the most perfect football playoff
in the world – a 24-team, single-elimination tournament that
routinely produces a universally-recognized national champion.
Each of the eleven conferences declare a champion, and that team
earns an automatic bid. The other thirteen slots are given to
“at-large” teams, and teams are seeded based on final position.
Only teams with seven or more wins are eligible for any at-large
This year, 125 teams are competing at the FCS level. That
number is a bit lower than in recent years, thanks to a trend at
smaller schools towards participation at the FBS level.
TRADITIONAL POWERHOUSES IN FCS FOOTBALL
North Dakota State
Some Famous Players From FCS Schools
Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State)
Nicknamed “World” by
players at MVSU, because there wasn’t a ball in the world he
couldn’t catch. Caught 27 touchdown passes in 1984, an NCAA
record that stands today across all divisions.
Steve McNair (Alcorn State)
McNair turned down an offer to
play backup at Florida in favor of a spotlight role at Alcorn
State. In his senior year, he racked up exactly 6,000 yards of
total offense and 53 total touchdowns.
Tony Romo (Eastern Illinois)
Romo won the Walter Payton Award as a senior, throwing for more than 3,400 yards and 34
Walter Payton (Jackson State)
Rushed for 65 touchdowns
during his college career, averaging 6.1 yards per carry.
Think of Division II as the intermediate level of college
athletics. D-II is a decent alternative to the
highly-competitive Division I sports programs that D-II athletes
couldn’t or didn’t want to attend. Athletic scholarships are
available to D-II students, unlike at the D-III programs
Originally, D-II and D-III programs were lumped together as
the NCAA College Division, to differentiate it from the NCAA
University Division where the titans of sports competed. No
teams in the College Division were giving scholarships as
recently as four decades ago, before the formalization of
traditions that separated schools by size and ability to support
an athletic program.
Division II is a big enough draw that the football
championship game gets the full ESPN treatment. CBS has a
long-term contract to broadcast the D-II men’s basketball
tournament, with the women’s roundball tournament aired on
ESPN2. You’ll even see some D-II football and basketball games
on the air during the week, mostly on Thursday nights. But D-II
(and D-III) games don’t count towards bowl eligibility – so few
high-profile D-I teams will allow a D-II or D-III team to take a
shot at them.
320 schools are currently part of NCAA’s Division II.
Generally, these are a mix of small public schools and
medium-sized to large private and religious schools. Half of
Division-II schools are home to fewer than 2,500 students. In
fact, just six D-II schools are home to more than 15,000
students. D-II is also home to the only non-US school in all of
NCAA sports – Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.
TRADITIONAL POWERHOUSES IN D-II FOOTBALL
NW Missouri State
Some Famous Players From D-II Schools
Danieal Manning (Abilene Christian)
Named an Offensive All-American for his senior year, as a return specialist and
Brandon Carr (Grand Valley State)
Won back-to-back D-II national championships, and was named Defensive Back of the Year
in his senior season.
Jacoby Jones (Lane)
Gave up a D-I track scholarship to play
wide receiver and return punts at tiny Lane College. Named
three-time All-Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
Adam Vinatieri (South Dakota)
Won two NCAA Division II
titles at South Dakota after giving up on an appointment to West
Point. Still stands as SDSU’s all-time leading scorer, with 185
total career points.
Jahri Evans (Bloomsburg)
Awarded All-Pennsylvania State
Athletic Conference honors in each of his three varsity seasons,
while earning Division II “Little All-American” selections in
his junior and senior seasons.
Division III is the lowest of the NCAA’s football divisions.
This group of colleges and universities either cannot afford to
or choose not to offer scholarships to student-athletes. More
schools participate in Division III athletics than any other
division. This year, for example, the NCAA announced its largest
participation in D-III athletics ever, with 450 member schools.
D-III football teams are broken up into forty- three conferences
– a massive number, compared to the eleven at the D-I FBS level.
The vast majority of these are tiny private schools – just
fifteen percent of the schools in D-III are considered state
It’s tougher than you might think to participate in athletics
at this level – to earn D-III designation, schools have to
sponsor five sports for both men and women, and two of those
sports must be team sports. Each team has to participate in a
minimum number of tournaments. Athletes may not redshirt as
freshmen, and above all, students can receive no compensation
whatsoever in exchange for their play.
The NCAA runs a tight ship in regards to the ban on money in
D-III – in 2005, MacMurray College was stripped of all rights to
participate in NCAA sports (the dreaded NCAA “death penalty”)
after it was proven that their men’s tennis program gave
education grants to players solely in exchange for participation
in NCAA D-III events.
TRADITIONAL POWERHOUSES IN D-III FOOTBALL
UW Stevens Point
Some Famous Players From D-III Schools
Pierre Garcon (Mount Union)
Led Mount Union to two
consecutive D-III National Championships, barely losing out on a
Ali Marpet (Hobart)
Became the first D-III player to ever
appear in the Senior Bowl.
Cecil Shorts (Mount Union)
D-III Offensive Player of the
Year two years in a row; played QB, WR, and punt-returner his
College Football Rankings
College football rankings have been in use since 1934, when
the AP Poll was founded to establish a national hierarchy of
football talent. After the AP Poll, regional and national polls
started popping up, ranking college football teams throughout
the season based on factors like strength of schedule and
strength of conference.
These ranking systems are necessary for two reasons – first,
D-IA college football is played across eleven conferences in all
fifty states. The field of teams in FBS is so large, it’s
difficult for fans to compare and contrast them all. These polls
also served to compare the talent level and the difficulty of
schedule for every college football team.
