college football wins leaders

An Updated Look at the All-Time College Football Wins Leaders Without Non-FBS Wins

Back in January of 2021, after Alabama’s most recent title, we took a look at the all-time college football wins leaders and then compared it to what it would look like if we removed non-FBS wins. Three seasons have passed and things have changed. Georgia went back-to-back and had a legit argument to make it a threepeat if given the chance. Michigan regained its place atop the Big 10 and college football world thanks to some (alleged) dubious practices. The CFP is set to expand to 12 in 2024 and then 14 in 2026! There have also been superficial talks of creating a Champions League-esque “Super League” with some legitimately terrible framework.

College football is ever-changing. However, one thing has been consistent: we/the NCAA needs to audit past titles and wins. There is no reason we need to legitimize old “titles” for teams who, in reality, were not the best teams in the nation. Are we seriously saying the 2022 Georgia title is anywhere in the same stratosphere as Alabama’s 1941 title where they went 9-2 (5-2 SEC) and finished 20th in the AP Poll?

It goes the same for wins. Ohio State beating Penn State in 2023 shouldn’t carry the same weight as when they beat the 17th Regiment in 1894. When deciding who the true bluebloods are — and, by extension, if/when college football tries the Super League model — we need a uniform measuring stick across the board. Winsipedia has a great database for fans from all over to peruse and it’s quite eye-opening. Every team has wins over what could be described as the local middle school.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at the current leaders and the new leaders. Keep in mind, with certain programs under investigation, these numbers could change over the course of the next year or so.

College Football’s All-Time Wins Leaders Without Non-FBS Wins

Current Wins Leaders

college football wins leaders
Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs, III, (11) blocks against Michigan in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday January 1, 2020.

Michigan: 1004-353-36
Alabama: 965-337-43
Ohio State: 964-333-53
Notre Dame: 948-338-42
Texas: 948-392-33
Oklahoma: 944-341-53
Penn State: 930-409-42
Nebraska: 917-424-40
Georgia: 881-429-54
Tennessee: 876- 414-53

As has been the case for a while now, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor sits atop the list as the only program to eclipse 1,000 currently-recognized wins. Even when/if the NCAA strips them of the last three years of wins for the whole cheating thing, they’ll still be at the top. The usual culprits follow in behind.

Since the first iteration, Alabama leap-frogged Ohio State, Notre Dame tied Texas, Penn State jumped Nebraska, Georgia jumped into the top 10 from 11 and USC took their spot.

These are your bluebloods. These 10 programs make up 43.3% of national titles (49.4% if you include number 11 USC).

READ MORE: Re-Ranking the Big Ten Since Integration

Current Wins Percentage Leaders

college football wins leaders
Ohio State’s Troy Smith, 10, against Michigan in the first half of their game at the Ohio Stadium, November 18, 2006. (Dispatch photo by Neal C. Lauron)
Ncl Biggame 16

Ohio State: 0.7337
Michigan: 0.7337
Alabama: 0.7335
Notre Dame: 0.7297
Oklahoma: 0.7253
Boise State: 0.7246
Texas: 0.7025
USC: 0.6955
Penn State: 0.6886
Nebraska: 0.6785

Still, despite how the last three years have gone, Ohio State sits atop the wins percentage board by just 0.0000354. Boise State was the leader but with only half as many games played as the others, each of their 15 losses over the last few years hurt. Michigan’s recent controversial run allowed them to jump from fifth to a very narrow second.

When you get to a certain point, it becomes splitting hairs after 1,100+ games.

READ MORE: Expanding the College Football Playoff is a BAD Idea

Who Has Played the Most Non-FBS?

College football wins leaders
Rutgers-UMass football season opener at SHI Stadium in Piscataway on August 30, 2019.

As we did last time, let’s take a look at the programs with the most non-FBS foes (according to Winsipedia, of course)

UMass: 1,015
Texas State: 832
Rutgers: 827
UConn: 783
Appalachian State: 764
Western Kentucky: 689
Troy: 684
Middle Tennessee State: 667
Buffalo: 639
Akron: 634

All in all, this leaderboard stayed the same. Sheer raw numbers like these will be difficult to beat. Taking a look at this and discounting non-FBS wins does tend to screw over the programs that spent the most time at the FCS level. However, if you’re going to look at the winningest programs at the FBS level, only FBS wins should matter.

