Who is the greatest college football over the past 25 years? I would even venture to say that the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers are arguably the greatest team in college history. Who could compete with their size, speed and power?
Here's a look at some of the best teams over the last quarter century.
1) Nebraska (1995)
The 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers were simply overpowering offensively behind their vaunted run game and option attack triggered by quarterback Tommie Frazier and backs Ahman Green and Lawrence Phillips.
There offense was overwhelming. They averaged 52 points a game against conference opponents. Nebraska’s non-conference schedule included games against Michigan State, Arizona State, Washington State and Florida in the title game. Against this group the Cornhuskers averaged 56 a game including 62 in a Fiesta Bowl massacre win over a really good Gator squad. Tom Osborne’s troops just dismantled the unbeaten SEC champs 62-24. I have never seen a game of that magnitude, where one team imposed their will in such a fierce and forceful way like this Cornhusker squad.
This team was so talented, so athletic and so fast. The defense was just as dynamic and so to where Osborne’s special teams. The Cornhuskers trailed only once all season. They scored 51 rushing touchdowns and the defense only gave up six. This team’s average margin of victory of 38 was the greatest by any team over the last fifty years. The Cornhuskers title teams of 1994 and 1995 went back to back and undefeated at 25-0.
Nebraska was loaded, as 27 players went on into the NFL. Green, Phillips, Michael Booker, Kris Brown, Doug Colman, Chris Dishman, Jay Foreman, Scott Frost, Aaron Graham, Jon Hesse, Sheldon Jackson, Vershon Jackson, Chad Kelsay, Joel Makovicka, Mike Minter, Christian Peter, Jason Peter, Mike Rucker, Eric Stokes, Jared Tomich, Adam Treu, Tony Veland, Eric Warfield, Jamal Williams, Tyrone Williams, Jason Wiltz, and Grant Wistrom all played on Sundays in the NFL from this roster.
I find it hard to believe that some of the elite teams from earlier eras could beat this Nebraska team. This squad was simply too big, too fast and too overpowering.
2) Miami (2001)
If ’95 Nebraska was the best team since 1990 then the 2001 Miami Hurricanes were undoubtedly the most talented. There were 17 NFL first round draft picks on this roster. That’s no misprint. 38 players overall were selected in the coming NFL drafts from this 2001 team (see below). That’s just mind blowing. Much of the [recruiting] credit has to go to Butch Davis, though he did leave for the Browns job just before signing day ’01. Offensive coordinator Larry Coker took over and the rest is history.
The ‘Canes didn’t miss a beat. Miami pretty much thrashed everyone, outscoring their opponents 512 to 117 with average margin of victory was 34 points. They did have to win on the road at Virginia Tech late that season to keep their title hopes alive. The Hurricanes escaped Blacksburg with a 26-24 win. Other road victories were at Penn State, FSU, Pitt, and BC, though their schedule was considered fairly easy compared to other past title teams.
The ‘Canes started the season at No. 2 and after their opening game win in Happy Valley Coker’s club went to the top spot and never looked back. Miami dismantled Nebraska in the BCS Championship Game at the Rose Bowl 37-14. The offensive was balanced yet explosive. The defense equally terrific, allowing only 13 touchdowns all season. The Canes held opponents to a touchdown or less in eight of twelve games.
There were so many stars and contributors of that year for U-M. Quarterback Ken Dorsey, running back Clinton Portis, wide receiver Andre Johnson, tight ends Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow, Jr., offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, safeties Sean Taylor and Ed Reed were just some of the standouts.
Taylor, Reed, McKinnie, Johnson, Winslow, Shockey, Antrel Rolle, Jonathan Vilma, D.J. Williams, Jerome McDougle, Phillp Buchanon, Vernon Carey, Vince Wilfork, Willis McGahee, William Joseph, Mike Rumph, and Kelly Jennings were all first round draft picks from the years 2002-2006 from this ’01 roster. Portis, Rocky McIntosh, Roscoe Parrish, Frank Gore, Andrew Williams, Rashad Butler, Leon Williams, Martin Bibla, Jamaal Green, Orien Harris, Najeh Davenport, Matt Walters, Marcus Maxey, James Lewis, Chris Myers, Darnell McClover, Alfonso Marshall, Daryl Jones, Joaquin Gonzalez, Dorsey, and Carlos Joseph were all draft picks over the same time.
3) Texas (2005)
The Longhorns were led by quarterback Vince Young, who put together a spectacular season in helping Texas to an improbable national championship. Texas wasn’t supposed to beat the mighty USC Trojans. But they did 41-38, behind a Superman-like performance by Young in what has to be considered one of the greatest college football games ever. The Longhorns were so potent on offense behind Young, averaging 50 points per game. Their only contested game of the season was on the road in Columbus where they beat the Buckeyes 25-22. Throw out the Ohio State victory and their average margin of victory the rest of the way was 39 points. The defense was really good as well. Nine players were drafted from that unit.
