What constitutes a national title and how many has each school in the SEC really won?

That’s a difficult and nuanced question, mostly because until the creation of the BCS system, there wasn’t even an official national championship game. So polls determined which team won the title — sometimes before bowl games even kicked off.

RELATED: Auburn says no to claiming more national titles

Then there’s the question of which poll is the best as it relates to naming “national champions.” The most respected, the Associated Press Top 25, didn’t launch until 1934, and didn’t run continuously since ’36. That’s many decades after college football got going in earnest before the turn of the 20th century.

Recently, the Auburn Tigers considered claiming more disputed national championships, but decided against it. Many of Alabama’s 15 claimed titles are dubious at best. But even then, the Tide barely cover half the titles claimed by Princeton and Yale, the initial kings of college football.

The institution of the College Football Playoff won’t eliminate controversy, as we saw with the exclusion of TCU and Baylor from last season’s four-team tournament. But at least now there’s a system to determine a clear national champion that involves winning two post-season games against elite competition.

Here’s a look at the claimed national titles by college football program. Nine of the 14 SEC programs claim at least one national championship, and the exceptions are Mississippi State, Missouri, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt.


TeamClaimed National Titles
1. Princeton28
2. Yale27
3. Alabama15
T4. Michigan11
T4. Notre Dame11
T4. USC11
7. Pittsburgh9
8. Ohio State8
T9. Harvard7
T9. Minnesota7
T9. Oklahoma7
T9. Penn7
T13. Michigan State6
T13. Tennessee6
T15. Auburn5
T15. California5
T15. Cornell5
T15. Georgia5
T15. Illinois5
T15. Miami (Fla.)5
T15. Nebraska5
T22. Georgia Tech4
T22. Iowa4
T22. Texas4
T22. Washington4
T26. Army3
T26. Florida3
T26. Florida State3
T26. Lafayette3
T26. LSU3
T26. Ole Miss3
T26. SMU3
T26. Texas A&M3
T34. Chicago2
T34. Penn State2
T34. TCU2
T34. Stanford2
T38. Arkansas1
T38. Boston College1
T38. BYU1
 T38. Clemson1
T38. Colorado1
T38. Dartmouth1
T38. Kentucky1
T38. Maryland1
T38. Navy1
T38. Rutgers1
T38. Syracuse1
T38. UCLA1