College Football: The 50 Best Single-Season Performances of All Time
Attempting to identify the 50 best single-season performances of all time in college football is, at the very best, dicey.
Dissecting the thousands of great accomplishments over 141 years of play and picking the 50 best is not unlike looking at a full vault of priceless treasures and selecting the “most valuable” pieces.
The following slideshow attempts to wade through statistical data, football lore and hardcore results to select 50 of the greatest single-season performances of all time.
These aren’t the greatest players in the history of college football, the greatest careers in the history of the game or the most dominant athletes in each position; this list is the best single-season performances of all time.
Some are well known and heralded, while others are more demure and less publicly acknowledged.
As a gentle disclaimer, there is absolutely no possible way to highlight every great single-season accomplishment in history, so for every feat included there are no doubt two to three sizzling deeds that have been left off the list.
B.J. Symons, Texas Tech, 2003
Statistics: 470-of-719, 52 TDs, 22 INTs, 5,833 passing yards, 143 yards rushing, five rushing TDs
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Most yards gained, most yards gained in three and four consecutive games, most games gaining 400 yards or more (11), most consecutive games gaining 400 yards or more (nine), most passes attempted (719), most yards gained in four consecutive games (2,239), season yards per game (459.7)
B.J. Symons holds the honor of being the most statistically prolific single-season QB in Mike Leach’s tenure as a head coach at Texas Tech.
In addition to the record-setting data, Symons' 2003 performance ranks No. 2 all-time in season yards per game (459.7) and No. 3 in season touchdown passes (52), and he led the nation in passing in 2003.
Texas Tech went 8-5 in 2003, including a 38-14 victory over Navy in the Houston Bowl.
Symons was drafted in the seventh round of the 2004 NFL draft by the Houston Texans, and after several stops in the NFL (Europe), he ended his career with the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League.
LaDainian Tomlinson, TCU, 2000
Statistics: 369 carries, 2,158 rushing yards, 22 TDs
Tomlinson is often overlooked when talking about the best backs in college football history.
Tomlinson’s 2000 statistical showcase is ranked No. 5 all-time in single-season yards per game (196.2) and is No. 5 all-time in single-season rushing yards.
The 2000 Horned Frogs went 10-2 and captured a piece of the WAC title; LaDainian Tomlinson won the Doak Walker Award and finished fourth in Heisman voting.
Tomlinson was the fifth overall pick in the 2001 NFL draft and played from 2001-09 with the San Diego Chargers before moving to the Jets in 2010.
He’s been selected to the Pro Bowl five times and has already rushed for 13,444 yards and 144 touchdowns.
Tony Dorsett, Pittsburgh, 1976
Statistics: 338 carries, 1,948 yards rushing, 21 TDs
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: None
Though Tony Dorsett does not hold any season rushing records in the NCAA book of distinction, his sizzling performance in 1976 led Pitt to a national title and earned him the Heisman Trophy.
The Panthers went 12-0 in ’76 and capped off their season with a 27-3 victory over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
Dorsett’s 1976 performance still ranks No. 17 overall in season rushing yards per game (177.1) and No. 18 overall in season rushing yards.
Though Dorsett ranks highly among career rushers, one of the most amazing stats is the 1,586 yards he racked up in his freshman season in 1973.
Tony Dorsett was selected by the Dallas Cowboys as the No. 2 overall pick in the 1977 NFL draft. During his pro career he won one Super Bowl (XII), was selected to the Pro Bowl four times and rushed for over 12,000 yards. He finished his career at Denver in 1988 and is a member of both the Pro and College Football Halls of Fame.
Deltha O’Neal, Cal, 1999
Statistics: Nine INTs, four TDs
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Most touchdowns scored on interception returns in a season (four), scoring at least one touchdown in three return categories (interception, blocked kick, fumble, punt and kickoff).
O’Neal set the all-time single-season interception return mark in 1999 amidst the backdrop of one of the worst seasons in California Golden Bear football history; Cal finished the year at 0-11, which includes four forfeited games.
Deltha O’Neal is also tied for two career records: interceptions returned for touchdowns at five and gaining 1,000 yards on punt returns and 1,000 yards on kickoff returns.
O’Neal was the No. 15 overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft (Denver Broncos) and played for the Broncos, Bengals, Patriots and Texans in a career that lasted through 2009.
Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska, 2009
Statistics: 85 tackles, 12 sacks, 28 quarterback hurries, 24 tackles for a loss, 10 pass breakups, three blocked kicks, one interception
Ndamukong Suh’s 2009 season is among the most dominant defensive performances in college football history.
Suh won the 2009 Outland Trophy and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting; his selection as the AP Player of the Year for 2009 was the first time a defensive player had ever received the award.
Ndamukong Suh was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft by the Detroit Lions and registered 88 tackles, 10 sacks, one forced fumble and one pick in his rookie season.
Dennis Shaw, San Diego State, 1969
Statistics: 199-of-335, 3,185 passing yards, 39 TDs
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Most touchdown passes in a half (seven), highest percentage of touchdown passes in a season (minimum 175-374 passes) at 11.6 percent (39 of 335)
Dennis Shaw tossed a scorching seven touchdown passes in the first half of the November 15, 1969 game against New Mexico State. Seven TD throws in a half has never been surpassed but has been matched twice—in 1994 by Terry Dean of Florida in the first half against, ironically, New Mexico State and in 1997 by Doug Johnson of Florida in the first half of a game against Central Michigan.
