The 25 Best College Football Teams of All-Time, Ranked

And the players who helped make them great

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You'd be hard pressed to find a team that is universally known as the greatest team of all time, simply because of how many factors are involved in such a proclamation. In this edition of the “great debate,” we are talking about the best college football teams to ever be assembled and doing our best to consider a wide range of factors to determine who is worthy of a spot on this list. From some teams that boast the longest winning streaks to those governed by some of the best coaches, these are the greatest collegiate teams to hit the gridiron.

While there have been many great teams in college football, these particular teams changed the course of the league with their dominance. Here is a ranking of who we consider to be the 25 best college football teams to ever do it.

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25. The 1997 Michigan Wolverines

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The 1997 Michigan Wolverines / Getty Images

  • Notable Players: Charles Woodson, Brian Griese

Coached by Lloyd Carr and led on the defensive end by Heisman winner Charles Woodson, the 97 Wolverines were the definition of dominant, winning all 12 of their regular-season games. The Wolverines went on to be crowned the Big Ten champions and eventually defeated the Washington State Cougars 21-16 in a come from behind victory, being declared the national champions by the Associated Press

24. The 1991 Washington Huskies

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The 1991 Washington Huskies / Getty Images

  • Notable Players: Steve Emtman

Representing the University of Washington, this 1991 Huskies squad went the entire year without a team beating them. Led by head coach Don James (who was in his 17th season), the 91 team is considered to be among the best in the program's history. Team leader Steve Emtman set the tone on defense, winning both the Lombardi Award and the Outland Trophy. A total of eleven Huskies players ended up being selected in the 1992 NFL draft. The team defeated the number 4 ranked Michigan in the 1992 Rose Bowl, sharing the championship with the Miami Hurricanes. 

23. The 1997 Nebraska Cornhuskers

The 1997 Nebraska Cornhuskers / Getty Images

  • Notable Players: Scott Frost, Ahman Green

With a perfect 13-0 record, the Cornhuskers made sure to send head coach Tom Osbourne off in style for his last season before retirement. Nebraska was incredibly efficient throughout the year, winning most of their games by at least ten points or more. The team's 1997 Championship was their third in four years, and they were declared co-champions with Michigan, still making it one of the all-time great debates in the history of sports. The group was spearheaded by offensive lineman Aaron Taylor and defensive menace Grant Winstrom. The team is considered among the best in Cornhusker history. 

22. The 1996 Florida Gators

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The 1996 Florida Gators / Getty Images

  • Notable Players: Danny Wuerffel, Ike Hillard

While this Florida Gators team did suffer a loss, the team was still a powerful force outscoring their opponents 612-228. Coached by Steve Spurrier, the Gators compiled a 12-1 record that included victories against the Tennessee Volunteers, the Kentucky Wildcats, and the LSU Tigers. Their only loss was against the number 2 ranked Florida State Seminoles in a close 24-21 matchup. The Gators, however, were able to get their revenge against the Seminoles beating them 52-20 in the Sugar Bowl to win their first championship.

21. The 1992 Alabama Crimson Tide

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The 1992 Alabama Crimson Tide / Getty Images

  • Notable Players: George Teague

Alabama has been one of the most dominant football programs over the past 30 years. While there are many all-time great Alabama teams, the 1992 Team makes the list for their underdog status. Known for their defense, the Crimson Tide led the nation in defense. Coached by Gene Stallings, the team went 13-0, beating Florida 28-21 in the SEC Championship Game. The Tide then went on to win the 1993 National Football Championship beating the Miami Hurricanes 34-13 in the 1993 Sugar Bowl, putting the cap on their 100th anniversary of Alabama Football.

20. The 1976 Pittsburgh Panthers

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The 1976 Pittsburgh Panthers / Getty Images

  • Notable Players: Randy Reutershan, Matt Cavanaugh, Randy Holloway

With victories against powerhouse teams such as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Georgia Bulldogs, the Pittsburgh Panthers pretty much pummeled all of their opponents to win their first championship in over 40 years. Coached by Johnny Majors, and led by Heisman winner Tony Dorsett, the team was equally balanced on both offense and defensive. The Panthers defeated the Bulldogs pretty easily in their Sugar Bowl Championship matchup (with the Bulldogs only scoring a field goal), and were ranked number 1 nationally.

19. 2000 Oklahoma Sooners

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The 2000 Oklahoma Sooners / Getty Images

  • Notable Players: Teddy Lehman, Josh Heupel

Representing the University of Oklahoma, the Sooners were another underdog team that caught the college football world by storm. Certainly, nobody expected the team to be champions after a 7-5 record the previous season. Coached by Bob Stoops (who was only in his second season with the team), the Sooners finished the regular season a perfect 12-0. The offense was led by Mark Mangino, while the defense was led by Torrance Marshall (who was selected in the third round of the 2001 NFL draft), and Rocky Calmus. After winning the Big 12 against Kansas State, the Sooners defeated the Florida State Seminoles in the 2001 Orange Bowl.

