Which team on this list will be the first to hoist this trophy?
#10 Clemson Tigers
Clemson's only National Championship took place in 1981 under Danny Ford. Clemson went on to be the fifth winningest program of the 1980s by posting an 86-25-4 record. You might not think of Clemson as the big dog (or cat as it is) in the ACC but they are. Clemson holds the most conference championships out of the fourteen member institutions in the ACC (eighteen). FSU holds the most recent National Championship for the ACC but Clemson is the most overdue.
The Hokies are in the top twenty in terms of winningest college football programs in the FBS. Since 1985 they've had two players picked number one overall in the NFL Draft (Bruce Smith and Michael Vick). Since 2004, they've won four ACC Championships and have become the team that the ACC Championship must travel through. Frank Beamer has built the Hokies into a model of consistency. But that model has come up just short of a National Championship. Virginia Tech has won double-digit games in eight straight seasons and in thirteen of seventeen. When will it be the Hokies turn?
Arkansas last won a National Championship in 1964 under Frank Broyles. The only reason Arkansas is not higher on this list is because they really haven't been all that relevant until recently. From 1980 to 2011 they have only posted double-digit wins in six seasons. Two of those came in back to back seasons in 2010 and 2011. The SEC West is on a hot streak in terms of National Titles and the Razorbacks are on the outside looking in. With their recent coaching change some would argue that Arkansas will take a step back but it might be waiting until Alabama and LSU take a step back before Arkansas can step up.
Wisconsin has finished in the AP Top 10 twelve times but have failed to win that elusive National Championship. Over the last eight years, the Badgers have won at least nine games in all but one of those seasons. Wisconsin has been to the Rose Bowl two straight years and seem to be trending up in the Big Ten. Wisconsin has sat back and watched as Michigan and Ohio State have combined for eighteen National Championships. It's not likely that the Badgers will win a National Title soon but they are a storied program with a passionate fanbase and they are well overdue.
Outside of USC, the Huskies have the best overall winning percentage of all teams in the Pac-12. They trail just Colorado and USC in total wins. The Huskies have a 1960 National Championship but it's not recognized by the AP. In 1984, the BYU Cougars are the ones in the record book that won the National Championship but the Huskies finished second. In 1991, the Huskies finished undefeated and were voted National Champions by the USA Today/Coaches Poll but it's the Miami Hurricanes that you and I remember as the Champions. Since 1980, the Huskies have had five top five finishes in the AP Poll finishing second twice. 2000 was the last year they were highly competitive as they finished third in the final poll but they look ready to turn a corner under Steve Sarkisian.
The Aggies won their only recognized National Championship in 1939 (they also have National Championships in 1917, 1919 and 1927 that are not recognized by the AP or other schools). Some would say the Aggies peaked in the 90s as they were the ninth most winningest program by going 94-28-2 with their highest ranking being sixth in 1992. As a member of the Big 12 the Aggies won just one conference championship (1998). With their move to the SEC, don't expect them to get off this list anytime soon.
The Mountaineers have won 701 games at a clip of over 60% throughout their history. They've won 15 conference titles. They are the winningest football program never to have won a National Championship. Don Nehlen finished in the Top 10 twice as coach (both times going 11-1) and Rich Rodriguez seemed to be on the verge of something special from 2005 to 2007. Moving to the Big 12 seems to make the task of winning a National Title a little harder for the Mountaineers but we will have to wait and see.
The Fighting Irish are one of the lightning rods of college football. You either love them or you hate them. There is little middle ground. The Irish are the fourth winningest team in FBS college football and Forbes tabbed them as the #2 overall team in 2011 in terms of value. The Irish have been credited with eight National Championships with the most recent coming in 1988 under Lou Holtz. The Lou Holtz era feels like it was ages ago as Notre Dame has gone through Bob Davie, George O'Leary, Tyrone Willingham, Charlie Weis and now Brian Kelly since Holtz left. None of these coaches had a record that even approached Holtz or Ara Parseghian. It will be interesting to see if Kelly can bring the Irish back to National prominence. The last time the Irish finished in the Top 10 was 2005 (#9). The last time they finished in the Top 5 was 1993. Notre Dame is overdue.
The Nittany Lions won two National Championships in the 1980s (1982 and 1986). They went on to be the sixth winningest team in the 1990s by posting a record of 97-26 including an undefeated 1994 season. Since 1993, Penn State has struggled a bit in the Big Ten winning just three championships (1994, 2005, 2008) and they've been up and down with seven double digit win seasons out of nineteen (including four losing seasons). Penn State has recently gone through ringer with controversy and tragedy and now enters into a new era of football under Bill O'Brien. Penn State is on the clock as the #2 most overdue team to win a National Champion.
Georgia's two National Championships came in 1942 and 1980. Based on that we should be seeing them come back around by 2020. Since their last championship, Georgia has ran a very successful program other than the Ray Goff era (or error as Dawgs fans will tell you). The Georgia job is ranked by Athlon as the #8 job in the Nation and Forbes ranks them as the 7th most valuable team from 2011. Current coach Mark Richt has been very successful at Georgia and is without a doubt in the argument for best coaches without a National Championship. Georgia finished as the ninth winningest team in the 2000s with a record of 98-31. Richt has finished in the AP Top 25 in 9 of 11 years and has 4 finishes in the top 5 including 2 finishes in the top 3. Georgia has been very close especially in 2002 when they went 13-1 but lost to Florida by seven points. Georgia has had Super Bowl MVPs (Hines Ward, Terrell Davis), number one draft picks (Matthew Stafford) and future NFL stars (Garrison Hearst, Richard Seymour, Champ Bailey, AJ Green). Georgia is the team that is most overdue to win a National Championship.
Of the teams listed I'd say Wisconsin or Clemson have the best shot of winning the National Championship first
I'd put ND ahead of Georgia and then PSU. ND is supposed to be "ND" and they haven't been "ND" in a long, long time.
@africamurphy In terms of reputation I do agree with you but I think Georgia has had a lot more talent up and down it's roster over the last few decades than Notre Dame has.
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