What Have You Done Lately?: The Top 13 College Football Programs in the BCS Era
On Jan. 10th, 2011, the No. 1 Auburn Tigers defeated the No. 2 Oregon Ducks to capture their first BCS National Championship and end their magical 14-0 season.
It was also the 13th national championship team in the BCS era.
The BCS began in 1998 and has been a friend/enemy of college football fans in all 13 years of its existence.
It has been recognized mostly for the controversy it presents (mainly in 2003, 2004, 2008 and 2009).
To honor the 13 seasons of the BCS, I've made this list recognizing the top 13 programs in college football in this span.
Just Missed The Cut
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Here are the schools that just missed cracking the list:
West Virginia (111-54) 2-0 in BCS bowls
Nebraska (122-52) 1-1 in BCS bowls, 0-1 in BCS National Championship Game
Michigan (108-54) 1-3 in BCS bowls
Penn State (103-58) 1-1 in BCS bowls
TCU (123-38) 1-1 in BCS bowls
Alabama (85-59) 1-2 in BCS bowls, 2009 BCS National Champions (21 wins from 2005-2007 vacated)
Georgia (121-45) 2-1 in BCS bowls
Wisconsin (118-48) 2-1 in BCS bowls
Tennessee (111-69) 1-1 in BCS bowls, 1998 BCS National Champions
13. Oregon Ducks
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BCS track record: 1-2 in BCS bowls
The Ducks were a pretty lousy excuse of a football program before the 1990s with very few flashes of brilliance.
The 1990s came, and the Oregon Ducks became a power in college football.
In the BCS era, the Ducks have soared to new heights, and thus they come in at No. 13 on the list.
The Ducks have won 120 games since 1998, played in three BCS bowls, played in a BCS National Championship Game and have been cheated out of playing in another BCS National Championship Game in 2001.
They have also captured four Pac-10 titles in the era.
More than anything, Nike began to have its impact on the football program show up on the football field. The Ducks have access to whatever new designs Nike makes before anybody else.
12. Utah Utes
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BCS track record: 2-0 in BCS bowls
The Utes have been one of the most successful non-AQ teams in the BCS era.
They've made it to two BCS bowls, won both, and won both in routs (35-7 over Pitt in 2005 Fiesta Bowl and 31-17 over Alabama in 2009 Sugar Bowl).
Along with that, they've also had three very good coaches in the BCS era in Ron McBride, Urban Meyer and Kyle Whittingham.
In 2011, the Utes become a Pac-12 team, so they will no longer be a "little guy" by any means.
However, in their time as the "little guy", they played like a "big guy" when it counted.
They won nine consecutive bowl games in the BCS era before losing the 2010 Las Vegas Bowl to Boise State. I don't care who you are, that's great.
11. Virginia Tech Hokies
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BCS track record: 1-4 in BCS bowls
Virginia Tech might be the best program in the BCS era to not win the national title.
Their AVERAGE season was 10-3. Just on average.
They have won five conference championships since 1998, including four in the ACC.
They did make a BCS National Championship Game once, in 1999, and despite the great performance by Michael Vick, the Florida State Seminoles (Virginia Tech was in the Big East at this time) prevailed to win the AFCA Coaches' Trophy.
Though they haven't won a national title yet, it seems it's only a matter of time before Frank Beamer brings the BCS title to Blacksburg.
10. Boise State Broncos
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BCS track record: 2-0 in BCS bowls
The Broncos are the winningest team in the country since 1998.
They've made two Fiesta Bowls and have won both.
So why are they only No. 10?
I hate to bring up the cliche again, but they have had a reputation for playing only two real games every season.
Also, they weren't relevant on the national stage until the 2006 season, which drops them down the list.
They're a "Johnny-come-lately" program.
Chris Peterson has done a remarkable job with a program that nobody thought would even come close to a list like this.
9. Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes
BCS track record: 3-1 in BCS bowls, 2001 BCS National Champions
"The U" checks in as the No. 9 college football program of the BCS era.
The 'Canes had a dominant run from 2000-2003, going 46-4, going to a BCS bowl every year, going to two BCS National Championship Games and winning the BCS title in 2001.
What they've done the other nine seasons is the reason why other programs are ahead of them on this list.
