College Football: Who Is the Best of the BCS Champs?
We all hate the BCS.
There, there. Now that the vitriol is out of the way, it is time to focus on the system's positives. Despite its biased approach and inconsistencies, the BCS finally eradicated the unfair system the Rose Bowl used to prevent the two top teams in the country every season (even if that improvement came after 2001). But let's take a new spin on how to determine the BCS champions.
The Colley Matrix was made by Princeton grad Wesley Colley, who sticks to simple mathematical formulas to determine his teams' rankings. By ignoring margin of victory, determining strength of schedule by opponents' cumulative winning percentage, having no preseason poll to cause bias, and using only wins and losses as variables, Colley has a unique formula.
It has also produced very consistent results with the BCS—agreeing with each of the BCS champions that have been crowned number 1—so at least the formula is tolerable (for now).
Wesley Colley's system evolves with the times as well—including FCS winning percentage after the Miracle in Michigan. Due to the precise nature of the system and its ratings, we can rely on it to tell us the truth.
We've all had our opinions, but now it is time to crown the champion of champions—the true kings of the BCS era!
For more specific information on the Colley Matrix, consult this guide: http://www.colleyrankings.com/matrate.pdf
Number 13: 2007 LSU Tigers
LSU's two losses easily puts them at the bottom of the list. The sad fact of the matter is the Tigers endured one of the toughest schedules in the nation—and they lost in triple overtime twice. How excruciating!
These lads went through one of the worst grinders of a schedule ever. In fact, these LSU Tigers had the third toughest schedule of all the BCS national champions. It took a narrow SEC title game victory with a freshman quarterback, a last second touchdown against Auburn, a fourth quarter comeback versus the Crimson Tide. Heck, LSU had to execute five fourth downs at home just to finish off Florida.
This team, along with last year's Auburn Tigers, are certainly "Cardiac 'Cats."
Record: 12-2 (7-2)
Strength of Schedule for 2007: 8th
Opponents' winning percentage: 62.0%
Top 25 wins (Colley ratings): Five (Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Florida, Tennessee, Auburn)
Top 50 wins (Colley ratings): Eight (VT, OSU, UF, UT, AU, Mississippi State, Alabama, South Carolina)
Losses: 24th ranked Kentucky, 33rd ranked Arkansas
Colley Overall Rating: .917437
Number 12: 2003 LSU Tigers
The Colley Matrix is mostly based on strength of schedule and victories against the top 50 teams. Somehow, I think LSU gets the short end of the stick. Sure, the '03 Tiger squad had one loss, but had an actually rigorous schedule.
Still, it doesn't make sense to me—they played in the SEC and beat a (until the Big XII Championship) all-time legendary Oklahoma squad. Either way, my job is to present what the Matrix said. Here is the info.
Record: 13-1 (8-1)
Opponents' winning percentage: 57.5%
Top 25 Victories (Colley ratings): Five (Georgia—twice, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Arkansas)
Top 50 Victories (Colley ratings): Six (UGA 2X, OU, UM, University of Arkansas, Auburn)
Losses: 26th ranked Florida
Colley Overall Rating: .93172
Number 11: 2000 Oklahoma Sooners
Personally, I think this team is actually at least in the top four of BCS champs. Quarterback Josh Heupel resurrected the Sooners and slaughtered all their national competition. Yes, their schedule was weak for the most part. Nevertheless, they were stunning in the spotlight.
This season earned Coach Stoops the moniker "Big Game Bob." The Sooners outscored 11th ranked Texas 63-14—the largest margin of victory in the Red River Rivalry ever. Number two Kansas State was pulverized at home the following Saturday to a 41-31 pasting. The final score does not reflect the disparity between these two teams accurately. The Sooners proceeded to whack off top ranked Nebraska 31-14.
Simply put—a mythical run. On top of that, OU's defense held the Seminoles to a mere safety.
How many big time games did Stoops win? Look below.
Opponents' Winning Percentage: 55.2%
Top 25 wins (Colley ratings): 5 (FSU, Nebraska, Kansas State—twice, Texas)
Top 50 wins (Colley ratings): 7 (FSU, UN, KSU 2X, UT, Texas A&M, UTEP)
Colley Overall Rating: .9781
Number 10: 2008 Florida Gators
The Year of the Promise.
After being punched by conference wimp Ole Miss, Urban Meyer's Florida Gators went on a hot streak.
How hot? Think Sherman's March to the Sea.
