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College Football’s 25 Most Valuable Teams

·11 min read
John Green/CSM
John Green/CSM

The College Football Playoff title game was on Jan. 13, the culmination of a season filled with plenty of action and more than a few surprises. College football, however, isn't only exciting -- it's also big business.

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Using data from Forbes, GOBankingRates ranked the top 25 teams based on their three-year average revenue, while also listing each team's three-year average profit for reference. Some teams rake in the big bucks through lucrative media contracts, and others rely on massive fan bases. And then some of the teams earn their money the old-fashioned way -- by winning on the field.

Last updated: Oct. 8, 2020

Jamie Lamor Thompson / Shutterstock.com
Jamie Lamor Thompson / Shutterstock.com

Clemson University: $77 Million

  • Three-year average profit: $27 million

  • Conference: ACC

The star-studded and perennially dangerous Clemson Tigers, helmed by quarterback Trevor Lawrence, steamrolled through the Atlantic Coast Conference this season, entering the Fiesta Bowl ranked No. 3. In a magical comeback, the Tigers overcame a 16-0 deficit to beat Ohio State 29-23 in the College Football Playoff semifinal. It was the team's 29th straight victory, and the Tigers will play No. 1 LSU in the title game on Jan. 13. It will be the defending champs' fourth visit to the championship game in five years.

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Rogelio V Solis/AP
Rogelio V Solis/AP

University of Mississippi: $84 Million

  • Three-year average profit: $43 million

  • Conference: SEC

Ole Miss fans undoubtedly would like to forget the 2019 season. The Rebels snatched defeat from the jaws of victory more than once, finishing the season 4-8 in a sad run that culminated in a 21-20 loss to Mississippi State in the annual Egg Bowl. It was far from the only nail-biter that ended in frustration. Six of Ole Miss' eight losses were by 11 points or fewer.

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Mark J Terrill/AP
Mark J Terrill/AP

University of Wisconsin-Madison: $86 Million

  • Three-year average profit: $48 million

  • Conference: Big Ten

Fans in Pasadena, California, were treated to an absolutely beautiful day at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, but they witnessed an equally ugly game. The No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers couldn't get out of their own way, and when the final seconds ticked off the clock, the No. 6 Oregon Ducks emerged victorious at 28-27. The moment marked Wisconsin's fourth straight Rose Bowl loss. They finished the season 10-4.

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Frank Franklin II/AP
Frank Franklin II/AP

Michigan State University: $87 Million

  • Three-year average profit: $44 million

  • Conference: Big Ten

Michigan State finished a mediocre season on a high note when the Spartans beat Wake Forest 27-21 in the Pinstripe Bowl. The Spartans earned the much-needed victory despite a bevy of costly and clumsy mistakes that mirrored the team's performance throughout the season. The Spartans only became bowl-eligible after squeaking past Maryland on Nov. 30, 2019.

Orlando Ramirez/AP
Orlando Ramirez/AP

University of Iowa: $89 Million

  • Three-year average profit: $44 million

  • Conference: Big Ten

The Iowa Hawkeyes finished the season in grand fashion, embarrassing the No. 22-ranked Trojans of Southern Cal in a 49-24 rout in the Holiday Bowl. The score was an outlier, however, as No. 16 Iowa scored an average of just 23.8 points per game during the regular season. The Hawkeyes ended the 2019 campaign with an impressive 10-3 record.

Nati Harnik/AP
Nati Harnik/AP

University of Nebraska-Lincoln: $91 Million

  • Three-year average profit: $46 million

  • Conference: Big Ten

At the end of November, the Nebraska Cornhuskers lost a must-win game against the Iowa Hawkeyes. The 27-24 loss, which left Nebraska ineligible for a bowl game, was filled with unforced errors that reflected the Cornhuskers' disappointing 2019 season. In the end, the team finished the year with just five wins.

Christopher Trim/CSM
Christopher Trim/CSM

University of Washington: $92 Million

  • Three-year average profit: $43 million

  • Conference: Pac-12

The Washington Huskies ended 2019 with an 8-5 record, but the team's performance was up and down throughout the season. The Huskies ended on a high note, however, crushing Boise State 38-7 in the Las Vegas Bowl. It was a happy retirement sendoff for coach Chris Petersen, who left Washington after six successful seasons with a 55-26 record.

