Finishing a college football season without a loss is a huge feat, but that's what preseason dreams are for. 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.
Currently, that team is the Stetson Bennett-led 2022 Georgia Bulldogs, who put on a masterclass of how to not only dismantle an opposing football team, but how to send a football program back to 2010. The Bulldogs finished their undefeated season with a 65-7 National Championship game win, and while there's an argument to be made for them to be on this list, we're going to fight the recency bias and hold off...for now.
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 every other school. 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. 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. Fueled by the volume of media coverage that USC received throughout the season, the Longhorns and Vince Young wer nothing short of amazing in the Rose Bowl against the two-time reigning national champions, the USC Trojans from Southern California. Texas was an underdog on paper, going up against Heisman Trophy winners Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart. But Texas proved it's not about the size of the dog in the fight, it's about the size of the fight in the dog.
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.
But, as we'll see later, the most insane all-time college football game would be to pit the 2004 Trojans against these Longhorns.
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, devouring the ACC on their way to a 34-31 win over head coach Guz Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers in the BCS Championship.
This Seminoles team would be Jimbo Fisher's crowning acheivement, because after that it was all down hill.
5. 2020 Alabama Crimson Tide
While no team on this list deserves an asterisk, the 2020 Crimson Tide will unfortunately have on attached to their ridiculous season, whether they like it or not. But that's what comes from playing a season in the middle of a global pandemic.
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.
Since Burrow and Orgeron were showered with confetti and streamers, things haven't been all sunshine and rainbows for the Tigers. Orgeron and LSU mutually agreed to part ways in 2021 and former Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly stepped in to make sure LSU doesn't lose the momentum they worked so hard to build. But who knows, Kelly could be the guy. After all, each of LSU's last three head coaches in Coach O, Les Miles and Nick Saban all won national titles in Baton Rouge. Perhaps, Kelly has fate on his side.
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. And before you go off about how the Longhorns bested them int he Rose Bowl, this is the team from the year prior to that legendary matchup. If you're looking for the origin story to one of college football's most dominant teams, this is where you'd start.
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. Talk about picking up where you left off, the 1995 Cornhuskers were coming off a national championship season in 1994. As you can clearly see, Nebraska was not ready to take their foot off the gas the following year.
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. Most teams wouldn't consider that a nail-biter, which speaks to just how potent the Cornhuskers offense was. How do you gameplan for this matchup? Just pray and hope you can manage the offensive barrage? The stamina opposing defense must have needed is making me winded just thinking about it.
Tom Osborne's 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, completing the back-to-back title run. Nebraska would then go on to miss out on three consecutive national titles in 1996, but would get the gentlemen's sweep with a win in 1997.
With a school history like Nebraska has, you'd think they'd still be in the national spotlight. Instead, the Cornhuskers have fallen out of bigger picture in the college football world. After Osborne retired following the 1998 season, Frank Solich took over the reigns. A loss to No. 18 Texas would derail Nebraska's national title hopes, and would finish the season ranked No. 3, settling for a Big 12 conference title instead of the big trophy. Since then, Nebraska has struggled to find success, outside of the Bo Pelini years. But Lincoln will always have warm members of the 1995 team.
1. 2001 Miami Hurricanes
I mean, was there really any other option? This team was so good it forced ESPN to make a sequel to their "30 for 30" on the Hurricanes teams of the 1980s.
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. Read that sentence again. That's not just stifling an offense, that's silencing them. Opposing defensives had a better chance of scoring off a fumble or an interception than their own offensive had with the ball. That's dominance on another level. 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.
When looking at which college football team tops the bunch, there's no other team who holds a candle to the 2001 Miami Hurricanes. Don't believe us? Well, you're in luck, because we have an article just for that occasion.
This article was originally published January 16, 2020.
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