Ranking the 100 Best College Football Players of the BCS Era

Brian Pedersen@realBJPFeatured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2014

Ranking the 100 Best College Football Players of the BCS Era

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    The BCS era of college football officially ended on Jan. 6, when Florida State downed Auburn in a thrilling national championship game to close the book on 16 seasons of big-time games and big-time controversy.

    All we have now are the memories, of which there are many.

    But the BCS wasn't just about those four or five games at the end of the season. It was about the entire year leading up to those finales, the great games and the even greater players who gave us so many memorable moments.

    To honor all of the greats, we give you our list of the 100 best players from the BCS era of 1998-2013.

100. Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    Years played: 2011-2013

    Ka'Deem Carey helped get Arizona back into the national spotlight thanks to a relentless running style that rewrote the school's record books.

    In his last two seasons, Carey rushed for more than 3,700 yards and was a consensus All-American in both years.

99. Rocky Calmus, LB, Oklahoma

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    Years played: 1998-2001

    Rocky Calmus was the center point of Oklahoma's tough-as-nails defenses during the early BCS years.

    He was a three-time All-American, and as a senior in 2001, he won two national awards. He was also a huge part of the Sooners' national title team in 2000-01.

98. Sean Taylor, S, Miami (Fla.)

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    Years played: 2001-2003

    Sean Taylor was a defensive force during Miami's heyday during the early years of the BCS era, particularly during his final season.

    In 2003, Taylor had 10 interceptions, was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year and struck fear into the hearts of both opposing quarterbacks and the receivers they were targeting.

97. Colt Brennan, QB, Hawaii

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    Years played: 2005-2007

    Colt Brennan is the reason Hawaii became a fun thing to watch on television late Saturday night during the college football season.

    During his three years as the starting quarterback, the Warriors were the nation's deadliest passing team. He piloted them to an unbeaten record as a senior before losing to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl and finished with more than 14,000 passing yards and what at the time was the FBS record for touchdowns (131).

96. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia

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    Years played: 2010-2013

    Aaron Murray was a four-year starter for Georgia, and though the Bulldogs failed to make a BCS bowl during that time, that doesn't take away from his achievements.

    When all was said and done, Murray finished as the SEC's career leader in passing yards and touchdowns, finishing in the top 10 in FBS history in both categories.

95. Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford

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    Years played: 2006-2009

    Toby Gerhart was a late bloomer, not getting significant touches until his junior year, but still managed to produce one of the best careers in Stanford history.

    Gerhart ran for more than 3,000 yards in 2008 and 2009, leading the nation with 28 rushing touchdowns as a senior.

94. Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU

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    Years played: 2010-2011

    The player known as "Honey Badger" was one of the most enigmatic players during the BCS era, one with tons of talent who was great when he played.

    Suspensions cost him a lot of time, including the entire 2012 season, but when he was on the field, he was deadly. He was an All-American and won several other national awards.

93. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon

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    Years played: 2009-2011

    LaMichael James was maybe the best of all of the top-flight running backs to come out of Oregon during the BCS era.

    He rushed for at least 1,500 yards in each season, while also getting the Ducks into their first-ever BCS title game in his final year.

92. Case Keenum, QB, Houston

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    Years played: 2007-2011

    Case Keenum wasn't the most decorated quarterback of the BCS era, but he certainly was the most prolific.

    Thanks to medical redshirts and a pass-happy system, Keenum finished as the FBS career leader in yards (19,217) and touchdowns (155), leading both categories by a wide margin.

91. Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma

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    Years played: 2006-2009

    One of the best tight ends ever to play in the BCS era, Jermaine Gresham had both size and speed to go along with great hands.

    Gresham caught 25 touchdown passes during a two-year span from 2007 to 2008, and only injuries as a senior kept him from challenging many FBS records for tight ends.

90. Ken Dorsey, QB, Miami (Fla.)

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    Years played: 1999-2002

    Ken Dorsey's numbers don't rank among the best in the BCS era, but he was still one of the most successful quarterbacks of the past 15 years.

    Dorsey led Miami to back-to-back title game appearances, including a win over Nebraska, and he was among the top five vote-getters in two Heisman races.

89. Torry Holt, WR, North Carolina State

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    Years played: 1995-1998

    Torry Holt finished his college career during the first season of the BCS era, and though his North Carolina State team wasn't a part of those inaugural games, he still fits on this list because of how he fared in 1998.

    Holt was the ACC Offensive Player of the Year that season, part of a two-year run in which he caught 27 touchdowns and had more than 2,700 receiving yards.

88. Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College

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    Years played: 2004-2007

    Matt Ryan was by far the best quarterback Boston College produced during the BCS era, and its best since Doug Flutie had his magical run in the mid-1980s.

    Ryan's numbers were solid, and as a senior, he was seventh in the Heisman race and won several national quarterback awards.

87. Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma

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    Years played: 2008-2011

    Ryan Broyles managed to overcome his smallish stature to end his career as the most prolific receiver in FBS history.

    A two-time consensus All-American, Broyles is the FBS record holder for receptions with 349, while he finished second in receiving yards and added 45 touchdowns. He's the Big 12 leader all time in all three of those categories.

86. Rex Grossman, QB, Florida

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    Years played: 1999-2002

    Rex Grossman was one of the many superstar quarterbacks produced by Steve Spurrier during his time at Florida.

    Despite not putting up the biggest numbers in terms of passing yardage, Grossman remains one of the more efficient passers in SEC history, as well as during the BCS era.

85. Chris Long, DE, Virginia

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    Years played: 2004-2007

    Chris Long had big shoes to fill, being the son of NFL great Howie Long, but he handled the challenge with his own stellar career.

    Long was amazing as a junior and senior, earning unanimous All-America honors in 2007 while amassing 14 sacks and 79 tackles.

84. Joey Harrington, QB, Oregon

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    Years played: 1998-2001

    Before there was Johnny Football, there was Joey Heisman, thanks to the money machine of Oregon launching a huge marketing campaign to get Harrington a Heisman in 2001.

    He finished fourth that year as a senior and capped his career with a stellar performance in a Fiesta Bowl win over Colorado.

83. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Miami (Ohio)

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    Years played: 2001-2003

    The Mid-American Conference has been a sneaky hotbed for under-the-radar quarterbacks during the BCS era, and Ben Roethlisberger could be their flag-bearer.

    He finished with more than 10,000 passing yards and, thanks to his enormous size and surprising swiftness, was hard to take down and always exciting to watch.

82. Philip Rivers, QB, North Carolina State

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    Years played: 2000-2003

    Phillip Rivers held nearly every major passing record in ACC history until Clemson's Tajh Boyd broke a few this past season, but his legend still lives.

    Rivers was the ACC's Player of the Year in 2003, the same year he took seventh in the Heisman voting.

81. Andy Dalton, QB, TCU

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    Years played: 2007-2010

    Andy Dalton helped lead TCU's rise from mid-major to national power, throwing for more than 10,000 yards over his career.

    He was twice the Mountain West's Player of the Year and also got the Horned Frogs into a BCS bowl when they beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl his senior year.

80. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan

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    Years played: 2009-2012

    Denard Robinson wasn't the best passer to go through Michigan, by far. But there's no denying how great of a runner he was.

    Robinson is the only quarterback with three seasons with at least 1,000 rushing yards and 2,000 passing yards, and for his career, he finished with nearly 4,500 rushing yards and was responsible for 91 total touchdowns.

79. Peter Warrick, WR, Florida State

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    Years played: 1995-1999

    Peter Warrick was one of the most dynamic players of the BCS era, even though he was only around for the very start of it.

    He was a stellar receiver, return man and rusher for the Seminoles, a key part of their 1999 national title. He caught three touchdown passes in the championship game to cinch his spot in program history.

78. Willis McGahee, RB, Miami (Fla.)

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    Years played: 2001-2002

    Willis McGahee's career ended with a horrific knee injury, but before that, he put together an amazing year in his one season as a starter.

    In 2002, he led the Hurricanes back to the national title game, along the way finishing fourth in the Heisman balloting while earning All-America honors and the Big East's Player of the Year award.

77. Kellen Winslow, TE, Miami (Fla.)

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    Years played: 2001-2003

    Kellen Winslow was the nation's best tight end during his final two seasons with Miami and was one of the most dynamic players at his position in the BCS era.

    He was an All-American in both 2002 and 2003, a unanimous selection in 2003 and won the Mackey Award given to the nation's best tight end that season.

76. Larry Johnson, RB, Penn State

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    Years played: 1999-2002

    Larry Johnson waited for his chance to shine at Penn State, and when it came, he made the most of it.

    In 2002, Johnson rushed for more than 2,000 yards to go with 20 touchdowns, was a consensus All-American and won three major national awards while finishing third in the Heisman race.

75. Josh Heupel, QB, Oklahoma

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    Years played: 1999-2000

    Josh Heupel was second in the Heisman in 2000 to Chris Weinke, despite winning almost every other award he was eligible for.

