Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Greatest College Football Teams of All-Time, per a Software Program

Here you go. Billingley's ratings are one of the ones used by the BCS, so it comes in with that piece of credibility...or not. A few observations:

1. Tennessee '98 is the second best team of all-time, which indicates that the ratings clearly can't take into account things like "beat Florida despite being badly outplayed" or "beat Arkansas thanks to an unforced fumble when Arkansas was running out the clock." Then again, Billingsley acknowledges that these aren't necessarily the best teams, but are rather the teams that had the best seasons, which is a refreshing piece of objective analysis in a world of people like me who have imperfect mental images of each team and use them to make judgments. As hard as it is for me to admit, Nebraska '97's merit is not solely based on the images of: (1) Shevin Wiggins kicking a ball to Matt Davison; and (2) Scott Frost crying and moaning that the Huskers deserved the national title after Tennessee laid down and died for them.

2. Speaking of 1997, it was one of the two best years for college football in terms of the number of quality teams at the top, according to Billingley's rankings. '97 is joined by 1973 as the only two seasons to place four teams in the top 100. '73 places six teams in the top 200, joined only by '72 in placing that many. That era seems to be the nadir for parity, as certain teams all dominated their regions, although it must have made for some interesting debate. It's hard to imagine how our hyper-saturated media culture would have reacted to a year like 1973 that featured unbeaten Notre Dame edging unbeaten Alabama in the Sugar Bowl in a classic, Penn State and Ohio State going unbeaten through the bowls with the former beating LSU in the Orange Bowl and the latter thrashing Southern Cal in the Rose, and Michigan and Oklahoma going unbeaten and not getting to play in bowls. Corso and Herbstreit would have choked one another on the set while Chris Fowler giggled with glee. Woody Paige and Skip Bayless would have gotten so heated about it that they would have spontaneously combusted as a champagne supernova in the sky. Heismanpundit would have blamed Bear Bryant's outdated wishbone offense for the loss. And everybody would have complained that Notre Dame gets all the breaks, as they finished #1 over a number of other unbeaten teams.

3. Which of Alabama's 12* national champions ranked the highest? The most recent one. Somehow, I can't get my head around the notion that Gene Stallings produced a better season than any of Bear Bryant's, but a function of modern schedules is that they allow a great team to play more quality opponents than the old ones did. Speaking of Stallings, his '91 and '94 teams also make the top 200, so maybe we need to re-evaluate just how great Bama was for an extended period of time...or even Bill Curry's merits since he recruited most of that team that went 45-5-1 over a four-year stretch.

4. Speaking of great four-year stretches, Georgia's '82, '83, and '80 teams all make the list, interestingly in that order. The '82 Georgia team is listed as the best Georgia team of all time. Damn you, Todd Blackledge. It's interesting to me that the golden age of Georgia football ended as the golden age of Auburn football began. Three of Dye's Tigers make the list: '83, '87, and '89 (and for my money, '88 Auburn was better than all three, mainly because I have a soft spot in my heart for teams with great defenses and little offense). Auburn's golden age was then followed by Bama's great stretch, which was in turn followed by Florida's stretch from '95 to '97 in which each of their teams made the top 80 of the list (and the '93, '94 and '98 teams were very good, as well).


Anonymous said...

This just makes you wish that somehow Penn State and Nebraska could have teed of in '94. Two all time top 20 teams.

By the way, ESPN has a special in which the 2005 SC team is compared to these and Herbie and May say that team could have beaten all of them- combined

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that the 2002 Dawgs aren't on the list. That team was a Terrance Edwards drop from playing (and in my opinion winning) a National Championship. Best UGA team I have every seen and I have gone to UGA games since '78.

Michael said...

Penn State-Nebraska '94 and Michigan-Nebraska '97 both would have been great games. Thanks to the Big Ten, they never happened, although in the Big Ten's defense, they (and the Pac Ten) were only a couple years slower in getting on the BCS bandwagon than the SEC and Big Eight were.

I was also interested to see that the '02 Dawgs weren't on the list, although the SEC did not have that many outstanding teams in 2002, so their schedule might not have been enough to get them into the top 200. Alabama and Auburn were quite good, but Florida and Tennessee were both down. Keep in mind three things:

1. If Billinglsey takes margin of victory into account, that Georgia team had some close shaves against some average opponents (such as the two teams from South Carolina).

2. If Edwards makes the catch against UF, he probably would have been tackled because the ball was underthrown. Georgia would have had the ball in Florida territory down seven, so even if they do score, that only ties the game and forces OT.

3. If Georgia did go unbeaten, there is a strong chance they would have been frozen out of the Fiesta by Miami and Ohio State. UGA and OSU would have been very close in poll and computer ratings.

Reed4AU said...

I have almost no problems with this list. However, it was done with computers and computers only deal with numbers. The first 10 or so are fine and it would be hard to argue with them.

My problem deals with having teams like the 1952 GT and 1945 Army in the top 20. C'mon!!!! I realize those were the best teams of their time, but they couldn't even beat a 7-4 SEC team from the modern day. I know it's hard to measure such a thing, but it's a fact. I would just like people to think about it before they say a 1932 USC team was one of the best of all time when they would lose every game in the PAC-10 today.

My point is: Say best of an era, not best of all time. Although i'm sure teams from the 60's couldn't compete today, there certainly were players from that era that could play today and even be dominate. However, there's not one player from that 1932 team who could even make the practice squad for freakin Rutgers.

Anonymous said...

Alright folks....this is a no brainer here! The 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers would have wiped the field with most of the teams above with the exception of a couple...just like they did in '95 with 5 other top ten programs...and in the age when the "fun and gun" Spurier offense was unstoppable too! Just check their stats they speak for themselves!! said...

Pretty effective info, thanks so much for this article.