Which FBS program has achieved the most success on the college gridiron so far this century? To come up with a list, the below exercise covers all seasons from 2001 through 2020 with these factors taken into consideration:
· Number of championships (divisional, conference, and BCS/CFP national titles).
· Final records of their seasons (undefeated, 10-plus wins, and above .500).
· Records versus FBS and Power 5 opponents.
· Records in bowls, BCS/New Year's Six bowls, and overall.
All of these factors have a numerical value. After compiling the points, the top 10 programs are ranked below in reverse order.
Here are a few answers to some anticipated questions. First, a perfect score for this ranking system is 550. Secondly, even after removing points earned for divisional and conference championships, all 10 of these programs earned more points than Notre Dame and other independents. Third, only BCS and CFP national championships are considered. (Sorry, USC and UCF.)
Note: Score is listed in parentheses.
10. Florida State (134.2)
Florida State's dominance of the Atlantic Coast Conference began to fade as this century opened. The Seminoles did win the ACC from 2002-04. However, they did not secure another conference championship until another three-year run in 2012-14, with none since then.
FSU endured lulls in the latter halves of both decades. The Seminoles finished 7-6 three times from 2006 through 2009. They also have slumped to below .500 in the three most recent seasons.
Jimbo Fisher did lift the program back to its level of prominence of the 1990s. During his tenure, FSU had six of its seven seasons with 10 or more wins. He accounted for six of their 11 bowl victories, half of the ACC titles, and the sole national title of this century.
9. Georgia (139)
Georgia seems like one of those programs continuously on the verge of greatness but keeps falling just short. Other than finishing 6-7 in 2010, the Bulldogs have had at least eight victories per year. They have eight SEC East titles but won the SEC Championship Game on only three occasions. The Dawgs won 10 or more games 13 times over the past 20 seasons. However, none ended as undefeated, and they lost two or more games every year except for 2002. They played in eight BCS/New Year's Six games during this span but went just 5-3 in them.
8. Florida (141.7)
Florida's football program has resembled a roller-coaster in the past 20 years, with Urban Meyer in control during the upswing. The high points included winning two SEC and two national championships in 2006 and ‘08. The Gators had to settle for a Sugar Bowl win in 2009, their third 13-win season in four years.
The nadirs immediately preceded and followed Meyer's tenure in Gainesville. Those 14 seasons that fall within our sample size included only two SEC East titles and no SEC championships. Florida's bowl record for those seasons was 6-6.
Dan Mullen appears to have re-established Florida as a perennial SEC and College Football Playoff contender. He has led the Gators to one SEC East title and has taken them to a New Year's Six bowl in each of his three seasons.
7. USC (153.5)
In the 2000s, USC looked like a juggernaut, crushing the rest of the then-Pac-10 and annually challenging on the national level. From 2002 through 2008, the Trojans won at least 11 games per season and owned a 6-1 record in BCS games. They claimed the Pac-10 championship, four times outright and shared it the other three during that stretch. USC also went an impressive 52-7 in conference play in this seven-year span.
The imposition of NCAA sanctions and the departure of Pete Carroll started the fall of the would-be Trojan dynasty. As a result, USC has just one Pac-12 title in the last 12 seasons. The Trojans have lost two or more conference games and three or more overall contests per season in 10 of their last 12 campaign.
Four men have served as head coach in the 11 most recent seasons. In that time, USC played in seven bowl games, compiling a 3-4 record. Just four of those seasons ended with double-digit victories. Clay Helton, perennially on the hot seat, faces tremendous pressure with little leeway to rebuild this program.
6. Boise State (167.9)
Boise State has served as the flag-bearer for the inclusion of Group of 5 programs to receive the opportunity to compete for a national championship. In the last 20 seasons, the Broncos won 11 conference titles, nine of those outright. They have yet to post a losing record this century and can claim 15 seasons of 10 or more wins, two of those being undefeated. In total, Boise State is 200-41 against FBS teams over the last 20 seasons. The Broncos also are 3-0 in BCS/New Year's Six games.
Nevertheless, one question remains about Boise State's achievements: How would the Broncos have fared had they played in a Power 5 conference? The Broncos are 18-17 against Power 5 opponents this century. They have faced Pac-12 teams the most, going 12-8, and also have a winning record (3-2) against ACC members. Boise State has split four meetings with Big 12 teams, has lost its only matchup against a Big Ten opponent, and is 1-4 against the SEC. It's a small sample size, but it's fair to wonder what the Broncos' record would be if they had been in a major conference these last 20 seasons instead of the WAC (2001-10) or Mountain West (2011-current).