    More importantly, though, he led Oklahoma to the national championship that season.

74. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB/KR, UCLA

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    Years played: 2003-2005

    Maurice Jones-Drew was one of the most versatile running backs of the BCS era, one who could be counted on for rushing yards and great receptions out of the backfield.

    He was a consensus All-American in his final season, and along with his 2,500 career rushing yards, he added seven receiving touchdowns and also returned six kicks or punts for scores.

73. Alex Brown, DE, Florida

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    Years played: 1997-2001

    Alex Brown was probably the best defensive player in Florida history, cutting a dominant shadow as a speed-rushing end during the Gators' 2000 SEC title run.

    Brown had 33 sacks during his career, most in school history, and was the 2001 SEC Defensive Player of the Year.

72. Jordan Lynch, QB, Northern Illinois

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    Years played: 2010-2013

    Jordan Lynch will go down in history as maybe the best mid-major quarterback in FBS history, and he provided the tail end of the BCS era with plenty of drama.

    As the FBS record holder for rushing yards in a game by a quarterback (a record he broke twice in 2013), Lynch helped Northern Illinois dominate the Mid-American Conference and get the school a trip to the Orange Bowl.

71. Troy Polamalu, S, USC

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    Years played: 1999-2002

    Troy Polamalu was a huge part of USC's resurgence to national prominence during the early part of the BCS era, even before he became known for awesome Head and Shoulders commercials.

    He had more than 270 tackles from the safety position, many of the hard-hitting variety, and was a consensus All-American.

70. Russell Wilson, QB, North Carolina State/Wisconsin

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    Years played: 2008-2011

    Russell Wilson owns the distinction of being the best player of the BCS era to star for two programs, leading both North Carolina State and Wisconsin to success.

    Wilson was the first major standout to take advantage of the transfer rule that allowed graduates to play right away at a new school, and his 2011 season with Wisconsin helped beef up his resume and get him into the NFL.

69. Eli Manning, QB, Mississippi

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    Years played: 2000-2003

    Eli Manning didn't enter college with as much hype as older brother Peyton, nor did he exit with as much flair. He just had a really solid career throughout.

    Manning's senior year, in 2003, was among the best in SEC history, earning him the league's Offensive Player of the Year award as well as third place in the Heisman race.

68. Alex Smith, QB, Utah

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    Years played: 2002-2004

    Alex Smith put Utah on the map as a BCS buster, one of the first of its kind, and also sent Urban Meyer's coaching career on an upward trajectory.

    Smith lost only one game as a starter in two seasons, while throwing 47 touchdown passes (against just four interceptions) and rushing for 15 more scores.

67. Jason White, QB, Oklahoma

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    Years played: 1999-2004

    Jason White's 2003 Heisman win is one of the most amazing in the award's history considering the route he took to get there.

    White missed much of the previous two seasons because of numerous knee surgeries and was almost immobile because of it. But he put up amazing numbers that season and again in 2004 when he was a Heisman finalist. He also got Oklahoma into the title game both years.

66. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

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    Years played: 2013

    Jameis Winston has only given us one year and likely will only grace us with one more at the college level. If 2014 is as good as this last one, he'll move up many all-time lists.

    The freshman phenom was the second straight first-year player to win the Heisman, and he also became the second player (after Cam Newton) to win that award, go unbeaten and win a national title in his first season of play.

65. Mike Williams, WR, USC

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    Years played: 2002-2003

    Mike Williams could have been the most prolific wide receiver in college football had he played all four seasons. But the two he was around for were just too big to not bounce to the NFL off of.

    In those two years, he had more than 2,500 receiving yards as well as 30 touchdowns, earning consensus All-American honors both times.

64. A.J. Hawk, LB, Ohio State

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    Years played: 2002-2005

    A.J. Hawk was as good as they got at the linebacker position, and in 2004 and 2005, he was by far the best in that slot.

    Hawk was a key contributor from the moment he set foot in Columbus, and in his final two seasons, he was a consensus All-American and was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2005.

63. Eric Crouch, QB, Nebraska

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    Years played: 1998-2001

    Eric Crouch was the Heisman winner in 2001, the same year he got Nebraska into their last national title game.

    Crouch finished with more than 4,000 passing yards and nearly that many on the ground, executing the option to perfection while leading the Big 12 in rushing touchdowns three years in a row.

62. Dat Nguyen, LB, Texas A&M

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    Years played: 1995-98

    Dat Nguyen's lone season during the BCS era was a memorable one, clinching his place as one of the best defensive players in Texas A&M history.

