Wednesday, September 4, 2002
Updated: September 9, 3:17 PM ET
Readers: Best college football team
From the Page 2 mailbag
Earlier this week, Page 2 listed its choices for the 10 best college football teams of all time, but we knew there were others and, as usual, we wanted your take. We received more than 825 letters on the dispute, and here's how you ranked them.
Be sure to vote in the poll at right to crown the greatest college team ever to grace the gridiron.
1. Nebraska, 1995 (181 letters)
I don't think any team ever could have come within two touchdowns of this nightmare bunch.
Great talent at each position, often two and three deep -- amazing desire. Their motto was, "The team that can't be beat won't be beat." They strutted that philosophy all over everyone they played.
They were mean, cocky and loved playing with each another.
I've never seen another team that would even come close. Even on a bad day, they were completely overpowering.
I've loved several other great Nebraska teams, especially the '83 squad, but no other year nor any other school comes close to these guys. Go Big Red!
The 1995 Cornhuskers should be declared the best team of all time for accomplishing what no other force on the planet has been able to -- humble Steve Spurrier.
Prior to the Fiesta Bowl, most of the press was talking about how the "Fun 'N' Gun" was going to embarrass the Huskers. Instead, it was the Gators who got lunch served to them, highlighted by Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier's third-quarter touchdown run in which it seemed that every Gator on the field -- and a couple off the sidelines -- grabbed hold of this kid, then lost him. If Heisman voting had occurred after that play, Frazier would have the award on his mantle.
Forgotten among all the highlights are things like a Christian Peter TD being negated by a quick whistle and the ever-present sportsmanship of Dr. Tom Osborne, kneeling his offense at the Florida 10 near game's end. Otherwise, the Gators would have surrendered 70-plus points.
And afterwards, only stunned silence from Spurrier ... Too bad it didn't last.
People forget that the Big 8 had four teams finish in the final Top 10 (NU, KU, CU and KSU). Nebraska outscored those teams 134-49.
The Fiesta Bowl speaks for itself, as did the look on Spurrier's face. The offense scored at will and the starting front four on defense were ALL first team All-Americans at one point or another in their careers.
What stands out most about that team more than any other that I can remember is their attitude. They just took no prisoners. They would punch you in the mouth, step on your throat and never let off the gas. It was the only team that Tom Osborne ever had that he said he would feel comfortable taking them anywhere in the country to play.
While national sentiments always seem to lay with the 1971 squad, if you ask around Nebraska, die hard Husker fans will tell you -- "1995."
2. Penn State, 1994 (76 letters)
I'll never know why Nebraska gets so much pub. That team was handed a national title in 1994!
Penn State was by far the best team in the country in '94 and maybe in the past 20 years. The 1994 team had professional players at every position. They were robbed of a rightful ring because the voters felt bad for Tom Osborne not winning the year before when they gave the trophy -- unjustly -- to Bobby Bowden at Florida State. What a sham!
Penn State defeats the best Miami team ever in the '86 Fiesta Bowl ... defeats Georgia in the Sugar with Walker ... pounds "Gang Green" like they were a DIII team and still gets no respect -- pathetic!
The best team in NCAA history was also the one most screwed out of a national title.
First, the team finished undefeated playing a Big Ten schedule.
Second, the team had the greatest offense in the history of college football (two players were Heisman finalists). The offense scored 63 points against rival Ohio State and also managed one of the greatest comebacks in history (down 21 against an Illinois defense that featured Simeon Rice).
In fact, the team would have won every game by 50 if Joe Pa hadn't always benched his starters halfway through the third quarter. The true measure of this team's greatness was never fulfilled because of Joe Pa's sportsmanship (make no mistake about it, Penn State would've beaten the '94 Huskers by at least 30).
The Lions deserves top honors!
To not include one single Penn State team on this list is a travesty. How typical ... The best PSU team of all time didn't even win the National Championship because the media and coaches were too busy giving Osborne his first of two sympathy national titles.
The '94 Nits had perhaps the greatest offense of all-time with Kerry Collins, Ki-Jana Carter, Kyle Brady, Bobby Engram, Freddie Scott and an offensive line that allowed only four sacks all season and helped Carter to a preposterous 7.9 yards per carry. 12-0. Undefeated. Unchallenged. Uncrowned.
Page 2 dropped the ball on this one, big time.
State College, Pa.
3. Washington, 1991 (68 letters)
For you not to even mention them eliminates any credibility your poll may have had. They may not belong at No. 1, I'll give you that, but they belong in the top 5 or 10. Did the tie for national championship hurt us?
You mentioned Keith Jackson and Bo Shembechler -- ask them what they thought of the Huskies. We destroyed the Wolverines. Our defense destroyed quarterbacks. The University of Washington is well respected and has been the powerhouse of the Pac 10 for many decades, it should have caused you to pause and consider the potential of the '91 team.
