Coming in the 2017 season, the Associated Press ranked the Top 100 programs in college football since 1936, also the first year of the AP Top 25.
Programs were awarded one point for each poll appearance and two for No. 1 rankings. Teams that were named the AP’s national champion garnered 10 additional bonus points for each title earned.
Surprisingly – or not – the all-time Top 20 reads a lot like today’s rankings: (1) Ohio State, (2) Oklahoma, (3) Notre Dame, (4) Alabama, (5) USC, (6) Nebraska, (7) Michigan, (8) Texas, (9) Florida State, (10) Florida, (11) LSU, (12) Penn State, (13) Miami Fla., (14) Tennessee, (15) Auburn, (16) Georgia, (17) UCLA, (18) Texas A&M, (19) Michigan State, and (20) Washington.
The AP’s all-time Top 20 programs share lots of competitive history, in some cases playing nearly every year (like Georgia-Auburn with 122 total meetings) while in others meeting only once in a long-forgotten game (like Michigan State-Auburn, who’s only meeting came in the 1937-38 Orange Bowl).
Eight of the 20 (or 40%) have played each of the other 20 at least once – (1) Ohio State, (4) Alabama, (5) USC, (6) Nebraska, (10) Florida, (12) Penn State, (13) Miami Fla., and (18) Texas A&M.
Among the endless number of combinations, a mere 12 head-to-head matchups have never, ever occurred in the 149-year history of college football. Power ranked by combined national championships, these are the greatest never-seen-before pairings in the FBS.
12. (16) Georgia vs. (20) Washington – 3 combined national championships
Georgia is 11-5-1 vs. the current membership of the Pac-12, but it’s never met an FBS team from the state of Washington. The Huskies are a dismal 3-10 vs. the SEC, their only action against the Peach State came in 2014, a win over Georgia State in Seattle.
T11. (15) Auburn vs. (20) Washington – 4 combined national championships
Auburn is 8-3 all-time vs. the Pac-12. Its experience against the state of Washington is limited to a pair of home games vs. Washington State (2006 and 2013), both resulted in wins. The Huskies have never beaten an FBS team from Alabama, owning a 0-5 all-time mark vs. the Crimson Tide.
T11. (15) Auburn vs. (17) UCLA – 4 combined national championships
Auburn is 4-2 all-time vs. FBS teams from the state of California; 1-2 vs. USC, 1-0 vs. Fresno State and 2-0 vs. San Jose State. UCLA is 18-15-4 vs. the SEC and 2-1 all-time vs. the state of Alabama, entirely a product of their three-game mark against the Crimson Tide.
T11. (9) Florida State vs. (20) Washington – 4 combined national championships
The Seminoles are 7-2 all-time vs. the current Pac-12. They’ve never faced an FBS team from the state of Washington. The Huskies are 8-7 vs. the ACC. The only action they’ve had vs. the Sunshine State are against the two Power schools other than FSU; 2-1 vs. Miami and 1-0 vs. Florida.
T8. (14) Tennessee vs. (20) Washington – 5 combined national championships
The Volunteers are 17-15-4 vs. the Pac-12. Though they’ve never faced Washington, they’ve played Washington State five times only losing once, in 1988. The Huskies have never faced an FBS team from the state of Tennessee.
T8. (11) LSU vs. (17) UCLA – 5 combined national championships
LSU is a dominating 22-4 all-time vs. the Pac-12 and 3-2 against FBS teams from the state of California; 1-1 vs. USC, 0-1 vs. Stanford, 1-0 vs. San Jose State and 1-0 vs. Fresno State. UCLA has only faced an FBS team from the state of Louisiana once in history, a regular-season win in 1996 over Louisiana-Monroe.
6. (8) Texas vs. (9) Florida State – 7 combined national championships
Texas is 18-12-1 vs. the ACC and 8-2-1 all-time vs. the state of Florida; 2-2 vs. Miami, 2-0-1 vs. Florida, 2-0 vs. UCF, and 2-0 vs. Florida Atlantic.
Texas is the only current Big 12 member that Florida State hasn’t played. The Seminoles are 16-19-2 vs. FBS teams from the Lone Star State; 4-1 vs. Texas Tech, 1-2 vs. TCU, 1-2 vs. Baylor, 4-0 vs. Texas A&M, 2-13-2 vs. Houston, 2-0 vs. North Texas, 1-0 vs. Rice, 0-1 vs. UTEP, and 1-0 vs. Texas State.
T5. (14) Tennessee vs. (19) Michigan State – 8 combined national championships
Tennessee is 21-11 vs. the Big Ten. Its only action against a Michigan team came in the 2001-02 Florida Citrus Bowl, a 45-17 win over the Wolverines.
Michigan State is 13-13-1 vs. the SEC. It’s only-ever experience with a Tennessee based school came in 1997 when it hosted Memphis and won 51-21.
T5. (8) Texas vs. (19) Michigan State – 8 combined national championships
The Longhorns are 27-12 vs. the Big Ten, the lion’s share coming via their 10-4 mark vs. former Big 12 foe Nebraska. The only-ever action vs. an FBS team from Michigan came in the 2004-05 Rose Bowl, a narrow 38-37 win over the Wolverines.
The Spartans are a dominating 20-2-1 vs. the Big 12 and 8-3 vs. the state of Texas; 2-0 vs. Baylor, 2-0 vs. TCU, 0-1 vs. Texas Tech, 2-1 vs. Texas A&M, 0-1 vs. Houston, 1-0 vs. SMU and 1-0 vs. Rice.
3. (2) Oklahoma vs. (19) Michigan State – 11 combined national championships
The Sooners are 61-45-3 vs. the current membership of the Big Ten. The bulk of that, like Texas, comes via a 45-38-3 mark against former Big 12/Big 8 foe, Nebraska. Oklahoma is 1-0 all-time vs. FBS teams from the state of Michigan, the only-ever action a 14-6 win over the Wolverines in the 1975-76 Orange Bowl.
Michigan State has never squared off with an FBS team from the state of Oklahoma.
2. (7) Michigan vs. (11) LSU – 15 combined national championships
Michigan is 26-12-1 vs. the SEC, LSU is the only current member it’s never faced. The only FBS school from Louisiana that the Wolverines have ever played is Tulane, who they beat in regular season meetings in 1920, 1953 and 1972.
LSU is a lopsided 9-15-2 vs. the Big Ten. The Tigers are 2-0 vs. the state of Michigan, taking down Michigan State in the 1995 Independence Bowl and Eastern Michigan in the 2015 regular season.
1. (3) Notre Dame vs. (15) Auburn – 16 combined national championships
The Irish are 28-19 all-time against the SEC. The only FBS team from the state of Alabama that Notre Dame’s ever faced is the Crimson Tide, a series the Irish leads 5-2.
The only current FBS independent Auburn’s ever met on the gridiron is Army. It fell to the Black Knights in back-to-back appearances at West Point in 1922-23 and didn’t meet again until the 1996 Independence Bowl, a game Auburn won 32-29. The Tigers are 4-0 all-time vs. the state of Indiana; 1-0 vs. the Hoosiers and 3-0 vs. Ball State.
Historical data courtesy of Sports Reference/College Football.