Top 40 College Football Teams in My Lifetime Part 1

The talk often comes up about the greatest teams of all time. If you could magically place the best teams of 2015 with a team from the 1960’s, the modern team would probably crush the old team in a game. But, there are other factors involved such as how good a particular team was against teams of their era, or just how dominating they were. Another factor is the number of players that went on to be successful in the Pros. How much heart did that particular team show if the game was on the line? Some schools didn’t have much competition, but others came through when the game was on the line.


It is impossible to compare teams from different era’s just like it’s impossible to compare boxers from one time period to one 50 years later.

In spite of so many factors, these are my picks as the top teams I have ever seen. Feel free to disagree and leave a comment, or tell me why you think another team might be better. I love great football discussion.

1. 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers: I did not include the 1994 Huskers because they were pretty much the same team as the 1995 team, only not as completely dominating. The 1995 Cornhuskers just annihilated everybody they faced on their way to a 12-0 season, other than one strange game in which they  only beat Washington State by 14 points. They beat Oklahoma State 64-21 in game one,

Michigan State 50-10 in game two, and then Arizona State in game three by 77- 28. This team just rolled right over everybody, but their most impressive wins were over top 10 ranked teams Kansas State, Colorado and Kansas. Then, they blew out their main rival, Oklahoma, with a 37-0 beating. In spite of all that, the ending of the 1995 season was the most incredible national championship game performance I have ever witnessed. In the Fiesta Bowl, #1 ranked Nebraska just destroyed #2 Florida 62-24. The game was really not all that close.

Tommie Frazier was the Offensive star on this team and he took Nebraska to incredible new levels in their option power running game. Troubled Running Back Lawrence Phillips was greatness on the field, but Ahman Green stole the show. Nebraska, under head coach Tom Osborne, always had a great offense but the 1995 Huskers had a defense. Led by the Peters brothers in the Defensive Line, the Huskers just crushed opponents. They also had Michael Booker, Doug Colman, Jay Foreman, Mike Rucker and Mike Minter. This team was deep, talented, fast and possibly the greatest of all time.

2. 2001 Miami Hurricanes: Some experts consider this Miami team the best ever and I have no problem with that at all. Larry Coker was their head coach, but this was his first season and the team was built by former coach Butch Davis. They beat chief rival Miami 49-27, but some of their most impressive wins were a 59-0 beating of 14th ranked Syracuse and a 65-14 whipping of 12th rated Washington. The only close call they had was in their last regular season game against 14th ranked Virginia Tech when they barely survived with a 26-24 win. The national championship game was a mismatch when the Hurricanes roughed up Nebraska and Heisman winner Eric Crouch, 37-14. The score was no indication of the differences between the two teams.

The Hurricanes’ offense was led by dependable Quarterback Ken Dorsey, Running Back Clinton

Portis, Wide Receiver Andre Johnson and Tight End Jeremy Shockey. On their Offensive Line was Bryant McKinnie who was considered an all time great at the time.  On defense, Linebacker Johnathan Vilma and Free Safety Ed Reed were All World.

3. 2004 USC:  Another simply incredible football team featuring 2004 Heisman winner, Quarterback Matt Leinart and 2005 winner Reggie Bush. Some would punish them because of NCAA infractions, but on the field this team was as good as it gets. Like Miami in 2001, the Trojans had a struggle with Virginia Tech but USC prevailed with a 24-13 victory in the season’s opener. In game four, the Trojans also had problems with Stanford before winning 31-28. The following game was another hard fought win for the Trojans over 7th ranked California and their star Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Running Backs Marshawn Lynch and JJ Arrington. They also had some competition against a good Oregon State team and their cross town rivals, the UCLA Bruins, but the USC Trojans were #1 that season from start to finish. In the BCS championship game against 2nd ranked Oklahoma, the USC Trojans just annihilated the Sooners, 55-19.

Clearly, the offense was led by Leinart and Bush. But, this team was as loaded as about any in the history of the game at every position. Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith and Whitney Lewis were top Wide Receivers. Over on defense, they were led by Defensive Tackle Shaun Cody, Linebacker Matt Grootegoed and many others. A lot of these guys were back in 2005 except for Cody and Grootegoed.

4. 2005 Texas: With the emergence of Vince Young in 2004, Texas became almost unbeatable. The media pegged USC as the greatest team of all time in 2005 and they were #1 all season long with Texas coming up 2nd. Part of this list is about character, and USC showed great character in 2004 winning several close games. Now, it was the time of the Texas Longhorns to show great character which started in Columbus, Ohio in game two when Vince Young helped Texas come from behind to beat the Buckeyes, 25-22. That Buckeye team is worthy to be on this list as well if not for two close losses. Oklahoma, under Bob Stoops had given Mack Brown and Texas fits over the past few

seasons. But, Texas blew by them 45-12. Colorado was ranked in the top 25 and they were next with the Longhorns prevailing, 42-17. 7th ranked Texas Tech offered little resistance with Texas blowing them out 52-17. After the Ohio State game, the only challenge during the regular season came from their other rival, Texas A%M. The Aggies fought hard before Texas finally won, 40-29.

