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Top 15 college football programs since 2000: Who's No. 1?

Who has the best college football program this century? We ranked the Top 15 schools based on a number of categories to find the best places to play.

Who has the best college football program in the country since 2000? 

It’s not an easy question to answer without looking at multiple categories. So that’s just what Sporting News did heading into the 2015 season.

Let's put a number value on that argument. We ranked the Top 15 FBS programs based on the following point system (here is the complete points chart). Hey, we missed the BCS. 

MORE: Top 10 programs right now | Preseason Top 25 | Bowl projections

The formula: 

National championships: 8 points (LSU and USC were given four points each for splitting 2003 national title) 

National title game appearances: 4 points 

College Football Playoff appearances: 4 points

Heisman Trophies: 2 points

That's not all: The Top 15 schools in overall winning percentage, bowl wins, NFL Draft picks (starting with 2001 NFL Draft), NFL first-round picks, consensus All-Americans and combined BCS bowl appearances/New Year’s Six appearances were awarded poll style points (15-1) in each of those categories. 

Got all that? Here’s a look at the Top 15 college football programs this century. These are the best of the best.

The numbers don’t lie.   

  • Total score: 16

    What they do best: TCU ranks fifth among FBS schools in winning percentage (.763) since 2000. The Horned Frogs have won 10 or more games nine times under Gary Patterson. TCU was last seen beating Ole Miss 42-3 in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

    Room to improve: The Horned Frogs were denied a shot at the College Football Playoff last season. That mightchange if TCU wins the outright Big 12 championship in 2015.

    Pick one play: Tank Carder’s “Immaculate Deflection” in the 2011 Rose Bowl.

    Up next: The Horned Frogs likely will be ranked as high as No. 2 in most polls this preseason. The time for something more is now.

    MORE: Big 12 coach rankings

  • Total score: 16

    What they do best: The Hokies have enjoyed both a winning season and a bowl game 22 consecutive years dating back to 1993.

    Room to improve:Virginia Tech is 22-17 the last three seasons and has notreached the ACC championship game since 2011.

    Pick one play:DeAngelo Hall's fumble return for a TD against Miamiin 2003 is "Beamer Ball," "DBU" and the Miami rivalry all rolled into one.

    Up next: Frank Beamer enters his 29th season at Virginia Tech. The Hokies get a chance to set the tone in a Labor Day rematch against defending national champion Ohio State.

  • Total score: 26.5

    What they do best: Win. The Broncos have a 167-28 record since 2000, good for the best winning percentage among FBS schools (.856).

    Room to improve:The Broncos have pulled off some unforgettable upsets, but Boise State is 11-10 against Top 25 opponents since 2000.

    Pick one play: “Statue of Liberty.” Enough said.

    Up next: Boise State remains the standard for Group of 5 programs, and that was proven again in the Fiesta Bowl win against Arizona. Is that enough in the College Football Playoff age?

    MORE: Seven questions for Big 12

  • Total score: 26.5

    What they do best: Auburn is 8-5 in bowl games since 2000, including five straight wins from 2006-11. That included the BCS championship victory against Oregon in 2010-11.

    Room to improve: Auburn ranks 15th among FBSschools in winning percentage (.689) since 2000.

    Pick one play: Auburn didn’t win it in 2013, but the “Kick Six” is on the short list of greatest game-ending plays in college football history.

    Up next: Look at the Tigers’ win totals from the last five seasons: 14, 8, 3, 12, 8. Does any other elite program have these kind of up-and-down swings?

    MORE: Auburn's busy September schedule

  • Total score: 36.5

    What they do best: The Ducks played in four consecutive BCS games from 2010-13, including the 2011 BCS championship game, and Oregon reached the College Football Playoff championship in 2014.

    Room to improve: The only thing missing from the trophy case is a national championship trophy.

    Pick one play: De’Anthony Thomas’ 91-yard touchdown run in the 2012 Rose Bowl best displays Oregon's need for speed.

    Up next: Mark Helfrich is 24-4 in his first two seasons, good for an FBS-best .857 winning percentage among active coaches. The Ducks are in good hands.

    MORE: Pac-12 coach rankings

  • Total score: 43

    What they do best: Win bowl games. Georgia istied with Utah with 10 bowl wins since 2000, most of any school in the FBS.The Bulldogs also have sent 87 players to the NFL since the 2001 Draft, most of any SEC school.

    Room to improve: Georgia is the highest-ranked team on this list without a national championship since 2000.

    Pick one play: David Greene to Michael Johnson on fourth-and-15 to beat Auburn in 2002.

    Up next: The Bulldogs have an 83-37 record in SEC play under Mark Richt since 2000, second only to LSU. Can this year's team, led by Nick Chubb, take the next step?

    MORE: SN coach rankings, from 1 to 128

  • Total score: 54.5

    What they do best: Since the 2001 NFL Draft, the Hurricanes have sent an FBS-best 27 first-round picks to the next level. Ereck Flowers and Phillip Dorsett added to that total in 2015.

    Room to improve: In order for Miami to recapture the glory days of “The U,” the Hurricanes need to win their first ACC championship.

    Pick one play: Ed Reed stole an interception and put Boston College away in 2001.