Dennis Shaw is the oldest player remaining in the NCAA record book for touchdown passes in a season at No. 21 with 39 TD tosses in 1969 (tying him with Kellen Moore, Danny Wuerffel, Chad Pennington and Chase Daniel).
This is a fairly impressive feat for a guy who played over 40 years ago.
The 1969 San Diego State squad went 11-0 and won the Big West Conference and the Junior Rose Bowl with a 28-7 victory over Boston University.
Shaw was selected as the No. 30 overall draft pick (second round) in the 1970 NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills. He played for five seasons in the pros, threw for over 6,000 yards and finished his career in 1975 with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Colt Brennan, Hawaii, 2006
Statistics: 5,915 total yards (5,549 passing, 366 rushing), 406-of-559, 58 TDs and 12 INTs
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Most games gaining 300 or more passing yards per season (14, tied with one other), most consecutive games gaining 300 yards or more (14, tied with one other), highest average gain per play (9.2) in a season, most touchdowns responsible for (63) in a season, most points responsible for (384) in a season, highest single-season passing efficiency rating points (186), most games gaining 200 yards or more (14, tied with three others), most consecutive games gaining 200 yards or more (14, tied with three others), most touchdown passes in a season
Additionally, Brennan’s 2006 season ranked No. 5 all-time in season yards per game (422.5), No. 2 all-time in total season yards and No. 4 all-time in season passing yards.
The 2006 Warriors went 11-3 (their only losses were to Alabama, Boise State and Oregon State), and the season ended with a 41-24 victory over Arizona in the Hawaii Bowl.
Brennan was the 186th overall pick (sixth round) in the 2008 NFL draft; after stops in Washington and Oakland, he is reportedly set to play for the UFL’s Hartford Colonials in 2011.
Roger Staubach, Navy, 1963
Statistics: 107-of-161, 1,474 yards, seven TDs
Roger Staubach may be better known for his NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys, but his junior season at Navy is legendary.
Staubach led the Midshipmen to a 9-2-0 record in 1963 and ultimately lost to Texas 28-6 in the Cotton Bowl, costing them the national championship. Ironically, the only other loss on the year was also in Texas, when the Midshipmen fell to SMU 32-28 in Dallas in the fourth game of the season.
Staubach’s performance earned him the Maxwell Award and the 1963 Heisman Trophy; he is the last member of a service academy to win the Heisman.
Roger Staubach went to Dallas in the 10th round (No. 129 overall) of the 1964 draft and joined the Cowboys in 1969 after a tour of duty in Vietnam.
He went on to enjoy one of the most celebrated careers in NFL history, which included two Super Bowl rings, one Super Bowl MVP award, six Pro Bowl selections and eventually induction into both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame.
Troy Davis, Iowa State, 1996
Statistics: 402 carries, 2,185 rushing yards, 21 TDs
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Earliest game reaching 1,000 yards in a season (fifth, shared with many others)
Troy Davis was the first NCAA player to rush for 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons (1995-96), a feat that was capped off by his 2,185-yard performance in 1996.
Davis’ 1996 season performance also ranks No. 4 all-time in rushing yards per game in a single season (198.6) and No. 4 all-time in rushing yards in a single season.
Iowa State finished the 1996 season a dismal 2-9, which more than likely explains why Davis barely lost the Heisman race that year to Danny Wuerffel of Florida.
After being selected as the No. 62 overall pick (third round) by the New Orleans Saints in the 1997 NFL draft, Davis played the bulk of his career in the CFL, where he won the Grey Cup in 2004.
Troy Davis closed out his football career in 2007 with the Toronto Argonauts.
Orlando Pace, Ohio State, 1996
Statistics: No sacks allowed in two seasons
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: None
Unfortunately, there is no statistical way to rate offensive linemen. If there were, Orlando Pace might be rated the top O-line player in college football history.
Pace did not allow a single sack in his final two seasons at Ohio State and brought the term “pancake block” into vogue.
He won the 1996 Outland Trophy, the 1995 and 1996 Lombardi Awards and finished fourth in the 1996 Heisman Trophy balloting (the highest finish for a lineman since Hugh Green in 1980).
The 1996 Buckeyes went 11-1 and captured a Big Ten co-championship; their only loss was a 13-9 defeat to Michigan in Columbus.
Pace was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1997 NFL draft and was selected to the Pro Bowl seven times over a career that was spent mostly as a member of the St. Louis Rams.
Orlando Pace’s career ended in 2009 with the Chicago Bears.
Howard Twilley, Tulsa, 1965
Statistics: 134 receptions, 1,779 yards, 16 TDs
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Passes caught per game (season receptions per game), most consecutive games gaining 200 yards or more (three, tied with one other)
Howard Twilley’s 1965 performance is also rated No. 5 all-time in season receptions (he is the only guy in the top 25 in this category who played prior to 1988) and No. 7 all-time in season yards.
Twilley also holds the record for most two-point conversions scored in a season, which he did in 1964 when he scored six, all on pass receptions.
Amazingly, Howard Twilley’s receiving stats have managed to stay firmly atop the all-time record books despite the age of the run-and-shoot and spread offenses.
