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Best college football teams since 2000

Chris Gharagozlo
© Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Debates of greatness are one of the most common arguments among sports fanatics. Who is better, Michael Jordan or LeBron James? Is Tom Brady the greatest quarterback or is he a product of an amazing coach in Bill Belichick? The list goes on and on for the most common debates.

This past year, the College Football world witnessed the greatest College Football team to ever play: the 2019 LSU Tigers. 

Here are the top 10 College Football teams since 2000.

1. 2019 LSU

We all just witnessed the greatest football team to ever step foot on a collegiate football field. For the next few decades, the 2019 LSU team will be the golden standard in college football.

  • Joe Burrow was the greatest collegiate quarterback. He passed for over 5,600 yards with a completion percentage of 76.3%. He had 65 total touchdowns, which is the most touchdowns by a quarterback in a single season. Burrow also broke the record for most passing touchdowns in a Playoff game with five.
  • Burrow, the 2019 Heisman winner, not only has the stats, but he passes the eye test. There have been countless “Heisman” moments. Arguably against the best defense in college football, Georgia, Burrow danced around in the pocket avoiding multiple pass rushers, and then threw a beautiful pass to Justin Jefferson for a 71-yard touchdown (watch here). This was one of many historic plays by Burrow. 
  • LSU beat a whopping seven ranked teams. Out of these seven teams, the Tigers beat four of them by double digits. This was a level of dominance simply never seen in the collegiate game.
  • LSU has something stats cannot show. The players were dedicated to each other, and they loved the state of Louisiana. They played for their coach, Ed Oregon. One can just see the brotherhood every time they hoisted a trophy. When you watched them play, you watched them have fun. This is why everyone seemed to gravitate toward them.

2. 2001 Miami

The 2001 Miami team had star power. Every part of it seemed to be stacked with household names. It is one of the few teams on this list who had an abundance of successful NFL players.

  • At running back, they had Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, and Frank Gore. Frank Gore just became fourth all time in rushing yards. Portis endured a very successful career with the Redskins, and McGahee was a two-time pro bowler.
  • At tight end, they had Super Bowl winner, Jeremy Shockey, and son of legendary Kellen Winslow Sr, Kellen Winslow Jr. Most teams are extremely fortunate if they have one tight end like them, but this one had both.
  • One of the most insane duos in college football history was at the safety position for this Miami team. On one end, it had Sean Taylor, and on the other, they had Ed Reed. This team was so good that Sean Taylor backed-up Ed Reed. Ed Reed is a hall of famer, and Sean Taylor would have been if it was not for his tragic death. It is insanity that both of these men played on the field at the same time.
  • This was just a look at the talent on paper. Talent does not always translate to dominance. In this case, it translated to complete dominance.
  • The Hurricanes averaged 42.6 points per game while only allowing 9.75 points a game. They had only two games finish within 20 points. They destroyed whatever was in their path.
  • This team created a swagger in college football. The ‘Canes knew how good they were, and they made sure everyone knew it. They went up 34-0 at the half versus Nebraska en route to a national title.

3. 2018 Clemson

In order to be one of the greatest teams in college football’s history, you need to beat some really good teams. No other team on this list has beat a team as good as the 2018 Alabama team. This Alabama team was considered one of the greatest college football teams in history going into the National Championship. Not only did Clemson beat it, the Tigers utterly dominated them. They won 44-16, the worst loss in Nick Saban’s Alabama career.

  • In the college football playoffs, Clemson outscored their opponents 74- 19. They won in pure dominating fashion. Clemson only had 2 games decided by less than 20 points, and they beat a total of four ranked teams.
  • They also went 3-0 versus the SEC and won their last 10 games by more than 20 points. It is too early to tell how the talent of Clemson will translate to the NFL. They probably will not be able to come close to competing with the 2001 Miami team. However, their talent is still there.
  • Trevor Lawrence is going to go down as one of the most pro-ready quarterbacks of all time. He had over 3,200 yards and 30 touchdowns and this is by being put behind Kelly Bryant for the few games of the season. Being a backup and a true freshman adds to the pure greatness.
  • They ranked 3rd in total offense in the nation; they had two studs at running back and wide receiver, and it seemed like no one could stop their offense no matter how hard they tried.
  • Clemson also had an all-time great coach. Dabo Swinney started the new era of a “player coach.” His team plays for him, and he coaches for them. He has a laid-back mentality that seems to resonate with his players. He is also the one who threw them into the discussion of the best team ever.
  • They are not the best team ever, but they are quite close to that title.

