National championships in NCAA Division I FBS
National championship trophies
Longest continuous selector Associated Press (1936–present)
First season awarded 1869 (in 1933)
Last completed season 2021

A national championship in the highest level of college football in the United States, currently the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), is a designation awarded annually by various organizations to their selection of the best college football team. Division I FBS football is the only National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) sport for which the NCAA does not sanction a yearly championship event. As such, it is sometimes unofficially referred to as a "mythical national championship".[1][2][3][4]

Due to the lack of an official NCAA title, determining the nation's top college football team has often engendered controversy.[5] A championship team is independently declared by multiple individuals and organizations, often referred to as "selectors".[6] These choices are not always unanimous.[5] In 1969 even the President of the United States Richard Nixon declared a national champion by announcing, ahead of the season-ending game between No. 1 Texas and No. 2 Arkansas, that the winner of that game would receive a plaque from the President himself, commemorating that team as the year's national champion. Texas went on to win that game, 15–14.[7]

While the NCAA has never officially endorsed a championship team, it has documented the choices of some selectors in its official NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records publication.[6][8] In addition, various analysts have independently published their own choices for each season. These opinions can often diverge with others as well as individual schools' claims to national titles, which may or may not correlate to the selections published elsewhere. Currently, two of the most widely recognized national champion selectors are the Associated Press (AP), which conducts a poll of sportswriters, and the Coaches' Poll, a survey of active members of the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA).

Since 1992, various consortia of major bowl games have aimed to invite the top two teams at the end of the regular season (as determined by internal rankings, or aggregates of the major polls and other statistics) to compete in what is intended to be the de facto national championship game. The current iteration of this practice, the College Football Playoff, selects four teams to participate in national semi-finals hosted by two of six partner bowl games, with their winners advancing to the College Football Playoff National Championship.

History

The Sun was among the first to publish a year-end college football ranking, in 1901.
The Sun was among the first to publish a year-end college football ranking, in 1901.

The concept of a national championship in college football dates to the early years of the sport in the late 19th century,[9] and the earliest contemporaneous polls can be traced to Caspar Whitney, Charles Patterson, and The Sun in 1901.[10] Therefore, the concept of polls and national champions predated mathematical ranking systems, but it was Frank Dickinson's math system that was one of the first to be widely popularized. His system named 10–0 Stanford the national champion of 1926, prior to their tie with Alabama in the Rose Bowl. A curious Knute Rockne, then coach of Notre Dame, had Dickinson backdate two seasons, which produced Notre Dame as the 1924 national champion and Dartmouth in 1925.[11]

A number of other mathematical systems were born in the 1920s and 1930s and were the only organized methods selecting national champions until the Associated Press began polling sportswriters in 1936 to obtain rankings. Alan J. Gould, the creator of the AP Poll, named Minnesota, Princeton, and SMU co-champions in 1935, and polled writers the following year, which resulted in a national championship for Minnesota.[11] The AP's main competition, United Press, created the first Coaches Poll in 1950. For that year and the next three, the AP and UP agreed on the national champion. The first "split" championship occurred in 1954, when the writers selected Ohio State and the coaches chose UCLA.[11] The two polls also disagreed in 1957, 1965, 1970, 1973, 1974, 1978, 1990, 1991, 1997, and 2003. The Coaches Poll would stay with United Press (UP) when they merged with International News Service (INS) to form United Press International (UPI) but was acquired by USA Today and CNN in 1991. The poll was in the hands of USA Today and ESPN from 1997 to 2005 before moving to sole ownership by USA Today. Beginning in 2014, Amway became a joint sponsor with USA Today.[12]

Though some of the math systems selected champions after the bowl games, both of the major polls released their rankings after the end of the regular season until the AP polled writers after the bowls in 1965, resulting in what was perceived at the time as a better championship selection (Alabama) than UPI's (Michigan State).[11] After 1965, the AP again voted before the bowls for two years, before permanently returning to a post-bowl vote in 1968. The coaches did not conduct a vote after the bowls until 1974, in the wake of awarding their 1973 championship to Alabama, who lost to the AP champion, undefeated Notre Dame, in the Sugar Bowl.[11] The AP and Coaches polls remain the major rankings to this day.

From the 1930s to the advent of the College Football Playoff, each top team played a single postseason bowl game per season. The process of selecting a national champion during this period was complicated by the fact that the champions of major conferences were tied to specific bowls (for example, the Big 8 champion was tied to the Orange Bowl), and the top two teams in the nation often played in different bowls. A few bowls over the years featured a #1 vs. #2 matchup; one example was the 1987 Fiesta Bowl, played January 2 following the 1986 season.

Two attempts to annually crown a champion on the field were the Bowl Coalition (1992–1994) and Bowl Alliance (1995–1997). However, their effort to host a national championship was hampered by the lack of participation of the Pac-10 and Big Ten champions, who had a contractual obligation to play in the Rose Bowl.[13]

The Bowl Championship Series, famous for its use of math, was the successor of the Coalition and Alliance.[14] Besides the many adjustments it underwent during its tenure, including a large overhaul following the 2004 season that included the replacement of the AP Poll with the Harris poll, the BCS remained a mixture of math systems and human polls since its inception in 1998, with the goal of matching the best two teams in the nation in a national championship bowl game which rotated yearly between the Sugar, Fiesta, Rose, and Orange Bowls from 1998 to 2005, and later a standalone game titled the BCS National Championship Game (2006 to 2013).[11] The winner of the BCS Championship Game was awarded the national championship of the Coaches Poll thus winning the AFCA National Championship Trophy. The BCS winner also received the MacArthur Bowl from the National Football Foundation.[15] Neither the AP Poll, nor other current selectors, had contractual obligations to select the BCS champion as their national champion.[16] The BCS resulted in a number of controversies, most notably after the 2003 season, when the BCS championship game did not include eventual AP champion USC, the only time the two championships have diverged since the advent of the BCS. After many seasons of controversy, the BCS was replaced with the College Football Playoff, a Plus-One system aimed at reducing the controversy involved in which teams get to play in a championship game through use of a tournament.

National championships in the official NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision records

The NCAA maintains an official records book of historical statistics and records for football. In the records book, with consultation from various college football historians, it has created and maintains a list of "major selectors"[6] of national championships throughout the history of college football along with their championship picks for each season.[8]

Major selectors

A variety of selectors have named national champions throughout the years. They generally can be divided into four categories: those determined by mathematical formula, human polls, historical research, and recently, playoffs. The selectors below are listed in the official NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records as having been deemed to be "major selectors" for which the criterion is that the poll or selector be "national in scope either through distribution in newspaper, television, radio and/or computer online".[6] The former selectors, deemed instrumental in the sport of college football, and selectors that were included for the calculation of the BCS standing, are listed together.[6]

Math

The mathematical system is the oldest systematic selector of college football national champions. Many of the math selectors were created during the "championship rush" of the 1920s and 1930s, beginning with Frank Dickinson's system, or during the dawn of the computer age in the 1990s. Selectors are listed below with years selected retroactively in italics.

Selector Name Seasons
A&H Anderson & Hestera 1997–present
AS Alderson System 1994–1998
B(QPRS) Berryman (QPRS) 1920–1989, 1990–2011
BR Billingsley Reportb 1869–1870, 1872–1969, 1970–present
BS Boand System 1919–1929, 1930–1960
CCR Congrove Computer Rankings 1993–present
CM Colley Matrix 1992–present
CW Caspar Whitney 1905–1907
DeS DeVold System 1939–1944, 1945–2006
DiS Dickinson System 1924–1925, 1926–1940
DuS Dunkel System 1929–present
ERS Eck Ratings System 1987–2005
HS Houlgate System 1885, 1887–1905, 1907–1926, 1927–1949
L Litkenhous 1934–1972, 1974, 1978, 1981–1984
MCFR Massey College Football Ratings 1995–present
MGR Matthews Grid Ratings 1966–1972, 1974–2006
NYT The New York Times 1979–2004
PS Poling System 1924–1934, 1935–1955, 1957–1984
R(FACT) Rothman (FACT) 1968–2006
SR Sagarin Ratings 1919–1977, 1978–present
W Wolfe 2001–presentc
WS Williamson System 1931, 1932–1963

aThe NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records book shows Anderson & Hester listed as "Seattle Times."
bThe Billingsley Report also provides an alternate selection that uses margin-of-victory in its calculation. The NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records book notes both selections in years where they disagree.[17]: 112–119 
cWolfe did not provide rankings for the 2020 season, stating that there were not "enough games played to allow meaningful analysis," due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[18]

Poll

The poll has been the dominant national champion selection method since the inception of the AP Poll in 1936. The National Football Foundation merged its poll with UPI from 1991 to 1992, with USA Today from 1993 to 1996, and with the FWAA since 2014.

For many years, the national champions of various polls were selected before the annual bowl games were played, by AP (1936–1964 and 1966–1967), Coaches Poll (1950–1973), FWAA (1954), and NFF (1959–1970). In all other latter-day polls, champions were selected after bowl games.[17]: 112–119 

During the BCS era, the winner of the BCS Championship Game was automatically awarded the national championship of the Coaches Poll and the National Football Foundation.

Selectors are listed below with years selected retroactively in italics.