Who Benefited the Most?

college football wins leaders
Sep 2, 2023; Waco, Texas, USA; Texas State Bobcats quarterback TJ Finley (7) stands on the pocket against the Baylor Bears during the first half at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

Texas State: 0.2610 (89.3%)
UMass: 0.1948 (87.8%)
Army: 0.1521 (55.6%)
New Mexico State: 0.1476 (62.1%)
Western Kentucky: 0.1447 (73.0%)
Georgia Southern: 0.1421 (73.3%)
Old Dominion: 0.1400 (64.2%)
North Texas: 0.1236 (52.9%)
Lousiana Tech: 0.1138 (55.4%)
Eastern Michigan: 0.1119 (58.2%)

As with the previous section, there are a few programs that have had their all-time win percentage padded by non-FBS wins. Texas State leads the way with a whopping 0.2610 increase from the non-FBS wins, but it’s down from the 2021 mark of 0.290. 89.3% of their all-time wins were non-FBS, naturally.

This will level off in time but it should be noted that not many of the blueblood programs have a non-FBS percentage over 15%. Tennessee is a bit of an outlier with a mark of 21.46% of their all-time wins coming from non-FBS foes.

UCLA’s win percentage actually increased by 0.0000355 after getting rid of non-FBS wins, the only FBS team to do so. The Bruins have an all-time mark of 70-50-7 against non-FBS teams, so that tracks.

New Wins Leaders

college football wins leaders
Oklahoma Sooners defensive lineman Ethan Downs (40) chases down Texas Longhorns quarterback Quinn Ewers (3) during the Red River Rivalry college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the University of Texas (UT) Longhorns at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023. Oklahoma won 34-30.

Texas: 838-371-28
Oklahoma: 835-323-41
Michigan: 821-311-30
Alabama: 816-316-39
Ohio State: 793-277-34
Nebraska: 789-404-35
Notre Dame: 769-321-31
LSU: 741-418-45
Georgia: 737-397-46
USC: 736-331-41

As was the case in 2021, your Texas Longhorns possess the most wins over FBS foes in history! With only 11.6% of their all-time wins coming from lower-level competition, they did not disappoint. Their fellow Big 12-to-SEC defector Oklahoma is right behind them with 11.55% of their wins from non-FBS foes.

Michigan actually leap-frogged Alabama since 2021 (for now), Ohio State jumped Nebraska, and Georgia overtook USC.

We took a shot at the teams on this list who haven’t won titles since 2000 back in 2021 (Nebraska, Michigan, Notre Dame, Georgia). Needless to say, that didn’t age well. Only Notre Dame and Nebraska have yet to win a title since the turn of the century.

READ MORE: Expanding the College Football Playoff is a GOOD Idea

New Wins Percentage Leaders

college football wins leaders
Ohio State Curtis Samuel leaps into the end zone during the second overtime of Ohio State’s 30-27 win over Michigan at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday, November 26, 2016.
Img Dfp 1127 Samuel Endz 1

Ohio State: 0.7337
Michigan: 0.7194
Oklahoma: 0.7135
Alabama: 0.7135
Boise State: 0.7078
Notre Dame: 0.6998
Texas: 0.6888
USC: 0.6828
Penn State: 0.6785
Nebraska: 0.6568

Ohio State retains its lead atop the win percentage board vs. FBS foes, increasing from 0.729 to 0.7337. Michigan’s recent run allowed them to jump from fourth to second here and Boise State fell from second to fifth. Again, the Broncos have a sample size about half the size of the rest of the group.

The rest of the list checks out the same as it did back in 2021. The only hiccup is the fact that James Madison, in a grand total of 27 games against FBS foes, has the 10th-best mark at 0.6667. Naturally, we allowed Nebraska to join the fun because while the Dukes’ first full-time season at the FBS level was fun, it’s nowhere close to the established history of the top 10.

On to 2024

The 2024 season could be the beginning of an entirely new era of college football. The Pac-12 is dead, the Big 10 and SEC are in a nuclear arms race that dwarfs the Cold War, teams are roster-building via the transfer portal and NIL, and the College Football Playoff is expanding to 12 teams! And, to add to the insanity, the CFP will expand again in 2026 to 14!

There have been calls and very superficial talks of a college football Super League. In all reality, as long as they don’t go with the first proposal where only a few teams can be relegated, it can be a good system. We would argue – and will argue – that the Tier 1 level should be decided by FBS wins, among others. Stay tuned for that.

It’s kind of ridiculous that all wins in all eras count the same. There is no reason for official win counts to include the local YMCA or whatever high school had a Saturday free back in the day. We have to start somewhere. College football is too big of a brand and too economically important to keep propping up pre-WWI wins over plumbers and grocery store baggers.

“It’s erasing history.” It doesn’t have to. You can still take pride in beating a random collection of college students from Moscow, Russia, but when it comes to deciding the true top-tier programs in history, it’s disingenuous.

The NCAA needs to audit claimed national championships, but that’s a discussion for another time.

We have an entire Google Sheet with all of the available information and we will try to keep up with it in real-time.

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