College Football's 150 National Championship Season Rankings: Greatest Seasons Of All-Time

College Football's 150 National Championship Season Rankings: Greatest Seasons Of All-Time

College Football Features

College Football's 150 National Championship Season Rankings: Greatest Seasons Of All-Time


Click for the breakdown of the CFN Season Formula criteria

150 Greatest National Champions
No. 1-5No. 6-10 | No. 11-25 | No. 26-50
No. 51-75 | No. 76-100 | No. 126 to 150

125. 1922 Cornell (8-0)

All-Time Season Score: 15.1200
Key Season Score Element: 312 point differential
Best Win: Cornell 9, at Penn 0
Worst Game: Cornell 48, Albright 14

Cornell played half of its games against teams that weren’t even part of the official college football world, but it still managed to come up with four excellent wins to get on the list. Only a strong Penn team was able to come closer than ten points, but a lower-level Albright team was the only team able to score more than seven.

124. 1926 Alabama (9-0-1)

All-Time Season Score: 17.1700
Key Season Score Element: 27 points allowed
Best Win: Alabama 19, at Vanderbilt 7
Worst Game: Alabama 2, Sewanee 0

Bama was able to pull off a fantastic road win over a Vanderbilt team that didn’t lose to anyone else, and it tied Stanford 7-7 in the Rose Bowl – but it was enough to rank higher in a split national title year. There was a strange 2-0 win over an awful Sewanee team, and there were way too many wins over teams that finished with three wins or fewer, but again, the season ranks higher than a 10-0-1 Stanford’s.

123. 1953 Maryland (10-1)

All-Time Season Score: 17.2591
Key Season Score Element: 38 points allowed
Best Win: Maryland 39, at Ole Miss 0
Worst Game: Oklahoma 7, Maryland 0 (Orange Bowl)

Maryland was hosed in 1951, and got its payback in 1953. The 1951 team went unbeaten and beat Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl, but didn’t get named the national champion in the polls that mattered. The 1953 team went unbeaten in the regular season with a dominant run – no one came closer than 14 points – but after being named the national champ, it lost to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.

122. 1964 Alabama (10-1)

All-Time Season Score: 17.2791
Key Season Score Element: 5 Quality Wins
Best Win: Alabama 24, at Georgia Tech 7
Worst Game: Texas 21, Alabama 17 (Orange Bowl)

Arkansas, Michigan and Notre Dame were all named national champions by recognized outfits, but the two that mattered at the time – AP and UPI – gave Bama the nod. Texas beat the Tide in the Orange Bowl, but the Longhorns lost to Arkansas earlier in the year. The Hogs went 11-0. It didn’t matter – Bama beat five teams with winning records, and stood out from the pack, at least before the bowl season.

121. 1967 USC (10-1)

All-Time Season Score: 17.3691
Key Season Score Element: 2.5 Elite Win Score
Best Win: USC 14, Indiana 3 (Rose Bowl)
Worst Game: at Oregon State 3, USC 0

USC came up with a clunker of a performance against Oregon State on the road – losing 3-0 – but it was able to beat Notre Dame in South Bend, and that meant everything. Combine that with a win over Texas and a victory over a strong UCLA team, and that was enough to get the national title call. The season was strengthened by a Rose Bowl win over Indiana.

120. 1950 Oklahoma 1950 (10-1)

All-Time Season Score: 17.4491
Key Season Score Element: 5 Quality Wins
Best Win: Oklahoma 14, Texas 13
Worst Game: Kentucky 13, Oklahoma 7 (Sugar Bowl)

Welcome to the days before bowl games mattered. Tennessee beat Kentucky in the last game of the regular season, and Kentucky finished 11-1 after beating Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.  The Vols also beat a great Texas team in the Cotton Bowl, and took down strong Alabama and Duke teams, but … Oklahoma went 10-0 in the regular season, and Tennessee lost early to Mississippi State.

119. 1896 Lafayette (11-0-1)

All-Time Season Score: 17.5083
Key Season Score Element: 7 Bad Wins
Best Win: Lafayette 6, at Penn 4
Worst Game: Lafayette 0, Princeton 0

It was a split national title season between Lafayette and Princeton – the two tied 0-0, and Princeton ended up having the better overall season. However, Lafayette came up with a brilliant win over a Penn team that finished 14-1, but there were a whole lot of awful wins including three over a West Virginia program that wasn’t recognized yet.

118. 1916 Pitt (8-0)

All-Time Season Score: 17.5500
Key Season Score Element: 5 Quality Wins
Best Win: Pitt 31, Penn State 0
Worst Game: Pitt 20, Navy 19

Five of the eight wins came against teams that finished with winning records, including dominant performances against strong Penn State and Washington & Jefferson teams. The 20-19 road game at Navy was scary – they were the most points allowed by the program in six years.