    As a senior in 1998, Nguyen was a unanimous All-American, was the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year and won two national defensive awards.

61. Troy Smith, QB, Ohio State

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    Years played: 2003-2006

    Troy Smith won a Heisman and several other national awards during his time at Ohio State, getting the Buckeyes into the title game as a senior.

    But what Smith might most be remembered for is among the top things of importance to Buckeyes fans: He was 3-0 as a starter against Michigan.

60. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

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    Years played: 2012-2013

    Johnny Manziel provided us with maybe the two most exciting seasons of quarterbacking during the BCS era, thanks to his Brett Favre-like gunslinger approach to the game as well as his amazing elusiveness.

    Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman in 2012, then managed to top all of his numbers in 2013 before jumping to the NFL.

59. DeAngelo Williams, RB, Memphis

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    Years played: 2002-2005

    DeAngelo Williams' Memphis teams will never be considered powers—the Tigers were 27-22 during that span—but they still got plenty of attention because of his rushing exploits.

    Williams had back-to-back 1,900-yard seasons in 2004 and 2005, finishing his career with more than 6,000 yards to go along with 86 rushing touchdowns.

58. Cedric Benson, RB, Texas

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    Years played: 2001-2004

    While not as prolific or dynamic as predecessor Ricky Williams, it's hard not to consider Cedric Benson among the best backs in Texas history.

    He was the model of consistency, rushing for at least 1,000 yards and a dozen touchdowns in each of his seasons with the Longhorns.

57. Pat White, QB, West Virginia

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    Years played: 2005-2008

    Pat White is a huge reason West Virginia became a national power in the middle of last decade, thanks to both his passing acumen and great running ability.

    White was the Mountaineers' career rushing leader, despite playing quarterback, and went 4-0 as a starter in bowl games.

56. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State

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    Years played: 2008-2011

    Boise State's rise from a gimmicky underdog to a nationally renowned program had many key figures, but Kellen Moore was probably the most significant leader.

    In his four seasons, the Broncos won 50 games, more than any other team under one quarterback in FBS history. He also threw for 142 touchdowns, which is the second-most ever.

55. Champ Bailey, WR/CB, Georgia

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    Years played: 1996-1998

    Champ Bailey only had the one season that was part of the BCS era, but he more than made an impact in that lone year.

    Bailey was a legitimate two-way threat for the Bulldogs, catching five touchdown passes while also picking off three passes. He was an All-American and national award-winner in 1998 as well.

54. Braylon Edwards, WR, Michigan

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    Years played: 2001-2004

    Braylon Edwards was the best big-play receiver to come out of Michigan in the past 20 years, but he was also a reliable pass-catcher.

    He was a consensus All-American and Biletnikoff winner as a senior in 2004, while racking up three seasons with at least 1,000 receiving yards.

53. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

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    Years played: 2009-2011

    Oklahoma State's rise to a national power can be attributed to many factors, both in terms of players and donors. But maybe the most impactful person was Justin Blackmon.

    His three seasons in Stillwater were filled with offensive exploits, including back-to-back 1,500-yard campaigns, two consensus All-American selections, two Biletnikoff Awards and a key role in the Cowboys' Fiesta Bowl win over Stanford in his final year.

52. Ray Rice, RB, Rutgers

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    Years played: 2005-2007

    It's not a stretch to say that Ray Rice is the single most important player in Rutgers history.

    During his three seasons, while amassing more than 5,000 rushing yards, he also transformed the Scarlet Knights from a laughing stock to a national power.

51. Jason Babin, DE, Western Michigan

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    Years played: 2000-2003

    Jason Babin has had a very productive 10-year career in the NFL after getting drafted in the first round in 2004, and he achieved all of that after putting together one of the best (yet unheralded) careers in college history.

    Babin, playing for little-known Western Michigan, is the FBS career leader in tackles for loss at 75, including a single-season record 32 in 2003.

50. Drew Brees, QB, Purdue

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    Years played: 1997-2000

    Drew Brees was the most prolific passer from the Big Ten during the BCS era, as well as all time, holding conference records for nearly every throwing statistic.

    Brees was a Heisman finalist in each of his final two years, had Purdue in the Rose Bowl and (until this year) held the FBS record for pass attempts in a game at 83.

49. Colt McCoy, QB, Texas

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    Years played: 2006-2009

    Colt McCoy was the last of the great quarterbacks under Texas coach Mack Brown, stepping in right away after Vince Young left with little dropoff.

