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Miami Hurricanes Football: What Was the Best Hurricanes Team Ever?

Stephen UrbaniakCorrespondent IAugust 14, 2011

Miami Hurricanes Football: What Was the Best Hurricanes Team Ever?

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    The Miami Hurricanes football program is legendary in college football. They have set numerous records for former 'Canes in the NFL, and they have the record for the longest home winning streak in NCAA history at 58 games.

    Plainly put, the Hurricanes are one of the best and most successful teams in college football.

    From stars such as Warren Sapp and Michael Irvin to Andre Johnson and Clinton Portis, the 'Canes have not been short on talent.

    They have also had their share of issues such as the "Pay for Play" scandal where Pell grant applications were falsified, and the 1996 incident where Miami football players broke into the track captain's apartment and physically assaulted him, among others.

    They have won five national championships in football, so we will look at which one of those teams could lay claim to the "Best Team Ever" and decide who gets the edge: 

1. 1983 Team

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    The 1983 Hurricanes' football team was the national champion after beating Nebraska in the Orange Bowl by a score of 31-30, with the game being dubbed as the "Miracle in Miami."

    Howard Schnellenbeger was the head coach, and the 'Canes were led by star quarterback Bernie Kosar. 

    The team had a prolific passing offense behind Kosar as "they were only the second national champion to gain more passing yards than rushing," according to hurricanesports.cstv.com.

    The team had a disappointing loss at the beginning of the season, as they were destroyed by the No. 7 ranked Florida Gators by a score of 28-3 in Gainesville.

    The 'Canes gave up 108 more points over the course of the rest of the year, en route to winning 11 games and beating Nebraska for the school's first national championship,

    "Nebraska coach Tom Osbourne elected to go for a two-point conversion which was stopped by the Hurricanes' defense, rather than go for the one-point PAT which would've given the Huskers the title had the game ended in a tie," according to hurricanesports.cstv.com.

    Legacy: This Hurricanes' team was not one of the most flashy teams, as they had a range of ethnicities along the offensive line, and the team had no players voted as first-team All-Americans, which caused Coach Schnellenberger to say,  "We've got a lot of overachievers on our teamor else there has been a poor job of selection done by the All-American selectors," according to hurricanesports.cstv.com.

    This team earns the No. 5 ranking in my list of which Hurricanes' team was the best ever.

2. 1987 Team

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    The 1987 Miami Hurricanes were highly miffed from their last-second loss to No. 2 Penn State in the 1986 Fiesta Bowl. They had come one interception away from winning another national championship.    

    That game was forever remembered as the "Duel in the Desert" as the 'Canes showed up in full military fatigues, much to the chagrin of Coach Jimmy Johnson. 

    After some verbal trash-talking between the two teams, Penn State let its play do the talking on the field as they won by a score of 14-10.

    These Hurricanes were in no mood to let another national championship pass them by. From the beginning of the season, the Hurricanes were destroying opponents. 

    The biggest win of the season was the comeback versus then-No. 4 Florida State as the 'Canes scored three touchdowns coming from behind to complete a stunning 26-25 victory over the Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium.

    The Hurricanes eventually earned a date with the top-ranked Oklahoma Sooners at the Orange Bowl Classic and jumped on the Sooners from the break en route to winning the school's second national championship.

    Legacy: The 1987 Hurricanes were in control of their destiny from start to finish. Led by QB Steve Walsh and WR Michael Irvin, these 'Canes would not be denied by a seemingly superior opponent in Oklahoma.  Jimmy Johnson would eventually leave Miami after the 1989 season, and would coach the Dallas Cowboys to three Super Bowl victories in four years. The Hurricanes would hire Dennis Erickson after Johnson departed for the NFL.

3. 1989 Team

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    The 1989 Miami Hurricanes were in a period of transition. Jimmy Johnson had departed from the program to coach the Dallas Cowboys and had raided the team of numerous assistant coaches and support personnel.

    Dennis Erickson had been named head coach, and no one knew what kind of team he would field. The Hurricanes were led defensively by Cortez Kennedy and Russell Maryland, and their only letdown was a 24-10 setback to Florida State. 