117. 1983 Miami (11-1)

All-Time Season Score: 17.6867
Key Season Score Element: 5 Quality Wins
Best Win: Miami 31, Nebraska 30 (Orange Bowl)
Worst Game: at Florida 28, Miami 3

This was the season that launched a dynasty. The Hurricanes overcame a clunker of a loss to Florida to open the season by rolling through the rest of the slate. The defense allowed just 78 points over a ten game regular season run before pulling off a historic win over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl for the national title.

116. 1957 Auburn (AP) (10-0)

All-Time Season Score: 17.7900
Key Season Score Element: 28 points allowed
Best Win: Auburn 7, at Tennessee 0
Worst Game: Auburn 6, Georgia 0

Ohio State won the UPI title, but Auburn took home the AP – and had the stronger overall season. The Buckeyes lost a game and Auburn didn’t, thanks to a defense that allowed seven points in four separate games, and nothing else. The O wasn’t anything special, but that D made up for it.

115. 1954 Ohio State (AP) (10-0)

All-Time Season Score: 17.9900
Key Season Score Element: The D allowed 7 points or fewer in seven games.
Best Win: Ohio State 31, Wisconsin 14
Worst Game: Ohio State 21, at Northwestern 7

UCLA won the UPI national title, but Ohio State’s 1954 season was far, far stronger. The blowout win over Wisconsin was outstanding, and taking down USC 20-7 in the Rose Bowl helped. But there weren’t a whole slew of amazing victories – there were plenty of good ones.

114. 1955 Oklahoma (11-0)

All-Time Season Score: 17.9200
Key Season Score Element: 325 point differential
Best Win: Oklahoma 20, Maryland 6 (Orange Bowl)
Worst Game: Oklahoma 13, at North Carolina 6

The Sooners got past a bad performance against a lousy North Carolina team in the opener to roll through the season with ease. They won each of their last nine games by double-digits, and didn’t allow a point in the final four regular season games. It all closed out with a win over an unbeaten Maryland team in the Orange Bowl.

113. 1882 Yale (8-0)

All-Time Season Score: 18.0100
Key Season Score Element: Allowed 1 point
Best Win: Yale 1, at Harvard 0
Worst Game: Yale 11, Columbia 0

Yale outscored all eight opponents by a combined score of 52-1, allowing the one point to Princeton in a 2-1 victory in the season finale. Along the way, it handed Harvard its only loss of the season, came up with five victories over teams that finished with winning records, and beat Rutgers twice in back-to-back weeks.

112. 1940 Minnesota (8-0)

All-Time Season Score: 18.0800
Key Season Score Element: 4.5 Elite Win Score
Best Win: Minnesota 7, Michigan 6
Worst Game: Minnesota 13, at Ohio State 7

Most of the amazing Minnesota teams of the era put up great records by battering teams without a pulse. Not this one. The Gophers handed Michigan its only loss of the year, and they got by terrific Washington, Nebraska, and Northwestern teams that all lost just one other game. The 154 points, though, were low compared to most national champs on the list.

111. 1938 TCU (11-0)

All-Time Season Score: 18.0900
Key Season Score Element: 60 points allowed
Best Win: TCU 15, Carnegie Tech 7 (Sugar Bowl)
Worst Game: TCU 21, Arkansas 14

TCU had a rough day against a miserable Arkansas team early on, but it didn’t give up more than a touchdown against anyone else. Outside of that, there weren’t any issues against anyone else until the Sugar Bowl win over Carnegie Tech, and that turned out to be the only victory of true note.

110. 1970 Texas (UPI) (10-1)

All-Time Season Score: 18.3991
Key Season Score Element: 423 points scored
Best Win: Texas 42, Arkansas 7
Worst Game: Notre Dame 24, Texas 11 (Cotton Bowl)

And here’s the flaw in college football’s national championship system. Texas might be able to claim a national title thanks to UPI, but Nebraska went 11-0, got the AP title, and had a much stronger season. However, the bowl games were still not quite part of the national title mix for UPI. Even so, the Longhorns got this high up thanks to five wins over teams that finished with winning record, and with a a solid point differential of 2.74.

109. 1906 Princeton (9-0-1)

All-Time Season Score: 18.4100
Key Season Score Element: 9 points allowed
Best Win: Princeton 6, Washington & Jefferson 0
Worst Game: Princeton 0, Yale 0

This one isn’t fair. Yale had the far better season overall and finished with the same record as Princeton – 9-0-1, with the two schools playing to a 0-0 tie. However, the stronger national champion determining outlets for the time picked the Princeton, who pulled off shutouts in eight of the ten games. It was able to come up with a big win over a strong Washington & Jefferson team, and handed Cornell its only loss of the year. However, there were only nine wins, and four fell under the Bad Win category.

