150 Greatest National Champions: Top 100
100. 1887 Yale (9-0)
All-Time Season Score: 19.2800
Key Season Score Element: 503 point differential
Best Win: Yale 17, Harvard 8
Worst Game: Yale 12, Princeton 0
Yale didn’t quite rock offensively like it did with the 687 point 1886 season, but it kept an amazing unbeaten streak going. The program went 48-0-1 over a stretch from late 1885 until the end of 1889. In ’87, the team outscored everyone 486-4 over a seven game stretch, and then came battles with the two good teams on the slate. The season went from great to fantastic with wins over Princeton and Harvard, handing the Crimson its only loss of the year.
99. 1885 Princeton (9-0)
All-Time Season Score: 19.3900
Key Season Score Element: 514 point differential
Best Win: Princeton 6, at Yale 5
Worst Game: Princeton 10, Johns Hopkins 0
And here’s where blowing up a lot of bad teams can help. Princeton beat Stevens twice by a combined score of 170-0, and rocked Penn’s world by a combined score of 201-20 over the three games. Best of all for Princeton in the CFN Season Rankings Formula, those three wins technically count as Quality Wins – victories over teams that finished with winning records. However, handing Yale its only loss of the season with a 6-5 road victory helped.
98. 1969 Texas (11-0)
All-Time Season Score: 19.4100
Key Season Score Element: 316 point differential
Best Win: Texas 15, at Arkansas 14
Worst Game: Texas 17, at Cal 0
Yeah, one of the most legendary seasons in college football history was just sort of okay. The classic 15-14 win at Arkansas – with President Nixon declaring Texas the national champion right after – came against a squad that didn’t beat a single team that finished with a winning record. However, the Cotton Bowl victory over Notre Dame boosted up the overall Longhorn season. The only other victory over a winning team came against Oklahoma.
97. 1907 Yale (9-0-1)
All-Time Season Score: 19.4300
Key Season Score Element: 10 points allowed
Best Win: Yale 12, Princeton 10
Worst Game: Yale 0, Army 0
Yale went over three years without a loss, but it was tied by a good Army squad on the road. However, the toughest game was a 12-10 victory over a killer of a Princeton squad – those were the only points scored all season on the Yale D. The five wins over teams that finished with winning records helped overcome the tie in the ranking.
96. 1973 Alabama (UPI) (11-1)
All-Time Season Score: 19.5567
Key Season Score Element: 364 point differential
Best Win: Alabama 21, at LSU 7
Worst Game: Alabama 24, Notre Dame 23 (Sugar Bowl)
If you want to dog Alabama for the inflated national championship total it likes to brag about, here you go. The Tide did take the UPI part of the national title … and lost to the AP champ Notre Dame – who finished 11-0 – in the Sugar Bowl. The D that allowed just 89 points in the 11 games before the Irish loss – and allowed 14 points or fewer ten times – got the Tide this high in the rankings.
95. 1929 Notre Dame (9-0)
All-Time Season Score: 19.5700
Key Season Score Element: Just 145 points scored
Best Win: Notre Dame 13, USC 12
Worst Game: Notre Dame 14, at Indiana 0
There were a few two-foot putt wins, and the offense was hardly a force, but the defense allows just 38 points. The Irish got through the season unbeaten with a strong win over USC in Chicago, and …. that was about it. No one else on the slate lost fewer than three games.
94. 1973 Notre Dame (AP) (11-0)
All-Time Season Score: 19.6800
Key Season Score Element: 293 point differential
Best Win: Notre Dame 24, Alabama 23 (Sugar Bowl)
Worst Game: Notre Dame 14, Michigan State 10
The Irish managed to hand Alabama its only loss the season to take part of the national title in the Sugar Bowl, but that was about it for the giant wins, and Bama won the UPI national title. That was the only Elite Win, and the 23-14 win over USC was the only other victory over a team that won more than six games.
93. 1899 Harvard (10-0-1)
All-Time Season Score: 19.7045
Key Season Score Element: 10 points allowed
Best Win: Harvard 20, Wesleyan 0
Worst Game: Harvard 0, Yale 0
It was a great season with ten wins and allowing just ten points all season – a 22-10 victory over Carlisle – but it all ended with a home tie against Yale. There weren’t enough Elite Wins – just two – but it was a dominant campaign overall that would’ve been a whole lot better in the rankings with a win to close it out – breaking the school’s 21 game winning streak.
