There’s nothing like sitting alongside your classmates decked out in school colors on a beautiful autumn afternoon cheering on your college’s football team. Whether you enjoy the sport itself, the pregame tailgating, or the half-time festivities, game-day memories are some of the most cherished by alumni everywhere.
Having a great team is a source of pride, but it’s also a valuable tool to attract prospective students, national attention, and money. (A recent game between longtime rivals Michigan State and University of Michigan drew nearly 7.4 million viewers on ESPN.) Rankings and championships vary from year to year, but certain institutions have an ongoing reputation for quality on the field. Based on factors such as lifetime record, titles, and caliber of athletes (measured by number of Heisman winners and number of players who get drafted professionally) and coaches, here are the top 10 schools with the best football teams.
Who says a great football team needs to play in Division I? The Purple Raiders have won 11 Division III Football Championships and hold the NCAA record for most consecutive wins by a football team (55).
Its .701 overall winning percentage entering the 2015 season was among the best not only in the Big 10 Conference but in all of college football. The Cornhuskers have five national championships, and the undefeated 1971 and 1995 teams are often considered among the best in history. And win or lose, classy Nebraska fans stand and applaud the visiting team as they leave the field at game’s end.
Princeton lost to Rutgers on Nov. 6, 1869, in the first collegiate football game ever played. But the Tigers have since earned 28 National Championships (the most recent being 1950) and 10 Ivy League Championships. Since the late 1800s, Princeton students throw a huge bonfire during any season the Tigers beat both rivals Harvard and Yale.
Heisman winners Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow all played in The Swamp. Though the university has fielded teams for more than 100 years, the greatest Gator success has been in the late 20th/early 21st century – three national championships (1996, 2006, 2008) and eight SEC titles (1991, 1993-96, 2000, 2006, 2008). Go Gators! Cue your gator chomp.
After the 2014 season, the Sooners had a cumulative record of 850 wins against 317 losses and the highest lifetime winning percentage of any Big 12 team (.718). The Boomer Sooner Chant is here to stay.
OH! IO! The Buckeyes currently have more than 50 alums in the NFL. This Big 10 powerhouse boasted a .720 winning percentage in 125 years of competition heading into the 2015 season.
In recent years, Alabama has been a breeding ground for professional players with more than 60 former Crimson Tide stars in the NFL in 2015. The university has 15 national titles to its name (six under legendary coach “Bear” Bryant), including back-to-back championships in 2011 and 2012. Roll Tide!
USC ties with Notre Dame for most Heisman winners (7, including O.J. Simpson). After the 2015 draft, the Trojans claimed the all-time lead for most NFL draftees with 489. “Fight On!” and keep doing your two-fingered hand salute.
Seven Heisman Trophy winners have played for the Fighting Irish. And coaches such as Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Lou Holtz, and Ara Parseghian are equally as well known among college football fans. Long live the Victory Clog!
Heading into the 2015 season, the Wolverines had a .729 winning percentage over 135 seasons and had cumulatively outscored opponents 31,915 to 14,665. While still looking for their first national championship in the 21st century, they garnered 11 of them between 1901 and 1997. Go Blue! Those Who Stay Will Be Champions.