The 25 Top Football Schools in America

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For many college students, Saturdays in Autumn are the apex of the college experience. Nothing beats the fun and camaraderie of making their way to the stadium hours before a game to eat, drink, and play with friends, or the electricity of thousands of fans cheering on the team in a big game, or the pride and excitement of reliving glorious moments in the team’s past. Football has been a part of college experiences for almost 150 years. And while it has little bearing on the educational value of a school, it has tremendous influence in the life of college students and their ongoing allegiance to their alma maters. There is no doubt that for the football fan, football can have an affect on prospective students’ decisions as to which school they want to attend.

With that in mind, College Choice has compiled a list of the 25 best schools for college football. It will be no surprise that the list is filled with schools that have had success on the field in recent and distant history. But there is more to the football culture of a school than just on-field success. In compiling our ranking, we have taken into consideration four major categories: on-field success, alumni success, game-day experience, and culture and influence.

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Given football’s long history in university life, success on the field can ebb and flow. To calculate this portion of a school’s score, we considered a school’s overall win-loss record, their history in the Associated Press poll, the number of national championships won during the poll era, and the number of bowls or playoffs they have played in, with bonuses for BCS bowls.

Alumni success was measured largely by taking account of the professional careers of schools’ former players. These players indicate not only the ongoing success of a football program, but they also become sources of pride for current students and alumni of the universities. So in that way they continue to contribute to the culture and experience of the school. To calculate this portion of a school’s score, we considered the number of Heisman winners in a school’s history, the total number of NFL players, the current number of NFL players, the total number of Pro Bowl players, and the total number of Hall of Famers from each school.

On the field success and the success of alumni can be measured pretty objectively by counting players, looking at poll history, and such. Assessing a school’s game-day experience requires a bit more subjectivity. Still, it is true that a student’s experience on the days of games apart from the games themselves has a lot to do with the memories made and the overall impression of the greatness of a football school. Some things like crowd size and the number of times a school has appeared on ESPN Gameday can be counted and scored. But we also wanted to take into consideration things like stadium atmosphere, tailgating, and unique game-day traditions. To those ends we relied on online rankings to compile a composite score for a school’s overall game-day experience.

Finally, we also wanted to consider the way that a football program contributes to the school financially, the way the town adds to the college football experience, and the overall influence of the football program to student life. This last portion of a school’s College Choice score was calculated by looking at a football program’s revenue, a composite of online rankings for best college football towns, and a school’s score from a student survey on athletics conducted by Niche.com.

Top 10 Football Schools in America

What are the best football schools in America?

Football fandom and what makes for a good college football experience will certainly vary from student to student. We hope this list will give you some ideas about what schools have nurtured a college football culture that lends a lot to an overall memorable college experience.

  1. Ohio State University
    Location

    Columbus, OH

    Ohio State University is home to the Ohio State Buckeyes. This team can be found on the school’s main campus in Columbus, Ohio, and it competes in the Big Ten Conference. Urban Meyer is the current head coach of this team.

    The Buckeyes are known for their incredible history, dating back to the school’s first season in 1890. To date, the team holds an all-time record of 878-320-53, 37 conference titles, eight national titles, and 10 undefeated seasons, six of those being perfect seasons. The school also produced seven Heisman winners, including Troy Smith, Archie Griffin, and Eddie George.

    The Buckeyes wear uniforms of scarlet and gray, the school colors, with the logo imprinted on the front of the jerseys. These are the same colors that Brutus Buckeye, the costumed mascot, wears when he makes his appearance during game day.

    The Buckeyes play home games at Ohio Stadium, which is known as The Horseshoe to fans and students alike. It is housed on the OSU campus in Columbus, Ohio and has also been a concert venue for such acts as U2, the Rolling Stones, and more.

    The stadium currently seats more than 104,000 fans and has a rowdy, loud, and boisterous atmosphere. This atmosphere can become intense when the Buckeyes are facing off against rival teams like the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Michigan Wolverines.

  2. University of Notre Dame
    Location

    Notre Dame, IN

    The University of Notre Dame might be the most famous collegiate football team in the country. It is located in Notre Dame, Indiana and is an Independent within the NCAA, although the team does play five games a year in the ACC. The team is coached by Brian Kelly.

    The Fighting Irish is known for having a long history of victory, dating back to the team’s first season in 1887. It holds 13 national championship titles, second only to the USC Trojans, and also has produced 486 NFL players. The team has also produced seven Heisman winners, including Paul Hornung, John Huarte, and Tim Brown.

    The team’s outfits are supplied by Under Armour and proudly display the school colors of green and gold. The school’s logo is featured on the sleeves of each uniform, and can also be seen on the team’s mascot, the Notre Dame Leprechaun.

