The 5 Winningest Programs in College Football History

It's all Wolverines | Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
It’s all Wolverines | Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

As much as we love the NFL, we happen to believe there is something even more special about college football. And we’re sure we’re not alone.

For those talented players fortunate enough to lace ‘em up at a premiere Division I program, the game is not about dollars and endorsement deals. It’s not allowed to be (whether or not that’s right is a debate for another time). It’s about passion and pride and school spirit. And when we’re talking about things such as these we can’t help but get a bit sentimental.

The fact is, not all of these individuals will be good enough to make it to the next level. Their time in college may be their last opportunity to strap on the helmet and play the sport that’s dominated their existence for much of their lives. There’s something poetic about that. Something beautiful about trying to leave it on the field, without any regrets. This time, you play for your teammates, yourself, and a national championship. Of course, when it comes to the latter, some programs will certainly provide you with a better opportunity to achieve that goal.

At some schools, college football is an institution. The fans are crazy supportive, the boosters are incredibly involved, and the expectations for success are sky high. These are the places the country’s top recruits want to play at. Programs with top-of-the-line resources, incredible support, and a history of success. Like anything involving wins and losses and competition, some schools rise above the rest.

When examining the best of the best in college athletics, it’s all about the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). And while some of the programs within this division, have had wins vacated by the NCAA, for this particular examination, we’re not going to take those into consideration. This is about the teams that bring home the most Ws. So if you’re looking to win in college football, these are the places that have made it part of their mission for an extended period of time.

With the 2016 season now in full swing, here’s a look at the five winningest programs in college football history.

5. Ohio State Buckeyes

 Jamie Sabau/Getty ImagesCOLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 21: Quarterback J.T. Barrett #16 of the Ohio State Buckeyes sets up to pass in the second quarter against the Michigan State Spartans at Ohio Stadium on November 21, 2015 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
J.T. Barrett is ready to lead Ohio State to victory | Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Wins: 885

After ending the 2015 season on a high note, a 44-28 victory over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Fiesta Bowl, the Ohio State Buckeyes finished the year with a 12-1 mark, and increased the program’s overall win total to an impressive 875 victories.

Despite losing a number key players in the NFL draft, Urban Meyer and company entered the 2016 season as the No. 6-ranked team in the country, determined to regain their spot at the top of the college football mountain. Heading into Week 13, the Buckeyes are 10-1, upping the program’s overall win total to 885, and have climbed to the No. 2 spot in the latest AP poll. Given the way this team has performed so far this season, we expect the program’s total win haul to increase dramatically.

4. Nebraska Cornhuskers

The 5 Winningest Programs in College Football History
Nebraska catch against McNeese State | Eric Francis/Getty Images

Wins: 889

Despite coming off of back-to-back 9-4 seasons, the Nebraska Cornhuskers failed to reestablish themselves among the college football elite in 2015. In his first season as head coach, Mike Riley led the team to a 6-7 mark, including a sorry 3-5 record in conference play, and the program saw it’s overall win total increased to 880. So far in 2016, however, we’ve seen a major turnaround from the Cornhuskers.

After the first 12 weeks of the season, Nebraska is 9-2 (increasing the school’s win total 889), has climbed to No. 10 in the AP Top 25, and has all the makings of a team on the rise. While we’d hate to speak too soon, it looks like the current Cornhuskers have finally started to live up to Nebraska’s rich history of success. Here’s to hoping they can keep it up.

3. Texas Longhorns

Ron Jenkins/Getty Images
Don’t mess with Texas | Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

Wins: 889

Coming into the 2015 season, the Texas Longhorns ranked third on the all-time college football wins list with 881 total victories. By the end of the year, their position remained the same; albeit with 886 total wins. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily a good thing.

The Longhorns went 5-7 in 2015, including a lackluster 4-5 record in Big 12 play. If head coach Charlie Strong, who’s now entering his third season in charge, isn’t able to turn things around (so far in 2016, the Longhorns are 3-5), he may find himself looking for a new job after the 2016 season.

2. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish know how to win | Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Wins: 896

With an 8-5 record in 2014, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish managed to leapfrog Texas for the No. 2 spot on college football’s all-time winningest list. Thanks to another impressive season in 2015, the Irish were able to pad their lead over the lowly Longhorns. Brian Kelly and company finished the season with a 10-3 record, increasing the school’s win total from 882 to 892. Unfortunately, the Irish have not done themselves any favors in 2016.

After beginning the year as the No. 10 ranked team in the country, things have quickly begun to fall apart for Notre Dame. Entering Week 13, the Irish are 4-7 and have completely fallen out of the AP rankings. Although the program’s total wins have increased (now 894), for a team that began 2016 with such promise, it’s now hard to imagine the season ending in anything but disappointment.

1. Michigan Wolverines

The 5 Winningest Programs in College Football History
Denard Robinson celebrates with Michigan fans. | Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Wins: 934

With Jim Harbaugh at the helm, Michigan Wolverines is once again a relevant college football team. This group finished the 2015 season with a 10-3 record, increased the school’s overall win total to an impressive 925 victories, and maintained its position at the top of the list of all-time winning FBS teams. In 2016, things have only gotten better for the Wolverines.

After entering the 2016 season as the No. 7-ranked team in the preseason AP poll, the Wolverines won their first six games of the year (they currently sit at 10-1), have risen to the No. 3 spot in the latest rankings, and appear ready to make a run at a national championship. It’s safe to say things are looking up in Ann Arbor.

Statistics are courtesy of SR/College Football, NCAA.orgESPN Stats & Information, and ESPN.