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Orlando Ramirez/AP
Orlando Ramirez/AP

USC: $93 Million

  • Three-year average profit: $52 million

  • Conference: Pac-12

USC ended 2019 with a whimper as the Trojans were blown out in an embarrassing 49-24 Holiday Bowl loss to Iowa. One of the few silver linings in the Trojans' lackluster 8-5 season was quarterback Kedon Slovis, who started the year as a backup before showing leading-man potential. During the Holiday Bowl, however, Slovis left the game with a potentially significant injury to his right arm and shoulder.

Michael Woods/AP
Michael Woods/AP

University of Arkansas (Tie): $95 Million

  • Three-year average profit: $53 million

  • Conference: SEC

The Arkansas Razorbacks suffered a 24-14 loss to Missouri at the end of November that capped a miserable season, which included the firing of second-year head coach Chad Morris earlier in the month. The Razorbacks ended with a 2-10 record for the second straight season, going 0-8 in SEC play.

Sean Rayford/AP
Sean Rayford/AP

University of South Carolina (Tie): $95 Million

  • Three-year average profit: $53 million

  • Conference: SEC

It was in-state rival Clemson that put the finishing touch on the South Carolina Gamecocks' season with a 38-3 victory in the closing game of 2019. A year earlier, South Carolina put up more than 400 yards and 30 points per game, but 2019 witnessed the Gamecocks plummet to 4-8 as one of the 20 worst teams in the country in terms of both average yards and points per game.

Ruben R Ramirez/AP
Ruben R Ramirez/AP

Florida State University (Tie): $96 Million

  • Three-year average profit: $40 million

  • Conference: ACC

Florida State started strong in the Sun Bowl but wound up losing to Arizona State University 20-14 despite piling up 470 offensive yards compared to 282 for the Sun Devils. A clumsy game, the Sun Bowl featured 14 punts, 13 penalties, eight turnovers and a combined six conversions on 33 third downs. The result sunk Florida State to 6-7 on the season, and 2019 marked the first time since 1975-76 that the Seminoles finished back-to-back years with losing records.

Doug Benc/AP
Doug Benc/AP

University of Oregon (Tie): $96 Million

  • Three-year average profit: $56 million

  • Conference: Pac-12

The Oregon Ducks capitalized on a comedy of Wisconsin errors to beat the Badgers 28-27 at the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day. NFL-bound quarterback Justin Herbert led the way for the Ducks, just as he had all season, and Oregon finished the year 12-2 for their first 12-win season since winning 13 in 2014. Coach Mario Cristobal is proving able to fill the big shoes that coach Chip Kelly left behind when he departed for the NFL in 2012, rebuilding Oregon into one of the nation's top programs.

Ron Jenkins/AP
Ron Jenkins/AP

Penn State University: $104 Million

  • Three-year average profit: $54 million

  • Conference: Big Ten

The Nittany Lions gave up more points and yards in the Cotton Bowl than they did in any game all season, but No. 10 Penn State still found a way to beat No. 17 Memphis 53-39. With an 11-2 record, 7-2 in the Big Ten, Penn State finished second in the conference standings behind Ohio State University.

Kyle Okita/CSM
Kyle Okita/CSM

University of Tennessee: $113 Million

  • Three-year average profit: $59 million

  • Conference: SEC

Tennessee dug itself into a huge hole at the Gator Bowl on Jan. 2, but two late scores led to a thrilling and stunning finish that ended with the Volunteers squeaking past Indiana 23-22 in one of the greatest comebacks of the entire bowl season. It was a fitting end to a come-from-behind season. The Volunteers started 2019 with a record of 1-4, but then turned in six straight regular-season wins and emerged from the Gator Bowl 8-5.

Cecil Copeland/CSM
Cecil Copeland/CSM

LSU: $114 Million

  • Three-year average profit: $73 million

  • Conference: SEC

LSU's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, Joe Burrow, led an offensive blitz -- he threw for seven touchdowns and ran for another -- to crush No. 4 University of Oklahoma 63-28 in the Peach Bowl in one College Football Playoff semifinal. His seven touchdown passes tied the record for the most in any bowl game in history. No. 1 LSU takes its 14-0 record into the championship game against Clemson.

Chris O'Meara/AP
Chris O'Meara/AP

Auburn University (Tie): $117 Million

  • Three-year average profit: $65 million

  • Conference: SEC

On New Year's Day, No. 18 University of Minnesota upset No. 12 Auburn in a 31-24 victory in the Outback Bowl. It was a fitting end to a wonderful season for the Gophers, who finished the year 11-2. It was the most wins for Minnesota since they went 13-0 in 1904. For Auburn, it was a disappointing end to a 9-4 season in which they beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl but lost to the SEC's other top-tier teams.

