Polls & Rankings

AP College Football Rankings: Greatest Programs Of All-Time

AP College Football Rankings: Greatest Programs of All-Time


The AP poll is has been the most consistent ranking system over the long history of college football. What programs come out best? Here are the top programs according to a CFN formula using all the AP’s final rankings.


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Top Teams Of The … 1930s | 1940s | 1950s
1960s | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s | 2010s

The AP college football rankings don’t have anything to do with the College Football Playoff process, and they haven’t had a part in determining the actual national champion for over a decade, but they’ve been the most consistent and reliable polls since 1936.

There might have been times when the AP rankings went rogue – making the biggest splash in 2003 naming USC the national champion, and not BCS Champion LSU – and they’ve played a part in the past when it comes to split title winners. They just keep on marching along.

There might be other polls out there, and there are several other historical markers to go by, but the AP college football rankings have been around long enough to provide a proper snapshot of the last 80 years.

Here’s the drill. Taking all the AP final rankings, CFN devised a scoring system giving every AP national champion 25 points, the No. 2 team 24, No. 3 23, and so on down to the bottom – currently No. 25, but there was a top ten for a bit and later a top 20.

What does this all prove? Consistency is great, consistency at a high level matters more, and winning national championships – or coming close – becomes a gamechanger.

Over a three-year span, a school could finish 15th – getting 33 overall points according to this system – and it would be behind a team that won a national title one year, 17th the next, and unranked the following year.

The biggest constant since we started doing this over a decade ago has been the top five. In some configuration, the five greatest programs are Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Michigan and Notre Dame, with USC, Miami and Texas coming in way, way behind the biggest of big boys.

Michigan was No. 1 for a while, but many of the last several years haven’t been kind, making it a three-way race up top with the top program of all-time still holding its own.

AP Final Rankings Greatest Teams Of All-Time

These rankings are created according to the CFN scoring system – this isn’t the official AP ranking of its all-time greatest teams.

Rankings from 1935 through to Clemson’s national championship after the 2016 season.

Rank Teams Points Previous Rank
1 Oklahoma 1137 1
2 Alabama 1013 2
3 Ohio State 1008 3
4 Michigan 973 4
5 Notre Dame 939 5
6 USC 818 6
7 Nebraska 783 7
8 Texas 772 8
9 Tennessee 686 9
10 Penn State 667 10
11 LSU 625 11
12 Florida State 563 14
13 Auburn 556 12
14 Georgia 548 13
15 Miami 517 15
16 UCLA 503 16
17 Florida 499 17
18 Michigan State 443 18
19 Arkansas 439 19
20 Clemson 377 21
21 Texas A&M 365 20
22 Washington 353 24
23 Ole Miss 347 22
24 Wisconsin 344 25
25 Georgia Tech 343 23
Others Receiving Votes
26 Iowa 319 26
27 Pitt 293 27
28 Stanford 278 29
29 TCU 272 28
30 Colorado 267 30
31 Oregon 254 31
32 Missouri 251 32
33 Arizona State 242 33
34 Army 239 34
35 Maryland 238 35
36 Minnesota 236 36
37 Virginia Tech 223 T37
38 Duke 213 T37
39 North Carolina 210 39
40 Navy 207 40
41 West Virginia 204 43
42 California 198 41
43 Purdue 196 42
44 Syracuse 191 44
45 Houston 183 45
46 BYU 178 46
T47 Illinois 177 T47
T47 Baylor 177 T47
49 Kansas State 176 49
50 SMU 168 50
51 Oklahoma State 167 51
52 Boston College 150 52
53 Boise State 146 53
54 Northwestern 138 54
55 Washington State 123 55
56 Oregon State 120 56
57 South Carolina 118 57
58 Mississippi State 115 58
59 Louisville 109 T61
60 Rice 107 59
61 N.C. State 105 60
62 Texas Tech 104 T61
63 Kansas 96 63
64 Kentucky 96 64
65 Pennsylvania 95 65
66 Utah 92 66
67 Fordham 88 67
68 Santa Clara 86 68
69 Arizona 84 69
70 Tulane 81 70
71 Tulsa 79 71
72 Air Force 75 72
T73 Cornell 68 T73
T73 Miami Univ. 68 T73
75 Virginia 66 75
76 Indiana 63 76
77 Dartmouth 61 77
78 Princeton 55 78
79 Yale 54 79
80 Holy Cross 53 80
81 Wyoming 48 81
82 Duquesne 46 82
83 Iowa Pre-Flight 44 83
84 Villanova 41 84
85 Rutgers 40 85
86 Cincinnati 37 86
87 William & Mary 33 87
88 March Field 32 88
T89 Colorado State 31 T89
T89 Toledo 31 T89
91 Bainbridge NTS 30 91
92 Great Lakes 29 92
93 Utah State 26 93
94 Southern Miss 25 94
T95 East Carolina 23 T95
T95 Pacific 23 T95
T95 Randolph Field 23 T95
98 Wake Forest 22 98
T99 Marshall 21 T99
T99 UCF 21 T99
101 Carnegie Tech 20 101
T102 St. Mary’s (Cal.) 19 T102
T102 Vanderbilt 19 T102
104 Del Monte P-F 18 104
105 Nevada 15 105
T106 Georgetown 13 T106
T106 Hawaii 13 T106
T106 Norman Pre-Flight 13 T106
T109 Columbia 12 T109
T109 San Francisco 12 T109
T111 San Diego State 11 T111
T111 Western Michigan 11 NR
T113 Boston University 10 T111
T113 El Toro Marines 10 T111
T115 George Washington 9 T114
T115 Hardin-Simmons 9 T114
T115 New Mexico State 9 T114
T115 Temple 9 T114
T119 Colorado College 8 T118
T119 Fort Pierce 8 T118
T119 Iowa State 8 T118
T119 Washington & Lee 8 T118
T123 Delaware 7 T122
T123 Lafayette 7 T122
T123 St. Mary’s PF 7 T122
T123 South Florida 7 NR
T127 Fresno State 6 T125
T127 Marquette 6 T125
T127 Ohio 6 T125
T127 Sec. Air Force 6 T125
T127 VMI 6 T125
132 San Jose State 5 130
133 Northern Illinois 4 131
T134 Bowling Green 3 T132
T134 Central Michigan 3 T132
136 Western Kentucky 2 134
137 Memphis 1 135