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Top College Football Dynasties of the AP Poll Era

"Dynasties" is a popular word for it, though it's rather a silly term-- what we're talking about here is college football's greatest consecutive-year runs during the AP poll era (1936-2012). For this purpose, I will naturally be using the repaired AP polls, as they are more accurate than the originals. I will not be going by straight records except to break ties.

Greatest 3-Year Runs

No team has finished #1 for 3 straight years in either the original or fixed AP polls, so the best 3-year runs during the AP poll era belong to a pair of teams that finished #1 twice and #2 once in a 3 year span. A third team did it in the original AP poll, but not in the fixed polls.

Army did it first, finishing #1 in 1944, repeating in 1945, then finishing #2 in 1946. However, they were 9-0-1 in 1946, tying #1 Notre Dame, so I'm going to call this the best 3-year run of the AP poll era. They were 27-0-1 during the 3 years, and featured a pair of Heisman Trophy running backs, Glenn Davis ("Mr. Outside") and Doc Blanchard ("Mr. Inside"). Of course, Army had the advantage of being able to literally draft great players from other teams during WWII.

Miami-Florida came next, finishing #1 in 1987 and 1989, and #2 in 1988. They were 34-2 during those 3 years, losing to #1 Notre Dame in 1988 and also taking an upset loss to #3 Florida State (who was 10-2) in 1989.

Southern Cal did it in the original AP polls 2003-2005, finishing #1 in 2003 and 2004, then #2 in 2005. However, I knocked them back into a tie with LSU for the 2003 fixed AP poll, leaving USC half a rating point behind Army and Miami's 3-year runs. The Trojans were 37-2 during their run.

Greatest 4-Year Runs

Those 1980s Miami-Florida teams are back for the best 4-year run, tied again by a program from the 1940s.

For Miami-Florida, add to the above years 1986, when they finished #2 (upset by #1 Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl). They were 45-3 1986-1989.


The team that tied this effort was not Army this time, but Notre Dame, who finished #1, #2, #2, and #1 in the fixed AP polls for 1946-1949. However, they edge out Miami's effort because they were 36-0-2 during that time, and they were ranked #1 in the original 1947 AP poll. I knocked them to #2 in the fixed poll for that year (explanation in that article), but they were actually a viable choice for #1, and for that reason, as well as their superior win-loss record, I'll go ahead and crown Notre Dame's 1946-1949 run as the best.

Greatest Runs from 5 to 8 Years

Miami-Florida separates itself from the rest when it comes to the best runs of 5 to 8 years. 1986-1990 and 1987-1991, Miami collected 121 rating points (average rating #2). The 8-year run is 1985-1992:

1985: #6
1986: #2
1987: #1
1988: #2
1989: #1
1990: #3
1991: #2
1992: #3

Clearly, the real streak here is an incredible 7-year run 1986-1992, during which they were top 3 every year.

Greatest Runs from 9 to 20 Years

Some say the greatest streak in college football history is Oklahoma's 47 game winning streak in the mid-1950s, but in my opinion, Florida State's 14 year streak of top 4 finishes in the AP poll 1987-2000 is much more remarkable. They dropped to #5 in the fixed poll for 1994, but still, 14 straight years of finishing in the top 5 is something no other team has come remotely close to accomplishing. So I'm calling this the greatest run in college football history. Here's how they finished over those 14 years:

1987: #2
1988: #3
1989: #3
1990: #4
1991: #3
1992: #2
1993: #1
1994: #5
1995: #4
1996: #2/3
1997: #3
1998: #3
1999: #1
2000: #3

Florida State was so strong over this time period that they also have the most total rating points for 15 straight years, 16, and up to 20 straight years (1984-2003), even though they were not nearly so powerful before and after their 14-year streak.

Greatest Runs from 21 to 50 Years

For the best run of 21 years and greater, up to 50 straight years, we have Nebraska. The heart of their streak is their NCAA record 33 straight years of 9-win seasons and finishes in the final AP poll 1969-2001, but they were also very strong for a 40-year period 1962-2001 (ranked in the fixed poll in 38 of those years). They were rather weak before and after those 40 years, but their rating points were so high during those 40 years that they also have the most of any team up to 50 straight years. Nebraska's average rating over their powerful 40 year period was #8, pretty amazing for so long a period of time.

I'm not going to list them all this time. That would wear my fingers out.

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