The four letter company I worked for has asked its college football experts to compile a ranking, 1-120, of every Division-1 program based on the last 10 years, the so-called “BCS Era.” Contributors, of which I am one, were to base their rankings on a wide variety of criteria, mostly left up to the individual to determine. The cumulative list will be released on ESPN.com later this summer.
In completing my ranking, I took into account, first and foremost, national championships, Associated Press poll year end Top-5, Top-10 and Top-20 finishes, conference championships, major bowl victories and appearances, major individual awards won by players and presence in the NFL Draft. Additional consideration was given to a program’s “it” quality and importance to the game. Points were deducted for losing seasons, scandals, NCAA infractions and general embarrassment.
As a side note, teams that have not competed as Division-1 programs for the entirety of this period dating back to 1997 were immediately placed below all programs which have been playing at the D-1 level for at least the last 10 years. Temple and Duke may suck, but at least they were out there trying.
#1 – USC: While the BCS era started slowly for the Trojans with a record just over .500 from ‘97-‘01, they’re the only team with two national titles over this period and while one of them was a split, when you add three Heisman Trophy winners and five consecutive Top-5 finishes, USC is on top.
#2 – Ohio State: One title, another title game appearance, five BCS bowls all together, five Top-5 finishes and a Heisman Trophy make up for the embarrassment of Maurice Clarett and more than their share of off-field trouble from players.
#3 – Miami: A championship and two second place finishes along with a greater presence at the top of the NFL Draft than any other college program in the past 10 years is the good, but from shootings to internet rap songs to on-field fights, the Hurricanes thugged-out image and bad momentum keeps them from going higher.
#4 – Florida State: A championship, two other title game appearances, four Top-5 finishes, six BCS games, a Heisman Trophy winner and a huge impact on the NFL Draft, if this ranking were five years ago, FSU would be #1, but then Bobby Bowden’s idiot son Jeff took over as offensive coordinator from Mark Richt and the program has spiraled downward since.
#5 – Florida: The most recent BCS Champ, the Gators have five Top-10 finishes, four BCS bowl berths, two SEC titles, no losing records and no losing records in the past decade, despite the regrettable “Zooker” era.
#6 – Michigan: Split champs with Nebraska in ’97, the Wolverines have four Top-10 finishes, six 10+ win seasons, a Heisman winner and no losing records, but they’re just 1-3 in BCS bowls.
#7 – Nebraska: The Huskers split the last non-BCS title with Michigan and won double digit games five times to go along with four Top-10 finishes, they also boast a Heisman winner, but a losing season in ‘04 puts them below the Wolverines.
#8 – Texas: The champs two years ago, Texas has finished the season ranked in the Top-15 the past seven seasons.
#9 – Tennessee: You play for the national championship and the Vols have one from ’98.
#10 – LSU: Their title was a split, but it still counts; losing records in ’98 and ’99 make them the lowest rated program to win a championship, but with three Top-6 finishes in the last four years, if this ranking were based on just the last five seasons and not the last 10, they’d be much higher.
#11 – Oklahoma: Stop the presses! Based on the Sooners’ national title, two other BCS title game appearances, five BCS bowl games total along with four Big 12 titles, a Heisman Trophy winner and two runner-ups, I initially had them second by an eyelash ahead of Ohio State. Since first finishing my ranking, the Sooners have been hammered with NCAA sanctions resulting in the forfeit of their entire 2005 season, an 8-4 campaign ending in a Holiday Bowl win. Since that 8-4 now becomes 0-12 in my mind and OU has the disgrace on it of being hit hard by penalty, they drop all the way here.
#12 – Georgia: No losing records, two SEC titles and five Top-10 finishes make the Bulldogs the best program not to have won a national title in the BCS era.
#13 – Wisconsin: No program gets more out of less than Wisconsin; two Rose Bowl victories, three Top-10 finishes and a Heisman, but a losing record in ’01 keeps them out of the top dozen.
#14 – Virginia Tech: Four top-10 finishes and two BCS bowl berths make up for the now embarrassing Vick brothers. No losing seasons.
#15 – Auburn: Two Top-10 finishes and one conference title in what is easily college football’s toughest league.
#16 – Louisville: Didn’t start this era strong going 1-10 in ’97, but that’s the only losing record they have over this period and have finished in the Top-10 two of the last three years.
#17 – Kansas State: Weighing every year of the last 10 equally, the Wildcats’ five Top-10 finishes from ’97-’02 and two BCS bowl berths would seem to put them higher, but those records were padded largely by shamefully easy non-conference schedules and they’re non-existent when it comes to players receiving major individual awards and are invisible on Draft day.
#18 – Oregon: Two Top-10 finishes and just one losing season.
#19 – Boise State: Just one losing season and six double-digit finishes is impressive, but it’s the Broncos’ 6-1 bowl record that puts them in the Top-20 despite playing in a non-power conference.
#20 – West Virginia: Two Top-10 finishes, a BCS bowl win and only two losing seasons.
#21 – Georgia Tech: No losing seasons, but no BCS bowls and just one Top-10 finish. Had George O’Leary stayed, my guess is the Jackets would have made a run at the Top-10 of this ranking.
#22 – Iowa: Three Top-10 finishes, but four losing seasons including 1-10 in Kirk Ferentz’ first year.
#23 – Penn State: Five Top-20 finishes and one BCS bowl win.
