Five college football teams best positioned to win their first national title of the modern era

It is difficult to win a national college football championship. If it wasn’t, everyone would. There would be so many teams winning national titles that we probably wouldn’t care who won them the most. It would be like starting a podcast because there aren’t a billion of those yet (by the way, subscribe to the Cover 3 College Football Podcast!).

Fortunately, it is still difficult to do. All you have to do is look at the relatively short list of schools to accomplish the feat in the modern era to realize that a national championship is far from being a birthright, and there are a limited number of teams that even enter an individual season with a legitimate chance to win one. Since 1992, there have been 28 national champions. Those 28 titles are divided between just 14 schools. Here is the complete list (in alphabetical order):


1992, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017




2016, 2018


1996, 2006, 2008

State of florida

1993, 1999, 2013


2003, 2007, 2019

Miami Florida)





1994, 1995, 1997

Ohio State

2002, 2014








2003, 2004

Now, on the surface, you can see 14 shows that earn a national title in 28 seasons as not overly restrictive. Particularly when you mention that Alabama has only won six of them. That leaves 22 titles to divide among the other 13 teams. Well, it is important to remember that there are currently 130 teams at the FBS level. That means that only 10.8% of FBS schools have earned a national title in the past 28 years. Of course, we’ve seen a lot of expansion since 1992 when there were only 107 FBS schools (and 15 of them were independent). So, by at least the 1992 standards, 13.1% of the teams have won a national title.

How long do you think a coach would last if he won only 13.1% of his games?

Not only does an increasing number of teams make it more difficult to win a national title, but so does the format for deciding the champion. Again, winning a national title is really going crazy what to do.

Odds are that the next national title (or eight) will be won by one of the schools listed in the table above. But what if there is a newcomer? Which schools that have not earned a national title in this modern era are more likely to break through and earn one?

For this exercise, we have defined the “modern era” of college football as the beginning of the 1992 season to the present day. The 1992 season was the first after the formation of the Bowl Coalition, which was created to ensure that the country’s two best teams played for the national title. Before Bowl Alliance, Bowl Championship Series (BCS) and College Football Playoff. It was also the year of the inaugural conference championship game installed by the SEC and the first of a three-year slide that reduced scholarships in Division IA programs from 95 to the limit of 85 that we know today.

With the upcoming 2020 college football season, I have worked hard in my lab to figure out who else can beat. What team without a national title in the last 28 years can reach the summit? These are the five schools (in alphabetical order) that are most likely to do so.

There are two key factors that I evaluated when compiling this list. The first was that they had to play a Power Five conference because, well, duh. Sorry, Group of Five, but until I get an automatic offer, I have a hard time believing you’ll get one by committee choice. The second was that you have to have the talent. Georgia was a natural choice.

The Bulldogs have already made it to the College Football Playoff in recent years and almost won a national title. Kirby Smart has also proven himself to be one of the best recruiters in the nation, preparing the Bulldogs to compete in the SEC for years to come. Oh, and being in the SEC also helps. We’ve already seen evidence that you don’t even have to win your division, let alone the conference, to get to the CFP from the SEC. Georgia is still at the top of the SEC East for the time being, putting them in the conference title game and a shot from the four-team playoff field. Last national title: 1980

Notre Dame may not be a member of a Power Five conference, but it’s still a Power Five show. Furthermore, considering their scheduling agreement with the ACC, it could be argued that the Irish are the second-best team in the league. Like Georgia, Notre Dame has already made it to the college football tie. Unlike Georgia, he did not reach the title game, but was crushed by the same Clemson team that swept Alabama into the CFP National Championship that year.

As for Notre Dame’s ability to get back there, its independence is a two-edged sword. Notre Dame has to go undefeated for a realistic shot at the playoffs; however, after starting a 12-0 season, you don’t have to go 13-0 as you don’t have a conference championship to play. Thanks to her ACC schedule deal and her national rivalries, she will always have a schedule strong enough to boost her resume should she go 12-0. Irishmen recruit well enough (their classes are sometimes in the top 10 and generally in the top 15) to ensure they remain a viable option. Last national title: 1988

Oregon is the only program on this list that has no national title to claim for any period. It was a largely mediocre show from 1916 to the mid-1990s before Phil Knight and Mike Bellotti appeared. Even then, things did not improve until the last Bellotti seasons of 2007 and 2008. Then came Chip Kelly and an appearance in the BCS Championship Game against Auburn in 2010. In 2014, the first year of the PPC, Oregon reached the title. under Mark Helfrich and lost to the state of Ohio.

Los Patos have not been very close to returning since then, although things have started to change under Mario Cristóbal. They went 12-2 last season and won the Pac-12. They have also intensified their recruitment efforts under Cristobal. All Oregon classes have finished in the top 15 since he took over with the class of 2019 finishing seventh in the 247Sports Composite team standings. As of publication of this publication, Oregon’s 2021 class ranks sixth in the nation. If you want to win a national title, you must recruit as a national champion. Oregon has recently started doing that. Last national title: n / a

Technically, Penn State won several different national titles in 1994, but the validity of those crowns depends on how seriously Sagarin’s classification is taken, New York Times survey or the Eck Classification System (among others). I only know that Penn State did not take any of them seriously enough to claim the title itself.

Regardless, while Ohio State has dominated the Big Ten during the PPC era, Penn State has been the No. 2 program in the conference. The Nittany Lions have recruited well since their class of 2015 joined the program. The class of 2016, which ranked 20th, was the lowest in that period. Everyone else has been in the top 15, and the class of 2018 finished sixth. As my Cover 3 Podcast co-hosts Barton Simmons, Chip Patterson, and I have argued many times, Penn State is an elite quarterback far from being a true national title threat. The general level of talent is already there, and James Franklin has demonstrated his coaching skills at Happy Valley. Last national title: 1986

You can argue that of the five schools on this list, none have a more difficult path to CFP than Texas A&M. The Aggies not only need to go through Alabama, Auburn and LSU in the SEC West, but will likely face either Florida or Georgia in the SEC Championship. There are four shows that have won a national title in the past decade and another that lost a national title game in overtime just a few years ago and leads this list. Because of that, Texas A&M is further from a title than any of the ones you see above.

But the potential is there. Jimbo Fisher received all that money to earn a national title in College Station, Texas, because he had already shown he could do it in the state of Florida. While the results on the field have not been there yet, off the field, the signs are there. This is a program that has brought together 10 consecutive recruiting classes. The average rank for the first four Fisher classes at Texas A&M has been 10th overall. The talent is there. That alone won’t be enough to survive the melting pot that is the SEC West, but it’s a start. Last national title: 1939

Coincidentally, our friends at 247Sports attacked the same issue from a recruiting perspective and ended up with the same teams. The fact that both perspectives on the subject came to the same conclusion suggests that these teams are clearly on a “sooner rather than later” path to reach the Promised Land.