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Most All-Time College Football Rankings

As part of our never-ending quest to prove the SEC is the top college football conference (and for that matter the best college sports conference), we have researched which conference has historically had the most teams nationally ranked in the weekly Associate Press (AP) Top-20 Football Poll.

You will not be surprised to learn that the answer is, of course, The SEC.

If you list Division I NCAA schools in order of most all-time college football rankings (number of times they were nationally ranked), you will find the SEC has 7 of the top 20 schools.

The Big 12 is second with 4 of the top 20.

The Big Ten is third with 3 of the top 20.

Now, all three of the Big Ten teams are in the top 10. Michigan is #1, having been ranked 729 times. Ohio State is #2, having been ranked 703 times. Penn State is #10, having been ranked 532 times.

But, overall, the SEC (with 7 of the top 20) is clearly the top conference in all-time college football rankings.

Here are the SEC schools.

  • Alabama has been nationally ranked 605 times (8th most of any team). They were ranked #1, 31 times (last on January 2, 1993).

  • Tennessee has been ranked 533 times (9th most of any team). They have been ranked #1 18 times (last on January 5, 1999).

  • Florida has been ranked 452 times (12th most of any team). They have been ranked #1 25 times (last on October 7, 2001).

  • Auburn has been ranked 443 times (13th most of any team). They have been ranked #1 7 times (last on September 24, 1985).

  • Georgia has been ranked 433 times (15th most of any team). 14 times they have been ranked #1 (last on December 7, 1982).

  • LSU has been ranked 421 times (16th most of any team). 14 times they have been ranked #1 (last on November 3, 1959 - obviously this is due to AP publishing a separate poll from the BCS which named LSU the 2003 National Champion).

  • Arkansas has been ranked 360 times (19th most of any team). Once they were ranked #1 (last on October 19, 1965).

Now, again, due to the historical strength of Michigan and Ohio State, you could make an argument for the Big Ten. Largely due to Ohio State's amazing 73 weeks as the #1 team in the AP poll - the Big Ten has had a team ranked #1 more often then the SEC (a 20 week or so advantage - but only if you count Penn State -- which was not historically part of the Big Ten).

But, if Big Ten fans want to use the number of times ranked #1 to argue the Big Ten is the better football conference - forget it.

The Big Ten largely relies on history. Michigan and Ohio State dominated college football for decades. Not so much any more.

Secondly, Big Ten football has always been dominated by Michigan and Ohio State (could that be because the rest of the conference is relatively weak?). Other than Penn State at #10, you have to go all the way to the #22 spot (Michigan State) before you find another Big Ten team on the list of all-time AP rankings.

Meanwhile the SEC had 7 teams in between. That's depth. Not only in the current programs, but also historical depth.

Total times ranked is a more significant number than times ranked #1 - especially given the large advantage the SEC has in total times ranked as opposed to the Big Ten's narrow edge on times ranked #1.

Just another reason why we say:


If interested, check out the always interesting SEC vs Big Ten Debate.

What do you think?

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