Ranking the Most Dominant College Football Teams Since 2000
After a 17-point triumph over an undefeated Clemson team, the 2019 LSU Tigers will be remembered as one of the most dominant forces in college football history.
Over the last two decades, several other programs have put together truly remarkable years.
From defenses that must've caused nightmares to seemingly nuclear-powered offenses, the 2000s and 2010s provided some unmistakably dominant teams. LSU, without question, has joined that group.
While we deferred to undefeated records—after all, you can't achieve a better season in that department—squads with one-loss records were also considered. Point differential was another factor.
2005 USC: One year after a sensational season—we'll get to that later—USC nearly pulled off another 13-0 year. However, Vince Young and Texas ended that pursuit in the national title. Nevertheless, Reggie Bush won the Heisman Trophy for an offense that averaged 49.1 points and a nation-high 579.8 yards.
2008 Oklahoma: Sam Bradford won a Heisman while helping the Sooners score a staggering 716 points. Bradford accounted for 55 touchdowns, while Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray both scampered for more than 1,000 yards. Oklahoma lost to Tim Tebow and Florida in the national championship for a 12-2 year.
2011 LSU: Although LSU fell to Alabama in the national championship, the 13-1 Tigers defeated their rivals during the regular season in a 9-6 defensive battle. They navigated a merciless schedule with eight victories over ranked opponents and notched 10 wins of 24-plus points.
2018 Alabama: Once in consideration for "best team ever" status, Alabama endured a miserable showing in a 44-16 loss to Clemson during the national title game. Still, the Crimson Tide scored 45-plus points 10 times and had eight victories of at least 30 points.
9. 2012 Alabama Crimson Tide
Before the Tua Tagovailoa era, 2012 likely featured the best offense of head coach Nick Saban's tenure with the Crimson Tide. Alabama ranked 12th in the FBS with 38.7 points per game as AJ McCarron tossed 30 scores and both Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon ran for 1,000 yards.
As usual, though, defense carried the team.
The Tide surrendered 250 yards and 10.9 points per game, leading the country in both categories. They posted four shutouts and limited 12 teams to 17 points or fewer, including Notre Dame during a 42-14 trouncing for the national title.
Alabama's only letdown came against Texas A&M and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
8. 2018 Clemson Tigers
Clemson survived a trip to Texas A&M early in 2018 and, with third-string quarterback Chase Brice, side-stepped an upset against Syracuse.
Dabo Swinney's crew didn't have another game within 20 points—not even in the national championship. The Tigers destroyed a truly outstanding Alabama Crimson Tide team in a 44-16 blowout.
According to Sports Reference, no team since 2000 has recorded more victories of at least 20 points than Clemson's 13.
Trevor Lawrence, a true freshman quarterback, claimed the starting job in late September and finished the year with 3,280 yards and 30 touchdowns to only four interceptions. Plus, running back Travis Etienne scampered for 1,658 yards and 24 scores.
Defensively, Clemson allowed an FBS-low 13.1 points per game and ranked second in yards allowed per play.
7. 2011 Alabama Crimson Tide
This defense was absolutely suffocating.
Alabama led the nation in total, rushing, passing and scoring defense. As if that's not remarkable enough, the Crimson Tide ceded just 17 red-zone trips all year. They surrendered 106 points, tied for the second-lowest total since 2000.
Even in a measly 9-6 defeat to LSU, the unit allowed just 239 yards. Alabama atoned for the loss by holding its SEC foe to 92 yards and not allowing the Tigers to cross midfield until the fourth quarter of a 21-0 victory in the national championship.
"We wanted to come out and show the world we beat ourselves the first game," linebacker Courtney Upshaw said after the game." We wanted to come out and dominate from start to finish, and that's what we did."
6. 2004 USC Trojans
The record books put an asterisk next to the 2004 version of USC, which had its championship stripped in 2011.
Who cares? The Trojans were still stellar on the field.
USC never budged from No. 1 in the AP poll en route to a 13-0 record and a Heisman Trophy for Matt Leinart. The southpaw threw for 3,322 yards and 33 touchdowns with only six interceptions while running backs Lendale White and Reggie Bush combined for 2,617 yards from scrimmage and 30 offensive scores.
