Unlike many other nations, college sports in the USA are extremely popular, especially college football. In fact, depending on who you ask, many even prefer the college game to the NFL. Many sports fans in the States keep a keen eye on college football not just for the entertainment value but also to watch and wait as the next stars come through the ranks, waiting to take the league by storm. At the beginning of last season, ESPN platforms averaged 2.9M viewers across all games in week one. This was the best kickoff weekend since 2016 and the second-best since 2009.
It has also become one of the most popular sports to bet on with around $1 billion being wagered annually. College football odds currently have Georgia, Alabama and Ohio State amongst the favourites to win the National Championship game next season.
There is no shortage of college ball teams with around 893 spanning the NCAA Division 1, Division 2, Division 3, NAIA and NJCAA. However, the biggest and best teams are all of course playing D1 football, which is where we see most of our NFL stars come from. But which teams are the biggest? Let’s take a look. This will not just be based on their respective fanbases, but also their programmes and resumes when it comes to national championships.
Despite being one of the smaller states in the nation with a population of just under 4 million, Oklahoma have been extremely successful relative to their size. They have not stopped since all-time-winningest coach Bob Stoops stepped down in 2017. In fact, they brought through two Heisman winners back-to-back following his departure in the form of Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, who both of course turn out for the LA Rams and Arizona Cardinals respectively. They have claimed seven national championships, the ninth-most in history. Their alumni list includes the aforementioned Murray and Mayfield along with Jalen Hurts of the Philadelphia Eagles, who will appear in his first Super Bowl on February 12th. After that, the Sooners will have been represented in 35 of 57 Super Bowls.
The USC Trojans holds the record for most Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees with 12 alumni being named. They were a dynasty in the 2000s under the leadership of Pete Carroll before he moved on to the Seattle Seahawks. Recently, Caleb Williams claimed the Heisman trophy last season as well as the AP College Football Player of the Year, USC’s first winner since Reggie Bush in 2005. Though they have yet to replicate their form from Pete Carroll’s reign, they still boast one of the best programs in the country and proved as such last year with Williams’ performances.
Although they have not won a national championship in 35 years, Notre Dame have continued to have one of the best programs in the nation. Of course, their crowning alumni is legendary quarterback Joe Montana who won four championship rings during his time with the San Francisco 49ers. In the top 25 era they have won 8 national titles, making them the second most winningest team in the country. They also have the second biggest fanbase in college football with an estimated 8.2 million fans. Notre Dame may be somewhat of a sleeping giant these days but their history speaks for itself.
‘Bama are the most successful team in the top 25 era by some margin. The school also holds the record for the most NCAA post-season bowl appearances, coming in at 62 appearances. With a total of 14 national titles, their last coming in 2020, the Crimson Tide have dominated over the last decade and some change. A short list of their alumni who currently play in the NFL includes Heisman winners Devonta Smith, Mark Ingram II and Derrick Henry along with Jalen Hurts (who played at Alabama before transferring to Oklahoma) and Josh Jacobs. Their 101,000-seater stadium plays host to one of the most incredible atmospheres in the country and they are far and away one of the most beloved college football programs of all time.
The best supported team in the nation with over 11 million fans, Ohio State currently have the best college program in the nation. 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. No team has won more games than the Buckeyes since the turn of the century nor have they produced more NFL Draft picks. The most successful program in the sport in that sense, Ohio State are most likely the biggest college football team in the nation and may continue to be for quite some time should they continue to produce so consistently.