Mario Houben/CSM
Mario Houben/CSM

University of Florida (Tie): $117 Million

  • Three-year average profit: $69 million

  • Conference: SEC

No. 9 Florida topped No. 24 University of Virginia in the Orange Bowl, 36-28, giving the Gators an 11-2 record. That almost certainly will be good enough to land them in the top 10 of the Associated Press Top 25 poll two years in a row for the first time since 2008-09. The Cavaliers finished 9-5.

Phelan M Ebenhack/AP
Phelan M Ebenhack/AP

University of Notre Dame: $120 Million

  • Three-year average profit: $76 million

  • Conference: Independent

No. 15 Notre Dame ended December with a convincing 33-9 win over Iowa State University in the Camping World Bowl. For the Fighting Irish, it was the capstone on an impressive season that ended with an 11-2 record. The Irish's defense took the lead role once again, turning in a season-long performance that could rank among Notre Dame's best of the decade.

Jacob Kupferman/CSM
Jacob Kupferman/CSM

University of Georgia: $125 Million

  • Three-year average profit: $74 million

  • Conference: SEC

No. 5 Georgia marched past No. 7 Baylor University in the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day. With several key players out, the Bulldogs showed exceptional depth in a Sugar Bowl performance that was much better than the one they turned in last year in a loss to the University of Texas. Georgia didn't make the four-team College Football Playoff, despite a spectacular season that ended with the Bulldogs standing at 12-2.

John Amis/AP
John Amis/AP

University of Oklahoma: $129 Million

  • Three-year average profit: $81 million

  • Conference: Big 12

Oklahoma ran into a buzzsaw during the Peach Bowl -- the LSU offensive juggernaut, which used a historic performance by quarterback Joe Burrow to top the Sooners 63-28. Oklahoma's fortunes during that College Football Playoff semifinal game were not indicative of the 2019 season. The Sooners finished 12-2, but they haven't won a national championship since 2000 and now are 0-4 in the College Football Playoff, including a devastating double-overtime loss to Georgia following the 2017 season.

Thurman James/CSM
Thurman James/CSM

Ohio State University: $132 Million

  • Three-year average profit: $75 million

  • Conference: Big Ten

No. 2 Ohio State gave No. 3 Clemson -- the reigning NCAA dynasty that blows out teams so frequently that it rarely has to play starters in the fourth quarter -- a run for its money in the Fiesta Bowl in one College Football Playoff semifinal. In the end, however, the Tigers are headed to the title game yet again. Clemson snapped Ohio State's 19-game winning streak to leave the Buckeyes with a 13-1 record on the season.

Romeo Guzman/CSM
Romeo Guzman/CSM

University of Alabama: $134 Million

  • Three-year average profit: $61 million

  • Conference: SEC

No. 13 Alabama handily defeated No. 14 University of Michigan in the Citrus Bowl 35-16 to close the season with an impressive record of 11-2. The Crimson Tide's victory in Orlando, Florida, coupled with losses by teams ahead of them, gives Alabama a great shot to remain in the top 10 of the AP Top 25 poll for the 76th straight time. That would put the Crimson Tide in a tie for the fifth-longest streak in the poll's history.

Romeo Guzman/CSM
Romeo Guzman/CSM

University of Michigan: $139 Million

  • Three-year average profit: $83 million

  • Conference: Big Ten

Alabama battered Michigan 35-16 on New Year's Day, giving coach Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines a 9-4 record on the season. The moment continued an ugly trend for the Wolverines. The team now has lost 16 straight road or neutral site games to teams ranked 15 or better, including all 10 games under Harbaugh's leadership.

Austin Gay/AP
Austin Gay/AP

University of Texas (Tie): $147 Million

  • Three-year average profit: $92 million

  • Conference: Big 12

Unranked Texas stunned No. 11 University of Utah 38-10 in the Alamo Bowl on New Year's Eve. It was a glorious end to a disappointing season. The Longhorns failed to live up to lofty expectations that came from a Top 10 ranking coming off a 10-win 2018 season that culminated in a Sugar Bowl victory over mighty Georgia. In the end, Texas turned in a just-OK 8-5 record in 2019.

Michael Wyke/AP
Michael Wyke/AP

Texas A&M (Tie): $147 Million

  • Three-year average profit: $94 million

  • Conference: SEC

Texas A&M came back from an ugly start to beat Oklahoma State University 24-21 in the Texas Bowl. The Aggies ended the season with an 8-5 record, which was below expectations to start the season. Still, the bowl win represented the 100th career victory for Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher, who won a national championship as Florida State's coach to cap the 2013 season.

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: College Football’s 25 Most Valuable Teams