    McCoy got the Longhorns into the national title game as a senior, and his injury early on severely affected their ability to compete with Alabama. All told, his career was considered one of the best ever and included a pair of top-three Heisman finishes.

48. Percy Harvin, WR, Florida

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    Years played: 2006-2008

    Percy Harvin was the go-to receiver during Florida's stellar mid-2000s run in the BCS, serving as a key contributor on both the 2006 title team and the 2008 finalist.

    Harvin was deadly both as a pass-catcher and when running the ball, maximizing his talents in the Gators' spread offense, which was nearly unstoppable for three years.

47. Darren Sproles, RB, Kansas State

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    Years played: 2001-2004

    Darren Sproles was one of the best all-purpose players of the BCS era, contributing as a rusher, receiver and return man.

    As Kansas State's most valuable player during his tenure, Sproles made the top five on the 2003 Heisman ballot and had three seasons with at least 1,300 rushing yards.

46. Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

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    Years played: 2009-2011

    Luke Kuechly had more than 150 tackles as a freshman in 2009. And that was the worst year of his career.

    After three seasons, Kuechly had risen his season tackle total to 191, which gave him an FBS-record 15.9 per game. Along the way, he was an All-American twice.

45. E.J. Henderson, LB, Maryland

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    Years played: 1999-2002

    E.J. Henderson was the best player Maryland produced during the BCS era, and it's not even close.

    Henderson's senior year was absolutely phenomenal, with him registering an FBS-record 135 solo tackles en route to his second straight ACC Defensive Player of the Year award and second consecutive consensus All-American selection.

44. Dan Morgan, LB, Miami (Fla.)

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    Years played: 1997-2000

    Dan Morgan was one of the most successful players ever to get converted from offense to defense, moving from fullback to linebacker to become a dominant force.

    Morgan finished his career with more than 500 tackles, not to mention numerous defensive national player of the year awards.

43. Dwight Freeney, DE, Syracuse

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    Years played: 1998-2001

    Arguably the greatest defensive player in Syracuse history, Dwight Freeney was a big reason the Orange were a force at the beginning of the BCS era.

    Freeney had a sack in at least 17 games at one point in his career, and in 2001, he was a unanimous All-American.

42. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

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    Years played: 2008-2010

    Mark Ingram was a bit of an underrated Heisman winner in 2009, though he did rush for more than 1,600 yards during Alabama's national title run.

    Ingram was beset by injuries in his final season, yet still holds the school record for rushing touchdowns with 42.

41. Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech

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    Years played: 2006-2008

    Texas Tech produced plenty of great receivers during the BCS era as the nation's premier passing program, but none were as flat-out great as Michael Crabtree.

    Crabtree holds most of the FBS receiving records for freshmen, and he also twice won the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation's top pass-catcher.

40. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

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    Years played: 2011-2013

    Jadeveon Clowney's legend was borne from a massive hit laid during the 2013 Outback Bowl, but he was really good even before that play exploded on YouTube.

    Clowney was the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2011 and was a Heisman finalist in 2012, prompting many to speculate whether he should have sat out the 2013 season in preparation for his NFL career. He didn't, and had a somewhat down junior year, but still ended his career as one of the game's greats.

39. Chris Weinke, QB, Florida State

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    Years played: 1996-2000

    Chris Weinke was the last great quarterback of the Bobby Bowden era at Florida State, winning the 2000 Heisman Trophy and leading the Seminoles into the national title game twice, winning it all following the 1999 season.

    Weinke's college exploits were enhanced by his maturity, having played professional baseball before returning to football with FSU.

38. Paul Posluszny, LB, Penn State

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    Years played: 2003-2006

    Nobody played better from the linebacker position over a two-year span than Paul Posluszny, who continued Penn State's storied tradition of dominant players at that spot.

    Posluszny won all of the major awards for linebacker in 2005 and 2006, and both years he was a consensus All-American.

37. Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma

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    Years played: 2007-2009

    Sam Bradford came out of the gates firing to start his college career, setting several freshman passing records in 2007.

    His 2008 effort was somehow better, getting Oklahoma into the national title game and winning the Heisman Trophy. Injuries wrecked his final year in 2009, but he still got drafted first overall by St. Louis in 2010.

36. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame

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    Years played: 2009-2012

    Manti Te'o will be remembered by far too many people for his involvement in a dead girlfriend hoax, but he was also one of the best linebackers to play in the past 25 years.

