After Clemson put a shocking beat-down on Alabama in the National Championship game this past Monday, the fashion in which the Tigers dominated the game, has sparked a debate about where this year's Tigers rank amongst the all-time greats. This season's Alabama squad was considered one of the greatest ever by many afterall. The Tide had rolled through everyone on their schedule, and got a big come-from-behind victory over a very good Georgia team in the SEC title game. Clemson not only won, but dominated the game, and rightfully, jumped smack into the middle of the conversation of greatest college football teams of all-time.
So, how do the 2018 Tigers stack-up versus the all-time greats? I have searched the records books, the lists, and the legends of college football lore to come up a list of those who are generally considere to be the greatest ever. Initially, this list was going to be the 5 greatest, but ultimately, I found there to be 8 completely deserving teams, that should be included on any list that discusses the greatest squads of all-time. Without further ado, here are the @sportsguychris 8 Greatest College Football Teams of All-Time:
8 1947 Michigan (10-0)
The 47' season usually brings to mind a dominant Notre Dame squad that finished the season ranked #1 in the AP poll, comfortably ahead of #2 Michigan. However, after the Wolverines dominated USC in the 1948 Rose Bowl by a score of 49-0, which was more than what Notre Dame had defeated USC by in the regular season finale (38-7), many called for Michigan to be named National Champs. A special AP vote was held after the bowl games, with more voting participants than in the history of the poll, and the results were overwhelming with Michigan outgaining the Irish by a vote of 226-119 for the top spot.
Furthermore, both ND and Michigan shared 3 common opponents during the season, with the Woverines defeating all three in more impressive fashion: Pitt, 59-0 (the Irish won 40-6), Northwestern, 49-21 (ND won 26-19), and the aforementioned USC score.
The Wolverines pitched 5 shutouts on the season, and blew-out the likes of Stanford, Michigan State, Pitt, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio State, NW, and USC, with the closest margin of victory being 21 points in those games.
When you knock off that many quality programs in one season, it is certainly fair to make a claim to being one of the best ever, even if the 47' Wolverines may be overlooked a bit in the overall history of NCAA football.
7 1972 USC (12-0)
The 72' version of the Trojans is considered by many to be the greatest team of all-time, and it's difficult to argue that assertion. USC started out the season ranked #8 and quickly rose to #1 after an impressive 31-10 route at #4 Arkansas to start the season. All they did was follow-up by hanging 51 on Oregon State, scored 55 at Illinois, and then once again went for 51 in a pasting of Michigan State. Throw in victories over ranked teams in Stanford (15), Washington (18), rivals UCLA (14), and Notre Dame (10), and a 42-17 complete domination of #3 Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, and the Trojans can certainly make a claim to being the greatest ever.
Legendary long-time college football broadcaster Keith Jackson, whose mind consists of a vast library of college football knowledge, once said he thought that the 72' Trojans were the best ever.
Six victories over teams ranked in the top 18, sure adds credence to Jackson's statement.
6 2001 Miami FL (12-0)
The 2001 Hurricanes will always be remember as one of the greatest college football teams of all-time for a variety of reasons, most notably, the immense plethora of quality - NFL talent that resided on the roster. Led by Heisman-Finalist QB Ken Dorsey, HB Clinton Portis, WR Andre Johnson, TE Jeremy Shockey, and OT Bryant McKinnie on offense. Along with S Ed Reed, fellow DBs Sean Taylor and Antrel Rolle, and LB Jonathan Vilma, on defense, Miami cruised to an undefeated season and the 2001 National Championship.
They opened the season at Penn State in a showdown with Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions and quickly turned Happy Valley into anything but. After blowing PSU away in the first half to the tune of a 30-0 halftime lead, head coach Larry Coker pulled his starters and the Hurricanes put it in cruise-control for the second half, as they coasted to a 33-7 victory, giving Paterno his worst home-loss at Penn State in the process. They also had an impressive blowout of rival Florida State in Tallahassee, routing the #13 Seminoles 49-27.
It was how the Hurricanes closed the season that helps make their case for being the greatest team ever, even more concrete. In back-to-back weeks late in the season, they absolutely crushed #15 Syracuse, 59-0, and then followed that up with a 65-7 complete destruction of #11 Washington. Add-in a very difficult road victory at #14 Virginia Tech to close out the season, and Miami closed the season in emphatic fashion. It carried on to the National Title game, where the Hurricanes jumped all over #2 Nebraska racing out to an incredibly impressive 34-0 halftime lead, before once-again coasting in the second half to the 37-14 victory. They finished the season with an average margin of victory of 32.9 points, averaged 42.6 per game, and only surrendered 9.8 per contest on the season. They also hold the NCAA record for margin of victory over ranked teams in consecutive weeks, thanks to the aforementioned demolitions of Syracuse and Washington. Those numbers are even more impressive when taking into consideration that the starters routinely sat out the second halves of numerous games, thanks to such dominating first-half performances. It all adds up to the 01' Hurricanes going down in history as one of the greatest ever.