4) USC (2004)
This national title is now vacated for breaking NCAA rules but I am going to include them in this list. This team and program were firing on all cylinders at this point under Pete Carroll. Led by quarterback Matt Leinart and the spectacular Reggie Bush, the Trojans were just awesome this year, capping an unbeaten season with a 55-19 BCS Championship Game, Orange Bowl win over Oklahoma. Leinart won the Heisman and led this star studded team. The Trojans were also in the midst of a 34-game winning streak, eventually broken by the Vince Young-led Longhorns in the title game win year later.
This Don James team of the Huskies split the national title with the Miami Hurricanes. Washington beat three top ten teams that season and finished the year 12-0. The defense was dominant and led by the nation’s best defensive player, tackle Steve Emtman (he finished fourth for Heisman Trophy). The Huskies recorded two shutouts. In seven of their 12 games the opponent didn’t score more than a touchdown. Washington scored road wins at Nebraska, Stanford, USC, Cal and Oregon State and beat the No. 4 ranked Michigan Wolverines in the Rose Bowl in convincing fashion 34-14. Quarterback Billy Joe Hobert threw 22 touchdown passes that season while the ground attack netted 2,000 yards between Beno Bryant, Jay Barry and Napoleon Kaufman. Huskie wide receiver Mario Bailey had a huge season, catching 62 passes for 1,037 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Florida State (1993)
There’s no question that this Bobby Bowden/Charlie Ward team on ’93 in Tallahassee was such a special team. Had it not been for the loss in South Bend to No. 2 ranked Notre Dame (24-21), there’s no doubt that this version of the Seminoles would have made the top five. This team also featured Warrick Dunn, Derrick Brooks, Tamarick Vanover, Kez McCorvey, William Floyd, Clifton Abraham, Corey Sawyer, Devin Bush, and others. The offense got all the publicity but this defense was outstanding. This unit posted four shutouts and held three other teams to seven points or less. Ward led Bowden and FSU to their first national title when they beat Nebraska 18-16 in the Orange Bowl.
Penn State (1994)
Penn State was the top ranked team for much of the 1994 season. They were led by quarterback Kerry Collins and running back Ki-Jana Carter and posted close to 48 points per game. Over the same weekend in the middle of the season, the No. 1 Nittany Lions beat a ranked Buckeye team by 49 and No. 3 Nebraska beat No. 2 Colorado 24-7. The Cornhuskers leaped over Penn State and never looked back. Nebraska beat Miami in the Orange while Penn State beat Oregon in the Rose Bowl. Both teams finished 12-0. Rather than split the national championship between these two undefeated teams, it was given to Nebraska. Remember, this was before the BCS.
The Gators won three national titles during this time and two teams were considered here – 2008 and this one. I hesitantly lean towards Steve Spurrier’s squad led by the great Danny Wuerffel. This team had one of the most explosive offenses during this era, featuring an incredible passing game with this QB throwing to players like Ike Hilliard, Reidel Anthony, and Jacquez Green. But people forget just how balanced Spurrier’s offense was. The Gator run game featured Fred Taylor, Elijah Williams and Terry Jackson. Florida outscored their opponents by an average margin of 30 points. This team did have one blemish. Ranked No. 1 for most of the season Florida went to Tallahassee to play No. 2 ranked FSU. The Gators lost to the Seminoles in an absolute epic battle 24-21. They met again in the Sugar Bowl and Florida whacked Florida State 52-20 for their first national title.
It's time to give this Tommy Tuberville some love, as they didn't get a shot at the title, finishing the regular season No. 3 in the BCS rankings. That distinction went to the Sooners and the Trojans thrashed them (see above). This was a terrific squad that went unbeaten in the SEC, which we all know is so incredibly difficult to do. The offense was stout and balanced with quarterback Jason Campbell and a run game that featured Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams. The defense was even better and the special teams were special. People don't give enough credit to this squad and it has to be the most under-appreciated team during this era. Obviously, Auburn went on to win the national title in 2010 behind one of the greatest individual seasons ever by Tigers quarterback Cam Newton.
I had to consider four Alabama teams here for this project and went with their unbeaten 2009 team under Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide mainly cruised through the season before taking down top ranked Florida, led by then senior quarterback Tim Tebow. Next is was No. 2 Texas in the BCS National Championship Game. Alabama beat the Longhorns 37-21 to capture yet another national title. The team was led by quarterback Greg McElroy and a dominant run game featuring Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. The Alabama lines of scrimmage were simply dominating and Saban’s defense was just terrific.
Florida State (2013)
Freshman quarterback Jameis Winston burst on the college football scene and led Florida State to an absolutely dominant season. They literally cruised through the regular season, crushing every opponent on their schedule. In seven games the Seminoles held opponents to seven points or less. The offense lit up the scoreboard with scores that hit 80, 63, 62, 59 twice, 54, 51 and scored in the 40s five times. Their only challenge came in the BCS Championship Game were they came from behind to beat Auburn 34-31. How dominant was this Jimbo Fisher team? They only trailed at halftime once and that was in this game. Full disclosure here – I struggled between this team and Florida’s State 1993 so much I decided to put them both on this list.