In a rematch with previously beaten Colorado, Texas crushed the Buffaloes 70-3 and earned the right to play the USC Trojans in the Rose Bowl for the national championship.

If Texas in 2005 was maybe the 4th greatest team of all time, then the 2005 USC Trojans were right there with them because the 2006 Rose Bowl was one of the greatest games ever played.

Quarterback Vince Young was the first guy in NCAA history to throw for over 2,500 yards and run for over 1,000. He actually passed for over 3,000 and should have won the Heisman over Reggie Bush. Jamaal Charles was a freshman Running Back in 2005 and one of the best NFL players over the past few years. Future NFL Defensive Tackle standout, Henry Melton, was a back up Running Back. Offensive Linemen Justin Blalock, Johnathon Scott, Austin Sendlein and Kasey Studdard were standouts in this season and in the NFL. On defense, Ends Brian Robison and Tim Crowder, Tackles Rodrigue Wright and Frank Okam were hard to run the ball on. Future stars Brian Orakpo and Roy Miller were just freshmen. Defensive Backs Tarell Brown, Cedric Griffin, Aaron Ross, Michael Huff and brothers Michael and Marcus Griffin were as good of a backfield as seen in college football in quite some time.

This was a great, great team filled with many talented players and many future NFL stars.

5. 1971 Nebraska: If you asked 10 people, you might get 10 different answers for the greatest teams of all time. I was 12 years old when the Huskers of 1971 terrorized opponents and I am proud to say that I got to see them play in one of the greatest games ever played. The 1971 season was dominated by Nebraska and their rivals Oklahoma and Colorado with the three schools finishing 1,2 and 3 in the final polls. In my lifetime, that has never happened before, or since. You can read about that season here: 1971

The Huskers won one version of the 1970 national championship and they returned a boatload of

talent earning them the #1 ranking when the season was just beginning. It was a ranking they would keep all season.

Bear in mind that teams did not score points back in the early 1970s like they do today. There was not a lot of passing and teams certainly didn’t run sophisticated hurry up offenses then. But, Nebraska just rolled all over everybody they faced. Bob Devaney was head coach at Nebraska and the Huskers did not face a challenge until they hosted 9th ranked Colorado. But, that was not much of a problem for this Husker team and they beat the Buffaloes 31-7. After crushing Iowa State and Kansas State, the Cornhuskers traveled to Norman, Oklahoma to play the 2nd ranked Oklahoma Sooners in maybe the greatest college football game ever played.

The Cornhuskers beat a great Oklahoma Sooner football team and then went on to easily handle the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Orange Bowl, 38-6.

The 1971 Huskers had future Green Bay Packer first round pick Jerry Tagge at Quarterback, 1972 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers at Wide Receiver and as their super dangerous return man. At Tail Back, they had rock solid Jeff Kinney and Offensive Lineman Keith Wortman. I had Kinney as the 6th best Husker I-Back of all time here:  and Wortman played 10 years in the NFL. On defense, the Huskers were particularly talented up front with top Defensive Linemen such as Rich Glover, Larry Jacobson, Willie Harper and John Dutton. Jacobson won the Outland Trophy in 1971 as the nation’s best lineman and Glover won it in 1972, plus the Lombardi. Dutton played 14 seasons in the NFL making All Pro several times.

This Nebraska Cornhusker team was not as talented as some of the other teams as far as future NFL stars, but they were still won of the greatest teams of all time and they crushed everyone they met that season outside of Oklahoma. The Offensive Coordinator on this team was none other than the legendary Tom Osborne who would lead the Huskers to future greatness and more national championships.

6. 1972 USC: The Big 8 dominance of 1971 didn’t last long as the Trojans won the national championship just one season later. This USC Trojan team started the season at #8 and they traveled to Little Rock and stomped the 4th ranked Razorbacks in their own backyard. The 1972 version of the Cornhuskers began the season ranked #1 again, but they lost in their opener to UCLA which

allowed the Trojans access to the top spot which they took and never looked back. The only school that gave them much trouble was 15th ranked Stanford in game five, but the Trojans won 30-21. The beat 6 ranked teams that year including rivals UCLA and Notre Dame. In the Rose Bowl, the Trojans had little trouble disposing of 3rd ranked Ohio State, 42-17. 13 players from this team made All American and 33 went on to play in the NFL.

Current USC Athletic Director Pat Haden was the back up Quarterback of that team behind Mike Rae. Hall of Fame Wide Receiver Lynn Swann was one of the team stars along with Running Backs Anthony Davis and Sam Cunningham.  Tight End Charle Young played 13 years in the NFL and what is USC without a first round Offensive Lineman pick in the Draft with Pete Adams.

Linebacker Richard ‘Batman’ Wood was a 3 time All American and one of the best college Linebackers of all time. He was smaller, but had tremendous speed and acceleration and made plays from sideline to sideline.