    As a senior, he won almost every national honor you could imagine except for the Heisman, finishing second to Johnny Manziel, while leading Notre Dame to the BCS title game.

35. Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

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    Years played: 2008-2010

    Patrick Peterson didn't become one of the NFL's premier multi-threat players just out of nowhere; he was doing it long before, while roving the secondary and returning kicks for LSU.

    Peterson was college football's most dangerous return man, not to mention a darn good cornerback, earning two All-America honors in three seasons of college ball.

34. Elvis Dumervil, DE, Louisville

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    Years played: 2002-2005

    Elvis Dumervil went from having two good seasons as a freshman and sophomore to having two of the greatest defenses of the BCS era as a junior and senior.

    During his final two years, he had 30 sacks, including 20 in 2005, and that year he also forced 10 fumbles on the way to being a consensus All-American and winning several national awards.

33. Cam Newton, QB, Auburn

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    Years played: 2007-2008, 2010

    Cam Newton was the first player ever to win the Heisman Trophy, lead his team to an unbeaten record and win a national title in one season when he piloted Auburn to the championship in 2010.

    It was his lone season as a college starter, having played briefly for Florida before leaving school and spending a season in junior college.

32. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama

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    Years played: 2010-2013

    AJ McCarron's passing stats will never be compared with the game's greats, but they don't need to be. That's because his record (in terms of wins and losses) stands for itself.

    McCarron was 36-4 as a starter, leading Alabama to two BCS national titles and backing up a third.

31. Corey Moore, DE, Virginia Tech

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    Years played: 1996-1999

    Corey Moore was the prototypical Frank Beamer defensive player during his years at Virginia Tech and was one of the most dominant ends in the past 20 years.

    While Michael Vick was the face of the team, Moore was the man on the other side of the ball who held opponents down, recording a school-record 17 sacks in 1999.

30. Derrick Johnson, LB, Texas

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    Years played: 2001-2004

    Derrick Johnson was Texas' best defensive player during the BCS years, controlling the middle of the field from his linebacker spot.

    Johnson was an All-American twice and had one of the most decorated seasons of any defensive player as a senior in 2004, winning three national awards.

29. Carson Palmer, QB, USC

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    Years played: 1999-2002

    Carson Palmer somehow gets forgotten in BCS history because he wasn't a part of USC's title teams like Reggie Bush or Matt Leinart. But in some ways, he might have been responsible for their greatness.

    Palmer won the Heisman in 2002, while Leinart served as his backup, and it was during that time that Reggie Bush was being recruited.

28. Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas

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    Years played: 2005-2007

    Darren McFadden was such an integral part of Arkansas' offense, they often went without a quarterback in order to maximize his usage.

    In three seasons, he rushed for more than 4,500 yards, getting much of that out of the "Wild Hog" formation that had him line up in the shotgun. He was the Heisman runner-up in both 2006 and 2007.

27. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, TCU

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    Years played: 1997-2000

    Most people had never heard of TCU until LaDainian Tomlinson came along. It was hard not to notice the Horned Frogs while he was there.

    His final two seasons in Fort Worth were the stuff of legend, with more than 4,100 rushing yards and 42 touchdowns between them. Along the way, he put up an FBS-record 406 yards in a 1999 game.

26. Michael Vick, QB, Virginia Tech

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    Years played: 1999-2000

    While Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston managed to win Heismans as first-year players, what they did the past two years might not have been possible if not for the way Michael Vick played as a redshirt freshman in 1999.

    Vick got Virginia Tech into the national title game by completely changing the way the quarterback position was played, running almost as much as he threw despite operating out of a traditional set.

25. Eric Berry, S, Tennessee

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    Years played: 2007-2009

    Eric Berry played on offense, defense and special teams for Tennessee, but there's no doubt he was most valuable as a defensive back.

    He set SEC records for interception yardage during his career, won numerous national awards and was twice a unanimous All-American selection.

24. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

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    Years played: 2008-2011

    Robert Griffin III did much more than have a Heisman-worthy season in 2011; he also put Baylor on the map after decades of anonymity.

    The football and track star was accurate as a passer, elusive as a runner and an altogether stellar citizen, and he helped the private school in Waco become a national power.

23. Joe Thomas, OT, Wisconsin

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    Years played: 2003-2006

    Joe Thomas was an anchor on Wisconsin's line, holding down the left tackle position and keeping Badger quarterbacks upright.

    He twice won the Outland Trophy, given to the nation's top lineman, and was also a two-time consensus All-American.

22. James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State

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    Years played: 2005-2008

    Ohio State has produced dozens of stellar linebackers over the years, but during the BCS years, none stood taller than James Laurinaitis.