4. 2005 Texas

Every great team has an all-time great moment. No team has a greater moment than the 2005 Texas Longhorns. Vince Young scrambling for the game-winning touchdown versus USC will forever be engraved in college football history. When people think college football, one cannot help but to think about Vince Young waltzing into the end zone to win the National Championship.

  • According to ESPN Analytics, the 2005 Texas team was the most dominant team in the past 20 years as of 2018.
  • Vince Young was one of the greatest college football quarterbacks of all time. His stats are not eye-popping as he finished with only 3,036 yards passing and 26 touchdowns. However, he proved to be clutch when big games needed to be won.
  • He maintained composure as an underdog against a stacked USC team on the biggest stage of his career. He scored one of the most legendary touchdowns in NCAA history, and he led his team to a National Championship. Numbers do not show everything. championships do.
  • They finished the season with a whopping 50.2 points per game. They outscored their opponents 652 to 213. They only beat three ranked teams, which is why they are lower on the list. However, that does not fully take away from their dominance.

5. 2008 Florida

The 2008 Florida team was full of mysteries. Similar to the 2001 Miami team, it had a lot of talent on paper. The 2008 Florida team had players who started to make their mark in the NFL, but off the field, issues crippled their careers (Aaron Hernandez and Riley Cooper). The Pouncey brothers experienced a tremendous amount of success in the NFL. Cam Newton was a back-up QB. All of them were led by their polarizing quarterback, Tim Tebow.

  • Regardless of the characters on the team, they performed at the highest level in the 2008 season. They averaged over 43 points a game while only allowing less than 13 points a game.
  • Their offense was so multidimensional that most coaches could not even come close to stopping it. They had Tim Tebow who could beat you with his legs, his arm, and can run you over with his massive frame. They had tremendous speed on the outside with Percy Harvin, Riley Cooper, and David Nelson. Aaron Hernandez provided them with huge mismatches on the inside. Defenses were left scratching their head when having to deal with their offense.
  • Teams could not pass on them as they finished with 26 interceptions and was led by cornerback Joe Haden. Their strong offense and defense led them to outscore their opponents by an average of over 31 points a game.
  • In the biggest game of their season, the National Championship, the Gator’s defense held an offense that averaged over 50 points a game to only 14 points. This team could beat you in countless ways.
  • So far, the Gators are the only team on this list with a loss. They lost to Ole Miss by one point. This led to Tebow delivering his famous “promise” to the Gator nation en route to a National title.
  • Another reason the 2008 Florida team is on this list is because Tebow gave one of the best halftime speeches in the history of football. That speech symbolized how badly he and the gators wanted to win. Their heart showed on their sleeves and onto this list.

6. 2013 Florida State

The 2013 Florida State had one of the most explosive offenses the game of football has ever seen. The team was led by Jameis Winston and Kelvin Benjamin, with Jimbo Fisher calling the plays. The offense carried the Seminoles to a National Championship victory.

  • In 2013, they broke the record held by the 2008 Oklahoma team for most points a game with 716 points. They destroyed opponents by an average of 42 points during the regular season.
  • This team also subbed in its second team regularly, and even in doing so, the Seminoles still only scored under 40 points once. Their strength of schedule was ranked 90th in the nation, but they did beat 4 ranked teams in route to the National Championship.
  • The 2014 National Championship was one of the best championships in recent memory. Jameis Winston had a Vince Young type moment when he threw the game-winning touchdown to Benjamin with 13 seconds left in the game. Florida State won the game by three.

