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

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

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Click for the breakdown of the CFN Season Formula criteria

75. 1903 Michigan (11-0-1)

All-Time Season Score: 21.2983
Key Season Score Element: Outscored teams 565-6
Best Win: at Chicago 28-0
Worst Game: Minnesota 6-6

The Wolverines went almost four years before losing, but along the way, the only blemish was a 6-6 tie against a Minnesota team that finished 14-0-1. There were seven Bad Wins – including wins over Ferris State 88-0 and Albion 76-0 – but outscoring everyone 565-6 and beating a great Chicago team on the road were enough to take the national title.

74. 1893 Princeton (11-0)

All-Time Season Score: 21.8100
Key Season Score Element: 14 points allowed
Best Win: Princeton 6, Yale 0
Worst Game: Princeton 8, Lawrenceville 4

There wasn’t a whole lot of stress – outscoring teams 270-14 – but there were a few terrific battles. Princeton handed Wesleyan its only loss in a 76-0 tussle, beat a strong Penn team, and took out a 10-0 Yale team for its only defeat of the year with a 6-0 regular season ender.

73. 1985 Oklahoma (11-1)

All-Time Season Score: 21.3467
Key Season Score Element: 7 Quality Wins
Best Win: Oklahoma 25, Penn State 10 (Orange Bowl)
Worst Game: Miami 27, Oklahoma 14

The Sooners overcame a rough start and an injury to starting QB Troy Aikman in the loss to Miami to rip through the last seven games for the national title. The Sooners allowed more than seven points just three times in the regular season, and stuffed an unbeaten Penn State to win the Orange Bowl. In all, seven of the 11 wins were over teams that finished with winning records.

72. 1989 Miami (11-1)

All-Time Season Score: 21.4067
Key Season Score Element: 426 points scored
Best Win: Miami 27, Notre Dame 10
Worst Game: at Florida State 24, Miami 10

The Hurricanes were dropped by Florida State 24-10 in Tallahassee, but the Noles started out the season 0-2 before reeling off ten straight wins. Notre Dame was coming off a national championship season, but it couldn’t do anything against Miami in a 27-10 late November loss – the only loss of the year for the Irish. A 33-25 win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl won the Canes the national title.

71. 1958 LSU (11-0)

All-Time Season Score: 21.5400
Key Season Score Element: 53 points allowed
Best Win: LSU 14, Ole Miss 0
Worst Game: LSU 7, Mississippi State 6

The Tigers beat a whole bunch of good teams, but few truly great ones. The 14-0 win over Ole Miss was the big moment that took the campaign to another level, and the 7-0 Sugar Bowl win over Clemson sealed the national championship greatness. The defense allowed more than seven points just once – a 50-18 win over Duke – against a slate with six teams that finished with winning records.

T69. 1974 Oklahoma (AP) (11-0)

All-Time Season Score: 21.5600
Key Season Score Element: 381 point differential
Best Win: Oklahoma 28, at Nebraska 14
Worst Game: Oklahoma 28, at Iowa State 10

It was a strange season for a Sooner team that wasn’t eligible to go bowling. Its defense didn’t give up more than 14 points in any game, the team beat five teams that finished with winning records, and there wasn’t any drama outside of the 16-13 win over Texas. But there weren’t any amazing victories, and it was a split national championship with USC – despite losing a game and tying another – taking the UPI title.

T69. 1924 Notre Dame (10-0)

All-Time Season Score: 21.5600
Key Season Score Element: 6 Quality Wins
Best Win: Notre Dame 27, Stanford 10 (Rose Bowl)
Worst Game: Notre Dame 13, Northwestern 6

Notre Dame got to fatten up on a few lovely cupcakes along the way, but it also managed to give Army its only loss of the year, and closed out by winning the Rose Bowl by giving Stanford its only defeat. The D allowed just 25 points over the first eight games.

68. 1948 Michigan (9-0)

All-Time Season Score: 21.5800
Key Season Score Element: 44 points allowed
Best Win: Michigan 14, Oregon 0
Worst Game: Michigan 28, Illinois 20

Michigan came up with a whole lot of Elite Wins – getting a 5.5 score added to the mix, but the other four victories were against teams that finished with three wins or fewer. The Wolverines dominated throughout the year, and there was little drama thanks to a D that gave up a total of ten points in seven games. There just weren’t enough wins to get higher in the rankings.

67. 1886 Yale (9-0-1)

All-Time Season Score: 21.78800
Key Season Score Element: 683 point differential
Best Win: Yale 29, Harvard 4
Worst Game: Yale 0, at Princeton 0

Yale roared through the season without a problem – beating MIT 96-0 and Wesleyan 136-0 – but there was a tough battle against a great Harvard team in a 29-4 win that made the season. The campaign closed out with a tie against Princeton – the only blemish on both sides.

