As the season approaches though, it's time to reflect on our position in the world of college football.

While all-time winning percentage is one way to gauge the relative success of different programs, we can extend our look at historical winning percentage to give us a more complete story for each team.

The method here is to take all the top teams in the sport and then measure their relative winning percentage for every range of years that starts with any year the sport was played and ends with 2006. In other words, let's examine everyone's rank vis a vis winning percentage over ALL of the following date ranges:

1869 to 2006

1870 to 2006

1871 to 2006

1872 to 2006

1873 to 2006

.

.

.

2004 to 2006

2005 to 2006

2006

This gives us data for 138 ranges. It's a large volume of data, and there are several ways to look at it. The power of this method of looking at historical winning percentage is that it provides a metric for how well a team has maintained a high level throughout every era of football.

Let's lay some ground rules before we dig into the numbers: The top 14 teams in all-time winning percentage (the first range considered) are the only teams considered in the analysis. #15 was Miami U. (Ohio) and Boise State has only been playing I-A football since 1996. They're not in the discussion: we're moving on.

1) Average Ranking over ALL Ranges

2) Median Ranking over ALL Ranges

Now for the number that is my personal favorite: What is the LOWEST rank in winning percentage for any of the ranges for each team? In other words, for the range 1983-2006, Ohio State was 7th in winning percentage. That along with the same rank for 4 other ranges that begin in the 80's (thanks Coop) is the lowest ranking that Ohio State has for any range considered. In order to be fair to the teams that have fallen on hard times recently, I have ignored all rankings for any range starting after 1999 for the purposes of this discussion. (Alabama was helped most by this expedient, and they're still at the bottom)

3) Lowest Ranking for Any Range

A few other observations:

While all-time winning percentage is one way to gauge the relative success of different programs, we can extend our look at historical winning percentage to give us a more complete story for each team.

The method here is to take all the top teams in the sport and then measure their relative winning percentage for every range of years that starts with any year the sport was played and ends with 2006. In other words, let's examine everyone's rank vis a vis winning percentage over ALL of the following date ranges:

1869 to 2006

1870 to 2006

1871 to 2006

1872 to 2006

1873 to 2006

.

.

.

2004 to 2006

2005 to 2006

2006

This gives us data for 138 ranges. It's a large volume of data, and there are several ways to look at it. The power of this method of looking at historical winning percentage is that it provides a metric for how well a team has maintained a high level throughout every era of football.

Let's lay some ground rules before we dig into the numbers: The top 14 teams in all-time winning percentage (the first range considered) are the only teams considered in the analysis. #15 was Miami U. (Ohio) and Boise State has only been playing I-A football since 1996. They're not in the discussion: we're moving on.

1) Average Ranking over ALL Ranges

- Ohio State_____3.03
- Michigan_______3.52
- Texas__________6.02
- Oklahoma_______6.07
- Nebraska_______7.23
- Notre Dame_____8.20
- Tennessee______8.54
- Southern Cal___9.03
- Penn State_____9.96
- Florida State_10.19
- Miami_________11.74
- Alabama_______11.93
- Georgia_______12.08
- LSU___________16.43

2) Median Ranking over ALL Ranges

- Ohio State_______3
- Michigan_________3
- Oklahoma_________5
- Texas____________6
- Notre Dame_______6
- Nebraska_________7
- Alabama__________7
- USC______________8
- Tennessee________9
- Penn State_______9.5
- FSU_____________11
- Georgia_________12
- Miami___________13
- LSU_____________15

Now for the number that is my personal favorite: What is the LOWEST rank in winning percentage for any of the ranges for each team? In other words, for the range 1983-2006, Ohio State was 7th in winning percentage. That along with the same rank for 4 other ranges that begin in the 80's (thanks Coop) is the lowest ranking that Ohio State has for any range considered. In order to be fair to the teams that have fallen on hard times recently, I have ignored all rankings for any range starting after 1999 for the purposes of this discussion. (Alabama was helped most by this expedient, and they're still at the bottom)

3) Lowest Ranking for Any Range

- Ohio State_______7
- Michigan________10
- Texas___________13
- Florida State___13
- Miami-Florida___15
- Nebraska________16
- Tennessee_______17
- Georgia_________17
- Southern Cal____18
- Oklahoma________19
- LSU_____________32
- Notre Dame______35
- Penn State______39
- Alabama_________47

A few other observations:

- Ohio State and Michigan are the only teams to be #1 in winning percentage for ranges beginning in 5 different decades. (4 of Michigan's decades were in the 19th century, the other was a single appearance in 1922) (OSU's 5 decades were the '20s, the '30s, the '40s, the '50s and the '90s.) Nebraska appears at #1 in ranges beginning in 3 different decades. No one else is at the top in more than 2 decades.
- If you measure the amount of time from a teams first appearance at #1 to their last appearance at #1 (based on starting year of the date range), then OSU is way out in front. OSU's first appearance at #1 was in the range 1923-2006, and their last was in the range 1996-2006. That's a span of (inclusive) 74 years. Michigan's span is 54 years. Nebraska's span is 24 years. Oklahoma's span is 14 years. No one else spans more than 9 years.
- Ohio State was ranked either #1 or #2 for ranges beginning from 1923 to 1963. No one else is even close to an accomplishment like that.
- Ohio State does not appear below #4 in any range starting before 1976. Michigan does not appear below #4 in any range starting before 1949. Notre Dame first appears below #4 in the range beginning with 1927. Every other team's first appearance below #4 was in the 19th century.

Last edited: