StatTiger: College Football's Top Offenses

Columnist Stuart Carter breaks down the numbers to analyze which college teams were the most productive on offense over the past 35 seasons.

The Best of the Best

Isn't college football grand? As each season passes, hundreds of memories are added to a history of the greatest sport ever. From great players to legendary coaches, we live for those wonderful Saturdays during the fall.

Yes, college football has become a big business, but the passion and excitement remains the same for the fans and players. Each year we see the "game of the century" or the best player to ever play the game. There are controversial games, poor officiating and countless complaints about the lack of a playoff system. There are games that break our hearts and fantastic finishes that make us come back for more.

Countless fans, graduates and supporters know his or her school is the best and will gladly take the time to explain why. College football, especially in the South, is more of a way of life rather than just a game. We schedule our activities around a football schedule and treat each trip to the stadium like a family event. Tailgating, the band and the sea of colors inside the stadium almost never fail to pump up the crowd.

We all have our favorite team and player, but we also appreciate and respect the game itself. Bo Jackson is the greatest player I ever saw on the field. The 1989 Auburn-Alabama game was the best game I ever witnessed in person. Doug Flutie was the best college quarterback to ever play the game and his last second touchdown pass against Miami in 1985 was the best finish to a college game.

The 2006 USC-Texas game was the best game ever, considering what was at stake and all the hype prior to the championship. Of course, these are just my opinions, which is another reason why college football is so great. There is so much about the game, worthy of debate and recollection.

Looking Back

Researching the best teams over the past 35 years, I sorted the teams by the best offensive and defensive units from each season since 1970. With this in mind, I ranked the teams based on points scored, average per play, yards per game and frequency of scoring.

Because of the changes in the game over the past three decades, I only compared each unit within the decade they competed.

Top Ten Offensive Units from 1970-1979

(Overall ranking, total yardage for the season, total plays for the season and total touchdowns scored.)

*1971 Oklahoma Sooners--1.50, 6,232 yards, 839 plays, 66 TDs

*1973 Arizona State Sun Devils--3.25, 6,220 yards, 884 plays, 66 TDs

*1972 Arizona State Sun Devils--3.50, 5,681 yards, 856 plays, 67 TDs

*1973 UCLA Bruins--6.75, 5,177 yards, 783 plays, 62 TDs

*1979 BYU Cougars, 6.75, 5,735, yards, 832 plays, 59 TDs

*1973 Alabama Crimson Tide--7.50, 5,288 yards, 758 plays, 55 TDs

*1978 Oklahoma Sooners--9.00, 5,382 yards, 816 plays, 59 TDs

*1974 Oklahoma Sooners--9.25, 5,584 yards, 896 plays, 60 TDs

*1971 Penn State Nittany Lions--11.00, 4,995 yards, 798 plays, 60 TDs

*1970 Auburn Tigers--12.25, 4,850 yards, 684 plays, 43 TDs

All-American receiver Terry Beasley was a junior star on Auburn's 1970 team.

The 1971 Oklahoma Sooner offense was No. 1 in average yards per play (7.43), No. 1 in yards per game (566.5), No. 2 in average plays per touchdown (12.7) and No. 2 in points per game (44.9) for an overall ranking of 1.50.

The 1970 Auburn Tiger offense led the nation in passing during the 1970 campaign and was No. 2 in average yards per play (7.09) during the decade of the 70's.

