Tonight Ohio State and University of Oregon face off to determine a national champion. This season marks the first year a playoff system was used to determine these two teams. However, there is a long college football tradition that goes back to the late 1800s. Various methods have been used to determine a champion through the years. Explore the map below to find who have won the most, the least and when each school had their first (and most recent) championship.
View NCAA Football Championships in a full screen map
The emptiness along the west coast between Berkeley and Seattle shows that one team in tonight’s game has never won. An Oregon victory would bring the first championship to the Ducks. For Ohio State, a win would be its eighth championship. The Buckeyes were last national champions in the 2002 season, beating then-reigning champions University of Miami at the Fiesta Bowl.
(Map updated to include Ohio State’s victory)
If Oregon wins, it will join a dozen other teams that have won only one championship. The last team added to that distinctive group was the University of Florida, in 1996. The Gators, however, have gone on to win two more championships. Of those who still just have one championship, the most recent is CU-Boulder, in 1990. The Buffaloes’ win was controversial due to a victory earlier in the season where officials accidentally gave the team five downs.
The most victorious team has its own controversy. Princeton’s 28 championships are more than any other school. The Tigers also lay claim to the very first championship for the 1869 season, when the team had a record of 1-1. Rutgers, the only other collegiate team in existence at the time, had the same record. Some historians have retroactively named them co-champions.
Yale is second overall with 27 wins. Princeton and Yale last won in 1950 and 1927, respectively. If we just look at championships since 1900, each of those Ivy League teams has just eight. By restricting the 1800s, Alabama (#3 overall) has far and away the most championships. The Crimson Tide, who lost to Ohio State in this year’s playoffs, have won 15 national championships.