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ESPN Just Disrespected the 01 Canes

The greatest football team ever was ranked 3rd in ESPN’s list of the best teams from the past 20 years

reed, rix, buchannan

On Thursday morning, the ESPN staff released a list of the best teams of the past 20 years. Naturally I clicked to see what the nice folks over there had to say about the best team of the last 20 years (and ALL TIME) the 2001 Miami Hurricanes. Much to my chagrin, I learned that the 01 Canes had not been ranked first, OR SECOND. How someone could find not one, but TWO teams since 1998 that are better than that team left me completely dumbfounded (and borderline offended). Apparently 38 future draft picks, 17 future first round picks, and an average margin of victory of 32 points isn’t enough (all of these stats were cited by ESPN, so they are aware). Here was their justification for not putting the greatest team in college football history in the top spot:

If there’s one knock, it’s the schedule. Miami played in the Big East at the time, so its average opponent rank is not as good as ‘08 Florida or ‘05 Texas. The Hurricanes also had to survive scares late in the season against Boston College and Virginia Tech, and Nebraska was an inferior opponent in the championship game. That shouldn’t detract from what this team accomplished. - Andrea Adelson, ESPN

That shouldn’t detract from what this team accomplished, but it did. Let’s look at who ESPN placed ahead of the 2001 Canes:

1. 2005 Texas Longhorns

The 2005 Longhorns are the top championship team of the past 20 years in large part because they claim the best player of the past 20 years. Quarterback Vince Young, remarkably, didn’t win the Heisman Trophy that season, but he produced one of the greatest individual seasons in recent college football history, culminating with one of the greatest individual game performances the sport has ever seen. In the 2006 Rose Bowl against heavily favored USC, Young completed 30 of 40 passes, rushed for 200 yards and delivered the game-winning play, an 8-yard touchdown dash on fourth down with 19 seconds remaining. That play defined the BCS era. And turned Young into a legend. Young wasn’t the only star for Texas, which also boasted a top-10 defense. Michael Huff was the Jim Thorpe Award winner and, like Young, became a top-10 NFL draft pick. Linemen Jonathan Scott and Rodrique Wright were consensus All-Americans, as well. The ‘05 Longhorns never lost. And saved their best for the biggest stage. -- Jake Trotter, ESPN

Yes, the 05 Longhorns played in what may be the most exciting national championship ever. And yes, the 05 USC Trojans were a much better opponent that the 01 Cornhuskers (The 04 Trojans were 5th on this list). The Longhorns did average 50 points per game, while giving up 16.3 points per game. Yes, this team did feature one of the most dominant college players ever in Vince Young. But let’s remember that the Longhorns played in the Big-12, which had 3 other teams ranked at the end of the season (20,22, and 24) but is known as a conference for its lack of defense. Comparably, the 01 Canes also had 4 ranked teams in their conference (which they were knocked for in this list) out of only 8 teams at the time. The Canes schedule that season also included games against 5 ranked opponents (1 more than the Longhorns in 05). So if the knocks on the 01 Canes are both better in comparison than the Longhorns, I’m not sure what the argument is.

#2 2008 Florida Gators

Urban Meyer has called his 2008 Gators the best to ever play the game. Meyer obviously has a bias, but he also has a legitimate point. Nineteen players from that team were eventually drafted, and Tim Tebow ranks among the greatest quarterbacks in college football history. He helped lead the Gators’ offense to 611 points, the highest scoring total in SEC history, all while playing eight of the nation’s top 30 defenses. But the offense went beyond him, with Percy Harvin, Chris Rainey, Jeff Demps, Louis Murphy, Aaron Hernandez and David Nelson making Florida virtually unstoppable. Defensively, Carlos Dunlap, Brandon Spikes and Joe Haden set the tone, giving Florida a nasty, aggressive edge. And then there’s that “The Promise” speech Tebow made after an early season loss to Ole Miss, galvanizing the team to take its play to a championship level. Tebow took over late in the win over Oklahoma at the Orange Bowl, and the Gators’ defense shut down the high-powered Sooners and Heisman winner Sam Bradford, holding them to 14 points and 363 total yards. -- Andrea Adelson, ESPN

The 08 Gators offense was one of the best in college football history. They had plenty of weapons, although I’m still convinced the Canes had more and would have been right up there stat-wise if they went pedal-to-the-metal through 4 quarters in every game. The Gators defense was stout as well, allowing 12.9 points per game. I think Urban Meyer did an outstanding job of coaching this squad, and they benefitted from the star power of Tim Tebow in these rankings. As I recall, however, the Canes were docked for playing close games against Boston College and Virginia Tech (who finished 21st and 18th in the nation respectively by the way), while Florida lost to Ole Miss during the 08 season. I’m pretty sure I would rather have 2 close victories to ranked teams on my resume than a loss. One last note, the Canes had TWICE AS MANY players drafted than the 08 Gators squad. The 01 Miami squad actually had nearly as many 1st-round picks as this Florida team had total draft picks.

As I stated previously, the 2001 Miami Hurricanes are considered by many to be the greatest college football team ever. To be ranked 3rd on a list that only includes the last 20 seasons is hard to believe. What do you think of this list? Vote in our poll below or let us know in the comments.


How did ESPN do with their best team of the last 20 years rankings?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Seems accurate.
    (33 votes)
  • 25%
    Miami should be higher, but otherwise fine
    (259 votes)
  • 71%
    I couldn’t even read past the first team.
    (725 votes)
1017 votes total Vote Now