If you went back and looked at the films, perhaps you would reconsider. The Dawgs were every bit as dominating in '91 as the 2001 Hurricanes were.
Check it out -- and ask Bo! He'll tell ya!
Chad M. Tenzler
I'm sure you guys will get plenty of responses like this from Seattle ... How could you not even mention the 1991 Washington squad?!
This is a team that has repeatedly been ranked by publications right behind USC '72 as one of the Pac-10's best ever, yet you leave them off your list in favor of recent champs like Florida State, Notre Dame and Florida (with one loss!). Even a team such as Oklahoma, which had a dominant defense but only a so-so offense, in 2000 made your list.
Washington's '91 squad dominated on both sides of the ball. Their defense is one of the greatest ever, but their offense often gets overlooked. How can you ignore a team that had dominant players at nearly every offensive position, including two top college quarterbacks (Hobert and Brunell), a couple of future NFL tight ends (Pierce and Bruener) and Mario Bailey at receiver -- an All-American who outplayed Heisman winner Desmond Howard in the Rose Bowl? This is also a team that had 12 players drafted into the NFL the following spring.
UW often gets overlooked for one main reason: they split the national championship that year with Miami. The fact is only Nebraska in '95 and Miami in '01 have truly dominated teams in the last couple decades like UW did in '91. Surely, the Huskies deserve at least an honorable mention (if necessary, you can stick Miami's '91 team up there too ... just to make everyone happy).
4. Nebraska, 1971 (53 letters)
They dominated on offense and defense. The offense posed a running and passing threat that left defenses on their heels. Jerry Tagge was a big, smart, tough QB with an accurate arm. He had Johnny Rodgers as a primary receiver and the big, churning legs of Jeff Kinney running the ball. Oh, and an offensive line that punished defenders.
On D, Larry Jacobsen and Rich Glover were relentless, with Glover likely to make a tackle anywhere on the field (his speed and agility were far beyond the level of defensive linemen). He was like a safety who played on the line. Solid linebackers, and the scrappy, hard-hitting defensive backfield that included rugged Joe Blahak, made these guys tough to play against.
They had great special teams, with Rodgers returning kicks for TD's and starters like Blahak putting punishing blocks on opponents. With all the great teams in college football history, it's hard to pick one. But the Huskers team relished winning, played fundamentally sound football and would just as soon hit you in the mouth as go around you. One of my favorite childhood memories was watching NU-Okla '71 Game of the Century, the Alabama Bowl game blowout, and wondering how can you beat a team like that? ... Maybe you can't!
You offer a list of great teams, any one of which can marshall all sorts of persuasive arguments in support of its claim as the ultimate No. 1 -- but I too choose Nebraska for these simple but compelling bottom-line facts: It beat the two teams that wound up 2 (Oklahoma) and 3 (Colorado) in the country at the end of the year. It beat an Oklahoma team -- in Norman -- that would have been the national champion any other year. And finally, it humiliated an undefeated Alabama team (remember Johnny Musso?) in the Orange Bowl.
An incredible culmination of team spirit, determination, talent, recruiting and coaching by Bob Devaney. What an exciting season with the Game of the Century frosting the cake. This team and their accomplishments were the realization of Devaney's efforts since his arrival to Nebraska in the mid '60s. The Huskers have built on this success, creating a model for the NCAA ever since.
I would also like to vote a close second place for the '95 team which reflected the end of another great era with Tom Osborne at the helm. Tom carried the torch Bob Devaney lit and held it high for all to see. Two back-to-back championships on either end of an incredible era of college football, with another one thrown in in '97 for good measure!
5. Miami, 2001 (49 letters)
When you beat teams in consecutive weeks by a combined score of 124-7 -- that's impressive. When those two teams are Syracuse and Washington -- you've got a pretty special group. That group was the 2001 Miami Hurricanes, a team that was the most complete team in decades.
Just run down the roster. The quarterback, a Heisman candidate two years in a row and is 29-1 as a starter. The running back rushed for over 1,200 yards. The offensive line gave up all of four sacks the whole year. The receivers grew up before our eyes, while the tight end is now seen as one of the best picks in the 2002 NFL draft. On defense, the line had at least six or seven guys who could start anywhere else in the country. The linebacking corps, once seen as a weakness, hammered Eric Crouch in the Rose Bowl. And the secondary yielded just over 130 yards passing per game and five passing touchdowns all season. Add to that a consistent kicking game and you've got the best team (and maybe the most underrated) college football's seen in a long time.
Cranberry Township, Pa.