The 1965 Golden Hurricanes went 8-3, won the Missouri Valley Conference and lost to Tennessee 27-6 in the Bluebonnet Bowl.
Twilley was the runner-up in the 1965 Heisman Trophy race to Mike Garrett of USC and was selected in the 12th round of the 1966 AFL draft by Miami and in the 14th round of the 1966 NFL draft by Minnesota.
Howard Twilley spent his entire career with the Miami Dolphins and was part of the perfect 1972 Dolphins, catching a TD pass in their Super Bowl VII victory over the Washington Redskins.
Al Worley, Washington, 1968
Statistics: 14 interceptions, 130 yards
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Most passes intercepted, most passes intercepted per game (1.4)
Al Worley’s 14 picks in 1968 is an NCAA FBS record that has stood for over 40 years.
Washington went 3-5-2 in 1968, and Worley was selected as a consensus first-team All American.
Freddie Barnes, Bowling Green, 2009
Statistics: 155 receptions, 1,770 yards, 19 TDs
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Most passes caught (season receptions)
Freddie Barnes' 2009 performance as a receiver also earned a No. 4 ranking all-time in season receptions per game (11.9), No. 12 all-time in season TD receptions and No. 8 all-time in receiving yards in a season.
The 2009 Falcons went 7-6 and lost 43-42 to Idaho in the Humanitarian Bowl.
Barnes was undrafted in the 2010 NFL draft but signed with the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent; he spent last season on the Bears’ practice squad.
Dick Butkus, Illinois, 1963
Statistics: 145 tackles, 10 forced fumbles
Dick Butkus played linebacker and center for Illinois from 1962 to 1964, and though most of his awards were earned during his senior season, 1963 is statistically and team-wise the high point of his college career.
Illinois went 8-1-1 in 1963, won the Big Ten and beat Washington 17-7 in the Rose Bowl; the Illini finished the season ranked No. 3 in the AP polls, which is the highest in the history of the program.
Butkus is considered one of the greatest defensive players in the history of college football and went No. 3 overall in the 1965 NFL draft to the Chicago Bears, where he spent his entire Hall of Fame pro career.
Graham Harrell, Texas Tech, 2007
Statistics: 512-of-713, 5,705 yards, 48 TDs and 14 INTs
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Most passes completed in a season, most passes completed per game (39.4), most games gaining 400 yards or more (11)
Though the Red Raiders were more successful as a team in 2008, Harrell’s best season, statistically speaking, was in 2007. His performance that season is still ranked No. 3 all-time in season yards per game (438.8), No. 2 all-time in season passing yards and No. 5 all-time in touchdown passes in a season.
The 2007 Texas Tech Red Raiders went 9-4, including a thrilling comeback victory over Virginia in the Gator Bowl (31-28).
Harrell was not drafted in the 2009 NFL draft, spent the 2009 season with the CFL Saskatchewan Roughriders and joined the Green Bay Packers in 2010, where he won a Super Bowl ring as the third-string QB.
Travis Prentice, Miami (OH), 1998
Statistics: 365 carries, 1,787 yards, 19 TDs
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Most consecutive rushes without a fumble (365)
Travis Prentice, in 365 carries, never dropped the ball in 1998; in fact, Prentice (from 1997-99) didn’t fumble the ball in 862 touches, which marks a career best in college football history.
What’s impressive about Prentice is not only was he careful, but he was productive as well.
Well, he is tied with Tony Dorsett, Herschel Walker and Garrett Wolfe for the record for most seasons gaining 1,500 yards or more, he holds the career record for touchdowns scored by rushing at 73, he scored more career points than any other player (non-kicker) in FBS history with 468, he holds the record for most games scoring two or more touchdowns with 25 and he is No. 6 all-time in career rushing yards (5,596).
But in 1998 he never, ever dropped the ball.
The ’98 RedHawks went 10-1; the only loss was a 31-17 road defeat to Marshall.
Travis Prentice was the No. 63 overall pick (third round) in the 2000 NFL draft; he was selected by the Cleveland Browns and saw limited playing time in a pro career that ended in 2002 in Arizona.
Doug Flutie, Boston College, 1984
Statistics: 233-of-386, 3,454 passing yards, 27 TDs and 11 INTs
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: None
Though Flutie holds no single-season records, his performance in 1984 would have to be included in a list of great performances for several reasons.
First, Flutie’s accomplishments in ’84 led the Eagles to a 10-2 record that included a 45-28 victory over Houston in the Cotton Bowl.
Secondly, his performance (which earned him the top spot in career yards by a quarterback at 11,317 yards, a record that stood until Ty Detmer finished his tenure at BYU in 1991 with 14,665 yards) also led to him capturing the 1984 Heisman Trophy.
Lastly, and perhaps most memorably, was Flutie’s famous “Hail Mary” toss at the dramatic close of the November 23 last-second 47-45 victory over Miami (FL).
Doug Flutie was drafted in the 11th round of the 1985 NFL draft by the Los Angeles Rams (285th overall pick) and enjoyed an eventful career in the USFL, CFL and NFL. Flutie’s career finally ended in 2005 back in Boston with the New England Patriots.
Glenn Davis, Army, 1945
Statistics: 82 carries for 944 yards, 20 TDs
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Highest average gain per rush (minimum 75-100 rushes) at 11.5 yards
Glenn Davis (“Mr. Outside” to Doc Blanchard’s “Mr. Inside”) still holds the No. 18 ranking in career points per game at 9.6 and is ranked No. 16 in career points (354).