These days, dozens of such rankings exist, thousands more if
you count amateur ranking systems. But for the most part,
college football fans (and the NCAA itself) have been concerned
only with three polls. Below is a brief description of each of
the major college football polls in use today.
AP Top 25
Today’s Associated Press Top 25 poll is made up of a list of
the top 25 NCAA Division I programs in football and men’s and
women’s basketball. These rankings are a compilation of the
rankings provided to AP by 65 sportswriters and sports
broadcasters from all over the country. Teams are granted points
– each first place vote earns a team 25 points, while
second-place votes count for 24 points, and so on down to a
single point handed out for each twenty-fifth place vote. These
ballots are made public.
The AP Poll is no longer a significant part of the postseason
process, having been abandoned by the BCS in the 2000s. The new
College Football Playoff doesn’t consider the AP Poll (or any
other poll) when making postseason selections.
Known these days as the Amway Coaches Poll, this ranking
system was developed for the 1950-1951 season. The poll is put
together today the same way it has been for nearly seven
decades. 62 head coaches make up the Amway Coaches Poll panel,
and their rankings are compiled to create a weekly top-25
ranking of FBS football programs.
The Coaches Poll has been controversial – charges made over
the years include that coaches are biased toward their own
programs and conferences, that coaches do not fill out the
ballots themselves, and other exchanges typical of this kind of
College Football Playoff Committee Rankings
Not so much a poll, the CFP committee rankings determine
which four teams get into college football’s annual postseason.
Technically, this is the only ranking that matters – the AP and
Coaches polls are no longer part of any consideration for
Before the end of the season, the CFP meets (beginning at
week 8) to rank the nation’s top-25 teams. At season’s end,
they’ll pick four teams for the playoff, seed the teams, and
select the matchups for the other four (non-playoff) bowl games.
How do committee members make their decision? A team’s record
relative to its strength of schedule is “the most pertinent
consideration,” according to interviews with committee members.
Other factors that improve a team’s chances of appearing in the
playoff – winning a conference title, being undefeated, and
having good head-to-head results against other teams in the
playoff. Polls have no formal role in the decision-making, nor
do individual or team statistics.
Major College Football Bowl Games
Here’s information on the six bowl games currently part of
the College Football Playoff system. Thirty-four other bowl
games are played each postseason, and they’re an important part
of the heritage of NCAA football as well. But these six games
represent the history of college football itself, dating back
more than a century, featuring some of the all-time classic NCAA
football contests ever played.
Located: Pasadena, CA
Established: 1902, every year since 1916
The Rose Bowl is “The Granddaddy of Them
All,” the oldest bowl game and the one with the most storied
tradition. This game was twice the host of the BCS National
Championship game, and is now a respected part of the six-game
cycle of College Football Playoff bowl games.
Located: Miami Gardens, FL
The 2000 and 2004 BCS National Championship Games were hosted by the
Orange Bowl, and Florida’s oldest bowl game is slated to host
title games as part of the CFP system for years to come. The
Orange Bowl tends to involve the #1 ACC team, unless that team
is involved in the National Championship game.
Located: New Orleans, LA
For fifty years straight, at least one SEC team competed in the
Sugar Bowl. Thanks to conference re-alignments and changes to
the college football postseason, this is no longer the case. One
of the oldest bowl games in the country, the Sugar Bowl’s value
to NCAA football history was recognized when the game became
part of the CFP system from its announcement.
Located: Dallas, TX
Ironically, the Cotton Bowl is no longer played in its namesake building. It
is, however, still a huge part of the college football
postseason, hosting future CFP championship games and considered
a top-tier bowl game. Once a heralded matchup between the best
of the Big 12 and the SEC, the Cotton Bowl is just as likely to
involve a bowl-buster team these days as a stalwart SEC
powerhouse, thanks to conference re-alignments and changes to
Located: Atlanta, GA
The brand-new Mercedes-Benz stadium will play host to the Peach Bowl
starting in the 2016 postseason, and the Peach Bowl will host
semifinal games in 2016, 2019, 2022, and 2025. Atlanta’s sports
fans are clearly hungry for live football in January – the Peach
Bowl has been completely sold out since 1999, a record for NCAA
Located: Glendale, AZ
Originally founded to give the lowly Western Athletic Conference
a decent bowl game to compete in each year, the Fiesta Bowl is a
typical American success story. The game began to regularly
feature high-quality matchups in the 70s and 80s. Eventually,
league organizers were forced to move the game to New Year’s
Day, with the other major bowls, simply because the teams
involved were both popular and hugely-successful.
The College Football Playoff
By many measures (and in the opinion of many pundits), the
Bowl Championship Series was a failure. Put in place in 1998,
the BCS was supposed to end all controversies and establish a
Division I champion that everyone would recognize. Its blend of
algorithms, computer rankings, and polls was a very late-90s
approach to the problem, substituting technology where human
input would have been just as good.
How did the BCS fail? Here’s a list of teams who finished the
season undefeated but were left out of any chance at a national
The Green Wave turned in a flawless 12-0
performance in 1998, but were completely left out of the BCS
picture because of strength of schedule issues. Tulane didn’t
play a single ranked team all year; in contrast, the other
undefeated team from 1998, Tennessee, played six teams ranked in
the top 20.
