The Associated Press devised a formula to rank all the Division I college football programs since the AP’s ranking system began in 1936, and Northwestern finished 50th, one spot ahead of in-state rival Illinois.
Titled simply “The Top 100”, the rankings had Ohio State at No. 1. Here’s how it works:
To determine the all-time Top 25, the AP formula counted poll appearances (one point) to mark consistency, No. 1 rankings (two points) to acknowledge elite programs and gave a bonus for AP championships (10 points).
There have been 1,103 polls over the 80 years of AP polls. Northwestern finished with 183 points, two points ahead of the Illini. The Wildcats have been buoyed by a solid run over the past decade or so under Pat Fitzgerald—ranked in the Top 25 at some point in three of the past four seasons—as well as back-to-back Big Ten championships in 1995 and 1996. The Wildcats are just one point behind team No. 49, Houston.
The Big Ten claimed 13 teams in the Top 100:
- No. 1 Ohio State (1112 points)
- No. 6 Nebraska (901)
- No. 7 Michigan (894)
- No. 12 Penn State (647)
- No. 19 Michigan State (443)
- No. 24 Wisconsin (336)
- No. 24 Iowa (329)
- No. 36 Purdue (246)
- No. 37 Minnesota (241)
- No. 40 Maryland (230)
- No. 50 Northwestern (183)
- No. 51 Illinois (181)
- No. 72 Indiana (55)
The only Big Ten program to miss out was Rutgers. Of course, several of these teams owe their rankings to their pre-Big Ten membership. Maryland joined in 2014, Nebraska in 2011 and Penn State in 1990. Still, this list speaks to the impressive lineage of the conference as well as its consistency throughout time.