Selector Name Seasons
AP Associated Press 1936–present
Coaches
  BRC
  UP
  UPI
  USAT/CNN
  USAT/ESPN
  USAT
  USAT/AMWAY
American Football Coaches Association
  AFCA Blue Ribbon Commission
  United Press
  United Press International
  USA Today/CNN
  USA Today/ESPN
  USA Today
  USA Today/Amway
1922–present
  1922–1949a
  1950–1957
  1958–1990b
  1991–1996b c
  1997–2004
  2005–2013b
  2014–present
CFRA College Football Researchers Association 1919–1935, 1936–1981, 1982–1992, 2009–present
FN Football News 1958–2002
FWAA Football Writers Association of America 1954–2013c
FWAA/NFF FWAA-NFF Grantland Rice Super 16 2014–presentc
HICFP Harris Interactive 2005–2013h
HAF Helms Athletic Foundation 1883–1935, 1936–1946, 1947–1982
INS International News Service 1952–1957
NCF National Championship Foundation 1869–1870, 1872–1935, 1936–1979, 1980–2000
NFF National Football Foundation 1959–1990, 1997–2013c d e
SN Sporting News 1975–2006
UPI United Press International 1993–1995f
UPI/NFF United Press International/National Football Foundation 1991–1992e
USAT USA Today 1982g
USAT/CNN USA Today/CNN 1983–1990g
USAT/NFF USA Today/National Football Foundation 1993–1996d

aAt the request of several schools, the AFCA established a "Blue Ribbon Commission" in 2016 to begin retroactively selecting Coaches' Trophy winners from 1922 through 1949.[19] Oklahoma State was the only team to apply for any of the 28 years considered (1945).[20] As yet, there are no selections for years other than 1945.

bServed as the Coaches Poll during the designated years, but also conducted their own poll at different times.

cThe Football Writers Association of America merged its poll with that of the National Football Foundation members beginning in 2014; as a result, the Grantland Trophy was retired and the FWAA/NFF national champion now receives the MacArthur Bowl.[17]: 113–114 

dUSA Today took over, from the UPI, the poll of the National Football Foundation's members in 1993, and its winner was designated by the NFF as its national champion and received the MacArthur Bowl. The poll was conducted by USA Today through the 1996 season, although national championship selections in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records do not distinguish the NFF from the USAT/NFF poll in 1995 and 1996. Not to be confused with the USA Today/CNN Coaches Poll, which USA Today conducted separately.

eUPI conducted the Coaches Poll through the 1990 season, which was subsequently taken over by CNN/USA Today. UPI then conducted a poll of National Football Foundation members in 1991 and 1992, the winner of which was designated by the NFF as its national champion and received the MacArthur Bowl.

fUPI conducted its own poll from 1993 to 1995, after the National Football Foundation Poll was taken over by USA Today.

gUSA Today conducted its own poll of college football sportswriters in 1982, then joined with CNN to do their own joint poll until they took over the Coaches Poll starting with the 1991 season.

hThe Harris Interactive College Football Poll was contracted by the BCS to help formulate its standings. It did not conduct a final poll following the BCS National Championship Game or award or name a national champion on its own, so is not included in the table of national championship selections.[6]

Research

College football historian Parke H. Davis is the only selector considered by the NCAA to have primarily used research in his selections.[17]: 117  Davis did all of his work in 1933, naming retroactive national champions for most of the years from 1869 to 1932 while naming Michigan and Princeton (his alma mater) co-champions at the end of the 1933 season. In all, he selected 94 teams over 61 seasons as "Outstanding Nationwide and Sectional Teams." For 21 of these teams (at 12 schools), he was the only major selector to choose them. Their schools use 17 of Davis' singular selections to claim national titles. His work has been criticized for having a heavy Eastern bias, with little regard for the South and the West Coast.[21]

Selector Name Seasons
PD Parke H. Davis 1869–1870, 1872–1909, 1911–1916, 1919–1932, 1933

Hybrid

Main article: Bowl Championship Series

The Bowl Championship Series used a mathematical system that combined polls (Coaches and AP/Harris) and multiple computer rankings (including some individual selectors listed above) to determine a season ending matchup between its top two ranked teams in the BCS Championship Game. The champion of that game was contractually awarded the Coaches Poll and National Football Foundation championships.

Selector Name Seasons
BCS Bowl Championship Series 1998–2013

Playoff

Main article: College Football Playoff

Unlike all selectors prior to 2014, the College Football Playoff does not use math, polls or research to select the participants. Rather, a 13-member committee selects and seeds the teams.[22] The playoff system marked the first time any championship selector arranged a bracket competition to determine whom it would declare to be its champion.

Selector Name Seasons
CFP College Football Playoff 2014–present

Yearly national championship selections from major selectors

Below is a list of the national champions of college football since 1869 chosen by NCAA-designated "major selectors" listed in the official Football Bowl Subdivision Records publication.[6]

Many teams did not have coaches as late as 1899. The first contemporaneous poll to include teams across the country and selection of a national champions can be traced to Caspar Whitney in 1901.[10] The last retroactive selection in the list is Clyde Berryman's choice of Notre Dame for 1989. The tie was removed from college football in 1995 and the last consensus champion with a tie in its record was Georgia Tech in 1990.

As designated by the official NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records publication:

A letter next to any season, team, record, coach or selector indicates a footnote that appears at the bottom of the table.