Led by future NFL QB Chad Pennington, the
Thundering Herd turned in a perfect 13-0 record in 1999, but
were only ever ranked as high as #10. A signature win against
BYU in the Motor City Bowl was the most the BCS granted
Marshall. Due to conference rules and restrictions, Marshall
would have been left out of the bowl season entirely had they
not won their conference championship, despite their #11
Utah (2004, 2008)
Utah’s 2004 campaign marked the first time
a non-BCS conference school was invited to play in a BCS bowl
game. The Utes were coached by future national champion Urban
Meyer, who was in just his second year as a head coach. Utah’s
perfect season was enough to earn them a spot in the Fiesta
Bowl, but not a shot at the national championship. The 2008
edition of the Utes beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and ended the
season as the league’s only undefeated team. Florida finished
ahead of Utah in the BCS rankings, so Utah was denied even a
share of the national title.
Boise State (2004, 2006, 2008, 2009)
Boise State has been
burned by the BCS too many times to recount here. Between 2004
and 2010, Boise State turned in four undefeated seasons, but was
not once given a shot at a national title. The 2009 season was
particularly egregious, since they became just the second team
in FBS history to finish a season 14-0, after Ohio State in
2002, but weren’t considered even shareholders of the national
Hawai’i’s first undefeated season in school
history ended not with a trip to the National Championship but
an offer to play in the Sugar Bowl. While the Warriors were
blown out in the Sugar Bowl by Georgia, some thought they should
have had a shot at playing on a larger stage. The fact that two
of their wins came against FCS teams probably had something to
do with their not being selected for a more prestigious BCS bowl
TCU was burned twice by the BCS, but turned in a
perfect 2010 season with two major statement wins and still
wasn’t granted a shot at the national championship. The Horned
Frogs would finish the year winning the Rose Bowl, turning in a
13-0 record, and ranked #2. The selection of UT over TCU was a
clear case of BCS big-conference bias. TCU’s statement wins were
far more impressive than Texas’, and Texas’ overall strength of
schedule was just a touch lower overall. This one really
mystified fans, and probably led in some small way to big
changes in the college playoff system.
The BCS’ inability to deal with successful teams outside of
the automatic-qualifying conferences was just the tip of the
iceberg. Complaints about bowl eligibility rules were at times
more common than traditional coverage, as the press caught on to
growing fan tensions.
Because the BCS failed to pit the nation’s two best teams
against one another to produce a universal champion, it was
finally replaced in 2014 with the College Football Playoff, also
known as the CFP.
About The CFP
The main purpose of the CFP is to create a system in which
the country’s two top teams compete in a final title game. That
title game’s champion would thus be universally-recognized as
the best team in the land. A secondary purpose, one that’s just
as important in the eyes of many fans and pundits, is to give
non-major conference teams a better shot at playing in a
valuable postseason game.
The 2014 NCAA football season was the first to use a
traditional playoff system. By “traditional playoff system” we
mean a series of games involving the seeding of teams and
single-elimination results. So how does it work?
The CFP bases its rankings on the opinions of a selection
committee. This committee ranks teams throughout the season,
starting after Week 8. Based on these rankings, the nation’s top
four teams, as selected by that committee, compete in two
semifinal games. The winners of those two games compete against
one another for the title of D-I NCAA football champion.
The sports’ traditional bowl games will continue; in fact,
six existing bowl games will act as hosts on a rotating basis
for the new CFP end-of-season contests. The games will be
divided up among the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Fiesta
Bowl, Cotton Bowl, and Peach Bowl contests. As for the annual
championship game, its location is chosen after a bidding
system. The first site for the NCAA College Football Playoff is
AT&T Stadium in Dallas, home of the Cowboys.
The CFP may be in the middle of its first go-round, but
bettors and fans of college football should get used to it. NCAA
football’s champion will be determined by the playoff until at
least the 2025 season, thanks to existing bylaws and broadcast
contracts. Understanding how the CFP works and how to bet on it
is important, especially at the beginning of its existence.
List of NCAA Football Champions
This list dates back to 1950 – not because college football
wasn’t played before then, but because no multiple-poll system
existed before that year. The Coaches Poll (United Press
International, or UPI Poll) premiered in 1950, and by comparing
the AP UPI Polls, a national champion could be named. In many of
these years, a consensus pick is used, since multiple polls
existed that declared multiple national champions. In other
years, you’ll find multiple teams listed. Because of a lack of
national coherence around polling systems in the early decades
of D-I competition, it was impossible to establish a single
Ohio State / UCLA
Auburn / Ohio State
Iowa / LSU
Minnesota / Ole Miss
Alabama / Ohio State
Alabama / Arkansas / Notre Dame
Alabama / Michigan State
Michigan State / Notre Dame
Nebraska / Ohio State / Texas
Oklahoma / USC
Alabama / USC
Colorado / Georgia Tech
Miami (FL) / Washington
Michigan / Nebraska
Alabama / Notre Dame
Oklahoma / Miami (FL)
LSU / USC
USC (vacated by the NCAA for recruitment violations)
Expand | Shrink
NCAA Power 5 Conference Team Guide
We’ve restricted the guide to college football teams below to
only those teams in one of the so-called Power 5 conferences. We
don’t do this arbitrarily. The Power 5 is a relatively-new
phenomenon, replacing the old “automatic qualifying conferences”
system used during the BCS era that led to so much controversy.
The new College Football Playoff actually makes it easier for
teams outside the Power 5 to get a crack at a playoff
appearance. Under the current rules, both TCU and Boise State
would have been playoff contenders in the years they were
overlooked by BCS computers.
