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Simulated Scrimmages: 2001 vs 2002

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Who would prevail if the 2001 Canes squared off with the 2002 squad?

Ken Dorsey attempts to pass the ball

It’s common knowledge that the 2001 Miami Hurricanes are the greatest college football team of all time. Players like Ed Reed, Clinton Portis, Andre Johnson and Jon Vilma filled the ranks of a team loaded with NFL talent from head to toe. It’s not quite hyperbole to say that the 2001 Canes were the 32nd NFL team that year (no Houston Texans in 2001).

2002’s team doesn’t need much introduction either. Miami continued their winning streak from the year previously and, though not as dominant as 2001, still managed to handle teams week in and week out on their way to 12 wins. We all know how it ended but there’s no question that 2002 should’ve been a national champion team like 2001 was.

All this being said, who was better? Does 2002 get overlooked because of the Fiesta Bowl? Would the conversation be closer if the refs never call pass interference in that game? Is 2001’s team just too overwhelmingly dominant? Well there’s only one way to find out; 2001’s team will have to play 2002’s.

Thanks to the good folks at WhatIfSports.com, historical teams can play each other in a simulated game complete with a box score and stats. 50 simulated games were played between the 2001 and 2002 Canes, with the scores and margin of victory being charted for each one. Each game was played in 65 degree weather at a neutral site. The results were surprising to me but to those of you fortunate enough to remember watching these teams in person, maybe not as much.

The 2001 team absolutely crushed the team that would succeed them. The average final score between the two was 38-26, a two touchdown differential. What a difference one year makes. This accounts for some really ugly outcomes like 60-7 and 48-0 where the loaded ’01 team beat up on ’02 like it was a FCS unit.

This is what dominance looks like.

In the games that 2002 did manage to win, just 14 out of 50, their margin of victory was a little less, with these games averaging out to a 36-25 final score. Even with an 11 point margin of victory for ’02, many of their victories were “close.” Six of their 14 wins were within one score, 43% of their victories, compared to just 20% of these same type of wins accounting for 2001’s win total.

When you take out the games that 2002 managed to win, the point differential gets even uglier. For all of 2001’s victories the average score was 42-21. That’s right, 2001 was doubling up on a team that would finish second in the nation and could’ve very well have been the national champions.

This barnburner featured eight lead changes and three overtimes!

The moral of this story is very simple; don’t mess with the 2001 Miami Hurricanes. Their offense was potent; Dorsey, Portis, Johnson and Shockey leading to way and able to put up 30 points on a bad day. Their defense smothered you. William Joseph, Vince Wilfork and D.J. Williams destroyed the running game while Reed, Phillip Buchanon and Mike Rumph shut down the passing game. They were a perfect team. They put up video game numbers on offense and made their opponent look like boys among the men of the 2001 team. 2001 just has the swagger that no one could ever hope to match. Not even 2002.