1. Notre Dame – Mixing church and state is supposed to be a no-no. Mixing supposed religious institutions and big time college football works for this currently downtrodden team that is wasting away on its own television network. I almost got the head coaching job there a few years ago from a bogus resume I sent to South Bend. Small private schools should not play major college football, but the Irish have a few skins on their back and will continue to be relevant until their TV contract expires and they awkwardly join the Big 10.
2. USC – The only private schools in the top 40 for positive reasons are ranked numbers 1 and 2. USC controls California, the state with by far the highest population in our country. They are kind of out there by themselves and don’t even have their own stadium. The lack of a professional football team in Hollywood elevates the Trojans to the number two spot. They can buy recruits’ parents new houses and not worry about any forthcoming penalties from the NCAA.
3. Michigan – Formerly number 1, Michigan is slipping just like the entire Big 10. In another twenty years, Michigan will probably be off this list altogether. Looking at the positives, Michigan has been filling up a 100,000 seat stadium for years while fielding mostly boring teams that nonetheless had been experiencing tremendous success despite Ann Arbor being so close to Detroit.
4. Mississippi – A black mark to college football, Mississippi has continued to support racism on a massive scale. Even in 2008, on the eve of the United States electing her first African American president, you will still see Rebel flags waving in the crowd just like back in 1843. While technically the environment for race relations may actually be worse at some other southern schools, Mississippi remains the poster boy for hate and oppression.
5. Army – The king of the service academies, for a pure football fan Army has to make the top 5. The Black Knights have been struggling lately and will never again challenge for a national title, but they helped build college football.
6. Tennessee – The SEC checks in at number 6. Tennessee has the most passionate realistic fans in the SEC and boast a stadium that seems to expand every year. They’ve been pretty damn good on the football field, as well as being a class program that people in the south seem to love more than any other school.
7. Penn State – The Nittany Lions are virtually by themselves up in Pennsylvania. Despite rampant poverty and dying metropolitan areas like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Joe Paterno’s team is hanging tight with their market share and are actually sporting somewhat of a resurgence on the field this year. Like Michigan and Notre Dame, expect Penn State’s importance to dwindle over the coming years.
8. Syracuse – This team is just awful this year. They are an abortion of a football team that plays in a dome. However, their proximity to New York City gives them a power that no other school outside of USC could imagine. (Rutgers, despite their efforts, still fall outside of the top 50.)
9. Georgia Tech – Georgia Tech is the only college football team in the south that has a national appeal. They are known for their academics. In Georgia, you will find more Bulldog fans than Yellowjacket fans, but once you leave Georgia, Tech fans are littered across the country.
10. Texas A&M – The Aggies represent what’s right with college football. Passionate, knowledgeable fans that understand the intricacies of college football can be found by the truckload in College Station.
11. Oklahoma – A team that is almost always hovering in the polls, Oklahoma has etched its way into the college football hierarchy by ignoring its own state. More than any other school in the top 20, academics mean nothing to the Sooners. Admission policies are created strictly for the benefit of the football team. State taxpayer money is used to educate students from other states just to make out of state football players more comfortable in Norman.
12. BYU – A Christian school whose teachings are reviled by most Christians, BYU actually won a national title in 1984 by beating an awful Michigan team. The recent reliance on Pacific Islanders and players that are on average two years older than all other college football players gives BYU an unfair advantage over all other schools. Technically, they aren’t cheating, but they are bending the rules and using God as an enabler.
13. Washington – They’ve given up some ground to Oregon over the past decade with a series of bizarre coaching hires, but make no mistake about it, Washington is the premier program in the Pacific Northwest. They are the only school in the Pac 10 that can consistently challenge USC for top honors. Once they get their administration problems back in line, they will again be a school to watch every year.
14. Texas – The largest school in the largest state in the contiguous 48, the Longhorns have made a resurgence lately since Mack Brown came aboard. Located in one of the fastest growing areas in the country, Texas seems poised to move up the list in the coming years.
15. Ohio State – A series of devastating losses in big games recently hasn’t diminished the importance of the OSU football program. Again, demographics are working against the Buckeyes, but they could remain in the top twenty for the next decade.
16. Clemson – The class of the important Carolina states, Clemson is in a position to move up this list in the coming years. The team has laid an egg so far this year and doesn’t even have a head coach. The sky is the limit for Clemson, but only if the administration has the balls to hire a coach that is more than a yes man. If Steve Spurrier had gone to Clemson instead of South Carolina, Clemson might be challenging for a national title this year instead of getting blown out at home.
17. Florida State – Burt Reynolds willed this former all girl school to become a national power. Schools like South Florida and UCF can look at Florida State as a model to build a program out of nowhere.
18. Nebraska – The powerful Cornhusker teams of the nineties were some of the best college football teams ever to take the field. Population trends and the denouncement of global warning, not to mention the possibility that ethanol will not be required in gasoline next summer, are really hurting the Cornhusker program. Nebraska is probably safe to stay in the top 20 for the next five years or so since they have historically been so good.
19. SMU – After SMU was handed the death penalty, the NCAA’s power has steadily declined. The Mustangs have simply sucked since having to give up football. The NCAA no longer has the power to issue such harsh punishments, and nowadays they seem to just look the other way.
20. Louisiana Monroe – This is a placeholder for the buy teams, the teams that sell themselves, that send undermanned squads out to get physically mauled by much more talented teams. While we all hate watching these teams play, it is kind of cool when conference play starts and nine teams in a conference are 3-0, even if none of them have played a road game.