In our defense, no team outside the Power 5 finished the 2014
season ranked higher than twentieth in any national ranking, and
that team (Boise State) is currently being courted by two Power
5 conferences. We think focusing on teams in the Power 5 makes
sense for people not very familiar with the entire pool of 125
teams playing D1 NCAA football.
The 63 teams listed below represent the best of the best in
modern college football.
ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference)
The Atlantic Coast Conference sponsors athletic competition
in twenty-five different sports. Founded in 1953, the ACC has
changed its makeup by adding new schools six times, most
recently in 2013. Sixteen ACC teams have won whole or partial
football championships over the course of the conference’s
lifespan. Here is a quick look at every team currently playing
football in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Boston College Eagles
Boston College claims one national title, for the 1940
season. Boston College has produced one Heisman winner, Doug
Flutie in 1984. They also claim a single conference championship
in 2004 in the Big East the year before moving to the ACC. New
coach Steve Addazio has led the Eagles to back-to-back
Clemson has one national title to its name, for the 1981
season. Though John Heisman himself coached at Clemson in the
early 20th century, no Tigers player has yet to win the award.
Clemson has won the ACC championship 14 times, the most of any
school in the conference. The Clemson Tigers have recorded four
straight ten-win seasons, and are enjoying a renaissance thanks
to the leadership of new head coach Dabo Swinney.
Duke Blue Devils
Duke is best-known as a basketball school, thanks to the
school’s many national titles and postseason appearances on the
basketball court. Before the 1960s, Duke was one of the
powerhouse football teams in the country, winning ten conference
titles and an unofficial national championship in football in
1938. New head coach David Cutcliffe has the Blue Devils in the
news again in football, with two postseason appearances in his
first three seasons.
Florida State Seminoles
Florida State is the dominant football program in the ACC.
Florida State can claim three legitimate outright national
championships, along with a record eighteen conference titles
and six additional divisional titles. Florida State competed in
the first-ever College Football Playoff in 2014. Since the start
of the program in 1947, the ‘Noles have recorded three
undefeated seasons. The school ended the season ranked in the
top 5 of the AP Poll for a dizzying 14 straight seasons, between
1987 and 2000.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
The Georgia Tech Ramblin’ Wreck has fielded a football team
every year since 1892, winning four national titles and sixteen
conference championships along the way. Though no Yellow Jackets
player has ever won the Heisman trophy, Georgia Tech has been
home to 21 All-Americans, more than any other ACC school besides
Miami’s football program struggled for the first five decades
of its life, before finally finding a rhythm in the 80s and 90s.
The Hurricanes have won five national championships since 1983,
most recently in 2001. The most famous Miami Hurricanes players
are the team’s two Heisman winners – Gino Torretta and Vinny
The most recent addition to the ACC, having joined in 2014,
Louisville is another Atlantic Coast-area school with a rich
basketball tradition that mostly overshadows the school’s
football program. The modern team’s high point was the 2013
Sugar Bowl, when then-#22 Louisville shocked the world and beat
a much-lauded Florida team by ten points.
NC State Wolfpack
The ACC is full of teams that have shown much more promise in
basketball. NC State is one of those teams. Still, since joining
the ACC in the 50s, the Wolfpack has won seven conference
championships and compiled a 15-12 record in bowl games.
North Carolina Tar Heels
After joining the ACC in 1953, North Carolina enjoyed a
couple of decades of football prosperity, winning five
conference titles, the most recent in 1980. However, since 1980,
the team has struggled, winning just fifty games in the first
decade of the 2000s.
One of the original powerhouses of college football,
Pittsburgh has been fielding a football team since 1890. Pitt
won or shared seventeen national titles in its first nine
decades, but a twenty year drought in the 80s and 90s all but
shut down the program. A BCS bowl bid in 2004 is the high water
mark of Pitt football over the past 34-plus years.
Syracuse has only played in the ACC since 2013, having spent
five decades as part of the Big East conference. Though Syracuse
was dominant in the Big East, even claiming a national
championship in the 1950s, they have yet to finish better than
third in the ACC. The Syracuse Orange have no Heisman Trophy
winners in their history.
The oldest football team in the ACC, Virginia has
participated in men’s football since 1888, in the days before
pads, helmets, uniforms, or an oval-shaped ball. For all of
Virginia’s hype, the school has seen limited success in NCAA
football. They’ve never had a national title or a claim to one,
and they’ve only been ACC champions twice, most recently in
1995. The Cavaliers haven’t won a bowl game in eleven years.
Virginia Tech Hokies
Virginia Tech moved to the ACC in 2004, after decades of
traditional dominance in the Big East. Virginia Tech played for
a national title just once, in 1999, losing to Florida State.
The Hokies are in the middle of a 21-year bowl game streak,
going 9-12 during that time. Virginia Tech has no Heisman Trophy
winners, though several players have been promising candidates
for the award in recent years.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Little Wake Forest is the smallest school in the Power 5
conferences, and the sixth-smallest in all of the FBS. The
school struggled for most of the 20th century in football, with
a winning percentage of just about 40% all time. However,
they’ve been competitive since the year 2000, winning the ACC
outright in the year 2006 and playing in its first BCS bowl
game. The Demon Deacons have been to more bowl games since the
year 2000 than they had been to in the first six decades of
Big Ten Conference
Founded in 1895, the Big Ten conference is the oldest in all
of NCAA sports. You’ll notice that the Big Ten is actually home
to thirteen schools – that’s what happens when conferences
constantly realign. Made up mainly of state schools from New
Jersey to Nebraska, the B1G (as the conference styles itself
now) is both a traditional and contemporary football powerhouse.
