College Football: The Greatest Season Ever For All 120 FBS Teams
College football is filled with endless stories and legends, champions and clowns, miracles and curses.
Every program has had its share of some if not all of these. Those that have been around long enough stack categories of each.
But what is considered the highest peak every program has ever reached?
For some, the answer is simple, an epic season stands alone. For others, the choices are endless, too many champions to pick one out from the crowd. And for a few, a decent team, maybe a good one or two are all there is to offer.
Here is Bleacher Report's vote for the greatest season of every FBS college football team.
Air Force 1985: One Win Away From Playing For The National Championship
Air Force is almost never included in the national championship picture, but in 1985 the Falcons did just that.
After starting the year 11-0, Air Force was just one win away from competing for the national championship that Oklahoma eventually would win.
It all came down to a crushing 28-21 loss to BYU late in the season, Air Force's only loss that year. The Falcons would finish the season at 12-1, ranking eighth in the AP postseason poll.
Akron 2005: The First Mid-American Conference Championship
Akron football doesn't have too much to celebrate since becoming a Division I-A team in 1987. Since then the Zips have posted a record of 106-167-1 and have only had eight winning seasons.
While the 1992 team posted the team's best record at 7-3-1, it was the 2005 season that delivered the school's only conference championship.
That year, Akron went 7-6 and ended the year with a 38-31 loss to Memphis in the Motor City Bowl.
Alabama 1961: Bear Bryant's First Championship and The Rise Of The Tide
Winning the first national championship under the legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant, Alabama's 1961 team is considered by many to be the greatest in school history.
The Crimson Tide went 11-0 that year, scoring 297 points and allowing their opposition to score just 25 points for the entire season.
The 1961 team would begin a dynasty that lasted until 1966 in which the team would go 60-5-1 and win three national championships.
Honorable Mention: 1964, 1973, 1978, 1979, 1992, 2009
Arizona 1993: The Only Pac-10 Championship
Arizona has been mostly down throughout it's history in the Pac-10, but the Wildcats lay claim to the 1993 conference championship in what has to be considered the best season in school history.
Based on the way they're playing in 2010, we may have to reconsider one day though.
In '93, the Wildcats went 10-2 and finished the year ranked 10th in the AP postseason poll. Arizona would beat USC and Miami that season by a combined 60 points.
Honorable Mention: 1964, 1973, 1978, 1979, 1992, 2009
Arizona State 1986: Pac-10 Champions and The Rose Bowl Upset
Arizona State had quite a few seasons to choose from, including undefeated years in 1957, 1970 and 1975. But we chose the 1986 team that nearly competed for a national championship.
The Sun Devils would start the season 10-0 before suffering a crushing loss to Arizona in the last game of the season.
That game would drop Arizona State out of title contention, but the season would end on a high note with a come from behind 22-15 victory over No. 4 Michigan in the 1987 Rose Bowl.
Honorable Mention: 1957, 1970, 1975
Arkansas 1964: The Split-Crown That Changed The System
Before 1965, the AP released it's final rankings before bowl games were played. The system was always a bit controversial since bowl games often served as the best means to determine who the best team really was.
That system changed in 1964 though, when both Arkansas and Alabama went undefeated in the regular season and the Crimson Tide were named champions by the AP.
Arkansas would go on to win the Cotton Bowl over Nebraska and Alabama would lose in the Sugar Bowl against Texas—a team the Razorbacks had beaten in the regular season.
Arkansas still claimed the crown from the FWAA, the school's only national championship.
Arkansas State 1975: Undefeated In It's First Year In Division I-A
Arkansas State has bounced around from Division I-A and Division I-AA (now FBS and FCS), but in the Red Wolves made quite a splash in their first year in the big leagues, so to speak.
Arkansas State has won six conference championships, five in the Southland Conference and one in the Sun Belt Conference, but it's only been undefeated once in school history.
That would be in 1975, the Red Wolves first year competing at the Division I-A level. They went 11-0 and became just the fourth team to go undefeated and not win a national championship.
Army 1945: Mr. Inside and Mr Outside, The Cadets' Best
Army's 1945 team is considered to be among the greatest in the history of the sport. The Cadets featured one of the best one-two combos in the game, with Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside.
Fullback Felix "Doc" Blanchard and tailback Glenn Davis led Army to a dominating 9-0 record, with Blanchard winning the Heisman that season; Davis would have to wait a year for his Heisman.
Army beat Notre Dame 48-0, and in the game that decided the national title, the Cadets crushed Navy 32-13 in front of a crowd of over 100,000.
Honorable Mention: 1944, 1946
Auburn 2004: The Best Team To Ever Not Play For a Championship
The 2004 Auburn Tigers stand as the greatest team ever denied the chance to play for the national championship.
Despite posting a perfect 12-0 record playing in college football's toughest conference (the SEC), the Tigers finished the regular season third in the BCS rankings, behind unbeaten USC and Oklahoma.
Featuring a backfield of Jason Campbell, Ronnie Brown, and Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, Auburn beat LSU, Georgia, and Tennessee (twice), all of whom were ranked opponents.
Forced to play in the Sugar Bowl and stand by as USC dominated Oklahoma for the national championship, Auburn defeated Virginia Tech 16-13 and finished the season ranked second to the Trojans.
Honorable Mention: 1957, 1993
Ball State 2008: 12-0 and In The Polls For The First Time Ever
In 2008, Ball State had it's best regular season in school history when the Cardinals went 12-0 and made their first appearance in the polls, ever. It was the first time since 1978 the team had won more than eight games.
After starting 7-0, Ball State showed up at at No. 22 in the BCS rankings. The Cardinals would rank as high as 12th, but the season ended on a serious down note.
Ball State got blown out by Buffalo in the MAC Championship and then had an equally disheartening loss to Tulsa in the GMAC Bowl. Even with the way the season started, going 12-0 and ranking 12th in the nation is quite an accomplishment.
Baylor 1974: The Miracle on the Brazos
There are other seasons to consider, mainly the 1979 team that featured Mike Singletary and a win over Clemson in the Peach Bowl, but the 1974 squad holds the status of legendary in Baylor football history.
Entering the 1974 season, Baylor had not had not won the Southwest Conference in 50 years and had lost to Texas 16 years in a row.
Baylor would go on to record an 8-4 record, including a comeback victory over Texas after being down 24-7 at the half, and win the Southwest Conference. The team was dubbed the "Miracle on the Brazos" after the nearby Brazos River.
Honorable Mention: 1979
Boise State 2006: The Beginning Of The Broncos Dynasty
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Boise State's 2010 season might prove to be the best ever, but until then we make a difficult choice between incredible teams.
The Broncos went 13-0 in both 2006 and 2009, but it was in 2006 that they became only the second school from outside the BCS conferences to play in a BCS Bowl.
It was there, in the Fiesta Bowl, where the Broncos matched up with Oklahoma for one of the greatest thrillers in the history of sports and won in stunning fashion in overtime.
Honorable Mention: 2009
Boston College 1940: The Team Of Destiny
Many fans will point toward the Flutie Era from 1981-1984, but we're going back to 1940 undefeated season that some claim should have resulted in a National Championship.
Nicknamed "The Team of Destiny", the 1940 Eagles went 11-0 and featured five future College Football Hall of Famers.
The most memorable moment came against Georgetown, when Boston College snapped the Hoyas 22-game win streak. Unfortunately for the Eagles, the NCCA only recognizes Minnesota as the National Champion that season.
Honorable Mention: 1984
Bowling Green 1991: 12-1 and The Revenge Over Fresno State
Bowling Green has won or shared 10 Mid-American Conference championships since 1956, but of them all, the 1991 season stands out the most.
That year the Falcons would go 11-1 in the regular season and play in just their fourth bowl game in school history.
Bowling Green faced off with Fresno State in the California Bowl, winning the game 28-21. It was the second time the Falcons faced the Bulldogs in the California Bowl; Fresno State won the first meeting 51-7.
Brigham Young 1984: 13-0 and The Only Championship
BYU's 1984 national championship team was the last that is not a current member of the BCS coalition that makes up the six major conferences of college football.
A consensus choice for the title that year, the Cougars opened the season with a 20-14 win over Pitt, ranked third at the time, and finished the season with a 24-17 win over Michigan, ranked as high as second that season.
Fans could have been privy to arguably the best matchup of the year had Washington, ranked third, not opted to play Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl rather than face BYU in the Holiday Bowl.