    All home games are played at Notre Dame Stadium, where the Fighting Irish enjoy a seating capacity of over 80,000. The football team is the most loved team on campus, and events are regularly sold out. The atmosphere during game day canbe light-hearted and enthusiastic, but it can also be downright intimidating for visiting rivals, such as the USC Trojans and the Michigan State Spartans.

  3. The University of Alabama
    Location

    Tuscaloosa, AL

    The University of Alabama’s football team is known as the Alabama Crimson Tide, and it is one of the most beloved football teams in the NCAA. It is located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, at the institution’s main campus and is part of the SEC Conference. Nick Saban has just celebrated his tenth year coaching the team.

    This university has one of the best histories in college football. Since beginning the team in 1892, the school has gone on to win 16 national titles and 29 conference titles. The school also holds the record for the most NCAA post-season bowl appearances, coming in at 62 appearances. The school produced two Heisman winners in Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry and 64 All-Americans.

    The team’s uniforms are covered in crimson and white, the school colors, with the university logo emblazoned on the sides of the helmet. Big Al, the school’s costumed elephant mascot, also wears school colors and travels with the team.

    All of the Alabama Crimson Tide home games are played at the Bryant-Denny Stadium, which is located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It holds over 101,000 fans during game days and is known to be one of the loudest stadium atmospheres in the country. It is also a competitive atmosphere during rival games when the team faces off against the Auburn Tigers or the LSU Tigers.

  4. University of Southern California
    Location

    Los Angeles, CA

    The University of Southern California is home to the USC Trojans, one of the best football teams in America. It is located in Los Angeles, California, and is part of the Pac-12 Conference. Clay Helton is in his third year of head coach of the team.

    The USC Trojans are well known for a storied history of victories, dating back to 1888, when the team was first created. The school has won 11 national championships and has produced nearly 500 NFL players. The school also holds the record for most Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees, with the number being 12.

    This school’s colors are featured predominantly on the USC Trojans’ uniforms.The cardinal and gold colored uniforms feature the a Trojan helmet on the right side of the helmet and are supplied by Nike. The school’s mascot, Traveler, often wears the colors while riding a white horse at games.

    The USC Trojans play their home games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which fits 93,000 fans in its stands. The school is known for having a vibrant and competitive atmosphere during game day, especially when facing off against their rivals, the UCLA Bruins and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

  5. University of Oklahoma
    Location

    Norman, OK

    The University of Oklahoma is home to perhaps one of the best-loved and most recognized college football teams in America. The Oklahoma Sooners is located at the school’s main campus in Norman, Oklahoma, and is a member of the Big 12 Conference. The current head coach is Bob Stoops, who is celebrating his 18th year in the position. The Oklahoma Sooners have been a largely successful team since its inception in 1895. To date, the school has claimed seven national titles and 45 conference titles. The football program has all produced 154 All-Americans and five Heisman winners, including Sam Bradford, Adrian Peterson, and Jason White. The team’s uniforms are adorned with crimson and cream, the school’s colors. The school’s logo is imprinted on the helmets and the front of each jersey has the team name across the chest. The colors are also used for the school’s mascot, the Sooner Schooner, which is driven across the field every home game by the RUF/NEKS spirit team. The Oklahoma Sooners play their home games at the Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium that is located on campus in Norman, Oklahoma. It is a large stadium that can fit up to 84,000 people, although there is a standing record for having over 87,000 fans in attendance. The game day atmosphere at the stadium can be loud, light-hearted, and rambunctious. Games are a big part of life at OU, so students make a point to be at the home games, giving support to the team. And for many die-hard fans, games against rivals like the Oklahoma State Cowboys are ones not to be missed, ensuring that the stadium atmosphere is tense and intimidating for visiting teams.

  6. University of Michigan
    Location

    Ann Arbor, MI

    The University of Michigan houses the Michigan Wolverines. This team is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan and is part of the Big Ten Conference. The head coach is Jim Harbaugh.

    This school is known for a few things, with attendance being one of the most prominent features of the school. Attendance records are continuously broken at the team’s home games. The team is also known for having the most all-times wins out of any football team, with an all-time record of 929-331-36. The team has produced three Heisman winners, including Tom Harmon and Charles Woodson.

    The uniforms for the Michigan Wolverines are outfitted by Nike and use the school colors of maize and blue for decoration. The helmets feature wings and are iconic emblems of collegiate football. Biff, the school mascot, also wears the colors during games.

    Michigan Stadium is where all of the home games are played. Currently, the stadium can seat over 107,000 fans, but it has been known to stretch to fit 115,000 fans. This stadium is known for having a ferocious and enthusiastic atmosphere on game day, particularly when the school faces off against its rivals like the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio State Buckeyes, or Michigan State Spartans.

