Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The AP Top 100 College Football Programs Over 80 Years


The Associated Press (AP) has been ranking the best teams in college football since 1936. Over 80 years and in 1,103 polls, a total of 165 schools have been ranked in the Top 25 on any given week.  Additionally, 44 of those schools have been ranked No. 1 at least once (Minnesota was the first).
To determine the all-time Top 25, the AP used the following formula:
  • 1 point for each poll appearance to mark consistency, 
  • 2 points for No. 1 rankings to acknowledge elite programs, and 
  • 10 points for AP championships.

You can read the full article and see the Top 100 HERE. Where does your team fall in? I am a Notre Dame fan. We've not won a National Championship since 1988, but we had a great decade in the 1940s, and based on the AP formula, we came in 3rd overall.



I copied the results into Excel to look a little closer at the data. I wanted to know some relative measures instead of the straight ordinal measures. For example, Notre Dame is 3rd on the All-Time list. But how far behind Ohio State (#1) and Oklahoma (#2) are they? And how much cushion does Notre Dame have over Alabama (#4)? I added the 3rd and 4th columns to generate and explore some ratio data.

In addition, I was curious about the relative strengths of the various conferences the teams represent. Everyone talks about the powerhouse SEC. So how many SEC teams made the overall Top-25, I wondered? I added the 5th column and filled it in mostly from memory, checking a few on the NCAA website.

Here is a closer look at the Top 25 of the past 80 years with some additional information:

The all-time AP Top-25 Points Pts Back % Conf
No. 1 Ohio State 1,112 0 100% Big Ten
No. 2 Oklahoma 1,055 57 95% Big 12
No. 3 Notre Dame 1,042 70 94% Independents
No. 4 Alabama 993 119 89% SEC
No. 5 Southern California 974 138 88% Pac 12
No. 6 Nebraska 901 211 81% Big Ten
No. 7 Michigan 894 218 80% Big Ten
No. 8 Texas 822 290 74% Big 12
No. 9 Florida State 714 398 64% ACC
No. 10 Florida 674 438 61% SEC
No. 11 LSU 655 457 59% SEC
No. 12 Penn State 647 465 58% Big Ten
No. 13 Miami 642 470 58% ACC
No. 14 Tennessee 624 488 56% SEC
No. 15 Georgia 572 540 51% SEC
No. 16 Auburn 570 542 51% SEC
No. 17 UCLA 535 577 48% Pac 12
No. 18 Texas A&M 447 665 40% SEC
No. 19 Michigan State 443 669 40% Big Ten
No. 20 Washington 430 682 39% Pac 12
No. 21 Arkansas 412 700 37% SEC
No. 22 Clemson 411 701 37% ACC
No. 23 Pittsburgh 356 756 32% ACC
No. 24 Wisconsin 336 776 30% Big Ten
No. 25 Iowa 329 783 30% Big Ten

Notice that the Top 5 teams all come from a different conference. Isn't that interesting? Is that a measure of parity?

I made a table that counted the number of times any given Conference landed a team in the Top 25. Below is a recap by Conference, showing that the SEC has 8 college football programs in the all-time Top 25, more than any other Conference. But I noticed that the Big Ten has 3 teams in the Top 10 compared to the SEC's 2, so the Big Ten may have fewer teams in the Top 25 but the teams they have are higher up. Notre Dame's eventual move into the ACC from the Independents will not be enough to bump the ACC into 2nd place.

Conference Count Pts Back %
SEC 8 0 100%
Big Ten 7 1 88%
ACC 4 4 50%
Pac 12 3 5 38%
Big 12 2 6 25%
Independents 1 7 13%




But of course, as many readers know, the Conferences are of different sizes, ranging from a low of 10 teams to a high of 14 teams, plus the 4 Independent teams. So that made me wonder if the SEC was performing so well as a conference because they field a lot of teams? Or, would the data show that the SEC is punching above or below its weight? To answer this, I gathered the total count of all the teams in all the NCAA Division I-A colleges and made the table below.

Conference Teams Top 25 %
SEC 14 8 57%
Big Ten 14 7 50%
ACC 14 4 29%
Pac 12 12 3 25%
Independents 4 1 25%
Big 12 10 2 20%
Conf USA 13 0 0%
American  12 0 0%
Mountain West 12 0 0%
Mid-American 12 0 0%
Sun Belt 11 0 0%

The SEC does have a lot of teams (14), but the bottom line is that 57% of those teams are in the all-time Top 25. That is more than any other conference in raw numbers and also tops when adjusted for the number of teams. The Big Ten has 14 teams (wait, what?) but they lag the SEC slightly in both raw and normalized numbers. Meanwhile, the ACC also has 14 teams but only half as many teams in the Top 25.

Looking over 80 years, the SEC is formidable, indeed. And of course recent years make them appear down right unstoppable.

H/T: CF