StatTiger: Ranking the National Champions

StatTiger crunches the numbers and gives his opinion on the best of the best college football teams.

Every year during the college football season, we come across a debate over the best team in the history of college football. It wasn't long after the 2005 Texas Longhorns upset the Trojans of Southern California we heard that Texas was the best college football team in recent memory. Of course, they did defeat the team dubbed by ESPN as possibly the best college football team ever.

Comparing the great teams from the 1970s to teams of today is like comparing apples and oranges because the landscape of the game has changed so much over the last 30 years. There are scholarship limitations, rule changes and the players are bigger and faster now. I have no doubt the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers would defeat the 1971 Nebraska Cornhuskers on speed and size alone, but it doesn't change the fact that the '71 Huskers were one of the greatest teams during that era.

Just about every major publication and sports network has created some type of poll ranking the best college football teams ever and the debate continues. If you think about it, is there any reasonable way to compare the teams? There are so many variables to consider and just how do you determine which are the most important? Perhaps, this is what makes college football so great. True college football fans eat and breath football all year around and debates such as this allow the fans something to discuss over the off-season.

Rather than waste time searching for the ultimate solution, it's much easier to add fuel to the fire and come up with my own ranking formula. Rather than wasting your time in justifying my opinion, I can live with tossing my poll into the heap started years ago. Just to make it a little easier to debate, I've narrowed the field to the teams crowned National Champions since 1983 by the AP, UPI and BCS polls.

Just for entertainment, I included the 1983 and 2004 Auburn teams. I will go to my grave with the knowledge that Auburn was the best team in the country in 1983 and the 2004 team should have at least had the opportunity to play in the BCS championship game.

Yards, Points and Averages…

In most polls we find that each team's on-field production is heavily weighed into the equation of who was the best. With this in mind, I sorted each team based on yards gained and allowed. I also sorted the average per play and points scored and surrendered. Because some teams obviously faced stronger competition, I also included strength of schedule.

The ranking of each team will be based on seven categories. This will include offensive yards per game, average yards per play on offense and offensive points per game. The same will be ranked on the defensive side of the ball. Once again, the final category will be strength of schedule. Each team will be rated in each category resulting in a final ranking, which will be the average ranking of all seven categories.

Results (Top Ten): The 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers swept all three offensive categories, finishing number one in yards gained (556.3), average yards per play (7.16) and points per game (52). The 1992 Alabama defense was number one in yards allowed (187.9) and average yards per play allowed (3.19). The 1985 Oklahoma Sooners were No. 1 in points allowed (8). The 1983 Auburn Tigers played the toughest scheduled based on the win percentage of its opponents (.649).

2001 Miami Hurricanes …………….6.71

1993 Florida State Seminoles ………8.43

1989 Miami Hurricanes …………….9.57

1991 Washington Huskies ………….9.71

1996 Florida Gators …………………9.71

1985 Oklahoma Sooners ……………10.71

1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers ………..11.14

2005 Texas Longhorns ……………..11.29

1987 Miami Hurricanes …………….12.14

1997 Nebraska Cornhuskers ………..12.14

Congratulations to the 2001 Miami Hurricanes for finishing No. 1 based on their final rankings. The 2001 Canes were No. 9 in offensive yards per game and No. 6 in yards per play on offense. They had the No. 5 scoring offense and the No. 2 scoring defense compared to the other 28 championship teams. They finished at No. 11 in yards allowed per game and No. 8 in yards allowed per play on defense. They accomplished these rankings against the 6th ranked strength of schedule.

During the season, the 2001 Miami Hurricanes averaged 454.8 yards per game, while allowing 270.9 yards on defense. The Canes scored 43 points per game, allowing just 9 to their opponent.

For the record, the 2004 Auburn team finished with a ranking of 14.86, which was 16th best on the list of 29 teams. The 1983 Auburn squad finished at #29 on the list with a final ranking average of 22.14.

Scoring margins, win percentage and strength of schedule…

Before you start screaming at the results of the first poll, please recall my initial disclaimer of tossing it into the heap of previous polls and take in consideration my final poll. This poll will factor strength of schedule, scoring margin, overall win percentage and win percentage against opponents with a winning record. In my opinion, this is a more accurate method of ranking the teams because yardage gained and allowed means very little if the strength of schedule is not the same.

Results (Top Ten):

2005 Texas Longhorns ……………132.90

1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers ………130.60

2001 Miami Hurricanes ……………130.30

1993 Florida State Seminoles ……...127.98

1996 Florida Gators ……………….126.46

1991 Washington Huskies …………121.40

1997 Nebraska Cornhuskers ……….119.60

2000 Oklahoma Sooners …………...118.50

1999 Florida State Seminoles ………117.90

1987 Miami Hurricanes …………….116.00

Congratulations to the 2005 Texas Longhorns for finishing No. 1 in the poll. They had the best scoring margin of 38.3 points against a schedule consisting of nine Division I-A opponents with a winning record. Only the 1983 Auburn Tigers competed against more D-I opponents with a winning record (10).

For the record, the 2004 Auburn Tigers finished tied with the 1994 Penn State squad at No. 12 on the list with a rating of 115.10. The 1983 Auburn Tigers finished at No. 16 with a rating of 113.87.

Elimination Round…

Eight teams appeared in the Top 10 of both polls. I eliminated the 1993 FSU and 1996 Florida teams because they both had one loss. This leaves us with the following six teams:

1987 Miami Hurricanes 12-0-0

1991 Washington Huskies 12-0-0

1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers 12-0-0

1997 Nebraska Cornhuskers 13-0-0

2001 Miami Hurricanes 12-0-0

2005 Texas Longhorns 13-0-0

Of the top remaining six teams, the 2001 Miami Hurricanes, 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers and the 2005 Texas Longhorns finished in the top three when averaging their final rankings in both polls. The 2001 Miami Hurricanes finished No. 1 in the first poll and No. 3 in the second poll edging out the '95 Huskers and '05 Longhorns as the best championship team since 1983.

Let the debate begin…


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