Outside of the 2000-2003 span, the Hurricanes have gone 71-42 and have no BCS bowl bids.
While they are one of the premier programs in the land, most of the BCS era has been less than special.
They started to struggle to win games, which meant they also began to struggle to get fans in the seats.
Miami's 2001 squad is easily one of the top five single-season college football teams of all time, but after they lost the 2002 title game to Ohio State, they began a sharp decline.
8. Auburn Tigers
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BCS track record: 2-0 in BCS bowls, 2010 BCS National Champions
The SEC's Auburn Tigers check in this list at No. 8.
The Tigers are the only team from a BCS conference since 1998 to have two undefeated seasons (2004 and 2010), so that bumps them up the list, especially since they weren't like some teams in the era and had their success spread out (a sign of consistency).
The Tigers have gone 69-21 since 2004, having an average record of 10-3.
They've also won the ferocious SEC West four times in the era, which is impressive considering the competition for that includes LSU, Alabama and Arkansas.
They've finished 7 out of 13 seasons ranked as well (3 times in the top 10, once No. 1).
Not to mention the fact that the Tigers brought in a national championship in 2010.
7. Florida State Seminoles
Record: 106-50 (12 wins from 2006-2007 vacated by NCAA)
BCS track record: 1-5 in BCS bowls, 1999 BCS National Championships
The Seminoles check in at No. 7 on this list.
Florida State was led for 12 of the 13 years by living legend Bobby Bowden. The Seminoles won the BCS title over Virginia Tech to close the 1999 season, but since then, the 'Noles haven't been completely dominant.
They've been to six BCS bowls, the same as rival Florida. But unlike Florida's 5-1 BCS record, the Seminoles have a freakishly bad 1-5 record.
The 1999 team was unstoppable on their way to winning the crystal ball, but they haven't come all that close to one since. Still, they've won a good amount of ball games, and they're currently on the up-and-up with Jimbo Fisher.
It shouldn't be too long before the Seminoles get another crystal ball.
6. Texas Longhorns
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BCS track record: 3-1 in BCS bowls, 2005 BCS National Champions
Coming in at sixth on the list is the University of Texas Longhorns!
Texas has been a dominant force in the BCS era, and leading the way all 13 seasons has been Mack Brown.
Since he was hired away from North Carolina, Mack Brown has done nothing but win. Except for 2010. The 2010 team that went 5-7 was uglier than Marilyn Manson after a fire.
The Longhorns have won a BCS National Championship, as you're aware. The way they did it was nothing short of a Hollywood ending. Only Hollywood was about 30 miles away, because the game was in Pasadena.
The Longhorns beat the USC Trojans in one of the greatest games ever, 41-38, to claim their first BCS title.
The Longhorns appeared in another BCS title game in Pasadena, but they were merely the second-best team on the field against the Alabama Crimson Tide, falling 37-21.
The Longhorns have had many great QBs in the BCS era, notably Vince Young and Colt McCoy.
5. Ohio State Buckeyes
BCS track record: 6-3 in BCS bowls, 2002 BCS National Champions
The Ohio State Buckeyes have been dominant in the BCS era, going to nine BCS bowls and winning six of them. They also have a Heisman Trophy winner in Troy Smith, three BCS National Championship Game appearances and a national title to their name since 1998.
The Buckeyes have won eight Big Ten titles in 13 seasons and gone to a BCS bowl in the years 1998, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.
So why are they only No. 5 on this list?
It's because of the fact they they have become popular for their big-game suicides.
In the 2006 national title game, the favored Buckeyes took the field against underdog Florida in Glendale.
Florida took Ohio State behind the woodshed and whipped them with a plank with nails sticking out. Florida dominated ALMOST from start to finish, 41-14.
A year later, they had a chance for redemption in New Orleans against LSU. Shame, though, that they suffered yet another humiliating BCS title game loss. LSU whipped the Buckeyes, 38-24, and that score doesn't show how lopsided it truly was.
There have also been notable regular season meltdowns, such as the home-and-home series with USC in 2008 and 2009.
Ohio State would be higher on this list... if only the SEC didn't exist.
4. Oklahoma Sooners
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BCS track record: 3-5 in BCS bowls, 2000 BCS National Champions
Oklahoma is one of the greatest programs in college football history.
