Top 10 Big East Football Teams of the BCS Era

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Athlon has ranked the best Big East teams of the BCS era

<p> Athlon has ranked the best Big East teams of the BCS era</p>

The BCS has been in place for 15 seasons and Athlon has dissected the numbers and reviewed the tapes of all six BCS conferences in order to rank the best each league has had to offer. Which Oklahoma team was the best of the decade? Which Florida team was the toughest to stop? How do you rank the Florida State teams of the late '90s? Which Miami team was the best? How about those loaded USC teams? Alabama vs. Auburn?

The debates will most assuredly rage on for decades, but here is Athlon's two cents. Here are the Top 10 Big East teams of the BCS Era (1998-present):

"First Day" indicates 1st and 2nd round NFL Draft picks
* - team played in the ACC Championship game

10. West Virginia Mountaineers, 2006 (11-2, 5-2)
Head Coach: Rich Rodriguez
Championships: Gator Bowl
Key Stats: No. 2 in nation in rushing offense (303.0 ypg), no. 3 in scoring offense (38.9 ppg), no. 5 in total offense (461.4 ypg), Steve Slaton no. 4 in nation in rushing (134.2 ypg) and no. 2 in all-purpose yards (161.9 ypg)
Award Winners: Dan Mozes (Rimington Trophy), Pat White (Big East Offensive Player of the Year, Gator Bowl co-MVP)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (1): Pat White (2nd, 2009)

These Mountaineers began the season ranked No. 5 in the AP Poll and rose as high as No. 3 as they won their first seven games handily. The stage was set for a Nov. 2 nationally televised showdown with No. 5 Louisville on the road. The Mountaineers would lose to the eventual Big East champion Cardinals 44-34 and later fall at home to South Florida 24-19. West Virginia would rebound to win its final two games, first defeating No. 13 Rutgers 41-39 in triple overtime and then beating No. 25 Georgia Tech in the Gator Bowl. The Mountaineers were powered by a high-octane offense that scored 34 or more points in 11 of 13 games and was led by dual-threat quarterback Pat White and consensus All-American running back Steve Slaton.

9. Cincinnati Bearcats, 2008 (11-3, 6-1)
Head Coach: Brian Kelly
Championships: Big East
Key Stats: Led the nation in net punting (41.5 yards per punt), no. 9 in the nation in sacks (2.9 per game), Mardy Gilyard no. 11 in the nation in kickoff returns (27.6 ypr) and all-purpose yards (162.9 ypg)
Award Winners: Mardy Gilyard (Big East Special Teams Player of the Year), Brian Kelly (Big East Coach of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (1): Connor Barwin (2nd, 2009), Isaiah Pead (2nd, 2012), Derek Wolfe (2nd, 2012)

Cincinnati would rebound from an early-season beat down at No. 4 Oklahoma, 52-26, to win the Big East and earn a berth in the Orange Bowl against the ACC Champion Virginia Tech Hokies. The Hokies would hold the Bearcats to just one touchdown as Cincinnati’s season ended with a 20-7 loss on New Year’s Day.

8. Louisville Cardinals, 2006 (12-1, 6-1)
Head Coach: Bobby Petrino
Championships: Big East, Orange Bowl
Key Stats: School record 12 wins, no. 2 in the nation in total offense (475.3 ypg), no. 4 in scoring offense (37.8 ppg), no. 2 in sacks (45 total, 3.5 per game), Art Carmody no. 4 in scoring (9.5 ppg), made all 60 PATs and 21 out of 25 field goal attempts
Award Winners: Brian Brohm (Orange Bowl MVP), Art Carmody (Lou Groza Award)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (3): Amobi Okoye (1st, 2007), Brian Brohm (2nd, 2008), Eric Wood (1st, 2009)

These high-flying Cardinals’ lone blemish on the season was a three-point loss to No. 14 Rutgers on the road in November. Louisville placed seven on the first-team All Big East team including three offensive linemen and two future NFL draft picks in defensive lineman Amobi Okoye and cornerback William Gay. The offense was led by quarterback Brian Brohm, running back Kolby Smith and wide receiver Harry Douglas. The Cardinals would bounce back from the Rutgers loss and win their final four games, capped off with a 24-13 Orange Bowl victory over No. 15 Wake Forest. A week after the program’s first BCS Bowl win, head coach Bobby Petrino left to become the head coach of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.

