Ranking the top CFB Programs

Dec 21, 2020
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I ranked the Top 25 College Football Programs heading into 2021. Multiple factors played into the ranking system. They are:

Pedigree: Being a Blue Blood matters. The brand matters. Relevancy matters.
Success: You've got to be decent on the field, too.
Trending: The "What have you done for me lately?" aspect factors in.

Enjoy the list and please share where I went wrong :p


1. Alabama
Saban dynasty will be long remembered. Claiming the most recent title in dominant fashion secures their top spot.

2. Clemson
Dabo not far behind. Two true monsters in CFB. You could make the case for Clemson at one because Saban doesn't have many years left and he has tougher competition in the SEC.

3. Ohio State
Tressel did some big things and Urban brought them to new heights. Dominance in the Big Ten. It's good to be Buckeye fan.

4. Oklahoma
Bob Stoops brought this sleeping giant back to life.

5. Notre Dame
Love 'em or hate 'em, this brand is undeniable. They have wins to go with it.

6. Oregon
Standout program and uniforms out west. Popular team. The Ducks are carrying the Pac-12 right now.

7. LSU
Quite a Championship hangover, but they're producing top athletes and lots of wins. Dudes like the Mad Hatter and Joey Burreaux keep it interesting. Coach O too I suppose.

8. Florida
A few bumps in the road recently, but the Swamp remains relevant as ever.

9. Georgia
Living in the shadow of Bama and Florida, but has a top team and talent every year.

10. Texas
Not much recent success, but simply, they are Texas.

11. Wisconsin
Give them air time, or not. They're going to keep winning either way.

12. USC
There's been ups and downs since Pete Carroll, but hey, it's USC.

13. Michigan
I really wanted to drop them lower, but the brand just outweighs the recent mediocrity on the field.

14. Auburn
The potential always seems to be there. High expectations every year and when the stars align they have a special year.

15. Penn State
They are trending down since Saquon and McSorely, but still hell of a turnaround from the JoPa situation.

16. Texas A&M
Manziel and the SEC was a shot in the arm for this program. Can Jimbo get them to higher level?

17. Iowa State
A few surprises start to sprinkle in. Matt Campbell is trending up up up.

18. Miami
Similar to Texas and Michigan, it's a lot of hot air. But it's the U, they have the turnover chain, and they've been turning things around a little bit.

19. Northwestern
Say what? The academic pedigree, recent success, stability at head coach, and a sweet new practice facility all have this program trending up.

20. Florida State
The last few years have been a complete mess. But I think there's a big fan base and the Seminoles aren't going anywhere.

21. Washington
Chris Petersen did some big things with the Huskies. Time will tell if the shine wears off now that he's gone.

22. Iowa
Hawkeyes win a lot of ball games. But no one seems to care.

23. North Carolina
Mack Brown that son of a gun has breathed some life into that program. They get athletes.

24. Nebraska
You can't live off of past glory forever. But new facilities are coming and the team is getting better. A couple winning seasons would send the Huskers flying up this poll. But they've got to prove it.

25. Indiana
The fighting Tom Creen's are the national media's darling for some reason. They are trending up.

Others receiving votes:
Oklahoma State, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Baylor, Minnesota, Michigan State, BYU
 

scarletred

Nebraska Legend
Jun 17, 2001
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Nebraska and Tennessee have been very much a like the past 2 decades..Vols have had 8 losing seasons since 2008 and the Huskers have 7 since 2004..

Notre Dame I little high.LSU should be #5...Tejas is way over rated shouldn’t be close to the top 10 they‘ve had 4 losing seasons since 2010..
 
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Rubrum_Magnus_Virtus

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Aug 19, 2019
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Nebraska and Tennessee have been very much a like the past 2 decades..Vols have had 8 losing seasons since 2008 and the Huskers have 7 since 2004..

Notre Dame I little high.LSU should be #5...Tejas is way over rated should be close to the top 10 they‘ve had 4 losing seasons since 2010..
Agree with this assessment and will add, he definitely has Michigan and iowa too high. Michigan maybe one spot ahead of Nebraska and iowa is 25 at best.
 

scarletred

Nebraska Legend
Jun 17, 2001
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Agree with this assessment and will add, he definitely has Michigan and iowa too high. Michigan maybe one spot ahead of Nebraska and iowa is 25 at best.

