Maybe if ESPN wasn’t so focused on pushing some sort of political agenda, they wouldn’t be prone to making asinine and boneheaded sports arguments about the best college football team of the last 20 years.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 26, 2018
Full disclosure, I’m an Arizona Wildcats fan so I really don’t have a horse in this race.
The 2005 Texas Longhorns were a very fun team with fantastic quarterback play. They also played in, arguably, the most exciting college football game of the last 20 years in the Rose Bowl game against USC.
But they are not — in any way, shape or form — the best college football team of the last two decades.
ESPN Analytics seems to rate them so highly because of some insanely lopsided scores.
The problem is, they beat up on some real tomato cans.
They beat lowly UL-Lafayette to the tune of 60-3. They notched a 62-0 road win against Baylor, though that may have well been a home game considering the interstate nature of the game. And they won their Big 12 championship game 70-3, but that came against a decidedly mediocre Colorado Buffaloes team that finished the year 7-6.
I’m also a huge Tim Tebow supporter, but the 2008 Florida Gators are not quite in the same class as the 2001 Miami Hurricanes.
The 2008 Gators were stacked with all sorts of talent, including Tebow, Percy Harvin, Carlos Dunlap, Brandon Spikes and Joe Haden.
But they also had a home loss against an unranked opponent (Ole Miss) on their record. That’s an admittedly small blemish, but when discussing all-time greats, you have no choice but to nitpick.
For what it’s worth, it would be a genuinely difficult task to differentiate the 2005 Longhorns and the 2008 Gators for the No. 2 and No. 3 spots. This article isn’t meant to bash either of those fantastic football teams.
The No. 1 college football team of the last 20 years? There’s no way it can’t be the 2001 Miami Hurricanes.
NFL-caliber talent? The 2001 Hurricanes dominate this category. For crying out loud, NFL stalwarts like Frank Gore and Willis McGahee were backups on the team. That’s to say nothing of potential Hall of Fame candidates Clinton Portis, Ed Reed and Andre Johnson.
ESPN docked the Hurricanes on their all-time list because of the strength of their schedule. Newsflash, that has literally nothing to do with the actual quality of the team itself.
Now, if the Hurricanes struggled in each and every game they played in within the relatively weaker Big East, ESPN may have a point. But the Hurricanes played in exactly one one-score game, and that was a 26-24 road win against rival No. 14-ranked Virginia Tech.
ESPN’s bungling of these rankings is the strongest evidence against sticking strictly with advanced analytics. Excluding anecdotal and circumstantial evidence is a fool’s errand, as it paints an incomplete picture.
The 2001 Miami Hurricanes are the best college football team of the last 20 years. And frankly, it’s not even close.
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