These fellas became the first SEC team to have each of their regular season conference victories come by at least four touchdowns. Grit and determination (along with the help of the Ole Miss Rebels' remarkable turnaround) won this team a BCS title berth. Charlie Strong's bend-but-don't-break defense helped the Gators usurp two number one teams. Tebow completed his first fourth quarter comeback against Alabama. To win the Coaches' Trophy, Florida held the highest scoring offense in major college ball history to 14 points.
Record: 13-1 (8-1)
Opponents' Winning Percentage: 61.9%
Top 25 wins (Colley ratings): Four (Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, Florida State)
Top 50 wins (Colley ratings): Eight (OU, UA, UGA, FSU, LSU, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Miami (FL))
Losses: 19th ranked Ole Miss
Colley Overall Rating: .978854
Number 9: 1998 Tennessee Volunteers
A long-shot all year, UT was able to somehow squeak by without Peyton Manning. The Volunteers were able to make it with less talent, though.
Surviving an opening game scare against Syracuse's Donovan McNabb, the Vols then edged nemesis Florida by an overtime field goal. It took an inexplicable Arkansas fumble to allow Phil Fulmer's men to end the Razorbacks' national title aspirations.
Tennessee took advantage of opportunities the whole season, squishing the rest of their opponents. Their persistence resulted in a national title victory over perennial 1990s superpower Florida State.
Oh, yeah. There was the first BCS champion thing.
Opponents' Winning Percentage: 57.3%
Top 25 wins (Colley ratings): Four (FSU, Florida, Georgia, Arkansas)
Top 50 wins (Colley ratings): Eight (FSU, UF, UGA, Arkansas, Syracuse, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi State)
Colley Overall Rating: .9963
Number 8: 2002 Ohio State Buckeyes
If Tennessee was a long shot (and as a power in the '90s, they really weren't), then Ohio State is the quintessential long shot. Seven of their 14 victories came by under a touchdown—meaning that despite their struggles in games, this group was awesome in crunch time.
Incredibly, the Buckeyes overcame the odds and became the first major football team to ever go 14-0. Beating a Rose Bowl team in Washington State, limiting conference opponents to eight points per game, and snapping Miami's 34 game winning streak in the first overtime championship ever shows that this team had the hearts of champions.
Opponents' Winning Percentage: 57.8%
Top 25 wins (Colley ratings): Five (Miami (FL), Michigan, Washington St, Penn St, Texas Tech)
Top 50 wins (Colley ratings): Eight (Miami, Michigan, WSU, PSU, TTU, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Purdue)
Colley Overall Rating: 1.00559
Number 7: 2006 Florida Gators
The Gators had to stake their way for this title. Beating Vanderbilt by six points? A one point victory over Tennessee? Holding off South Carolina with a field goal block?
Nevertheless, the Gators overcame the odds of a brutal SEC schedule. On the other hand, there were awesome highlights that year. With two quarterbacks, Florida blew out LSU and beat Arkansas by double digits. Battered and bruised, the team barely scraped into the national title game.
A month's rest after that stretch, though, was just what the doctor ordered. UF proceeded to beat Ohio State like a punching bag, keeping them to under 90 yards of offense with Heisman trophy winner Troy Smith.
Record: 13-1 (8-1)
Opponents' Winning Percentage: 66.3%
Top 25 wins (Colley ratings): Five (Ohio State, LSU, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia)
Top 50 wins (Colley ratings): Nine (OSU, LSU, Ark, UT, UGA, Kentucky, South Carolina, FSU, Southern Miss)
Colley Overall Rating: 1.008020
Number 6: 2001 Miami Hurricanes
Considered one of the greatest football teams of all time, Miami was an NFL factory.
How strong were they? 17 players from this team were picked in the first round of the NFL Draft.
But that's not all. These 'Canes set a record for margin of victory over back-to-back AP ranked teams—Syracuse and Washington were demolished 124-7. They beat four AP teams in a row (Syracuse, Washington, VT, Nebraska). Miami became the first team to beat Florida State at home in nearly a decade. Close calls against Boston College and rising force Virginia Tech were downplayed by a resounding title game victory over Nebraska. Up 34-0 at halftime, the victory over the rival Cornhuskers was indeed sweet for South Florida.
Unfortunately, the recent scandal reeks like seaweed. If Columbus has something to fear, the 'Canes must be peeing in their shorts right now. Good luck with that NCAA investigation thing.
