Best of the Century… far

Over the last 13 years, we have seen some of the best college football teams ever assembled.  But who is the best? I’ve come up with ten teams from the years 2000 to 2012.  Some were national champions, some weren’t.

10. 2000 Miami Hurricanes

I know I include my beloved Miami Hurricanes on almost every top ten list but if it weren’t for those awful scoundrels in Tallahassee stealing their rightful place in the 2001 Orange Bowl, the Hurricanes would’ve been the 2000 National Champions.  Miami blasted through a schedule that included three teams that would finish the season among the top 6 teams in the nation: #3 Washington, #5 Florida State and #6 Virginia Tech.  They also beat #10 Florida in the Sugar Bowl.  If it weren’t for a narrow loss to Washington, the Hurricanes would’ve met Oklahoma in the National Championship game.  The defining moment of the 2000 season was when Miami hosted bitter rival and number one team in the country Florida State.  Tight end Jeremy Shockey pulled in a 13 yard Ken Dorsey touchdown to give the Canes a 27-24 lead.  I think most people know what happened to end the game, wide right.

9:2002 Ohio State Buckeyes

The team that ruined my childhood. 2002’s national champs put together a solid run, with victories over four ranked opponents including in what was arguably the most spectacular national championship game ever played, defeating defending champs Miami 31-24 in double overtime.  Looking back at that squad, the Buckeyes were a really good team that year.  Buckeye fans may argue that a win is a win and Ohio State had a rarely precedented 14 of them in 2002 and that the gaudy scores put up by other powerhouses are nothing more than “running up the score” and that Ohio State is too classy and respectful to do that.  The signature moment of that season is obviously the final play of the game against Miami to win the championship, when the Buckeyes stopped the Canes on 4th down to end the game.

8: 2008 Florida Gators

As head coach at Utah, Urban Meyer had one undefeated team and zero National Championships. As coach of the Florida Gators, Meyers has two one-loss teams and two National Titles.  A blocked extra point was all that stood between Florida and shaking off a pesky Ole Miss team which Florida had dominated in all statistical categories except turnovers and points.  Other than that game, the Gators had a perfect season.  In a press conference afterward, Tim Tebow (you might have heard of him) vowed that nothing like that would happen again while he was the quarterback at Florida. And, for 2008 at least, he was a man of his word.  I vow never to watch that press conference again, yes I hate the Gators and Tebow.  Behind Tebow’s firey leadership, the Gators were never again challenged in ten straight games, until they met up with #1 Oklahoma in the BCS title game. The 2008 National Champions pulverized all comers with an 11-point win over then #1 Alabama, a 30-point win over #20 Florida State and a 39-point victory over #6 Georgia.  The Gators marched on to Miami to face Oklahoma and captured their second national championship in three years. 

7: 2005 USC Trojans

Matt Leinart made the astonishing announcement shortly after USC’s pounding of Oklahoma to end 2004. He would forgo the NFL draft and stay his senior season to lead his team to a third straight national title. And into the history books.  It looked like it would work, until Vince Young scrambled into the endzone, ending USC’s hope for a third straight title.  The high-octane Trojan offense never scored fewer than 34 points and, in fact, scored 50 or more in an astounding 7 of their 12 regular season games.  But the chink in USC’s armor was their own defense. Arizona State, Notre Dame and Fresno State showed that it was possible to put some points on the Trojan D. Something Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns would do with remarkable ease.  Leinart complained after the loss that the best team had not won that night. With scores like 70-17 over Arkansas and 66-19 over UCLA, I can see why he might think that. 2005 USC was one of the ten best teams of the decade. But they were only the second best of 2005.

6:2004 Auburn Tigers

This team got absolutely no respect. With four teams undefeated in 2004, Utah and Auburn found themselves on the outside looking in for the national title. USC and Oklahoma hogged the spotlight. And then, eventually, just USC. Fans cried foul of the BCS after the Trojans flogged the Sooners and left a total of three teams unblemished when all was said and done.  Quarterbacked by future NFL starter Jason  Campbell, the Tigers also had two future pro running backs in Carnell “Cadillac” Williams and Ronnie Brown.  Would the Tigers have been a better matchup for USC in the championship game, obviously we will never find out.  However, this was a great team, and in my opinion better than the 2010 team that won it all.

5:2000 Oklahoma Sooners

Who was the better team that year? Miami or Oklahoma? We’ll never know. But they were both two of the best teams of the decade.  The Sooners clobbered four ranked opponents on their way to nearly blanking Florida State in the Orange Bowl, including an impressive 31-14 win over then top-ranked Nebraska. Oklahoma scored gaudy points over the likes of Texas and Kansas State, beating the Big 12 north champs twice with a combined total of nine touchdowns.   

4: 2009 Alabama

A lot of people may argue this, but I completely stand behind my decision.  The only undefeated Bama team under Nick Saban. Only four teams in more than 100 years of modern college football have won 14 games in a season. BYU in 1996 and Ohio State in 2002 were the only teams to reach 14-0 before Alabama and Boise State matched them that season. The Crimson Tide was 10-0 against bowl teams, including posting wins over the winners of the Sugar and Cotton bowls.  They upset the defending national champion Florida in the SEC Championship (Tebow cried).  In the championship game, they knocked out Colt McCoy and won easily 37-21.

3:2005 Texas Longhorns

I still don’t know how they did it, but somehow this team beat that historically great USC team in the championship game, I was shocked.  Some say the 2005 Longhorns were all Vince Young. I say one man alone, no matter how gifted, could put up the kind of points this team did, outscoring their opponents 652 to 203 in 13 games.  Even though it was a close game, 2005 Texas’ most remarkable achievement was handing defending National Champion USC, their only loss of the season. Few teams this decade could have handled the two-headed Heisman Trophy beast of Southern California. But this one could. And did.

2: 2004 USC Trojans

The 2000s clearly belong to the USC Trojans. But you probably already knew that.   The list of victims on USC’s 2004 schedule include such worthy opponents as Virginia Tech, Cal, Arizona State and Notre Dame. But the 2004 Trojans would take on legendary status by manhandling second-ranked Oklahoma 55-19 in the Orange Bowl, blasting its way to a 38-10 halftime lead.  Matt Leinart won the Heisman that year. 

1:2001 Miami Hurricanes

The greatest college football team ever assembled.  Argue all you want, but you’re still wrong.  That’s for another article, but there’s no denying that they are the best of the current decade. I’m sure the USC fans who were captivated by Leinart and Bush will object, but the stats speak for themselves.  Miami played six teams that finished ranked in the Top 25 of 2001. #8 Nebraska, #18 Virginia Tech, #19 Washington, #14 Syracuse, #21 Boston College and #15 Florida State. Tough schedule? Well for just about any other team, it would be, but Miami bulldozed those teams by a combined score of 254 to 79. Or a 42-13 average  They ended the nations longest home winning streak at Florida State.  They beat Penn State in front of a record crowd.  They defeated Washington and Syracuse, who at the time were in the top ten in country, 124-7! The culmination of the 2001 season came on January 3rd, 2002 in Pasadena when Miami shot to a 34-0 half-time lead over then #4 Nebraska. The 2001 Huskers were themselves no creampuffs, having lead the nation in rushing offense steered by the explosive Heisman winner, Eric Crouch. But Miami dominated their opponent from the opening series on. A tough fight from Nebraska in the second half kept the game from being a total debacle, but the final outcome was never in doubt. The first team to play an entire season in the 21st Century also happens to be its best to date. Fitting that the 2001 Hurricanes achieved its pinnacle by turning the lights out on the 20th Century.