Below is a guide to each of the schools that are currently
members of the B1G conference – mainly large public research
universities in the American heartland.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois has a rich tradition in college football, fielding a
team every year since 1900, even during World War II, when many
traditional football powerhouses suspended play. Illinois claims
five national titles, all of which came before 1951. In the
years since, the Illini have faded considerably. They’ve won the
B1G title just four times since the 50s, winning the
accompanying post-season bowl game just once during that time.
Indiana is the least-respected football program in the B1G.
The Hoosiers have the worst overall winning percentage in the
conference, hovering around 42% for the past couple of decades.
Though Indiana did win the B1G title twice, in 1945 and 1967,
they’ve never been a contender for a national title, and have
only played in one bowl game over the past twenty-two years. The
Hoosiers haven’t won a bowl game since the 1991 Copper Bowl,
which is the longest win drought for any program in the Power 5.
Iowa is an original member of the Big Ten, participating in
football every year since 1900 except for during war time. Iowa
claims part of the National Championship of 1958, and they had
an outright Heisman winner in 1938 in star halfback Nile
Kinnick. Iowa won two back-to-back shared conference titles in
the 2000s under Coach Kirk Ferentz, one of the longest-tenured
coaches in the Power 5. Iowa hasn’t won a bowl game since the
2010 Insight Bowl.
Maryland was a founding member of the ACC, a stalwart giant
of ACC athletics for five decades. They joined the B1G in 2014
after a protracted legal battle with ACC officials. The
Terrapins have never been a football powerhouse, claiming a
share of a disputed 1953 title. Maryland’s most-recent
successful team was the 2002 edition, which made it to the
Orange Bowl only to lose to an underrated Florida squad.
The premier team of the B1G conference, Michigan can claim
all or a share of eleven national titles and forty-two
conference championships. The Wolverines’ 72.9% winning
percentage is also the best in the conference, slightly better
than chief rival Ohio State. Three Michigan players have won the
Heisman Trophy, including a rare defensive Heisman win for FS
Charles Woodson. Michigan’s rivalry with Ohio State is one of
the most celebrated in American sports.
Michigan State Spartans
After joining the B1G in 1950, Michigan State started a
healthy rivalry with conference-dominator Michigan. It’s an
in-state rivalry that’s anything but typical. Six-time national
champion Michigan State would be the best team in most other
conferences, but not in the B1G, where the top two teams have
twenty between them. Though Michigan leads the head-to-head
series 68-35, it’s the Spartans who’ve had the upper hand
lately, winning three straight contests going back to 2013.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
The Golden Gophers are the third most successful team in the
B1G, after Michigan and Ohio State. They can boast total or
partial ownership of seven national titles and eighteen Big Ten
championships. Unfortunately, all that success occurred in the
years before 1970, in the pre-statistics era of the NCAA.
Minnesota has improved their program since the 80s, when the
team missed the postseason for twenty straight seasons.
Nebraska is a classic football powerhouse – successful in the
sport’s early days and successful in the modern era as well. No
other Power 5 team has as many wins against P5 opponents as
Nebraska, and has the fourth most outright victories of all
time. Nebraska won all or part of fourteen national titles,
including three in the 1990s. Nebraska’s three Heisman Trophy
winners have all been QBs, earning the school the nickname “QB
Northwestern has been part of the Big Ten since it’s establishment
in 1896. They have been conference champions or co-champions 8 times
but have never won a national championship. They boast of 15 College Football Hall of Fame members
and many All-Americans. The Wildcats were nicknames the “Cardiac ‘Cats'” because of
there several highly contested games.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Ask anyone who the best team in the B1G is and you’re likely
to hear either “Michigan” or “Ohio State.” Though Michigan has a
slightly better winning percentage and more national accolades,
Ohio State has been the more successful team in recent years,
winning seven conference championships and a national title over
the past thirteen years.
Penn State Nittany Lions
With seven national titles and three Big Ten championships to
their credit, Penn State is one of the most storied and
consistently successful teams in NCAA football. Coached for
forty-five years by Joe Paterno, the Nittany Lions have produced
seven undefeated “perfect” seasons since their inception in
Purdue’s eight B1G conference championships puts the school
in the same company as Michigan State. Though Purdue has not
been a modern force in college football, the team was a
traditional giant. Purdue has been to (and won) more bowl games
in the 2000s than the team played in for the previous thirty
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
One of just two Big Ten teams that’s never won a conference
title, Rutgers is a perennial also-ran in college football.
Rutgers joined the Big Ten in 2014, on the strength of a 2012
campaign that ended in a Big East conference championship, the
team’s high-water mark in the past five decades of competition.
It’s a shame that Rutgers is struggling so hard, considering the
campus is the birthplace of college football.
Wisconsin has had little success outside their conference,
though fourteen B1G conference titles is nothing to sneer at.
The Badgers have no national titles, and struggle historically
in postseason play, with a 12-14 overall bowl game record.
Wisconsin is streaking in recent years, having claimed the Big
Ten title for three seasons in a row between 2010 and 2012.
Big 12 Conference
The Big 12 is by far the youngest major sports conference.