Still, at the end of the year, it was the Cougars who took home the title, closing out the season on a 24-game win streak
Buffalo 2008: Overtime Thriller, Stunner Upset, and the First Conference Title
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Remember that 2008 Ball State team we went over a few slides back? Here's the team that beat the Cardinals in the MAC Championship.
Buffalo began the year 6-4, but won the MAC East Division the following week with a thrilling double-overtime victory over Bowling Green after entering the fourth quarter down 27-7.
That victory earned the Bulls the chance to play 12th ranked Ball State in the Conference Championship. Against a heavily favored opponent, Buffalo would win the game 42-24.
California 1937: The Thunder Team
You can make the argument that other teams in Cal history deserve the honor more, but the 1937 Golden Bears are Cal's only unbeaten team in the last 85 years.
Nicknamed the "Thunder Team", the '37 team is the last squad in school history to lay claim to a national championship.
Cal would go 10-0-1 that season, with a 0-0 tie against Washington the only blemish on it's record. The Golden Bears outscored their opponents 214-33 and shutout Alabama in the 1938 Rose Bowl.
Honorable Mention: 2004, 2006
Central Michigan 2009: Ranked For The First Time Ever
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Central Michigan has been playing Division 1-A football since 1975, but the Chippewas best season came last year.
They finished off a 12-1 regular season with a thrilling 44-41 victory over Troy in the GMAC Bowl, riding the coattails of quarterback Dan LeFevour all season long and finishing the year ranked 23rd in the AP final rankings; it was the first year Central Michigan has ever been ranked.
LeFevour was the Chippewas. He passed for nearly 3,500 yards with 28 touchdowns, while leading the team in rushing with another 15 TDs.
Cincinnati 2009: The Comeback Over Pitt and The Trip To The Sugar Bowl
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Cincinnati is one of the oldest football programs in the country having played it's inaugural season in 1885. With 125 teams to chose from, we need only go back one year though.
In 2009 the Bearcats won a school-record 12 games and finished the regular season ranked 4th in the AP Poll; their highest ranking ever.
The highlight of the season was a come from behind victory over 15th ranked Pitt in the Big East Championship. Cincinnati would win the game 45-44 after trailing by as many as 21 points. Unfortunately the season ended on a down note when Florida dominated the Bearcats in the 2010 Sugar Bowl.
Clemson 1981: Danny Ford's Tigers And The One and Only Championship
Led by coach Danny Ford and one of the best defenses in the country, the 1981 Clemson Tigers went 12-0 and were voted as the No. 1 team in the country, recording the school's first and only national championship.
With a very tough to contain option offense and a dominant defense that featured College Football Hall of Famers Jeff Davis at linebacker and Terry Kinard at free safety, the Tigers outscored their opponents 338-105.
After beating Top 10-ranked Georgia and North Carolina in the regular season, Clemson capped the year with a 22-15 win over No. 4 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.
Colorado 1990: The Fifth Down Game and The Controversial Championship
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One of the most controversial champions in history, the 1990 Colorado Buffalos are remembered more for an officiating blunder than for winning national championship.
Colorado would go 10-1-0 that season, with a tie against 8th ranked Tennessee to open the season a loss against 21st ranked Illinois two weeks later. The Buffalos wouldn't lose again, beating Texas, Washington, Oklahoma, and Nebraska; all of whom were ranked in the top 25.
Colorado then beat top-ranked Notre Dame in the the Orange Bowl to claim the AP national championship. The Controversy centers around the Buffalos win over unranked Missouri; a game in which Colorado was mistakenly given a fifth down to score the winning touchdown in the closing seconds.
Colorado State 1994: The Rise Of Sonny Lubick and The Arizona Upset
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Colorado State football goes back to 1893, but the best years of the program came under the guidance of coach Sonny Lubick from 1993 to 2007.
There were quite a few good years over that stretch, including six conference championships, but the first is always the sweetest.
In '94, the Rams orchestrated the greatest upset in school history against 4th ranked Arizona. "The Play" came in the second half when Colorado State returned a fumble 79 yards for a touchdown that ended up being the game-winning score.
The Rams would go 10-2 that season, the first 10-win season in school history, and finish the year ranked 16th in the AP poll.
Connecticut 2007: The First Big East Championship
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Connecticut has only competed as a full-fleged Division I-A program since 2002 and it only took the school five years to get it's first share of a conference championship.
The Huskies went 9-4 in 2007 and finished the year as Big East Co-Champions with West Virginia even though the Mountaineers badly beat the Huskies 66-21 in the last game of the regular season.
UConn would go on to lose to Wake Forest in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, but were ranked as high as 16th that year.
Duke 1938: The Iron Dukes
Some might point toward the stretch from 1960-1962 in which Duke won three straight ACC titles, but you have to go all the way back to 1938 to find Duke's most storied football team.
With Wallace Wade as head coach, Duke would go 9-0 in the regular season without allowing it's opponents to score a single point and earning the nickname "The Iron Dukes."
Duke is one of three teams in history to have gone undefeated, unscored upon, and untied in the regular season. The season ended on a down note however, when the Blue Devils lost 7-3 to USC in the 1939 Rose Bowl.
Honorable Mention: 1962
East Carolina 1991: The Unprecedented Climb Into The Top 10
The 1991 East Carolina Pirates are a team that many have forgotten about. True, it is not often we think of these sort of teams when we look back at the long history of college football.
But these Pirates deserve a shot. After losing their first game of the year to Illinois, East Carolina would not lose again and made an unprecedented climb into the postseason Top 10.
With victories over South Carolina, Syracuse, Pitt and Virginia Tech, quarterback Jeff Blake led an offense that averaged over 30 points a game. He played well enough to finish seventh in the Heisman voting.
Eastern Michigan 1991: The Fresno State Upset and The First and Only Bowl Win
Eastern Michigan has a long history of college football dating back to 1891, but over that entire stretch the school has won only a single bowl game.
That came in 1987, after the Eagles finished the regular season 9-2 to capture their first and only Mid-American Conference Championship.
Eastern Michigan would face Fresno State in the California Bowl, with the Bulldogs entering as 17½ point favorites. The Eagles would go on to win 30-27 to capture their only bowl game victory.
Florida 2008: The Promise
Florida has won other championships, but the 2008 crown is a truly special one. That year, the Gators started 3-0, but lost 31-30 to unranked Ole Miss that cost them the chance at perfection.
Looking back, it was a blessing in disguise. After the game, Tim Tebow made a promised to play harder and push his team harder than anyone in the country. His promise would become a thing of legend.
Florida would outscore it's remaining 10 opponents 469-131, with victories over No. 3 LSU, No. 8 Georgia, No. 23 South Carolina and No. 24 FSU.
The Gators would finish the season beating Alabama in the SEC Championship and then beating Oklahoma in the BCS National Championship; both the Crimson Tide and Sooners were ranked No. 1 when they faced Florida.
Florida Atlantic 2007: The Fastest Start-Up Program In NCAA History
Florida Atlantic began play in 2001, competing at the Division I-AA level until 2005. It was then that the school joined the Sun Belt Conference.
In just it's third year competing at the Division I-A level, the Owls would go 8-5, 6-1 in conference play, and win the Sun Belt Title with a 38-32 victory over Troy in the last game of the season.
Florida Atlantic then beat Memphis in the New Orleans Bowl to become the fastest start-up program in NCAA history to win a bowl game.
Honorable Mention: 2003
Florida International 2008: A 5-7 Record That Wins By Default
Florida International began play in 2002, one year after Florida Atlantic, but the results haven't been nearly as good.
The Golden Panthers have yet to finish a season with a winning record, having won no more than five games a year in their eight-plus years of play.
In 2002 the program went 5-6 at the FCS level, vacated all 10 wins from 2003 to 2005, won just a single game from 2006 to 2007, went 5-7 in 2008, then 3-9 in 2009.
Florida State 1999: The Only Wire-To-Wire National Champion
There have been several Poll-consensus national champions, but the '99 Seminoles were the first team to ever go wire-to-wire ranked No. 1 in the country. From preseason all the way to the final postseason ranking, FSU was the unanimous No. 1 team.
With an offense that featured Chris Weinke at quarterback, Travis Minor at running back, receivers Laveranues Coles, Anquan Boldin, Marvin Minnis, Ron Dugans, and of course, Peter Warrick, the Seminoles averaged over 38 points per game.