Davis and Blanchard went 27-0-1 at Army from 1944-46 under legendary coach Earl Blaik and won the national championship each of these three seasons.
Glenn Davis won the 1946 Heisman Trophy and was ranked No. 13 on ESPN’s Top 25 Players in College Football History.
Davis went on to play for the LA Rams from 1950-51.
Trevor Insley, Nevada, 1999
Statistics: 2,060 receiving yards, 134 catches, 13 TDs
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Most receiving yards gained, most yards gained per game (187.3) and most games gaining 200 yards or more (six).
Trevor Insley’s performance in 1999 is also ranked No. 6 in all-time season receptions.
Unfortunately, Insley’s record-setting single-season receiving performance came with a Nevada team that struggled to a 3-8 finish in 1999.
Trevor Insley was not drafted but signed as an undrafted free agent with the Indianapolis Colts in 2000; his professional career lasted until 2002.
Russell Erxleben, Texas, 1977
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Longest field goal in history (67, tied with three others), most field goals made 60 yards or more
Russell Erxleben’s 67-yard field goal versus Rice on October 1, 1977 became the sole longest field goal in NCAA FBS history until Steve Little of Arkansas tied the mark against Texas that same season (October 15) and then Joe Williams of Wichita State hit a 67-yarder on October 21, 1978 against Southern Illinois.
Additionally, Erxleben hit a 64-yard kick against Baylor on October 16 and a 60-yarder versus Texas Tech on October 29 (both also in 1977).
Erxleben was also the best punter in the country in 1976 with 61 punts for 2,842 yards, averaging 46.6 yards per punt, and holds the career record for longest average distance field goals made (42.4).
The 1977 Longhorns went 11-1 and suffered their only loss to Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl.
Russell Erxleben was selected No. 11 overall in the 1979 NFL draft by the New Orleans Saints. He was the second-highest kicker ever taken in the draft and spent his relatively short pro career mostly as a punter.
Erxleben’s son Ryan played at Texas Tech as a punter.
Terrell Suggs, Arizona State, 2002
Statistics: 24 sacks
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Pass sacks in a season
Suggs’ dominant performance in 2002 also ranks No. 10 all-time in season tackles for a loss per game (2.25) and No. 2 all-time in season tackles for a loss (31.5).
The Sun Devils went 8-6 in 2002 and lost to Kansas State in the Holiday Bowl (34-27).
Suggs was the 10th overall pick in the 2003 NFL draft (Baltimore Ravens) and has been selected to the Pro Bowl four times since he debuted in 2004.
Colt McCoy, Texas, 2008
Statistics: 332-of-433, 3,859 yards, 34 TDs and eight INTs, 76.7 percent of passes completed
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Highest percentage of passes completed
Colt McCoy went 332-of-433 in 2008, setting the highest mark for single-season completion rate (with a minimum of 150 throws) in NCAA FBS history.
McCoy’s 2008 campaign also earned him the No. 14 spot all-time in season passing efficiency (173.8).
The 2008 Longhorns went 12-1, tied for the Big 12 South title and beat Ohio State 24-21 in the BCS Fiesta Bowl.
McCoy was the 85th overall pick (third round) in the 2010 NFL draft and spent his rookie season with the Cleveland Browns.
Bo Jackson, Auburn, 1985
Statistics: 278 carries, 1,786 yards, 17 TDs
Bo Jackson’s 1,786 rushing yards in 1985 set an Auburn school record and earned the super athlete Jackson the 1985 Heisman trophy.
Though Auburn went only 8-4 in 1985, including a loss to Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, Jackson’s final season as a Tiger was highlighted by athletic feats that are hard to forget.
Bo Jackson was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1986 NFL draft and played from 1987-90 for the Los Angeles Raiders (2,782 yards, 16 TDs).
Tom Harmon, Michigan, 1940
Statistics: 1,312 all-purpose yards (844 yards rushing, 20 INT return yards, 204 kickoff return yards), 16 TDs, 18 extra points, one field goal
Tom Harmon did it all in 1940 and is considered by many to be one of the greatest players in Michigan history.
Harmon led the nation in all-purpose yards and scoring in 1939 and 1940, and his 9.9 career points per game is No. 10 all-time in the NCAA record book.
Michigan went 7-1-0 in 1940, including a 40-0 drubbing of Ohio State where Harmon absolutely went off; he scored five TDs (three rushing and two passing), scored four extra points, intercepted three passes and punted three times for an average of 50 yards.
Harmon played for the Los Angeles Rams from 1946-47 and is the father of actor Mark Harmon, who played quarterback at UCLA.
Lee Roy Selmon, Oklahoma, 1974
Statistics: 125 total tackles, 18 sacks, one tackle for a loss
Though Lee Roy Selmon won both the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award in 1975, he statistically had a superior season in 1974 that was highlighted by a whopping 18 sacks.
Selmon’s achievements helped the Sooners win national championships in both 1974 and 1975; Oklahoma lost only one game during those two seasons (to Kansas in 1975).
Lee Roy Selmon was selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 1976 NFL draft and played his entire pro career for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
He earned six Pro Bowl appearances and is a member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame.
