College Football National Championship Winners By Year: A Rich History of All-Time Champions


College football is a sport steeped in rich history dating back to 1869, and the national championship is the ultimate prize, with winners getting to etch their name in the history books.

In the early days, the title was often awarded to the team that was ranked number one in the final polls. Later, a series of bowl games emerged as the playoff system, with the winner of the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, or Cotton Bowl generally being considered the national champion.

In 1998, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) was created in an attempt to establish a more unified system for determining the national champion which lasted about 16 years before getting replaced by the College Football Playoff (CFP) in 2014.

Early Years Of College Football Championship

The early years of college football championships were first witnessed in the late 19th century when Ivy League universities like Rutgers, Princeton, and Yale engaged in occasional, unstructured matches, often played under modified rugby rules.

By the late 1880s, Yale, under the legendary Walter Camp, started dominating, amassing an undefeated record in 1888 and being widely considered the “national champions.”

Soon the game evolved with the rise of polls and bowl games earning it recognition at the national level. Then it was a matter of time before the ranking system was employed and organizations started to form, giving birth to the NCAA in the 1930s.

National Championship Winners By Years

CFB National Championship Winners List

Let’s look at all the winners of the National Championship of college football since the beginning of the 21st century. Below is the list of winners of the National Championship from 2000 to the present day.

YearChampionSelecting OrganizationRunner-UpScoreNotes
2022Georgia CFPAlabama33-18
2021AlabamaCFPOhio State52-24
2018AlabamaCFPGeorgia26-23 (OT)
2015Ohio StateCFPOregon42-20
2014Florida StateBCSAuburn34-31
2013AlabamaBCSNotre Dame42-14
2009Florida BCSOklahoma24-14
2008LSUBCSOhio State38-24
2007Florida BCSOhio State41-14
2005USCBCSOklahoma55-19Vacated in 2005 due to NCAA violations
2004LSUBCS, AP, FWAAOklahoma21-14
2003Ohio StateBCSMiami (FL)31-24
2002Miami (FL)BCSNebraska37-14
2001OklahomaBCSFlorida State13-2

Dominant Eras and Dynasties

Since the rise of college football, we have seen a rise of many dynasties too. Let’s look at the top 5 dynasties in the history of college football and how long their dominance lasted.

  1. Oklahoma Sooner: From 1948 to 1958, Sooners won a mind-boggling 10 National Championship title in just 11 seasons.
  2. Miami Hurricanes: Miami won five national championships, had four undefeated seasons, and a 58-game winning streak from 1983 to 1992.
  3. Nebraska Cornhuskers: Nebraska’s “Blackshirt” defense was so legendary that it secured them 3 national championship titles in four years, marking their era of dominance from 1993-1997.
  4. USC Trojans: Winning two national championships from 2002 to 2009, the Trojans cemented their name in history.
  5. Alabama Crimson Tide: Since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa, Crimson has entered into a new era of dominance. Since 2009 to the present day, they have won over 7 championships, and looks like they aren’t giving up any time soon.

Evolution Of Championship Format

The crowning of the ultimate college football champion has been a dynamic and ever-evolving process, with the format and criteria undergoing significant changes throughout the sport’s history.

Early days (pre-1930s): No official playoff system existed, and the title often went to the team ranked #1 in final polls.

Bowl era (1930s-2000s): Bowl games like the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, and Sugar Bowl emerged as unofficial playoffs, with their winners often considered national champions.

BCS era (1998-2013): The Bowl Championship Series attempted to unify the system, using computer rankings, polls, and strength of schedule to determine the top two teams, who then faced off in a BCS National Championship Game.

CFP era (2014-present): The current College Football Playoff features a four-team bracket, offering increased parity and more opportunities for Cinderella stories and memorable games.

Memorable Upsets And Controversies

The National Championship of college football has had its share of ups and downs. Let’s look at all the unforgettable losses and controversies in college football history

Upsets that Shook the Nation:

2007 BCS Championship: Florida Gators Upset No. 1 Ohio State (41-14): The heavily favored Buckeyes, boasting Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, looked destined for glory. However, their loss left fans stunned to this day.

2000 BCS Championship: Oklahoma Sooners Stun No. 1 Florida State (13-2): The underdog Sooners pulled off a shocking upset against the defending champions. With clutch offensive plays, Oklahoma snatched the title in what many consider one of the biggest upsets in championship history.

2003 Sugar Bowl: LSU Tigers Topple No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners (21-14): Both teams were powerhouses. However, Tigers unleashed a defensive masterpiece, shutting down the Sooners’ high-powered offense and claiming an unlikely victory.

Controversies that Ignited The Fans:

2009 BCS Championship: Alabama vs. Texas (37-21): While Alabama emerged victorious, the game itself was tainted with questionable officiating calls which fumed fans.

2011 BCS Championship: LSU vs. Alabama (24-21): This back-and-forth thriller saw controversy erupt over a late-game pass interference call against Alabama.

2013 Bowl System: Split National Champions (Florida State, Alabama): With both Florida State and Alabama going undefeated, college football faced a conundrum. Instead of a definitive champion, the BCS era ended with a controversial split title, sparking debates and arguments about the legitimacy of such a solution.


College football championships are more than just trophies; they represent a culmination of teamwork, athleticism, hard work, and unwavering dedication.

Witnessing the journey to the title and the emotions unleashed in its wake is a testament to the enduring power of this sport and its unique hold on the American imagination.

Prikshit Malik
Prikshit Malik
Prikshit is a die-hard basketball fan who has been following the NBA for over a decade. Though he is a Gen-Zer, he likes to consider himself old-school. He is always trying to come up with better arguments for why Michael Jordan is the GOAT, and he will debate anyone on why Kobe and LeBron are a strong second or third. With a passion for sports and his love of writing, he is always excited to see where his words will take him next.



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