They finished the year with victories over No. 3 Florida and No. 2 Virginia Tech, leaving no doubt who the best team in 1999 was.
Honorable Mention: 1988, 1993
Fresno State 2001: The Upsetters
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When you think of the greatest teams in Fresno State football history two squads come to mind. The 1985 unbeaten team and the 2001 team that started the year with three upsets.
It's difficult to pick between the two. The '85 team tied with Hawaii, but won every other game that season; the only team in the nation that year to go unbeaten.
The 2001 team played much stiffer competition though, opening the year with upsets over Colorado, Oregon State and Wisconsin. The Bulldogs would eventually rank as high as 8th in the polls; the highest of any mid-major since BYU in 1984.
A 35-30 loss to Boise State cost Fresno State the chance for a BCS Bowl, but we'll take the 2001 team in a tight race.
Honorable Mention: 1985
Georgia 1980: Meet Herschel Walker and The Undefeated Champions
Georgia got it's second National Championship in 1980, the first time the Bulldogs had done so since 1942.
Most fans remember the year for something else as well though, Herscel Walker's freshman season; arguably the finest performance by any freshman in history.
Walker set the NCAA freshman rushing record and finished third in the Heisman voting. He was a critical part of Georgia's 12-0 season that ended with a 17-10 victory over Notre Dame in the 1981 Sugar Bowl.
Honorable Mention: 1942, 1982
Georgia Tech 1990: The Split-Title With Colorado
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Georgia Tech has won for national championships, but only one since 1952. That came in 1990 when the Yellow Jackets went 11-0-1 and split the title with Colorado, who finished 1st in the AP poll.
Georgia Tech would take the UPI National Championship by a single vote, making it's claim as champions after beating No. 1 ranked Virginia on the road and then crushing Nebraska in the Citrus Bowl.
Many felt that the Yellow Jackets should have been the sole champions for 1990 considering they hadn't lost a game as well as the fact that Colorado was unfairly awarded one of it's victories thanks to the infamous "Fifth Down Game."
Hawaii 2007: The 13-Game Winning Streak and BCS Bowl Bid
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Most fans will point to the 2006 team that passed it's way into the record books, but it was the 2007 team that had more success in the win-loss column.
After an 11-2 year in '06 in which Cot Brennan passed for over 5,500 yards and 58 touchdowns, the Warriors came into the '07 season ready to play even better.
They went 12-0 in the regular season, beat Boise State to claim their first outright WAC championship, became just the third mid-major to receive a BCS bowl invite, and finished the year 19th in the AP final rankings.
Honorable Mention: 2006
Houston 1990: The Year After Andre Ware Was Actually Even Better
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1989 is often considered the best in school history because of what Andre Ware was able to accomplish that season.
He became the first African American quarterback to win the Heisman with an impressive individual season. But when it comes to team play, the 1990 season was more of a success.
The offense was even better than it had been the year before, averaging over 46 points a game. The Cougars would finish the season ranked 10th, losing only one game all year; that would come at the hands of Texas late in the season.
Honorable Mention: 1989
Idaho 1998: The Vandals Only Big West Championship
Idaho doesn't have many seasons to pick from if you're looking for success. There are two obvious choices, the 1998 team and the 2009 team.
Both would win the Humanitarian Bowl, but only the '98 team would win a conference championship.
The Vandals went 9-3 that year, with a loss to Nevada their only one in conference play. The Big West championship that season was Idaho's first and only conference title.
Honorable Mention: 2009
Illinois 1951: The Unbeaten Champions?
Illinois claims five national championships, but up until 2006 only claimed four. The fifth is the disputed 1951 title awarded to the school by the Boand Selecting Body.
Tennessee and Michigan State, that were 10-0 and 9-0 respectively, are widely considered the true champions of 1951, but the Volunteers lost to Maryland in the Sugar Bowl and the Spartans did not play in a bowl.
Illinois however, finishing 4th in the final AP rankings and 3rd in the final Coaches' Poll, went 9-0-1 in the regular season and then dominated Stanford 40-7 in the Rose Bowl to close the year.
Honorable Mention: 2007
Indiana 1967: The Second Big Ten Championship In Hoosiers History
Indiana has been playing football since 1887, but since then has only claimed two conference championships. The first came in 1945, when the Hoosiers went 9-0-1 and the second came in 1967, when they went 9-2.
We pick the 1967 season of the two based on the level of competition Indiana faced.
Indiana's first loss of the season came against No. 18 Minnesota, but was followed up by a crucial 19-14 win over No. 9 Purdue in the battle for the Old Oaken Bucket that clinched the Big Ten tile.
The Hoosiers would go on to lose to O.J. Simpson's USC Trojans 14-3 in the 1968 Rose Bowl, finishing the season ranked 5th in the final AP rankings.
Honorable Mention: 1945
Iowa 2009: A Stanzi Away From a Shot at Perfection
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This one should be a bit controversial considering Iowa did not even win the Big Ten in 2009, but hear us out before the outrage begins.
Yes, Iowa claims a national championship in 1958 as well as 12 conference championships, most notably from 1985, 2002 and 2004, but in 2009 the Hawkeyes beat two top 10 teams and could've done even better had quarterback Ricky Stanzi not missed two games with injury that resulted in Iowa's only losses of the year.
The 1958 team beat 7th ranked Wisconsin, lost to 8th ranked Ohio State and beat 17th and 16th ranked Notre Dame and Cal to close the year.
The 2009 team beat 5th ranked Penn State on the road, lost in overtime to 11th ranked Ohio State without their star quarterback and beat 9th ranked Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl. The Hawkeyes No. 7 rank in the final AP Poll was the school's highest rankings since 1960
Iowa State 2000: The First Bowl Victory In School History
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Iowa State has not won a conference championship since 1912 and only has one nine-win season in school history.
That came in 2000, when the Cyclones would go 8-3 in the regular season and then beat Pitt in the Insight.com Bowl for Iowa State first bowl game victory in school history.
That year, the Cyclones lost only one game to an unranked opponent and finished the season ranked 25 in the final AP Poll.
Kansas 2007: 12-1 and the Jayhawks First Orange Bowl Victory
Kansas didn't win the Big 12 Conference in 2007, but it's still has to be regarded as the most successful season in school history.
The Jayhawks would go 11-0 before dropping their last game of the regular season to Missour which cost them a chance to play in the Big 12 Championship.
Kansas would still get to play in the Orange Bowl, where it defeated No. 3 Virginia Tech to claim the school's first major bowl and finished the year ranked 8th in the AP final rankings.
Kansas State 1998: One Win Away From a National Championship Berth
It's tough to decide between the two best teams in Kansas State history, both of whom unfortunately ended their seasons on down notes.
In 1998, the Wildcats went 11-0 in the regular season, defeating three ranked opponents and becoming the No. 1 team in the nation while setting a school record by scoring 610 points.
They would lose 36-33 in double overtime to Texas A&M in the Big 12 Championship; a loss that cost Kansas State the chance to play for the National Championship and sent the Wildcats to the Alamo Bowl where they lost 37-34.
Honorable Mention: 2003
Kent State 1971: The First and Only Mid-American Conference Championship
Kent State has only one conference championship in 90 years of college football and while the Golden Flashes aren't normally a team you'd think of when your'e talking football, the 1971 squad was a good one.
The team featured future Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Lambert as well as current Alabama coach Nick Saban.
They would win the Mid-American Conference in '71 for the first and only time and earn an invitation to the Tangerine Bowl where the Golden Flashes would lose to Tampa 21-18
Kentucky 1950: The Oklahoma Upset and The Wildcats Only Championship
The 1950 college football season is one that will forever be remembered as the one where Kentucky shocked the world in one of the biggest upsets of the first half of the 20th century, but also one that didn't quite get the result it deserved.
Oklahoma went into the Sugar Bowl as the undisputed No. 1 team in the country riding a 30-game win streak.
Kentucky, under coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, went into the game as the No. 7 team in the country, fresh off a 7-0 loss to Tennessee. They would beat the Sooners 13-7 in a game no one would have expected the Wildcats to win.
Oklahoma was still awarded the national championship though, since AP voting took place before the game was played. The NCAA later retroactively recognized Kentucky as co-national champions.