Since 2001 Michigan only won 4 bowl games and 3 of those wins were against Florida..

Ferentz has given Ioway 5 Top 10 finishes in 21 years...
 

Rubrum_Magnus_Virtus

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Since 2001 Michigan only won 4 bowl games and 3 of those wins were against Florida..

Ferentz has given Ioway 5 Top 10 finishes in 21 years...
I understand, OP included blueblood status and brand as half the criteria, with those as half the criteria Michigan and Nebraska are slightly ahead of iowa, that’s just how I understand his ranking. Just for fun I’ll post the year of iowas last top 5 AP finish…..1960…Laughing
 
Dec 21, 2020
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I understand, OP included blueblood status and brand as half the criteria, with those as half the criteria Michigan and Nebraska are slightly ahead of iowa, that’s just how I understand his ranking. Just for fun I’ll post the year of iowas last top 5 AP finish…..1960…Laughing
Blueblood status counts, but so does success and trends. Iowa has only had one sub-500 record since 2000. They've also defeated Nebraska 7 of the last 8 meetings. You could argue NU has a higher ceiling, but at this moment, hard to argue against 1-7. For that reason Iowa had to be higher.
 

scarletred

Nebraska Legend
Jun 17, 2001
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Blueblood status counts, but so does success and trends. Iowa has only had one sub-500 record since 2000. They've also defeated Nebraska 7 of the last 8 meetings. You could argue NU has a higher ceiling, but at this moment, hard to argue against 1-7. For that reason Iowa had to be higher.

I’m not disputing what Ioway has done against Nebraska that is a mute point when it comes to your rankings..

Blueblood status is through out history, so your’s is a mixture of the 2. I get that..

Ioway has been average at best besides the 5 top 10 seasons in 21 years Nebraska is relatively close to Ioway winning percentage...
 
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Spectrumalaska

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Oct 6, 2012
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I’m not disputing what Ioway has done against Nebraska that is a mute point when it comes to your rankings.



A "mute" point is the point at which you push the mute button on your remote with which to make your tv silent, and make MOOT what may be being said.
 

54T

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Texas too high, IMHO. One national championship in the past 50 years, and only 2 conference championships in the last 20 years.

Fun fact: Since joining the B1G in 2014, Maryland has only 3 victories vs. ranked opponents. Guess who two of those wins came against?
 

Rubrum_Magnus_Virtus

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Blueblood status counts, but so does success and trends. Iowa has only had one sub-500 record since 2000. They've also defeated Nebraska 7 of the last 8 meetings. You could argue NU has a higher ceiling, but at this moment, hard to argue against 1-7. For that reason Iowa had to be higher.
Take blueblood status and brand out of your criteria and I’m on board, I don’t need to be reminded of iowas recent success against crappy Nebraska teams.
 
Dec 21, 2020
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I've heard a lot of Texas and Michigan too high. After thinking about it I could agree Texas could get knocked down some. National media is always trying to keep them relevant but perhaps I weighted that in too much. As for Michigan, I stand by that placement. They're a Top 10 school in terms of draft picks since 2000. They get big time players.
 
17. Iowa State
A few surprises start to sprinkle in. Matt Campbell is trending up up up.

3-9 in 2016
8-5 in 2017
8-5 in 2018
7-6 in 2019
9-3 in 2020

Oklahoma State

10-3 in 2016
10-3 in 2017
7-6 in 2018
8-5 in 2019
8-3 in 2020

Beat Iowa State in 2020. Four of five against Matt Campbell fwiw.

Let's see if 1 Top 25 season in Matt Campbell moves to two, first?

Not a Pokes fan, but watching them play in Jack Trice beat ISU in the past isn't the trend you want to see.
 
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BigTimeFan75

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Apr 28, 2021
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If Frost averages a top 10 finish about every 4 years he will be Nebs forever coach. At this point the bar isn’t even that high.
So, correct me if I am wrong, but if Frost ends up with these rankings the next four years.

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You are saying that YOU, as a big Husker fan, right, that you would not be happy with that, because that is 1 top 10 finish in four years.
 
Dec 21, 2020
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17. Iowa State
A few surprises start to sprinkle in. Matt Campbell is trending up up up.