7. 1971 Oklahoma: If the Nebraska Cornhuskers were the fifth best team of all time in 1971, then the Sooners of that season have to be rated pretty close to them. The Oklahoma Sooners began the 1971 season as the 10th rated program in the country. But, big wins over ranked USC, Texas and Colorado in 3 consecutive games to drop all the way to the number 2 spot behind top ranked Nebraska. The Texas Longhorns under Darrell Royal and Offensive Coordinator Emory Ballard, invented the Wishbone Offense and won national championships with it in 1969 and 1970, but the Oklahoma Sooners perfected it. Chuck Fairbanks was the Sooner head coach, but future legend Barry Switzer was the Offensive Coordinator and responsible for the Wishbone installation.

This Wishbone Offense broke most of the national records in rushing yardage.

The Oklahoma Sooners were undefeated when they hosted the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Game of the Century and they lost in a game that lived up to the hype and then some.

After that incredible game, the Sooners destroyed the Cowboys of Oklahoma State in their Bedlam game and then they tore up the Auburn Tigers and their Heisman winner, Pat Sullivan.

Oklahoma was led by Quarterback Jack Mildren, Halfback Greg Pruitt and Center Tom Brahaney. All of them were Texans and all were Consensus All Americans.

Fairbanks coached the Sooners just one more season after this one before leaving for the NFL and Barry Switzer took over.

8. 2005 USC: Just like with Nebraska and Oklahoma in the 1971 season, if Texas was a top 10 team of all time in 2005 then the Trojans were easily in the same category since this was one of the best games ever played in college football. With 2 Heisman winners on the roster and in the same backfield, they ran over most everyone they faced.

It was a good year in the Pac 10 with Oregon finishing 10-2 and ranked 13th and UCLA finishing

10-2 and 16th, plus they beat highly ranked Notre Dame, Arizona State and Fresno State.

Despite losing to Texas, this team was one of the best of all time with many, many players going on to success in the NFL. This Trojan team finished the season with a 12-1 record, but they were forced to forfeit all of their wins due to the Reggie Bush situation.

9. 1997 Nebraska: This 13-0 team was not quite on the level of the 1994 and 1995 Cornhusker teams, but it was pretty close. With new Central Florida head coach Scott Frost playing Quarterback, the Huskers rolled over most teams that they played and UCF was actually the second team that they beat that season. In game 3, the Huskers beat #2 Washington in Seattle, 27-14 when they were ranked in the 7th position in the Polls. Then, in game 4, they beat ranked Kansas State and kept climbing the rankings.

They did have problems with Missouri with an Overtime win, and with Colorado in Boulder. But, other than that this team rolled over everybody including Peyton Manning and his Tennessee Volunteers in the Orange Bowl, 42-17. This team split the national championship with the Michigan Wolverines, but in my opinion the Cornhuskers were by far the better team.

Nebraska I-Back Ahman Green was fantastic in 1997 while running for just under 1,900 yards and 22 Touchdowns. Fleet footed Quarterback Scott Frost ran for over 1,000 yards and he passed for over 1,200. This team was an old fashioned power football team like the other Husker teams of that era.

10. 1974 Oklahoma: A lot of people didn’t get a chance to see the 1974 version of the Oklahoma Sooners because they were on probation, but this team was special. The Sooners began the season ranked #1, but they dropped because of a sluggish performance in the opening game against Baylor. But, people hadn’t realized that this Baylor team was going to be the first Bear team in 50 years to win the SWC championship. They beat their biggest rival, Texas, by only 3 points and they beat 6th ranked Nebraska by a 28 to 14 score. The Sooners finished their season by beating in-state rival, Oklahoma State, 44-13. Oklahoma was on probation in 1975 so they were not allowed to play in a bowl game and a lot of people missed seeing them.

But, this team was good and they were deep with talent across most every position. Of course, that Wishbone Offense was at it’s peak with Quarterback Steve Davis and superb Halfback Joe Washington. But, it was the defense that was most special with the Selmon brothers, LeeRoy and Dewey, plus All American Linebacker Rod Shoate and Defensive End Jimbo Elrod.

The 1975 Oklahoma Sooners were a very similar version to this team, but they were upset by Kansas.

Here are my next 30:

11. 2013 Florida State

12. 2010 Auburn

13. 1968 Ohio State

14. 2012 Alabama

15. 2014 Ohio State

16. 1999 Florida State

17. 1991 Washington

18. 1988 Notre Dame

19. 1987 Miami

20. 1987 Florida State

21. 2009 Alabama

22. 1983 Nebraska

23. 2003 USC

24. 2002 Ohio State

25. 1993 Florida State

26. 1983 Texas

27. 1985 Oklahoma

28. 1967 USC

29. 1981 Clemson

30. 1991 Miami

31. 1992 Alabama

32. 1986 Penn State

33. 1997 Michigan

34. 1998 Tennessee

35. 2011 Alabama

36. 2003 LSU

37. 1996 Florida

38. 2000 Oklahoma

39. 2008 Florida

40. 2006 Florida

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