LSU 2007: The First and Only Two-Loss Champion
The 2007 LSU Tigers were one of the most up-and-down teams to ever take the field, becoming the first two-loss BCS champion and the first two-time BCS champion.
The Tigers, who finished the year 12-2, suffered both their losses in triple overtime, winning four more games by seven points or less.
That just shows you how close this team came to perfection and how close they came to 8-4. But wins are wins, and LSU, despite their two losses, beat an astonishing seven teams ranked in the Top 20.
The season ended with a 38-24 statement over No. 1-ranked Ohio State.
Honorable Mention: 1958, 2003
Louisiana-Lafayette 2005: Co-Sun Belt Champions Is As Good As It Gets
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Louisiana-Lafayette, formerly known as Southwestern Louisiana, has been playing college football since 1902 and throughout that entire stretch we struggle to find a definitive season of note.
The school has three co-championships, taking a share of the Big West Conference in 1993 and 1994 and then splitting the 2005 Sun Belt Conference with Arkansas State and Louisiana-Monroe.
With a pick out of the hat, we come up with the 2005 season that ended with a 6-5 record.
Honorable Mention: 1993, 1994
Louisiana-Monroe 2007: The Upset Over Alabama
Louisiana-Monroe, like a few others teams around the country, doesn't have much success to show, having split the 2005 Sun Belt Conference Championship with Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette.
But because the Warhawks ended that season with a 5-6 record, we find it hard to declare that the best season in school history.
Instead we'll turn to the 2007 season, a year Louisiana-Monroe started 0-4, but then went 6-2 to close out the year, including a stunning upset over Alabama; who came into the game as a 24-point favorite.
Louisiana Tech 1973: The Inaugural Division II Football Playoffs
We'll make an exception for Louisiana Tech, who's best season came in 1973 when the school played at the Division II level.
The Bulldogs have played college football since 1901 and their best years came from 1972 to 1974 when they posted a record of 35-2.
There are other years to consider, but the 12-1 season of 1973 came in the inaugural Division II football playoffs. The Bulldogs cruised to the championship game and blew out Western Kentucky to take the crown.
Honorable Mention: 1972, 1974, 2001, 2008
Louisville 2005: Big East Champs and No. 5 In The Nation
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Louisville has won six conference championships since first hitting the field in 1912, but it's easy to pick out the Cardinals best season and you don't even have to go back very far.
In 2006 the Cardinals would go 12-1, beating No. 15 Miami and No. 3 West Virginia; Louisville's only loss on the year a 27-25 loss to No. 15 Rutgers.
The Cardinals would finish the year with 24-13 victory over No. 15 Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl, ranking 5th in the final AP Poll.
Hororable Mention: 2001, 2004
Marshall 1996: The Greatest 1-AA Team Of All Time
The 1997 season might be the better known year looking back because of the explosion of Randy Moss, who caught 26 touchdowns that season, but it was 1996 that proved more successful.
Marshall went 15-0 that year, winning every game by at least two touchdowns and ranking as the No. 1 Division 1-AA team all season long.
With Moss, Chad Pennington, Eric Kresser, Doug Chapman, and a few others who went pro, the '96 team is considered by many to be the greatest Division 1-AA team to ever take the field.
Honorable Mention: 1997
Maryland 1951: The Undefeated National Championship and The Tennessee Upset
Maryland only claims one national championship in it's 118 years, with that coming back in 1951.
That year the Terrapins would go undefeated outscoring their opponents 381–74. It was the school's first perfect undefeated and untied season since 1893.
Maryland would finish 3rd in the AP final rankings, but then went on to defeat top-ranked Tennessee 24-7 in the 1952 Sugar Bowl and was retroactively named the national champions.
Honorable Mention: 1953
Memphis 2003: The Ole Miss Upset and New Orleans Bowl Victory
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Memphis has been playing college football since 1912, but the Tigers are another school that presents a difficult challenge when deciding what year was the best of them all.
While Memphis has won six conference championships, we chose a year that isn't among them. That would be the 2003 squad that featured DeAngelo and went 9-4, pulling off one of the biggest upsets of the season.
The Tigers hosted No. 18 Ole Miss in the second week of the season and pulled off a stunning 44-34 upset; it would be one of only three losses for the Rebels.
Memphis would finish the year with victories over Louisville and Cincinnati before beating North Texas in the New Orleans Bowl.
Miami 2001: The "Pros"
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Miami came into the 2001 season on a mission. The Hurricanes were snubbed in 2000, having been bypassed for the chance to play for the national championship by FSU despite beating the Seminoles in head-to-head play and being ranked higher than them in human polls.
2001 was a year where the Hurricanes would not be denied. The team would go down as one of the best to ever take the field.
With stars like Ken Dorsey, Clinton Portis, Bryant McKinnie, Jeremy Shockey, Phillip Buchanon, Mike Rump, and Ed Reed, the Hurricanes were one of the most all-around talented squads ever assembled.
They went 12-0, finishing the year by crushing Nebraska in the Rose Bowl for the national championship. Miami was up 34-0 at halftime before finishing the game with a 37-14 victory.
Honorable Mention: 1983, 1987, 1991
Miami (OH) 2003: The Top 10 Finish and Mid-American Conference Championship
Miami (OH) has 14 Mid-American Conference championships since 1948, but the best of them came in 2003, when the RedHawks fell one game short of a perfect season.
They would lose their first game of the season to No. 12 Iowa and then wouldn't lose again, outscoring their remaining 13 opponents 599-251.
The RedHawks closed the year with a 49-28 over Louisville in the GMAC Bowl, ranking 10th in the final AP poll.
Michigan 1948: Back-To-Back Champions and The Legendary Pete Elliot
In 1948, Michigan followed up its impressive success from the year before with another undefeated campaign, this time winning the national championship outright.
Featuring the greatest all-around athlete in Michigan history, Pete Elliot, who earned 12 letters in varsity sports, the Wolverines finished the year 9-0.
That year, Michigan finished the year beating its last three opponents by a combined score of 102-0, with Elliot and Dick Rifenburg forming the best quarterback-wide receiver combo of their time.
Honorable Mention: 1901, 1941, 1947, 1997
Michigan State 1952: In The Midst Of a Dynasty, Downing Michigan and Notre Dame
Michigan State would post one of the school's best runs of success from 1950 to 1953. Over that stretch, under the leadership of coach Clarence Munn, the Spartans would post a record of 35-2.
They would win a national championship in the unbeaten 1952 season, the only one with Munn at the helm.
That year, the Spartans opened the season with a 27-13 victory over Michigan and then later went on to beat Notre Dame 21-3, dominating both rivalry games.
Honorable Mention: 1951, 1955, 1957, 1965, 1966
Middle Tennessee 2009: The First Division I FBS Bowl Win
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We take you back only season to give you the best year in Middle Tennessee football history.
The Blue Raiders went 9-3 in the regular season and while they didn't win the Sun Belt Conference title as they did in 2006, the 2009 season has to be considered more of a success for one simple reason.
Middle Tennessee defeated Southern Miss 42-32 in the New Orleans Bowl, the school's first victory in a bowl game since 1960 and the first as an FBS team.
Minnesota 1934: Dominating Defense and Unstoppable Running Game
Many will point toward the 1940 Minnesota team as being the best in school history, but there's just as good an argument for a dominating 1934 team that had arguably the best rushing attack of its time and a defense as stingy as they come.
In their undefeated national championship season, the Golden Gophers averaged over 33 points with nearly 300 rushing yards a game.
They also boasted a defense that shut out half of their opponents and finished the season allowing just 4.7 points and 103 yards a game.
Honorable Mention: 1940
Mississippi 1960: One Of Three Championships In Four Years
When it comes down to Ole Miss football, a judgement call is needed, with three national championships claimed to chose from.
Some might say the 1959 team that went 10-1 was the best, others would say the 10-0 1962 season is king, but we choose the 1960 season.
1959 belongs to Syracuse, who beat Texas in the Cotton Bowl, 1962 belong to USC, who beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, but 1960 has to Ole Miss'.
Minnesota is also credited with a championship that year, but the Golden Gophers lost to Washington in the Rose Bowl and Ole Miss went 10-0-1, defeating Rice in the 1961 Sugar Bowl.
Honorable Mention: 1959, 1962
Mississippi State 1999: The Highest Ranking Team From Mississippi In 40 Years
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Mississippi State has never won a national championship and you have to go back to 1941 to find it's only conference title, but the Bulldogs made history in 1999 and that's our choice for the best ever.
