Top 20 College Football Programs, From USC to LSU

The Daily Beast ranks the best college football programs based on profits, players, and performance.

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College football has garnered exceptional attention over the last year. News broke last summer that the father of former Auburn University star quarterback Cam Newton tried to solicit big-time dollars from rival Mississippi State in exchange for his son’s services. In March, the University of Oregon, which played in the BCS Championship game last season, was alleged to have paid thousands of dollars to players, and in May, Ohio State saw its celebrated coach Jim Tressel resign over a pay-for-memorabilia controversy involving at least a half dozen players. In August 8 University of Miami players were suspended for accepting gifts from a booster, and just yesterday Yahoo! Sports revealed that a former University of Tennessee assistant paid $1,500 for a top recruit to visit the program.

In an effort to refocus attention back to the field and celebrate the power of the game, The Daily Beast took a look at the past half decade of results to determine the best football programs using unique metrics. Our top team makes the most money, sends the most players to the pros, and has the strongest on-field performance.

Specifically, we looked at four categories to determine ultimate success for NCAA Division I-A programs, with each category worth a total of 25 points. First, profits: We used data from the U.S. Department of Education to assess whether the program was well organized and popular enough to bring in more dollars than it spent from the 2005–09 season (the most recent data available). Next, we looked at what percentage of players were drafted into the National Football League after the 2006–10 seasons. Third, winning percentage—did the school produce winning teams or also-rans for the 2006–10 seasons? Finally, we looked at bowl performance, assigning points for appearing in and winning bowl games and points for appearing in and winning the BCS Championship during the 2006–10 seasons.

In the volatile world of college football, where one season’s national champion is the next season’s doormat, these are the programs that are the most consistent dollar-getters and on-the-field winners.