Nation's most stable programs

Ohio State has best record, least volatility over past 25 years

Updated: February 21, 2014, 12:45 PM ET
By Brian Fremeau | ESPN Insider

Urban MeyerKirk Irwin/Getty ImagesOhio State, now led by coach Urban Meyer, has the top FBS win percentage since 1989.

It's no secret that the preseason college football Top 25 rankings every year feature many of the same names. That's partly because of reputation, but over the course of many seasons, the best programs secure the best recruits and generally perform up to expectations.

Program continuity and consistency are a feature of teams besides those at the top. Some programs aren't built to be conference and national contenders but have found a groove at or just outside the Top 25 that has produced regular bowl appearances and just enough victories to keep coaches in place for a long time. We calculate program power with a metric called Program FEI, a function of five years of performance efficiency data weighted for more recent seasons. We've recently developed visualizations of these program ratings, rolling five-year data sets that smooth out the sometimes volatile year-to-year performances to isolate the overall health of a given program at each point in the past 25 years.

We've highlighted five programs below that have been the most stable in the past quarter century. Each has an opportunity to elevate its program status this fall and a strong and consistent foundation from which to build.


Ohio State Buckeyes
No. 1 FBS win percentage since 1989 (.777)

The Buckeyes won at least 10 games in 15 of their past 21 seasons (victories in their 12-1 2010 season were later vacated), a stretch of consistent success unmatched in recent college football history. They not only hold the overall lead in winning percentage in that span but also rank as the most stable program by far, according to our analysis. Strong performances earned them more BCS bowl bids (10) than any other program, including a 2003 Fiesta Bowl victory over Miami for a national championship.

Brian Fremeau

ESPN Insider
• Has been a contributor to ESPN Insider and ESPN The Magazine since 2009
• Creator of the Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI), a measure of college football team efficiency
• Contributor to Football Outsiders and his own site, bcftoys.com