Mississippi State would only lose two games that season, both coming on the road against Alabama and Arkansas. Of their 10 wins, five were decided by three points or less as the team's No. 1 ranked defense led the charge.
The Bulldogs closed the regular season with a 23-20 win over Ole Miss, then defeated Clemson in the Peach Bowl, finishing the year ranked 12 in the country; the highest ranking from a team from Mississippi in over 40 years.
Missouri 2007: 12-2 and Only Oklahoma In The Way
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Missouri has won 15 conference championship seasons since 1893, but the school's best year on the gridiron wasn't one of them.
In 2007, the Tigers went 12-2, with their only losses coming against Oklahoma. They would lose on the road to the Sooners in the regular season and then again the Big 12 Championship.
Missouri dominated outside of those matchups though, crushing No. 25 Nebraska, No. 22 Texas Tech, No. 2 Kansas, and No. 7 Arkansas by a combined 105 points. The Tigers finished the season ranked 4th in the final AP Poll.
Navy 1926: The Triple Team Tie For The National Championship
You could point toward the 2009 season as Navy's finest as it was the Midshipmen's first 10-win season in school history, but we'll go way back to 1926 to a season that closed with a wild finish.
The 1926 national championship is considered a three-way tie between Navy, Alabama and Stanford. In what could never happen in today's game, all three teams finished the year unbeaten even though Alabama and Stanford faced each other in the Rose Bowl.
The Cardinal and Crimson Tide would tie 7-7 in the Rose Bowl, finishing the season records of 10-0-1 and 9-0-1 respectively.
Navy would go 9-0-1, with a crazy back-and-forth 21-21 tie against Army in the season finale the only blemish on it's record.
Honorable Mention: 2009
Nebraska 1971: The Greatest Team In History
The 1971 Nebraska Cornhuskers have been considered by many to be the best college football team ever assembled.
They would win their second consecutive national championship that year with a squad featuring eight All-Americans.
Beating their opponents by an average of over 30 points a game, the Cornhuskers went 13-0, defeating No. 2-ranked Oklahoma in one of many "Game of the Century" matchups.
The team featured Johnny "The Jet" Rodgers, voted the Cornhuskers' Player of the Century.
Honorable Mention: 1970, 1994, 1995, 1997
New Mexico 1964: The Last Conference Championship 46 Years and Running
New Mexico has won four conference championships since first taking the field in 1892, but the Lobos haven't claimed a title since winning the Western Athletic Conference in 1964.
The 1964 squad went 9-2, posting one of the best records in the nation while holding their opponents to 8.6 points per game.
New Mexico didn't compete in a bowl game that year and would in fact go over 30 years before making an appearance in a bowl.
Honorable Mention: 2007
New Mexico State 1960: The Only Undefeated Aggies
Only one football team in New Mexico State has gone undefeated and it's also the last squad to go to a bowl game.
That would be the 1960 Aggies that went 11-0, capping the year with a 20-13 win over Utah State in the Sun Bowl.
New Mexico State featured one of the best offenses in the country, averaging over 415 yards and over 37 points per game, leading the country in both categories.
Nevada 2005: The First WAC Conference Championship and The Last Bowl Win
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Nevada is in the midst of one of the it's best seasons in school history so we might have to rethink this one after the 2010 season, but for now we'll focus on the last time the Wolf Pack did a couple of things.
Nevada hasn't won either it's conference nor a bowl game since 2005, with Boise State dominating competition and winning the WAC three of the last four seasons.
But back in 2005, the Wolf Pack went 9-3 losing only to Boise State in conference play. Nevada would split the crown with the Broncos and then go on to defeat UCF 49-48 in overtime in the Hawaii Bowl.
Honorable Mention: 1994, 1995
North Carolina 1980: Lawrence Taylor, The Top 10 Finish and The Last ACC Crown
The Tar Heels 1980 team is most famous for it's best player, All-American linebacker Lawrence Taylor. While Taylor hadn't developed into the legend he would become in the NFL, he was still one of the best players in all of college football.
He led a dominating defense that held eight opponents under 10 points en route to an 11-1 record, tied for the best mark in school history.
North Carolina would go on to play Texas in the Bluebonnet Bowl, where it defeated the Longhorns 16-7 and finished the year ranked 10th in the final AP Poll.
Honorable Mention: 1972
North Carolina State 1973: Lou Holtz and The Stallions
NC State had arguably the most potent rushing attack in school history in 1973 with Willie Burden and Stan Fritts in the backfield dominating nearly every opponent that crossed their path.
Under head coach Lou Holtz, the pair would be nicknamed "The Stallions" and help lead the Wolfpack to a 9-3 record and their sixth ACC championship.
NC State would finish the year with a 31-18 victory over 19th ranked Kansas in the Liberty bowl.
North Texas 2002: From 1-5 To Sun Belt Conference Champions
North Texas had its best years of college football success at the FCS level, but we'll focus our attention to the later years of the program and FBS play.
From 2001 to 2004, the Mean Green won four straight Sun Belt Conference championships and of those they only finished the year on a high note once.
The 2002 team was the only one of the those four to win a bowl game and showed the most grit of the bunch as well. After starting the year 1-5, the Mean Green would win their last seven games to claim the conference title as well as defeat Cincinnati in the New Orleans Bowl.
Honorable Mention: 2003
Northern Illinois 1983: The First MAC Championship and The First Bowl Appearance
Northern Illinois has been playing football since 1899, but more than half of those years were played at the Division II and Division I-AA level.
The Huskies have nine conference titles in school history, but only one since 1965. The 1983 team is the only to win a FBS conference championship and as well as the first to appear in an FBS bowl game.
Northern Illinois would face Cal State-Fullerton in the California Bowl to not only compete in it's first FBS bowl game, but to win it as well with a final score of 20-13.
Northwestern 1995: 8-0 In The Big Ten and The First Conference Title In 59 Years
Northwestern boasts the longest stretch between Big Ten championships in conference history. To put it lightly, the Wildcats struggled for many a year before finding their way.
That would be in 1995, when Northwestern would begin the season against Notre Dame as 28-point underdogs.
The Wildcats won that game, then beat Michigan and Penn State, earning national attention and a ranking as high as No. 3 in the polls.
Northwestern would go 11-1 though the regular season, but couldn't keep up with a much deeper USC team in the 1996 Rose Bowl, losing the game 41-32 and finishing the season ranked eighth in the final AP Poll.
Notre Dame 1947: The Fighting Irish's Epic Dynasty
The 1947 team was arguably the best team in Notre Dame's epic run of success from 1946 to 1949. Over that stretch, Notre Dame went 36-0-2 to solidify themselves as one of the best dynasties in all of sports.
The 1947 squad went 9-0, winning a disputed national title with a team featuring three players—Leon Hart, George Connor, and Johnny Lujack—who would later be named among the top 100 of all time by College Football News.
Lujack won the Heisman that year, while Hart would win the award two years later in 1949. In total, 41 players from the 1947 team went on to play professionally.
Honorable Mention: 1920, 1924, 1949, 1966, 1973, 1988
Ohio State 1957: From Unranked To National Champions
Coming into the 1957 season, Ohio State was supposed to be rebuilding, but after dropping the first game of the year to an unranked TCU team, the Buckeyes wouldn't lose again.
With rivals Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, and Iowa all ranked in the top six, Ohio State climbed the rankings in one of the most improbable national championship runs in college football history.
The Buckeyes beat Iowa and Michigan, while watching Michigan State lose to Purdue and Minnesota unravel. They weren't even ranked until late October but scratched and clawed their way to No. 1.
Honorable Mention: 1942, 1954, 1961, 1968, 1970, 2002
Ohio 1968: 10-0 and The Insane Circus
Of Ohio's long history the 1968 season stands apart as one of the most exciting and successful campaigns in school history.
The Bobcats would go 10-0 in the regular season, scoring over 37 points per game with the the school's most explosive offense to ever take the field.
A 28-27 victory over Bowling Green and a 60-48 win over Cincinnati led Sports Illustrated to dub the Bobcats the "Insane Circus". Ohio would go on to rank 20th in the AP Poll, the first ever top 20 ranking in school history.
Oklahoma 1956: Bud Wilkinson's Best
Considered to be the finest team coach Bud Wilkinson had in 16 years at the helm, Oklahoma's 1956 squad was named the eighth-best team of any sport, pro or college, ever by ESPN at the end of the 20th century.
