Best College Football Teams of All-Time

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Often debated among fans is the idea of which are the best college football teams in the history of the game. There have been some outstanding programs that have been – or currently are – in the rankings consistently over the years. Names like Alabama, Oklahoma, Michigan, Notre Dame, and Ohio State are synonymous with success in the sport. There are several other programs that have played well through the years and may be deserving of mention on this list.

Best College Football Teams of All-Time
Which are the best college football teams ever?

Sports Hub has crunched the numbers and gone back into the college football archives to take a deep look at some of the top teams in the sport. These are teams that won conference titles, national titles, or both. Teams that ran through their schedule and left opponents reeling. Teams in the College Football Playoff era are a little fresher on our minds, but there are many more great ones from eras gone by. We’ll touch on them all as we put together our list of the best college football teams of all-time.

Get ready to be taken on an unforgettable journey through time as we uncover some of the greatest teams to ever take the field and explore why they earned their place among college football royalty!

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Penn State Nittany Lions 1994

Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1990 after years as an independent. In ’94, head coach Joe Paterno put together one of the best college football teams in history. His team would start 6-0 with a win over No. 5 Michigan in the sixth game. The following week, PSU scored a dominant win (63-14) over No. 21 Ohio State.

The Nittany Lions would go on to finish 12-0, win the Big Ten championship, and beat Oregon 38-20 in the Rose Bowl. Penn State would finish the 1994 season ranked No. 2 in the nation behind No. 1 Nebraska. Three members of the ’94 team would end up being selected in the first round of the 1995 NFL draft. In fact, all three players would be picked in the top 10.

Best College Football Teams of All-Time
Carter, Collins, and Brady were all first round draft picks in 1995

Running back Ki-Jana Carter was the No. 1 overall pick going to Cincinnati. QB Kerry Collins was selected at No. 5 by the Carolina Panthers and TE Kyle Brady was the ninth pick by the New York Jets. The ’94 team also had two more first round draft picks the following season – offensive linemen Jeff Hartings (No. 23) and Andre Johnson (No. 30).

Best College Football Teams – Army 1945

Before the modern era of college football, the best team in the nation from year to year came down to votes. The votes were submitted by sportswriters from around the country. In the 1940s and ’50s, Army got a ton of those votes. Earl “Red” Blaik began his coaching career at West Point in 1941. He would spend 18 seasons at Army and record just one losing campaign – 2-7 in 1951.

In the mid-’40s, Blaik’s Army teams were unbeatable. They recorded huge wins over powerhouse programs like Michigan and Notre Dame. In 1945, Blaik’s team completed its second straight 9-0 season. The Black Knights gave up just 46 points the entire season, making it one of the best college football teams ever.

Best College Football Teams of All-Time
Blanchard and Davis led Army in 1945

The Army offense was led by not one, but two Heisman Trophy winners. Doc Blanchard (“Mr. Inside”) won the award in 1945. The following year, Army would play in one of the greatest games of all-time. No. 1 Army played No. 2 Notre Dame to a 0-0 tie at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 9, 1946. After the season, Blanchard’s backfield mate, Glenn Davis aka “Mr. Outside,” would win the Heisman. The tie cost Army a third consecutive national championship.

No. 1 Nebraska Beats No. 2 Oklahoma (1971)

The ’71 Cornhuskers were one of the most dominant and best college football teams of all-time. With 1972 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers, the Nebraska offense averaged over 39 points a game…and this is before the evolution of the spread offense. The defense may have been even better. Over the second half of the season, Nebraska beat three top-10 ranked teams on the way to a national championship.

Johnny Rodgers won the Heisman

In the annual Thanksgiving Weekend clash with Oklahoma, Nebraska beat the Sooners 35-31 in what many have called the Game of the Century. Jeff Kinney scored four touchdowns and Rodgers added a 72-yard punt return for a score to register Nebraska’s 11th win of the season. The Huskers would finish 13-0 after beating Hawaii and No. 2 Alabama in the Orange Bowl.

2001 Miami Among Best College Football Teams

Offense, defense, special teams. The 2001 Miami Hurricanes had it all. They also had a ton of great players. QB Ken Dorsey was an All-American. There was RB Clinton Portis, OT Bryant McKinnie, TE Jeremy Shockey, CB Philip Buchanon, CB Mike Rumph, and S Ed Reed. All seven of those players were first-round NFL draft picks in 2002. In total, 38 members of the ’01 ‘Canes would be drafted by NFL teams.

Best College Football Teams of All-Time
2001 Miami went 12-0 and had 38 NFL draft picks

In 2001, Miami went 12-0, beating opponents by an average margin of 34 points. They ended the season with a victory over four straight ranked opponents. The Hurricanes beat No. 15 Syracuse 59-0 then followed it up the next week with a 65-7 romp over No. 11 Washington. Miami beat Nebraska 37-14 in the BCS national championship game. Many believe this team is the best of the best college football teams of all-time.

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Nebraska Makes It Again – 1995 Best College Football Teams

The Cornhuskers were one of college football’s dynasties. Under the leadership of legendary head coach Tom Osborne, Nebraska was a perennial power from the 1970s all the way to the 2000s. In ’95, Osborne may have had his best team. The Huskers would be No. 2 in the national rankings until about halfway through the season. The beat No. 8 Kansas State 49-25 and then No. 7 Colorado 44-21 in their next two games to shoot to the top of the rankings.

