Top ten college football teams with the most wins in NCAA history
The competitiveness of NCAA football is something that is known the world over, so we take a look at the winningest teams in NCAA history.
While there are indeed various eras through which the college game has passed, we can rest assured that the NCAA’s official win-loss records paint an accurate picture of the programs that have won more than any others. With that, we’re going to break down the top 10 teams with the most wins in NCAA history.
The top 10 winningest NCAA football teams
The competitiveness of NCAA football is something that is known the world over, which is to say that molding a team into one that can compete is a feat, but to maintain that edge and even excel is something completely different. Indeed, only a handful of teams in the history of the game have managed to have legendary status bestowed upon them. With that in mind, we’re taking a look at who they are. Below you can see the Top 10 winningest teams in NCAA football history.
No. 10 - Harvard (901 wins)
As one of the world’s most prestigious schools when it comes to academic standards and achievement, it might surprise you to know that Harvard is also one of the world’s oldest football programs. Having started back in 1873, the ‘Crimson’ has a solid CV that includes 13 national championships and 20 College Football Hall of Fame inductees. Among them was the first African-American college player in history to become an All-American: William H. Lewis.
No. 9 - Nebraska (917 wins)
One of the most storied programs in the college game, the Cornhuskers have won forty-six conference championships and five national championships (1970, 1971, 1994, 1995, and 1997), while also winning another six national championships that they do not claim. While the team hasn’t enjoyed the same level of success in recent years, the hiring of Matt Rhule in November of 2022 was seen as a step toward bringing the program back to its former level of greatness.
No. 8 - Penn State (930 wins)
When you think of Penn State, you’ve got to mention the name of Joe Paterno. During his tenure, the school amassed 409 wins which is almost half of the school’s haul and the most by a single coach in college football history. Sadly, Paterno was have a disastrous fall from grace as he became embroiled in a sex abuse scandal. Where football is concerened, there are two official titles that have been claimed by PSU, some selectors have credited five more to the program, including three that were under Paterno. Today, the team remains among the top 10 in the nation, and with good reason as current coach James Franklin continues to hold the reins.
No. 7 - Yale (936 wins)
Yet another Ivy League inclusion on the list, the Bulldogs have been around for quite some time having been founded in 1872. Along the way they have clinched 27 national championships, and actually featured two of the first three Heisman Trophy winners (Larry Kelley in 1936 and Clint Frank in 1937) on the team. Like Harvard, the school moved down a division when the ‘Ivy League’ was created in 1956, due to a lack of attendance at the top tier schools, a rule that was implemented by the NCAA.
No. 6 - Oklahoma (944 wins)
By far one of the most successful programs in college football history, it claims seven national championships, 50 conference championships, 167 first-team All-Americans (82 consensus, 35 unanimous), and a record-tying seven Heisman Trophy winners. There are also 29 former players and coaches who have been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and the record for the longest winning streak in Division I history with 47 straight victories. Today, the school is set to leave the Big 12 Conference, after negotiating a termination fee alongside the University of Texas. Both teams will play in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) following the completion of the 2024 season.
No. 5 - Notre Dame (948 wins)
Known as the ‘Fighting Irish’, Notre Dame’s football team is, without doubt, one of the most prestigious in the history of NCAA football. Since its inaugural season in 1887, Notre Dame has won 11 consensus national championships, including 8 from the major wire service (AP, Coaches’), and has an additional 11 unclaimed co-national champions for a total of 22. There have also been seven players in the program’s history who have won the Heisman Trophy. Unbelievably, the team has also recorded 22 undefeated seasons which included 12 perfect seasons among them.
No. 4 - Texas (948 wins)
Founded in 1893, the Longhorns are a team that is synonymous with success in college football. Indeed, the iconic program claims 4 national championships, 32 conference championships, 100 First Team All-Americans (62 consensus and 25 unanimous), and 2 Heisman Trophy winners. Though the program spent some 25 seasons as a member of the Big 12, it joined Oklahoma in accepting an invitation to join the Southeastern Conference (SEC) in 2021. The decision will see both programs participating in the SEC from 2025 onward.
No. 3 - Alabama (964 wins)
When you think of successful teams in college football, there is no way to avoid mentioning Alabama. Across the history of the program, there have been 18 national championships including 13 wire-service (AP or Coaches’) national titles in the poll-era, and five other titles before the poll-era. Not only has the team won a staggering 33 conference championships between the Southern Conference and the SEC, but it’s also made an NCAA-record 76 postseason Bowl appearances. Consider for a moment that the Crimson Tide has a winning record against every current and former SEC school.
No. 2 - Ohio State (965 wins)
What can be said about the Buckeyes other than ‘wow?’ In its history the program has won eight national championships, including six from the major wire-service selectors (AP Poll and Coaches’ Poll). In addition, there have also been 41 conference championships (2 OAC and 39 Big Ten) and 10 division championships. There have also been 10 seasons in which the team went undefeated, including six that were perfect i.e., no losses or ties were conceded. With seven Heisman Trophy winners in its books, the team also boasts the honor of being the only one in history to have a two-time winner of the award: Archie Griffin.
No. 1 Michigan (1003 wins)
Prior to this weekend’s historic win against Maryland which made the team the first in history to hit the 1000-win mark, the Wolverines were already some distance ahead of the rest of the pack. In total, the program has won or shared 44 league titles, and since the inception of the AP Poll in 1936, it has finished in the top 10 a total of 39 times.