Do you have friends who are college football fanatics and want to spark a debate between them? Ask each of them to list their top 10 greatest football college teams of all time. Warning: the responses might overwhelm you.
You’ll definitely be greeted with different answers, which goes to show that there have been many great football teams in college football history. When discussing the best college teams to play in a sport that has outlived several decades and continues to evolve, it’s absolutely alright and quite understandable to have different opinions.
Truth be told, there’s no such thing as a perfect list. That’s why we decided to focus our rankings on top teams that went undefeated en route to a national championship. Of course, we understand that there are no perfect ways to rank the greatest teams. Also, some one-loss teams have produced stellar performances over the years, but for the sake of this ranking, they’ll be listed as honorable mentions.
10. 1979 Alabama Crimson Tide
The 1970s was a successful decade for the Crimson Tides, and they capped it up with a national championship in 1979. This year marked the team’s seventh perfect season (excluding 1897).
The Tide produced some of the best offensive displays, completely shutting out five teams. Their defense only allowed 5.6 points per game, which was the best in the nation, and they finished the season with a 12-0 record; 10 of which they led by at least 10 points. Only Tennessee and Auburn registered two-digit points against Alabama.
This was Alabama’s sixth and final national title under coach Bear Bryant, who was in his 22nd season at the time.
9. 1956 Oklahoma Sooners
Hall of Fame Head Coach Bud Wilkinson led the Sooners to a third straight championship, but the 1956 team was the most special. Only four teams registered points against the Sooners that allowed just 51 points all season (ranked No. 2 in the country).
The 1956 Sooners were also spectacular on the offensive side of things, registering 46.6 points per game, the highest in the country that year. What’s more impressive is that the second ranked offensive team averaged 30 points per game.
Oklahoma finished the season with a 10-0 record, as Jerry Tubbs, Bill Krisher, Tommy McDonald, and Ed Grey earned all-American honors.
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8. 2018 Clemson Tigers
The Clemson Tigers came into the 2018 season as the second ranked team, after suffering a playoff semi-final loss to Alabama the previous year.
The 2018 Clemson squad took off after narrowly edging two teams in its first five games. Their offensive prowess saw them outscore their next 10 opponents by a combined 361 points. Clemson led the nation in average points allowed (13.1).
Trevor Lawrence threw for 3,280 yards and registered 30 touchdowns to lead the team to a 15-0 win capped up by a 44-16 Rose Bowl win over No. 1 Alabama in Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara.
7. 2004 USC Trojans
The 2005 BCS National Championship Game between the USC Trojans and Oklahoma Sooners may have been vacated, but have no doubts, the 2004 Trojans made their mark that season.
The Trojans were ranked No. 1 in the country all through the season, and remained undefeated after 10 games. The final matchup against the Sooners (also undefeated up to that point) ended in a 55-19 win in favor of USC.
Matt Leinart was named winner of the Heisman Trophy while Reggie Bush put up 16 combined touchdowns and 2,330 yards. The Trojans also boasted star defensive tackle Shaun Cody.
6. 2005 Texas Longhorns
Countless publications list the 2006 Rose Bowl as one of the greatest performances in college football history, and it featured none other than the 2005 Texas Longhorns. The finals game against the Longhorns and USC Trojan won the 2006 ESPY award for Best Game in any sport.
The 2006 finals game was attended by 93,986 spectators, and ended in dramatic fashion. Vince Young completed 30 out of 40 passes and three touchdowns to lead the Longhorns to their 800th win and fourth national championship. Young’s third touchdown came with 19 seconds on the clock, and proved to be the game changer.
Prior to the final game, the 2005 Trojans were widely ranked as possibly the best college team in history. But it was the Longhorns who finished the season as the only unbeaten team (13-0). Texas only allowed 16.4 points per game and topped the nation’s offense ladder with a whopping 50.2 points per game.
Young barely missed out on the Heisman Trophy, losing to USC’s star quarterback Reggie Bush. However, he became the first player to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 yards in a single NCAA football season.
5. 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers
While most fans agree that the 2019 LSU were more dominant than the 1995 Cornhuskers, it’s hard to overlook Nebraska’s achievements. The 1995 team were out to defend their 1994 championship crown, and they did it in style.
The team went 12-0 and averaged 53.2 points per game. Nebraska scored a combined 638 points; 35 or more points in every game, and 50 points in six games. The Cornhuskers also only allowed 174 points. Every team they faced lost by at least 14 points to combine for an average 14.5 point differential.
The final game was a face-off against the No. 2 ranked Florida State. The Cornhuskers saw off their competition by a comfortable 62-24 scoreline. Tommy Frazier completed 17 touchdowns for 604 yards.
4. 1972 USC Trojans
USC cruised through the 1972 season with a 12-0 record. Their domineering title run included thumping 11 teams by at least 17 points, capped up by a 42-17 Rose Bowl win over Ohio State (ranked No. 3). The finals game marked their sixth win of the season over a ranked team.
