Finishing a college football season without a loss is a huge feat. Most of the time, going undefeated results in a national title. Maybe that title is self proclaimed (2017 UCF) or maybe it means you were robbed of a chance to call yourself NCAA national champions (2007 Boise State). Whether a perfect season results in championship or not, it’s something that should be celebrated. But some undefeated college football teams should be celebrated more than others.
Every fan is going to claim a different best team of all time. It is the same thing with the best players of all time. For example, where does Joe Burrow rank as all-time college players? However, everyone should know who the top team is.
Fans of the unbeaten Penn State Nittany Lions, Michigan Wolverines, Ohio State Buckeyes, Clemson Tigers, Minnesota Gophers and dozens of other football programs who may think you have a claim here: Sorry, you’re wrong.
All programs with an undefeated national champion are LSU, Clemson, Florida State, Auburn, Alabama, Texas, Ohio State, Miami, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Nebraska, Michigan, Washington, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Penn State, BYU, Georgia, Pittsburgh, Southern California, Michigan State, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Syracuse, Auburn, UCLA, Army, Minnesota, Texas A&M, and TCU.
Sorry to fans of Oregon, Baylor, Iowa, Cincinnati, Indiana, Iowa, Colorado, Marshall, Maryland, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Kansas State, Kentucky, SMU, Tulsa, Coastal Carolina, Louisiana Tech, Louisville and countless other FBS teams, too. Your squad still has some work to do to make the cut.
With only so many options left to choose from, let’s get to the best undefeated teams in college football history.
7 Best College Football Teams of All Time
7. 2005 Texas Longhorns
Not only did the Texas Longhorns have one of the best college football quarterbacks ever in 2005, they also brought down one of the best teams ever in the BCS National Championship Game. Vince Young was nothing short of amazing in the Rose Bowl against the two-time reigning national champions, the USC Trojans from Southern California, along with the Heisman Trophy winners Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart.
During the 2005 season, the Longhorns averaged 50.2 points per game and averaged a 33.8-point margin of victory. They beat four ranked teams that season, including three-point wins over the top-ranked Trojans and the fourth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.
6. 2013 Florida State Seminoles
The highest-scoring team in college football history, the Florida State Seminoles were extremely talented in all phases. Led by Jimbo Fisher and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston, the ‘Noles averaged 51.6 points per game while allowing just 12.1 points each contest. Averaging 39.5 points more than your opponents is just nuts.
The national champs from 2013 won five games over ranked opponents, including a 51-14 win over the third-ranked Clemson Tigers, a 41-14 win over the seventh-ranked Miami Hurricanes, and a 34-31 win over the Auburn Tigers in the BCS Championship.
5. 2020 Alabama Crimson Tide
Head coach Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide rolled through college football during the coronavirus pandemic season. Loaded with first-round NFL talent such as wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, cornerback Patrick Surtain II, Heisman winner DeVonta Smith, quarterback Mac Jones, offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood and running back Najee Harris, Alabama had the horses to run any opponent off the field. And they did.
Bama’s closest call came in a six-point victory over Florida in the SEC Championship Game. They went on to beat Notre Dame handily in the CFP semifinals and smoke Ohio State in the National Championship Game 52-24. Of Saban’s six national championships in Tuscaloosa, this was only his second undefeated season. Bear Bryant would be proud.
4. 2019 LSU Tigers
Despite the recency bias, Coach O and the LSU Tigers did not have the best undefeated National Champions in history. They were insanely good, though, especially as an offense. Heisman winner Joe Burrow led a huge turn-around from last season for a program that has struggled to put up offensive numbers compared to their defense over the past decade.
In 15 games, LSU scored more points than any other team in college football history. This came against as impressive a schedule as possible. The Tigers averaged 48.4 points per game on their way to besting seven teams ranked inside the top-10 at some point during the season.
In the last three games of their season, the first in the SEC Championship Game and two in the College Football Playoff, they scored 142 points against three teams who were each ranked in the top four. Averaging 47 points against the best possible competition is legendary. If the defense hadn’t given up almost 22 points per game, I really would have considered putting them on the top of this list.
3. 2004 USC Trojans
Even though this title was technically vacated along with Reggie Bush’s 2005 Heisman Trophy, this is still one of the best teams to ever step out on a college football field. With one future Heisman winner at running back and another at quarterback in Matt Leinart, USC was absolutely stacked with All-Americans.
The Trojans were great on both sides of the ball, averaging 38.2 points per game on offense and just 13 per game on defense. Their best game came against the Oklahoma Sooners in the Orange Bowl.
The Heisman Trophy winner from the previous season, Jason White, along with freshman running back Adrian Peterson, were absolutely destroyed in the BCS National Championship game by USC.
2. 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers
There quite a few Nebraska Cornhusker teams that could be mentioned as all-time greats, the 1995 team was superior while scoring 53.2 points per game and giving up just 14.5 in the Big 8 Conference.
Led by Tommie Frazier and Ahman Green, Nebraska destroyed every team they played with only one game finishing within three touchdowns. The closest game of their season came against Washington State, when they beat the Cougars, 35-21.
The Cornhuskers beat four teams ranked inside the top-10 by a combined score of 196-73, which included a 62-24 beatdown of the second-ranked Florida Gators in the Fiesta Bowl for the National Championship.
1. 2001 Miami Hurricanes
With the most loaded roster in college football history, the Miami Hurricanes in the early 2000s were nearly the perfect team. With Ken Dorsey, a two-time Heisman Finalist, at quarterback, their offense was one of the best in the country while averaging 42.7 points. But for as good as they were, with multiple future NFL stars riding the bench, it was the defense that made this team the best of all time.
With about as much talent as one coach could ask for, the ‘Canes allowed just 9.8 points per game in 2001 with eight of their 12 opponents scoring seven points or less. They began their season on the road against Penn State from the Big Ten, winning 33-7 and then beat the breaks off Rutgers, 66-0. They continued to beat up their Big East opponents over the course of the season as well as the 14th-ranked FSU Seminoles, 49-27.
During the final four matchups of the season — against four teams ranked inside the top-14 — Miami won by a combined score of 187-45. This included a 124-7 combined score against No. 14 Syracuse and No. 12 Washington before closing out the regular season against Virginia Tech. The Hurricanes also got a 37-14 win over the fourth-ranked Nebraska team led by Heisman winner Eric Crouch for the National Championship at the Rose Bowl.
This article was originally published January 16, 2020.