7. West Virginia Mountaineers, 2007 (11-2, 5-2)
Head Coach: Rich Rodriguez
Championships: Big East co-champions, Fiesta Bowl
Key Stats: No. 3 in rushing offense (297.2 ypg), no. 7 in total defense (301.7 ypg)
Award Winners: Pat White (Big East Offensive Player of the Year, Fiesta Bowl Offensive MVP), Reed Williams (Fiesta Bowl Defensive MVP)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (1): Pat White (2nd, 2009)

Ranked No. 3 in the preseason, the Mountaineers went into the final game of the regular season, the 100th Backyard Brawl against Pittsburgh, as the top-ranked team in the Coaches Poll. The unranked Panthers got the best of their bitter rival, 13-9, dashing the Mountaineers’ title hopes in the process. To make matters worse, head coach Rick Rodriguez left to become Michigan’s head coach as the team prepared for its Fiesta Bowl showdown with No. 3 Oklahoma. The team would rally behind interim head coach Bill Stewart as the Mountaineers stunned the nation by dominating the Sooners 48-28. Pat White led the way with 326 total yards of offense and the Mountaineers ran roughshod over the Sooners, gaining 349 yards on the ground alone.

6. West Virginia Mountaineers, 2005 (11-1, 7-0)
Head Coach: Rich Rodriguez
Championships: Big East, Sugar Bowl
Key Stats: No. 4 in nation in rushing offense (272.4 ypg), Steve Slaton no. 14 in nation in rushing (112.8 ypg), no. 3 in scoring (19 TDs) as freshman
Award Winners: Rich Rodriguez (Big East Coach of the Year), Steve Slaton (Big East Rookie of the Year, Sugar Bowl MVP)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (1): Pat White (2nd, 2009)

In what would be the first of three straight 11-win seasons, the Mountaineers ran over and through the Big East, with their lone blemish being a 34-17 defeat to the No. 3-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies in Morgantown. A 46-44 triple overtime victory over Louisville helped West Virginia finds its stride offensively, as the Mountaineers would score 38 or more points in five of their last six games, including their season-ending 38-35 upset of No. 8 Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Steve Slaton capped off a sensational freshman season by rushing for 204 yards and three touchdowns against the Bulldogs to earn Sugar Bowl MVP honors.

5. Cincinnati Bearcats, 2009 (12-1, 7-0)
Head Coach: Brian Kelly
Championships: Big East
Key Stats: School record 12 wins, finished regular season undefeated and ranked No. 3 in BCS standings, no. 2 in nation in passing efficiency, no. 4 in scording offense (38.6 ppg)
Award Winners: Mardy Gilyard (Big East Special Teams Player of the Year), Brian Kelly (Big East Coach of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks: Isaiah Pead (2nd, 2012), Derek Wolfe (2nd, 2012)

The Bearcats unleashed their high-scoring offense on the Big East and their other opponents in 2009, scoring 41 points or more six times. They captured the Big East title and ended the regular season undefeated by coming back from 21 points down in the first half and then scoring the game-winning touchdown with just 33 second left to defeat Pittsburgh 45-44 on the road. Despite being undefeated, the Bearcats were left out of the BCS National Championship game and instead were sent to the Sugar Bowl to face the Florida Gators. They would do so without head coach Brian Kelly, however, as he left to become Notre Dame’s head coach prior to the bowl game, which Cincinnati would lose 51-24 to the Gators.