Aaron Rodgers, California, 2004
Statistics: 209-of-316, 2,566 yards, 24 TDs, eight INTs
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Most consecutive passes completed in a season (26), most consecutive passes completed in a game (23)
Aaron Rodgers completed his last three passes against Oregon State on October 2, 2004 and then reeled off 23 consecutive completions to begin the following game (October 9) against USC. Rodgers' feat tied Tee Martin of Tennessee’s 23 consecutive completed passes against South Carolina on October 31, 1998.
California went 10-2 in 2004, including a 45-31 loss to Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl.
Aaron Rodgers was the No. 24 overall selection by the Green Bay Packers in the 2005 NFL draft, and last season he won Super Bowl XLV and was named the Super Bowl MVP.
Barry Sanders, Oklahoma State, 1988
Statistics: 3,250 all-purpose yards (2,628 rushing, 106 receiving), 95 punt return yards, 421 kickoff return yards, 39 TDs
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Most rushing yards gained in a season, most rushing yards gained per game (238.9) in a season, most consecutive games gaining 200 yards or more (five, tied with two others), most games gaining 300 yards or more (four), most yards gained in three consecutive games (937), most yards gained in four consecutive games (1,152), most yards gained in five consecutive games (1,472), highest average gain per rush in a season (7.6), most touchdowns scored by rushing in a season (37), most games scoring two or more touchdowns by rushing (11), most all-purpose yards in a season, most all-purpose yards per game (295.5) in a season, most points scored (234) in a season, most points scored per game (21.3) in a season, most touchdowns scored in a season, most games scoring two or more touchdowns (11), most consecutive games scoring two or more touchdowns (11), most games scoring three or more touchdowns (nine), most consecutive games scoring three or more touchdowns (five, tied with one other)
Barry Sander’s performance in 1988 may be the best single-season performance of all time.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys went 10-2 in 1988, including a 62-14 beatdown of Wyoming in the Holiday Bowl.
Barry Sanders won the 1988 Heisman Trophy and went to be the third overall selection in the 1989 draft. Sanders played his entire career (1989-98) with the Detroit Lions and is the No. 3 rusher in the history of the NFL.
Mike Singletary, Baylor, 1978
Statistics: 232 tackles
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: None
The NCAA record book doesn’t record certain defensive stats, including total tackles, until 2000. This quirk means Mike Singletary’s 232 tackles (a school record) in 1978 are somewhat overlooked. The record book lists Lawrence Flugence’s (Texas Tech, 2002) 193 tackles as the all-time high per season.
Singletary went on to a successful career in the NFL with the Chicago Bears, which included winning Super Bowl XX.
Kellen Moore, Boise State, 2009
Statistics: 277-of-431, 3,536 yards, 39 TDs and three INTs
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Lowest percentage of passes intercepted
Kellen Moore threw only three picks among the 431 attempts he made in 2009; this is the NCAA FBS record for lowest percentage of passes intercepted with a minimum of 350 throws.
His 2009 performance also earned him a No. 25 ranking all-time in season TD passes.
The 2009 Broncos went 14-0, won the WAC and beat TCU 17-10 in the BCS Fiesta Bowl.
Kellen Moore goes into his senior season at Boise State as the No. 1-ranked passer in college football.
Troy Edwards, Louisiana Tech, 1998
Statistics: 2,784 total yards (1,996 receiving, 227 rushing, 235 punt return, 326 kickoff return), 140 receptions, 27 TD receptions
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Single-season TD catches
Troy Edwards was on fire in 1998, and his performance earned him the No. 7 rank all-time in season points per game (15.5), No. 3 in points in a season (186), No. 9 in season all-purpose yards per game and No. 6 in all-purpose season yards.
Louisiana Tech went 6-6 in 1998, but it’s important to take into consideration that this was only the Bulldogs' third season in the FBS.
Troy Edwards was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers as the No. 13 overall pick in the 1999 NFL draft and made stops in St. Louis, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Detroit and Jacksonville before closing out his career in 2007 with the Arena League’s Grand Rapids Rampage.
Todd Sauerbrun, West Virginia, 1994
Statistics: 72 punts for 3,486 yards
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Punts of 50 yards plus (32), highest average punt per game, minimum 50-74 punts (48.4)
Though it’s difficult to imagine a punter ranking among the top 50 performances in college football, Sauerbrun is one of the best punters to ever play the game. What’s impressive about his stats are not total numbers, but instead his outstanding averages produced by consistent performance over time.
Sauerbrun’s 1994 season is ranked No. 4 all-time in average yards in a season (48.4).
The Mountaineers went 7-6 in 1994, including a 24-21 loss to South Carolina in the CarQuest Bowl.
Todd Sauerbrun was the 56th overall pick (second round) in the 1995 draft and was selected by the Chicago Bears.
Sauerbrun earned Pro Bowl honors three times during his NFL career, making stops in Kansas City, Carolina, Denver and New England.
Ty Detmer, BYU, 1989
Statistics: 4,433 yards, 37 TDs
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Season yards gained per attempt (11.1)
The striking component of Detmer’s 1989 performance is how it has continued to statistically stand out despite college football going “pass-happy” in the past couple of decades.
His 1989 yardage total still ranks No. 25 all-time (while his 1990 mark of 5,022 yards ranks No. 6), his season passing efficiency for the ’89 season is No. 11 all-time at 175.6 and his season yards per game (380) is No. 20 all-time.