Notice that the Big 12 is actually only home to 10 teams – the
kind of thing that happens often in modern college football,
thanks to constant conference shuffling. The ten teams that
currently make up the Big 12 are all located in Iowa, Kansas,
Oklahoma, Texas, or West Virginia. The Big 12, similar to the
B1G, is home mainly to flagship state public schools, though two
private religious schools are also currently members. Though the
Big 12 has only been around for twenty years, the conference is
already home to three national champions. The Big 12 is unique
in the modern game, because all but two of the teams are
original members. Recent reshuffling removed a couple of teams
and added two new faces. Below is a guide to each of the
conference’s ten teams.
Baylor football has gone through three distinct eras. Early
on, the Bears were a dominant force, winning four conference
titles between the years 1915 and 1924. Then, a long period of
failure. Baylor’s football team wouldn’t win another Big 12
title until 1974, a half-century drought that is one of the
longest in FBS history. Back-to-back conference championships in
2013 and 2014, and the awarding of a Heisman Trophy to Robert
Griffin III, announced the resurgence of Baylor football.
Iowa State Cyclones
Iowa State is the least-successful team in the Big 12, never
even competing for a share of the conference title, and posting
a postseason record of 3-9. Iowa State didn’t participate in a
bowl game between 1978 and 2000, and didn’t win a single
postseason game in its first 100 or so years of participation in
The Jayhawks won five conference titles in the first
half-century of NCAA D-I football play. The team hasn’t claimed
a championship since 1968. Kansas and their in-state rival
Kansas State form one of the most intense rivalries in the Big
12 Conference. The Jayhawks have had little long-term success of
late, finishing the season ranked in the top ten just once in
the past two decades.
Kansas State Wildcats
The Wildcats have won the conference title six times,
including twice since the year 2000. Kansas State was
traditionally the whipping boy of in-state rival Kansas, though
the Wildcats have won the rivalry game for six years running.
Oklahoma is one of the most successful football programs
since World War II, winning more games since 1945 than any other
FBS team, with a higher winning percentage than any NCAA
football team in any division. OU’s seventeen national titles,
forty-four conference championships, and half-dozen Heisman
Trophy winners are a ridiculous testimony to the Sooners’
dominance. Oklahoma’s chief rival is in-state in-conference
opponent Oklahoma State. As a further testament of OU’s
dominance, they lead their in-state rivalry series 84-18.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Speaking of the Cowboys, let’s not overlook the performance
of the little team from Stillwater. Their 2011 campaign ended in
a Big 12 conference title, and a big overtime win against
Stanford in the BCS Orange Bowl. OSU is in the middle of a
gentle renaissance – the Cowboys have ended the season ranked in
the top 25 every year since 2008.
TCU Horned Frogs
TCU and West Virginia joined the Big 12 in 2012, after the
exodus of Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri, and Texas A&M. The
Horned Frogs own two national titles from the 1930s, and won
their conference championship 18 times while playing in the
non-Power 5 MWAC, C-USA, WAC, and SWC conferences. TCU was named
co-champion of their first season in the Big 12, which is a
remarkable feat considering it was also their first year in a
Texas football is legendary. Nearly 200 All-American players.
Three national championships between 1957 and 1976. Valued at
more than $80 million, the most lucrative team in all of college
sports. The Longhorns have the second-most wins in NCAA Division
I FBS history. They’ve played in 53 bowl games, recorded 23
seasons with 10 or more wins, turned in nine perfect seasons
overall, and they’ve been ranked in the top twenty-five at the
end of 66 out of the last 76 seasons. Their dominance in the Big
12 can’t be overrated.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
The Red Raiders are Texas “other-other” team. Overshadowed by
powerhouse teams like Texas A&M and the University of Texas,
Tech has long gotten the short end of the recruiting stick. Even
so, the team has claimed eleven conference titles, most recently
in 1994. Texas Tech is the only Big 12 team to qualify for the
postseason every year since the conference’s inception.
West Virginia Mountaineers
West Virginia joined the Big 12 in 2012, along with TCU. WVU
is the winningest team to have never claimed a national title,
though they won the Big East conference seven times between 1993
and 2001. The Mountaineers have struggled to compete at the Big
12 level since joining, turning in their first losing season in
decades, and losing five of their final six games in 2014,
missing out on bowl eligibility entirely.
Currently the only conference whose name matches its number
of members, the Pac-12 is made up of twelve schools from
Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.
Called “the conference of champions,” the Pac-12 has more
national championships to its credit than any other conference.
Nine national champion football teams have come out of the
Pac-12. Here’s a quick rundown on each of the conference’s dozen
teams. Kudos to the Pac-12 for actually being home to 12 teams.
Arizona is not primarily a football school, performing better
in national basketball and baseball competitions than on the
gridiron. That said, the Wildcats have won six conference
titles, including a 1993 campaign that saw the Wildcats end the
season ranked in the top ten for the first and last time (so
far) in history.
Arizona State Sun Devils
Arizona State is a rarity – the smaller and less-experienced
but more successful cousin of a state school. In most states,
the major university is also the dominant football team. Not so
in Arizona, where the Sun Devils can lay claim to an unofficial
national title and eighteen conference championships.
California Golden Bears
Once a dominant force in college football, the Cal Golden
Bears haven’t had much success in the modern era. California won
five titles between 1920 and 1937, but didn’t win a postseason
game again until 1990, a drought of more than fifty years. With
just two conference titles to their credit since 1970, the
Golden Bears are a shell of their former powerhouse status.