    During his time in Columbus, the Buckeyes were a perennial juggernaut, making the national title game twice while winning (or sharing) the Big Ten title every year. He was a three-time All-American and had at least 100 tackles in three different seasons.

21. Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech

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    Years played: 2004-2006

    Calvin Johnson was such a rare specimen of size, speed and talent, he almost redefined the wide receiver position. You don't get a nickname like Megatron without doing something special.

    The two-time All-American will likely hold his many Georgia Tech receiving records for a long time, especially as long as the school continues to use an option offense.

20. Patrick Willis, LB, Mississippi

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    Years played: 2003-2006

    While Ole Miss wasn't part of the upper echelon of the SEC for much of the BCS era, it still managed to develop the league's best linebacker of the past 15 years.

    Patrick Willis was particularly dominant during his senior year in 2006, when he was SEC Defensive Player of the Year, an All-American and won several national defensive awards.

19. Ron Dayne, RB, Wisconsin

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    Years played: 1996-1999

    Ron Dayne's picture should be in the dictionary next to the definition of persistence. Over his four years at Wisconsin, he never stopped being productive, which is why he became the all-time FBS rushing leader.

    Dayne finished with 6,397 yards and 80 touchdowns, averaging nearly 150 yards per game for his career and winning the 1999 Heisman Trophy.

18. Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama

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    Years played: 2009-2012

    There were many reasons Alabama won three national titles in four years, and Barrett Jones was a big one. With him on the line, quarterbacks Greg McElroy and AJ McCarron had all the time in the world to do their thing.

    Jones was so versatile, he started at guard for the 2009 champs, tackle for the 2011 title team and was the Crimson Tide's center when they won the 2012 championship.

17. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

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    Years played: 2008-2011

    Andrew Luck became the poster boy for college quarterbacks during his run at Stanford, returning the Cardinal to national greatness with a skill set that just screamed future pro.

    Luck won the Pac-10's Offensive Player of the Year twice, finished second in the Heisman voting in both 2010 and 2011 and holds most of his school's passing records.

16. Julius Peppers, DE, North Carolina

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    Years played: 1999-2001

    Julius Peppers had more than 30 sacks in his three-year career, finishing 10th in the Heisman balloting in 2001. He was both huge and quick, a deadly combination for a down lineman.

    Peppers had 15 sacks in 2000, setting up his amazing junior year. And all the while, he was also playing for North Carolina's basketball team, further showcasing his amazing talents.

15. Terrell Suggs, DE, Arizona State

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    Years played: 2000-2002

    Terrell Suggs was the ultimate sack man, setting the FBS mark with 24 in 2002. In his three seasons, he had 44 sacks, but was also a fierce run-stopper who forced 14 fumbles for his career.

    Suggs was relentless in his pursuit of quarterbacks and ball-carriers, earning him several national awards as well as the 2002 Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year honor.

14. LaVar Arrington, LB, Penn State

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    Years played: 1997-1999

    LaVar Arrington played his ball during the early part of the BCS era, but no linebacker has surpassed or even matched his performance since.

    Arrington's Penn State team didn't make a BCS bowl in his final season, but he was still the most impactful player at his position over the past 15 years due to his amazing pursuit abilities and speed.

13. Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU

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    Years played: 2004-2007

    Glenn Dorsey was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2007, the same year he led LSU to the national title. He was a part-time starter his first two seasons, but once inserted permanently on the defensive line in 2006, he became an unstoppable force.

    Dorsey wasn't a big sack guy, but his constant pressure and ability to plug up the middle earned him several national honors as a senior.

12. Roy Williams, S, Oklahoma

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    Years played: 1999-2001

    Roy Williams was a hitter first, a defensive back second. He roamed the secondary for Oklahoma with such a fierce intensity, quarterbacks tried to avoid even throwing in that general area for fear of what he'd do to their receivers.

    Williams was a highly decorated safety in 2000 when the Sooners won the national title, the year he managed 12 tackles for loss.

11. David Pollack, DE, Georgia

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    Years played: 2001-2004

    David Pollack was the driving force of Georgia's defensive units. He was a three-time All-American, consensus each time, and twice won SEC's Defensive Player of the Year award.

    His 36 sacks is a school record by far, making him completely worthy of the numerous awards he won during his Bulldogs career.

10. Ricky Williams, RB, Texas

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    Years played: 1995-1998

    The 1998 Heisman Trophy winner rushed for more than 2,100 yards that season, giving him what at the time was an FBS record of 6,279 rushing yards for his career.