The 1989 BYU Cougars went 10-3, won the WAC and lost to Penn State (50-39) in the Holiday Bowl.
Ty Detmer won the 1990 Heisman Trophy and was the 230th pick (ninth round) in the 1992 NFL draft. Mainly serving as a backup, Detmer made NFL stops in Green Bay, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Cleveland and Detroit before finishing his career in Atlanta in 2005.
Hugh Green, Pittsburgh, 1980
Statistics: 123 tackles, 17 sacks
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: None
The runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 1980 (to George Rogers of South Carolina), DE Hugh Green was unstoppable as the Pitt Panthers went 11-1, beat South Carolina (and George Rogers) 37-9 in the Gator Bowl and finished ranked No. 2 in the polls.
Green was selected No. 7 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1981 NFL draft and earned two Pro Bowl selections with Tampa Bay before ending his career in Miami in 1991.
Tim Tebow, Florida, 2007
Statistics: 234-of-350, 3,286 yards, 32 TDs and six INTs
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Most consecutive games scoring a touchdown by rushing and passing (13), scoring 20 touchdowns by rushing and receiving and passing for 20 touchdowns in a season (32 passing, 23 rushing, tied with one other), scoring 20 or more touchdowns by rushing and passing
Tim Tebow’s 2007 résumé (in a career that is all over the record books) is outstanding, ranking No. 20 all-time in season passing efficiency (172.5). He led the Gators to a 9-4 record, including a loss to Michigan in the Capital One Bowl.
Though the Gators won the national championship in 2008, Tebow’s personal best performance came in 2007, which included winning the Heisman Trophy.
Tebow was drafted in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft (No. 25 overall) by the Denver Broncos, where he saw limited action during his rookie season.
Marcus Allen, USC, 1981
Statistics: 2,559 total yards (2,342 rushing, 217 receiving)
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Earliest game reaching 1,000 yards (fifth, tied with many others), most games gaining 200 yards or more in a season (eight), most consecutive games gaining 200 yards or more (five, tied with many others), most all-purpose yard plays (432)
Marcus Allen was a beast in 1981 and helped lead the Trojans to a 9-3 finish, including a 26-10 loss to Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Ranking Allen’s 1981 performance all-time results in a current No. 8 ranking in all-purpose yards per game (232.6), No. 23 in all-purpose yards in a season, No. 2 in season rushing yards per game (212.9) and No. 3 in season rushing yards.
Marcus Allen was the first player in college football history to rush for over 2,000 yards and won the 1981 Heisman Trophy before becoming the No. 10 overall pick in the 1982 NFL draft.
Allen was drafted by the Raiders, where he won a Super Bowl ring and Super Bowl MVP (both in 1983). He finished his career in 1997 with the Kansas City Chiefs.
David Klingler, Houston, 1990
Statistics: 374-of-643, 5,221 total yards (5,140 passing, 81 rushing), 54 TDs
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Season yards per game (474.6), most plays per game (64), most touchdowns responsible for per game (five), most points responsible for per game (30.4), most passes attempted per game (58.5), most yards gained in a season (11 games), most touchdown passes per game (4.9)
Klingler’s overwhelming statistical performance in 1990 also ranks No. 6 all-time in total yards and No. 2 all-time in season touchdown passes (54).
On December 2, 1990 in a game against Arizona State, Klingler set the single-game yardage record with a performance of 732 total yards (716 passing, 16 rushing).
Houston went 10-1 in 1990, and its only loss came in a 45-24 game against Texas in Austin.
David Klingler was selected No. 6 overall in the 1992 NFL draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. His short NFL career included two seasons with the Bengals and brief stints in Oakland and Green Bay.
Randy Moss, Marshall, 1997
Statistics: 90 receptions, 1,647 yards, 25 TDs
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: None
Though Randy Moss didn’t set any records in 1997, he was the most dominant receiver in college football that season, and who knows what high marks he would have set had he actually played out his college career at either Notre Dame or Florida State?
Moss’s 1997 stats are still ranked No. 2 all-time in season touchdown receptions, No. 16 in season receiving yards and No. 18 in season points by a receiver (152).
The 1997 Marshall Thundering Herd went 10-3, won the MAC title and lost 34-31 to Ole Miss in the Motor City Bowl.
Randy Moss was selected by the Minnesota Vikings as the No. 21 overall pick in the 1998 NFL draft and has made the Pro Bowl seven times thus far with stops in Oakland, New England, Minnesota (for a second time) and Tennessee (presently).
Ricky Williams, Texas, 1998
Statistics: 361 carries, 2,124 yards rushing, 27 TDs, 262 yards receiving
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Earliest game reaching 1,000 yards (fifth, shared with many others), most consecutive games gaining 300 yards or more (two, 318 vs. Rice and 350 vs. Iowa State),
Ricky Williams was unstoppable in 1998. In addition to the NCAA single-season records he set, his performance ranks No. 6 all-time in season yards per game (193.1), No. 8 all-time in rushing yards in a season, No. 9 all-time in points per game in a season (15.3), No. 9 all-time in points scored in a season (168) and No. 19 all-time in all-purpose yards per season (216.9).
