Lacking a bona fide playoff system, college football fans are left to wonder each year which time is the best. But there’s no doubt about this list — the SportsLifer’s top 10 college football teams of all time.
We used several simple criteria in the selection process. Teams had to finish undefeated, untied and undisputed national champions to quality for the SLTop10. And the quota is one champion per school.
Herewith, the 10 best college football teams ever:
# 1 — 1995 Nebraska, 12-0
Quite simply, the most dominant team in college football history. The 1995 Cornhuskers, coming off an unbeaten 1994 campaign, averaged 50 plus points a game, and defeated four teams ranked in the Top 10. The Tom Osborne-coached Huskers won every one of those games by no less than 23 points. Big Red averaged 53 points a game, and gave up 14 per game. Do the math, that’s a margin of victory of 39 points a game. Nebraska trailed for one quarter all season, and handed Florida its only loss of the season, 62-24, in the Fiesta Bowl for the National Championship. Talented? A total of 27 future pros played for Nebraska in 1995. Some Big Red fans and experts might argue the 1971 team was better, but for sheer gridiron dominance, the 1995 squad stands peerless in the history of college football. The 1994 Nebraska team was pretty good too. Both the ’71 and ’94 squads finished 13-0 and capped off championship seasons with Orange Bowl victories.
# 2 — 1972 Southern California, 12-0
The USC team of 1972 is generally considered the best football team in Trojan history. They went undefeated and beat Ohio State, 42-17, in the Rose Bowl. Led by Coach John McKay and Fullback Sam “Bam” Cunningham, USC plowed through the competition in 1972 with ease, defeating six ranked teams. Only Stanford came within 10 points of the Trojans all year. USC’s offense averaged 39 points a game, and their opponents averaged 10. How good was Southern Cal in 1972? They were the first team to ever receive every single first place vote in every single poll. The 2004 Trojans, who went 13-0 and won the BCS with a 55-19 thrashing of Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, also deserve mention.
# 3 – 1945 Army, 9-0
Army absolutely dominated the college football season in 1945. They averaged 48 points a game, while giving up only five and recording five shutouts. None of their games were closer than 19 points. The Black Knights of the Hudson had back-to- back Heisman winners in 1945 (Doc Blanchard), right, and 1946 (Glenn Davis), and each ran for more than 1,000 yards in the 1945 season. Army beat rivals Notre Dame and Navy by scores of 48-0 and 32-13, respectively. West Point bookended the 1945 team with two other pretty good clubs. The Cadets went undefeated and won the national championship in 1944, and played eventual champion Notre Dame to a scoreless tie in the 1946 “Game of the Century.”
#4 — 2001 Miami, 12-0
Miami was dominant on both sides of the ball in 2001, scoring 512 points and surrendering only 117 during the year. The Hurricanes capped off a perfect season by beating Nebraska, 37-14, in the Rose Bowl for the BCS championship. Miami’s margin of victory was greater against ranked teams than against unranked opponents. The Miami defense allowed 13 touchdowns and Miami also scored 11 non-offensive touchdowns. And the Hurricanes may have been the most talented college football team ever — at least six players on the 2001 roster went on to play in the NFL Pro Bowl.
#5 — 1924 Notre Dame, 10-0
The most celebrated team in Notre Dame’s glorious history, the Irish finished 10-0 — and eight of those opponents had winning records. Notre Dame beat Stanford, 27-10, in the Rose Bowl, the school’s only bowl appearance until the 1970 Cotton Bowl. The hero of the 1925 Rose Bowl was fullback Elmer Layden who scored the first touchdown of the game and later returned passes of Stanford All-American back Ernie Nevers 78 and 70 yards for scores. Coach Knute Rockne’s 1924 Irish were led by the heralded Four Horsemen — quarterback Harry Stuhldreher, halfback Don Miller, halfback Jim Crowley and Layden – -and anchored by the Seven Mules on the line. The 1949 Notre Dame team which finished 10-0 and won the national championship under coach Frank Leahy was also considered.
