The Top 25 College Football Programs of the Decade

Mon, Feb 1, 2010 at 9:00 pm ET

College Football

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This is the most important BCS Egg Trophy Ever: Frumpzilla's Top 25 College Football Programs of the Decade

This is the most important BCS Egg Trophy Ever: Frumpzilla's Top 25 College Football Programs of the Decade

*****UPDATE: Due to a relatively high volume of great reader feedback (and requests), we’ve added several variations of our rankings below. Many thanks to all that have left feedback and offered suggestions on how to improve and expand the rankings.*****

*****UPDATE II: I’ve been informed that the data sheets below don’t always load properly at first, and I’ve experienced this myself. If you encounter this issue, reloading the page seems to fix it. Thanks.*****

I know, I know. The Super Bowl contenders are now set. Football fans, if not the vast majority of sports fans in general, are far more concerned with whether Drew wins his first or if Peyton can solidify himself as the greatest quarterback of all time. Understandable. I mean, even I’m more excited than usual for this Super Bowl.

So why do a “Best of the Decade” college football list now? Well, nearly a month removed from Alabama’s 8th, 13th or 27th National Championship (depending on who you ask), let’s just say I wasn’t quite ready to let go of my #1 sports passion yet.

Yes, not willing to wait for next season,  I decided instead to reexamine the depths of the last 10 in an effort to establish the final top 25: The Top 25 college football programs of the decade (it’s actually the Top 57, or so, but I figured I should use “Top 25″ in the title for SEO reasons).

Make the jump for Frumpzilla’s epic compilation, along with a detailed explanation of the methodology behind our rankings…

Qualification:

I didn’t possess the fortitude to crunch the numbers for every college football program, but I did for just about every program that’s relevant to this discussion. As long as a team ranked in the top 50 for number of weeks appearing in any weekly edition of the AP Top 25 between 2000 and 2010 (that’s seasons 2000-2009 only, by the way), they’re included. Beyond that I even included some extra local flavor, and I think all reasonable interests should be covered.

Scoring:

Winning is everything, so, naturally, I used total wins from seasons 2000-2009 as my base scoring system. Conference Championship game wins and bowl wins are included in this number, too. Everything beyond that operated as a bonus, and those bonuses are as follows…

Conference Championship Bonus:

I struggled with this one, because, while I certainly felt programs needed to be rewarded for the luster a conference championship adds, winning the Mountain West or Western Athletic Conference isn’t exactly the same as winning the SEC. Nor is having to play that extra conference championship game when other champs essentially get a bye week.

Still, given that one of our goals here was to reduce the element of subjectivity as much as reasonably possible, I didn’t think it would be fair to give teams from certain conferences greater bonuses than others. Instead I decided to keep the bonus relatively moderate, and just give 1 bonus point for any conference championship season. If a team was only a Co-Champion for a given season, they were rewarded 1/2 a bonus point. Notre Dame, being an Independent, was rewarded 1/2 a point for every BCS bid they received (join a conference, Irish, if you want the full point).

Bowl Wins:

Bowl wins garnered 1 bonus point. BCS bowls are not included in this number, as you’ll see below.

BCS Bowl Wins:

BCS bowl wins got your school 2 bonus points. Please note, however, that these points, as well as all the the other bonus points, do not stack upon each other. For example: Georgia winning the Sugar Bowl in 2002 would earn the Dawgs 2 bonus points for a BCS bowl win; NOT 1 bonus point for a bowl win plus ANOTHER 2 points for a BCS bowl win.

Final Top 25 Finish:

1 bonus point was awarded for each season a team finished in the final AP Top 25.

Final Top 10 Finish:

2 bonus points were awarded for finishing a season in the  AP Top 10. This does not stack upon the Top 25 bonus point. For instance, finishing #8 in the country for a given year would only earn a program 2 bonus points; NOT 1 bonus point for finishing in the Top 25 AND another 2 for finishing in the Top 10.

Final Top 5 Finish:

If a team finished in the final AP Top 5 for the season, they received 3 bonus points. This is not stacked with any other bonuses, as noted above.

MNC Bonus:

If a team ended the season as the BCS National Champion (aka, the Mythical National Champion) they were awarded 13 bonus points. Again, these points did not stack with any other bonuses. Winning the MNC would NOT get you 13 bonus points AND the 3 bonus points for finishing in the Top 5, for example.

My rationale here was that 13 points, while being the natural equivalent of a perfect season, also happened to match the scoring for a win (1), Conference Championship (1), bowl win (1), BCS bowl win (2), Top 25 finish (1), Top 10 finish (2), Top 5 finish (3) and then an additional 2 points for winning the BCS Title game. Moreover, though 13 points is certainly a substantial bonus, I imagine fans of nearly every program would gladly sacrifice that many wins over the course of a decade in exchange for a MNC.

Strength of Schedule:

In order to protect against, or at least minimize the impact of, the inevitable pitfall of questions related to disparities in competition level, I used Jeff Sagarin’s Strength of Schedule ratings as a final, additional bonus. Sagarin’s SOS ratings have not been free of controversy, of course, and he’s still never revealed how he computes them, but they were the only ratings I found that made it easy and accessible to prune data. They’re also used by the official BCS rankings, so I felt that added a level of authority.

To apply the bonus, I simply averaged a team’s Sagarin Strength of Schedule (SSOS) rating from each season this decade and added the result to their score. You can see each year’s SSOS’s and corresponding final average in the table below the final rankings table.