Williams led the Longhorns to a 9-3 finish in 1998 (Mack Brown’s first season at Texas), including a 38-11 win over Mississippi State in the Cotton Bowl.
Ricky Williams was selected as the No. 5 overall pick by the New Orleans Saints in the 1999 NFL draft, and after an on and off career he returned to Miami to play with the Dolphins for the 2010 season.
Davey O’Brien, TCU, 1938
Statistics: 93-of-167, 1,847 total yards (1,457 passing, 390 rushing)
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: None
Davey O’Brien does not hold any records in the NCAA FBS record book, but he was the nation’s leading quarterback in both 1937 and 1938.
O’Brien stats are certainly smallish by modern standards, but his performance in 1938 wrapped up a 3,481-yard career, which was then the all-time record in college football.
The 1938 Horned Frogs went 11-0 and won both the Southwest Conference title and the national championship; the season was capped off by a 15-7 win over Carnegie Mellon (PA) in the Sugar Bowl.
Davey O’Brien was awarded the 1938 Heisman Trophy and was selected No. 4 overall in the 1939 NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. He played only two seasons in the NFL before retiring, moving on to spend a decade in the FBI.
Barry Sanders and Byron Sanders, Oklahoma State and Northwestern, 1988
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Most Yards Gained by Two Brothers
This is definitely a curious record, and though it’s not individually a dominant mark, it would seem that this mark is absolutely impossible to top.
Barry Sanders' 2,628 yards combined with his brother Byron’s 1,062 yards (all in 1988) equal a whopping 3,690, which is the record for most yards gained by two brothers in a single season (yes, it’s actually in the NCAA record book).
Byron Sanders was selected by the Chicago Bears as the No. 248 overall pick in the 1989 NFL draft; he has no professional playing stats.
Jim McMahon, BYU, 1980
Statistics: 284-of-485, 4,627 total yards (4,571 passing, 56 rushing), 47 TDs and 18 INTs
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Highest percentage of passes for touchdowns in a season with a minimum 375 attempts (11.5 percent, 46 of 400).
What’s amazing about Jim McMahon’s 1980 season at BYU is how well his statistical performance has held up over time. Even with Houston, Texas Tech and Hawaii going insane through the air, McMahon’s junior season still manages to rank in the top 20 or so passing performances of all time.
His total season yardage total (4,627) still ranks No. 17 all-time, his season efficiency rating (176.9) is No. 8 all-time, his season passing yards (4,571) are No. 16 all-time, his season yards per game (380.9) ranks No. 19 all-time and his season touchdown passes (47) are No. 6 all-time.
The 1980 BYU Cougars went 12-1 and won the WAC; their only loss was a 25-21 loss to New Mexico in the opener, and their season ended with a thrilling 46-45 defeat of SMU in the Holiday Bowl.
McMahon was the fifth overall pick in the 1982 NFL draft and spent the bulk of his career in Chicago, where he led the Bears to a victory in Super Bowl XX.
Mike Rozier, Nebraska, 1983
Statistics: 275 carries, 2,148 yards, 29 TDs
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Highest gain per rush in a season (7.8)
A virtual unknown coming out of high school, Rozier dominated college football in 1983 and captured the Heisman Trophy.
His 1983 season is ranked No. 6 all-time in points in a season (174), No. 18 all-time in season rushing yards per game (179) and No. 6 all-time in season rushing yards.
The Cornhuskers went unscathed throughout the 1983 regular season and suffered a heartbreaking 31-30 loss to Miami (FL) in the Orange Bowl, ultimately costing them the national championship.
Rozier was selected No. 2 overall in the 1984 supplemental NFL draft, and after playing two seasons in the USFL he spent the bulk of his career with the Houston Oilers, where he was selected to two Pro Bowls.
Andre Ware, Houston, 1989
Statistics: 365-of-578, 4,699 yards passing, 46 TDs and 15 INTs
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Most yards gained in a half (510 vs. SMU, October 21, 1989)
Andre Ware’s 1989 offensive explosion still ranks right up there with the greatest single-season outputs in history.
His 423.7 yards per game ranks No. 4 all-time, his 4,661 total yards are No. 19 all-time and his 46 TD passes rank No. 8 all-time.
Andre Ware was awarded the 1989 Heisman Trophy and was the No. 7 overall pick in the 1990 NFL draft.
Selected by the Detroit Lions, Ware never really got going professionally but continued competing until 1999, when his career ended with the Berlin Thunder (NFL Europe).
Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma, 2004
Statistics: 339 carries, 1,924 rushing yards
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Most rushing yards by a freshman, most rushes by a freshman (339), earliest game by a freshman reaching 1,000 yards (seventh game, shared with many others), most games gaining 100 yards or more by a freshman (11), most consecutive games gaining 100 yards or more by a freshman (nine)
Adrian Peterson may have had the best season of any freshman in college football history. To put his 1,924 yards in perspective, they rank No. 21 all-time in rushing yards per season (he is the only freshman on the list).
Peterson was the first runner-up for the 2004 Heisman Trophy (the highest finish ever by a freshman), which was ultimately won by Matt Leinart of USC.
The 2004 Sooners finished 12-1 and won the Big 12 South and Big 12 conference championships. Their only loss came in a 55-19 beatdown at the hands of USC in the Orange Bowl (a game that would eventually be “vacated” by USC).
