Another College Football season behind us, time for another look at the most successful college football programs of the last 8 years based on wins, this time covering the 2011-2018 stretch. Spoiler: All the teams that won national championships during the last 8 seasons: Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Florida State, are here.
Why 8 seasons and not something else? 8 years are two full four-year draft cycles, which to us represent a significant enough stretch that’s reliable enough to highlight the best and most consistent programs in college football. No one-year standouts in an era of mediocrity, nor one bad year due to a mass exodus or poor recruiting. One more thing: We don’t vacate wins for this list, although unlike previous years, it didn’t make a different.
10. Wisconsin Badgers (81-28), 74.3%
Averaging just over 10 wins a season since 2011, the Badgers are coming off their worst season under Paul Chryst, going just 8-5 and finishing unranked for the first time since 2012. There are 5 seasons of over 10 wins during the 8-year span, including going 13-1 last season, losing only to Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game. Wisconsin has a Big Ten title in 2011 and in 2012, both years ending in Rose Bowl losses in the pre-playoff era. They’ve won their last 5 bowl games, including 3 major bowl games (Outback, Cotton and Orange), as well as finishing in the top 10 twice (2016 & 2017).
9. LSU Tigers (77-26), 74.8%
Wild guess – unless something shocking happens next season, we might see LSU fall out of this annual top 10 list. 2011 was LSU’s last big season, going 13-0 en route to the BCS title game, only to get shut out against Alabama, a team they beat in the regular season but was propelled to the #2 position thanks to voters (computers had Oklahoma State).
Since then, LSU won 10 games in a season three times, but never winning the conference again or even getting to play in the title game. Les Miles was replaced by Ed Orgeron, who led the Tigers to their first major bowl game victory not too long ago, beating UCF in the Fiesta Bowl, good enough for a #7 place finish on the AP Poll, their first top 10 finish since 2011.
8. Georgia Bulldogs (82-27), 75.2%
Not on the list last year, the Bulldogs, but the removals of the 6-7 2010 season behind them helped lift them to #8, with 6 seasons of 10 wins or more in this 8-year span, which included the switch from Mark Richt to Kirby Smart. the latter led the Bulldogs to their first SEC title in 12 years, going all the way to the national championship game, losing there to Alabama. This year included another title game (playing for the SEC) loss to Alabama and another top 10 finish on the polls, despite losing in the Sugar Bowl to Texas.
7. Florida State Seminoles (80-26), 75.5%
The lowest ranked national champion in the ’11-to-’18 timespan, the Seminoles won the last BCS championship game, beating Auburn. They made the CFP next year undefeated, but got destroyed in the semi’s by Oregon. That (2014) was the last ACC title before another team took over the conference. Two 10-win seasons followed including an Orange Bowl win, but the Jimbo Fisher era soon came to an end and in 2018, a 26-year bowl streak ended as Willie Taggart’s debut season ended in a 5-7 record and a second consecutive losing season in the ACC.
6. Stanford Cardinal (82-26), 75.9%
The 2011-2018 period are all David Shaw years, who took over from Jim Harbaugh in 2011. Through his first 6 seasons, Shaw won the Pac-12 three times and the Rose Bowl twice, while managing two more major bowl game losses. His team won 10 games or more five times in those 6 seasons. The last two years have been good, but not exceptional: Winning 9 games twice, going to the Pac-12 title game in 2017 and losing to USC.
5. Boise State Broncos (82-23), 78.3%
The 2011 to 2018 era is the first All-MWC for Boise, playing their last WAC season in 2010. The Broncos, while remaining very successful, have found the Mountain West to be more competitive, never losing less than 2 games in a season during the last 7 years. This stretch includes 3 conference titles and 5 top 25 finishes, their best being #8 in 2011 after a 13-1 year, surprisingly not ending with a conference title after TCU went undefeated in MWC play.
4. Oklahoma Sooners (85-21), 80.2%
Taking us into the 80% and higher territory are the Sooners, still the class of the Big 12, winning the conference 5 times in the last 8 years, including 4 straight including this season. The Lincoln Riley succession has gone smoothly, going 12-2 in both years. In both years there’s also a playoff loss in the semi final, once to Alabama and one to Georgia in a classic double overtime shootout. During this 8-year stretch, only once did Oklahoma win less than 10 games (2014). Since then they’ve gone 46-8.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes (92-16), 85.2%
We can split this 8 year stretch into two: The Luke Fickell season (2011) in which the Buckeyes went 6-7, and the Urban Meyer from 2012 onward: One national championship (inaugural playoffs), two Big Ten championships, 6 finishes in the AP top 6 and an overall record of 86-9 (90.5%), including going 12-0 in 2012, when Ohio State weren’t allowed to participate beyond the regular season. With Urban Meyer stepping down and Ryan Day taking over (if you want nitpick, Day has 3 of the wins in the 2018 season as acting head coach), it’ll be interesting to see if he can maintain the same level of success overall and especially when playing Michigan.
2. Clemson Tigers (98-14), 87.5%
Two national championships, 5 ACC titles, two undefeated seasons in conference play, one undefeated season overall (15-0!) and maybe above all that, turning Clemson into a name synonymous with football excellence. Dabo Swinney’s name is attached to everything good about Clemson since taking over in 2008, and their four-year (for now) rivalry with Alabama that includes two wins in the championship game perhaps shifted the epicenter of the College Football universe to South Carolina, at least for one season.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide (103-10), 91.1%
Only one team has been to all 5 College Football Playoffs: Alabama. Only in the first one did the Crimson Tide lose in the semi final. All the rest? Going to play for the title, twice winning (vs Georgia and Clemson) and twice losing (vs Clemson). In fact, Alabama has been twice denied of going 15-0 by… Clemson. Auburn and Clemson, both Tigers, are the only programs to beat Alabama in the last four years. And we’re just talking CFP-era dominance. Alabama have national titles in the 2011 & 2012 seasons when it was still the BCS. In short, the standard of long term success and dominance has been set by Saban & the Tide in the last decade or so, with Clemson and perhaps Ohio State trying to keep up.
- Last year’s list (2010-2017) had a one-team change: Oregon, falling to 11th (77-29), replaced by Georgia.
- College Football Playoff teams over the years that aren’t in the top 10: Oregon, Michigan State (15th, 74-32), Washington (24th, 70-37) and Notre Dame (14th, 73-30)
- The highest ranked team from the American conference is Houston: 71-33 during the 8-year stretch.
And just as importantly, the 10 worst teams since 2011:
Miami (OH), 30-67, 30.9%
Coastal Carolina, 8-19, 29.6%
UNLV, 29-70, 29.3%
Connecticut, 28-69, 28.9%
UTEP, 27-70, 27.8%
New Mexico State, 25-73, 25.5%
Charlotte, 12-36, 25%
Georgia State, 19-59, 24.4%
UMass, 18-67, 21.2%
Kansas, 15-81, 15.6%