This is the second annual installment of my "Program of the Decade" rankings and covers the 2001-2010 seasons. This is an attempt to quantify the success of the decade's top programs and compare apples to apples to find the best over the last 10 years.
Finding the best, especially during a decade with considerable parity, is a difficult and naturally subjective task. Basically, you need determine what measurements you want to use and how you want to use them, and that is exactly what I did.
Keep in mind we’re comparing the accomplishments of players currently retiring from the NFL along with bright-eyed 18-year-old freshmen. A decade spans players, coaches, athletic directors and even conferences as a whole.
In a way, it should be simple to pick a Program of the Decade in the 2000s with the advent of the BCS, a system designed specifically to pick the two “best” teams and have those teams settle it on field.
Although in the end, the BCS may have caused more confusion than ever before because the old system (or lack of) was knowingly and inherently flawed. With the promises of getting it right, the BCS seemed to just infuriate almost everyone and demonstrated the caste system that is college football.
Ten years ago, we were about to see the wrath of the mighty Miami Hurricanes, and arguably the best team of all time in 2001. Their eventual demise has lead way to a resurgence from old powers like Ohio State, USC, Oklahoma, Texas and Alabama. LSU, Florida and Auburn have also established themselves as the new class. As a whole, the last 10 have have been dominated by the SEC with select teams from the Big 12, USC and Ohio State, standing alone in their conferences.
Geographically, the decade took a strong turn to the Sun Belt states, albeit with a few exceptions. Eight teams from five conferences won BCS championships demonstrating parity, at least among the elite.
This decade has not been without controversy, and unfortunately, a few clouds currently linger over several programs. For the sake of this poll, sanctions taken against USC most notably, as well as Alabama, have not been been factored into these polls—specifically, their vacated wins still count. It's just more interesting to compare what was done on the field.
To determine the Top 10 Programs of the Decade, I developed a six-part formula measuring the following criteria: rankings, winning percentage, BCS success, quality of losses, quality of wins and BCS National Championships. I scored all the programs within the countdown, in addition to Georgia, Oregon, Virginia Tech and Boise State. I also ran some preliminary numbers on West Virginia, Utah and TCU; none of would crack the top 10.
All categories have two common and simple themes: Winning is rewarded and losing is punished (at least implicitly).
To measure, the top team in each category received 100 points and subsequent teams received the number of points equal to the percentage earned of the winner. For example, if Team A was the best in a given category with a score of 20, and Team B was second with 19, Team A would receive 100 points and Team B would receive 95 points.
Teams also received 100 points per BCS National Championship. As stated above, this is an inherently subjective exercise. For example, I found ways to justify four different champions with the same data sets and categories just by changing a few things, but eventually, I settled on a formula I could live with. A more detailed description can be found at the end.
On to the countdown...