They Were a Mighty Wind

The 2001 Hurricanes were loaded with future NFL players, including Andre Johnson (5) and Jeremy Shockey.
The 2001 Hurricanes were loaded with future NFL players, including Andre Johnson (5) and Jeremy Shockey. (By Paul Sakuma -- Associated Press)
Monday, October 1, 2007

This Saturday features two battles between traditional powers (only one of which remains undefeated after a weekend in which six of the top 11 teams in the country lost), No. 9 Florida at No. 1 LSU, and No. 10 Oklahoma at No. 19 Texas. Pondering the rarefied air these schools occupy reminded us that each has won a national title since the 2000 season. For those who need a refresher, the titlists the past seven seasons have been the 2000 Oklahoma Sooners, '01 Miami Hurricanes, '02 Ohio State Buckeyes, '03 LSU Tigers (BCS) and USC Trojans (AP), '04 Trojans, '05 Texas Longhorns and '06 Florida Gators. Our question is: Of that group, which was the best of the best?

One2001 Miami Hurricanes

All of these schools on this list sent their share of players to the NFL, but the Hurricanes sent a flotilla of stars. Never mind being a pro, here are the future Pro Bowlers from that team: Jeremy Shockey, Clinton Portis, Andre Johnson, Jonathan Vilma and Ed Reed. Oh wait, those are just the future Pro Bowlers who started for that team. Honoluluans-to-be Sean Taylor and Frank Gore just couldn't crack the lineup, bless their ridiculously talented hearts. In all, 16 members of the '01 Hurricanes were drafted . . . in the first round! With the quartet of Portis, Gore, Willis McGahee and Najeh Davenport, Miami had depth at running back in the exact opposite way that Hollywood has depth at Baldwin Brother. Little wonder, then, that the 'Canes embarked on an undefeated national championship run that included the greatest whupping of consecutive ranked opponents in NCAA history (a combined 124-7 over No. 14 Syracuse and No. 12 Washington). But the greatest tribute to Miami's talent has to be the fact that Ramen-armed quarterback Ken Dorsey is still employed by the NFL simply because he rode that train to a 38-2 career record as the school's starter. In 2001, the "U" stood for U Have No Chance Against Us.

Two2004 USC Trojans

Elite Talent? Check. Dominating wins? Check. Undefeated season? Check. Payments to Reggie Bush's family by cash or check? Actually, let's go with cash here. So why do these Trojans rank below the Hurricanes? The talent wasn't quite as elite, the wins not quite as dominating (four by fewer than 10 points, compared with Miami's one), and their schedule featured two fewer ranked teams.

Three2005 Texas Longhorns

If USC returned largely the same team in 2005 and lost to Texas in the BCS title game, you may be wondering why the Longhorns aren't ranked at least second. One could argue that our crack staff was blinded by USC's collection of big, shiny names, whereas the Longhorns were seen as a team that one legendary name, Vince Young, strapped on his back. But it is also worth mentioning that the '05 Trojans, who had lost defensive stalwarts Shaun Cody, Mike Patterson and Lofa Tatupu, allowed nearly 10 points a game more than their predecessors.

Four2002 Ohio State Buckeyes

If not for that Rose Bowl between Texas and USC, plenty of people would swear that the Fiesta Bowl in which Ohio State upset Miami in double overtime was the greatest college football game they ever saw. In fact, some people still swear that, but they tend to be the kind of people who are angry that Maurice Clarett Fatheads are unavailable. We give the nod to the Buckeyes for being only one of two division 1-A squads to ever win 14 games in a season and for knocking off a sick (see above) Hurricanes program on a 34-game winning streak.

Five2006 Florida Gators

It was difficult to separate the four contenders for the last spot on this list (2000 Oklahoma, 2003 USC and LSU and 2006 Florida), so we made quality of opponent in the national championship game the determining criterion. The opponents were, in order, a Florida State team that even Bobby Bowden admitted shouldn't have been there, two-loss Michigan, an Oklahoma squad that took a much worse beating in its own conference title game, and -- ding! -- undefeated and top-ranked Ohio State. By that standard, the Gators have the other titlists running for their lives like Troy Smith just after receiving the snap.

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