Season Champion(s) Record Coach Selector(s)[8]
1869 Princeton 1–1 BR, NCF, PD
Rutgers 1–1 PD
1870 Princeton 1–0 BR, NCF, PD
1871 None No games played
1872 Princeton 1–0 BR, NCF, PD
Yale 1–0 PD
1873 Princeton 2–0 BR, NCF, PD
1874 Harvard 1–1 PD
Princeton 2–0 BR, PD
Yale 3–0 NCF, PD
1875 Columbia 3–1–1 PD
Harvard 4–0 NCF, PD
Princeton 2–0 BR, PD
1876 Yale 3–0 BR, NCF, PD
1877 Princeton 2–0–1 BR, PD
Yale 3–0–1 NCF, PD
1878 Princeton 6–0 BR, NCF, PD
1879 Princeton 4–0–1 BR, NCF, PD
Yale 3–0–2 PD
1880 Princeton 4–0–1 NCF, PD
Yale 4–0–1 BR, NCF, PD
1881 Princeton 7–0–2 BR, PD
Yale 5–0–1 NCF, PD
1882 Yale 8–0 BR, NCF, PD
1883 Yale 9–0 BR, HAF, NCF, PD
1884 Princeton 9–0–1 BR, PD
Yale 8–0–1 HAF, NCF, PD
1885 Princeton 9–0 BR, HAF, HS, NCF, PD
1886 Princeton 7–0–1 BR, PD
Yale 9–0–1 HAF, NCF, PD
1887 Yale 9–0 BR, HAF, HS, NCF, PD
1888 Yale 13–0 Walter Camp BR, HAF, HS, NCF, PD
1889 Princeton 10–0 BR, HAF, HS, NCF, PD
1890 Harvard 11–0 George C. Adams, George A. Stewart BR, HAF, HS, NCF, PD
1891 Yale 13–0 Walter Camp BR, HAF, HS, NCF, PD
1892 Yale 13–0 Walter Camp BR, HAF, HS, NCF, PD
1893 Princeton 11–0 BR, HAF, HS, NCF
Yale 10–1 William Rhodes PD
1894 Penn 12–0 George Washington Woodruff PD
Princeton 8–2 HS
Yale 16–0 William Rhodes BR, HAF, NCF, PD
1895 Penn 14–0 George Washington Woodruff BR, HAF, HS, NCF, PD
Yale 13–0–2 John A. Hartwell PD
1896 Lafayette 11–0–1 Parke H. Davis NCF, PD
Princeton 10–0–1 Franklin Morse BR, HAF, HS, NCF, PD
1897 Penn 15–0 George Washington Woodruff BR, HAF, HS, NCF, PD
Yale 9–0–2 Frank Butterworth PD
1898 Harvard 11–0 William Cameron Forbes BR, HAF, HS, NCF
Princeton 11–0–1 PD
1899 Harvard 10–0–1 Benjamin Dibblee HAF, HS, NCF
Princeton 12–1 BR, PD
1900 Yale 12–0 Malcolm McBride BR, HAF, HS, NCF, PD
1901 Harvard 12–0 Bill Reid BR, PDa[24]: 206 [25]: 233 
Michigan 11–0 Fielding H. Yost HAF, HS, NCF
1902 Michigan 11–0 Fielding H. Yost BR, HAF, HS, NCF, PD
Yale 11–0–1 Joseph R. Swan PD
1903 Michigan 11–0–1 Fielding H. Yost NCF
Princeton 11–0 Art Hillebrand BR, HAF, HS, NCF, PD
1904 Michigan 10–0 Fielding H. Yost NCF
Minnesota 13–0 Henry Williams BR
Penn 12–0 Carl S. Williams HAF, HS, NCF, PD
1905 Chicago 10–0 Amos Alonzo Stagg BR, HAF, HS, NCF
Yale 10–0 Jack Owsley CW, PD
1906 Princeton 9–0–1 William Roper HAF, NCF
Yale 9–0–1 Foster Rockwell BR, CW, PD
1907 Yale 9–0–1 William F. Knox BR, CW, HAF, HS, NCF, PD
1908 Harvard 9–0–1 Percy Haughton BR
LSU 10–0 Edgar Wingard NCF
Penn 11–0–1 Sol Metzger HAF, HS, NCF, PD
1909 Yale 10–0 Howard Jones BR, HAF, HS, NCF, PD
1910 Harvard 8–0–1 Percy Haughton BR, HAF, HS, NCF
Pittsburgh 9–0 Joseph H. Thompson NCF
1911 Minnesota 6–0–1 Henry L. Williams BR
Penn State 8–0–1 Bill Hollenback NCF
Princeton 8–0–2 William Roper BR, HAF, HS, NCF, PD
1912 Harvard 9–0 Percy Haughton BR, HAF, HS, NCF, PD
Penn State 8–0 Bill Hollenback NCF
1913 Auburn 8–0 Mike Donahue BR
Chicago 7–0 Amos Alonzo Stagg BR, PD
Harvard 9–0 Percy Haughton HAF, HS, NCF, PD
1914 Army 9–0 Charles Daly HAF, HS, NCF, PD
Illinois 7–0 Robert Zuppke BR, PD
Texas 8–0 Dave Allerdice BR
1915 Cornell 9–0 Albert Sharpe HAF, HS, NCF, PD
Minnesota 6–0–1 Henry L. Williams BR
Oklahoma 10–0 Bennie Owen BR
Pittsburgh 8–0 Glenn "Pop" Warner PD
1916 Army 9–0 Charles Daly PD
Georgia Tech 8–0-1 John Heisman BR
Pittsburgh 8–0 Glenn "Pop" Warner BR, HAF, HS, NCF, PD
1917 Georgia Tech 9–0 John Heisman BR, HAF, HS, NCF
1918 Michigan 5–0 Fielding H. Yost BR, NCF
Pittsburgh 4–1 Glenn "Pop" Warner HAF, HS, NCF
1919 Centre 9–0 Charley Moran SR
Harvard 9–0–1 Bob Fisher CFRA, HAF, HS, NCF, PD
Illinois 6–1 Robert Zuppke BR, BS, CFRA, PD, SR
Notre Dame 9–0 Knute Rockne NCF, PD
Texas A&M 10–0 Dana X. Bible BR, NCF
1920 California 9–0 Andy Smith CFRA, HAF, HS, NCF, SR
Georgia 8–0–1 Herman Stegeman B(QPRS)
Harvard 8–0–1 Bob Fisher BS
Notre Dame 9–0 Knute Rockne BR, PD
Princeton 6–0–1 William Roper BS, PD
1921 California 9–0–1 Andy Smith BR, BS, CFRA, SR
Cornell 8–0 Gil Dobie HAF, HS, NCF, PD
Iowa 7–0 Howard Jones BR, PD
Lafayette 9–0 Jock Sutherland BS, PD
Vanderbilt 7–0–1 Dan McGugin B(QPRS)
Washington & Jefferson 10–0–1 Greasy Neale BS
1922 California 9–0 Andy Smith BR, HS, NCF, SR
Cornell 8–0 Gil Dobie HAF, PD
Iowa 7–0 Howard Jones BR
Princeton 8–0 William Roper BS, CFRA, NCF, PD, SR
Vanderbilt 8–0–1 Dan McGugin B(QPRS)
1923 California 9–0–1 Andy Smith HS
Cornell 8–0 Gil Dobie SR
Illinois 8–0 Robert Zuppke BS, CFRA, HAF, NCF, PD, SR, B(QPRS)
Michigan 8–0 Fielding H. Yost BR, NCF
Yale 8–0 Tad Jones B(QPRS)
1924 Notre Dame 10–0 Knute Rockne BR, BS, CFRA, DiS, HAF, HS, NCF, PS, SR, B(QPRS)
Penn 9–1–1 Lou Young PD
1925 Alabama 10–0 Wallace Wade BR, BS, CFRA, HAF, HS, NCF, PS, SR, B(QPRS)
Dartmouth 8–0 Jesse Hawley DiS, PD
Michigan 7–1 Fielding H. Yost SR
1926 Alabama 9–0–1 Wallace Wade BR, CFRA, HAF, NCF, PS, B(QPRS)
Lafayette 9–0 Herb McCracken PD
Michigan 7–1 Fielding H. Yost SR
Navy 9–0–1 Bill Ingram BS, HS
Stanford 10–0–1 Glenn "Pop" Warner DiS, HAF, NCF, SR
1927 Georgia 9–1 George Cecil Woodruff BS, PS, B(QPRS)
Illinois 7–0–1 Robert Zuppke BR, DiS, HAF, NCF, PD
Notre Dame 7–1–1 Knute Rockne HS
Texas A&M 8–0–1 Dana X. Bible SR
Yale 7–1 Thomas Jones CFRA
1928 Detroit 9–0 Gus Dorais PD
Georgia Tech 10–0 William Alexander BR, BS, CFRA, HAF, HS, NCF, PD, PS, SR, B(QPRS)
USC 9–0–1 Howard Jones DiS, SR
1929 Notre Dame 9–0 Knute Rockne BR, BS, CFRA, DiS, DuS, HAF, NCF, PS, SR
Pittsburgh 9–1 Jock Sutherland PD
USC 10–2 Howard Jones HS, SR, B(QPRS)
1930 Alabama 10–0 Wallace Wade CFRA, PD, SR, B(QPRS)
Notre Dame 10–0 Knute Rockne BR, BS, DiS, DuS, HAF, HS, NCF, PD, PS
1931 Pittsburgh 8–1 Jock Sutherland PD
Purdue 9–1 Noble Kizer PD
USC 10–1 Howard Jones BR, BS, CFRA, DiS, DuS, HAF, HS, NCF, PS, SR, WS, B(QPRS)
1932 Colgate 9–0 Andrew Kerr PD
Michigan 8–0 Harry Kipke DiS, PD, SR
USC 10–0 Howard Jones BR, BS, CFRA, DuS, HAF, HS, NCF, PD, PS, SR, WS, B(QPRS)
1933 Michigan 7–0–1 Harry Kipke BR, BS, CFRA, DiS, HAF, HS, NCF, PD, PS, SR, B(QPRS)
Ohio State 7–1 Sam Willaman DuS
Princeton 9–0 Fritz Crisler PD
USC 10–1–1 Howard Jones WS
1934 Alabama 10–0 Frank Thomas DuS, HS, PS, WS, B(QPRS)
Minnesota 8–0 Bernie Bierman BR, BS, CFRA, DiS, HAF, L, NCF, SR
1935 LSU 9–2 Bernie Moore WS
Minnesota 8–0 Bernie Bierman BR, BS, CFRA, HAF, L, NCF, PS
Princeton 9–0 Fritz Crisler DuS
SMU 12–1 Matty Bell DiS, HS, SR, B(QPRS)
TCU 12–1 Dutch Meyer WS
1936 Duke 9–1 Wallace Wade B(QPRS)
LSU 9–1–1 Bernie Moore SR, WS
Minnesota 7–1 Bernie Bierman AP, BR, DiS, DuS, HAF, L, NCF, PS
Pittsburgh 8–1–1 Jock Sutherland BS, CFRA, HS
1937 California 10–0–1 Stub Allison DuS, HAF
Pittsburgh 9–0–1 Jock Sutherland AP, BR, BS, CFRA, DiS, HS, L, NCF, PS, SR, WS, B(QPRS)
1938 Notre Dame 8–1 Elmer Layden DiS
TCU 11–0 Dutch Meyer AP, HAF, NCF, WS
Tennessee 11–0 Robert Neyland BR, BS, CFRA, DuS, HS, L, PS, SR, B(QPRS)
1939 Cornell 8–0 Carl Snavely L, SR
Texas A&M 11–0 Homer Norton AP, BR, BS, CFRA, DeS, DuS, HAF, HS, NCF, PS, SR, WS, B(QPRS)
USC 8–0–2 Howard Jones DiS
1940 Minnesota 8–0 Bernie Bierman AP, B(QPRS), BS, CFRA, DeS, DiS, HS, L, NCF, SR
Stanford 10–0 Clark Shaughnessy BR, HAF, PS
Tennessee 10–1 Robert Neyland DuS, WS
1941 Alabama 9–2 Frank Thomas HS
Minnesota 8–0 Bernie Bierman AP, BR, BS, CFRA, DeS, DuS, HAF, L, NCF, PS, SR
Texas 8–1–1 Dana X. Bible B(QPRS), WS
1942 Georgia 11–1 Wally Butts B(QPRS), BR, DeS, HS, L, PS, SR, WS
Ohio State 9–1 Paul Brown AP, BS, DuS, CFRA, NCF
Wisconsin 8–1–1 Harry Stuhldreher HAF
1943 Notre Dame 9–1 Frank Leahy AP, B(QPRS), BR, BS, CFRA, DeS, DuS, HAF, HS, L, NCF, PS, SR, WS
1944 Army 9–0 Earl Blaik AP, B(QPRS), BR, BS, CFRA, DeS, DuS, HAF, HS, L, NCF, PS, SR, WS
Ohio State 9–0 Carroll Widdoes NCF, SR
1945 Alabama 10–0 Frank Thomas NCF
Army 9–0 Earl Blaik AP, B(QPRS), BR, BS, CFRA, DeS, DuS, HAF, HS, L, NCF, PS, SR, WS
Ohio State 7–2 Carroll Widdoes BR
Oklahoma A&M 9–0 Jim Lookabaugh BRC[20]
1946 Army 9–0–1 Earl Blaik BR, BS, CFRA, HAF, HS, PS
Georgia 11–0 Wally Butts WS
Notre Dame 8–0–1 Frank Leahy AP, B(QPRS), BS, DeS, DuS, HAF, L, NCF, PS, SR
1947 Michigan 10–0 Fritz Crisler B(QPRS), BR, BS, CFRA, DeS, DuS, HAF, HS, L, NCF, PS, SR
Notre Dame 9–0 Frank Leahy AP, HAF, WS
1948 Michigan 9–0 Bennie Oosterbaan AP, B(QPRS), BR, BS, CFRA, DeS, DuS, HAF, HS, L, NCF, PS, SR, WS
1949 Notre Dame 10–0 Frank Leahy AP, B(QPRS), BR, BS, DeS, DuS, HAF, HS, L, NCF, PS, SR, WS
Oklahoma 11–0 Bud Wilkinson CFRA
1950 Kentucky 11–1 Paul "Bear" Bryant SR
Oklahoma 10–1 Bud Wilkinson AP, B(QPRS), HAF, L, UP, WS
Princeton 9–0 Charley Caldwell BS, PS
Tennessee 11–1 Robert Neyland BR, CFRA, DeS, DuS, NCF, SR
1951 Georgia Tech 11–0–1 Bobby Dodd B(QPRS), BS
Illinois 9–0–1 Ray Eliot BS
Maryland 10–0 Jim Tatum CFRA, DeS, DuS, NCF, SR
Michigan State 9–0 Biggie Munn BR, HAF, PS
Tennessee 10–1 Robert Neyland AP, L, UP, WS
1952 Georgia Tech 12–0 Bobby Dodd B(QPRS), BR, INS, PS, SR
Michigan State 9–0 Biggie Munn AP, BS, CFRA, DeS, DuS, HAF, L, NCF, SR, UP, WS
1953 Maryland 10–1 Jim Tatum AP, INS, UP
Notre Dame 9–0–1 Frank Leahy BR, BS, DeS, DuS, HAF, L, NCF, PS, SR, WS
Oklahoma 9–1–1 Bud Wilkinson B(QPRS), CFRA
1954 Ohio State 10–0 Woody Hayes AP, B(QPRS), BR, BS, CFRA, DeS, HAF, INS, NCF, PS, SR, WS
UCLA 9–0 Henry Sanders CFRA, DuS, FWAA, HAF, L, NCF, UP
1955 Michigan State 9–1 Duffy Daugherty BS
Oklahoma 11–0 Bud Wilkinson AP, B(QPRS), BR, CFRA, DeS, DuS, FWAA, HAF, INS, L, NCF, PS, SR, UP, WS
1956 Georgia Tech 10–1 Bobby Dodd B(QPRS), SR
Iowa 9–1 Forest Evashevski CFRA
Oklahoma 10–0 Bud Wilkinson AP, BR, BS, DeS, DuS, FWAA, HAF, INS, L, NCF, SR, UP, WS
Tennessee 10–1 Bowden Wyatt SR
1957 Auburn 10–0 Ralph Jordan AP, BR, CFRA, HAF, NCF, PS, SR, WS
Michigan State 8–1 Duffy Daugherty DuS
Ohio State 9–1 Woody Hayes BS, DeS, FWAA, INS, L, UP
Oklahoma 10–1 Bud Wilkinson B(QPRS)
1958 Iowa 8–1–1 Forest Evashevski FWAA
LSU 11–0 Paul Dietzel AP, B(QPRS), BR, BS, CFRA, DeS, DuS, FN, HAF, L, NCF, PS, SR, UPI, WS
1959 Ole Miss 10–1 Johnny Vaught B(QPRS), DuS, SR
Syracuse 11–0 Ben Schwartzwalder AP, BR, BS, CFRA, DeS, FN, FWAA, HAF, L, NCF, NFF, PS, SR, UPI, WS
1960 Iowa 8–1 Forest Evashevski B(QPRS), BS, L, SR
Minnesota 8–2 Murray Warmath AP, FN, NFF, UPI
Ole Miss 10–0–1 Johnny Vaught BR, CFRA, DeS, DuS, FWAA, NCF, WS
Missouri 11–0p Dan Devine PS
Washington 10–1 Jim Owens HAF
