The Top 10 College Football Programs From the Past Quarter Century
Much has changed over the past 25 years, and college football falls into that category. Every season there is a team or two that plays above expectations, and everyone roots for them to go as far as possible.
However, there are those teams that seem to show up big every season. We can count on watching them somewhere in the top rankings.
Let's take a look back and list those Top 10 programs over the past 25 years.
10. Ohio State Buckeyes
"The Vest" , aka Jim Tressel, has lead Ohio State back into prominence in the last decade. In three trips to the National Championship, he won back in 2002 while losing to Florida in 2006 and LSU in 2007.
More importantly to any Buckeye alumnus or fan, Ohio State has surpassed their arch enemy Michigan over the past 25 years and brought pride and dignity to the program that quite often looked north to Ann Arbor.
While Rich Rod fights for his job in 2010, Tressel will lead Ohio State towards a Big 10 championship, and perhaps a bid for the National Championship.
9. Texas Longhorns
When Texas lured Mack Brown away from North Carolina, it was in the cards that the Longhorns would return to prominence.
Since his arrival in 1998, Texas has seen a string of success culminating with a victory over USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl and the National Championship.
In the past two years, Texas has been in position to play for the Big 12 and National Championships.
However, in 2008, controversy pushed hated rival Oklahoma ahead even though Texas had defeated them. But in 2009, Texas barely beat Nebraska to advance to the National Championship game against Alabama.
Colt McCoy was taken out in the first series of the game, and Texas fought hard but succumbed to Alabama in the 2009 National Championship game.
8. Alabama Crimson Tide
They came very close in 2008, and brought it home in 2009. The Crimson Tide of Alabama won both the SEC and National Championships this past season.
This past quarter century has seen Alabama bring home a national championship twice in 1992 and 2009. Also, they have won the coveted SEC Championship four times: 1989, 1992, 1999, and 2009.
Gene Stallings, after being fired from the Phoenix Cardinals, was hired by Alabama in 1990. Within two seasons, he brought home a National and SEC Championship back to Tuscaloosa.
When Stallings retired in 1996, a plethora of coaches made their way to Alabama between 1997 to 2006: Mike DuBose, Dennis Franchione, Mike Price, and Mike Shula.
Nick Saban has brought the Tide back to prominence regardless of any bad reputation he may have brought with him. Without doubt, Alabama is back, and every other team in the SEC is on notice.
7. LSU Tigers
First it was Nick Saban, then along came Les Miles. Regardless, both led LSU to national championships in 2003 (USA/ESPN) and 2007.
Also, LSU has won five SEC Championships in the past 25 years: 1986, 1988, 2001, 2003, 2007.
LSU now has to contend with Alabama in the SEC West, but should remain competitive. However, it has been pre-determined that they are second best at best in the West. Say that fast three times.
6. Oklahoma Sooners
Oklahoma had disappeared for some time from the college football landscape before they lured then Florida defensive coordinator Bob Stoops to Norman after he helped lead the Gators to a National Championship in 1996.
Upon his arrival, the Sooners have won a national championship in 2000, whereas the last time they had won was in 1985.
Recently, they battled Florida in 2008 for the National Championship in 2008, but came up short in a 24-14 loss.
Unfortunately, Oklahoma may be remembered for the Fiesta Bowl game in 2007 where underdog Boise State embarrassed them.
Frankly, it is unfair that people feel that way especially now that Boise State has proven themselves to be formidable foes.
Nevertheless, Oklahoma is now a powerhouse year in and out, and either they or Texas can be counted on to compete for the Big 12 title each year. Nebraska is making somewhat of a comeback, so Oklahoma may have more to watch out for other than the annual Red River Shootout.
5. Florida State Seminoles
It is still hard to believe that Coach Bobby Bowden will not be on the Florida State sidelines when the 2010 season begins, but no one can argue that his time as FSU's head coach was legendary.
Sure, the Seminoles have struggled lately and have become a mid-tier ACC team, but what they have accomplished in the last 25 years is extraordinary.