#24 – UCLA: UCLA is better than you think, but pales in comparison to neighbor USC.
#25 – Washington State: incredibly, four Top-10 finishes in the last 10 years.
#26 – Purdue: Joe Tiller has gotten everything possible out of this program, but has he run out of gas?
#27 – Texas A&M: With their passion and recruiting base, this should be higher. This ranking lives largely off the end of the R.C. Slocum era.
#28 – Texas Tech: Program is maxed out, has no business being this high.
#29 – Notre Dame: legendary name, ordinary program
#30 – Boston College: Largely an afterthought in baseball obsessed New England, but they’ve been a consistent bowl team for the better part of a decade.
#31 – Clemson: Just can’t seem to get over the hump with Tommy Bowden, king of the “job-saver” game.
#32 – Alabama: As many non-winning seasons, as winning seasons and coupled with their routine coaching/NCAA/booster embarrassment, this could be lower. One SEC title and BCS bowl berth help.
#33 – Colorado: The fiasco to the end of the Gary Barnett era drops them.
#34 – Arkansas: No BCS conference coach without a BCS bowl appearance has a longer tenure than Houston Nutt.
#35 – Arizona State: With hot chicks, easy admissions and access to California recruiting, Sun Devils should be a Top-30 program.
#36 – Virginia: Trending down.
#37 – Oregon State: Considering remote location and terrible recruiting base, it’s remarkable the Beavers are in the Top-50.
#39 – N.C. State: Were it not for Phillip Rivers, the Wolfpack could conceivably be 30 places lower.
#40 – Pittsburgh
#41 – Mississippi: How’s that “fire David Cutcliff” thing working out? Had the Rebels kept him, they might have crept into the Top-30.
#42 – Minnesota
#43 – Michigan State
#44 – Washington: For a great state university with tons of money and tradition in a conference that isn’t totally committed to football to be this low is weak.
#45 – Marshall: Won instantly after transitioning to Division-1.
#46 – TCU: After Boise State, they’ve become the second most dependable non-BCS program and have become a fixture in the Top-25.
#47 – Southern Miss: Trending downward, but a remarkably consistent winner.
#48 – Utah
#49 – Miami (OH)
#50 – Colorado State
#51 – Air Force
#52 - Toledo
#53 – Maryland
#54 – BYU
#55 – Wake Forest
#56 – Hawaii
#57 – Cal: Easy to forget now how bad the Bears were before Jeff Tedford. Think Duke and you’re close.
#58 – Fresno State: Bulldogs took all on comers and made lots of noise, but no conference championships to show for it.
#59 – Kentucky
#60 – Syracuse: The only legitimate BCS program in the 3rd most populous state in the country should do much better than this.
#61 – Cincinnati
#62 – Northern Illinois
#63 – Arizona
#64 – Missouri
#65 – New Mexico
#66 – Louisiana Tech
#67 – South Carolina: No one tries harder, or cares more, with fewer results than the Gamecocks.
#68 – Stanford: Slid their way into a Rose Bowl with an 8-4 record or this would have been lower.
#69 – Iowa State
#70 – Oklahoma State: With an influx of booster money, it will be interesting to see where the Cowboys are in another 10 years.
#71 – Northwestern
#72 – Mississippi State
#73 – Tulane
#74 – Bowling Green
#75 – UAB
#76 – North Carolina: One good season in the last 10 – under Mack Brown. For a great school, with a national reputation, a gorgeous campus and good recruiting ground to be this low is disgraceful. The most underachieving program in the last 10 years.
#77 – Illinois: A close second to North Carolina for most underachieving program in America. Big state school with money and enough tradition, solid recruiting base, this is bad. If you think Ron Zook is getting them over the top, you’ve got another thought coming.
#78 – Kansas
#79 – East Carolina
#80 – Western Michigan
#81 – UCF
#82 – Navy
#83 – Nevada
#84 - Akron
#85 – Ohio
#86 – Houston: Shouldn’t Houston be better?
#87 – Wyoming
#88 – Rutgers
#89 – Rice
#90 – Vanderbilt: Tough to be too hard on Vandy with their academic standards in the less scholastically rigid and insanely competitive SEC.
#91 – UTEP
#92 – North Texas
#93 – Indiana
#94 - Tulsa
#95 – Baylor
#96 – San Diego State
#97 – Idaho
#98 – Central Michigan
#99 – Duke: The only BCS conference member that doesn’t even pretend to care about football.
#100 – San Jose State
#101 – New Mexico State
#102 – SMU
#103 – Ball State
#104 – Arkansas State
#105 – UNLV
#106 – Kent State
#107 – Louisiana-Monroe
#108 – Louisiana-Lafayette
#109 – Utah State
#110 – Eastern Michigan
#111 – Temple
#112 – Army
#113 – Middle Tennessee State: Eight Division-1 seasons.
#114 – Buffalo: Eight Division-1 seasons.
#115 – Connecticut: Seven Division-1 seasons.
#116 – South Florida: Six Division-1 seasons, this will skyrocket once the Bulls have played 10 full seasons of D-1.
#117 – Troy: Six Division-1 seasons.
#118 – Florida Atlantic: Two Division-1 seasons.
#119 – Florida International: Two Division-1 seasons.
#120 – Western Kentucky: 2007 will be the school’s first Divison-1 season.