Although no member of the 1972 squad made it to the Heisman Trophy top 10, ten players were selected in the 1973 NFL Draft and three players made it to the First Round.
3. 1971 Nebraska Cornhuskers
The 1971 Cornhuskers were seeking to win back-to-back national titles under head coach Bob Devaney. The ‘huskers were ranked third in offense (39 points per game) and second in defense (8.0 points allowed per game).
Nebraska defeated No. 2 Alabama in the 1972 Rose Bowl 38-6 to finish the season 13-0. Johnny Rodgers led the Heisman Trophy votes after registering 57 passes for 956 yards while Larry Jacobson received the Outland Trophy as America’s best college interior lineman.
2. 2019 LSU Tigers
Recency bias? We don’t think so. This team is arguably the most dominant we’ve ever seen in the history of college football.
Before Joe Burrow became a Super Bowl LVI finalist, he led the Tigers to one of the most prolific offensive seasons in college football history. Burrow registered a record-smashing 5,671 yards, 60 touchdown passes, and a 202.0 passer rating. He won the Heisman Trophy by the largest vote margin in the award’s history.
Ja’Marr Chase was voted the best wide receiver in the country. Both Chase and Justin Jefferson recorded more than 80 receptions for at least 1,500 yards. They also completed 18 touchdowns each.
LSU finished the season 15-0, handling defeats to seven teams ranked in the top 10. Only one team was able to prevent the Tigers from scoring at least 36 points.
The Tigers outscored their opponents by 398 points (726-328) and coach Ed Orgeron received many national Coach of the Year awards.
- 2001 Miami Hurricanes
Were there any doubts that this team takes the No. 1 spot? You can literally put this team against some pros and they still come out on top. That’s how dominant the 2001 Hurricanes were.
Led by first-year Head Coach Larry Coker, the Hurricanes went 12-0 in the 2001 season, and 7-0 in the Big East to win the conference championship. They went on to the Rose Bowl and defeated the Cornhuskers by 37-15 to claim the program’s fifth national championship.
The Hurricanes were more than phenomenal on defense, allowing just 9.8 points per game (117 combined points). Miami scored a combined 236 points and allowed just 72 points against five Top 15 teams. Overall, the ‘Canes tallied a combined 512 points (42.6 ppg).
Ken Dorsey was named the winner of the Maxwell Trophy, Bryant McKinnie won the Outland Trophy, and six players earned all-American honors, including Ed Reed who was selected by unanimous decision. The 2001 Hurricanes hold the record for most NFL Draft selections of all time (38), and 17 of these players were first-round picks.
1945 Army Black Knights
The 1945 Knights defeated five ranked teams and shut out five teams during their 9-0 run. The team’s star running back Don Blanchard was voted recipient of the 1945 Hiesman trophy, while Glenn Davis came second in the polls.
1974 Oklahoma Sooners
One the most dominant teams of the 70s, the Sooners led the nation in point average (43.0) and finished with an 11-0 record. Only the Houston Texans were able to come within 14 points, and four teams failed to register a single touchdown against the Sooners.
1968 Ohio State Buckeyes
This Buckeyes team is widely considered one of the strongest football teams in Ohio State University history. They won the national title undefeated in ten games, most notably thumping archrivals Michigan State 50-17, and coming from behind to beat USC 27-16 in the finals. Oh, and Purdue fans would also remember how they went 0-13 in Game 3 against the Buckeyes, despite being the No. 1 ranked team in the country at the time.
1947 Michigan Wolverines
The Wolverines were unbeaten in ten games, and prevented five teams from scoring a single touchdown. University of Southern California was the last of Michigan’s shutout victims, losing 49-0.
1987 Miami Hurricanes
The Miami Hurricanes went on a 3-0 run in the final games of the 1987 season, defeating higher-seed teams, like Florida State (ranked No. 4) and the Sooners (ranked No. 1). Miami only let in 10.4 points per game throughout the season.
2013 Florida State Seminoles
The Seminoles capped up a 14-0 season with a 34-31 national championship game win over Auburn. They set a then single-season record for most points scored (723). Quarterback Jameis Winston won the Heisman Trophy. This championship team sent 25 players to the NFL, including Super Bowl winners Bryan Stork, Tre’ Jackson, Ronald Darby, Timmy Jernigan, and Cameron Erving.
1994 Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State had a spectacular 1994 season, and many commentators believe they should have won the national title. They were 12-0 that season, had the best point average in the country (47 ppg), and saw off four top 25 teams. The Nittany Lions also scored 564 points, setting a single-season record for most points scored at the time.
1947 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
This is one team we need to put some respect on. The Irish only allowed 52 points throughout the season and also achieved a nine-game winning streak. QB Johnny Lujack was named the 1947 Heisman trophy winner.
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