3-9 in 2016
8-5 in 2017
8-5 in 2018
7-6 in 2019
9-3 in 2020

Oklahoma State

10-3 in 2016
10-3 in 2017
7-6 in 2018
8-5 in 2019
8-3 in 2020

Beat Iowa State in 2020. Four of five against Matt Campbell fwiw.

Let's see if 1 Top 25 season in Matt Campbell moves to two, first?

Not a Pokes fan, but watching them play in Jack Trice beat ISU in the past isn't the trend you want to see.
Great point. Cyclones are considered a hot commodity atm, but Okee St is very relevant and as you pointed out, are getting the W's. That was my reasoning for putting Iowa over Neb, hadn't thought about it for these 2 schools. In addition to dropping Texas a bit I would work Pokes in there and drop ISU a bit.
 
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May 20, 2021
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Notre Dame I little high.LSU should be #5...Tejas is way over rated shouldn’t be close to the top 10 they‘ve had 4 losing seasons since 2010..
I'd agree with this - plus if Indiana can keep the success coming, that would impact ND recruiting. I'd put Texas just a little ahead of Nebraska - same blue blood stuff, but slightly more recent success.
 
May 20, 2021
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Pedigree: Being a Blue Blood matters. The brand matters. Relevancy matters.
I'm not sure how much I'd agree with this nowadays. Look at all the G5 programs that have been good just in 2019 and 2020, and the G5 is beating down the door asking for an expanded playoff so they can guarantee one of their teams gets in. I think that would be problematic for teams not at the top of their respective P5 conferences. If you're a high 3* recruit, would you want to play for a "blue blood" P5 team hoping for a December bowl game, or a successful G5 team that is competing for the lone G5 playoff spot most years? Honest question, not trying to troll.
 
May 20, 2021
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Indiana hasn’t done squat ever!
Last year wasn't too bad, and I get that it's only one season and they got lucky with that call against PSU, but nonetheless they can at least compete for some decent recruits now. Like maybe someone who would be a backup at Notre Dame might consider starting for IU instead. That's not something ND has ever had to worry about before. But they could be a flash in the pan too, just pointing out it's possible they could hurt ND slightly.
 
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Portal is going to be interesting moving forward. Fwiw, all-time AP votes #1, since 1936.

RankTeamWeeksFirst appearanceMost recent appearance
1Alabama13019612020
2Ohio State10519422015
3Oklahoma10119502011
4Notre Dame9819382012
5USC9119392012
6Florida State7219882014
7Nebraska7019652000
8Miami (FL)6819832002
9Texas4519412008
10Florida4119852009
11Michigan3419471997
12LSU3219582019
13Michigan State2919511966
14Army2719441958
15Clemson2519812020
16Penn State2119781997
Pittsburgh2119371982
18Minnesota1819361960
Tennessee1819391998
20Georgia1519422018
Washington1519821992
22Iowa1119601985
23Auburn919572010
24Oregon820102012
25Colorado719891990
Syracuse719591960
Texas A&M719391957
UCLA719541988
29Maryland619531955
30Ole Miss519601964
Mississippi State520142014
Northwestern519361962
Purdue519681968
34BYU419841984
California419371951
Cornell419401940
37Virginia319901990
38Missouri219602007
SMU219501950
TCU219381938
41Arkansas119651965
Boston College119421942
North Carolina119481948
Wisconsin119521952
No longer a FBS school.

Not fully relevant, but provides some clarity, when looking at the flash in the pans.

Indiana and Minnesota both last won the Big Ten in 1967. Minnesota stayed home for the holidays, since IU hadn't been to a bowl before, unlike Golden Gophers.

IU won Big Ten titles in 1945 and 1967.
 

scarletred

Nebraska Legend
Jun 17, 2001
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Last year wasn't too bad, and I get that it's only one season and they got lucky with that call against PSU, but nonetheless they can at least compete for some decent recruits now. Like maybe someone who would be a backup at Notre Dame might consider starting for IU instead. That's not something ND has ever had to worry about before. But they could be a flash in the pan too, just pointing out it's possible they could hurt ND slightly.
Indiana has only two bowl games since 1991 and has played in one Rose Bowl in 1967 and lost..
Nothing to discuss when it come to the Hoosiers in football their opposite of Nebraska in basketball..
 

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