|RB Frank Gore was just a freshman on a 2001 Miami Hurricanes that was loaded with future NFL stars.|
With NFL Network celebrating the first decade of the 2000s this week, CFB 24/7 presents the 10 best college football teams from that era. We eliminated teams that did not win at least a piece of a national title, ranked undefeated teams ahead of one-loss teams, and also considered factors such as overall talent, strength of schedule and margins of victory.
10. 2003: USC (12-1)
Biggest regular-season win: at Auburn, 23-0.
Postseason: Rose Bowl win over Michigan, 28-14.
Loss: at Cal, 34-31.
Narrow escape: None. 12 wins by 14 points or more.
The skinny: This Trojans team earned split national title status with LSU, although it was the Tigers who took home the recognized BCS crystal football. Quarterback Matt Leinart had a spectacular year with 38 touchdown passes and just nine interceptions, with star receiver Mike Williams as his top target, while Lendale White and Reggie Bush provided a dangerous backfield combination.
9. 2003: LSU (13-1)
Biggest regular-season win: vs. Georgia, 17-10.
Postseason: SEC title game win over Georgia, 34-13; Sugar Bowl win over Oklahoma, 21-14.
Loss: vs. Florida, 19-7.
Narrow escape: at Ole Miss, 17-14.
The skinny: The Tigers had to knock off a strong Georgia team twice to reach the national title game, then dispatched a 12-1 Oklahoma team to win the BCS title. Quarterback Matt Mauck had a dynamic trio of receivers in Devery Henderson, Michael Clayton and Skyler Green. But the defense was even more imposing with Corey Webster, LaRon Landry, and Marcus Spears.
8. 2008: Florida (13-1)
Biggest regular-season win: vs. LSU, 51-21.
Postseason: SEC title game win over Alabama, 31-21; BCS title game win over Oklahoma, 24-14.
Loss: vs. Ole Miss, 31-30.
Narrow escape: None (13 wins by 10 points or more).
The skinny: Florida overcame a home loss to then-unranked Ole Miss to win the national championship, knocking off three straight ranked opponents to finish the year (FSU, Alabama, Oklahoma). Tim Tebow accounted for a whopping 42 touchdowns (30 passing, 12 rushing) and Percy Harvin delivered 660 rushing yards and 644 receiving to lead the team with 1,304 yards from scrimmage. Defensive standouts included Brandon Spikes and Joe Haden.
7. 2006: Florida (13-1)
Biggest regular-season win: vs. LSU, 23-10.
Postseason: SEC title game win over Arkansas, 38-28; BCS title game win over Ohio State, 41-14.
Loss: at Auburn, 27-17.
Narrow escape: at Tennessee, 21-20.
The skinny: The 2008 Florida team seems to have a higher place in Gators lore -- perhaps in part due to Tim Tebow's impassioned speech that supposedly inspired improvement -- but we like the 2006 team better. For one thing, it had a much more respectable loss. For another, the '06 defense was stingier, to the tune of 30 yards less per game than the '08 team.
6. 2002: Ohio State (14-0)
Biggest regular-season win: vs. Michigan, 14-9.
Postseason: Fiesta Bowl win over Miami, 31-24.
Narrow escape: at Purdue, 10-6.
The skinny: The Buckeyes' defense didn't allow more than 21 points the entire regular season, giving up nine or less six times. There were a couple of close calls, most notably an overtime national championship win over Miami that included a crucial and controversial pass-interference call that went OSU's way. Cincinnati, Wisconsin, Penn State, Purdue, Illinois and Michigan also played the Buckeyes close, but Jim Tressel's team pulled out a win every week. Maurice Clarett rumbled for 1,237 yards and Michael Jenkins was a 1,000-yard receiver.
5. 2004: USC (13-0*)
Biggest regular-season win: vs. Virginia Tech, 24-13.
Postseason: Orange Bowl win over Oklahoma, 55-19.
Narrow escape: at Stanford, 31-28.
The skinny: Under NCAA technicalities (*), this USC team actually went 11-0 after its win over UCLA and a BCS title win over Oklahoma were vacated. We won't penalize the Trojans here, however, not with an offense that scored 40 or more points seven times and thrashed OU in the title game. The White-Bush combination in the backfield was even better than it had been in 2003.
4. 2005: Texas (13-0)
Biggest regular-season win: vs. Ohio State, 25-22.
Postseason: Big 12 title game win over Colorado, 70-3; Rose Bowl win over Southern Cal, 41-38.
Narrow escape: vs. Ohio State, 25-22.
The skinny: Led by quarterback Vince Young, the Longhorns nipped USC in one of the most exciting national championship games in recent memory. Young was spectacular all year, throwing for 3,036 yards with 26 touchdowns, and rushing for 1,050 with 12 scores on the ground. Jamaal Charles averaged 7.4 yards per carry in the backfield.
3. 2009: Alabama (14-0)
Biggest regular-season win: vs. LSU, 24-15.
Postseason: SEC title game win over Florida, 32-13; BCS title game win over Texas, 37-21.
Narrow escape: vs. Tennessee, 12-10.
The skinny: On the strength of a dominating defense led by linebacker Rolando McClain, Mark Barron and Marcell Dareus, Alabama held half its regular-season opponents to seven points or less. Offensively, the rushing combination of Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson totaled over 2,400 yards. UA's SEC title game win was a complete dismantling of a fabulous UF team led by then-senior Tim Tebow.
2. 2000: Oklahoma (13-0)
Biggest regular-season win: vs. Nebraska, 31-14.
Postseason: Big 12 title win over Kansas State, 27-24; Orange Bowl win over Florida State, 13-2.
Narrow escape: at Texas A&M, 35-41.
The skinny: This is the team that set the bar permanently high for Bob Stoops at OU, beating six ranked opponents, including a No. 1 (Nebraska), a No. 2 (Kansas State/regular season) and a No. 3 (FSU). Josh Heupel threw for 3,606 yards and Quentin Griffin scored 17 touchdowns on the ground. Future first-round pick Roy Williams led a defense that saved its best performance of the season for last, shutting down an FSU offense that had scored 50-plus points five times that year.
1. 2001: Miami (12-0)
Biggest regular-season win: at Florida State, 49-27.
Postseason: Rose Bowl win over Nebraska, 37-14.
Narrow escape: at Virginia Tech, 26-24.
The skinny: Last month, we identified this UM team as one of the greatest in college football history, so its place as the top team of the 2000s naturally follows. The level of talent was second to none, a collection of future NFL standouts that might never be matched. This team had Frank Gore, Willis McGahee, Vince Wilfork, Sean Taylor, Roscoe Parrish, Antrel Rolle, and Kellen Winslow -- and that was just the freshman class.
Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.