The offense averaged over 50 points a game with one of the more dominant ground attacks in the history of the game. They rarely threw passes, but when they did, they were usually big plays. In total, ’95 Nebraska won four games against ranked opponents, all by at least 23 points. In the BCS national championship game, Nebraska would lead most of the game and set a record for for the largest margin of victory – 62-24 – beating Florida for the title.

Oklahoma Sooners of 1956 – Best College Football Teams All-Time

For most of you, going back to 1956 seems like the Dark Ages. College football was king in the ’50s and Oklahoma was one of the top programs in the country. This is back before conference championship games and national championships played on the field. Oklahoma had a great offensive line led by Jerry Tubbs. He paved the way for RBs Tommy McDonald and Clendon Thomas to each run for over 1,000 yards. McDonald and Tubbs finished third and fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting that year.

What set the ’56 Oklahoma team apart from other greats was its defense. Only four opponents scored on the Sooners. The perfect 10-0 season began with a shutout of the North Carolina Tar Heels. Oklahoma shut out two more teams before giving up the team’s first touchdown of the season. In total, the Sooners allowed just 51 points all season long.

2005 Texas Was Bigger

Everything is bigger in Texas, right? The 2005 Texas Longhorns were one of the best college football teams of all-time. They started their 13-0 season off with an early win over No. 4 Ohio State in Week 2. In the rankings all season long, Texas was No. 2. USC was ranked No. 1. The two teams were on a collision course to meet for the national championship.

Best College Football Teams of All-Time
Texas QB Vince Young scored the game-winner against USC

Oklahoma State gave the ‘Horns a scare. Oklahoma State led 21-9 after the first quarter and 28-12 at the half, before QB Vince Young rallied Texas for a 47-28 win. Young completed 30-of-40 passes for 267 yards. He also ran for 200 more. His touchdown run with 19 seconds left in the game gave Texas a 41-38 win. The Longhorns averaged 50.2 points per game and had a defense that allowed just 16.4. Young became the first player in NCAA history with 3,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing in the same season.

1972 USC – Best College Football Teams

It was the days of the Pac-8, long before a Pac-10, Pac-12, or what is left of the conference now. In the 1970s, USC was the dominant program. The Trojans were led by Hall of Fame coach John McKay, who had five players named to the All-America team. RB Anthony Davis was a 1,000-yard rusher. TE Charles Young and College and Pro Football Hall of Famer Lynn Swann were members of the ’72 team.

USC beat Washington and Washington State, each by at least 27 points. They shutout Oregon on the road and beat Ohio State in the Rose Bowl to win the national championship and end the season 12-0. The Trojans won all of their games by at least 17 points. The last two weeks of their season were incredibly impressive. USC beat No. 10 Notre Dame 45-23. Then, in the Rose Bowl, the Trojans downed third-ranked Ohio State 42-17.

Modern Era Clemson Among Best College Football Teams of All-Time

The 2018 Clemson Tigers got off to a slow start by their standards. They were 6-0 but two of their wins were rather unimpressive – 28-26 at Texas A&M and 27-23 against Syracuse at home. After the win over Syracuse, the Tigers were still receiving votes in the rankings, but they dropped from No. 3 to No. 4.

Best College Football Teams of All-Time
2018 Clemson was an underdog but won the national championship

Freshman QB Trevor Lawrence took over and the Tigers total offense numbers soared. They beat Florida State 59-10 and in their very next game, the Tigers beat Louisville 77-16. At season’s end, Clemson would beat No. 3 Notre Dame 30-3 and No. 1 Alabama in the College Football Playoff national championship game. The Tigers finished 15-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country. The group Clemson had in 2018 went on to produce over two dozen NFL draft picks.

Bear Bryant and 1979 Alabama

He is one of the legendary coaches of all-time. Bear Bryant’s Alabama squads were always contending for SEC and national titles. His 1978 Crimson Tide team actually lost a game to No. 7 USC but rallied to finish 11-1 and win the Sugar Bowl. The Tide defense had that legendary stop of Penn State RB Mike Guman on a fourth-and-one at the goal line.

Best College Football Teams of All-Time
Before Saban, Bryant was a legend in Alabama

The ’79 team would go unbeaten, a perfect 12-0, with a grind-it-out offensive attack and a defense that didn’t allow a point in five games. In 10 of its 12 games, Alabama didn’t allow a team to score more than nine points. The defense gave up 5.6 points per game and the offense rarely threw the ball. Bryant didn’t have a 1,000-yard running back, but he had three – including QB Steaman Shealy – who ran for at least 500 yards. Still, it is one of the best college football teams of all-time, according to Sports Hub.

Who are some of the other best college football teams ever?

A couple of the best college football teams of all-time that didn’t make the list include the 1947 Michigan Wolverines who went 10-0 with six shutouts, the 1968 Ohio State Buckeyes who beat USC in the Rose Bowl, and the 2008 Florida Gators that beat six Top 25 opponents by a combined 256-86 and was led by QB Tim Tebow.

What is the longest winning streak in CFB history?

One of the best college football teams ever made our list – 1956 Oklahoma. The Sooners won a record 47 games between 1953 and 1957. Some of the other best college football teams ever also had long win streaks. Miami won 34 games from 2000 to 2002 and Nebraska won 32 between 1969 and 1972.

Who are the best college football programs in history?

When we think of best college football teams ever, we can also view it from a total point of view. Collectively over time, the best college football teams are measured by wins. Michigan is at the top of the list of best college football teams with 997 wins. The Wolverines have won over 73 percent of their games all-time. In second on the list of best college football teams is Michigan’s rival, Ohio State, which has won 959 games and has an almost identical winning percentage.