OK, Urban Meyer. Whatever you say.
Speaking at the Sound Mind Sound Body camp in Detroit on Thursday, the former Florida and current Ohio State head coach called his 2008 Gators team—the one that lost to Ole Miss in September but eventually won the national title—the best to ever play the game of college football.
Here is a video of Meyer's speech:
And here is a transcription of the pertinent quote, courtesy of Ryan Ginn of Buckeye Sports Bulletin:
Once again, I know some of you won state championships. I’ve been a part of a couple great teams, I think the best team to ever play the game in ’08 (at Florida). And that was (because) animal instincts took over on the field. They protected each other. What he said is, ‘Have you ever tried to reason with a wild animal?’ Think about that. Think about what I just said. You try to reason with a wild animal… you can’t reason with a wild animal. They protect each other. Have you ever tried to negotiate, evaluate, take a play off? If you’re a wild animal, that doesn’t happen.
No doubt, the 2008 Gators were good. They were great. Led by quarterback Tim Tebow, wide receiver Percy Harvin, linebacker Brandon Spikes and a pair of coordinators—Dan Mullen and Charlie Strong—who would go on to become very good head coaches, Florida overcame its early defeat to beat Alabama in the SEC Championship Game and Oklahoma for BCS National Championship.
And Meyer is right to relate that team to a speech about "animal instincts." Tebow is the poster child for "heart over talent," and his impassioned postgame speech after losing to Ole Miss that season is perhaps the defining moment of his college career:
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Plenty of other teams could convincingly argue for the title of "best to play the game."
According to the F/+ rankings at Football Outsiders, the 2008 Florida squad wasn't even the second-best SEC team of the past six years.
Its F/+ rating of +49.4% is plenty good—for context, Florida State scored a +49.2% in 2013—but Alabama's national championship teams scored higher in 2011 (+53.9%) and in 2012 (+50.6%).
And speaking of Florida State, last year's Seminoles, unlike 2008 Florida or either of those Alabama teams, could make a strong case because they went undefeated. So have a whole host of other national champions the past few years and stretching back into history.
Um, Urban. The 2001 Miami Hurricanes are on Line 1:
"Best team to ever play the game" is a difficult term to define. If the data we have now stretched back 100 (or even 20) years, there is a chance we could find a way to do it. Until then, it is totally subjective.
So you're entitled to your opinion, Mr. Meyer. That's fine. Your Florida team was one of the best to ever play the game. No doubt.
But this comes off a little hyperbolic.