    "The defense had surrendered only 9.3 points per game and didn't allow a touchdown in a stretch of the season lasting ten quarters," according to hurricanesports.cstv.com.

    The Hurricanes knocked off No.1-ranked Notre Dame, which marked the seventh consecutive season that the team had beaten the top-ranked team in the country.

    The team met Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, and the game was closer than most people thought, as the Hurricanes captured their third national title by a score of 33-25.

    Legacy: Again, here we had a Hurricanes' team that wasn't flashy by any means, but did the job when they had to. They had an early season letdown against Florida State, but their defense held down the fort to get the team through it and make it to dispatch the Crimson Tide. 

4. 1991 Team

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    The 1991 Miami Hurricanes were coming into the season with Gino Toretta at quarterback and yet another ruthless defense.

    Keyed by a strong offense and defense, the Hurricanes opened the season by destroying Arkansas, and then going into Tallahassee eight games later and upending the No. 1 ranked Seminoles in the "Wide Right I" game by a score of 17-16.

    The team would later face a challenge from Boston College, which the Hurricanes pulled out a gritty 19-14 victory en route to an Orange Bowl appearance against Nebraska.

    The national championship game against the Cornhuskers was over before it started. Miami pitched a shutout of the Huskers, and had limited their vaunted ground game to a paltry 82 rushing yards en route to a 22-0 victory that clinched the team's fourth national championship.

    Legacy: When people think of the 1991 team, they think of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as a defensive lineman. This version of the Hurricanes did what they always do best, and that was win football games.  With Toretta at quarterback, the 'Canes had the talent and means to light up the scoreboard every week.  They beat a tough Nebraska team in the national championship game, and shared the national championship with Washington, who won the Coaches' national title.

5. 2001 Team

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    The 2001 Miami Hurricanes were and still are considered to be the best college football team ever to take the field. After the heartbreak in 2000 of being shut out of the national championship game, the 'Canes were highly upset after being snubbed by the BCS.

    This team was so good that it is almost a unanimous certainty that the team would've destroyed the other "best team ever," the 2005 USC Trojans.

    The Hurricanes were downright terrifying for any team. On offense, the team had Ken Dorsey, Clinton Portis, Andre Johnson, Jeremy Shockey  and Bryant McKinnie. On defense, they were led by Ed Reed, Sean Taylor, Jonathon Vilma and Vince Wilfork. 

    This team was the definition of perfection. They shut out consecutive ranked teams by a score of 124-7, which set an NCAA record. They scored 512 points on offense, while only surrendering 117, which equaled to an astounding 9.75 points per game allowed defensively.

    The Hurricanes ended Florida State's 54-game home unbeaten streak as they crushed the Seminoles in Tallahassee by a score of 49-27. 

    Miami would not be denied as they were invited to the Rose Bowl to face the team they shut out exactly 10 years ago, the Nebraska Cornhuskers who were the No. 2 ranked team in the country. The team led Nebraska 34-0 at halftime, and cruised to a 37-14 victory capturing the team's fifth national championship.

    Legacy: You don't beat teams by 33 points per game and not be able to lay claim to the best college football team ever. This team was the best there ever was. Period. This team toyed with opponents before annihilating them. 

    Ken Dorsey was surgical in the passing game, Clinton Portis ran behind one of the best offensive lines in the country. Ed Reed led the nation's best passing, rushing and scoring defense as they scored eight touchdowns on their own. Never in the program's history have the 'Canes been as scary good as they were in 2001. These guys were a nightmare on offense, defense and special teams.

6. The Edge Goes To......

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    The edge goes to the 2001 Miami Hurricanes. These guys were loaded in every sense of the word, as they had multiple All-Americans on both sides of the ball.

    They destroyed back-to-back ranked teams by a score of 124-7, and were beating opponents by 33 points per game. 

    When the offense wasn't annihilating defenses, the Hurricanes' defense was as equally as brutal. They scored eight touchdowns and led the nation in passing, rushing and scoring defense. 

    The Hurricanes only gave up 9.75 points per game and were a catalyst in stifling Nebraska's vaunted offense led by Heisman winner Eric Crouch in the national title game.

    There are no other teams that can make this kind of case for the best college football team ever to take the field.

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