Prestige Rankings: Nos. 16-20
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 Football Bowl Subdivision team's all-time position in college football history.
But the ESPN Research Department devised a plan to settle the argument. Its system lets the numbers do the talking.
ESPN's Prestige Rankings are a numerical method of ranking the best FBS 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). The research department ran all the numbers through the computer to come up with the No. 1 program (and Nos. 2 to 119) of the past 73 seasons.
ESPN.com will be rolling out the rankings all week. Second stop: teams 16 to 20. Take a look:
16. UCLA Bruins
Total points: 738
Positives: UCLA has been a top-20 program in the Prestige Rankings since the '50s, including being tied with Florida State for seventh place in the '80s. The Bruins won a national title in 1954. QB Gary Beban won the Heisman Trophy in 1967. Among Pac-10 schools, only USC gets credit for more conference titles than UCLA, which has 15. The Bruins also have never been on probation.
Negatives: UCLA has just one major bowl berth in the BCS era (since 1998) and hasn't won a major bowl game since the 1988 season (Cotton Bowl versus Arkansas). The Bruins also have suffered three losing seasons since 2003. The BCS era has been downright average for the Bruins, as they sit in 34th in that span. They haven't been lower than 20th in any other decade.
Through the decades: Through 1958: 18th | 1968: 17th | 1978: 16th | 1988: 13th | 1998: 13th
Did you know? The Bruins have four wins over top-ranked teams in the AP poll, which is more than programs like Michigan, Alabama and Nebraska can boast. Only six programs have enjoyed more.
Total points: 634
Positives: The '80s were a welcome time in Seattle. UW ushered in a new decade with a Sun Bowl win over Texas on Dec. 22, 1979. The Huskies went to a bowl game in eight straight seasons, reaching the 10-win mark three times. The best season in this stretch could have been 1984, when they became the first Pac-10 school to win the Orange Bowl and finished second to BYU in the final polls. That good run stretched into the '90s, when the Huskies won part of the national title in 1991.
Negatives: After the 1991 season, when it split the national championship with Miami, Washington has seen its football program slowly fall from the Pac-10's elite. In the BCS era, its Prestige Ranking is behind those of such schools as Toledo and Colorado State. The Huskies have suffered five straight losing seasons and received a hand-slapping from the NCAA in 2004 for violations during the Rick Neuheisel era.
Through the decades: Through 1958: 55th | 1968: 29th | 1978: 29th | 1988: 22nd | 1998: 16th
Did you know? Washington has had more consensus All-Americans (18) than rivals Washington State (five), Oregon State (five) and Oregon (two) combined.
18. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Total points: 610
Positives: The past-10-season span is the first decade Georgia Tech has moved up our Prestige Rankings since the '50s, the golden era of Yellow Jacket football. Between the 1951 and 1955 seasons, the program went 48-6-3 with five wins in the biggest bowls around (three in the Sugar, one in the Cotton and one in the Orange).
Negatives: The Yellow Jackets haven't had a major bowl win since the 1955-56 season, when they won the 1956 Sugar Bowl at the tail end of the aforementioned five-year dream run under coach Bobby Dodd.
Through the decades: Through 1958: 4th | 1968: 8th | 1978: 12th | 1988: 15th | 1998: 19th
Did you know? Georgia Tech is the highest-rated team in the Prestige Rankings to never be ranked No. 1 in an AP poll.
19. Arkansas Razorbacks
Total points: 604
Positives: Arkansas would be college football's 10th-best program if you combined just the '50s and '60s. The Razorbacks appeared in eight major bowl games in those two decades, one more than they have in the 53 other years in the AP poll era combined.
Negatives: Since joining the SEC in 1992, Arkansas has not won an outright conference title. In 2006, it shared an SEC-best mark of 7-1 with Florida but missed out on a lucrative BCS berth after a 38-28 loss to the Gators in the SEC title game.
Through the decades: Through 1958: 47th | 1968: 18th | 1978: 14th | 1988: 14th | 1998: 18th
Did you know? Between 1968 and 1989, Arkansas didn't suffer a single losing season. That non-losing-season streak is longer than any in the history of SEC rival LSU.
20. Texas A&M Aggies
Total points: 584
Positives: The Aggies have been consistently solid over the years, but their best decade clearly was the '80s. Texas A&M had two 10-win seasons and won three of its five bowl games in that decade, matching its bowl wins total from 1950 to 1979.
Negatives: A&M ranks only eighth in the Big 12 in the BCS era. The Aggies' only major bowl appearance in the past 15 years was a loss (1999 Sugar Bowl versus Ohio State), and they haven't finished in the final AP top 5 since 1956.
Through the decades: Through 1958: 15th | 1968: 21st | 1978: 21st | 1988: 20th | 1998: 17th
Did you know? The only other top-20 schools in our Prestige Rankings with only one bowl win in the BCS era are Notre Dame and Washington.
Chris Fallica, Nick Loucks and Harold Shelton are researchers at ESPN.
ESPN RESEARCH'S PRESTIGE RANKINGS
If you think the annual BCS standings 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 Prestige Rankings system lets the numbers do the talking.