1961 Alabama 11–0 Paul "Bear" Bryant AP, B(QPRS), BR, CFRA, DeS, DuS, FN, HAF, L, NCF, NFF, SR, UPI, WS
Ohio State 8–0–1 Woody Hayes FWAA, PS
1962 LSU 9–1–1 Charles McClendon B(QPRS)
Ole Miss 10–0 Johnny Vaught BR, L, SR
USC 11–0 John McKay AP, B(QPRS), CFRA, DeS, DuS, FN, FWAA, HAF, NCF, NFF, PS, UPI, WS
1963 Texas 11–0 Darrell Royal AP, B(QPRS), BR, CFRA, DeS, DuS, FN, FWAA, HAF, L, NCF, NFF, PS, SR, UPI, WS
1964 Alabama 10–1 Paul "Bear" Bryant AP, B(QPRS), L, UPI
Arkansas 11–0 Frank Broyles BR, CFRA, FWAA, HAF, NCF, PS, SR
Michigan 9–1 Bump Elliott DuS
Notre Dame 9–1 Ara Parseghian DeS, FN, NFF
1965 Alabama 9–1–1 Paul "Bear" Bryant AP, CFRA, FWAA, NCF
Michigan State 10–1 Duffy Daugherty B(QPRS), BR, DeS, DuS, FN, FWAA, HAF, L, NFF, PS, SR, UPI
1966 Alabama 11–0 Paul "Bear" Bryant B(QPRS), SR
Michigan State 9–0–1 Duffy Daugherty CFRA, HAF, NFF, PS
Notre Dame 9–0–1 Ara Parseghian AP, BR, DeS, DuS, FN, FWAA, HAF, L, MGR, NCF, NFF, PS, SR, UPI
1967 Notre Dame 8–2 Ara Parseghian DuS
Oklahoma 10–1 Chuck Fairbanks PS
USC 10–1 John McKay AP, B(QPRS), BR, CFRA, DeS, FN, FWAA, HAF, MGR, NCF, NFF, SR, UPI
Tennessee 9–2 Doug Dickey L
1968 Georgia 8–1–2 Vince Dooley L
Ohio State 10–0 Woody Hayes AP, B(QPRS), BR, CFRA, DuS, FN, FWAA, HAF, NCF, NFF, PS, R(FACT), SR, UPI
Texas 9–1–1 Darrell Royal DeS, MGR, SR
1969 Ohio State 8–1 Woody Hayes MGR
Penn State 11–0 Joe Paterno R(FACT), SR
Texas 11–0 Darrell Royal AP, B(QPRS), BR, CFRA, DeS, DuS, FN, FWAA, HAF, L, NCF, NFF, PS, R(FACT), SR, UPI
1970 Arizona State 11–0 Frank Kush PS
Nebraska 11–0–1 Bob Devaney AP, BR, CFRA, DeS, DuS, FN, FWAA, HAF, NCF, R(FACT), SR
Notre Dame 10–1 Ara Parseghian MGR, R(FACT), SR
Ohio State 9–1 Woody Hayes NFF
Texas 10–1 Darrell Royal B(QPRS), L, NFF, R(FACT), UPI
1971 Nebraska 13–0 Bob Devaney AP, B(QPRS), BR, CFRA, DeS, DuS, FN, FWAA, HAF, L, MGR, NCF, NFF, PS, R(FACT), SR, UPI
1972 USC 12–0 John McKay AP, B(QPRS), BR, CFRA, DeS, DuS, FN, FWAA, HAF, L, MGR, NCF, NFF, PS, R(FACT), SR, UPI
1973 Alabama 11–1 Paul "Bear" Bryant B(QPRS), UPI
Michigan 10–0–1 Bo Schembechler NCF, PS
Notre Dame 11–0 Ara Parseghian AP, BR, FN, FWAA, HAF, NCF, NFF
Ohio State 10–0–1 Woody Hayes NCF, PS, R(FACT), SR
Oklahoma 10–0–1 Barry Switzer CFRA, DeS, DuS, SR
1974 Ohio State 10–2 Woody Hayes MGR
Oklahoma 11–0 Barry Switzer AP, B(QPRS), BR, CFRA, DeS, DuS, FN, HAF, L, NCF, PS, R(FACT), SR
USC 10–1–1 John McKay FWAA, HAF, NCF, NFF, UPI
1975 Alabama 11–1 Paul "Bear" Bryant MGR
Arizona State 12–0 Frank Kush NCF, SN
Ohio State 11–1 Woody Hayes B(QPRS), HAF, MGR, PS, R(FACT)
Oklahoma 11–1 Barry Switzer AP, BR, CFRA, DeS, DuS, FN, FWAA, HAF, NCF, NFF, R(FACT), SR, UPI
1976 Pittsburgh 12–0 Johnny Majors AP, BR, FN, FWAA, HAF, NCF, NFF, PS, R(FACT), SN, SR, UPI
USC 11–1 John Robinson B(QPRS), BR, CFRA, DeS, DuS, MGR
1977 Alabama 11–1 Paul "Bear" Bryant CFRA
Arkansas 11–1 Lou Holtz R(FACT)
Notre Dame 11–1 Dan Devine AP, BR, CFRA, DeS, DuS, FN, FWAA, HAF, MGR, NCF, NFF, PS, R(FACT), SN, SR, UPI
Texas 11–1 Fred Akers B(QPRS), R(FACT), SR
1978 Alabama 11–1 Paul "Bear" Bryant AP, CFRA, FWAA, HAF, NCF, NFF, R(FACT)
Oklahoma 11–1 Barry Switzer DeS, DuS, HAF, L, MGR, PS, R(FACT), SR
USC 12–1 John Robinson B(QPRS), BR, FN, HAF, NCF, R(FACT), SN, SR, UPI
1979 Alabama 12–0 Paul "Bear" Bryant AP, B(QPRS), BR, DeS, DuS, FN, FWAA, HAF, MGR, NCF, NFF, NYT, PS, R(FACT), SN, SR, UPI
USC 11–0–1 John Robinson CFRA
1980 Florida State 10–2 Bobby Bowden R(FACT)
Georgia 12–0 Vince Dooley AP, B(QPRS), BR, FN, FWAA, HAF, NCF, NFF, PS, R(FACT), SN, SR, UPI
Nebraska 10–2 Tom Osborne R(FACT)
Oklahoma 10–2 Barry Switzer DuS, MGR
Pittsburgh 11–1 Jackie Sherrill CFRA, DeS, NYT, R(FACT), SR
1981 Clemson 12–0 Danny Ford AP, B(QPRS), BR, CFRA, DeS, FN, FWAA, HAF, L, MGR, NCF, NFF, NYT, PS, R(FACT), SN, SR, UPI
Nebraska 9–3 Tom Osborne NCF
Penn State 10–2 Joe Paterno DuS
Pittsburgh 11–1 Jackie Sherrill NCF
SMU 10–1 Ron Meyer NCF
Texas 10–1–1 Fred Akers NCF
1982 Nebraska 12–1 Tom Osborne B(QPRS)
Penn State 11–1 Joe Paterno AP, BR, CFRA, DeS, DuS, FN, FWAA, HAF, L, MGR, NCF, NFF, NYT, PS, R(FACT), SN, SR, UPI, USAT
SMU 11–0–1 Bobby Collins HAF
1983 Auburn 11–1 Pat Dye BR, CFRA, NYT, R(FACT), SR
Miami (FL) 11–1 Howard Schnellenberger AP, DuS, FN, FWAA, NCF, NFF, SN, UPI, USAT/CNN
Nebraska 12–1 Tom Osborne B(QPRS), DeS, L, MGR, PS, R(FACT), SR
1984 BYU 13–0 LaVell Edwards AP, BR, CFRA, FWAA, NCF, NFF, PS, SR, UPI, USAT/CNN
Florida 9–1–1 Galen Hall DeS, DuS, MGR, NYT, R(FACT), SN, SR
Nebraska 10–2 Tom Osborne L
Washington 11–1 Don James B(QPRS), FN, NCF
1985 Florida 9–1–1 Galen Hall SR
Michigan 10–1–1 Bo Schembechler MGR
Oklahoma 11–1 Barry Switzer AP, B(QPRS), BR, CFRA, DeS, DuS, FN, FWAA, NCF, NFF, NYT, R(FACT), SN, UPI, USAT/CNN
1986 Miami (FL) 11–1 Jimmy Johnson R(FACT)
Oklahoma 11–1 Barry Switzer B(QPRS), CFRA, DeS, DuS, NYT, SR
Penn State 12–0 Joe Paterno AP, BR, FN, FWAA, MGR, NCF, NFF, R(FACT), SN, SR, UPI, USAT/CNN
1987 Florida State 11–1 Bobby Bowden B(QPRS)
Miami (FL) 12–0 Jimmy Johnson AP, BR, CFRA, DeS, DuS, ERS, FN, FWAA, MGR, NCF, NFF, NYT, R(FACT), SN, SR, UPI, USAT/CNN
1988 Miami (FL) 11–1 Jimmy Johnson B(QPRS)
Notre Dame 12–0 Lou Holtz AP, BR, CFRA, DeS, DuS, ERS, FN, FWAA, MGR, NCF, NFF, NYT, R(FACT), SN, SR, UPI, USAT/CNN
1989 Miami (FL) 11–1 Dennis Erickson AP, BR, CFRA, DeS, DuS, FN, FWAA, MGR, NCF, NFF, NYT, R(FACT), SN, UPI, USAT/CNN
Notre Dame 12–1 Lou Holtz B(QPRS), ERS, R(FACT), SR
1990 Colorado 11–1–1 Bill McCartney AP, B(QPRS), BR, CFRA, DeS, FN, FWAA, MGR, NCF, NFF, R(FACT), SN, USAT/CNN
Georgia Tech 11–0–1 Bobby Ross DuS, NCF, R(FACT), SR, UPI
Miami (FL) 10–2 Dennis Erickson ERS, NYT, R(FACT), SR
Washington 10–2 Don James R(FACT)
1991 Miami (FL) 12–0 Dennis Erickson AP, BR, CFRA, ERS, NCF, NYT, SN, SR
Washington 12–0 Don James B(QPRS), DeS, DuS, FN, FWAA, MGR, NCF, R(FACT), SR, UPI/NFF, USAT/CNN
1992 Alabama 13–0 Gene Stallings AP, B(QPRS), BR, CFRA, DeS, DuS, ERS, FN, FWAA, MGR, NCF, NYT, R(FACT), SN, SR, UPI/NFF, USAT/CNN
Florida State 11–1 Bobby Bowden SR
1993 Auburn 11–0 Terry Bowden NCF
Florida State 12–1 Bobby Bowden AP, B(QPRS), BR, CCR,[26] DeS, DuS, ERS, FN, FWAA, NCF, NYT, R(FACT), SN, SR, UPI, USAT/CNN, USAT/NFF
Nebraska 11–1 Tom Osborne NCF
Notre Dame 11–1 Lou Holtz MGR, NCF
1994 Florida State 10–1–1 Bobby Bowden DuS
Nebraska 13–0 Tom Osborne AP, AS, B(QPRS), BR, FN, FWAA, NCF, R(FACT), SN, SR, UPI, USAT/CNN, USAT/NFF
Penn State 12–0 Joe Paterno CCR,[27] DeS, ERS, MGR, NCF, NYT, R(FACT), SR
1995 Nebraska 12–0 Tom Osborne AP, AS, B(QPRS), BR, CCR,[28] DeS, DuS, ERS, FN, FWAA, MCFR,[29] MGR, NCF, NFF, NYT, R(FACT), SN, SR, UPI, USAT/CNN
1996 Florida 12–1 Steve Spurrier AP, B(QPRS), BR, CCR,[30] DeS, DuS, ERS, FN, FWAA, MCFR,[29] MGR, NCF, NFF, NYT, R(FACT), SN, SR, USAT/CNN
Florida State 11–1 Bobby Bowden AS
1997 Michigan 12–0 Lloyd Carr AP, BR, FN, FWAA, NCF, NFF, SN
Nebraska 13–0 Tom Osborne A&H, AS, B(QPRS), BR, CCR,[31] DeS, DuS, ERS, MCFR,[29] MGR, NCF, NYT, R(FACT), SR, USAT/ESPN
Tennessee 11–2 Phillip Fulmer CM[32]
1998 Ohio State 11–1 John Cooper SRb
Tennessee 13–0 Phillip Fulmer A&H, AP, AS, B(QPRS), BCS, BR, CCR, CM, DeS, DuS, ERS, FN, FWAA, MCFR, MGR, NCF, NFF, NYT, R(FACT), SN, USAT/ESPN
1999 Florida State 12–0 Bobby Bowden A&H, AP, B(QPRS), BCS, BR, CCR, CM, DeS, DuS, ERS, FN, FWAA, MCFR, MGR, NCF, NFF, NYT, R(FACT), SN, SR, USAT/ESPN
2000 Miami (FL) 11–1 Butch Davis NYT
Oklahoma 13–0 Bob Stoops A&H, AP, B(QPRS), BCS, BR, CCR, CM, DeS, DuS, ERS, FN, FWAA, MCFR, MGR, NCF, NFF, R(FACT), SN, SR, USAT/ESPN
2001 Miami (FL) 12–0 Larry Coker A&H, AP, B(QPRS), BCS, BR, CCR, CM, DeS, DuS, ERS, FN, FWAA, MCFR, MGR, NFF, NYT, R(FACT), SN, SR, USAT/ESPN, W
2002 Ohio State 14–0 Jim Tressel A&H, AP, B(QPRS), BCS, BR, CCR, CM, DeS, ERS, FN, FWAA, MCFR, NFF, NYT, R(FACT), SN, SR, USAT/ESPN, W
USC 11–2 Pete Carroll DuS, MGR, SR
2003 LSU 13–1 Nick Saban A&H, BCS, BR, CM, DeS, DuS, MCFR, NFF, R(FACT), SR, USAT/ESPN, W
Oklahoma 12–2 Bob Stoops B(QPRS)
USC 12–1 Pete Carroll AP, CCR,f[33] ERS, FWAA, MGR, NYT, SN
2004 USCc 11–0d Pete Carroll A&H, AP, B(QPRS), BR, CCR, CM, DeS, DuS, ERS, MCFR, MGR, NFF, NYT, R(FACT), SN, SR, W
Vacatedc BCS, FWAA, USAT/ESPN
2005 Texas 13–0 Mack Brown A&H, AP, B(QPRS), BCS, BR, CCR, CM, DeS, DuS, ERS, FWAA, MCFR, MGR, NFF, R(FACT), SN, SR, USAT, W
2006 Florida 13–1 Urban Meyer A&H, AP, B(QPRS), BCS, BR, CCR, CM, DuS, FWAA, MCFR, MGR, NFF, R(FACT), SN, SR, USAT, W
Ohio State 12–1 Jim Tressel DeS,g[34] R(FACT)h[35]
2007 LSU 12–2 Les Miles AP, B(QPRS), BCS, BR, CCR, CM, FWAA, MCFR, NFF, SR, USAT, W
Missouri 12–2 Gary Pinkel A&Hm[36]
USC 11–2 Pete Carroll DuSe[37]
2008 Florida 13–1 Urban Meyer AP, B(QPRS), BCS, BR, CCR, CM, DuS, FWAA, MCFR, NFF, SR, USAT
Utah 13–0 Kyle Whittingham A&H, Wi[38]
2009 Alabama 14–0 Nick Saban A&H, AP, B(QPRS), BCS, BR, CCR, CFRA, CM, DuS, FWAA, MCFR, NFF, SR, USAT, W
2010 Auburn 14–0 Gene Chizik A&H, AP, B(QPRS), BCS, BR, CFRA, CM, DuS, FWAA, MCFR, NFF, SR, USAT, W
TCU 13–0 Gary Patterson CCRj[39]
2011 Alabama 12–1 Nick Saban AP, B(QPRS), BCS, BR, CFRA, DuS, FWAA, MCFR, NFF, SR, USAT, W
LSU 13–1 Les Miles A&H,n[40] CCRk[41]
Oklahoma State 12–1 Mike Gundy CM
2012 Alabama 13–1 Nick Saban A&H, AP, BCS, BR, CCR, CFRA, DuS, FWAA, MCFR, NFF, SR, USAT, W
Notre Dame 12–1 Brian Kelly CM
2013 Florida State 14–0 Jimbo Fisher A&H, AP, BCS, BR, CCR, CFRA, CM, DuS, FWAA, MCFR, NFF, SR, USAT, W
2014 Ohio State 14–1 Urban Meyer A&H, AP, BR, CCR, CFP, CFRA, CM, DuS, FWAA/NFF, MCFR, SR, USAT/AMWAY, W
2015 Alabama 14–1 Nick Saban A&H, AP, BR, CCR, CFP, CFRA, CM, DuS, FWAA/NFF, MCFR, SR, USAT/AMWAY, W
2016 Alabama 14–1 Nick Saban CM
Clemson 14–1 Dabo Swinney A&H, AP, BR, CCR, CFP, CFRA, DuS, FWAA/NFF, MCFR, SR, USAT/AMWAY, W
2017 Alabama 13–1 Nick Saban A&H, AP, BR, CCR, CFP, CFRA, DuS, FWAA/NFF, MCFR, SR, USAT/AMWAY, W
UCF 13–0 Scott Frost CM
2018 Clemson 15–0 Dabo Swinney A&H, AP, BR, CCR, CFP, CFRA, CM, DuS, FWAA/NFF, MCFR, SR, USAT/AMWAY, W
2019 LSU 15–0 Ed Orgeron A&H, AP, BR, CCR, CFP, CFRA, CM, DuS, FWAA/NFF, MCFR, SR, USAT/AMWAY, W
2020 Alabama 13–0 Nick Saban A&H,[42] AP,[43] BR,[44] CCR,[45] CFP, CFRA,[46] CM,[47] DuS,[48] FWAA/NFF,[49] MCFR,[29] SR,[50] USAT/AMWAY[51]
2021 Georgia 14-1 Kirby Smart A&H,[52] AP,[53] BR,[54] CCR,[55] CFP,[56] CFRA,[57] CM,[58] DuS, FWAA/NFF, MCFR,[29] SR,[59] USAT/AMWAY,[60] W

