When it comes to powerhouse teams of the BCS era, Southern California’s 2004 edition is the ultimate No. 1.
Ahead of the 2014 college football season, The Associated Press asked its panel of Top 25 voters, who are known for ranking the nation’s top teams each week, to weigh in on which team during the Bowl Championship Series era (1998-2013) was the best.
The Trojans came out on top, followed by Miami’s loaded 2001 squad and Alabama’s perfect title team in 2009.
The full list:
Southern California, 2004: The Trojans remained atop the rankings all season and rolled to a 13-0 record with a star-studded roster that included two Heisman Trophy winners in the offensive backfield — QB Matt Leinart and RB Reggie Bush. USC beat Oklahoma 55-19 in the Orange Bowl to complete its season.
Miami, 2001: A team stocked with future NFL talent went 12-0 with an average victory margin of 33.2 points, including a 37-14 Rose Bowl rout of Nebraska. Miami’s typical starting lineup that season featured 10 first-round draft picks: CB Phillip Buchanon, WR Andre Johnson, DT William Joseph, DE Jerome McDougle, OT Bryant McKinnie, S Ed Reed, CB Mike Rumph, TE Jeremy Shockey, LB Jonathan Vilma and LB D.J. Williams.
Alabama, 2009: The Crimson Tide went 14-0 with a team that featured a record six Associated Press first-team All-Americans. The list of All-Americans included Heisman Trophy-winning running back Mark Ingram. The Tide closed the season by whipping defending national champion Florida 32-13 for the SEC title and defeating Texas 37-21 in the BCS championship game.
Texas, 2005: Quarterback Vince Young, the Heisman Trophy runner-up, capped the Longhorns’ undefeated season by throwing for 267 yards and rushing for 200 more in a dramatic 41-38 Rose Bowl victory over Southern California. Texas capped a perfect season and the victory kept USC from winning a third straight AP national title.
Oklahoma, 2000: Oklahoma relied on a punishing defense and the quarterback play of Heisman Trophy runner-up Josh Heupel to go unbeaten. The Sooners clinched the national title by shutting down a potent Florida State offense featuring Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke in a 13-2 Orange Bowl victory over the Seminoles.
Florida State, 2013: Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston capped the Seminoles’ undefeated season by rallying them from a 21-3 deficit in a 34-31 BCS championship game victory over Auburn. The title game was one of few close calls for the Seminoles, whose average margin of victory was 39.5 points.
Florida, 2008: Urban Meyer captured his second title in three years with Tim Tebow at the controls. The Gators sidestepped a Game 4 loss to Mississippi — at home, no less — and averaged almost 50 points a game over the next nine starts before dispatching top-ranked Oklahoma 24-14 at the Orange Bowl.
Florida, 2006: Setting a template they would follow two years later, the Gators came into the title game an underdog and ranked No. 2 to a powerhouse. After Ohio State’s Ted Ginn Jr. returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, Meyer and his swarming defense, and an offense led by H-back Percy Harvin and the two-headed QB tandem of Chris Leak and Tebow rolled to a 41-14 laugher.
Auburn, 2010: Perhaps the Tigers’ biggest victory was just keeping Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton eligible amid allegations that he had accepted improper inducements to come to Auburn. Newton guided the Tigers on a game-winning that ended with Wes Byrum’s title-clinching FG with no time left for a 22-19 win over Oregon.