Ranking the Best College Football Offenses Since 2000

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistSeptember 11, 2021

Ranking the Best College Football Offenses Since 2000

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    Cam Newton
    Cam NewtonDave Martin/Associated Press

    Every college football season has great offenses, but only a truly special unit creates a lasting legacy.

    Most recently, 2019 LSU and 2020 Alabama assembled record-breaking years and earned a place in the conversation of best offenses. Otherwise, a majority of the legendary scoring attacks since 2000 played in the first decade of this millennium. That group features the memorable duo of Texas and USC in 2005.

    One unsurprising note is every offense featured played in the national championship. Although three of the 10 lost on that stage, it happened against an offense that is also ranked here.

    The list is subjective, but key factors include team success, scoring, per-play efficiency and total production.

10. Miami Hurricanes (2001)

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    Ken Dorsey
    Ken DorseyStephen Dunn/Getty Images

    The most ridiculous part is Miami's defense was a stronger unit. In 2001, the 'Canes surrendered just 117 points in 12 games.

    But a highly efficient offense made them a juggernaut.

    Miami ripped off 6.6 yards per play and scored 42.7 points per game in a run-first attack loaded with future NFL stars. Clinton Portis scampered for 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns, while backups Frank Gore and Willis McGahee combined for 876 yards and eight scores. Wide receiver Andre Johnson caught 10 touchdowns too.

    Against five ranked opponents, the 'Canes won by an average score of 47.2 to 14.4. Most notably, that included a 37-14 smackdown of Nebraska in the BCS title game.

9. Oregon Ducks (2010)

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    LaMichael James
    LaMichael JamesRick Bowmer/Associated Press

    The modern emphasis on fast-paced offenses is a continuation of what Chip Kelly embraced at Oregon.

    In his second year, the Ducks led the nation in both points (47.0) and yards (532.2). They leaned on running back LaMichael Jameswho finished third in Heisman Trophy votingto propel a dynamic attack that rushed for 289.2 yards per game.

    James landed the headlines, but Darron Thomas was an ideal quarterback for Kelly's style. He threw for 2,863 yards and 30 touchdowns while adding 486 yards and five scores on the ground.

    Oregon put together an undefeated regular season and advanced to the BCS National Championship Game. The Ducks lost 22-19 to a Cam Newton-led offense that we'll discuss soon.

8. Alabama Crimson Tide (2020)

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    Mac Jones and Najee Harris
    Mac Jones and Najee HarrisRoger Steinman/Associated Press

    Nobody could stop Alabama's offense in 2020.

    The unit featured five first-team AP All-America choices, including Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith. Mac Jones threw for 11.2 yards per attemptthe fifth-highest mark since 1956and 41 touchdowns to just four interceptions. Najee Harris ran for 1,466 yards, caught 43 passes for 425 yards and scored 30 times.

    The Tide accomplished all this despite losing star wideout Jaylen Waddle to an ankle injury in October. This offense, which gained a sizzling 7.8 yards per play, could've been even better.

    Alabama racked up 48.5 points per game, scoring 52 in both the SEC Championship Game and the national title game for a 13-0 year.

7. Florida State Seminoles (2013)

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    Jameis Winston
    Jameis WinstonMike Stewart/Associated Press

    Similar to 2001 Miami, Florida State had a spectacular defense in 2013. However, it shouldn't take away from the offense's brilliance.

    Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston threw for 4,057 yards and 40 touchdowns, and the Seminoles nearly had three 1,000-yard receivers. Rashad Greene and Kelvin Benjamin eclipsed the mark, and Kenny Shaw finished just shy at 933.

    FSU also boasted a backfield of Devonta Freeman (1,016 yards, 14 TD), Karlos Williams (730, 11) and James Wilder Jr. (563, eight). The incredible balance guided the 'Noles to 7.7 yards per snap, 51.6 points per game and a then-FBS record of 723 total points.

    Winston capped the 14-0 season with a last-minute touchdown pass to Benjamin against Auburn to win the BCS title game.

6. Auburn Tigers (2010)

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    Cam Newton
    Cam NewtonPhelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Welcome to the one-man show.

    Cam Newton assembled the greatest individual season in college football history. The future NFL standout threw for 2,854 yards (at 10.2 per attempt) and 30 touchdowns while running for 1,473 yards and 20 more scores and even catching one touchdown. Unsurprisingly, Newton won the Heisman Trophy.

    The most amazing fact is his supporting cast never recorded a yard in the NFL. Yet this offense averaged 7.4 yards per play and 41.2 points per game, tearing through a schedule that included seven year-end Top 25 opponents.