The defense ceded 13 points per game—the third-lowest mark in the country—and allowed 20-plus points only three times. To top it off, USC flattened Oklahoma 55-19 to win the national title.
5. 2013 Florida State Seminoles
The 2013 Florida State team scored at least 34 points in all 14 games, eclipsed the 40-point mark in 12 and allowed more than 17 only twice. Prior to the national title, FSU went 4-0 against ranked teams with a 41.3-point average margin of victory.
It's no surprise the Seminoles set—and owned until 2019—the FBS record for single-season points with 723.
Jameis Winston won the Heisman Trophy, throwing for 4,057 yards and 40 touchdowns. Devonta Freeman topped the 1,000-yard barrier on the ground, while Rashad Greene and Kelvin Benjamin accomplished the same as receivers. Fellow wideout Kenny Shaw fell only 67 yards shy of the 1,000-yard threshold.
The defense also ranked second nationally in yards allowed per play (4.1) and third in total yards per game (281.4). The unit led the country with 12.1 points allowed per game, 26 interceptions and 5.1 yards allowed per pass attempt.
Florida State owned 2013.
4. 2019 LSU Tigers
Behind a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback in Joe Burrow, LSU navigated a few close calls. The Tigers notched one-score victories over Texas, Auburn and Alabama, overcoming a couple of shaky games from a defense that improved as the season went on.
The offense simply could not be stopped, though.
Burrow threw an FBS-record 60 touchdowns while amassing 6,056 yards of total offense. He accounted for 14 scores during the College Football Playoff, and the torrid finish helped LSU reach 726 points to break Florida State's single-season Associated Press poll era scoring record.
LSU never faced a double-digit deficit until the national championship and ended a perfect 7-0 against ranked competition. Had the defense not encountered a few rough moments, LSU would have an even stronger argument for a higher spot.
3. 2008 Florida Gators
One misstep against Ole Miss led to "The Promise" from Tim Tebow. And the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner made good on it.
Aided by a defense that otherwise didn't surrender more than 21 points, Tebow propelled the Gators to a 13-1 record and the national title. They toppled a historically productive Oklahoma in the championship game, shutting down the Sooners in a 24-14 win.
Florida went 6-0 against ranked opponents with 30-plus-point triumphs over No. 4 LSU, No. 8 Georgia, No. 24 South Carolina and No. 23 Florida State. The Gators also defeated top-ranked and then-undefeated Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.
Just as Tebow passionately promised following the Ole Miss loss, no team played harder than Florida for the rest of the season.
2. 2005 Texas Longhorns
Texas' run to the 2005 national championship ended with what was unquestionably one of the greatest plays in college football history. Vince Young's fourth-down scramble shattered USC's title dreams in the Longhorns' thrilling 41-38 victory in the Rose Bowl.
Most impressively, the remainder of the season was thin on drama.
Only fourth-ranked Ohio State stayed within 10 points of Texas, which averaged a nation-best 50.2 points. Young won basically everything but a Heisman while becoming the first college quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000.
Factor in a defense that allowed just 16.4 points per game and the Longhorns controlled the game on both sides of the ball.
1. 2001 Miami Hurricanes
Not only did Miami score 42.7 points per game—the third-highest average in the country—but the defense also ceded a jaw-dropping 9.8 points per contest. Only four of its 12 opponents even hit double digits.
During the national title game, the 'Canes cruised to a 34-0 halftime lead over Nebraska. Yes, controversy surrounded Nebraska's inclusion; perhaps Tennessee or Oregon would've fared better. Still, Miami obliterated a consensus top team.
Overall, the Hurricanes defeated four straight Top 15 teams to close the season. They wrecked Syracuse and Washington by a combined score of 124-7 before toppling Virginia Tech and Nebraska.
Miami's roster featured 17 future first-round picks and 38 total NFL draft selections, including Ed Reed, Sean Taylor, Andre Johnson, Vince Wilfork, Jonathan Vilma, Willis McGahee and Frank Gore. Even two decades later, that remains preposterous.