Opponents' Winning Percentage: 59.4%
Top 25 wins (Colley ratings): Four (Nebraska, Syracuse, Florida State, Washington)
Top 50 wins (Colley ratings): Seven (UN, SU, FSU, UW, Boston College, Virginia Tech, Pitt)
Colley Overall Rating: 1.0092
Number 5: 2004 USC Trojans
Forgetting the stripped title, this USC squad had as much talent as the 2001 Miami Dream Team. How impervious were these Men of Troy?
How about this—they traveled across the country for their first game. Facing Virginia Tech, Pete Carroll's crew pulled out a 24-13 win. They proceeded to take number 7 California, avenging their triple-overtime loss the year previously. 15th-ranked Arizona State lost to USC by 38. And who could forget the Orange Bowl, where USC beat overmatched Oklahoma 55-19?
The Trojans had the nation's belief—Matt Leinart led a team that was a wire-to-wire number one squad.
Despite this, USC did not play like number one each and every week. They were actually quite sensitive to the near-upset: Stanford, Cal, Oregon State, and UCLA each fell by a touchdown or less. While I personally believe the '05 runner up was better, the '04 team is still one of the best.
SOS rating: 18th
Opponents' Winning Percentage: 59.7%
Colley Top 25 wins: Five (Oklahoma, Cal, Arizona State, Virginia Tech, Oregon State)
Colley Top 50 wins: Six (OU, Cal, ASU, VT, Oregon St., Notre Dame)
Overall Colley Rating: 1.017080
Number 4: 2009 Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama was impressive in many facets. For one thing, they went undefeated in SEC play—a very difficult feat. In addition, they won a national title with a first year starting quarterback. Match that with a satisfactory out of conference buffet of opponents, and 'Bama put together the most consistent and dominant season-long performance in the country.
They took down back-to-back ranked SEC opponents in Ole Miss and South Carolina, and took down a one-loss LSU team. They obliterated Tim Tebow and the Florida super-team in the title game 32-13, and delivered on four interceptions to finish off national runner up Texas 37-21.
At times they were stodgy, but 'Bama encountered its suspenseful points.
For example, Nick Saban's team opened the season up against a top 10 Virginia Tech team. The Crimson Tide managed to pull away in the fourth after trailing at halftime. "Mount" Terrence Cody's blocking of a last moment Tennessee field goal gave 'Bama a two point victory. And quarterback Greg McElroy spearheaded what is already a classic of Tuscaloosa lore—"the Drive." Alabama methodically used the final minutes of the Iron Bowl to stave off the Auburn upset 26-21.
Simply a team the Bear would love.
Opponents' winning percentage: 59.6%
Top 25 wins (Colley ratings): Six (Florida, Texas, LSU, Arkansas, Ole Miss)
Top 50 wins (Colley ratings): Nine (UF, UT, LSU, Ark, Miss, Auburn, South Carolina, Tennessee)
Colley Overall Rating: 1.021440
Number 3: 2010 Auburn Tigers
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Excuse me, Auburn fans. It's time for me to run from the torch wielding Alabama and LSU crowds.
30 minutes later...
Whew! All right, I can understand their fury. Cam Newton's run against LSU there in the Battle of the Tigers. Alabama—well, you know. It's like God and Satan—except the identities change depending where you live in the Yellowhammer State.
The second group of "'Cardiac Cats" in the group is as tantalizing as the first. Of course, this season may soon be off the record books as well due to the Cam Newton recruiting controversy.
Please Auburn fans, don't chase me now. I just ran for my life to present the truth that you were higher in the Colley Matrix than Alabama (albeit slightly).
JUCO transfer and former Florida Gator quarterback Cam Newton took a BCS National Champion team to Auburn—just two years removed from a losing record. This team—led by coach Gene Chizik—broke all of the patterns.
For one thing, no BCS champion had ever started so low in the AP poll. Auburn came into September at a respectable 22nd. Cam's crew soon became the number one team in America.
Of course, the road wasn't easy. Going undefeated in the SEC—especially the West nowadays—is never simple. The list is so long, so here's the synopsis: field goal victories over Mississippi State, Clemson, and Kentucky, and in the title game against the Oregon Ducks. Fourth quarter scores to send Arkansas, South Carolina, and Georgia packing. Overcoming a 24 point deficit against Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Opponents' Winning Percentage: 59.8%
Top 25 wins (Colley ratings): Seven (Oregon, LSU, Arkansas, Alabama, South Carolina—twice, Mississippi State)
Top 50 wins (Colley ratings): Seven
Colley Overall Rating: 1.023380
Number 2: 1999 Florida State Seminoles
Bobby Bowden had only one perfect season. He made it work out perfectly.