66. 1895 Penn (14-0)

All-Time Season Score: 21.8100
Key Season Score Element: 11 Bad Wins
Best Win: Penn 30, Lafayette 0
Worst Game: Penn 12, Chicago Athletic Club 4

Penn might have come up with 14 wins, but fewer of them were any good. 11 of the victories were Bad Wins – wins over teams that weren’t part of the official mixer against teams that won three games or fewer. But the massive win amount was enough to get the season this high – even if there was a big run of cream puffs.

65. 1986 Penn State (12-0)

All-Time Season Score: 21.8200
Key Season Score Element: 3 Elite Win Score
Best Win: Penn State 14, Miami 10 (Fiesta Bowl)
Worst Game: Penn State 17, Maryland 15

There was absolutely nothing flashy about the Nittany Lions. They struggled through a few close games against mediocre teams, but they whacked a strong Alabama team 23-3 in Tuscaloosa, and got to the Fiesta Bowl unbeaten against Heisman winner Vinny Testaverde. They pulled off an all-timer of an upset and gave Joe Paterno his second  national title thanks to a defense that didn’t allow more than 20 points all year.

64. 1917 Georgia Tech (9-0)

All-Time Season Score: 21.9900
Key Season Score Element: 6 Quality Wins
Best Win: Georgia Tech 41, Pitt 0
Worst Game: Georgia Tech 32, Davidson 10

There wasn’t a 222-0 wipeout like there was the year before over Cumberland, but Georgia Tech whacked Carlisle 98-0, Vanderbilt 83-0, and Washington & Lee 63-0. A good Auburn team was able to score, and it still lost 68-7. So why isn’t the ranking a whole lot higher? The Elite Wins just aren’t quite there.

63. 1889 Princeton (10-0)

All-Time Season Score: 22.0500
Key Season Score Element: 455 point differential
Best Win: Princeton 10, Yale 0
Worst Game: Princeton 16, Lehigh 0

1889 Princeton seems like it should be a bit higher in the rankings, but a few wins over lousy teams brought down the score. A 41-15 win on the road at Harvard would’ve been the most impressive performance of the season, but taking down a Yale team that finished 16-1 in what would essentially be the national championship was even better.

62. 1975 Oklahoma (11-1)

All-Time Season Score: 22.0667
Key Season Score Element: 7 Quality Wins
Best Win: Oklahoma 35, Nebraska 10
Worst Game: Kansas 23, Oklahoma 3

The Sooners might have been shocked at home against Kansas, but they managed to come through against a killer schedule to pull off the national title. They beat terrific Texas and Nebraska teams that finished 10-2, and closed out by handing Michigan its second loss of the season in a 14-6 victory in the Orange Bowl.

61. 1944 Army (9-0)

All-Time Season Score: 22.1900
Key Season Score Element: 469 point differential
Best Win: Army 59, Notre Dame 0
Worst Game: Army 27, Duke 7

Five of the nine wins were against teams that finished with winning records in an amazing year without any drama whatsoever. It thumped Villanova 83-0, crushed a strong Penn team 62-7, and destroyed the Coast Guard – a great team during that era – 76-0. The defense gave up just 35 points, spreading out touchdowns over five games, and only Navy (23-7) and Duke (27-7) held the Army O to under 46 points.

60. 1977 Notre Dame (11-1)

All-Time Season Score: 22.2267
Key Season Score Element: 7 Quality Wins
Best Win: Notre Dame 38, Texas 10 (Cotton Bowl)
Worst Game: Ole Miss 20, Notre Dame 13

The Irish lost the second game the year to an Ole Miss team that finished with a losing season, and rolled the rest of the way. There weren’t too many amazing wins on the way to 10-1, but Joe Montana and company proved they were for real with a 38-10 whacking of an unbeaten Texas in the Cotton Bowl to take the national title.

59. 1901 Michigan (11-0)

All-Time Season Score: 22.2500
Key Season Score Element: Outscored teams 555-0
Best Win: Michigan 50, Iowa 0
Worst Game: Michigan 21, at Ohio State 0

555-0. That was Michigan vs. its schedule in an easy 11-0 run with a Rose Bowl win over Stanford after blowout after blowout. With a 128-0 win over Buffalo and an 89-0 win over Beloit, there were a whole lot of light scrimmages, but there weren’t any amazing wins to boost up the overall Season Ranking score. The only Elite Win was 50-0 over a decent Iowa team in Chicago, but that was it considering Stanford wasn’t recognized yet as a top tier program.

