Winning Percentage and (Mythical) National Championships
In the article "Best College Football Program of All Time," you have neglected the single most important stat of all: All-Time Winning Percentage; Bama does not rank as high as Michigan, ND, Texas, and others in this crucial category (though Bama is certainly high).
Most all-time polls overrate National Championships. After all, National Championships are only mythical, and teams are always claiming National Championships that aren't valid. Bama claims 1941(a truly bizarre claim) and 1973(the year ND beat them in the Sugar Bowl match between #1 and #2). Texas claims 1970, a year ND beat them in the Cotton Bowl to give the real championship to Nebraska. And this doesn't even count the highly debatable National Championship claims of many years when the polls very arguably crowned the wrong team.
Was ND (or Michigan State, for that matter) really better than Alabama in 1966, the year Bama had the only perfect record in college football (as well as possibly the best team ever at the Capstone)? Did Bama really deserve the title in 1964 when Texas beat them in the Orange Bowl and Arkansas was the only team left who had a perfect record? In fact, Arkansas was the only team who had beaten Texas, and was thus presented with the Macarthur Bowl as the #1 team in college football after the dust from the New Year's Day bowls had settled. Surely the Hogs deserved it more than the Tide.
Was Miami really better than Auburn in 1983? Miami beat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, but Auburn had a better record, was ranked higher than the 'Canes prior to the bowls, and had at least as good a case as Miami.
We could go on endlessly with such very legitimate debates, year after year, throughout football history, yet rankers of these All-Time Greatest polls persist in overemphasizing National Championships. Until the NCAA agrees to a playoff, and thus a REAL, rather than a mythical champion, so-called National Championships are a poor criteria for inclusion. We need more objective criteria.
ESPN's criteria are worse than useless: first, they have abolished all years prior to 1936 (why 1936?). That means they have scrapped almost 40% of college football history, not to mention some of the greatest names in history: Red Grange, Knute Rockne, Bronko Nagurski, Sammy Baugh, The Gipper, Hurry Up Yost, etc., etc. They have also used useless "Beauty Contest" criteria like Heisman winners and All-Americans. They obviously designed their criteria to fit the results they wanted.
Are we really going to say that a team should be rated higher because they had more All Americans or more Heisman winners than others? Heismans and All Americans have nothing to do with winning ball games. Winning is a totally different concept. Bear Bryant's Alabama teams won without big-name stars (excepting Namath), but does that make them any less great? Certainly not! Quite the contrary, it shows that they were BETTER all-around teams, guys dedicated more to the concept of TEAM rather than individual awards. Besides, Heisman contests and All Americans are products of the big schools' PR departments. To use those as criteria is to bring politics into the discussion rather than the objective purity of team play between the white lines. So please throw those out.
When you get down to it, only two crucial criteria should be used to determine the greatest programs of all time: Total wins and historical winning percentage. These are clearly the most important and the most objective. By these most crucial and most objective criteria, Bama is not even in the top 3, let alone the top 5.
The top three in total wins are: 1) Michigan, 2)Texas, and 3)ND; the top three in winning percentage are: 1)Michigan, 2)ND, and 3)Texas. Assigning points for each - that is, 10 points for first place, nine for second, etc., you come out with the following: Michigan gets two ten-pointers for being first in both categories, thus 20 total points. Texas gets nine points for being second in wins and eight points for third in winning percentage, for 17 total points; ND gets eight points for total wins and nine points for winning percentage, thus 17 total points. Thus Michigan is the #1 all-time program and Texas and ND tie for second. To figure the rest, just refer to these historical categories as found on this website. This is the best and most objective way I can think of to crown an all-time champion, and these two categories are the most fundamental.
In no particular order, Ohio State, Nebraska, Alabama, Oklahoma, and USC will comprise the best of the rest, because these eight total schools are the true giants of college football, the creme de la creme of them all, and there really isn't much to separate these eight when you get right down to it.
Penn State and Tennessee, though, aren't far behind. Florida is coming fast, but they are, at this point, still a bit new, a Johnny-come-lately, as it were.
The Michigan Wolverines, though, (no, they are not my team) should be the all-time #1 college football program.