The BCS era has been no different.
Oklahoma has won a dizzying amount of Big 12 titles in this span, gone to eight BCS bowls and three national title games, and won a BCS National Championship in 2000.
Why are they only No. 4 on the list?
Sure, they've made eight BCS bowls. But five of them have been losses, most of them not even close.
From 2003 to 2008, the Sooners went 0-5 in BCS bowls. They lost 21-14 to LSU in the Sugar Bowl in 2003, 55-19 to USC in the Orange Bowl in 2004, 43-42 to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl in 2006, 48-28 to West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl in 2007 and 24-14 to Florida in the BCS National Championship Game in 2008.
The Sooners' average record is 10-3, so you can expect them to win a lot of games every year. However, the inability to win the biggest games land the Sooners at fourth on the list.
3. LSU Tigers
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BCS track record: 4-0 in BCS bowls, 2003 and 2007 BCS National Champions
Coming in at third on the list is the Louisiana State University Tigers, affectionately called the Bayou Bengals by some.
The Tigers entered the BCS era with just one national title and one 11-win season to its name.
While they were usually one of the best teams in the SEC, they would rarely ever be the best.
But so far in the BCS era, they have dominated the college football landscape, winning two BCS National Championships and three SEC championships, appearing in four SEC Championship Games and having five 11-win seasons.
In 2003, the LSU Tigers, led by Nick Saban, took the nation by storm, going 13-1 and winning the Sugar Bowl over Oklahoma. The Sugar Bowl win gave LSU their second national title in school history.
Just four years later, LSU did it again. This time, the Tigers were led by Les Miles. The Tigers went 12-2, both losses in triple-OT against good opponents.
They also won many other close games, but the 38-24 win over Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans was not one of them.
The Tigers always recruit well and churn out NFL players every season. They have been a force in the BCS era.
2. USC Trojans
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Record: 110-42 (14 wins from 2004-2005 vacated by NCAA)
BCS track record: 5-1 in BCS bowls, 2003 AP champions, 2004 BCS National Champions (eventually vacated)
The USC Trojans dominated like no other college football team in the first 13 years of the BCS era.
So why are they No. 2?
Simply because, when it's all said and done, they never got to win a legitimate BCS National Championship.
From 2002-2008, the Trojans played in seven BCS bowls, including two BCS title games, and they won the BCS title in 2004.
They had a 6-1 record in those BCS bowls, the only loss in the 2005 national title game against Texas. They also had two Heisman Trophy winners in Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush.
A year ago, Southern Cal would easily be No. 1.
But then the NCAA came. Legendary USC running back Reggie Bush, who played from 2003-2005, was discovered to have received illegal benefits while playing.
Bush lost his Heisman. Southern Cal was forced to vacate two wins from 2004, including the BCS National Championship rout over Oklahoma, and all 12 wins from the 2005 regular season.
Also, the Trojans were slapped with harsh punishments, such as a massive loss of scholarships and a two-year bowl ban.
It's a shame off-the-field issues keep Southern Cal from being the top dog on this list.
However, even with the vacated wins, they still won 110 games. Also, in 2003, they did win the AP National Championship despite not playing in the BCS National Title Game, and seeing as this was before any violations occurred, then you can legitimately say the Trojans have a national title to their name in the BCS era.
Still, they don't have a crystal ball. They had one, but they lost it.
1. Florida Gators
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BCS track record: 5-1, 2006 and 2008 BCS National Champions
The Gators are the top college football program of the BCS era, winning five of six BCS bowl appearances, producing a Heisman winner, being coached by legends Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer and hauling in not one, but two BCS championships.
The Gators have never gone unbeaten, but thrice during the BCS era they have gone 13-1, claiming two national titles and a Sugar Bowl win in those three instances.
Gainesville was the home of one of the best college football players of all time from 2006-2009, Tim Tebow.
Tebow went 48-7 in a Florida uniform, won two national titles and won the Heisman in 2007, when he became the first player ever to throw for 20 touchdowns and run for 20 touchdowns.
The Gators are also the winningest team in SEC play in the BCS era.
Say what you want to about LSU, Oklahoma, Ohio State or USC. Florida is the top college football program so far in the BCS era.