We all know that Auburn won the BCS title game over Oregon and TCU capped off an undefeated season with a win in the Rose Bowl. But do you know what football program finished first in the classroom last season?
Try Notre Dame. Yep, according to the recently released NCAA Graduation Success Rate (GSR) Report, the Fighting Irish graduated 97 percent of their players and ranked first among 120 FBS teams. Other teams near the top of the list should surprise no one: Northwestern, Boston College, Duke, Rice and the three service academies.
Now, that got us thinking. What if we ranked all 120 teams according to their combined academic and football prowess, giving equal weight to each? This way, we can find out which programs have the best of both worlds, achieving success both on the football field and in the classrooms.
|Slideshow: The football/academic powerhouses|
Using the NCAA GSR Report and Jeff Sagarin's computer ratings (his conventional version, not the Elo-Chess model developed for the BCS), we came up with our Top 10 Football/Academic Powerhouses (for the 2010 season):
To see the entire rankings from 1-120, click here.
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T-10. Florida Gators
GSR Ranking: 27. GSR: 76 percent. Sagarin Ranking: 24. AP Poll: 31. Record: 8-5. Life without Tebow, as expected, was a bit of a bumpy ride. But Florida didn't just lose the former Heisman winner after the 2009 season - eight other Gators were also taken in the first five rounds of the 2010 NFL Draft. That’s a lot of talent to replace and the Gators struggled, especially on defense, giving up over 30 points in five games. Tim Tebow's replacement John Brantley also had growing pains and the result was an 8-5 season. Coach Urban Meyer quit the program after the season because of health concerns, but he did leave with Florida having the third-highest graduation rate in the SEC.
T-10. Air Force Falcons
GSR Ranking: 14. GSR: 84 percent. Sagarin Ranking: 37. AP Poll: 35. Record: 9-4. It should surprise no one that our three military academies should produce outstanding student-athletes, since they're selected from the finest high school graduates with a future career as officers in the armed forces. All three institution were ranked in the top 15 of the NCAA's GSR Report. On the football field, after a seven-year domination by Navy, Air Force finally wrested away the Commander-in-Chief Trophy in 2010 after ending a concurrent seven-game losing streak to the Midshipmen. The Falcons have now won it 18 times (including in 2011) in the trophy's 36-year history.
9. Alabama Crimson Tide
GSR Ranking: 44. GSR: 69 percent. Sagarin Ranking: 5. AP Poll: 10. Record: 10-3. Alabama came into the 2010 season with high expectations. The Tide were the defending champions and preseason No. 1 in both the AP and Coaches' polls. But their championship hopes were derailed after by a loss to South Carolina as Alabama lost three of its final seven games to finish fourth in the SEC West. The most galling defeat was in the Iron Bowl, when the Tide blew a 24-0 lead against Auburn in a 28-27 loss. It was an especially disappointing season given the level of talent, with four players -- Marcel Dareus, Mark Ingram, Julio Jones and James Carpenter -- selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.
8. Miami Hurricanes
GSR Ranking: 8. GSR: 88 percent. Sagarin Ranking: 40. AP Poll: NR. Record: 7-6. The since-fired coach Randy Shannon really didn't get his fair share from the University of Miami. He came in under difficult circumstances and cleaned up the program as best as he could (he was one of the few University officials to demand everyone steer clear of dirty booster Nevin Shapiro). He didn't win quite enough for Miami's nostalgia-obsessed fan base, but still took the 'Canes to three straight bowl appearances. Shannon did his best work, though, in the classroom. The Hurricanes, long considered a renegade program full of thugs, graduated 88 percent of their players according to the latest NCAA GSR Report.
7. Boise State Broncos
GSR Ranking: 35. GSR: 74 percent. Sagarin Ranking: 6. AP Poll: 9. Record: 12-1. It's tough to consider a 12-1 season that ended in a crushing bowl victory a disappointment, but it was just that for Boise State. After defeating sixth-ranked Virginia Tech in the opener, most assumed the Broncos would go undefeated. But a trip to Reno in late November ended their quest for a third consecutive perfect regular season as senior kicker Kyle Brotzman's two missed field goals paved the way for Nevada's 33-30 stunning victory in overtime. But Chris Petersen's team nevertheless finished in the top 11 in the AP Poll for a third consecutive year while maintaining a high graduation rate.