Little-known Colorado is in the top 25 of total wins for all
FBS teams. Colorado won a national title in 1990, and has the
odd distinction of being the team with the most successful
fourth-down conversions. The school’s success dropped off
entirely after the 1990 title, winning the Big 12 just once more
before leaving that conference for the Pac-12.
Oregon can claim twelve conference titles and national
runner-up status for two different seasons. The Ducks have yet
to win the national championship, though both the 2010 and 2014
edition of the team earned second-place status. Oregon’s mascot
was the Webfoots for the first seventy years of the program’s
existence – the switch to Ducks was only made in the 1960s.
Oregon State Beavers
The Beavers are winners of five conference titles, most
recently in the year 2000. Oregon State won their only shot at a
BCS bowl game, in the 2000 Fiesta Bowl, and finished ranked
third in the nation. Oregon State hasn’t had the attention or
the national success that their in-state rival Oregon has had in
recent years, though they’ve won seven of their last ten
Winner of two disputed national titles, Stanford is a
long-time participant in college football that’s had trouble in
modern times. The 1980s were particularly tough on Stanford,
when NCAA sanctions meant the team played in just one bowl game
between 1978 and 1990.
UCLA football has gone through several successful periods.
The Bruins are the only team to have been ranked in the AP’s top
ten at least once in every decade since the poll started in the
1930s. In the 1950s, the team won their only national title in
1954, along with three conference titles and an overall record
of 66–19. Recently, UCLA is experiencing limited success on a
regular basis again – winning the Pacific-12 South two years in
a row, competing for the conference title in both 2011 and 2012.
The Trojans are the definition of the phrase “football
powerhouse,” claiming eleven legitimate national championships
since the team’s founding in 1898. More Trojans have been
drafted than from any other team – 493 as of the 2015 season.
More players in the Hall of Fame graduated from USC than any
other school. USC has won their conference championship 38
times, producing five Heisman Trophy winners along the way.
Utah is a conference-hopping team, having played in five
different conferences in the last century. The Utes have put
together 28 conference titles during that time, so it’s clear
that they’re dominant no matter what conference they’re in. Utah
has an amazing record in the postseason, winning fourteen of
their eighteen bowl games.
Five national titles and fifteen conference titles gives
Washington serious bragging rights among their Pac-12
competitors. The Huskies were particularly dangerous during the
1990s, claiming two national titles and six conference
Washington State Cougars
The Cougars have won the Pac-12 conference just twice in the
modern era, most recently in 2002, when the team finished in the
top 10 of the AP Poll for the first time in fifty years. The
Cougars’ in-state rival, Washington, owns their season series
69-32, though Washington State won the game six years in a row
in the early 2000s.
Fourteen schools are currently members of the Southeastern
Conference. Considered the premier football conference in modern
times, the SEC has won eight of the last twelve National
Championships. Below you’ll find a quick guide to each of the
SEC’s fourteen member schools, which are concentrated in ten
states in the American southeast.
Alabama Crimson Tide
The winningest team in SEC history is in the middle of a
streak of seven double-digit win seasons under Coach Nick Saban.
During that time, they’ve won three national titles, three
conference titles, and produced two Heisman Trophy winners.
Let’s not even talk about ‘Bama’s historical dominance – they’ve
won the SEC title more than twice as much as second-place
The Razorbacks have never won the SEC (or any other
conference) title, though they lay claim to a national title in
1964. The team’s 0-3 performance in SEC championship games is
the worst in the conference and a black eye on an otherwise
respectable college football program.
Auburn is the other school in Alabama, winners of two
national titles (most recently in 2010), and eight SEC
championships. Auburn has produced twelve perfect seasons, three
Heisman Trophy winners, and (recently) a perennial playoff
contender team with lightning-fast offense.
Home to eight SEC titles, three national championships
(including two in the 2000s), and three Heisman Trophy winning
quarterbacks, Florida is a powerhouse in the SEC, with 700 wins
and an overall winning percentage in the 95th percentile of all
FBS teams. The team’s rivalry with Florida State represents one
of the most heated and powerful rivalries in college sports with
a dozen official and unofficial national titles between the two
The Bulldogs are a perennial playoff contender, a force in
the football-rich SEC, and holders of six claimed and unclaimed
national titles. The Bulldogs have put up twelve SEC titles to
go with those national championship runs, including two perfect
seasons. Two Heisman Trophy winners played at Georgia. The
Bulldogs are struggling in the postseason of late, winning just
two of their last five bowl games.
Kentucky is consistently one of the least-successful football
programs in the SEC, being a basketball-centric school with a
history of success in the NCAA basketball tournament. Kentucky
is one of just two teams in the SEC with an overall losing
record, and the Wildcats have laid claim to the SEC title just
twice, once under the tutelage of the legendary Paul “Bear”
LSU is a triple National Championship winner, bringing home
the title in 1958, 2003, and 2007. The Tigers were the first
team in the BCS era to win multiple national titles, though
they’ve not been invited to the College Football Playoff since
its inception a couple of seasons ago. LSU is one of the
most-televised college football teams, with multiple prime time
appearances every year for the past decade.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Mississippi State is widely-acknowledged as the chief
resident of the SEC doghouse. The Bulldogs won the SEC title in
1941, and have yet to even return to the championship game.
Mississippi State has benefited from increased competition in
the SEC in recent years, winning every bowl game they’ve been
invited to since 1999.