In the middle of a 47-game winning streak, the 1956 Sooners went 10-0, with an average win margin of over 40 points a game.
Running back Tommy McDonald made his living following behind offensive lineman Jerry Tubbs. The pair finished third and fourth, respectively, in the Heisman voting that year.
Honorable Mention: 1950, 1955, 1974, 1975, 1985, 2000
Oklahoma State 1988: The Year Of Barry
The 1988 Oklahoma State Cowboys might have gone 10-2 and finished the season ranked 11th, but they are remembered for greatness that came from the team's best player:
Arguably the greatest running back to ever play, Sanders' 1988 season is a thing of legend.
Leading the nation rushing with an average of 7.6 yards per carry and over 200 yards per game, Sanders finished the year with 2,628 rushing yards, 3,249 total yards, and 39 touchdowns.
Considering Oklahoma State has never won a National Championship, 1988 has got to be considered the team's finest team.
Oregon 2001: Captain Comeback and The BCS Diss
The 2001 Oregon Ducks finished the year as the No. 2 team in the country, going 11-1 and beating No. 3 Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl to close out their season.
The season was quarterback Joey Harrington's last and also was the first 11-win season in program history.
A wild ride from start to finish, the year was riddled with tension, as six games were decided by one score or less, coining the nickname "Captain Comeback" for Harrington, who finished fourth in the Heisman voting that year.
The BCS computers proved faulty at the end of the regular season though, denying Oregon its rightful chance to compete for the national championship and prompting an alteration of the system.
Oregon State 2000: Pac-10 Champs and The Notre Dame Thumping
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Oregon State has won just a single conference title in the last 46 years, with it coming in what has to be considered the best season in Beavers history.
Oregon State would lose only one game that season, 33-30 defeat at the hands of No. 11 Washington.
The Beavers would finish the season with six straight victories over Pac-10 opponents and head to the Fiesta Bowl as conference championships.
There, Oregon State put on a show against No. 11 Notre Dame in a 41-9 victory that would seal a top five finish in both major posteason polls.
Pittsburgh 1976: Undefeated With Tony Dorsett
Pittsburgh claims nine National Championships, but none have come since 1976, which also happens to be the senior season of Panthers legend Tony Dorsett.
He would lead the Panthers to a 12-0 season and a national championship, starting the year off with a 290-yard performance against Notre Dame and finishing his career with a then-record 6,082 total rushing yards.
There's no denying that Dorsett turned Pittsburgh into one of the most exciting rushing teams to ever take the field and was the key to the Panthers unanimous title.
Honorable Mention: 1916, 1937, 1980
Penn State 1982: Joe Paterno's No-Quit Underdog Champions
The upsetter, the underdog, the unexpected National Champions of 1982
Penn State went 11-1 that season with Todd Blackledge under center and a tough, no-quit attitude under coach Joe Paterno.
The Nittany Lions handed Nebraska and Georgia their only losses of the year, both teams coming into their contest with Penn State favored with a higher ranking.
Honorable Mention: 1968, 1969, 1973, 1986, 1994
Purdue 2000: The Big Ten Championship and a Trip To Pasadena
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Purdue has one eight Big Ten championships, but the 2000 crown stands out the most for the competitiveness of the conference that year.
in 2000, the Boilermakers split the Big Ten crown with Michigan and Northwestern, all of whom were 6-2 in conference play.
That season, Purdue would beat both Michigan and Northwestern though, as well as Ohio State and Wisconsin, but the season ended on a down note with a 10 point loss to Washington in the Rose Bowl.
Honorable Mention: 1967
Rice 2008: The First 10-Win Season Since 1949
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Many fans either remember or are told that the 1954 season was the best in Rice history, but it's simply the most famous due to Alabama's Tommy Lewis coming off the bench mid-play in the Cotton Bowl Classic to make a tackle during an Owls' touchdown run.
It was in 2008 that Rice would make it to the 10-win mark for the first time since in nearly 60 years though.
That season, Rice would begin 2-2, but close out the year 8-1, beating Western Michigan in the Texas bowl to cap one of the school's most successful seasons.
Rutgers 2006: The Scarlet Knights First Ever Postseason Victory
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Rutgers is credited for one national championship in school history, though it's hard to accept the 1869 crown. That's because it was in the first intercollegiate season in history, with Rutgers and Princeton the only two teams; they would go 1-1 against each other and both claim national championships.
The Scarlet Knights true best season would come 137 years later, when Rutgers would go 10-2 in the regular season before facing Kansas State in the Texas Bowl.
Rutgers would go on to win that contest 37-10, the school's first bowl victory, and finish the year ranked 16th in the final AP Poll.
San Diego State 1991: Marshall Faulk's Epic Freshman Season
San Diego State doesn't have too memorable a history, but the program earned it's place in the national spotlight thanks to the running ability of then little-known freshman running back Marshall Faulk.
Faulk would explode in just his second collegiate game, rushing for 386 yards and seven touchdowns against the University of the Pacific; both records for a freshman.
He would lead San Diego State to an 8-4-1 record and second place in the Western Athletic Conference.
Despite missing three games due to injury, Faulk would finish the year with 1,429 rushing yards and 23 total touchdowns.
San Jose State 1990: Big West Champions and No. 20 In The Coaches Poll
San Jose State was considered a powerhouse program in the 1930's and 1940's, recording it's only undefeated season in 1939 with a record of 13-0.
But the Spartans didn't face the level of competition they would in the 1980's and 1990's, so we'll look toward the 1990 season as the best in school history.
San Jose State would go 9-2-1, undefeated in Big West play to capture it's 15 conference championship, ending the year with a 48-24 win over Central Michigan and ranking 20th in the final Coaches Poll.
South Carolina 1984: The Man In Black Leads The Gamecocks To Their Best Ranking
South Carolina won it's only conference title in 1969, but the Gamecocks received their highest-ever postseason ranking in 1984, Joe Morrison's second season as head coach.
Nicknamed "The Man in Black", Morrison would guide the Gamecocks went 10-2 on the year, including victories over Georgia, Pitt, Notre Dame, and Clemson, but lost a tough game to No. 9 ranked Oklahoma State 21-14 in the Gator Bowl.
Still, South Carolina finished the year ranked 11th in the final AP Poll, the best finish in school history.
Honorable Mention: 1969, 1987, 2000, 2001
South Florida 2007: The Season That Could Have Been
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South Florida began play in 1997, moving up to FBS in 2001 and then finding a home in the Big East in 2005.
In 2007, the Bulls unprecedentedly skyrocketed up the rankings by midseason and had the chance to be the quickest rising program in history.
After wins over No. 17 Auburn and No. 5 West Virginia, South Florida rose to 6th in the AP Polls, jumping as high as 2nd before losing three games in a row to put an end to the Cinderella run.
The Bulls would have a chance to finish the year ranked, but lost to Oregon in the Sun Bowl and dropped out of the postseason top 25.
Southern Methodist 1982: The Pony Express' Final Run
SMU's Pony Express system has gone down as one of the most famous in college football history and the thanks for that can be credited to Eric Dickerson and Craig James.
The two combined to form one of the most potent rushing duos to ever take the field and ran their way into the record books from 1979 to 1982.
The Mustangs claimed National Championships in 1981 and 1982 with the pair leading the way for the most successful run in school history. It was the 1982 season in which SMU was unbeaten though.
Honorable Mention: 1981
Southern Miss 1999: 3rd C-USA Title in Four Years and Top 15 AP Ranking
Southern Miss has won four FBS conference championships, all of them coming from 1996 to 2003. While the school is best known for producing future NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre, his tenure didn't mark the Golden Eagles best years.
Those would come from 1996 to 1999, when Southern Miss would win three Conference USA titles in four four years while posting a record of 33-14.
The best of those years was 1999, when the Golden Eagles would go 9-3 and finish the season with a 23-17 victory over Colorado State in the Liberty Bowl to be ranked 14th in the final AP Poll; South Miss' highest postseason ranking in school history.
Stanford 1926: The Cardinal's Only National Championship
1926 was an important year for college football. It was the first season was the first to attempt recognition of a national champion and Stanford was the team awarded that honor.
Coached by the legendary Glenn "Pop" Warner, the Cardinal would go 10-0 in the regular season and was recognized as the No. 1 team in the nation by the Dickinson System.