18. The 1969 Texas Longhorns

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The 1969 Texas Longhorns / Getty Images

  • Notable Players: Jim Bertelsen

Considered one of the best college football teams of all time, the 1969 Texas Longhorns Team powered their way to an 11-0 record. Along the way, the Longhorns beat the number 4 ranked Texas Tech Raiders, the number 8 ranked Oklahoma Sooners, and the number 2 ranked Arkansas Razorbacks in what was considered the “game of the century.” The Longhorns were coached by Darrell Royal and led by team captain Bob McKay. Following their victory against the Razorbacks, the Longhorns then defeated the number 9 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Cotton Bowl Classic.

17. The 1947 Michigan Wolverines

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17. The 1947 Michigan Wolverines / Getty Images

  • Notable Players: Bob Chappuis, Len Ford, Al Wistert

Selected as the nation's number one team at the end of the season, the 1947 Michigan Wolverines cruised to a perfect 10-0 record under head coach Fritz Crisler, outscoring their opponents 394-53, making it one of the widest scoring margins in collegiate football history. After easily securing the Big Ten, the Wolverines went on to absolutely destroy the USC Trojans in the 1948 Rose Bowl game, winning 49-0. The 1947 Wolverines team has since gone on to be considered the best team in Michigan Football History.

16. The 1968 Ohio State Buckeyes

15. The 1938 TCU Horned Frogs

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The 1938 TCU Horned Frogs / Getty Images

  • Notable Players: Davey O'Brien, Johnny Hall

Led by Heisman quarterback Davey O’Brien, TCU produced one of the best seasons in the school’s history during the 1938 campaign. Coached by Dutch Meyer in his fifth year, the team went 11-0 during the regular season. O’Brien is considered one of the greatest college football players ever, and under his leadership, the Horned Frogs defeated the 6th ranked Carnegie Tech Tartans for the Sugar Bowl Championship.

14. The 2008 Florida Gators

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The 2008 Florida Gators / Getty Images

  • Notable Players: Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, Brandon Spikes

Led by head coach Urban Meyer, the 2008 Florida Gators team is recognized as another all-time great college football team. The Gators were led by one of the greatest college quarterbacks in CFB history in Tim Tebow and only lost one game the entire season. Some of their biggest regular-season victories came against LSU and Georgia, and the Gators went on to defeat Alabama in the Georgia Dome for the SEC Championship. After that, Florida defeated the number 2 ranked Oklahoma Sooners for the title in the BCS National Championship Game. 

13. The 2004 USC Trojans

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The 2004 USC Trojans / Getty Images

  • Notable Players: Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart

While the 2004-2005 title technically doesn’t exist in USC history anymore, the 2004 squad was still one of the best to take the college football field. Led by Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart, the team went 11-0 under head coach Pete Carroll (who is now the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks). The season included victories against the California Golden Bears and the Arizona State Devils, and the Trojans went on to beat the Oklahoma Sooners in the BCS National Championship game making them one of the most talented teams on paper for the Sooners.

12. The 1924 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

The 1924 Notre Dame Fighting Irish / Getty Images

  • Notable Players: Jim Crowley, Harry Stuhldreher, Don Miller, Elmer Layden, Joe Bach, Adam Walsh

You can call this team the “Luck of the Irish.” Featuring the Four Horsemen backfield (Jim Crowley, Harry Stuhldreher, Don Miller, and Elmer Layden), the team certainly made their mark on defense and finished the season with a 10-0 record under coach Knute Rockne. Their 10th victory was a Rose Bowl win over the Stanford Football Team making it their last bowl appearance until the 1969 season.

11. The 1902 Michigan Wolverines

10. The 1994 Penn State Nittany Lions

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The 1994 Penn State Nittany Lions / Getty Images

  • Notable Players: Kerry Collins, Kyle Brady, Jeff Hartings

This team is different from the others included in this list due to the fact that they didn’t actually win a championship. However, the 1994 Nittany Lions are considered one of if not the best team to not win a title. Coached by Joe Paterno, the Lions had a perfect 12-0 record. The team concluded their season with a win over the Oregon Ducks. Back then, however, the college football system was different in terms of how championships were awarded, and the championship was instead given by vote to the Nebraska Cornhuskers in a now-controversial decision. Many still believe that the Lions should have at least been co-champions. Nevertheless, with a perfect record, and 3 players drafted in the NFL (Kyle Brady, Ki-Jana Carter, and Kerry Collins), the team is one of the best in school history.

9. The 1971 Nebraska Cornhuskers

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The 1971 Nebraska Cornhuskers / Getty Images

  • Notable Players: Jeff Kinney

The 1971 Cornhuskers had no problems handling business during the 1971 Campaign. Under the tutelage of Bob Devaney, the Cornhuskers went 13-0 beating two teams in the top 10 rankings (The Colorado Buffaloes and the Oklahoma Sooners) and finished the year pummeling Alabama in the Orange Bowl 38-6. Nearly all of their wins were blowouts (with their biggest one coming against Kansas with a 55-0 defeat), and the team is one of the few to actually repeat as college football champions.