Adrian Peterson was the No. 7 overall selection in the 2007 NFL draft and has spent his entire NFL career thus far with the Minnesota Vikings, where he has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his four seasons.
Jason Babin, Western Michigan, 2003
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: Single-season tackles for a loss (32)
Jason Babin’s defensive performance during his senior season at Western Michigan was mind-blowing; besides setting the single-season record for tackles for a loss, he ranks No. 2 all-time in season tackles for a loss per game (2.67), No. 1 all-time in career tackles for a loss (75), No. 7 all-time in career pass sacks per game (0.81), No. 2 in career pass sacks (38) and No. 16 all-time in single season pass sacks (15).
The Broncos went 5-7 in 2003, and Babin was selected as the No. 27 overall pick in the 2004 NFL draft by the Houston Texans.
After subsequent stops in Seattle, Kansas City and Philadelphia, Babin went to Tennessee in 2010, where he was selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time.
Vince Young, Texas, 2005
Statistics: 212-of-325, 3,036 yards passing, 26 TD passes, 10 INTs; 155 carries, 1,050 yards rushing, 12 rushing TDs
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: A quarterback gaining 3,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing in a single season (shared with one other)
Vince Young combined his rushing and passing abilities to spur the Longhorns to an undefeated season in 2005, which earned them a Big 12 championship and a BCS national title.
Young became the first QB in NCAA history to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for another 1,000 (a feat matched by Dan LeFevour from Central Michigan in 2007), but what might have been most impressive about his 2005 season was his performance in the BCS championship.
Young racked up 467 yards of total offense against the USC Trojans and ran for three scores, including the legendary nine-yard scramble with 19 seconds remaining in the game to give the Longhorns the game.
Vince Young was selected by the Tennessee Titans as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2006 draft and is still currently on the Titans roster.
Beau Morgan, Air Force, 1996
Statistics: 1,494 yards rushing on 225 carries, 18 rushing TDs, 1,210 yards passing
NCAA FBS Single Season Records: Quarterback season rushing yards, gaining 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards passing in a season (achieved in both 2005 and 2006, tied with many others)
Beau Morgan’s 1,494 yards rushing were the top performance all-time by an FBS quarterback until being surpassed by Michigan's Denard Robinson in 2010; to put it into perspective, the top running back in 1996 was Troy Davis from Iowa State, who rushed for 2,185 yards, or only 691 yards more than Morgan.
Morgan’s 3,379 career rushing yards rank No. 9 overall, and he is one of only seven quarterbacks to have gained both 3,000 career passing and 3,000 career rushing yards.
The 1996 Air Force Falcons went 6-5.
Beau Morgan went undrafted and played one season (2001) in the XFL for the Memphis Maniax.
Cam Newton, Auburn, 2010
Statistics: 185-of-280, 2,854 passing yards, 30 TD passes, seven INTs; 1,473 rushing yards on 264 carries, 20 rushing TDs
Cam Newton’s 2010 performance was one of the most dominant single-season performances in recent college football history.
Newton exploded in 2010 and went from an unknown variable to the Heisman Trophy winner in less than 120 days.
After leading the Auburn Tigers to the BCS national championship, Cam Newton was selected as the No. 1 overall pick by the Carolina Panthers in the 2011 NFL draft.
Herschel Walker, Georgia, 1980
Statistics: 274 attempts, 1,616 yards, 15 TDs
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: None
Herschel Walker won the Heisman Trophy in 1982 and holds most of the NCAA rushing records for a three-season career, but his freshman campaign may be his most impressive accomplishment as a college football player.
Walker ran for 1,616 yards as a freshman in 1980, which is No. 6 all-time among freshmen but has the added punch of helping to propel his team to a national title.
Yes, Walker’s freshman performance came during the Bulldogs' 12-0 season that resulted in a SEC title and a national championship by virtue of a 17-10 win over Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl.
He is the only athlete in NCAA history to finish in the top three in Heisman voting every year of his college career.
Herschel Walker was drafted in the fifth round (No. 114 overall) of the 1985 NFL draft (after playing two years for the USFL New Jersey Generals). He went on to play for the Cowboys, Vikings, Eagles and Giants and finished his two-time Pro Bowl career with Dallas in 1997.
Charles Woodson, Michigan, 1997
Statistics: 33 punt returns for 283 yards and one TD, 11 catches for 231 yards and two TDs, three rushes for 15 yards and one TD, eight INTs for seven return yards
NCAA FBS Single-Season Records: None
It’s hard to statistically define Charles Woodson’s 1997 season at Michigan; he mainly played defense but also made valuable contributions as a punt returner and receiver.
Woodson’s ability to make plays all over the field are a big part of what spurred him on to becoming the first ever (and only) primarily defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy (which he did in 1997).
A great example of his athletic prowess came in the ‘97 game against Ohio State, when Woodson returned a punt for a touchdown, made an interception in the OSU end zone and scored on a 37-yard pass play that accounted for the Wolverines' only offensive TD of the game.
Michigan beat Ohio State 20-14 and went on to capture the national championship by virtue of a 21-16 win over Washington State in the Rose Bowl.
Woodson was selected by the Oakland Raiders as the fourth overall pick in the 1998 NFL draft. After playing with the Raiders until 2005, he became a member of the Green Bay Packers in 2006, where he won a Super Bowl ring in 2010.
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