92. 1984 BYU (13-0)
All-Time Season Score: 19.7300
Key Season Score Element: 0 Elite Win Score
Best Win: BYU 30, at Air Force 25
Worst Game: BYU 20, at Pitt 14
BYU just didn’t beat anyone who was any good. There wasn’t a win over anyone who finished with fewer than four losses, the Holiday Bowl victory came over a bad Michigan team, and there was just nothing impressive about anything on the slate. So why are the Cougars so high up in the rankings? 13-0. The 13 wins were the most by anyone outside of the top 66. The schedule was so mediocre that BYU isn’t ranked higher despite the bulk wins.
91. 1909 Yale (10-0)
All-Time Season Score: 19.8400
Key Season Score Element: Outscored teams 209-0
Best Win: Yale 8, at Harvard 0
Worst Game: Yale 11, Wesleyan 0
Yale didn’t give up a point and was only challenged once. It was a battle of the unbeatens at Harvard in the final game of the season, and Yale came away with an 8-0 win. In a feast-or-famine campaign, five of the victories were Quality Wins, five were classified as Bad Wins.
90. 1883 Yale (9-0)
All-Time Season Score: 19.8800
Key Season Score Element: Outscored teams 540-2
Best Win: Yale 6, Princeton 0
Worst Game: Yale 49, Brooklyn Polytechnic 9
There weren’t enough Quality Wins – just 3 wins over teams that finished with winning records – but otherwise, it was a season as dominant as any in college football history. The 1882 team won the national title by outscoring teams 52-1. The 1883 version scored 49 points or more seven times and hit the 90 point mark in four games. Only Harvard scored on Yale in a 23-2 loss.
89. 1904 Michigan (10-0)
All-Time Season Score: 19.9500
Key Season Score Element: 545 point differential
Best Win: Chicago 22-12
Worst Game: Drake 36-4
This came right in the heart of an amazing era of Michigan football, going 55-0-1 from 1901 until the season finale of the 1905 season. In 1904, Michigan allowed six points in a win at Ohio State, and gave up four to Drake before handing Chicago its only loss of the season in a 22-12 win to close out the season. Chicago would return the favor a year later by ending Michigan’s unbeaten streak.
88. 1961 Alabama (11-0)
All-Time Season Score: 19.9700
Key Season Score Element: 25 points allowed
Best Win: Alabama 10, Arkansas 3 (Sugar Bowl)
Worst Game: Alabama 9, Tulane 0
On the one hand, 1969 Alabama didn’t beat anyone who was all that great. The Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas was fine, but the Hogs finished 8-3. There wasn’t another win over anyone who finished with fewer than four losses. On the other hand, the team was dominant, especially on defense pitching six shutouts and never allowing more than seven points.
87. 1976 Pitt (12-0)
All-Time Season Score:19.9800
Key Season Score Element: Pitt outscored opponents 381 to 133
Best Win: Pitt 27, Georgia 3 (Sugar Bowl)
Worst Game: Pitt 24, West Virginia 16
It was a dominant run by Tony Dorsett and coming, winning every game but one by double-digits and dominating Penn State and Georgia to close things out. However, there were only three wins over teams that finished with a winning record.
86. 1912 Harvard (9-0)
All-Time Season Score: 20.0400
Key Season Score Element: 4.5 Elite Win Score
Best Win: Harvard 20, at Yale 0
Worst Game: Harvard 7, Maine 0
It took four games against teams outside of the D-I world to warm up, and then the team kicked it all in with five terrific wins to close out the year. There weren’t many challenges, but all the nasty battles were home up until the showdown with Yale at the end of the season between the two unbeaten rivals. On the road, Harvard rolled 20-0.
85. 1896 Princeton (10-0-1)
All-Time Season Score: 20.0745
Key Season Score Element: 12 points allowed
Best Win: Princeton 24, at Yale 6
Worst Game: Princeton 0, Lafayette 0
It was a true split national championship season for the late 1800s. Lafayette went 11-0-1 and tied Princeton, but Princeton – the road team in the one blemish for both sides – had the better overall season. It beat five teams that finished with winning records, and had one big thing over Lafayette – a dominant 24-6 win over a Yale team that was 13-0 at the time.