58. 1990 Colorado (AP) (11-1-1)

All-Time Season Score: 22.346
Key Season Score Element: 229 points allowed
Best Win: Colorado 29, at Texas 22
Worst Game: at Illinois 23, Colorado 22

It was a strange season for the Buffs. It started out with a tie against Tennessee in Anaheim, California, it lost a few weeks later at Illinois, and it should’ve been given a loss in the infamous fifth down game – a 33-31 “win” – at Missouri. But it also managed to win ten in a row, finishing with a 10-9 victory over Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl – saved by a phantom clip on the Irish on a Rocket Ismail punt return for a score. It split the national championship with Georgia Tech, whose season was just a wee bit better (keep reading through the countdown).

57. 1987 Miami (12-0)

All-Time Season Score: 22.8700
Key Season Score Element: 412 points scored
Best Win: Miami 20, Oklahoma 14 (Orange Bowl)
Worst Game: Miami 24, Toledo 14

Flip a coin on what was the real national championship game. Was it the Orange Bowl victory over previously unbeaten Oklahoma, or in Tallahassee against a loaded Florida State team that finished 11-1? However, even though the Canes had those two monster wins, the rest of the slate was just okay. Even so, other than the epic 26-25 win over the Noles, the D didn’t allow more than 16 points against anyone else.

56. 1898 Harvard (11-0)

All-Time Season Score: 22.8800
Key Season Score Element: 19 points allowed
Best Win: Harvard 10, Penn 0
Worst Game: Harvard 11, Carlisle 5

It was an amazing year with little drama and a few huge wins – handing Penn its only loss of the season and dropping Yale on the road 17-0 – to get well into the top 60. It might not have been the greatest Harvard season of all-time, but it was almost flawless. Only Carlisle came closer than ten points with an 11-5 Harvard win.

55. 1990 Georgia Tech (UPI) (11-0-1)

All-Time Season Score: 22.8883
Key Season Score Element: 7 Quality Wins
Best Win: Georgia Tech 21, Clemson 19
Worst Game: Georgia Tech 13, North Carolina 13

In case you were wondering, AP champion Colorado was ranked lower. Georgia Tech had a rough tie with a mediocre North Carolina team, but it pulled off a great win over Virginia on the road, and it took down seven teams with winning records. The 45-21 blowout win over Nebraska in the Citrus Bowl helped, but there weren’t a whole lot of wins over amazing teams.

54. 1959 Syracuse (11-0)

All-Time Season Score: 22.900
Key Season Score Element: 340 point differential
Best Win: Syracuse 23, Texas 14 (Cotton Bowl)
Worst Game: Syracuse 35, Kansas 21

Led by Ernie Davis and his two touchdowns, Syracuse got by Texas 23-14 in the Cotton Bowl. But before that, it got by a fantastic Penn State squad 20-18 on the road, and took out a solid UCLA team in LA. In all, the defense came up with five shutouts and allowed fewer than ten points eight times. The O did its part, scoring 32 points or more eight times including a 71-0 win over Colgate.

53. 1999 Florida State (12-0)

All-Time Season Score: 23.0500
Key Season Score Element: 7 Quality Wins
Best Win: Florida State 46, at Virginia Tech 29 (Sugar Bowl/BCS Championship)
Worst Game: Florida State 17, at Clemson 14

There weren’t a whole lot of great wins before surviving Michael Vick and Virginia Tech in a fun Sugar Bowl for the national championship. The Noles rolled through the season with only three tight games, but outside of a 31-21 win over Miami, and a 30-23 victory at Florida – both opponents finished with four losses – it was a great season against a mediocre slate.

52. 1939 Texas A&M (11-0)

All-Time Season Score: 23.0600
Key Season Score Element: 31 points allowed
Best Win: Texas A&M 14, Tulane 13 (Sugar Bowl)
Worst Game: Texas A&M 14, Centenary 0

Yes, there was a time when Texas A&M won a national title. It ripped through the schedule with an amazing defense that allowed a grand total of 18 points – no more than seven in any game – before beating Tulane in the Sugar Bowl 14-13. How good was the D? It pitched six shutouts, and allowed three points or fewer eight times. Elite Wins over Villanova and at Santa Clara helped A&M finish this high.

51. 1981 Clemson (12-0)

All-Time Season Score: 23.0800
Key Season Score Element: 3.5 Elite Win Score
Best Win: Clemson 13, Georgia 2
Worst Game: Clemson 17, NC State 7

Clemson took out defending national champion Georgia early on, and beat a fantastic North Carolina team on the road. However, there weren’t any other wins over impressive teams – the 82-24 victory over Wake Forest was impressive – before beating Nebraska in the Orange Bowl for the national title.

Click for the breakdown of the CFN Season Formula criteria

NEXT: 150 Greatest National Champions: No. 26-50

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