# 6 — 1956 Oklahoma, 10-0
This Oklahoma team was in the midst of their still-standing NCAA record 47-game win streak, and though conference rules in that time prohibited teams from participating in Bowl games in back to back seasons, OU did not need a bowl game to be crowned NCAA champion. The 1956 Sooners averaged 46 points a game, and held their opponents to 51 points on the season. The Sooners were coming off an 11-0 season in 1955, when they were crowned national champions. This was legendary coach Bud Wilkinson at his best. The Sooners were led by halfback Tommy McDonald, who ran for 14 TDs, caught four and even passed for three in 1956.
#7 — 2005 Texas, 13-0
The 2005 Texas Longhorns scored 652 points in 13 games while holding their opponents to 213 points. With Vince Young at quarterback, they beat previously unbeaten and defending champion Southern California, 41-38, in a thrilling BCS title game in the Rose Bowl to finish with a perfect season and a national title. In 1969 Texas finished 11-0 and beat #2 Arkansasa, 15-14, and then Notre Dame, 21-17, in the Cotton Bowl.
#8 — 1968 Ohio State, 10-0
The 1968 Ohio State team produced 11 All-Americans and six first round draft picks. The Buckeyes won the Big Ten title and then topped unbeaten and once-tied USC, 27-16, in the Rose Bowl. Afterwards USC All-America running back OJ Simpson told the Buckeyes: “You’re the greatest team in the country and don’t let anybody tell you what you aren’t.” In 1968, Ohio State began a string of three straight seasons and nine in 10 in which it won or shared the Big 10 title.
# 9 — 1979 Alabama, 12-0
One of Bear Bryant’s last teams, the Crimson Tide finished 12-0 and beat Arkansas 24-9 in the Sugar Bowl. Alabama posted five shutouts, and won seven of 12 games by three touchdowns or more. The Tide ranked first in scoring defense, second in total and passing defense and fifth in rushing defense.
# 10 — 1902 Michigan, 11-0
The Wolverines, in their second year under head coach Fielding H. Yost, finished the season 11-0 and outscored the opposition 644 to 12, averaging 58.6 points per game. The 1901 Michigan squad was unbeaten, untied and unscored upon (555 to 0), but shared the national championship with Harvard. In 1948, the Wolverines finished 9-0 and was voted #1 in the nation.
With apologies to:
1913 Harvard, 9-0, no bowl game
1940, Minnesota, 8-0, no bowl game
1976, Pittsburgh, 12-0, beat Georgia, 27-3, in Sugar Bowl
1986, Penn State, 12-0, upset unbeaten Miami, 14-10, in Fiesta Bowl
1999 Florida State, 12-0, defeated #2 Virginia Tech, 46-29, in Sugar Bowl
Texas quarterback Colt McCoy celebrates the Longhorns national championship.
Since the college football powers that be refuse to set up a playoff system, I’m taking charge and doing it myself.
Instead of wondering who’s the best team in the country with the current Bogus Championship System (BCS), aka Beyond Common Sense, we’re going to decide matters where it counts. On the field.
Not with polls and computers and rankings. With an eight-team playoff based on bowl games already scheduled and in some cases completed. In other words, the tournament has already started.
The SportsLifer playoffs, antidote to the BCS, features the top seven ranked teams in the current Associated Press poll, along with No. 10 Ohio State. Other contenders, including Texas Tech and Boise State, drew strong consideration but ultimately missed the playoff cut.
In quarterfinal games, No. 5 USC defeated Penn State, 38-24, in the Rose Bowl; unbeaten and 7th-ranked Utah surprised SEC runner-up Alabama, 31-17. in the Sugar Bowl; and No. 3 Texas rolled over Ohio State, 37-17, to win the Fiesta Bowl.
And in the most anticipated quarterfinal, top-ranked Florida outscored second-ranked Oklahoma, 41-38, in a battle of Heisman Trophy quarterbacks in the BCS Bowl, Tim Tebow of the Gators threw a late touchdown pass to best San Bradford and the Sooners.
In the semis, Texas topped USC, 28-21, in a rematch of the 2005 title game and Rose Bowl; while Florida ended Utah’s unbeaten run with a 34-19 win.