84. 1970 Nebraska (AP) (11-0-1)
All-Time Season Score: 20.3283
Key Season Score Element: Just 1 Elite Win
Best Win: Nebraska 17, LSU 12 (Orange Bowl)
Worst Game: Nebraska 17, USC 17
The Huskers get up this high in the rankings thanks to the 11 victories and 5 Quality Wins, but there were a whole lot of layups over easy teams. The Orange Bowl victory over LSU was the only one over anyone with fewer than four losses.
83. 2003 USC (AP) (12-1)
All-Time Season Score: 20.6231
Key Season Score Element: 534 points scored
Best Win: USC 28, Michigan 14 (Rose Bowl)
Worst Game: at Cal 34, USC 31
It’s one aspect of the amazing run under Pete Carroll that goes unnoticed – the schedules weren’t always that great. LSU won the USA Today Coaches Poll national title – and is ranked a whole lot higher than this – while USC won the AP version despite not beating a team that finished with fewer than three losses. How mediocre was the schedule? To go along with the loss to an okay Cal team – quarterbacked by Aaron Rodgers – the only national champion of the 2000s ranked outside of the top 68 – and is still this low.
82. 1978 Alabama (AP) (11-1)
All-Time Season Score: 20.6867
Key Season Score Element: 7 Quality Wins
Best Win: Alabama 14, Penn State 7 (Sugar Bowl)
Worst Game: USC 24, Alabama 14
Alabama caught a massive break getting any piece of the national championship. USC lost at Arizona State in the middle of the season, but it rolled through an amazing schedule – including a 24-14 win over Bama in Birmingham – to get the UPI title. However, Bear Bryant’s Tide team took down 11-0 Penn State in an epic Sugar Bowl and beat a solid Nebraska team.
81. 1925 Alabama (10-0)
All-Time Season Score: 20.9600
Key Season Score Element: 26 points allowed
Best Win: Alabama 20, Washington 19 (Rose Bowl)
Worst Game: Alabama 6 Mississippi State 0
The Tide rolled through the season with a defense that gave up just seven points over the first nine games, and then allowed 19 in the Rose Bowl win over Washington. It was UW’s only loss of the season, and that wasn’t it for the great wins with a dominant 34-0 victory over a strong Florida team, and a tough 7-0 win at Georgia Tech.
80. 1979 Alabama (12-0)
All-Time Season Score: 21.1600
Key Season Score Element: 316 point differential
Best Win: Alabama 24, Arkansas 9 (Sugar Bowl)
Worst Game: Alabama 3, at LSU 0
There might have been some question marks about the split national title with USC in 1978, but there weren’t any question marks in 1979. Even without any amazing wins until the Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas, it didn’t matter thanks to the brick wall of a defense. Bama allowed seven points or fewer in nine of the first ten games.
79. 2007 LSU (12-2)
All-Time Season Score: 21.2271
Key Season Score Element: It’s the only team in the 150 with two losses
Best Win: LSU 38, Ohio State 24 (BCS Championship)
Worst Game: Arkansas 50, LSU 48
LSU caught a massive break just to get to the BCS Championship – a bad Pitt team shocked West Virginia to open up the door for the two-loss Tigers – and it took advantage of the situation by rocking Ohio State to win it all. Even with the two losses, the season was still ranked relatively high thanks to seven wins over teams that finished with winning records and an SEC championship over Tennessee. However, those two losses came against mediocre Kentucky and Arkansas teams.
78. 1928 Georgia Tech (10-0)
All-Time Season Score: 21.2400
Key Season Score Element: 7 Quality Wins
Best Win: Georgia Tech 19, Vanderbilt 7
Worst Game: Georgia Tech 8, Cal 7 (Rose Bowl)
There weren’t any issues throughout the regular season, beating seven teams that finished with winning record including Cal in a tight Rose Bowl to close things out. The defense was solid throughout, and there were only two Bad Wins.
77. 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.
76. 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.