5 1971 Nebraska (13-0)
The 71' Cornhuskers are generally regarded as one of the top 2 or 3 in the history of college football. I don't have a problem with that sentiment, as they certainly deserve a spot on any list that pertains to the greatest college football teams of all-time. When you take into account that they didn't allow more than 7 points in a game until the 7th game of the season, and that was a 41-13 route @ Oklahoma State, one can see just how dominant the 71' Nebraska team truly was.
A 31-7 blowout of rival, and 9th-ranked Colorado the following week, along with a thrilling 35-31 victory over #2 and fellow-unbeaten rival, Oklahoma, on Thanksgiving gives this squad even more ammunition to their claim as the greatest ever. All of the talk about the 71' Cornhuskers being the greatest usually centers around their 38-6 complete destruction of #2 Alabama in the Orange Bowl. The 71' Alabama squad was considered one of the best to that point as well, as they rolled through to an 11-0 regular season before the blowout loss in the Orange Bowl. The 71' Cornhuskers won twelve of their thirteen games by 24 points + and finished the season with victories over the next three teams in the final AP poll as Oklahoma finished #2, Colorado #3, and Alabama at #4 - not too shabby.
4 1944 Army (9-0)
The 1944-46 period of Army football is generally considered the greatest 3-year run in college football history. The 1945 team is considered by many to be the greatest of all-time, but I actually think the 44' squad was just as good if not better. Glenn Davis took home the Maxwell Award in 44', and was in my opinion, one of the greatest college football players of all-time. He was an All-American in 45', won the Heisman in 46', and was joined in the backfield by teammate Doc Blanchard, who went on to win the Heisman in 45'. The one-two punch is one of the greatest in NCAA football history.
The 44' squad piled up 504 points in just 9 games, while only allowing a total of 35 all season long. In fact, the 1944 Black Knights produced 4 shutouts, and remarkably, never surrendered more than 7 points in any of their 9 games, giving up exactly 7 in each of their other 5 games. Included in that 44' season, was a 46-0 opening-season victory over North Carolina, a 59-0 thrashing of 5th-ranked Notre Dame, and a 23-7 victory over #2 Navy that secured the National Championship in the season finale. For the season, they averaged 56.0 per game, while only allowing 3.9 per contest, can you say complete domination?...
3 2018 Clemson Tigers (15-0)
This year's version of the Clemson Tigers, finished the season on a 10-game hot streak for the ages. Just take a look at their final 10 games:
@ Wake Forest, W 63-3
vs 16 N.C. State, W 41-7
@ Florida State, W 59-10
vs Louisville, W 77-16
@ 17 Boston College, W 27-7
vs Duke, W 35-6
vs South Carolina, W 56-35
vs Pitt, W 42-10 (ACC Title game)
vs #3 Notre Dame, W 30-3 (Cotton Bowl, CFP Semifinal)
vs #1 Alabama, W 44-16 (CFP Championship)
What the Tigers did to #3 Notre Dame and #1 Alabama in the college football playoffs was extremely impressive.
The Crimson Tide were considered by many to be the greatest team in college football history heading into Monday night's title game, and rightfully so. They cruised through the regular season, completely blowing out everyone, and then rallied to beat a very good Georgia team in the SEC title game. They cruised out to a 28-0 lead over Oklahoma without breaking a sweat in their semifinal game. This same Alabama squad was thoroughly dismantled by Clemson in the Title game. The 44-16 beatdown of one of the greatest teams ever, certainly gives the 2018 Clemson squad a legitimate claim to being considered the greatest ever. It's hard to argue with their closing stretch to the season, the results really speak for themselves.
Add-in the dominant defensive front, consisting of future 1st round NFL draft picks in All-American Clelin Ferrell, All-American Christian Wilkins, and fellow senior Austin Bryant. Junior Dexter Lawrence has also declared for the draft, meaning the Tigers could have all 4 starting defensive lineman go in the 1st round. In addition, cornerback Trayvon Mullen, and linebacker Tre Lamar are also heading to the Draft after stellar seasons - Mark it down - the 2018 Clemson defense may have been one of the best ever, especially in terms of NFL talent.
2 1995 Nebraska (12-0)
While many have pegged the 1971 Nebraska team the best ever, I'm not so sure that they are even the best Nebraska squad ever. That honor belongs to the 95' squad in my opinion.
The 1995 team returned QBs Tommy Frazier and Brook Berringer, who led the 1994 team to Nebraska's first National Title in over two decades. The 95' team was led by a supberb, powerful, rushing attack, and dominant defense, and provided an upgrade over the 94' team in all facets of the game. QB Tommie Frazier was an All-American 1st team selection. Frazier was the catalyst for an extremely dominant rushing attack that produced 53 + points per game. With Frazier at the helm, and HB Lawrence Phillips in the backfield, the Huskers averaged well-over 400 rushing yards per game. In addition, their 38-point average margin of victory was and still is the highest of any team since the mid-1940s.