108. 1920 Cal (9-0)

All-Time Season Score: 18.4600
Key Season Score Element: 496 point differential
Best Win: Cal 28, Ohio State 0 (Rose Bowl)
Worst Game: Cal 17, Oregon State 7

Cal got its groove on early – it liked to destroy teams in light scrimmages – beating St. Mary’s 127-0 and roughing up the Mare Island Marines 88-0. There were real wins along the way, too, handing Washington State its only loss in a 49-0 whacking, and giving Ohio State its lone defeat with a shutout in the Rose Bowl. The D allowed just 14 points on the year.

107. 1974 USC (UPI) (10-1-1)

All-Time Season Score: 18.5850
Key Season Score Element: 5 Quality Wins
Best Win: USC 18, Ohio State 17 (Rose Bowl)
Worst Game: Arkansas 22, USC 7

1974 USC makes the list on a glitch. Oklahoma went unbeaten and had a much better season, but it wasn’t eligible to win the UPI national title because of a few recruiting violations. So USC took home one half of the championship despite being housed by Arkansas 22-7 to start the season, and with a 15-15 home tie against an okay Cal squad. So how did USC finish this high up? 55-24 over a Notre Dame team that finished 10-2, and a classic Rose Bowl win over Ohio State that also finished 10-2.

106. 1980 Georgia (12-0)

All-Time Season Score: 18.7100
Key Season Score Element: 5 Bad Wins
Best Win: Georgia 17, Notre Dame 10 (Sugar Bowl)
Worst Game: Georgia 28, Ole Miss 21

Thanks to Herschel Walker and a great defense, this became a legendary Georgia team … and it beat a whole lot of nobody. There were just four wins over teams that finished with winning records, the Sugar Bowl win was against a decent-not-amazing Notre Dame team – it finished 9-2-1 – and that turned out to be the only victory over a team that didn’t finish with four losses or more.

105. 1908 Penn (11-0-1)

All-Time Season Score: 18.8283
Key Season Score Element: 6 Bad Wins
Best Win: Penn 17, Cornell 4
Worst Game: Penn 6, Carlisle 6

Penn State didn’t beat a whole lot of strong teams, and it got pushed a bit more than many of the national champions of the era, but it’s all relative considering it outscored everyone 215-28. A 6-6 tie with a good Carlisle team was the only blemish. Handing Cornell its only loss and beating Michigan 29-0 in Ann Arbor were strong parts of the resumé.

T103. 1966 Notre Dame (9-0-1)

All-Time Season Score: 18.9400
Key Season Score Element: 324 point differential
Best Win: Notre Dame 26, Purdue 14
Worst Game: Notre Dame 10, Michigan State 10

Okay, okay, so the epic 10-10 tie on the road against a Michigan State that finished unbeaten is hardly a “worst” game, but the Irish didn’t exactly go for it when they had a shot at the win. Just about everything else after opening up with a 26-14 win over Purdue was a total wipeout – MSU was the only team to come closer than 32 over the final eight games. Notre Dame allowed just five touchdowns on the year.

T103. 1962 USC (11-0)

All-Time Season Score: 18.9400
Key Season Score Element: 3 Elite Wins Score
Best Win: USC 42, Wisconsin 37 (Rose Bowl)
Worst Game: USC 14, at UCLA 3

The Trojans started out the season with an Elite Win over Duke, and closed out with an all-time great game against Wisconsin, winning 42-37 in the Rose Bowl. Before dealing with the Badgers, USC didn’t allow more than 16 points in any regular season game, and allowed seven points or fewer eight times.

102. 1963 Texas (11-0)

All-Time Season Score: 18.9700
Key Season Score Element: Just a 172 point differential
Best Win: Texas 28, Navy 6 (Cotton Bowl)
Worst Game: Texas 15, at Texas A&M 13

There were a whole lot of puzzling-bad performances against bad teams. It took too much work to get past a bad Arkansas team 17-13, and it struggled against a lousy SMU squad 17-12. However, the 15-13 victory over a two-win Texas A&M team was the real rough one. Even so, with a Cotton Bowl win over Roger Staubach’s Navy, and a great win over Oklahoma, the Longhorns flirted with the top 100 on this list.

101. 1968 Ohio State (10-0)

All-Time Season Score: 18.9800
Key Season Score Element: 3 Elite Win Score
Best Win: Ohio State 27, USC 16 (Rose Bowl)
Worst Game: Ohio State 25, Oregon 20

The legendary team had a whole lot of easy games, and there were a few more fights than it should’ve had to deal with. Iowa and Michigan State weren’t anything special, and both games were tight. Northwestern, Illinois and Wisconsin combined to win just two games, but the Buckeyes pasted a great Michigan team 50-14 and gave USC its only loss with a 27-16 win in the Rose Bowl.

150 Greatest National Champions
No. 1-5No. 6-10 | No. 11-25 | No. 26-50
No. 51-75 | No. 76-100 | No. 126 to 150

NEXT: 150 Greatest National Champions: No. 76-100


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