The BCS Era has finally come to an end and in fantastic fashion. The final installment of the BCS Championship gave us a 34-31 fourth quarter classic from Auburn and Florida State, as well as four upsets in the Rose, Fiesta, Sugar and Orange Bowls. As the focus shifts to the four team playoff that is to come at the end of the 2014 season, the discussion turns to who is the best BCS Champion of them all.
In all, 16 teams won the BCS National Title. Alabama is the only school to win three times. Florida and LSU won it twice. The Crimson Tide is the only school to win in consecutive seasons.
Ten teams won the title undefeated (Tennessee, Florida State ’99 & ’13, Oklahoma, Miami, Ohio State, USC, Texas, Alabama, Auburn).
The Southeastern Conference won nine of the sixteen titles. It’s clear they were the better conference during the era. Before I go on, as much as it pains me to say this, Nick Saban is the best coach of the era. Three titles with the Crimson Tide (2010, 2011,2012) and one with LSU (2004) solidifies that. But for my money, I’m betting on the 2001 Miami Hurricanes as the best team.
The Canes went 12-0 in the 2001 season and won the 2002 BCS Title at the Rose Bowl 37-14. That season, The “U” won by an average margin of 32.9 points per game while the defense only gave up an average of 9.75 points per game and scored 8 touchdowns of its own. Add to that, the roster was filled with 38 NFL draftees, 17 of which were selected in the first round—Ed Reed, Andre Johnson, Willis Mcgahee, Kellen Winslow Junior, Jeremey Shockey and Sean Taylor to name a few—over a four year span from 2002-2006. Many members of this team returned the following year to defend their title. In two seasons, they were 24-0 before losing in a double overtime classic to the Maurice Clarett led Ohio State Buckeyes.
I’m sure many will object to my crowning of the 2001 Hurricanes. Figuring out who is the best team isn’t easy and you can’t just go by win loss records. I could make a case for the 2008 Tim Tebow led Florida Gators that finished 12-1. Tebow led the offense to an average of 43.6 points per game. On the season, their margin of victory was 30.7 points per game.
There’s also the first of Coach Saban’s Alabama titles with the 2009 team. This team beat the undefeated defending Champion Gators 32-13 in the 2009 SEC Title game to reach the BCS Championship game where they finished their title run with a 37-21 victory over Texas at the Rose Bowl.
While it may sound like I’m a prisoner of the moment, even the 2013 Florida State squad must get a nod. The Seminoles averaged 51.6 points a game, while winning their 14 games by a margin of 38.8 points per game. Their 723 points scored on the season is the most in history. Seven of their games the defense held the opponents to 7 points or less.
Even though i’m focusing on the BCS Champions, what about the teams that were left out of the title game. The 2003 USC Trojans of Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush won the Associated Press title that season after going 12-1 and defeating the Michigan Wolverines 28-14 in the Rose Bowl. All that team had was two Heisman Trophy winners and 52 future NFL players.
There’s also the 2004 Auburn Tigers led by Quarterback Jason Campbell and the Running Back tandem of Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams. The Tigers went 13-0, won the SEC Championship and the Sugar Bowl, yet no invite to the BCS Title game. That Tiger team boasts four first round NFL draft picks and Five NFL Pro Bowlers. One could only wonder what would’ve been the narrative if those two teams got a shot.
It’s hard to point to one team and say they were the best. Regardless, it’s a great debate. Now on to the playoff where discussions like this will be decided on the field, where they should be.