2009 Schedule:

Sept. 7: Cincinnati 47, Rutgers 15 (Piscataway, NJ)
Sept. 12: Cincinnati 70, Southeast Missouri State 3 (Cincinnati, OH)
Sept. 19: Cincinnati 28, Oregon State 18 (Corvallis, OR)
Sept. 26: Cincinnati 28, Fresno State 20 (Cincinnati, OH)
Oct. 3: Cincinnati 37, Miami (Ohio) 13 (Oxford, OH)
Oct. 15: Cincinnati 34, (#21) South Florida 17 (Tampa, FL)
Oct. 24: Cincinnati 41, Louisville 10 (Cincinnati, OH)
Oct. 31: Cincinnati 28, Syracuse 7 (Syracuse, NY)
Nov. 7: Cincinnati 47, Connecticut 45 (Cincinnati, OH)
Nov. 13: Cincinnati 24, (#25) West Virginia 21 (Cincinnati, OH)
Nov. 27: Cincinnati 49, Illinois 36 (Cincinnati, OH)
Dec. 5: Cincinnati 45, (#15) Pittsburgh 44 (Pittsburgh, PA)
Jan. 1: (#5) Florida 51, Cincinnati 24 (Sugar Bowl)

4. Virginia Tech Hokies, 1999 (11-1, 7-0)
Head Coach: Frank Beamer
Championships: Big East
Key Stats: No. 1 in nation in scoring offense (41.4 ppg) and scoring defense (10.5 ppg) in regular season; Michael Vick led the nation in passing efficiency as a freshman
Award Winners: Frank Beamer (Paul “Bear” Bryant Award, Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year), Corey Moore (Big East Defensive Player of the Year, Lombardi Award, Nagurski Award), Michael Vick (Big East Offensive Player of the Year, Big East Rookie of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (4): Michael Vick (1st, 2001), Ike Charlton (2nd, 2000), Andre Davis (2nd, 2002), John Engleberger (2nd, 2000)

Led by freshman quarterback Michael Vick and a stingy defense headlined by unanimous All-American defensive end Corey Moore, the Virginia Tech Hokies went through the regular season unblemished and pretty much unchallenged as their closest margin of victory was two points on the road against West Virginia. Pitted against the top-ranked Florida State Seminoles in the Sugar Bowl, the Hokies held onto a one-point lead at the end of the third quarter. The Seminoles would outscore the Hokies 18-0 in the final quarter, putting an end to their national championship dreams.

1999 Schedule:

Sept. 4: Virginia Tech 47, James Madison 0 (Blacksburg, VA)
Sept. 11: Virginia Tech 31, UAB 10 (Blacksburg, VA)
Sept. 23: Virginia Tech 31, Clemson 11 (Blacksburg, VA)
Oct. 2: Virginia Tech 31, (#24) Virginia 7 (Charlottesville, VA)
Oct. 9: Virginia Tech 58, Rutgers 20 (Piscataway, NJ)
Oct. 16: Virginia Tech 62, (#16) Syracuse 0 (Blacksburg, VA)
Oct. 30: Virginia Tech 30, Pittsburgh 17 (Pittsburgh, PA)
Nov. 6: Virginia Tech 22, West Virginia 20 (Morgantown, WV)
Nov. 13: Virginia Tech 43, (#19) Miami (Fla.) 10 (Blacksburg, VA)
Nov. 20: Virginia Tech 62, Temple 7 (Philadelphia, PA)
Nov. 26: Virginia Tech 38, Boston College 14 (Blacksburgh, VA)
Jan. 4: (#1) Florida State 46, Virginia Tech 29 (Sugar Bowl)

3. Miami Hurricanes, 2000 (11-1, 7-0)
Head Coach: Butch Davis
Championships: Big East, Sugar Bowl
Key Stats: No. 2 in nation in scoring offense (42.6 ppg) and no. 5 in scoring defense (15.5 ppg) through regular season
Award Winners: Ken Dorsey (Sugar Bowl MVP), Dan Morgan (Big East Defensive Player of the Year, Bednarik Award, Butkus Award, Nagurski Award), Santana Moss (co-Big East Offensive Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (20): Phillip Buchanon (1st, 2002), Vernon Carey (1st, 2004), Andre Johnson (1st, 2003), Damione Lewis (1st, 2001), Jerome McDougle (1st, 2003), Willis McGahee (1st, 2003), Bryant McKinnie (1st, 2002), Dan Morgan (1st, 2001), Santana Moss (1st, 2001), Ed Reed (1st, 2002), Antrel Rolle (1st, 2005), Mike Rumph (1st, 2002), Jeremy Shockey (1st, 2002), Sean Taylor (1st, 2004), Jonathan Vilma (1st, 2004), Reggie Wayne (1st, 2001), Vince Wilfork (1st, 2004), D.J. Williams (1st, 2004), Kellen Winslow (1st, 2004), Clinton Portis (2nd, 2002)

This is the team that laid the groundwork for the 2001 national championship as the roster featured five All-Americans, 12 first-team All Big East selections and 20 future first- or second-round NFL draft picks. Despite beating then No. 1-ranked Florida State earlier in the season and being ranked higher in the polls, the Hurricanes were prevented a chance to vie for the national championship. Instead, they went to the Sugar Bowl and took their frustrations out on another in-state rival, defeating Florida 37-20 and finishing the season ranked No. 2. That victory also was the last for Butch Davis as a collegiate coach, as he left Miami to become the head coach of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns.

2000 Schedule:

Aug. 31: Miami (Fla.) 61, McNeese State 14 (Miami, FL)
Sept. 9: (#15) Washington 34, Miami (Fla.) 29 (Seattle, WA)
Sept. 23: Miami (Fla.) 47, West Virginia 10 (Morgantown, WV)
Sept. 30: Miami (Fla.) 64, Rutgers 6 (Piscataway, NJ)
Oct. 7: Miami (Fla.) 27, (#1) Florida State 24 (Miami, FL)
Oct. 21: Miami (Fla.) 45, Temple 17 (Philadelphia, PA)
Oct. 28: Miami (Fla.) 42, Louisiana Tech 31 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 4: Miami (Fla.) 41, (#2) Virginia Tech 21 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 11: Miami (Fla.) 35, Pittsburgh 7 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 18: Miami (Fla.) 26, Syracuse 0 (Syracuse, NY)
Nov. 25: Miami (Fla.) 52, Boston College 6 (Miami, FL)
Jan. 2: Miami (Fla.) 37, (#7) Florida 20 (Sugar Bowl)

2. Miami Hurricanes, 2002 (12-1, 7-0)
Head Coach: Larry Coker
Championships: Big East
Key Stats: No. 1 pass defense (119.7 pg) in nation; Willis McGahee no. 4 rusher (134.9 ypg), no. 2 scorer (28 TDs) in nation
Award Winners: Ken Dorsey (co-Big East Offensive Player of the Year), Willis McGahee (co-Big East Offensive Player of the Year), Brett Romberg (Rimington Trophy)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (15): Vernon Carey (1st, 2004), Kelly Jennings (1st, 2006), Andre Johnson (1st, 2003), William Joseph (1st, 2003), Jerome McDougle (1st, 2003), Willis McGahee (1st, 2003), Antrel Rolle (1st, 2005), Sean Taylor (1st, 2004), Jonathan Vilma (1st, 2004), Vince Wilfork (1st, 2004), D.J. Williams (1st, 2004), Kellen Winslow (1st, 2004), Rocky McIntosh (2nd, 2006), Sinorice Moss (2nd, 2006), Roscoe Parrish (2nd, 2005)

This team lived up to its billing as defending national champions as it started the season ranked No. 1 and maintained that ranking until the final game. Thirteen Hurricanes were named first-team All Big-East with running back Willis McGahee and center Brett Romberg earning consensus All-American honors. The lone blemish on their record came in the BCS National Championship Game as the ‘Canes fell in two overtimes to Ohio State, ending their reign as national champions and 34-game winning streak.

