Oklahoma, which used the ancient split-T formation under Bud Wilkinson to rise to dominance in college football and stayed on top with the innovation of the wishbone, has won a greater percentage of its games than any other major-college team in the last 25 years.
The top 10 teams over the last 25 years include two other squads that benefitted greatly from the wishbone-the Crimson Tide of Alabama, which has the sixth-best winning percentage in the last quarter century and has won 74 of 84 since going to the wishbone in 1971, and Texas, which won 79 of 101 with the wishbone. The Longhorns are fifth in the top 10.
Completing the quarter-century top 10 are teams that have used a variety of formations and attacks in posting winning records.
Right behind the Sooners are Ohio State, Arizona State and Penn State. Notre Dame is seventh, followed by Southern California, Mississippi and Michigan.
The wishbone was introduced in th 1960s and by the early "70s some 100 major-college teams were using it.
In the formation, the fullback lines up behind the quarterback, with the halfbacks behind and to each side of the fullback.Generally, a triple-option play is run from the formation, with the quarterback faking or giving the ball to the fullback, handing off to one of the halfbacks or carrying the ball himself.
Enthusiasm for the formation warned when coaches realized they needed a lot of specialized personnel-good ball carriers-to make it work. Now only Oklahoma and Alabama among the top 10 use it.
The Sooners first used the wishbone in the fourth game of the 1970 season. They lost to Texas, 41-9, and next five seasons Oklaboma won 54 games and lost three with back-to-back national championships in 1974 and 1975.
Stars of those national-championship teams were Joe Washington, Billy Brooks, Steve Davis and Leroy and Dewey Selmon.
Once the Sooners got the wishbone going in 1971, they rewrote a number of NCAA records. With a backfield of Jack Mildren at quarterback, Leon Crosswhite at full back and Greg Pruitt and Joe Wiley at halfbacks, the Sooners rushed for a record 711 yards in one game against Kansas and averged 472.4 yards a game for the season and 41.2 points a game. Arizona State never ran the wishbone because Coach Frank Kush says he is not a "Fad coach."
Going into this season, Kush had a 168-50-1 record at Arizona State in his 20 years, only Oklahoma and Ohio State have had a better winning percentage.
Kush's teams have always run a multiple offense, either an I or a proset.
Arizona state went undefeated in 1970 and 1975 and if you exclude 1974, when it was 7-5, it won 55 of 59 games in 1970-75.
The Sun Devils played in the relatively weak Western Athletic Conference until this season when they joined the Pac-10, but their record is still an impressive one.
Their most productive team was the 1973 team that was 11-1, losing only to Utah in a snowstoem, 36-31. That team was led by quarterback Danny White and running backs Benny Malone and Woody Green.
Green rushed for 1,182 yards and Malone for 1,129 that season, and White threw for 2,609 yards.
White also set career NCAA records for touchdowns accounted for 73 (59 by passing and 14 rushing) and points accounted for 453.
Woody Hayes has been the coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes for the last 27 years and has always believed in conservative, ground-oriented football.
And Hayes has always found an All-America running back to carry the load.
Howard (Hopalong) Cassady won the Heisman Trophy in 1955 Archie Griffin became the only player to win its twice, in 1974 and '75. Between those two, the Buckeyes gave the ball to such workhorses as Bob Ferguston, Matt Snell and John Brockington.
Ohio State has a mediocre, 5-5 record in bowl games the last 25 years, and one of the knocks against the Buckeyes has always been that they can't win the big ones. If bowl games were not counted, Ohio State would have a better percentage than Oklahoma, which is 9-41, in Post-season play the last 25 years.
Penn State was 22-0 in 1968 and 1969 and has won consistently enough to have the fourth-best winning percentage in the nation for the last 25 years.
Like Kush at Arizona State, Penn State's Joe Paterno believes in a multiple offense, making subtle changes to stay with the times, but never being too drastic.
When he had Lydell Mitchell and Franco Harris in the same backfield in 1960-71, he ran the ball most of the time. With his present quarterback, Joe Fusina, he has gone more to a pro-type offense with a sophisticated passing attack.
Mike Reid, Jack Ham and Ted Kwalick were some of the stars of the undefeated teams.
From 1968 to '76, Texas was a wishbone team and did well with it, 79-20-2. In 1977, the Longhorns went to the I and veer, and tailback Earl Campbell won the Heisman, as a tailback and halfback.
Under Darrell Royal, the Longhorns used to flip-flop their offensive line, using a strong side and a weak side instead of a simple right and left.
No matter what the offense, the Longhorns have always won. They were 11-0 and the national champions in 1962 with Duke Carlisle, James Saxton, Tommy Nobis and Scott Appleton. Then, with Bill Bradley, James Street, Jim Bertelesen and Steve Wooster, they won 30 games in a row in 1968-70.
Alabama's best-known player never played in a wishbone, but in 1962-64, with Joe Namath at quarterback, the Tide won 29 and lost four.
Quarterback has always been the key position at Alabama and Namath isn't the only great passer Bear Bryant has nurtured. Ken Stabler, Steve Sloan and Scott Hunter all were Alabama quarterbacks before the wishbone.
The Alabame game was one of finesse in those days, but recently it has been a power game with the wishbone.
One of the top 10 teams in the last 25 years, Notre Dame and Southern California, ranked seventh and eight, respectively, have probably played the toughest schedules.
Neither has ever sidestepped an opponent from another region of the country and they always hold their own.
Few teams can match the football tradition at Notre Dame. When it comes to athletes, however, no team has produced more standouts than USC. The Trojans have more players in the National Football League than any other college team.
The 1974 and 1978 Trojan teams are said to have been the most talented in college football history. Each had 14 players drafted by the pros, an NFL record. Among the '74 draftees were Pat Haden and Anthony Davis. In '76 Ricky Bell, offensive tackle Marvin Powell and defensive tackle Gary Jeter were among the first five players take.
Under John McKay, the Trojans won national championships in 1962, '67, '72, and '74. Mike Garrett won the Hessman in 1965 and O.J. Simpson won it in 1968.
McKay's innovation was the I formation, actually an old set. He updated it, and it revolutionized the game. McKay's philosophy was to put his best runner at tailback and give him the ball as many times as he could carry it. As a result, there is a long tradition of great USC runners in the last 15 years, beginning with Garrett and Simpson and progressing through Anthoney Davis, Ricky Bell and Charles White.
The biggest surprise of the top 10 is Mississippi. The Rebels have the ninth-best winning percentage in the last 25 years, but are only 30-35, the last six seasons. They were 46-4-3 from 1954 through 1963, but in that span, they never played a team west of Texas or north of Kentucky and even now seldom play a team outside the South.
Michigan in 10th place has an 86-13-3 record under Bo Schembechler and is another proponent of basic, power football. Like Ohio State, its Big 10 counterpart, the Wolverines have trouble in howl games. Their 1-4 post season record the last 25 years is the worst among the top 10 teams.