aParke Davis' selection for 1901, as published in the Spalding's Foot Ball Guide for 1934 and 1935 (to which he contributed until his death), was Harvard.[24]: 206 [25]: 233  The NCAA Records Book states "Yale" for 1901, which is an error that has been perpetuated since the first appearance of Parke Davis' selections in the NCAA book about 1995.
bThe NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records book lists Sagarin as having selected Tennessee,[8] while Sagarin's official website gives Ohio State as its 1998 selection.[61]
cThe FWAA stripped USC of its 2004 Grantland Rice Trophy and vacated the selection of its national champion for 2004. The BCS also vacated USC's participation in the 2005 Orange Bowl and USC's 2004 BCS National Championship, and the AFCA Coaches Poll Trophy was returned.[62][63]
dRecord does not count wins against UCLA, or against Oklahoma in the BCS Championship game on January 4, 2005, as they were vacated by the NCAA.[64]
eThe NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records book lists Dunkel as having selected LSU,[8] while Dunkel's official website gives USC as its 2007 selection.[37]
fThe NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records book lists CCR as having selected LSU,[8] while CCR's official website gives USC as its 2003 selection.[33]
gThe NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records book lists DeVold (DeS) as having selected Florida,[8] while DeVold's official website gives Ohio State as its 2006 selection.[34]
hThe NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records book lists R(FACT) as having selected Florida,[8] while R(FACT)'s official website gives co-champions Ohio State and Florida as its 2006 selection.[35]
iThe NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records book lists Wolfe as having selected Florida,[8] while Wolfe's official website gives Utah as its 2008 selection.[38]
j The NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records book lists CCR as having selected Auburn,[8] while CCR's official website gives TCU as its 2010 selection.[39]
kThe NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records book lists CCR as having selected Alabama,[8] while CCR's official website gives LSU as its 2011 selection.[41]
mThe NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records book lists Anderson & Hester (A&H) as having selected LSU,[8] while A&H's official website gives Missouri as its 2007 selection.[36]
nThe NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records book lists Anderson & Hester (A&H) as having selected Alabama,[8] while A&H's official website gives LSU as its 2011 selection.[40]
pKansas' defeat of Missouri was overturned by the Big Eight Conference on December 8 (ineligible player). The reversal erased the only loss on Missouri's record.[65]