    He was solid for all four years in a Longhorns uniform, though, gaining at least 1,000 yards each season, and winning two Doak Walker awards, given to the nation's best rusher.

9. Matt Leinart, QB, USC

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    Years played: 2003-2005

    Matt Leinart had the dubious distinction of replacing a Heisman winner in Carson Palmer and somehow managed to one-up his predecessor.

    Leinart led USC to the 2004 national title and was so consistently good during his three seasons as a starter that he was a Heisman finalist each year, winning it in 2004. His decision to stay for his senior year rather than turn pro surprised many, but he still managed to put up another stellar year in 2005 and get the Trojans back into the BCS title game.

8. Bryant McKinnie, OT, Miami (Fla.)

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    Years played: 2000-2001

    The most impressive junior college transfer of the BCS era in terms of overall performance, Bryant McKinnie was a quarterback's best friend. In his two years at Miami, he rarely allowed a sack, much less let defenders get a hand on his QB, earning him All-American honors both seasons.

    McKinnie was a key part of the Hurricanes' dominant 2001 national title, the same year he finished an unprecedented 10th in the Heisman voting.

7. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska

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    Years played: 2005-2009

    Ndamukong Suh transformed the defensive lineman position into one of surprising glamour during the middle stages of the BCS, even though he never played in a BCS bowl game.

    Suh won five different player of the year awards in 2009, when he had an astounding 85 tackles and 12 sacks, not to mention three blocked kicks and an interception. His intensity was immense, giving us a glimpse of the somewhat overzealous approach he's taken as a pro, earning him the tag of the NFL's dirtiest player.

6. Ed Reed, S, Miami (Fla.)

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    Years played: 1998-2001

    The most dominant defensive back of the BCS era, Ed Reed was known as much for his great coverage and turnover-forcing skills as he was for being a vicious hitter. He still holds Miami records for interceptions and defensive touchdowns, and he was a pretty solid kick returner as well.

    Reed was a big part of the Hurricanes' 2001 national title, but he was a force throughout his career.

5. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Pittsburgh

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    Years played: 2003-2004

    Larry Fitzgerald wasn't with us for long, but he still made a lasting mark. In just two seasons at Pittsburgh, he rewrote their record book for receivers, catching 34 touchdowns in a mere 26 games and scoring a TD in 18 straight games, an NCAA record.

    A year of prep school enabled Fitzgerald to turn pro despite just two years in college; otherwise, he might have put up even bigger numbers. He finished second in the Heisman voting in 2003, the best result of any wide receiver during the BCS era.

4. Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma

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    Years played: 2004-2006

    The most unstoppable running back of the BCS era was that way from the beginning, setting the FBS record for rushing yards by a freshman with 1,925. Adrian Peterson was beset by injuries for his last two years at Oklahoma, but even with those ailments, he still managed to put up solid numbers and remain a stud.

    Before Johnny Football and Famous Jameis, Peterson set the standard for incredible first-year feats. He finished second in the 2004 Heisman balloting and probably would have won at least one had the injuries not popped up.

3. Vince Young, QB, Texas

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    Years played: 2003-2005

    Vince Young will forever be remembered for the amazing performance he had in the 2006 BCS National Championship Game, culminating in the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds of the victory over USC.

    But Young was a stud for all three years at Texas, leading the Longhorns to a Rose Bowl win in 2005 as well. He had a cannon for an arm and footwork that made him nearly impossible to tackle for a loss. If not for who else played in 2005, he'd have a Heisman as well.

2. Reggie Bush, RB, USC

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    Years played: 2003-2005

    The 2005 Heisman winner doesn't have his trophy anymore, having returned it after the award was vacated as part of an NCAA benefits investigation. But even without the hardware, Reggie Bush still remains one of the most electric and exciting players in college history.

    Though listed as a running back, Bush played wherever. He'd run the ball. He'd catch passes. He'd return punts. Whatever he did, one thing was for sure: It was going to be tough to touch him, let alone tackle him.

1. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida

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    Years played: 2006-2009

    Love him or hate him, Tim Tebow was the epitome of college football success and stardom. For the three years that he started at Florida, Tebow was nearly unstoppable. If you worry too much about his throwing, he's going to run on you. Try to contain the run, he'll air it out.

    Tebow led Florida to two national titles, including in 2007 when he won the Heisman as a sophomore. While his pro career has been more about discussion than action, there's no denying that as a college athlete, he was the best of the BCS era.


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