College Football's Best Team? It's In The Stats

posted by Scot Chestnut - 

Here in the Deep South, we are passionate about college football. When I talk to my adult children who live in New England (one in New Hampshire, three in Maine), I forget how little emphasis is placed on the college game in that region of the country: it's all New England Patriots there.

Down here, most of us have a strong allegiance to one school's program... win or lose, that's our team. And if ours wins one (or more) championship(s) - their conference, or a national title, we believe they are the greatest team of all time. Okay, so maybe it's just me.   

But it's hard to deny the power of raw data that's been thoroughly analyzed, and the experts at ESPN have done just that: they've ranked the National Championship teams, going back to the first title game in 1998. 

According to the article, "ESPN Analytics calculated overall, offensive and defensive ratings to find the true strength of a champion through a comparison of top college football programs across seasons. The model includes a giant network of all FBS college football teams that played approximately 15,000 games over 20 years and assigns each team to a game, score and home-field advantage indicator within each season. The network establishes a team's strength interrelated with every other team in the network and returns a rating measured in points above the average team (zero rating)."

Of course, there are lots of factors that affect whether or not a team actually makes it to the big game: injuries, strength of schedule, and luck are just three.

That said, here are your top 21 National Championship teams, from top to bottom:


1. 2005 Texas Longhorns

2. 2008 Florida Gators

3. 2001 Miami Hurricanes

4. 2013 Florida State Seminoles

5. 2004 USC Trojans

6. 2011 Alabama Crimson Tide

7. 2012 Alabama

8. 2015 Alabama

9. 2009 Alabama

10. 1999 Florida State

11. 2017 Alabama

12. 2016 Clemson Tigers

13. 2000 Oklahoma Sooners

14. 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes

15. 2010 Auburn Tigers

16. 2003 USC

17. 2003 LSU Tigers

18. 1998 Tennessee Volunteers

19. 2007 LSU

20. 2006 Florida

21. 2002 Ohio State


Since EA Sports hasn't made an NCAA Football game since 2014 (using the previous year's data and earlier), it would be hard to play some of these teams against each other on a video game console. Still, it's interesting to see where all these teams landed.

The article goes into more detail about why each team was successful, so it's worth a read. I'm just ready for the season to begin. How about you?

2017 NCAA Football Championship Trophy
Scot Chestnut

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