Caveats:

USC and LSU obviously caused some problems. For their AP and USA Today Coaches Poll shake up in 2003, I gave them each 1/2 credit for a national championship, BCS bowl win, and Top 5 finish.

Also, despite several of the teams ranked having changed conferences (in some cases multiple times) over the course of the decade, each team’s conference is listed related to the current alignment.

The Top 25 of the Decade

Most of you probably haven’t taken the time to peruse the methodology (that’s fine, it’s a bit dense), but, if you have, thanks for reading.  Now on to the fun part. You can see the full, detailed results in the Excel table below, but for those of you that can’t be bothered to look at the rankings more intently, here are the results for the Top 25 (Win based scoring system).

  1. USC
  2. Oklahoma
  3. Texas
  4. Ohio State
  5. Florida
  6. LSU
  7. Georgia
  8. Boise State
  9. Miami
  10. Virginia Tech
  11. Oregon
  12. Florida State
  13. TCU
  14. Auburn
  15. West Virginia
  16. Boston College
  17. Utah
  18. Alabama
  19. Michigan
  20. Wisconsin
  21. Nebraska (tie with Iowa)
  22. Iowa (tie with Nebraska)
  23. Texas Tech
  24. Oregon State
  25. Tennessee

And for those of you that appreciate the finer points, here are the full rankings with data plugged in…

And then here is the SSOS data…

*****As mentioned above, we’ve received a lot of feedback and requests related to this article. As such, we decided to run the data through some different base scoring systems to see how it altered results (Winning %, Bonus Heavy, and Win-Loss Delta). None of the bonuses have been touched, and Sagarin’s SOS ratings are still incorporated in each set.***

The Top 25 under a Win Percentage Base Scoring System

Here a program’s win percentage from 2000-2009 was converted to serve as the base score instead of total wins.

  1. USC
  2. Texas
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Ohio State
  5. Florida
  6. LSU
  7. Miami
  8. Georgia
  9. Boise State
  10. Virginia Tech
  11. Oregon
  12. West Virginia
  13. Utah
  14. Texas Christian
  15. Auburn
  16. Florida State
  17. Boston College
  18. Alabama
  19. Michigan
  20. Iowa
  21. Oregon State
  22. Nebraska
  23. Penn State
  24. Wisconsin
  25. Tennessee

Data here…

The Top 25 under a “true” win percentage/bonus heavy based scoring system

Here win percentage is not converted, but rather, for example, is left at .769 instead of 76.9. This naturally increases the weight/importance of the bonuses (winning conference championships, winning bowls, winning BCS bowls, finishing as high as possible in the AP Poll, and, most importantly, National Championships) substantially.

  1. USC
  2. Florida
  3. Ohio State
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Texas
  6. LSU
  7. Miami
  8. Georgia
  9. Virginia Tech
  10. Florida State
  11. Alabama
  12. Oregon
  13. West Virginia
  14. Auburn
  15. Utah
  16. Michigan
  17. Iowa
  18. Boston College
  19. Boise State
  20. Oregon State
  21. Penn State
  22. Nebraska
  23. Tennessee
  24. California
  25. Texas Christian

Here is the data…

The Top 25 under a Win-Loss Delta base scoring system

Here losses are subtracted from wins with the difference serving as a program’s base score prior to bonuses.

  1. Texas
  2. USC
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Ohio State
  5. Florida
  6. Boise State
  7. LSU
  8. Georgia
  9. Miami
  10. Virginia Tech
  11. Texas Christian
  12. Oregon
  13. Utah
  14. Auburn
  15. West Virginia
  16. Boston College
  17. Florida State
  18. Michigan
  19. Wisconsin
  20. Nebraska
  21. Texas Tech
  22. Alabama
  23. Louisville
  24. Iowa
  25. Tennessee

And here’s the data…

“Master Score”

Finally, below you’ll find a Master Sheet of all the data used in the compilation of these rankings. It’s sorted by the column titled “Master Score,” which is simply the sum of each program’s score under each of the four ranking systems. We’re not offering it as the comprehensive, best set of rankings of the group or anything; rather just a nice statistical data dump for all you stat lovers out there. Nevertheless, here’s The Top 25 by each program’s “Master Score”:

  1. USC
  2. Texas
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Ohio State
  5. Florida
  6. LSU
  7. Miami
  8. Georgia
  9. Boise State
  10. Virginia Tech
  11. Oregon
  12. Texas Christian
  13. West Virginia
  14. Auburn
  15. Florida State
  16. Utah
  17. Boston College
  18. Alabama
  19. Michigan
  20. Iowa
  21. Oregon State
  22. Nebraska
  23. Wisconsin
  24. Tennessee
  25. Texas Tech

And here’s the Master Sheet…

Disclaimer:

Now, we don’t have editors here at Frumpzilla (I mean, that should be clear from our motto), so it’s possible there are some errors present in the calculations that led to our final rankings. If you find any, please be sure to let us know.

Moreover, none of us, at least to my knowledge, are statisticians, or even particularly good at math. The GingerHead Man can do this really neat trick with instantly calculating and extracting the number of vowels present in even really big words, or something, but that’s about it. We’re just fans that enjoy a friendly debate (and lists). That said, I’m sure someone out there can develop a better methodology, and if you have any thoughts, suggestions or ideas, please constructively critique away.

Oh, and if you just want to bitch about your team being ranked too low (i.e. below Boise State, TCU and/or Utah), or even not ranked at all, please feel free to do that as well. Leave a comment, or drop us a line, insulting or otherwise, at frumpmail@gmail.com.

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