Who is No. 1? That debate rages weekly during each college football season, and often long after the season is over and the trophies have been handed out. The debate is as much a part of the annual ritual as the touchdowns, fight songs and bowl games.
If you think that process can spark a debate, try ranking each Football Bowl Subdivision team's all-time position in college football history.
But the ESPN Research Department devised a plan to settle the argument. Its system lets the numbers do the talking.
ESPN's Prestige Rankings are a numerical method of ranking the best FBS programs since the 1936 season. Point values were assigned for certain successes (win a national title, earn 25 points) and failures (get your program banned from the postseason, lose two points). The research department ran all the numbers through the computer to come up with the No. 1 program (and Nos. 2 to 119) of the past 73 seasons.
ESPN.com will be rolling out the rankings all week. Fourth stop: teams 6 to 10. Take a look:
6. Alabama Crimson Tide
Total points: 1,534
Positives: Alabama has won seven national titles, tying with Oklahoma and USC for the second-most by any program. Three of those five titles came in a five-year span in the '60s. The Tide had another big run with three in a seven-year span in the '70s. It's no wonder that Alabama was the second-best program in the '70s, trailing USC in the decade by a single point. Bama has the most bowl appearances (52) and bowl wins (28) of any program.
Negatives: Alabama was not its usual dominant self in the '80s, finishing 15th in that decade. But the thing holding the Tide back in the overall standings is the BCS era (since 1998), in which they rank 28th. They have had three losing seasons this decade, the most in a decade since the 1950s (1954-57). Bama hasn't won a major bowl game since 1992 and hasn't had a first-round draft pick since 2000.
Through the decades: Through 1958: 12th | 1968: 3rd | 1978: 4th | 1988: 2nd | 1998: 3rd
Did you know? Despite all its tradition, Alabama has never had a Heisman winner.
7. Texas Longhorns
Total points: 1,494
Positives: Texas has claimed four national titles, with three of them coming in an eight-year span from 1963 to 1970. The Longhorns won their most recent title behind Vince Young's incredible Rose Bowl performance in the 2005 season. They have had two Heisman winners: Earl Campbell in 1977 and Ricky Williams in 1998. UT has 22 10-win seasons (fourth-most of any program), including 10 victories in each of the past eight seasons. The Horns' 48 bowl appearances are the second-most of any program. They were dominant in the 1950s and '60s, earning the second-most points, trailing only rival Oklahoma.
Negatives: The 1980s and '90s weren't kind to Texas, which finished 22nd and 19th, respectively, in those decades. The Longhorns had the best record in conference play just once from 1991 to 2004. It's hard to believe, but the program won only one bowl between 1982 and 1993.
Through the decades: Through 1958: 7th | 1968: 4th | 1978: 5th | 1988: 5th | 1998: 7th
Did you know? Texas is one of only two programs to win a bowl game in each of the past five seasons (Utah is the other).
8. Michigan Wolverines
Total points: 1,332
Positives: Michigan owns two national titles. The second of those championship teams, the 1997 squad, included a Heisman winner, Charles Woodson. Woodson is one of three Heisman winners from Michigan, joining RB Tom Harmon in 1940 and Desmond Howard in 1991. The Wolverines were a top-5 program in the 1980s and '90s and were ninth in the '70s. Over the past 40 years, Michigan has had just one losing season, this past season. Michigan football also has never been on probation.
Negatives: The Wolverines have only one major bowl win in the BCS era and only two since 1992. Can you believe Michigan hasn't spent a week at No. 1 since that title season in 1997? Or that it has only one bowl win in the past six seasons? The 1950s and '60s weren't kind to Michigan, either; the Wolverines finished 21st, easily their worst ranking of any era.
Through the decades: Through 1958: 10th | 1968: 15th | 1978: 7th | 1988: 8th | 1998: 8th
Did you know? Before this past season, the Wolverines had the longest active streak of bowl appearances with 33 (1975-2007).
9. Florida State Seminoles
Total points: 1,110
Positives: No team dominated college football as completely for such an extended period of time as Florida State did in the '90s. Between 1990 and 1999, Florida State led the nation in major bowl appearances (nine), major bowl wins (seven), consensus All-Americans (19), weeks at No. 1 (58), 10-win seasons (10), first-round draft picks (13) and top-5 finishes (10). The 1993 season was especially great, with three consensus All-Americans, the Heisman winner (Charlie Ward) and a national championship. The Seminoles gained 119 points that year, a Prestige Rankings single-season record.
Negatives: If you wanted a refresher on just what Bobby Bowden has accomplished in Tallahassee, consider this: Florida State hasn't had a losing season since Bowden's first year there in 1976. In the 23 seasons before that, though, FSU had 10 losing campaigns and just one bowl win (1965 Gator Bowl over Oklahoma).
Through the decades: Through 1958: 75th | 1968: T-70th | 1978: T-69th | 1988: 31st | 1998: 11th
Did you know? In the 1990s, Florida State's dominance added up to 640 Prestige points. To put that into perspective, that is almost 100 points more than Notre Dame has accrued since 1970.
10. Miami Hurricanes
Total points: 1,109
Positives: The '80s were all about excess, and Hurricanes football was no different. The Canes racked up 427 points in the decade, far and away the best in the country. They had six major bowl appearances in the 10-year span (going 4-2), spent 20 weeks in the top spot of the AP poll and claimed three national titles. The program has flooded the NFL since 1970. Miami has had a national-best 54 first-round draft picks since then, one more than USC.
Negatives: Miami totaled just three points this past season, which allowed a couple of rivals to do some damage to it in our rankings. Florida's 2008 national championship moved the Gators past the Hurricanes into fourth place in the BCS era. And Florida State used its Champs Sports Bowl win to squeak past the Canes into ninth place all time.
Through the decades: Through 1958: 60th | 1968: 52nd | 1978: 33rd | 1988: 17th | 1998: 12th
Did you know? Between 1946, when the NCAA recognized its football program as "major," and 1979, Miami had just two bowl wins.
Chris Fallica, Nick Loucks and Harold Shelton are researchers at ESPN.