2002 Schedule:

Aug. 31: Miami (Fla.) 63, Florida A&M 17 (Miami, FL)
Sept. 7: Miami (Fla.) 41, (#6) Florida 16 (Gainesville, FL)
Sept. 14: Miami (Fla.) 44, Temple 21 (Philadelphia, PA)
Sept. 21: Miami (Fla.) 38, Boston College 6 (Miami, FL)
Oct. 5: Miami (Fla.) 48, Connecticut 14 (Miami, FL)
Oct. 12: Miami (Fla.) 28, (#9) Florida State (Miami, FL)
Oct. 26: Miami (Fla.) 40, West Virginia 23 (Morgantown, WV)
Nov. 2: Miami (Fla.) 42, Rutgers 17 (Piscataway, NJ)
Nov. 9: Miami (Fla.) 26, Tennessee 3 (Knoxville, TN)
Nov. 21: Miami (Fla.) 28, Pittsburgh 21 (Miami FL)
Nov. 30: Miami (Fla.) 49, Syracuse 7 (Syracuse, NY)
Dec. 7: Miami (Fla.) 56, Virginia Tech 45 (Miami, FL)
Jan. 3: (#2) Ohio State 31, Miami (Fla.) 24 (2OT) (BCS National Championship)

1. Miami Hurricanes, 2001 (12-0, 7-0)
Head Coach: Larry Coker
Championships: Big East, Rose Bowl, National
Key Stats: No. 3 in nation in scoring offense (42.7 ppg), no. 1 in scoring defense (9.8 ppg); average margin of victory 33.2 points per game
Award Winners: Larry Coker (Paul “Bear” Bryant Award), Ken Dorsey (co-Big East Offensive Player of the Year, Maxwell Award, Rose Bowl co-MVP), Andre Johnson (Rose Bowl co-MVP), Bryant McKinnie (Outland Trophy), Ed Reed (co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year)
“First Day” NFL Draft Picks (17): Phillip Buchanon (1st, 2002), Vernon Carey (1st, 2004), Andre Johnson (1st, 2003), William Joseph (1st, 2003), Jerome McDougle (1st, 2003), Willis McGahee (1st, 2003), Bryant McKinnie (1st, 2002), Ed Reed (1st, 2002), Antrel Rolle (1st, 2005), Mike Rumph (1st, 2002), Jeremy Shockey (1st, 2002), Sean Taylor (1st, 2004), Jonathan Vilma (1st, 2004), Vince Wilfork (1st, 2004), D.J. Williams (1st, 2004), Kellen Winslow (1st, 2004), Clinton Portis (2nd, 2002)

Simply put, this team was loaded and is viewed by many as one of the best ever in college football history. With a roster featuring six first-team All-Americans and 13 first-team All-Big East selections, not to mention 32 future NFL draft picks, these Hurricanes dominated on both sides of the ball and steamrolled their competition from start to finish. They started things off by going to Happy Valley and dominating Penn State 33-7, which tied the record for the Nittany Lions’ worst home loss under Joe Paterno. Later on, the ‘Canes defeated No. 14 Syracuse and No. 12 Washington in consecutive weeks at the Orange Bowl with a combined score of 124-7, which set the NCAA record for largest margin of victory over consecutive ranked opponents. They capped things off by dismantling the No. 4 Nebraska Cornhuskers 37-14 in the Rose Bowl, in a game where they held a 34-0 lead in the first half.

2001 Schedule:

Sept. 1: Miami (Fla.) 33, Penn State 7 (State College, PA)
Sept. 8: Miami (Fla.) 61, Rutgers 0 (Miami, FL)
Sept. 27: Miami (Fla.) 43, Pittsburgh 21 (Pittsburgh, PA)
Oct. 6: Miami (Fla.) 38, Troy 7 (Miami, FL)
Oct. 13: Miami (Fla.) 49, (#14) Florida State 27 (Tallahassee, FL)
Oct. 25: Miami (Fla.) 45, West Virginia 3 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 3: Miami (Fla.) 38, Temple 0 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 10: Miami (Fla.) 18, Boston College 7 (Chestnut Hill, MA)
Nov. 17: Miami (Fla.) 59, (#14) Syracuse 0 (Miami, FL)
Nov. 24: Miami (Fla.) 65, (#12) Washington 7 (Miami, FL)
Dec. 1: Miami (Fla.) 26, (#14) Virginia Tech 24 (Blacksburg, VA)
Jan. 3: Miami (Fla.) 37, (#4) Nebraska 14 (Rose Bowl)


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