Commentary

Prestige Rankings: Nos. 21-119

Updated: January 23, 2009, 7:51 AM ET
By Chris Fallica, Nick Loucks and Harold Shelton | ESPN Research

Who is No. 1? That debate rages weekly during each college football season, and often long after the season is over and the trophies have been handed out. The debate is as much a part of the annual ritual as the touchdowns, fight songs and bowl games.

If you think that process can spark a debate, try ranking each FBS team's all-time position in college football history.

But the ESPN Research Department devised a plan to settle the argument. Their system lets the numbers do the talking.

ESPN's Prestige Rankings are a numerical method of ranking the best FBS college football programs since the 1936 season. Point values were assigned for certain successes (win a national title, earn 25 points) and failures (get your program banned from the postseason, lose two points). They ran all the numbers through the computer to come up with the No. 1 program (and Nos. 2-119) of the past 73 seasons.

ESPN.com will be rolling out the rankings all week. First stop: teams 119-21. Take a look:

21. Auburn Tigers
Total points: 579
Positives: Auburn won the national title in 1957, and some feel it was denied another when it won the Sugar Bowl to cap its perfect season in 2004. In all, the Tigers have enjoyed seven top-5 finishes in the AP poll, as well as one of the most exciting Heisman winners ever (Bo Jackson in 1985).
Negatives: The Tigers had five different years of probation, which cost them 39 points.
Through the decades: Through 1958: 31st | 1968: T-34th | 1978: 28th | 1988: 21st | 1998: 21st
Did you know? Auburn has only one major bowl appearance in the past 20 seasons (the 2005 Sugar Bowl vs. Virginia Tech), but it still ranks ahead of rival Alabama in the BCS era.

T-22. Clemson Tigers
Total points: 486
Positives: Clemson won national title in 1981, and since the NFL Common Draft began in 1970, it has 18 first-round draft picks (which ranks third among current ACC schools behind Miami and Florida State).
Negatives: Clemson hasn't made a major bowl appearance since winning that national title. Notorious for stumbling against inferior teams recently, the Tigers haven't won a conference title since 1991.
Through the decades: Through 1958: 25th | 1968: 27th | 1978: 31st | 1988: 23rd | 1998: T-23rd
Did you know? Clemson hasn't had a losing season since 1998.

T-22. Colorado Buffaloes
Total points: 486
Positives: The Buffaloes were a powerhouse in the '90s, when they kicked off the decade with a national title in 1990 and later had a Heisman winner in Rashaan Salaam (1994).
Negatives: Colorado has suffered through five losing seasons this decade, with only a single bowl win (the 2004 Houston Bowl vs. UTEP). Colorado has also suffered through five penalties from the NCAA (costing it 25 points, including nine this decade).
Through the decades: Through 1958: 39th | 1968: 43rd | 1978: 36th | 1988: 44th | 1998: 22nd
Did you know? Colorado has has 30 consensus All-Americans (14th-most), more than Florida and Georgia.

24. Ole Miss Rebels
Total points: 477
Positives: The Rebels have 20 bowl wins (12th-most since 1936). The glory days in Oxford were a half-century ago, as the program was ranked fifth-best in the nation in the '50s and '60s. The Rebels enjoyed four straight top-5 finishes at one point (1959-62).
Negatives: Ole Miss hasn't had a major bowl appearance since the 1969 season. The NCAA also put it on probation three separate times, costing it 21 points in our tabulations. Plus, Rebels fans should just block out the '80s, when they accrued minus-5 points (77th in the nation).
Through the decades: Through 1958: 23rd | 1968: 10th | 1978: 13th | 1988: 16th | 1998: 24th
Did you know? Only 11 programs have won more bowl games in the BCS era than Ole Miss (5).

25. BYU Cougars
Total points: 476
Positives: Slowly climbing the Prestige Rankings for the better part of the century, the Cougars have never been placed on NCAA probation. Slow and steady have been key attributes for a program with just three losing seasons since 1974.
Negatives: BYU has never had a "major" bowl win by our standards. When the Cougars won the national title in 1984, it came after a Holiday Bowl win.
Through the decades: Through 1958: 87th | 1968: T-87th | 1978: 66th | 1988: 30th | 1998: 27th
Did you know? You might think that BYU has piled up points in a non-BCS conference in recent years, but the Cougars racked up 204 of their 476 points in the 1980s. That's more than programs like USC, Alabama and Ohio State.

We're counting down the top 25, but check out where the rest of the FBS schools ranked and their point totals:

26. Michigan State: 454
27. Pittsburgh: 444
28. Arizona State: 408
29. Syracuse: 407
30. Iowa: 368

T-31. Maryland: 352
T-31. TCU: 352
33. Minnesota: 341
34. Wisconsin: 317
35. West Virginia: 315
36. Missouri: 314
37. Virginia Tech: 303
38. Duke: 297
39. Army: 284
40. Boston College: 280

41. North Carolina: 277
42. Texas Tech: 267
43. Utah: 264
44. California: 260
45. Stanford: 242
46. Navy: 239
47. Houston: 229
48. Miami (Ohio): 220
49. Illinois: 219
50. Purdue: 210

51. Wyoming: 188
52. Toledo: 184
53. Oregon: 177
54. Boise State: 172
55. Fresno State: 169
56. Oregon State: 160
57. Air Force: 154
58. North Carolina State: 152
59. Louisville: 146
60. Arizona: 144

61. SMU: 138
62. Rice: 137
63. Baylor: 129
64. Tulsa: 123
65. Oklahoma State: 115
66. Virginia: 101
67. Southern Miss: 99
68. Bowling Green: 94
T-69. Kentucky: 86
T-69. Kansas: 86

T-71. San Diego State: 80
T-71. Nevada: 80
73. Hawaii: 75
74. San Jose State: 72
75. Colorado State: 69
76. Kansas State: 66
T-77. Washington State: 65
T-77. Central Michigan: 65
79. Marshall: 62
80. Northwestern: 60

81. Mississippi State: 59
82. Cincinnati: 58
83. South Carolina: 55
84. Ball State: 48
85. Troy: 40
86. East Carolina: 26
87. South Florida: 22
T-88. North Texas: 20
T-88. Florida Atlantic: 20
90. Connecticut: 17

91. UCF: 16
92. Louisiana Tech: 13
T-93. Ohio: 11
T-93. Tulane: 11
T-95. Utah State: 9
T-95. Middle Tennessee: 9
T-95. Wake Forest: 9
98. Western Michigan: 7
99. Northern Illinois: 6
100. UNLV: 1

101. Rutgers: minus-6
102. Indiana: minus-8
103. Buffalo: minus-11
104. New Mexico: minus-14
T-105. UAB: minus-15
T-105. Florida International: minus-15
107. Arkansas State: minus-17
108. Akron: minus-21
109. UL Lafayette: minus-23
110. Memphis: minus-24

111. UTEP: minus-26
112. UL Monroe: minus-27
113. Eastern Michigan: minus-36
114. Iowa State: minus-53
115. Temple: minus-56
116. Kent State: minus-59
117. New Mexico State: minus-60
118. Idaho: minus-64
119. Vanderbilt: minus-73

Chris Fallica, Nick Loucks and Harold Shelton are researchers at ESPN.