The 50 greatest college football teams throughout history

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best college football teams of all time

Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier gets instructions from head coach Tom Osborne during the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2, 1996, in Tempe, Ariz. (Photo by Albert Dickson/Sporting News via Getty Images)

Ranking the 50 greatest college football teams throughout history entering the 150th season of college football. Who will be crowned the best of the best?

The long, sometimes troubled, but always magnificent, history of organized collegiate football both confuses and amazes us on a daily basis.

From the earliest organized football game at College Field, where the Scarlet Knights (the nickname not yet coined at the time), took on Princeton, to this year’s National Championship game at Levi’s Stadium, college football has almost been a mirror of humanity, changing as we do. From the hard-nosed athleticism and determination of teams during the pre and post-WWII era to the agility, speed and tactics of modern football in this new technological era of mankind, the game has shifted to suit us.

Before we begin counting down this list of the best college football teams of all time, you should know a few things:

First, ascribing for you a list of the top 50 teams of all time in the long, storied history of college football is about as big of a task as defending New York City from the naturally occurring super villains of the world. (I mean seriously, have you seen how many heroes it takes to defend the area?) It’s almost an impossible job to put together a list that would please everyone out of the hundreds of fantastic teams, so don’t take it as a personal offense if your favorite team gets left off.

Second, to mount this big of a task requires some sort of standard guidelines—those guidelines change each time someone creates a list of this sort. I ranked these teams according to the overall quality of the team. This includes players and coaching staff, and how their victories stack up against the varying strengths of their schedules. National Championships far from guarantee a team landing a place on this list but it definitely doesn’t hurt.

Third, the time period does play a part in these rankings. We’ve seen amazing teams which, under the right set of rules, would be able to compete almost timelessly. Some teams on this list just have the plain ability to win, whether the game was set in the time and place where the first official collegiate game was played or the time and place of the 2019 National Championship at Levi’s Stadium. You’ll see teams from college football’s earliest days, all the way to the modern-day.

Remember these three things while going through this list, and we’ll be smooth sailing. The list that follows will, without a doubt, be controversial, but through hours upon hours of research, and my jaw-dropping at the sheer athleticism and ability of teams that did, and didn’t the list, I’ve compiled a list of my top 50 college football teams of all time.

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