Total championship selections from major selectors by school

The national title count listed below is a culmination of all championship awarded since 1869, regardless of "consensus"[23] or non-consensus status, as listed in the table above according to the selectors deemed to be "major"[6] as listed in the official NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records.[8]

The totals can be said to be disputed. Individual schools may claim national championships not accounted for by the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records or may not claim national championship selections that do appear in the official NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records (see National championship claims by school below).

School Championships
Princeton 28
Yale 27
Alabama 23
Notre Dame 22
Ohio State 17
Oklahoma 17
USC 17
Michigan 16
Harvard 12
Nebraska 11
Pittsburgh 11
LSU 9
Miami (FL) 9
Minnesota 9
Texas 9
Florida State 8
Georgia Tech 7
Penn State 7
Tennessee 7
Georgia 7
Michigan State 6
Penn 6
Iowa 5
Army 5
Auburn 5
California 5
Cornell 5
Florida 5
Illinois 5
Washington 4
Clemson 3
Lafayette 3
Ole Miss 3
SMU 3
TCU 3
Texas A&M 3
Arizona State 2
Arkansas 2
Chicago 2
Maryland 2
Missouri 2
Oklahoma State 2
Stanford 2
Vanderbilt 2
BYU 1
Centre 1
Colgate 1
Colorado 1
Columbia 1
Dartmouth 1
Detroit 1
Duke 1
Kentucky 1
Navy 1
Purdue 1
Rutgers 1
Syracuse 1
UCF 1
UCLA 1
Utah 1
Washington & Jefferson 1
Wisconsin 1

Minor selectors

In addition to the NCAA-designated "major selectors" listed above, various other people and organizations have selected national champions in college football. Selections from such notable "minor selectors" are listed below.

Unique championship selections from minor selectors

Teams in the following table were selected by notable "minor" national championship selectors not listed in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records book. In the interest of brevity, this table contains only teams that were not also selected by any NCAA-designated major selector for the given year.