6. Iowa Hawkeyes
GSR Ranking: 15. GSR: 83 percent. Sagarin Ranking: 21. AP Poll: 27. Record: 8-5. Coach Kirk Ferentz is in his 13th season at Iowa, a stint that's included two Big Ten co-championships and four 10-win seasons. The Hawkeyes have won their last three bowl games, beating Missouri in the Insight Bowl after the 2010 season. While Ferentz has been considered for several NFL and high-profile college jobs over the years, he has also done a remarkable job with his student-athletes. Iowa is one of just three Big Ten schools (Northwestern and Penn State are the others) to rank in the top 25 of the NCAA's GSR Report.
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5. LSU Tigers
GSR Ranking: 24. GSR: 77 percent. Sagarin Ranking: 8. AP Poll: 8. Record: 11-2. It was LSU's defense that led the way in its win over Alabama on Saturday night in the latest "Game of the Century." Last season the Tigers relied on their defense as well, but in their biggest game of the season, that defense let them down. LSU couldn't stop Cam Newton and the Auburn running game, giving up 440 rushing yards, including 217 by the eventual Heisman winner in a 24-17 loss that propelled Auburn to the national championship. LSU did finish 11-2 and had the second-best graduation rate in the SEC, behind only Vanderbilt.
4. Virginia Tech Hokies
GSR Ranking: 17. GSR: 79 percent. Sagarin Ranking: 13. AP Poll: 16. Record: 11-3. In 2010, with a roster that included senior quarterback Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech lost its opener in a high-profile game against Boise State and then was stunned by James Madison (an FCS team) the following week. But the Hokies rebounded, winning all their remaining games and the ACC title before losing to Stanford in the Orange Bowl. It marked the seventh straight season that Virginia Tech has won at least 10 games. Coach Frank Beamer doesn't let up in the classroom, either. Virginia Tech is just one of five schools that were ranked in the top 25 in both the AP Poll and the NCAA's GSR Report.
3. TCU Horned Frogs
GSR Ranking: 21. GSR: 78 percent. Sagarin Ranking: 4. AP Poll: 2. Record: 13-0. The 2010 Horned Frogs, led by senior quarterback Andy Dalton, finished a perfect 13-0. It was a dominating season in which just two of their 12 games were decided by fewer than 17 points. Despite the perfect record, TCU was denied a shot at the national title and had to settle for a 21-19 Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin. Coach Gary Patterson's success story went beyond a trip to the "Granddaddy of 'em All," though, as the Horned Frogs were one of just two BCS bowl winners that finished in our top 10.
2. Notre Dame
GSR Ranking: 1. GSR: 97 percent. Sagarin Ranking: 19. AP Poll: 33. Record: 8-5. Despite its recent struggles that included a 3-9 season in 2008, Notre Dame has been slowly climbing back into national prominence. In 2010, the Irish won their final four games to finish 8-5, including a 20-16 victory over USC that broke the Trojans' eight-game winning streak in the storied rivalry series. But Notre Dame's success in the classroom is unquestioned. For the 2009-10 academic year, the Irish topped all FBS schools with an astounding 97 percent graduation rate.
1. Stanford Cardinal
GSR Ranking: 10. GSR: 87 percent. Sagarin Ranking: 2. AP Poll: 4. Record: 12-1. Stanford has come a long way since 2006 when it went 1-11. The following year, Jim Harbaugh took over and he increased the Cardinal's win total in each of his four years as coach. Last year, led by quarterback Andrew Luck, Stanford went 12-1, losing only to eventual Pac-10 champion Oregon and trouncing Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl, 40-12. Harbaugh, who moved on to the San Francisco 49ers after the season, also kept up Stanford's standing as one of the finest universities in the world, with easily the highest graduation rate in the conference. If the national championship was decided with academics as part of the consideration, the Cardinal -- the only team ranked in the top 10 in both the AP Poll and the NCAA's GSR Report -- would be the runaway winner.
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