    Michael Dyer's iconic not-actually-tackled 37-yard run keyed Auburn's 22-19 win over Oregon in the BCS championship game.

    Then Newton headed to the Carolina Panthers as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft.

5. Florida Gators (2008)

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    Percy Harvin and Tim Tebow
    Percy Harvin and Tim TebowMark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Let's start with the controversial part: Florida beat Oklahomahighlighted nextto win the national title. The one-game sample favored the Gators, and that mattered most to crown a champion. But they trailed slightly in the full-season outlook.

    However, being the fifth-greatest offense since 2000 is no slight to Tim Tebow and this powerful unit.

    Tebow totaled 3,419 yards and accounted for 42 touchdowns a year after winning the Heisman Trophy, guiding UF to a scorching 43.6 points per game against a rigorous schedule. Florida toppled six Top 25 teams, including No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Oklahoma in the last two contests.

    Along with Tebow, three playersPercy Harvin, Chris Rainey and Jeff Dempsrushed for 600-plus yards. Harvin and Louis Murphy both topped 600 receiving yards with seven scores apiece.

4. Oklahoma Sooners (2008)

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    Sam Bradford
    Sam BradfordEd Zurga/Associated Press

    The 2008 Oklahoma squad dropped two games, but ignoring this offense would be foolish considering it set a then-FBS record with 716 points for the season.

    Seriously, just look at November and December.

    Led by Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford, the Sooners put up 60-plus points in five straight games. They steamrolled second-ranked Texas Tech 65-21, rolled No. 11 Oklahoma State 61-41 and crushed No. 19 Missouri 62-21 for the Big 12 championship.

    Bradford posted 4,720 yards and 50 touchdowns, and OU averaged a nation-leading 51.1 points. Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray both ran for 1,000-plus yards, and five receivers tallied at least 500 yards with Juaquin Iglesias (1,150) leading the way.

3. Texas Longhorns (2005)

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    Vince Young
    Vince YoungSUE OGROCKI/Associated Press

    Maybe you feel Texas deserves a higher slot than USC, which the Longhorns defeated in the epic national championship. We wouldn't stop you from bumping Texas one place higher.

    We're splitting a single hair: Texas had slightly less superstar talent. USC placed six offensive players on AP All-America teams, and the Longhorns ended with four. But, like 2008 Florida over Oklahoma, Texas brought home the national title.

    In this season, Vince Young became the first FBS player to record 3,000 passing and 1,000 rushing yards. He propelled the Longhorns to a nation-best 50.2 points per game.

    Additionally, five players had eight-plus rushing touchdowns. Young and Ramonce Taylor led with 12 scores, followed by future NFL star Jamaal Charles (11), Henry Melton (10) and Selvin Young (eight).

    Thanks to the last of Young's 12 touchdown runs, Texas clipped USC 41-38 in the title game and finished 13-0.

2. USC Trojans (2005)

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    Reggie Bush (5) and Matt Leinart (11)
    Reggie Bush (5) and Matt Leinart (11)KEVORK DJANSEZIAN/Associated Press

    As the defending national champion, 2005 USC matched and exceeded nearly every expectation. The Trojans enjoyed an undefeated regular season, averaged 49.1 points and made the national championship. The lone blemish was the loss to Texas.

    Yes, USC wanted that title. But there is hardly any shame in building a roster that only falls to a similarly legendary offense.

    All-American linemen Taitusi Lutui and Sam Baker protected Matt Leinart, who threw for 3,815 yards and totaled 34 touchdowns. Reggie Bushthe "unofficial" Heisman Trophy winnercollected 2,218 scrimmage yards and 18 touchdowns, while LenDale White ended with 1,521 and 26 scores. Star wideout Dwayne Jarrett gathered 1,274 yards and 16 touchdowns, and Steve Smith put up 957 yards.

    Even in the national championship loss, the Trojans gained 574 yards. USC's offense was spectacular.

1. LSU Tigers (2019)

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    Joe Burrow
    Joe BurrowSue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Will there ever be a more perfect combination of talent and coaching? Perhaps. LSU set an absurdly high bar in 2019, though.

    Joe Burrow set an FBS record with 60 touchdown passes and tallied the third-most passing yards (5,671) in a season. Ja'Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson both surpassed 1,500 receiving yards with 18-plus touchdowns, and Terrace Marshall Jr. added 13 scores. Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire amassed 2,081 all-purpose yards.

    Passing game coordinator Joe Brady unlocked the Tigers' lethal offense, which scored 726 points to set another FBS record. They averaged 7.9 yards per snap while defeating seven Top 10 teams.

    After obliterating Oklahoma 63-28 in the College Football Playoff semifinals, LSU capped the 15-0 season with a 42-25 win over Clemson.