5. Clemson (185.2)
Clemson appears this high due to a remarkable, though relatively short, string of recent success. The Tigers have ruled the ACC the past six seasons, going 47-3 in conference play with six straight titles cementing their dominance. Under Dabo Swinney, Clemson has won at least 10 games every season since 2011.
This success has extended to the national level. The Tigers have made it to six straight College Football Playoffs with four appearances in the national championship game and two titles (2016 and '18 seasons).
In contrast, Clemson was a perennial also-ran at the start of this century. The Tigers didn't win more than nine games from 2001-10 while losing at least four in each season. They also went 4-5 in bowl games during this stretch.
Some critics may question how great Clemson's program has truly been over two decades. The Tigers' dominance in the ACC (115-44) is unquestioned, but they are just 24-17 against the SEC and only 4-3 against Big 12 teams in the same span. More surprisingly, Clemson is a combined 0-3 against members of the American Athletic Conference and Mountain West.
4. Oklahoma (190.9)
Oklahoma has maintained a consistently high level of success. The Sooners have dominated the Big 12, winning it 13 times (12 outright and one shared title) over the last 20 seasons. They have won 81 percent (.805) of their games against FBS teams and have fared even better (.830) in Big 12 contests. They have won 10 or more games in 16 seasons during this span, and Oklahoma is the only FBS program with at least eight victories per year this century.
However, the Sooners have consistently flopped when the national spotlight is on them. After winning the BCS national championship in 2000, they went 0-3 in their next three title game appearances. More recently, OU is 0-4 in the College Football Playoff. Going back to the 2001 season, the Sooners are 5-9 in BCS/New Year's Six games and 9-11 in all bowls.
3. LSU (193.9)
LSU has remained successful despite having three different head coaches (Nick Saban, Les Miles, and Ed Orgeron) in the two most recent decades. All three garnered at least one SEC championship and one national title during their tenures in Baton Rouge. That trio compiled a tally of 179-55 (.765) versus FBS opponents, 139-51 (.732) against Power 5 teams, and 113-46 (.711) in SEC play. LSU had no losing seasons in that span. The Tigers also maintained this success in the postseason, posting a 7-1 record in BCS/New Year's Six games and a 13-7 mark in all bowls.
Going 7-0 versus the Pac-12, 9-1 against the ACC, and 6-1 versus the Big 12, the Fighting Tigers could not be blamed for fantasizing about having achieved more success as a member of any of those conferences. Instead, LSU has had to scratch and claw its way to five SEC titles and one undefeated season as a member of college football's toughest conference. It also doesn't help that the Tigers compete in the same division as the team atop this list.
2. Ohio State (221.9)
Ohio State has reigned over the Big Ten for much of this century. The Buckeyes' conference record stands at 137-24 (.851). That helped produce eight outright and three shared Big Ten championships, in addition to another vacated shared title.
Ohio State also has earned its place among the premier programs in the country. The Buckeyes are 208-39 record (.842) against FBS opponents, including a 160-39 (.804) mark against fellow Power 5 teams. Ohio State also can claim two undefeated seasons and two national titles in the last 20 years. Only Alabama and LSU can claim more.
If there are any blemishes on the Buckeyes' resume, it's a 4-5 record in BCS/College Football Playoff games as well as losing records against the ACC (4-5) and SEC (2-5, with one of those wins later vacated due to NCAA sanctions).
1. Alabama (275.2)
Nick Saban’s mastery has landed Alabama in the top spot. He is responsible for all of Bama’s titles in the previous 20 seasons: divisional (eight), conference (seven), and national (six). The Crimson Tide have played in six of the seven College Football Playoffs so far, advancing to the national championship game five times and winning three.
However, Saban's tenure has helped gloss over the Tide's mediocrity during most of the 2000s. Bama's SEC record from 2001 through 2008 was 35-30. Tide fans endured two losing seasons plus a 6-6 campaign in the 2010s.
— Written by John La Fleur, a contributor to AthlonSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur and read his viewpoints at gridironconnoisseur.wordpress.com and at gridiron-connoisseur.blogspot.com.