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Sam Richmond | | October 30, 2015

College football: Examining trends in AP Poll's history

The Ohio State Buckeyes are the most consistently dominant college football program of the past 80-plus years, according to the sport's most recognized poll.

The Associated Press poll, first published in 1934, was created for media members to vote on who they believed to be the best teams in the sport. It determined the consensus national champion before the creation of the BCS in 1997 and the College Football Playoff in 2014. The poll still holds great value today and no program has been recognized as No. 1 as often as the Buckeyes.

Here's an interactive chart that shows which programs have spent the most consecutive weeks at No. 1 in the poll, each program’s total weeks spent with the No. 1 ranking, how many times each program has opened the season at No. 1 and how many times each program has finished the season at No. 1.

Five interesting notes:

1. Ohio State, which has been at No. 1 in every AP poll this season, surpassed Oklahoma on Oct. 11 for most total times spent atop the poll. Given the success of the Buckeyes’ program, it’s not surprising to see them hold this record. What is surprising is that Michigan, Ohio State’s biggest rival, ranks 11th with 34 total times spent at No. 1. That's nothing to scoff at, but one would expect more love for a Wolverines program that has the most wins in college football history (920). 

2. USC held the No. 1 spot in the AP poll for 33 consecutive weeks in the mid-2000s. Think about how absurdly talented the early-2000s Miami Hurricanes were. The 2001 Hurricanes produced 42 NFL draft picks, 17 of which were taken in the first round. The 2001-2002 Hurricanes helped Miami achieve the second-longest consecutive No. 1 streak of 21 games, yet it’s still a whopping 12 games behind USC’s record. Those Trojans were not only great, they were great to an unprecedented degree.

3. There has long been a perception that Notre Dame is often overrated, with the idea being that the Irish are generally given a high preseason ranking that they don’t live up to. However, our data suggests that belief is misguided. The Fighting Irish have begun the season at No. 1 five times (ranks sixth) and ended the season at No. 1 eight times (ranks second).

4. Along those lines, Alabama has been generally undervalued in the AP preseason poll, which is unexpected given the cache of the program. The Crimson Tide have been the preseason No. 1 just four times, which ranks seventh. However, Bama has been given its due credit when it really counts, as the Tide has the most end-of-the-season No. 1s with nine.

5. The data also reveals just how impressive Oklahoma has been throughout its history. Among fans, the Sooners seem to be rarely mentioned among the elite programs; however, the chart suggests they should be recognized as such.  Oklahoma has spent the eighth most consecutive weeks at No. 1 (15), the second most weeks at No. 1 overall (101), they’ve been named preseason No. 1 the most times (10) and they’ve finished the season at No.1 the third most among all programs (7).


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