The college football all-time wins leader has been known for a long time. The fanbase never ceases to remind whenever they are in a rough stretch. But what if you remove all of the wins against FCS, D-II, NAIA, D-III, and local clubs? When you look at Winsipedia, you can compare teams as well as get the full picture for each program.
Sure, some teams have 900+ wins, but why should we count those titillating matchups against Ohio Northern University or Ann Arbor High School before WWI? All of the figures used are official as of the end of the CFP National Championship on January 11, 2021.
College Football All-Time Wins Leaders…Without Non-FBS Wins?
Current Wins Leaders
Ohio State: 931-327-53
Notre Dame: 918-329-42
Penn State: 902-398-42
We all know the story. Michigan dominated college football when it was getting started, claiming four consecutive National Championships from 1901-1904. They earned 10 of their 11 before 1949, but have one (half) since.
These are your bluebloods. Three of these top five were in the CFP just this year and Alabama is experiencing success at a rate unheard of in college football. For die-hard fans, none of these are surprising. The college football all-time wins leaders have been pretty decided for quite some time.
Current Wins Percentage Leaders
Boise State: 0.731
Ohio State: 0.730
Notre Dame: 0.728
Penn State: 0.688
The college football all-times wins leaders in terms of win percentage includes nine of the same teams. The glaring difference is Boise State. The Broncos have been at the FBS level for only 25 years, but have been the top Group of Five/non-AQ program since. They’ve experienced 23 winning seasons in a row.
Michigan held the top spot for a long time but recently was passed due to the lack of success (overall) from Rich Rodriguez, Brady Hoke, and now Jim Harbaugh. Ohio State held the top spot when they beat Clemson…but dropped again after getting smacked by Alabama.
Just like with the total wins leaders, these are all bluebloods and have experienced a ridiculous amount of success. This group have a combined 77 National Titles, led by Alabama’s 18.
Who Played the Most Non-FBS?
Before we get into the new college football all-time wins leaders, let’s look at the programs that have played down the most.
Texas State: 828
Appalachian State: 758
Western Kentucky: 683
Middle Tennessee State: 661
Realistically, this re-alignment screws over some programs that only recently made the jump to the FBS level. Aside from Rutgers and their 106 seasons, the average number of years at the highest level is 21. Texas State was the most recent addition, having only played nine seasons as an FBS program.
Of course, it should be noted that G5 and Independent teams often have to schedule down to make a full schedule. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. Appalachian State and Buffalo have been moderately successful at the FBS level. Perhaps this will incentivize certain successful FCS programs like North Dakota State or James Madison to make the jump.
Who Benefitted the Most?
When looking at which college football all-time wins leaders benefited the most from scheduling down, one must look at the win percentage and subtract the new win percentage (we’ll get to that later). The following teams boosted their overall win percentage by the listed amount (with the percentage of total wins at the non-FBS level in parentheses).
Texas State: 0.293 (91.7%)
Coastal Carolina: 0.234 (78.3%)
UMass: 0.178 (88.2%)
Western Kentucky: 0.161 (75.51%)
Old Dominion: 0.160 (70.6%)
Idaho: 0.158 (62.6%)
Army: 0.155 (56.5%)
New Mexico State: 0.152 (63.3%)
South Alabama: 0.137 (45.9%)
Liberty: 0.135 (84.8%)
As with the total non-FCS games played, the teams who benefited were either FCS or predominantly Independent (Army). Can’t make an omelet without cracking a few eggs. Can’t fix the college football all-time wins list without eliminating non-FBS wins.
For these programs, it is a massive accomplishment that they made it to the bigs, but they should start fresh and only include games against FBS-level opponents.
Fun fact: UCLA’s all-time win percentage actually went up by 0.001 when eliminating non-FCS wins. They are the only program in the nation that can say this.
New Wins Leaders
So, it’s time for the entire point of this article. Your new college football all-time wins leaders!
Ohio State: 761-271-34
Notre Dame: 740-312-31
The Texas Longhorns own the most wins over FBS opponents. Oklahoma is not far behind, so the annual Red River Rivalry (statistically) is the most blueblood, exciting rivalry in sports. Yes, that hurts me to say as a Buckeye, but numbers are numbers.
Due to the recent practice of SEC teams scheduling an FCS team the week before its big rivalry game, I was surprised to see LSU and Georgia jump into this list.
Since 2000, six of these teams have at least one National Championship: Alabama (6), LSU (3), Ohio State (2), USC (2), Texas (1), Oklahoma (1). Sorry Nebraska, Michigan, Notre Dame, and Georgia. At least Notre Dame and Georgia have made the National Championship game in this time.
Texas has only played 136 non-FBS teams in its history. Joke about the fact they are back and not back six times a year, Texas suits up against FBS teams and usually doesn’t take the easy way out.
New Wins Percentage Leaders
Ohio State: 0.729
Boise State: 0.718
Notre Dame: 0.698
Penn State: 0.678
The Buckeyes are back on top! Well, kinda. Plus, we can realistically ignore the Boise State mark because they have been playing for a quarter of what the others have.
The bluebloods continue to reign supreme, though I have to imagine that teams like Penn State, USC, and Nebraska would have been stronger if not for a few bad years recently. This, along with Texas’ wins, should be the ones considered to be the college football all-time wins leaders.
On To 2021!
The 2021 college football season features plenty of great matchups that could change the landscape of these lists. Alabama vs Miami (FL), Cincinnati vs Notre Dame, Ohio State vs Oregon, to name a few non-conference games.
I do apologize to programs who made the jump to FBS and, essentially, had their whole history wiped away. But if you want to know who the true bluebloods are, you must set some sort of standard.