  7. The University of Texas at Austin
    Location

    Austin, TX

    The University of Texas houses the Texas Longhorns. It is located in Austin, Texas, and is part of the Big 12 Conference. This team is currently coached by Charlie Strong.

    The Texas Longhorns, which held their first season in 1893, is known for having a record 108 winning seasons out of 122 seasons altogether. It also is known for producing two Heisman winners: Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams. The school currently has an all-time record of 888-352-33.

    The school’s uniforms are iconic and utilize the school colors of burnt orange and white. The symbol for the school, the Longhorn, is imprinted on the right side of each helmet. This is fitting, as the school’s live mascot, Bevo, is actually a Texas Longhorn steer.

    The school’s home games are played at the Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, also known as the Memorial Stadium. It seats over 100,000 fans during game days and is one of the most unfriendly and rowdy atmospheres for visiting teams. The tensions can run high during rival games, particularly when the school faces off against an arch-rival likethe Texas A&M Aggies.

  8. University of Nebraska-Lincoln
    Location

    Lincoln, NE

    The University of Nebraska is home to the Nebraska Cornhuskers. This team is part of the Big Ten Conference and can be found in Lincoln, Nebraska, at the school’s flagship institution. Mike Riley is the current head coach of this team.

    The Nebraska Cornhuskers is just one of ten teams in total to win more than 800 games, with an all-time record of 884-368-40. The team also claims five national championships and 46 conference championships. The team also produced dozens of NFL players and Heisman winners such as Johnny Rodgers, Eric Crouch, and Bobby Reynolds.

    The team wears uniforms outfitted by Adidas in the school colors of scarlet and cream. The school’s logo is emblazoned on the left side of all of the helmets. The school’s two costumed mascots, Lil’Red and Herbie Husker, also wear the school’s logos on their outfits.

    The Nebraska Cornhuskers play their home games at Memorial Stadium, which is located on the school’s main campus. This team is so beloved by the school that it holds the record for the most consecutive sellout games, which currently stands at over 350. Students oftenwear red on game days as part of an intimidation tactic against rivals such as the Wisconsin Badgers, the Miami Hurricanes, and the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

  9. Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College
    Location

    Baton Rouge, LA

    The LSU Tigers, also known as the Fighting Tigers, are the Louisiana State University’s sports team. This team is located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and it competes in the SEC Conference. Ed Orgeron is serving as the interim coach for the foreseeable future.

    This team is known for having one of the best all-time records, which currently sits at 771-405-47. The LSU Tigers have also won three national championships and has over 40 former players currently active in the NFL, including Patrick Peterson and Odell Beckham, Jr.

    The team’s uniforms use the school colors of purple and gold on all alternate and mainstay uniforms. The school’s logo is printed on the right side of each helmet, and the color pattern and logo can also be seen on the school’s costumed mascot, Mike the Tiger. There is also a live Bengal Tiger that is known as Mike the Tiger.

    The LSU Tigers play their homes games at Tiger Stadium, which is housed at the school’s main campus. It is known as Death Valley to fans, as it has an imposing presence for visiting teams. The stadium can reasonably seat over 102,000 fans, as is the case when the team is facing a rival like the Auburn Tigers, the Arkansas Razorbacks, or the Ole Miss Rebels.

  10. Florida State University
    Location

    Tallahassee, FL

    The Florida State Seminoles are the Florida State University’s football team. It is located in Tallahassee, Florida, and is part of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Jimbo Fisher is the team’s head coach.

    The Florida State Seminoles has quite a history, including producing over 200 All-Americans and 250 NFL players. Three Heisman winners have also played for this school, including Charlie Ward, Chris Winke, and Jameis Winston. The team also has won over 500 games, including various bowl wins and is known for being one of the toughest football teams in the NCAA.

    The Florida State Seminoles has one of the most iconic uniforms in the league. The jerseys all represent and pay respect to the Seminole culture by using the Native American symbols of the arrow, a man on a horse, and fire on the jersey and imprinted on the helmets. The uniforms all use the school colors, garnet and gold, to further complete the look, and these are the same colors used by Osceola and Renegade, the school’s official mascots.

    The team plays all of its home games at the Doak Campbell Stadium, which is known as Doak to students. This stadium can fit just under 80,000 fans and is one of the largest brick structures in the world, after the Great Wall of China. This stadium, found on the school’s main campus, is one of the most intimidating stadiums for visiting schools, which is no doubt fueled by the loyal fanbase the team has. The atmosphere in the stadium can get heated if the school is playing one of its main rivals, including the Clemson Tigers, the Miami Hurricanes, or the Florida Gators.

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