Top Ten Offensive Units from 1980-1989

*1989 Houston Cougars--2.00, 6,874 yards, 904 plays, 70 TDs

*1983 Nebraska Cornhuskers--2.5, 6,560 yards, 916 plays, 84 TDs

*1990 BYU Cougars--3.00, 6,420 yards, 847 plays, 74 TDs

*1983 BYU Cougars--4.25, 6,426 yards, 865 plays, -65 TDs

*1988 Oklahoma State Cowboys--4.50, 5,667 yards, 803 plays, 66 TDs

*1989 Nebraska Cornhuskers--5.75, 5,646 yards, 809 plays, 63TDs

*1987 Oklahoma Sooners--8.25, 5,497 yards, 829 plays, 61 TDs

*1982 Nebraska Cornhuskers--10.00, 6,223 yards, 976 plays, 65 TDs

*1986 Oklahoma Sooners--11.50, 5,210 yards, 807 plays, 58 TDs

*1987 Nebraska Cornhuskers--12.00, 5,379yards, 835 plays, 56 TDs

The 1989 Houston Cougars were No. 1 in yards per play (7.60), No. 1 in yards per game (624.9), No. 5 in average number of plays per touchdown (12.9) and No. 1 in points per game (53.5) for an overall ranking of 2.00. Heisman Trophy winner, Andre Ware, led the Cougar "Run & Shoot" offense.

Some consider the 1983 Nebraska offense as the best college offense ever, scoring 84 touchdowns in 12 games.

Top Ten Offensive Units from 1990-1999

*1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers--3.00, 6,119 yards, 855 plays, 69 TDs

*1994 Penn State Nittany Lions--4.50, 5,722 yards, 749 plays, 68 TDs

*1995 Florida Gators--5.75, 6,413 yards, 867 plays, 72 TDs

*1995 Florida State Seminoles--6.25, 6,067 yards, 885 plays, 71 TDs

*1990 Houston Cougars--7.25, 6,455 yards, 905 plays, 63 TDs

*1996 Florida Gators--8.25, 6,047 yards, 854 plays, 67 TDs

*1997 Nebraska Cornhuskers--11.25, 6,164 yards, 937 plays, 71 TDs

*1998 Louisville Cardinals--11.75, 6,156 yards, 883 plays, 62 TDs

*1993 Florida State Seminoles--12.25, 6,576 yards, 939 plays, 63 TDs

*1991 Nebraska Cornhuskers--12.50, 5,571 yards, 800 plays, 60 TDs

The 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers were No. 3 in yards per play (7.16), No. 5 in yards per game (556.3), No. 3 in average plays per touchdown (12.4) and No. 1 in points per game (52.4) for an overall rating of 3.00.

Twelve players from the 1994 Penn State offense were drafted into the NFL over the next two seasons.

Top Ten Offensive Units from 2000-2005

*2005 Southern Cal Trojans--2.25, 7,537 yards, 1,006 plays, 87 TDs

*2004 Louisville Cardinals--3.00, 6,468 yards, 893 plays, 80 TDs

*2005 Texas Longhorns--4.00, 6,657 yards, 941 plays, 88 TDs

*2001 BYU Cougars--4.50, 7,057 yards, 991 plays, 82 TDs

*2001 Florida Gators--6.00, 5,803 yards, 788 plays, 61 TDs

*2002 Boise State Broncos--6.75, 6,519 yards, 950 plays, 79 TDs

*2000 Florida State Seminoles--7.00, 6,588 yards, 924 plays, 67 TDs

*2003 Texas Tech Red Raiders--7.75, 7,576 yards, 1,088 plays, 76 TDs

*2000 Miami Hurricanes, 10.25, 5,069 yards, 774 plays, 63 TDs

*2002 Miami Hurricanes--10.25, 6,056 yards, 887 plays, 70 TDs

The 2005 Trojan offense might be the best in the history of college football. Southern Cal had a 3,000-yard quarterback, two 1,000-yard rushers and two receivers with more than 900-yards receiving.

The Trojans finished No. 1 in yards per play (7.49), No. 2 in yards per game (579.8), No. 3 in plays per touchdown (11.6) and No. 3 in points per game (49.1) for an overall ranking of 2.25.

Offensive Averages By Decade

Here are the offensive averages from each decade compiled from the top offensive units:

*1970-1979: 476.3 yards per game, 6.21 yards per play, 38.0 points per game

*1980-1989: 502.0 yards per game, 6.53 yards per play, 39.9 points per game

*1990-1999: 513.1 yards per game, 6.76 yards per play, 42.8 points per game

*2000-2005: 509.2 yards per game, 6.85 yards per play, 42.9 points per game

It's evident the passing game has evolved over the past four decades making college offense much more difficult to defend.

(Part Two will feature a defensive analysis.)


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