Missouri moved to the SEC from the Big 12, after a dispute
over proposed TV deals on the part of UT and Texas A&M. Missouri
won fifteen conference titles in the Big 12, but has yet to do
much damage in the SEC. An unclaimed national title from 2007
was the result of a surprising bowl game blowout of a solid
Arkansas team, and a year in which the BCS failed to produce a
Ole Miss Rebels
Though the Rebels were very successful in the mid-20th
century, they haven’t won an SEC title or competed for a
national championship since 1963. Ole Miss performs well under
postseason pressure, winning ten of their last twelve bowl
South Carolina Gamecocks
South Carolina joined the SEC in 1991 after a very successful
decade as an FBS independent team. Since joining a major
conference, South Carolina has struggled to make noise on the
national stage. They won a divisional title in 2010, but failed
to convert that into larger-scale success.
Tennessee is not a school you think of when the word
“powerhouse” comes up in conversation, unless you’re talking
about women’s basketball. Still, Tennessee is the second-most
successful team in the SEC, winning six official national
championships and thirteen SEC titles. The Volunteers are
struggling – they haven’t competed for a conference title since
Texas A&M Aggies
A recent convert to the SEC faith, the Aggies bailed on the
Big 12 as part of a large legal dispute over television rights.
The Aggies are three-time national champions, and claimed the
Big SWC title a record seventeen times. Time will tell if the
Aggies can turn around their not-so-great luck in the SEC and
win a title.
Though Vanderbilt’s record is a bit better than Mississippi
State, they have fewer accolades to claim than even that
also-ran program. The Commodores have never won or even competed
for a conference championship. Between 1983 and 2008, Vanderbilt
never won more than five games and didn’t appear in a single
Classic College Football Games
What makes a college football game a classic? The same thing
that elevates any sports contest – dramatic tension, super-human
performances, and memorable moments. The four games below are
our collective choice for the greatest college football games
ever played. We wanted to represent every major age of college
football with our selections, but we weren’t able to. Remember,
legitimate statistics weren’t kept in the NCAA until 1970. So
here are the four greatest games from college football’s modern
December 6th, 1969
One of the great rivalries in sports history was the one
between Texas and Arkansas when they played together in the
Southwest Conference. This game is one of many “Game of the
Century” nominees involving Texas, a powerful force through the
history of college football. In this game, Arkansas had a
commanding 14-0 lead going into the fourth quarter. After a late
Texas TD and two-point conversion, the score was 14-8 with
Arkansas on top. On fourth down, with fewer than five minutes
remaining, Texas’ Darrel K. Royal went for it, throwing a long
bomb of a pass that set up the game-winning score on the ground.
Boston College 47
Miami (FL) 45
November 23, 1984
Known as Flutie’s miracle, a single play elevated this game from good to great. In fact this 80s classic led to the invention of the term “Heisman moment.” Boston College’s stellar quarterback Doug Flutie, who would go on to win that year’s Heisman, threw an improbable Hail Mary against Miami in a last-ditch attempt to win from behind. With just six seconds on the clock, Flutie scrambled deep in the pocket, launched the ball seemingly without looking at his target, and 64 yards later it was in the hands of receiver Gerard Phelan.
December 6th, 1969
One of the great rivalries in sports history was the one
between Texas and Arkansas when they played together in the
Southwest Conference. This game is one of many “Game of the
Century” nominees involving Texas, a powerful force through the
history of college football. In this game, Arkansas had a
commanding 14-0 lead going into the fourth quarter. After a late
Texas TD and two-point conversion, the score was 14-8 with
Arkansas on top. On fourth down, with fewer than five minutes
remaining, Texas’ Darrel K. Royal went for it, throwing a long
bomb of a pass that set up the game-winning score on the ground.
October 11th, 2014
In the first year of the College Football Playoff, Baylor and TCU both got the short end of the stick from the playoff committee, most likely as a result of this shootout. Down 58-37 with less than twelve minutes to play, Baylor’s high-powered offense would score 21 unanswered points in less than seven minutes to tie things up. As time expired, Baylor lined up on and nailed a 28-yard field goal for the come-from-behind win. Baylor and TCU were eventually named co-champions of the Big 12, but because of the high quality of competition in the conference that year, neither team was invited to the playoffs.
Interesting Facts About NCAA Football
Manhattan College played in the first-ever Orange Bowl game
in Miami in 1935. In order to save money, Manhattan College
chartered a boat and the team took the three-day trip to and
from South Florida by sea.
The College Football Hall of Fame and the Academy Awards have
one member in common – Irvine “Cotton” Warburton. He won an
Oscar for his work editing the 1964 film Mary Poppins.
Prairie View College owns the largest historic losing streak
in any NCAA division, having lost 80 games between 1990 and
2000. During the 1992 season, the team was outscored by an
average of 52 points per game.
The college football team that holds the most National
Championship titles? It’s not Alabama, and it’s not Ohio State.
It’s Yale. The Ivy League school has claimed 18 national titles,
with the last one coming in 1927.
The largest margin of victory in NCAA football history came
in 1916. Georgia Tech, then a powerhouse of the sport, visited
Cumberland College for that school’s first-ever organized
football game. The game was called with a quarter left to play
because of a score of 222 to 0.
When the Nebraska Cornhuskers play home games, the stadium on
campus is technically the state’s second-largest city.
Oklahoma was not yet a state when the Red River Shootout
between Oklahoma and Texas began in 1900. It would be seven
years before this game was played between two states, and not
one state and one territory.
College football fields were originally 120 yards long and
100 yards wide.
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