Season Champion(s) Record Coach Selector(s)
1904 Yale 10–1 Charles D. Rafferty Caspar Whitney[66]
1910 Washington 6–0 Gil Dobie Bill Libby (BL)[67]
1911 Carlisle 11–1 Glenn "Pop" Warner BL
1913 Notre Dame 7–0 Jesse Harper BL
1914 Harvard 7–0–2 Percy Haughton World Almanac,[68][69]
Alexander Weyand (AW)[70][71]
1915 Washington State 7–0 William "Lone Star" Dietz Washington State Senate[72]
1917 Pittsburgh 10–0 Glenn "Pop" Warner AW[73]
1921 Notre Dame 10–1 Knute Rockne AW[74]
1929 Tulane 9–0 Bernie Bierman BL
1931 Tennessee 9–0–1 Robert Neyland BL
Tulane 11–1 Bernie Bierman John Kent Boyd[75]
1934 Pittsburgh 8–1 Jock Sutherland Walter R. Okeson[76]
1935 Stanford 8–1 Tiny Thornhill Kenneth Massey (MCFR)[77]
1936 Northwestern 7–1 Pappy Waldorf BL
1936 Santa Clara 8–1 Buck Shaw MCFR
1941 Duquesne 8–0 Aldo Donelli/Steve Sinko MCFR
1942 Georgia Navy Pre-Flight 7–1–1 Raymond Wolf MCFR
1943 March Field 9–1 Paul J. Schissler MCFR
1947 Texas 10–1 Blair Cherry MCFR
1953 Michigan State 9–1 Biggie Munn MCFR
1955 Ole Miss 10–1 Johnny Vaught MCFR
1963 Navy 9–2 Wayne Hardin Washington Touchdown Club[78][79]
1974 Alabama 11–1 Paul "Bear" Bryant Washington Touchdown Club[79]
1978 Penn State 11–1 Joe Paterno Washington Touchdown Club[79]
2010 Oregon (co-champion) 12–1 Chip Kelly R(FACT)[80]

Poll era (1936–present)

Map of U.S. college football champions, 1936-2019
Map of U.S. college football champions, 1936-2019

The polling system first gained widespread consistency with the introduction of the AP poll in 1936, followed by the Coaches Poll in 1950. National championships are often popularly considered[by whom?] to be "consensus" when both of these polls are in agreement with their national championship selections, although other selectors exist and do make alternative selections. A more modern incarnation, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), was a consortium of college football conferences that used a combination of various computer rankings and human polls to mathematically determine a post-season matchup between the two top teams as determined by its formula. The USA Today Coaches Poll was contractually obligated to name the BCS champion as its national champion.

AP Poll

Main article: AP Poll

See also: AP National Championship Trophy

The AP college football poll has a long history. The news media began running their own polls of sports writers to determine who was, by popular opinion, the best football team in the country at the end of the season. One of the earliest such polls was the AP College Football Poll, first run in 1934 (compiled and organized by Charles Woodroof, former SEC Assistant Director of Media Relations, but not recognized in the official NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records) and then continuously from 1936. Due to the long-standing historical ties between individual college football conferences and high-paying bowl games like the Rose Bowl and Orange Bowl, the NCAA has never held a tournament or championship game to determine the champion of what is now the highest division, NCAA Division I, Football Bowl Subdivision (the Division I, Football Championship Subdivision and lower divisions do hold championship tournaments). As a result, the public and the media began to take the leading vote-getter in the final AP Poll as the national champion for that season.

While the AP Poll currently lists the Top 25 teams in the nation, from 1936 to 1961 the wire service only ranked 20 teams. And from 1962 to 1967 only 10 teams were recognized. From 1968 to 1988, the AP again resumed its Top 20 before expanding to 25 teams in 1989.

Until the 1968 NCAA University Division football season, the final AP Poll of the season was released following the end of the regular season, with the exception of the 1965 season. In 1964, Alabama was named the national champion in the final AP Poll following the completion of the regular season, but lost in the Orange Bowl to Texas, leaving Arkansas as the only undefeated, untied team after the Razorbacks defeated Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl Classic. In 1965, the AP's decision to wait to crown its champion paid off, as top-ranked Michigan State lost to UCLA in the Rose Bowl, number two Arkansas lost to LSU in the Cotton Bowl Classic, and fourth-ranked Alabama defeated third-ranked Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, vaulting the Crimson Tide to the top of the AP's final poll. Michigan State was named national champion in the final United Press International poll of coaches, which did not conduct a post-bowl poll. At the end of the 1947 season, the AP released an unofficial post-bowl poll which differed from the regular season final poll. The AP national championship had been awarded before bowl games were played.

Beginning in the 1968 season, a post bowl game poll was released and the AP championship reflected the bowl game results. The UPI did not follow suit with the Coaches Poll until the 1974 season.[81]

Coaches Poll

Main article: Coaches Poll

See also: The Coaches' Trophy

The AFCA National Championship Trophy

The Coaches Poll began selecting the top 20 teams on a weekly basis during the 1950–1951 college football season. It is conducted among selected members of the American Football Coaches Association. In 1990 the poll expanded to a top 25, and it has retained this format since. The Coaches Poll took its final poll prior to the bowl games from 1950 to 1973 but since 1974 has taken its final poll after bowl games. The Coaches Poll does not include teams on either NCAA or conference-sanction probation, which also differentiates it from the AP poll.[82] The poll has been released through various media outlets and with differing sponsors over its history and thus has taken a succession of different names, including United Press (UP) from 1950 thru 1957, the United Press International (UPI) from 1958 thru 1990, USA Today/CNN from 1991 thru 1996, USA Today/ESPN from 1997 to 2004, and USA Today from 2005 to present.

During the era of the BCS, the Coaches Poll was under contractual obligation to award its national championship selection to the winner of the BCS Championship Game or its predecessors—who was presented with the AFCA National Championship Trophy during a post-game presentation. The College Football Playoff is not tied to the Coaches Poll in this manner.[83]

Poll era national championships by school (1936–present)

The following table contains the national championships that have been recognized by the final AP or Coaches Poll. Originally both the AP and Coaches poll champions were crowned after the regular season, but since 1968 and 1974 respectively, both polls crown their champions after the bowl games are completed (with the exception of the 1965 season). The BCS champion was automatically awarded the Coaches Poll championship. Of the current 120+ Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS, formerly Division I-A) schools, only 30 have won at least a share of a national title by the AP or Coaches poll. Of these 30 teams, only 20 teams have won multiple titles. Of the 20 teams, only 7 have won five or more national titles: Alabama, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, USC, Miami (FL), Nebraska, and Ohio State. The years listed in the table below indicate a national championship selection by the AP or Coaches Poll. The selections are noted with (AP) or (Coaches) when a national champion selection differed between the two polls for that particular season, which has occurred in twelve different seasons (including 2004, for which the coaches selection was rescinded) since the polls first came to coexist in 1950.

School Championships Seasons
Alabama 13 1961, 1964, 1965 (AP), 1973 (Coaches), 1978 (AP), 1979, 1992, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017, 2020
Notre Dame 8 1943, 1946, 1947, 1949, 1966, 1973 (AP), 1977, 1988
Oklahoma 7 1950, 1955, 1956, 1974 (AP), 1975, 1985, 2000
USC 7 1962, 1967, 1972, 1974 (Coaches), 1978 (Coaches), 2003 (AP), 2004 (AP)†
Ohio State 6 1942, 1954 (AP), 1957 (Coaches), 1968, 2002, 2014
Miami (FL) 5 1983, 1987, 1989, 1991 (AP), 2001
Nebraska 5 1970 (AP), 1971, 1994, 1995, 1997 (Coaches)
LSU 4 1958, 2003 (Coaches), 2007, 2019
Texas 4 1963, 1969, 1970 (Coaches), 2005
Minnesota 4 1936, 1940, 1941, 1960
Florida 3 1996, 2006, 2008
Florida State 3 1993, 1999, 2013
Clemson 3 1981, 2016, 2018
Army 2 1944, 1945 (AP)
Auburn 2 1957 (AP), 2010
Georgia 2 1980, 2021
Michigan 2 1948, 1997 (AP)
Michigan State 2 1952, 1965 (Coaches)
Penn State 2 1982, 1986
Pittsburgh 2 1937, 1976
Tennessee 2 1951, 1998
BYU 1 1984
Colorado 1 1990 (AP)
Georgia Tech 1 1990 (Coaches)
Maryland 1 1953
Oklahoma State 1 1945 (Coaches)‡
Syracuse 1 1959
TCU 1 1938
Texas A&M 1 1939
UCLA 1 1954 (Coaches)
Washington 1 1991 (Coaches)

† USC's 2004 BCS National Championship was vacated by the BCS and the AFCA Coaches Trophy returned.[84]
‡ Retroactively awarded in 2016 by AFCA Blue Ribbon Panel.[19] Oklahoma State was the only school to apply for the award.[20]

BCS championships (1998–2013)

The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) was a selection system designed to give the top two teams in NCAA Division I-A (now known as the FBS) an opportunity to compete in a "national championship game". This championship was intended as a surrogate for a playoff system since the NCAA does not formally determine a champion in this category. It began during the 1998 season, but a number of controversial selections spurred changes to the format over the years. Prior to the 2006 season, eight teams competed in four BCS Bowls (the Orange, Sugar, Rose, and Fiesta). The BCS replaced the Bowl Alliance (in place from 1995 to 1997), which itself followed the Bowl Coalition (in place from 1992 to 1994). One of the main differences was that the Rose Bowl participated in the BCS; previously, the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions automatically played in the Rose Bowl regardless of their poll rankings. However, after the change, those teams played in the BCS National Championship Game if they finished #1 or #2 in the BCS standings.