Stanford would face 9-0 Alabama in the Rose Bowl and the teams would tie the contest 7-7. Retroactively, Alabama as well as Navy would be awarded a share of the national championship.
Honorable Mention: 1934, 1940, 1992
Syracuse 1959: The Orange Express Ride To a National Championship
Syracuse has only claimed a National Championship once in school history and while the team boasted a solid defense and many weapons on offense, it really comes down to one name.
There might not have been a better running back in the history of the game than Ernie "The Express" Davis (No. 44).
Davis led the Orange to it's only title with a win in the 1960 Cotton Bowl over a very stingy Texas team ranked 2nd the country.
Honorable Mention: 1981
TCU 1938: Davey O'Brien and The Undefeated Champions
TCU also won the National Championship in 1935, but the 1938 team was undefeated and featured one of the best players in college football history.
The Horned Frogs have only had one Heisman winner in their long history. That would be famed quarterback Davey O'Brien. In 1938 he threw for a then-record 1,457 passing yards and 19 touchdowns.
He led TCU to an 11-0 season in which the Horned Frogs outscored their opponents 269-60.
Honorable Mention: 1935
Temple 1979: The Only 10-Win Season and The Last Postsesaon Victory
Temple has never won a national championship or even a conference championship since the Owls first game back in 1894.
Of course playing mostly as an independent has a lot to do with that. While there a few successful seasons to chose from, none quite compare to the 1979 season in which Temple went 10-2.
It still stands as the best record in school history, with the Owls two losses both coming against ranked opponents. Temple would go on to beat Cal in the Garden State Bowl and finish the season ranked 17th in the final AP Poll; the owls have not won a bowl game since.
Honorable Mention: 1934, 1973, 2009
Tennessee 1998: No Peyton, No Problem
Entering the 1998 season, the Vols were ranked 10th and expected to experience a significant drop-off from the Peyton Manning Era.
With Tee Martin under center instead of the legendary Manning, Tennessee proved its doubters wrong and put together one of the best seasons in college football history.
The Volunteers beat four Top 10 teams that year, capping the year with a 23-16 victory over No. 2 Florida State and becoming just the fourth school in modern college football history to record a 13-0 season.
Honorable Mention: 1938, 1939, 1950
Texas 2005: Vince Young and The Longhorns Take Down Goliath
In what would go down as one of the greatest championship games in college football history, No. 2 Texas would upset No. 1 USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl 41-38.
The game capped an amazing year for both teams, with Texas setting numerous school and NCAA records, including the Longhorns' 652 points scored, the NCAA record for the most points scored in a single season.
With Vince Young at quarterback, Texas outscored its opponents by a combined 439 points and rode their leader's coattails to an improbable national championship.
Honorable Mention: 1963, 1969
Texas A&M 1939: The First Awarded National Championship
Texas A&M has earned only one wire title in it's 116 years, but three additional titles have been retroactively awarded to the Aggies.
We'll focus on the original though, the 1939 crown awarded to A&M after a first place finish in the final AP rankings, as well as victory over No. 5 Tulane in the Sugar Bowl.
The Aggies boasted a 11-0 record, their best win total in any of their five unbeaten seasons, and were a near unanimous choice as the nation's top team.
Honorable Mention: 1917, 1919, 1927, 1956, 1992
Texas Tech 2008: Big 12 South Co-Champions With Michael Crabtree
While the 2007 season stands in the record books because of Graham Harrell throwing for 5,705 yards and 48 touchdowns and Michael Crabtree recording 1,962 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns.
But 2008 was the better year for the team. In '07 the Red Raiders were 9-4, but in '08 they were 11-2 with victories over No. 18 Kansas, No. 1 Texas, and No. 8 Oklahoma State.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, they got crushed by Oklahoma at the end of the year, then lost to Ole Miss in the Cotton Bowl to close out the season.
Honorable Mention: 2007
Toledo 1970: The Highest Ranking Team In School History
Toledo has appeared in the AP postseason top 25 four times in school history. The first of which occurred in 1970.
That year, the Rockets would go 12-0 in the midst of the greatest stretch of football the school has ever played.
From 1969 to 1971, Toledo would compile a 35-0 record and win three straight Mid-American Conference titles.
The 1970 and 1971 teams would finish their seasons ranked in the postseason top 25, but the first and highest postseason ranking was in 1970 when Toledo beat William and Mary 40-12 in the Tangerine Bowl and was voted 12 in the AP final rankings.
Troy 2009: The Fourth Straight Sun Belt Conference Title
Troy has only been competing at the FBS level since 2001, but it's won four consecutive Sun Belt Conference titles, with the Trojans posting their best record in 2009.
After eight-win seasons from 2006 to 2008, Troy went 9-3 in the regular season in 2009, losing to Bowling Green in the season opener, No. 1 ranked Florida and Arkansas.
The Trojans were undefeated in conference play and were invited to the 2010 GMAC Bowl against No. 25 Central Michigan. While Troy would lose the game in double overtime by a score of 44-41, it was one of the most thrilling seasons in school history.
Honorable Mention: 2006
Tulane 1998: The Perfect Season
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Tulane has three SEC championships to it's name that can't be forgotten, but all of those came before 1950 in world where the SEC was far from it's current stature.
The Green Wave's best season has to be considered the 1998 campaign in coach Tommy Bowden's second year at the helm.
Tulane would go undefeated, but was not given a chance to compete in a BCS Bowl due to a lack of strength of schedule. Instead the Green Wade would crush BYU in the Liberty Bowl and finish the year ranked 7th in both the Coaches Poll and AP Poll.
Tulsa 1942: 10-0 and a Trip to The Sugar Bowl
Two seasons stand out above the rest when you're talking about Tulsa Football. The first is the 1942 season and the second is the 2008 season.
In '08, Tulsa would go 11-3 and beat two ranked opponents, but we chose 1942, a year the Golden Hurricanes went 10-0 in the regular season and finished 4th the final AP Poll.
Tulsa would face No. 7 Tennessee in the 1943 Sugar Bowl, taking a 7-0 lead before eventually losing 14-7.
Honorable Mention: 2008
UAB 2004: The Only Bowl Appearance In School History
UAB formed it's football program in 1991, joining FBS play in 1996. Since that time the school has only played in one bowl game.
That was in 2004 when the Blazers met Hawaii in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl after going 7-4 in the regular season.
UAB would go on to lose that game 59-40, but for such a young program the accomplishment of reaching such a feat cannot be overlooked.
UCF 2007: The First Conference USA Championship
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UCF joined Conference USA in 2005 after a rocky history as an independent and member of the MAC. It wouldn't take the Knights long to make their mark in the conference however as they appeared the C-USA title game in just their second season.
UCF would lose that game to Tulsa, but got it's revenge the following year, when the Knights went 9-3 in the regular season and then dominated Tulsa in the 2007 C-USA Conference Championship to claim their first conference title in school history.
In it's second bowl appearance, UCF would face Mississippi State in the Liberty Bowl, but the Knights were defeated 10-3 to put an end to their best season to date.
UCLA 1954: A Rose By Any Other Name Is Just Not The Same
The 1954 national championship was split between Ohio State and UCLA, but unfortunately we'll never really know who the best team was; of course Bruins fans and Buckeyes fans will tell with certainty who their vote is for.
UCLA and Ohio State both finished 9-0, but because of a "no repeat" rule, the Bruins were denied the opportunity to face the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl; UCLA had appeared in the game the previous year and by rule was skipped over for USC, the Pacific Conference runner-up.
Ohio State would defeat the Trojans 20-7 and finish the year ranked 1st in the AP Poll, but UCLA would take the Coaches Poll for it's share of the school's only national championship.
Honorable Mention: 1965, 1975, 1982, 1985, 1997
UNLV: Randall Cunningham-Led Vacated Conference Championship
UNLV has won two conference championships at the FBS level, but the first, which came in 1984, was forcibly vacated after the discovery that several players from the '84 team were ineligible.
That erased the best season in school history, an 12-2 mark guided by quarterback Randall Cunningham; who would go on to become an All-Pro quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings.
While the season was erased from the record books, it wasn't erased from memory. UNLV would follow up it's 11-2 regular season with a 30-13 victory over Toledo in the California Bowl.
Honorable Mention: 1994
USC 1972: The First Unanimous No. 1 Team
The 1972 USC Trojans rank right up there with the 1971 Nebraska Cornhuskers as one of the greatest teams of the 20th century.