First of all, there were the two national championships in 1993 and 1999. Then we must account for the 14 straight top five finishes between 1987-2000. Finally, FSU won 12 ACC Championships, the last being won in 2005.
I struggled with where to place FSU on this list, but when you take into account FSU's decline over the past four seasons, and the controversy that cost FSU 12 regular season and one bowl game victory, I was compelled to place the team at No. 5.
Nevertheless, the loss of Coach Bowden will affect FSU greatly, and Coach Jimbo Fisher has his hands full replacing a legend.
4. USC Trojans
It was only a matter of time before Coach Pete Carroll left to try his luck once again in the NFL, but it is hard to get my arms' around the idea of Lane Kiffin being given the keys to this legendary program.
During the late 1980s, under Coach Larry Smith (1987-1992), USC was competitive but did not compete for a national championship. They did, however, win a Rose Bowl.
Coach Robinson returned for a second term in 1993, but his return was unremarkable. However, he did lead USC to a Rose Bowl victory over Northwestern in 1996.
Winless streaks against Notre Dame and crosstown rival UCLA remained in tack during this period, and Robinson would be replaced by Coach Paul Hackett in 1998, but he would lead the team to a 19-18 record over the next three seasons. Many felt that USC had lost their mojo before Pete Carroll arrived.
Pete Carroll led USC to two national championships in 2003 (AP, USA/ESPN awarded the NC to LSU) and 2004, and led the Trojans to seven shared or outright PAC-10 championships between 2002-2008.
With the departure of Pete Carroll to the NFL, USC now has to deal with the controversial Lane Kiffin, and possible NCAA sanctions.
3. Florida Gators
Arguably the best college football team in the SEC for the past 25 years, the Florida Gators have won three national championships (1996, 2006, and 2008), and eight SEC Championships (1991, 1993-96, 2000, 2006, and 2008).
Heavily favored to win again in 2009, the Gators fell short against Alabama in the SEC Championship game. The Crimson Tide would go on to defeat Texas to win the National Championship.
Steve Spurrier brought the Gators into the national spotlight when he returned to his alma mater in 1990. Due to NCAA violations, the Gators were not able to claim the SEC title his first season, but the Gators did finish ranked No. 1 in the conference.
Currently, offensive coordinator/assistant head coach Steve Addazio is running the team as head coach Urban Meyer takes a leave of absence to reduce the amount of stress causing health issues and concerns.
It is believed that Coach Meyer will be back in time for spring practice in March 2010.
During Coach Meyer's tenure, he has recruited like no other head coach, and his prized recruit was QB Tim Tebow. Tebow may go down as the greatest college football player of all time.
2. Nebraska Cornhuskers
We may have not seen the Cornhuskers in the spotlight lately, but no one can possibly forget what Nebraska accomplished in the 1990s.
Tom Osborne, current Athletic Director for the University of Nebraska, led the football team as head coach from 1973-1997.
During the latter half of his tenure as head coach, he lead the Cornhuskers to three National Championships (1994, 1995, and 1997), 12 Big 8 Championships, and one Big 12 Championship (his final season).
During the last five seasons of his coaching career, Osborne led the Huskers to a 60-3 record. With the exception of 1990, Nebraska finished in the top 15 for 24 of his 25 seasons as head coach.
Currently, Bo Pelini leads Nebraska as head coach, and came very close to upsetting Texas in the Big 12 Championship in 2009. Some think that Nebraska may be back as a powerhouse in the Big 12; only time will tell.
1. Miami Hurricanes
The "U". One letter has come to identify the greatest college football program in the last 25 years.
It started with Howard Schnellenberger, then came Jimmy Johnson, Dennis Erickson, Butch Davis, Larry Coker, and now Randy Shannon leads the U.
The Miami Hurricanes, over the past 25 years, have won four national championships, and nine Big East conference titles (in which three are shared). Currently, the Canes play in the Coastal Division of the ACC.
No one can argue the talent that Miami has contributed to the NFL. Any time you turn on the television to watch a NFL game, you can bet there is a Cane alum playing in that game.