8. The 1972 USC Trojans

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The 1972 USC Trojans / Getty Images

  • Notable Players: Sam Cunningham, Pat Haden

Coached by John McKay, the 72 Trojans were also very efficient in their offense, easily beating opponents Ohio State, Notre Dame, Washington, and UCLA (all of whom were ranked). That dominance led them to a perfect 12-0 record defeating the Buckeyes in the 1973 Rose Bowl 42-17. This Trojans team is also one of the all-time greats in team history, and produced an All-American in the tight end, Charlie Young.

7. 1956 Oklahoma Sooners

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1956 Oklahoma Sooners / Getty Images

  • Notable Players: Gerald Tubbs, Tommy McDonald

Led by future hall of fame head coach Bud Wilkinson and standout quarterback Jim Harris, the Oklahoma Sooners put together one of the most cohesive seasons in team history during their 1956 Campaign. The Sooners were a perfect 10-0 and defeated the number 18 ranked Colorado Buffaloes. Oklahoma sealed the deal on December 1st, 1956, against Oklahoma A&M 53-0, repeating as national champions. 

6. 1979 Alabama Crimson Tide

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1979 Alabama Crimson Tide / Getty Images

  • Notable Players: E.J. Junior, Sylvester Croom

Having had 6 championships to their name in 1979, many were wondering how the Crimson Tide could top themselves. The Tide found a way to do it during their 1979-1980 Season. Under the guidance of head coach Bear Bryant, Alabama cruised to a 12-0 record (with five of those wins being shutouts). Alabama finished the season as SEC Champions and went on to become national champions beating the Arkansas Razorbacks 24-9 en route to their 7th championship as an organization.

5. 2018 Clemson Tigers

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2018 Clemson Tigers / Getty Images

  • Notable Players: Trevor Lawrence, Ray-Ray McCloud, Travis Etienne

Coached by Dabo Swinney and led by star quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the Clemson Tigers delivered one of the best seasons in the program’s history. After winning the quarterback battle against team veteran Kelly Bryant, Lawrence proved himself leading the Tigers to a 15-0 record (most of which were easy wins). The Tigers routed Alabama in the 2019 CFP National Championship beating them 44-16.

4. 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers

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1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers / Getty Images

  • Notable Players: Tommy Frazier, Kris Brown

Ranked number 1 nationally, the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers marched to a 12-0 record under head coach Tom Osborne. Looking to follow their 1994 success, the team beat the Kansas State Wildcats, the Colorado Buffaloes, and the Kansas Jayhawks (all of whom were ranked) during their season. The Cornhuskers closed the season by beating the number 2 ranked Florida Gators 62-24, earning them the 1995 NCAA Division I-A championship.

3. 2019 LSU Tigers

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2019 LSU Tigers / Getty Images

  • Notable Players: Joe Burrow, Ja'Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, Clyde Edwards-Helaire

A perfect 15-0, the Tigers finished the season not only as the number one ranked team in the nation but also as the national champions. Coached by Ed Orgeron and led by Heisman winner Joe Burrow, the Tigers defeated Auburn, Alabama, and Georgia along the way, and found themselves in the college football playoffs where they beat the number 4 ranked Oklahoma, and the number 3 ranked Clemson for the championship. Offensively, the team set tons of records, and Burrow won the Heisman by the largest margin ever in history.

2. The 2005 Texas Longhorns

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The 2005 Texas Longhorns / Getty Images

  • Notable Players: Vince Young

With quarterback Vince Young leading the offense, the 2005 Texas Longhorns team remains one of the greatest. Coached by Mack Brown, the Longhorns went undefeated in a 13-0 campaign. Those wins included a beatdown versus the Colorado Buffaloes where the Longhorns won the Big Ten title 70-3 and a classic Rose Bowl showdown against USC where they defeated the Trojans 41-38.

1. The 2001 Miami Hurricanes

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The 2001 Miami Hurricanes / Getty Images

  • Notable Players: Ken Dorsey, Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Frank Gore, Najeh Davenport

Most universally agree that the 2001 Miami Hurricanes team is the best college football team in college football history. Not only that, but the team had one of the best pools of talent ever seen. Led by head coach Larry Coker, the Hurricanes went 12-0 during the season. From there, they defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers 37-14 to win the national championship. The Hurricanes are considered one of the most explosive collegiate teams ever, with 17 players being selected in the first round of future NFL drafts.

That concludes our list of the top greatest college football teams, while there are plenty of other honorable mentions, these are the teams we believe are in the top 25. With plenty more college football ahead, we could easily see more teams filling these slots in the future.

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