NCF Nation: prestige rankings

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Being loyal ESPN.com readers, I'm sure you've noticed the Prestige Rankings being presented this week by the fine folks at ESPN Research. So far we know the FBS programs ranked between 16-119.

The scoring system for the rankings awards points for national titles, major bowl games, Heisman Trophy winners, etc., and subtracts for postseason bans, probation and other transgressions. The rankings begin in 1936, the first season of the AP Poll.

All but three Big Ten programs -- Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State -- appear in the rankings that have been released. Let's take a look.

  • No. 26 -- Michigan State (454 points)
  • No. 30 -- Iowa (368)
  • No. 33 -- Minnesota (341)
  • No. 34 -- Wisconsin (317)
  • No. 49 -- Illinois (219)
  • No. 50 -- Purdue (210)
  • No. 80 -- Northwestern (60)
  • No. 102 -- Indiana (minus-8)

I was a little surprised to see Michigan State so high, but the Spartans surged during the 1960s and have appeared in quite a few major bowl games.

Iowa has had several periods of strong success, most recently from 2002-04. 

Minnesota hasn't won a Big Ten title since 1967, but the Golden Gophers were a national powerhouse in the 1930s and 1940s and racked up points with six national championships, beginning in 1934. Though the Gophers lack prestige these days, their decorated past is reflected in the rankings.

Wisconsin has been a much more prestigious program since Barry Alvarez arrived as head coach, but the Badgers' poor history before 1990 nudges them down the Prestige Rankings. 

Illinois and Purdue are about where I thought they would be, and so is Northwestern, a program with a strong post-1995 history but a miserable run during the 1970s and 1980s. Indiana's inability to sustain success and make bowl games reflects in the Hoosiers' poor ranking. 

I would be surprised if both Michigan and Ohio State aren't in the top 5, but it will be interesting to see how things play out.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

ESPN.com is counting down the Top 25 most prestigious football programs of all time this week.

Don't waste any time looking for Big East teams in that group.

That's right, none of the eight league teams cracked the Top 25 in our prestige rankings, which are based on a number of categories from the past 72 years including national titles, 10-win seasons, major bowl wins, All-Americans and others.

Here are where the Big East teams stand in these rankings:

• 27. Pittsburgh

• 29. Syracuse

• 34. West Virginia

• 59. Louisville

• 82. Cincinnati

• 87. South Florida

• 90. Connecticut

• 101. Rutgers

Of course, these results shouldn't be too surprising. South Florida and Connecticut just started playing FBS-level football this decade. Rutgers had only been to one bowl game in its history before Greg Schiano came along. Cincinnati and Louisville didn't do much for decades. Syracuse and Pittsburgh have won national titles but also have had some down periods.

Keep in mind too that conference titles and conference win-loss records factored into this formula. The Big East started in 1990 and most teams in the league had no conference affiliation for most of their history. Strip away the conference portions of the formula, and the Big East has three teams in the Top 31:

• 23. Pittsburgh

• 27. Syracuse

• 31. West Virginia.

This is simply not a league with a lot of history, outside of a few programs. Take a more modern approach to these rankings and the Big East looks better. Here are the prestige rankings for the BCS era only:

• 17. West Virginia

• 22. Louisville

• 38. Cincinnati

• 49. Syracuse

• 51. Pittsburgh

• 76. South Florida

• 77. Connecticut

• 85. Rutgers

No one would say the Big East is the most prestigious conference in college football, but fortunes for the league should only improve. West Virginia has established itself as a perennial Top 25 program. South Florida seems to be on the verge of becoming a power. Rutgers continues to build with its talent-rich recruiting base and New York City market. Pittsburgh may have turned the corner under Dave Wannstedt, while Cincinnati and UConn are definitely on an upward climb. The league needs Syracuse to recapture its former glory and for Louisville to get back on track.

Check back in another 72 years.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Another Big 12 team was identified in ESPN's Prestige Rankings, as Texas A&M finished in 20th place with 584 points.

Other teams in the rankings between 16th and 20th palce include: No. 16 UCLA, 738 points; No. 17 Washington, 634 points; No. 18 Georgia Tech, 610 points; and No. 19 Arkansas, 604 points.

The Aggies' strong showing comes despite recent struggles that saw them ranking eighth among the Big 12 teams in the BCS era. The Aggies have only one major bowl appearance in the last 15 seasons -- a loss to Ohio State in the 1999 Sugar Bowl. And A&M hasn't finished in the final AP top 5 since 1956.

But the Aggies have been remarkably consistent through the decades analyzed by the prestige polls, ranking no higher than 15th and no lower than 21st.

Three more Big 12 teams remain: Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. Where will they finish?

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