I'm one for nostalgia, but the reality is these kids today are much better athletes than the one's of days gone by. That's no offense to the talent and the accomplishments of the other teams, but the 2001 Miami team would probably embarrass those Nebraska, Alabama and Oklahoma squads. Could you imagine Jeremy Shockey and the rest of the Miami attack going up against those 1970s college defenses.
On talent and ability alone (not factoring how advanced the schemes are now), it would be no contest. In addition, I would have to question some of the competition Nebraska may have faced in those seasons. The Big 8 was decent, but they typically had one major game a year, and if Oklahoma was not up to snuff, it was a cake walk season. Much like how BYU dominated their conference, and would struggle if not lose to a second or third place team in a bowl game.
6. Florida State, 1999 (32 letters)
No team has ever before or since gone wire to wire in the AP poll since it's conception in 1950. Many will argue that they had an easy go in the ACC, but factor in a nonconference schedule that included a solid Miami team and a trip to the Swamp. Couple this with holding down Mike Vick in the Sugar Bowl and you have one of the most dominant teams in history.
7. Alabama, 1992 (30 letters)
Your omission of Alabama '92 is ludicrous. The championship game was epic ... featuring the Tide's sound running game and best defense in recent memory against an arrogant Miami team full of it's usual swagger.
Before the game, Miami's receivers filled sport sections across the nation criticizing Alabama as slow and outdated. But in the contest, the 'Canes were outmuscled, outwitted and outplayed by a 'Bama team that was reminiscent of the Bear. In one climactic moment, Miami's best receiver (the outspoken one) was run down from behind and stripped by the Tide's George Teague -- a play representing how work ethic and defense will always prevail over a boastful, flashy offense.
As a football fan, I have to wonder how you could omit a 13-0 'Bama club, winning the first ever SEC Championship game (in what was undoubtedly the toughest conference that year), and then beating the stew out of a No. 1 ranked Miami team! It was this game which eventually pushed Miami into its brief period of mediocrity in the mid-'90s.
8. Michigan, 1997 (27 letters)
Why? If you look at the previous 30 national champions, statistics-wise, none compare to Michigan's stingy defense. Michigan also had the toughest schedule in the nation -- playing against Colorado, Notre Dame and its Big Ten foes.
If not for Nebraska's gift-from-God's-feet kick against Missouri, Michigan would have been recognized as a sole national champion. I believe Washington State's lowest offensive output was against Michigan with the spread offense in the Rose Bowl.
Who would have thought that Charles Woodson would win the Heisman?
I will be the first guy to admit that on a given day, Nebraska would beat Michigan seven out of 10 times. However in 1997, I would bet my life that Michigan would have beaten Nebraska -- they were the better team. It's a crying shame that Michigan was co-champions. BCS came in the following year and we had not yet seen two undefeated team playing against each other.
9. Syracuse, 1959 (25 letters)
Undefeated, untied and national champions. The Orange cap off an 11-0 season with its first bowl win, a 23-14 victory over second ranked Texas in the Cotton Bowl.
SU pitched five shutouts in 1959, including two game shutouts twice during the season. They held Kansas to 30 plays, and Boston University to a mere 25 yards. The defense allowed only 193 rushing yards in 10 games -- a mind-boggling statistic. They only gave up 96.2 yards per game, which works out to a 2.0 yards per play average. Described by many as the fastest defense ever put together.
On offense, the Orange averaged 451 yards per game and outscored opponents 390-59. The team had five All-Americans, with guard Roger W. Davis being a unanimous pick in 1959 and Ernie Davis being a consensus pick in 1960 and unanimous in 1961. Ernie Davis was the greatest running back never to play in the NFL (because of his death due to leukemia). The Cleveland Browns still retired his number 45. He averaged seven yards a carry.
One of only two schools to lead the NCAA in seven statistical categories (points, yards gained, rushing yards, touchdown passes, first downs, yards given up, rushng yards given up). They set a record for the ratio of yards gained to given up that will never be broken, (451-96). Their rushing defense was the second best ever (19.3). Their opponents played 65 major college teams and only two of them beat SU's opponents by more than SU did. And SU beat both of them, (Penn State and Pittsburgh).
Darryl Royal called them the best one-platoon team ever and Lee Corso simply calls them the best.
North Syracuse, N.Y.
10. Notre Dame, 1988 (22 letters)
Victories over the teams ranked No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 at the time they played them, including a dominating win over No. 2 USC without their two best RBs. Another victory over a Michigan team that would finish in the top 10. Winning 10 of 12 games by double digits. And to top it all off, the best college football coach since Frank Leahy (and I don't want to hear a word about Joe Paterno). A runaway win over West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl. ... And ND's '88 team still didn't make your top 10?
Also receiving votes
Ohio State, 1968