They opened the season with a 64-21 victory over Oklahoma State in Stillwater, followed that up with a 50-10 rout @ Michigan State and then crushed Arizona State in their home opener, 77-28. These weren't FCS-level schools or even "group of 5" so-called "cupcakes", the Spartans were coached by Nick Saban and finished the season 6-5-1, while the Sun Devils finished with a winning record as well at 6-5.
The Cornhuskers then closed the season by defeating #8 Kansas State in Lincoln, NE, 49-25, before spanking rival, #7 Colorado on the road, 44-21. They followed with a 73-14 shellacking of Iowa State, a 41-3 domination of #10 Kansas on the road, and then absolutely crushed Big 8 rival Oklahoma in a 37-0 shutout. Lastly, who could forget Tommie Frazier ripping off one of the most iconic plays in college football history with his 75-yard 3rd quarter TD run where he broke tackle after tackle and seemingly carried Florida defenders along for much of the ride in the 96' Fiesta Bowl. The 62-24 complete annihilation of Steve Spurrier's 'fun-n-gun' Florida Gators was something to behold.
The Nebraska performance set several impressive records, including: largest margin of victory and highest score in National Championship game history. They also set NCAA Bowl records for rushing yards with 524 and total yards of offense with an eye-popping 629. Frazier ran for 199 yards in the game, averaging a whopping 12.4 ypc. The dominant Huskers' D held the Gators' explosive offense to just 269 total yards, (no where near UF's season average of 534) including an unfathomable -28 rushing. It was one of the most thorough beat-downs in title game history, and cements this squad as one of the greatest ever.
1 1945 Army (9-0)
Earlier, I covered the 44' team, and although I feel both the 1944 version and 1945 edition are about equal, the 45' squad ultimately gets the nod thanks to the superior strength of their schedule. The 45' Black Knights defeated 5 teams ranked in the top 25, including 4 in the top 10. An early season showdown against #9 Michigan in Yankee Stadium ended in an easy 28-7 victory for Army. The week before they pummeled Wake Forest 54-0, and then two weeks later they blewout #19 Duke at the Polo Grounds in New York, 48-13.
Even an obscure team in Melville PT Boats was better than anyone might think. As it turns out, Boats was a Navy Torpedo Boat training facility/school located in Rhode Island that believe it - or - not, had a pretty good football squad during the 1940s. In fact the 1945 team was unbeaten ahead of their game with Army and the Black Knights thrashed the Night Raiders 55-13.
They were led by one of the greatest backfield tandems in history in Doc Blanchard, who won the Heisman in 45' after leading the team in carries with 110, while rushing for over 700 yards and 16 TDs. And backfield running mate Glenn Davis was equally impressive, adding just over 900 yards and 15 scores, and went on to win the Heisman himself the following season.
All of that really just sets the table for what helps to set apart the 1945 Army squad as the best ever and that was their closing schedule. First they completely destroyed Villanova in their final home game of the season, 54-0. Next was an incredibly impressive 48-0 shutout of fellow-unbeaten, and #2-ranked Notre Dame from Yankee Stadium. They followed that up with a trip to Franklin Field to play #6 Penn, and put a 61-0 beat-down on the Quakers in their home stadium. This was a different era then today's FCS-level Ivy League football programs. During this era in college football the Ivy schools turned out some of the best programs in the nation, playing mostly as independents. Yale fielded 2 of the first 3 Heisman winners, and Princeton won the National Championship in 1951. The 45' Penn squad finished the season 6-2 with 4 shutouts themselves. Their only other loss was to #3 at the time Navy, 14-7. They blewout #10 Columbia on the road 32-7, as well as North Carolina 49-0, and Brown 50-0.
Following the complete domination of Penn, Army would be tasked with playing the #2-ranked team in the country for the second time in three weeks. Rival Navy had risen to the #2 spot and came into the season finale unbeaten themselves, making the Army-Navy showdown the effective National Championship game. Army put a 32-13 whooping on their rivals, in what was actually their closest game of the season.
The 45' Army squad finished with an average of 45.8 points per game, while only surrendering 5.1 points per contest. Five of their nine total games came against ranked opponents, with four of them coming against teams ranked in the top 10, including a pair of victories over two-seperate unbeaten #2-ranked teams in the country in a three week span to close the season. The average score in those two contests? 40-6. The 1945 Army squad also pitched 5 shutouts in 9 games. All of it put together, adds-up to the greatest college football team in history.
I hope you enjoyed my list of the greatest college football teams in history, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below! Please shoot me a follow and I will follow you right back - Who is the greatest of all-time in your opinion?