Not only were they the first unanimous No. 1 team in the country, but the Trojans' strength of schedule and results were simply unprecedented as well.
USC went undefeated, playing five ranked teams: No. 4 Nebraska, No. 15 Stanford, No. 18 Washington, No. 10 Notre Dame, and No. 3 Ohio State. USC beat these teams by an average margin of 20.2 points per game.
Oh, and this team was stacked with talent unlike any before it and few after it: Richard Wood, Sam Cunningham, Pete Adams, John Grant, Charlie Young, Lynn Swann, and Anthony Davis.
Honorable Mention: 1932, 1939, 1962, 1967, 1978, 2004
Utah 2008: From Unranked To National Stunner
The 2008 Utah Utes are a special team for a couple of reasons. They were the only undefeated team that year, having finished the season at 13-0 ranked No. 2 in the country by the AP.
The Utes went from an unranked preseason team from a conference outside of the BCS to play in the Sugar Bowl against fourth-ranked Alabama in front of over 70,000 fans.
Utah went on to stun the Crimson Tide in a 31-17 beatdown that would have been very difficult to predict.
This wasn't the Urban Meyer, Heisman runner-up Alex Smith-led Utes of 2004 either. This was a team with no single identifiable stars, but rather a united team that refused to lose a game.
Honorable Mention: 2004
Utah State 1979: The Best of The Bruce Snyder Years
Utah State hasn't had much success on the football field throughout it's history, but it has been a hotspot for coaching.
With College Football Hall of Fame coaches like John Ralston and Dick Romney, NFL coaches Brian Billick, Jim Fassel and Jim Zorn, as well as current Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino, Utah State certainly has had it's fair share of coaching.
But the program had it's best FBS days under Bruce Snyder, winning back-to-back PCAA Championships and posting an 8-2-1 record in 1979; the best season in school history.
UTEP 2004: Stuck In Boise State's Shadow, But Nearly a Bowl Win
Unfortunately for UTEP, the school's best years in recent memory came when Boise State was in the midst of dominating the WAC.
It's hard to pick out which season was really the best for the Miners from the bunch, but the 2004 season stands out the most to us.
UTEP would go 8-2 to start the year, losing to Arizona State and Boise State before losing to Tulsa 37-35 in the last game of the regular season.
The Miners then went on to face Colorado in the Houston Bowl and dropped another heartbreaker 33-28 to finish out the year.
Vanderbilt 1948: The Only Ranked Season
Vanderbilt was one of the charter members of the SEC, but unlike the rest of the conference, the Commodores have not found much success on the football field.
Vanderbilt has not won a conference title since 1923 and has only competed in four bowl games; 10 fewer than any other charter member of the SEC.
THe Commodores only have one ranked season to show for all those years as well, with the 8-2-1 season of 1948 that resulted in the No. 12 ranking in the final AP Poll standing alone in that regard.
Virginia 1995: Florida State's First ACC Loss Ever
Virginia has won it's conference title on two occasions, in 1989 and in 1995, but the Cavaliers not only finished the '95 season ranked higher, they handed FSU one of it's most memorable losses in school history.
The Seminoles came to Virginia in 1995 having won 29 consecutive games against ACC opponents, boasting an undefeated conference record since joining the ACC in 1992.
Ranked No. 2 in the country, FSU was stunned when Virginia stopped it at the goaline on the last play of the game to preserve victory; both schools would later be named Co-ACC champions.
Virginia would go on to beat Georgia in the Peach Bowl and finish the season ranked 16th in the final AP Poll.
Virginia Tech 1999: Michael Vick and The Almost Championship
FSU won the national championship in 1999 in one of the greatest seasons in history, but that Virginia Tech team that Seminoles beat for the national championship was a pretty good one itself, in case you weren't familiar.
It featured one of the most exciting and athletic college quarterbacks to ever play and entered the Sugar Bowl with a perfect 11-0 record.
While the Hokies lost 46-29 in the national championship game, Michael Vick brought them back form a 21-point deficit to take a brief lead.
Vick, only a redshirt freshman at the time, led the NCAA in passing efficiency that season at 180.4, the third-highest mark of all-time, finishing third in the Heisman voting, the highest finish to that date by any freshman.
Wake Forest 2006: The Demon Deacons First Orange Bowl Appearance
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Wake Forest has over 120 years of college football to chose from, but the program waited 100 years for it's first bid to a major bowl.
That came in 2006, when the Demon Deacons would go 10-2 in the regular season, losing only to No. 12 Clemson and No. 19 Virginia Tech.
Wake Forest would then defeat No. 22 Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship before losing to Louisville in the school's first Orange Bowl appearance and finishing the season ranked 18th.
Washington 1991: The Steve Emtman-Led Defense
The 1991 national champion Washington Huskies are considered by many to be the finest team in school history.
With a dominating defense led by Steve Emtman, the Huskies would go undefeated and outscore their opponents 495-115.
Emtman won both the Lombardi Award and the Outland Trophy, finishing fourth in the Heisman voting before becoming the No. 1 pick of the 1992 NFL Draft; he would be the first of 11 Huskies selected that year.
Honorable Mention: 1984
Washington State 1997: The Pac-10 Championship and a Run-In With Michigan
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Washington State was retroactively named the 1915 national champions, but it's hard to consider a six-win season over two conference-winning seasons that featured double-digit victories.
Those years would be 1997 and 2002, with the 2003 season also in need of consideration. Of the group, our money is on the 1997 season that resulted in an outright Pac-10 championship after wins over UCLA, USC, Oregon, Cal, Arizona, Stanford, and Washington.
The Cougars only loss in the regular season would be to Arizona State before 21-16 loss to eventual champions Michigan in the Rose Bowl.
Honorable Mention: 2002, 2003
Wisconsin 1999: The Unstoppable Ron Dayne and Back-To-Back Rose Bowls
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Wisconsin had it's best stretch in school history when it won it's second Rose Bowl game 1998 and then followed that up by doing it again in 1999.
While both are impressive campaigns, the '99 squad finished the year ranked higher despite a 10-2 record compared to an 11-1 record in the '98 season.
That's because the '99 team feature Heisman-winning running back Ron Dayne and victories over Michigan State, Minnesota, Purdue, and Ohio State before 17-9 win over Stanford in the 2000 Rose Bowl.
Honorable Mention: 1994, 1998
West Virginia 1988: The Major Harris Offense That Fell Just Short
Led by sophomore quarterback Major Harris, the 1988 West Virginia Mountaineers were one of the most prolific offensive teams in history, scoring 476 points in an undefeated regular season.
Harris, who would finish third in the Heisman voting that year and later be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, dominated throughout the year, but he would run into one opponent he wouldn't best in the national championship.
In the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame, the only other undefeated team in the country, the Mountaineers would find themselves in a 27-point deficit before a couple late scores made the loss respectable. It was the closest WV has ever come to owning the title.
Western Kentucky 2002: The FCS National Championship
Western Kentucky has only played one season as a full FBS football team, with a record of 0-12, so we'll have to make the FCS exception for the Hilltoppers.
Back in 2002 the school won it's only FBS national championship with a record of 12-3, beating McNeese State the championship by a score of 34-14.
It was the last year Western Kentucky won either it's conference title or the FBS National title.
Western Michigan 1988: Conference Title, Bowl Berth and 1st Win Over The Big Ten
Western Michigan has only won three conference titles since it's inaugural season in 1906, with only one of them coming since 1966.
But in 1988, the Broncos had their best season in school history, posting a 9-2 record in the regular season, beating Wisconsin for their first ever victory against the Big Ten and winning Western Michigan's only outright MAC championship.
That also lead to the school's first bowl game since 1961 and while the Broncs would lose the game 35-30 to Fresno State, the accomplishment of being there was huge.
Wyoming 1967: The Rose Bowl Berth and The Run-Stuffing Cowboys
Wyoming has appeared in a major bowl game only once and while the game ended in defeat, there's still a solid argument the season leading up to that moment was the Cowboys best in history.
With a stifling defese ranked No. 1 in the country against the run, Wyoming would go 10-0 in the regular season ranked 6th in the nation heading into the Sugar Bowl against LSU.
The Tigers pulled off the heartbreaking upset with a 20-13 victory over the Cowboys; who've never had another chance to play in one of the five major bowls.