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Who is the Greatest College Football Team of All Time?

Following Alabama’s 2020-2021 National Championship run, a large debate arose throughout the college football landscape: who is the greatest team of all time? We, the fans, love to debate anything in the realm of sports. For some reason, everyone wants to rank and identify the best of the best. Arguably the greatest sports debate, MJ or LeBron, determines/argues who’s better. The same could be said about college football, everyone wants to rank the greatest teams. College football has a long and old history, and these factors can make it tough to rank the greatest teams. How can one pick between the 1882 Yale team and the 2013 Florida State team? The game has changed over time and so has the skill level. Teams in today’s game would put up hundreds of points against teams from the late 1800s. This is why it is so difficult and so debated. However, after doing research and looking at rankings, I have finally formed a ranking of my own. Using team statistics, strength of schedules, dominance in wins, point differentials, and overall roster talent, I have ranked each team. Here are the five greatest college football teams (in order).

5. 1972 USC Trojans

The 1972 USC team ran through every opponent they faced, going 12-0 and outsourcing opponents 467-134. They would end up beating seven conference opponents including UCLA, Washington, and Stanford (all of which were ranked at the time). They also beat No. 10 Notre Dame, No. 3 Ohio State, and No. 4 Arkansas by a total margin of 68 points. The team would sport five All-Americans including Anthony Davis (no, not the basketball player). However, not one player from the roster would finish in the top-10 of the Heisman voting. Lack of star power, a few poor wins, and a weak schedule hurt this team in the ranking. By the end of the season, three out of their six ranked wins were unranked and the other three could not crack the top 8. This 1972 USC team did all they could, but it just wasn’t enough to beat out the other four teams.

4. 2001 Miami Hurricanes

If you want to talk about complete dominance, you should at least mention the 2001 Miami Hurricanes. In 2001, Miami went 12-0 and butchered Nebraska in the BCS National Championship. In talent, this roster could compete with any team ever, in performance however they would likely fall short. The Canes allowed only 9.8 points per game and defeated five top 15 teams by a combined score of 236-72. On offense, they were led by QB and Maxwell Award winner Ken Dorsey. On defense, they were led by star defensive back and NFL legend Ed Reed. The roster also consisted of Frank Gore, Clinton Portis, Andre Johnson, Vince Wilfork, and Sean Taylor. If they were so dominant, why are they only ranked 4th? This is because of their weaker schedule and a few close calls. In their season, they did not play anyone from the SEC and they did not get the opportunity to play a very talented Oregon squad. Miami had 2 fairly close calls, one against Virginia Tech and another versus Boston College. And then finally, the team that they got matched up with within the National Championship (Nebraska) wasn’t quite dominant. In the final game of the regular season, Nebraska was upset by 14 ranked Colorado by 26 points. Similar to USC, they did as much as they could, but close calls against decent teams won’t cut it.

3. 1971 Nebraska Cornhuskers

The 1971 Nebraska Cornhuskers had to have had the best offense-defense balance on this list. When it came to scoring points, the Cornhuskers ranked 3rd. They averaged just about 39 points per game while only allowing about 8 points per game (This ranked their defense 2nd). Although they only faced three ranked teams in the season, all of them were considered powerhouses. They defeated the 2nd best team in the NCAA in 1971 (Oklahoma). At the time, Oklahoma had the 2nd best scoring offense and the Nebraska defense held them 13 points under that average. Not only that, but they also beat Colorado and Alabama. By the end of the year, they had defeated the number 2, 3, and 4 teams in the nation en route to a 13-0 season as well as an Orange Bowl victory. If not for the utter domination by these upcoming teams, Nebraska would be the greatest team of all time

2. 2020 Alabama Crimson Tide

This Crimson Tide team is for sure the greatest Alabama team of all time, but it’s tough to rank this team. Technically, one could put an asterisk next to all 2020 championships and no one would object. Each championship, including Alabama’s, had some odd factor. Whether it was lack of fans, postponements, cancellations, odd scheduling, it was an odd year. This hurts Alabama’s chances at the coveted “greatest” title. First, Alabama played 2 fewer games than past champions did. Instead of going 15-0, they went 13-0. Secondly, it was an all-SEC schedule. In the last decade, this would be impressive. But this past year, the SEC wasn’t too impressive. The things that benefited Alabama were the scoreboard and the numbers. Statistically, this Alabama squad had one of, if not, the best offense ever. Led by Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith and Heisman Trophy finalist Mac Jones, this offense lit up every defense they faced. In the year, they were able to beat 5 teams (that were ranked at the end of the year) including the 2, 4, 5, and 9 teams. Again, all of these teams had major weaknesses. A&M had no offense, Georgia didn’t have a QB, and the other teams didn’t have that good of defenses. If COVID wasn’t a thing and the same result occurred, one could easily place Alabama as the greatest. But with all the conditions and factors, 2 is where they shall stay.

1. 2019 LSU Tigers

The 2019 LSU Tigers went 15-0 and beat the four preseason top 4 ranked teams. They beat Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, Clemson, Texas, and Auburn. They scored the most points by any national champion ever and rolled over nearly everyone. Outside of two close wins, they dominated everyone. Even in a close win against Alabama, they had control nearly the whole game (in other words, it wasn’t too close). Outside of their top wins, they too had a very talented roster. In the 2020 draft alone, they had 13 players selected including arguably the greatest college QB of all time, Joe Burrow. In his time at LSU, Burrow set record after record and became a fan-favorite in Louisiana. He had the largest margin of victory in the Heisman voting and was a no-brainer for the number 1 pick. On top of Burrow, they also had three more first-rounders and a future first-rounder in the 2021 NFL draft. Justin Jefferson, selected by the Vikings, would end up breaking Randy Moss’s rookie receiving record and finishing second in the ROY voting. And lastly, Ja’Marr Chase, projected first-rounder this year, had nearly identical stats to Heisman winner Devonta Smith (of 2020 Alabama). It’s close, but this LSU team was so dominant, that it’s only right to deem them the greatest team of all time.

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