    Up next: The Hurricanes went 46-4 from 2000-03 before joining the ACC. Miami is 81-57 since joining the conference.

    MORE: Kaaya top QB for 2017?

  • Total score: 62

    What they do best: The Longhorns have produced the third-most consensus All-Americans since 2000 with 20. Texas also is 9-5 in bowl games since 2000.

    Room to improve: Since making the 2010 BCS championship game, the Longhorns are 36-28 the last five seasons.

    Pick one play: How many times have you watched Vince Young on fourth-and-5 against USC?

    Up next: Texas has endured two losing seasons the last five years. Charlie Strong’s task is simple: Build the Longhorns back into a winner fast.

    MORE: Strong 'can't fail' at Texas

  • Total score: 72

    What they do best: Florida played in six BCS bowls from 2000-14 and won BCS championship games in 2007 and 2009 under Urban Meyer. It’s a run that produced 80 NFL Draft picks since the 2001 Draft.

    HAYES: McElwain's renovation at UF begins with QB

    Room to improve: The Gators are 29-21 in four seasons since Meyer left Gainesville.

    Pick one play: How about a Tim Tebow speech instead?

    Up next: First-year coach Jim McElwain takes over at Florida this season with a high bar set. How will those expectations be met?

    MORE: Top 10 SEC games for 2015

  • Total score: 79.5

    What they do best: LSU has the fourth-best winning percentage among FBS schools since 2000 with a 151-45 record. That’s tops among SEC schools. The Tigers also made three BCS championship appearances.

    Room to improve: The Tigers are coming off an 8-5 season and haven’t won a SEC championship since 2011. That might not feel like a long time in other places, but this is Baton Rouge.

    Pick one play: So many Les Miles’ plays to choose from but Matt Flynn’s 22-yard TD pass to Demetrius Byrd with one second left to beat Auburn in 2007 still takes top honors.

    Up next: Miles has won at least 10 games seven of the last 10 seasons and continues to churn out NFL talent. This is a prove-it year for the Tigers.

    MORE: Top 25 nonconference games for 2015

  • Total score: 86.5 points

    What they do best: The Seminoles do a little bit of everything. Florida State ranks in the top five in bowl wins, draft picks and first-round picks since 2000.

    Room to improve: Florida State is tied for 10th in winning percentage among FBS schools since 2000 with a 143-55 record.

    Pick one play: Jameis Winston to Kelvin Benjamin for the win against Auburn in the 2014 BCS championship game.

    Up next: Winston and Jimbo Fisher helped Florida State compile a 27-1 record the last two seasons. Now, Fisher is counting on transfer Everett Golson to get the Seminoles back into the College Football Playoff.

    MORE: Golson a championship QB at FSU?

  • Total score: 87

    What they do best: Oklahoma has produced the most consensus All-Americans since 2000 with 23. The Sooners also made four appearances in the BCS championship game.

    Room to improve: Oklahoma is 8-7 in bowl games since 2000, the latest a 40-6 loss to Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl last season.

    Pick one play: Roy Williams and Teddy Lehman combined for “The Play” against Texas in 2001.

    Up next: Bob Stoops brought stability to Norman. Oklahoma has won at least 10 games in 12 of the last 15 seasons. Now the mission is to get back to the top of the Big 12.

    MORE: Top 10 Big 12 games for 2015

  • Total score: 89

    What they do best: Win national championships. That’s still the ultimate goal, and Alabama has three national titles in the BCS era under Nick Saban. Under Saban, the Crimson Tide have 17 first-round picks in the NFL Draft.

    Room to improve: Win more national championships. That’s also simple. Alabama has lost just 11 games the last seven seasons.

    Pick one play: Trent Richardson’s touchdown run put LSU away in the 2012 BCS championship game.

    Up next: The Crimson Tide would rankhigher here if not for a 46-40 record from 2000-06 before Saban’s arrival. It's national championship-or-bust in Tuscaloosa these days.

    MORE: Top 10 quotable coaches

  • Total score: 98.5

    What they do best: The Pete Carroll heyday produced three Heisman Trophy winners, including Carson Palmer (2002), Matt Leinart (2004) and Reggie Bush (2005), though Bush later vacated the award.

    Room to improve:That's just it. USC also forfeited 14 wins and was stripped of the 2004 BCS championship as a result of NCAA violations. The Trojans haven’t won the Pac-12 title since 2008.

    Pick one play: Two words: “Bush push.”

    Up next: With Steve Sarkisian and Heisman hopeful Cody Kessler, the Trojans could re-emerge in 2015.

    MORE: The BCS as a four-team playoff

  • Total score: 109.5

    What they do best: The Buckeyes have produced 90 NFL Draft picks since the 2001 NFL Draft, the most of any FBS program. Ohio State also appeared in nine BCS bowls after 2000 before last year’s playoff appearance.

    Room to improve: Ohio State is 8-7 in postseason games since 2000, but nobody’s complaining after last year’s wins against Alabama and Oregon in the firstCollege Football Playoff.

    Pick one play: "Holy Buckeye" andEzekiel Elliott’s 85-yard touchdown are close, but who could forget Maurice Clarett and "The Strip" against Miami in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl?

    Up next: Do you see this thing slowing down under Urban Meyer anytime soon?

    MORE: Who starts at Ohio State?

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