FSU became the first wire-to-wire champion in college football history. While likely not the best squad, the team was insurmountable.
Doubt it? Look at the five ranked AP teams they clobbered.
On top of that, Bowden had to beat his own son on the road at Clemson (they won by a field goal). The Seminoles managed to beat both Miami and Florida (in Gainesville!), before dismantling Michael Vick's Virginia Tech team in the Sugar Bowl. The defense was also able to stop another Heisman candidate in Georgia Tech's quarterback Joe Hamilton in a 41-35 win. Led by Chris Weinke, Travis Minor, and Peter Warrick, this all-star tribe deserved to win it all.
Opponents' Winning Percentage: 61.4%
Top 25 wins (Colley ratings): Four (Virginia Tech, Florida, Miami, Georgia Tech)
Top 50 wins (Colley ratings): Nine (VT, UF, UM, GT, Louisiana Tech, Virginia, Clemson, Wake Forest, NC State)
Colley Overall Rating: 1.0267
Number 1: 2005 Texas Longhorns
Mack Brown has been called a bad coach with a boatload of talent. Despite consistent 10 win seasons, Steve Spurrier called Brown "Coach February."
Why? The coach raked in quintessential recruits, but choked in the season-defining match ups. Losing to Oklahoma five times in a row did not help the cause—the streak included two of Texas's worst margins of losses ever in the Red River Rivalry. And who can forget last year's 5-7 nuclear meltdown?
He is also coach of the best BCS team.
Dual-threat quarterback Vince Young piloted an offense that scored over 50 points a game! The team made victories out of former losses—Oklahoma fell by 33 points. Mike Leach's top 10 Texas Tech Red Raiders were whipped by five touchdowns. In the most lopsided championship game ever played, the team castrated Colorado 70-3. By the way, all 70 points were scored only midway through the third quarter.
The no-quit attitude of the 2005 version turned near-upsets into secure triumphs. Somehow Oklahoma State held a 28-12 lead at halftime. But everything is bigger (and better) in Texas. Stillwater was soon quelled, as Austin fans watched Texas scored 35 to win 47-28. On the road again, the Longhorns rallied in the fourth at Texas A&M to stave off the opponent 40-29.
Why is this team so memorable, though? Simply put, Texas delivered in major games. They beat two teams that finished in the AP top four. While most teams revved up against cupcakes before conference competition, Texas chose to play at then-No. 4 Ohio State. Trailing near the end in the Horseshoe, Texas secured a promising 25-22 victory.
It all came down to the 2006 Rose Bowl.
The number one team in the nation was Pete Carroll's USC squadron. Also averaging over 50 points per game, the Trojans had won 34 games straight. They were on one of the longest winning streaks in college football history, and (depending on who you asked) they were the one or two time defending national champion. USC also boasted two Heisman winners in their backfield. Not to mention, the Trojans were essentially playing a home game in Los Angeles.
Relying on the confidence gained from their 19 consecutive post-game celebrations, Vince Young had it in the tank again. USC led 38-26 when the inspired Longhorns held Reggie Bush's offense on a critical fourth down attempt. Vince Young soon followed with his legendary run, and snatched the championship. The Trojan War ended with General Mack Brown's crowning achievement.
Opponents' Winning Percentage: 61.1%
Top 25 wins (Colley ratings): Four (USC, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas Tech)
Top 50 wins (Colley ratings): Eight (USC, Ohio St., OU, TTU, Colorado—twice, Kansas, Missouri)
Colley Overall Rating: 1.029110
What Do You Think?
13. 2007 LSU
12. 2003 LSU
11. 2000 OU
10. 2008 UF
9. 1998 Vols
8. 2002 Ohio State
7. 2006 UF
6. 2001 Miami
5. 2004 USC
4. 2009 Alabama
3. 2010 Auburn
2. 1999 FSU
1. 2005 Texas
The Colley Matrix, of course, is only one of many ranking systems around.
Some people have claimed, for example, that Utah (and not Florida) deserved the 2008 championship. Anderson & Hester ranks USC as the best team of 2007. The Dunkel system called 2007 Missouri national champs. The New York Times called Miami the 2000 national champion.
As you can see, we all agree to disagree about some rankings. So let's hear what you think—which team is the best BCS champion?