Texas then held off Florida, 38-35, in a thrilling game to decide the national championship. Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy threw four touchdown passes, including the game-winner, and was named playoff MVP.
March Madness….survive and advance….laying it all on the line, agonizing over a turnover, exulting after a long three. Sweating it out until the final buzzer.
College basketball players? Heck no, we’re talking about the pool players in NCAA tournament brackets.
It’s all about survive and advance at this point of the year, where one loss can turn those picks into pumpkins.
Quick, pop NCAA quiz. Who are the only two players to have triple doubles in the Final Four? Two very usual suspects. Scroll down for answers below.
CRASH!!!! That’s the sound you heard this weekend, the sound of brackets crashing as Duke and Georgetown were brushed aside. And there was a distinct bracket creak before top-seeded UCLA, one of the tourney’s darlings, got a last second basket to subdue Texas A&M.
Ever play the game knock out? There are several different renditions of this sport, including one where you pick one NFL team to win each week, irregardless of point spread. Once you pick a team, you can’t pick that team again. If your team loses you’re out; if they win you advance to play another week. Winner is the last one left standing. Survive and advance.
That’s what pool play is all about. Give yourself a chance going into next weekend, grab enough points in the early rounds, and hope you’ve picked the winner and that your Final Four can run the table. And even then, that might not be enough to put you in the money, honey.
Just win, baby.
The Sweet 16: Three teams apiece from the Big East (West Virginia, Villanova, and Louisville) and the Pac 10 (UCLA, Stanford and Washington State). Two apiece from the Big 12 (Kansas, Texas) and Big 10 (Michigan State, Wisconsin). Only one from the ACC, although that one is top-rated North Carolina.
Rule change: In the final minute of UConn’s stunning OT loss to San Diego on Friday, the Huskies, trying to catch up, had to commit a succession of fouls just to force San Diego to the free throw line. In effect, because of the team foul rule, UConn was being penalized for avoiding fouls throughout the second half. In this instance, why not give the team committing the deliberate foul the option of sending the other team to the line instead of having to commit a series of fouls. Otherwise, they’re being penalized for not being penalized.
Not to make excuses for UConn, they were listless not only against San Diego but in their brief appearance in the Big East tournament.
Trivia Answer: Oscar Roberston (39 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists) of Cincinnati against Louisville in 1959 and Magic Johnson (29 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) of Michigan State against Penn in 1979
Is George Mason this year’s George Mason? It was just two years ago that Jim Larranaga’s 12th-seeded Patriots of the Colonial Athletic Association made a run to the Final Four before losing to eventual champ Florida in the national semis.
A nice story, but Cinderellas in the Final Four are about as rare as a snowy day in Miami. Really, outside of the Pac 10, Big 10, Big 12, Big East and SEC — who makes the Final Four?
Marquette (2003) and Louisville (2005) got there, but both were on the verge of leaving Conference USA and joining the Big East.
In 1998, Utah out of the Mountain West Conference lost to Kentucky in the championship game. UMass from the Atlantic 10 advanced to the Final Four in 1996.
But for a real Cinderella, you need to go back-back-back to the Penn Quakers in 1979. That same year, Indiana State and Larry Bird lost to Michigan State and Magic Johnson in the title game.
And for a Cinderella winner how about Texas Western upsetting top-ranked Kentucky in 1966. Don Haskins unheralded Miners knocking off the legendary Adolph Rupp and his top-ranked Wildcats.
Guess I’m just trying to rationalize my picks in this year’s tournament — three 1 seeds (North Carolina, Kansas and UCLA) and a 2 seed (Texas) in the Final Four.
Cinderella, forget about it. I do have a 13 seed (Siena), 12 seed (Western Kentucky), 11 seed (St. Joe’s) and two 10 seeds (Davidson and St. Mary’s) winning in the first round.
And two 6 seeds (USC and Purdue) reaching the Elite Eight. But that’s about it as far as upsets.
The final pick — the North Carolina Tar Heels edge Texas, 83-82, in a thrilling shooting for their fifth national title and second under Roy Williams.
Let the Madness begin.