7. 2004 USC

The 2004 USC Trojans have probably been the most polarizing team in the past two decades. They had a Heisman winner in running back, Reggie Bush, who got his Heisman taken away. This was not the only award to be taken from them either. The BCS stripped the Trojans of the 2004 championship.

  • Technically, they are not national champions. However, the scandals cannot take away from how electric this team truly was.
  • Their offense was led by Heisman winners Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush. They beat teams by an average score of over 25 points a game.
  • This team is not the best compared to other teams on this list. However, in the national championship game, it destroyed Oklahoma by 36 points.
  • This USC team also experienced the same amount of success in their next season. The Trojans made it all the way to the national championship again, but this time they lost to Texas.
  • This team also had such a swagger to it. The swagger was different than the 2001 Miami team. The Trojans had the southern California swagger. They had celebrities on their sidelines in practices and even games. This team was treated like they were stars. The game of college football has not seen a team as famous at their time than this 2004 USC team.

8. 2011 Alabama

It is impossible to list the best college football teams since 2000 and not include Nick Saban and Alabama. Saban has produced many elite defenses, but none were as suffocating than the 2011 team. This defense was the best defense that has ever been assembled in college football history.

  • The Crimson Tide led the nation in total, scoring, passing, and rushing defense. Only one team scored over 20 points against them the entire season. They only allowed an absurd 8.2 points per game.
  • This defense was not a defense that just bullied below-average teams. It bullied teams in the spotlight for everyone to see. It also shutout LSU in the national title game and this perfectly demonstrated how good this defense actually was.
  • The offense is the worst offense on the list. It was heavily dependent on Trent Richardson and the run game to put points on the scoreboard.
  • However, this is Alabama football. It is the football The Crimson Tide wanted to play. They rely on their defense to suffocate opponents. They make sure their offensive line is the best in the country, so their running backs can get into the open field. They did not want to rely on their quarterback, and they never really had too.
  • However, if it had an elite offense like it had in 2018 then this team might have easily been one of the greatest teams ever. It would have beat teams by 50 points a game. It would have stomped on anyone who stood in their way. Nevertheless, this team is still worthy of being number 8 on this list.

9. 2004 Boise State

The non-power 5 teams rarely get any love. The Mountain West is arguably the most forgotten conference in all of college football. However, Boise State always makes sure to remind the country of how good the Mountain West is. Boise State has a lot of good teams to choose from, but the 2004 team was the most heroic.

  • Their offense was electric. They were 2nd in the nation in scoring with 48.9 points a game. Their offense carried them to an undefeated regular season. This led to a lot of controversy as there were five undefeated teams. Eventually, USC demolished Oklahoma. If Boise State played in the game instead, would things have been different?
  • Instead, they played Louisville in the Liberty Bowl. They were the definition of a pure underdog in this game. Most of the nation did not think Boise State had a chance. However, the reason they are on this list is because of how hard they played.
  • They fought and crawled to a close 40-44 loss. They lost the game, but they started to gain respect for the Mountain West conference after this phenomenon.
  • This was arguably the start of the legacy of the notorious Boise State football program.

10. 2012 Texas A&M

A lot of people will never imagine this team being on any sort of list like this one. The 2012 Texas A&M team did not win any championship, and it did not go undefeated. However, Johnny Manziel and the Aggies gave the nation something it had never seen. They played football like it was a backyard game on a fall afternoon. They played like so many people across the nation play: reckless and joyful.

  • Johnny Manziel led the Aggies to the 4th best scoring offense with 44.5 points per game. They beat four ranked teams including the legendary takedown of number 1 ranked Alabama. This game was Johnny Manziel’s Heisman moment.
  • Some of the greatest plays in the past two decades saw Johnny Manziel running around like a chicken without a head and making plays you literally cannot even do in video games. He brought so many young boys and girls to love the game of college football.
  • Mike Evans is now one of the best receivers in the NFL. He and Manziel took college football by storm. They might not have the most impressive resume, but they have something that cannot be expressed in numbers. They made the game so enjoyable to watch, and they captured the hearts of America.