The BCS formula varied over the years, with the final version relying on a combination of the Coaches' and Harris polls and an average of various computer rankings to determine relative team rankings, and to narrow the field to two teams to play in the BCS National Championship Game held after the other college bowl games. The winner of this game was crowned Coaches' Poll national champion winning the AFCA National Championship Trophy and was also awarded the MacArthur Bowl by the National Football Foundation.[15]

BCS National Championships by school

School Championships Seasons
Alabama 3 2009, 2011, 2012
Florida 2 2006, 2008
Florida State 2 1999, 2013
LSU 2 2003, 2007
Auburn 1 2010
Miami (FL) 1 2001
Ohio State 1 2002
Oklahoma 1 2000
Tennessee 1 1998
Texas 1 2005
USC 0† 2004

† USC's victory in the 2005 Orange Bowl and subsequent 2004–05 BCS National Championship was vacated by the BCS.[85][86]

College Football Playoff championships (2014–present)

The College Football Playoff (CFP) was designed as a replacement for the BCS. While the NCAA still does not officially sanction the event, organizers sought to bring a playoff system similar to all other levels of NCAA football to the Football Bowl Subdivision.

The College Football Playoff relies on a 13-member selection committee to choose the top four teams to play in a two-round single-elimination playoff bracket. The winner of the final game is awarded the College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy.

CFP National Championships by school

School Championships Seasons
Alabama 3 2015, 2017, 2020
Clemson 2 2016, 2018
Georgia 1 2021
LSU 1 2019
Ohio State 1 2014

National championship claims by school

Tennessee's national championship claims, as posted in their Neyland Stadium
Tennessee's national championship claims, as posted in their Neyland Stadium

The following is a table of known schools' claims on national championships at the highest level of play in college football. Several of these schools no longer compete at the highest level, which is currently NCAA Division I FBS, but nonetheless maintain claims to titles from when they did compete at the highest level.

Because there is no one governing or official body that regulates, recognizes, or awards national championships in college football, and because many independent selectors of championships exist, many of the claims by the schools listed below are shared, contradict each other, or are controversial.[5][17]: 107–119  In addition, because there is no one body overseeing national championships, no standardized requirements exist in order for a school to make a claim on a national championship, as any particular institution is free to make any declaration it deems to be fit. The majority of these claims, but not all, are based on championships awarded from selectors listed as "major" in the official NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records.[17]: 112–114  Not all championships awarded by third party selectors, nor those listed in the official NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records, are necessarily claimed by each school.[note 1] Therefore, these claims represent how each individual school sees their own history on the subject of national championships. For the pre-poll era from 1901 through 1935, 41 major selections of teams from 20 schools have not been used to make national title claims.

This table below includes only national championship claims originating from each particular school and therefore represents the point-of-view of each individual institution. Each total number of championships, and the years for which they are claimed, are documented by the particular school on its official website, in its football media guide, on a prominent stadium sign, or in other official publications or literature (see Source). If a championship is not mentioned by a school for any particular season, regardless of whether it was awarded by a selector or listed in a third-party publication such as the official NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records, it is not considered to be claimed by that institution.[note 2]

School Claimed
national
championships
Seasons Source
Princeton 28 1869, 1870, 1872, 1873, 1874, 1875, 1877, 1878, 1879, 1880, 1881, 1884, 1885, 1886, 1889, 1893, 1894, 1896, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1906, 1911, 1920, 1922, 1933, 1935, 1950 [87]
Yale 27 1872, 1874, 1876, 1877, 1879, 1880, 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1886, 1887, 1888, 1891, 1892, 1893, 1894, 1895, 1897, 1900, 1901g, 1902, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1909, 1927 [88][89]
Alabama 18 1925, 1926, 1930, 1934, 1941, 1961, 1964, 1965, 1973, 1978, 1979, 1992, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017, 2020 [90]
Michigan 11 1901, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1918, 1923, 1932, 1933, 1947, 1948, 1997 [91]
Notre Dame 11 1924, 1929, 1930, 1943, 1946, 1947, 1949, 1966, 1973, 1977, 1988 [92][93]
USC 11 1928, 1931, 1932, 1939, 1962, 1967, 1972, 1974, 1978, 2003, 2004a [94]
Pittsburgh 9 1915, 1916, 1918, 1929, 1931, 1934h, 1936, 1937, 1976 [95][96]
Ohio State 8 1942, 1954, 1957, 1961, 1968, 1970, 2002, 2014 [97][98]
Harvard 7 1890, 1898, 1899, 1910, 1912, 1913, 1919 [99][100]
Minnesota 7 1904, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1940, 1941, 1960 [101][102]
Oklahoma 7 1950, 1955, 1956, 1974, 1975, 1985, 2000 [103][104]
Penn 7 1894, 1895, 1897, 1904, 1907b, 1908, 1924 [105]
Michigan State 6 1951, 1952, 1955, 1957, 1965, 1966 [106][107]
Tennessee 6 1938, 1940, 1950, 1951, 1967, 1998 [108][109][110]
California 5 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1937 [111]
Cornell 5 1915, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1939 [112]
Illinois 5 1914, 1919, 1923, 1927, 1951 [113][114]
Iowa 5 1921, 1922, 1956, 1958, 1960 [115][better source needed]
Miami 5 1983, 1987, 1989, 1991, 2001 [116][117]
Nebraska 5 1970, 1971, 1994, 1995, 1997 [118][119]
Georgia Tech 4 1917, 1928, 1952, 1990 [120][121]
LSU 4 1958, 2003, 2007, 2019 [122][123]
Texas 4 1963, 1969, 1970, 2005 [124][125]
Army 3 1944, 1945, 1946 [126][127]
Clemson 3 1981, 2016, 2018 [128][129]
Florida 3 1996, 2006, 2008 [130][131]
Florida State 3 1993, 1999, 2013 [132][133]
Georgia 3d 1942, 1980, 2021 [134][135][136]
Lafayette 3 1896, 1921, 1926 [137]
Ole Miss 3 1959, 1960, 1962 [138][139]
SMU 3 1935, 1981, 1982 [140]
Texas A&M 3 1919, 1927, 1939 [141][142]
Auburn 2e 1957, 2010 [143][144]
Chicago 2 1905, 1913 [145]
Columbia 2 1875, 1933c [146]
Penn State 2 1982, 1986 [147][148]
Stanford 2 1926, 1940 [149][150]
TCU 2 1935, 1938 [151][152]
Washington 2 1960, 1991 [153][154]
Arkansas 1 1964 [155]
Boston College 1 1940f [156][157]
BYU 1 1984 [158][159]
Centre 1 1919 [160]
Colorado 1 1990 [161][162]
Dartmouth 1 1925 [163]
Detroit 1 1928 [164]
Kentucky 1 1950 [165]
Maryland 1 1953 [166][167]
Navy 1 1926 [168]
Oklahoma State 1 1945 [169]: [19][170]
Rutgers 1 1869 [171][disputed ]
Syracuse 1 1959 [172][173]
UCF 1 2017 [174][175]
UCLA 1 1954 [176]
Wisconsin 1 1942 [177][better source needed]

aUSC's January 4, 2005 win over Oklahoma in the BCS Championship Game was vacated as mandated by the NCAA, its 2004 BCS National Championship vacated by the BCS, and its AFCA Coaches' Trophy returned. NCAA sanctions mandate that "any reference to the vacated results, including championships, shall be removed." USC still retains the 2004 Associated Press National Championship and has not abandoned its claim to a 2004 national championship.[85][178]
bNo major selectors chose Penn for 1907. Penn's football fact book states that the Billingsley Report named the 1907 team National Champions,[105] but other sources show Billingsley naming Yale for 1907.
cNo major selectors chose Columbia for 1933. Columbia's media guide states that the team "was referred to as a national champ."[146]
dGeorgia's website has multiple pages which list national championships by sport and only spells out three seasons for football (1942, 1980, and 2021).[179][134][180] The Georgia football media guide contains a year-by-year results section in which five seasons (1927, 1942, 1946, 1968, 1980) have "National Champions#" headers paired with selector callouts,[135]: 159–161  but also a "Championship History" page which places 1942, 1980, and 2021 into "The Consensus National Champions" section and groups 1927, 1946, and 1968 together without description as national champions beyond identification of those specific selectors.[135]: 192 
eAuburn's website notes to five titles that appear in the NCAA Record Book, while not claiming three of them (1913, 1983, and 1993).
fNo major selectors chose Boston College for 1940.
gNo major selectors chose Yale for 1901. The original source for Parke Davis' "Outstanding Nationwide and Sectional Teams" states "1901 Harvard".[24][25]
hNo major selectors chose Pittsburgh for 1934. Parke Davis died in June, 1934; his successor selected Pitt but is not designated as a major selector by the NCAA.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ The following schools either make no apparent statement or claim regarding national championships, or clearly state no claims on a national championship, despite the listing of a national championship for that school in the official NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records: Arizona State, Colgate, Duke, Missouri, Purdue, Utah, Vanderbilt, and Washington & Jefferson.
  2. ^ All National Championships listed in the official NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Records were checked for claims by the applicable schools. Although every care was taken to be thorough and accurate, it can not be assumed that there are no missing or misrepresented claims due to potential limitations of the available source material for any one institution.

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