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What are the nation's greatest non-BCS offenses of the modern era?
The BCS recently wrapped up its 15th season of action and Athlon Sports is continuing its series of BCS rankings. We ranked the best performances of each BCS bowl game and we ranked the best teams of each BCS conference. Now, we break down the top offensive units of the BCS era (1998-present).
Statistics, awards, championships and NFL talent were all considered and evaluated in order to label the Top 12 offenses of the BCS era. Only teams from "non-BCS" conferences were considered. For BCS conference offenses, check out our rankings here.
1. Houston Cougars, 2011 (13-1)
Rushing Offense: 149.0 ypg (68th)
Passing Offense: 450.1 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 599.1 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 49.3 ppg (1st)
In 2011, Case Keenum led the nation in total offense (404.7 ypg) and finished fourth nationally in passing efficiency. This team topped 50 points six times and topped 70 twice en route to a 12-0 regular season. This team was fourth nationally in turnover margin due in large part to only 15 turnovers by the offense (7th nationally). Receivers Patrick Edwards and Justin Johnson finished 1-2 in receiving yards per game in C-USA and three of the top five C-USA pass-catchers (by receptions) came from Houston. Edwards also led the league in all-purpose running (140.6 ypg). Only a conference title game loss to Southern Miss cost Houston a perfect season and potential BCS bowl berth. This squad posted non-conference wins over UCLA, Penn State and Louisiana Tech.
2. Houston Cougars, 2009 (10-4)
Rushing Offense: 129.6 ypg (83rd)
Passing Offense: 433.7 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 563.4 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 42.2 ppg (1st)
In 2009, Case Keenum led the nation in total offense (416.4 ypg) and finished sixth nationally in passing efficiency. Three receivers finished in the top six in receptions in C-USA, and three of the top eight yardage totals in C-USA came from James Cleveland, Tyron Carrier and Patrick Edwards. Sprinkle in talented and versatile backs Bryce Beall and Charles Sims — who combined for 373 touches, 2,438 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns — and you have the second-best non-BCS offense in college football. This unit was surpassed only by another Keenum-led offense, the one that would come two seasons after these Cougars.
3. Louisville Cardinals, 2004 (11-1)
Rushing Offense: 250.4 ypg (8th)
Passing Offense: 288.6 ypg (9th)
Total Offense: 539.0 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 49.8 ppg (1st)
Stefan Lefors led the nation in passing efficiency at 181.74 after completing an astonishing 73.5 percent of his passes with 20 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Eric Shelton (146 att., 938 yards, 20 TD), Michael Bush (132 att., 734 yards, 7 TD) and Lionel Gates (76 att., 373 yards, 7 TD) led one of the most powerful rushing attacks in C-USA history. This team crushed North Carolina in Chapel Hill (34-0), topped a top 10 Boise State in the Liberty Bowl 44-40 and its only loss came against No. 3 Miami 41-38 on the road.
4. BYU Cougars, 2001 (12-2)
Rushing Offense: 217.9 ypg (13th)
Passing Offense: 325.0 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 542.9 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 46.8 ppg (1st)
This was the first team to go unbeaten in Mountain West play, led by quarterback Brandon Doman (3,542 yards, 33 TD, 8 INT, 456 rush yards, 8 TD) and running back Luke Staley (1,582 yards, 28 TD). Staley finished third in the nation in rushing and led the country in scoring. The Cougars' only two losses came after Staley broke his leg against Mississippi State.
5. Nevada Wolfpack, 2010 (13-1)
Rushing Offense: 292.2 ypg (3rd)
Passing Offense: 226.9 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 519.1 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 41.0 ppg (1st)
One of the most powerful rushing attacks ever seen featured dynamic quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who rushed for 1,206 yards (6.9 ypc) and 20 touchdowns, and tailback Vai Taua, who rushed for 1,610 yards (5.7 ypc) and 19 touchdowns. This team tied the 1986 13-1 team as the winningest Wolfpack team in program history and scored more points (574) than any other Nevada team. It also topped the 2010 Boise State Broncos (ranked No. 6 on this list) by three points in overtime.
6. Boise State Broncos, 2010 (12-1)
Rushing Offense: 200.2 ypg (21st)
Passing Offense: 321.1 ypg (6th)
Total Offense: 521.3 ypg (2nd)
Scoring Offense: 45.1 ppg (2nd)
The team with the most NFL talent on this list is undoubtedly the 2010 Broncos. Kellen Moore led the nation in passing efficiency (182.63) while using a plethora of future NFL players: Titus Young, Austin Pettis, Tyler Shoemaker, Doug Martin and Jeremy Avery. And if it wasn't for one missed field goal against Nevada, this team might have played for the national championship.
7. Tulsa Golden Hurricane, 2007 (10-4)
Rushing Offense: 172.9 ypg (41st)
Passing Offense: 371.0 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 543.9 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 41.1 ppg (1st)
Paul Smith put together one of the greatest statistical seasons in NCAA history — and fantasy owners will never forget it. He threw for 5,065 yards and 47 touchdowns in the air, while rushing for 13 more touchdowns and 119 yards on the ground. Tarrion Adams, Trae Johnson, Charles Clay, Jamad Williams and Jesse Meyer join Smith to make this one of the great offenses in history.
8. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, 2012 (9-3)
Rushing Offense: 227.2 (17th)
Passing Offense: 350.8 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 577.9 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 51.5 ppg (1st)
Quarterback Colby Cameron set the NCAA record for consecutive passes (444) without an interception while leading one of the best offenses in NCAA history. Wins over Illinois and Virginia weren't as impressive as the Big Ten and ACC conference affiliations attached to them but the Bulldogs took Texas A&M to the wire, losing 59-57. If not for two late losses — in which they scored 84 points — this team could be ranked higher. Wideout Quinton Patton led the league in receptions per game (8.7 pg) and yards (116 ypg) while Cameron led the league in total offense (360.3 ypg).
9. Hawaii Warriors, 2006 (11-3)
Rushing Offense: 117.9 ypg (82nd)
Passing Offense: 441.3 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 559.2 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 46.9 ppg (1st)
One of two fantastic Hawaii teams featured the most efficient season by a quarterback in NCAA history. Colt Brennan (186.00) led the nation in total offense (422.5 ypg), throwing for 5,549 yards and an NCAA-record 58 touchdown passes. He rushed for another five scores and 366 yards. Davone Bess, Nate Ilaoa, Jason Rivers, Ryan Grice-Mullen, Ian Sample and Ross Dickerson gave him plenty of weapons — all of whom caught at least 46 passes and produced at least 690 yards receiving.
10. Boise State Broncos, 2006 (13-0)
Rushing Offense: 214.2 ypg (6th)
Passing Offense: 206.5 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 420.6 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 39.7 ppg (1st)
You could make a case for both the 2002 and '04 teams for this list as well, but the undefeated '06 Broncos will easily be the most memorable. Quarterback Jared Zabransky finished sixth nationally in passing efficiency (162.57), while tailback Ian Johnson finished second nationally in rushing (142.8 ypg), and his 12.7 points per game led the nation. Of course, the 43-42 overtime win over Oklahoma — complete with Statue of Liberty and marriage proposal — make this offense one of the greats of all-time.
11. Miami (Ohio) Redhawks, 2003 (13-1)
Rushing Offense: 160.3 ypg (51st)
Passing Offense: 340.9 ypg (4th)
Total Offense: 501.1 ypg (2nd)
Scoring Offense: 43.0 ppg (1st)
Ben Roethlisberger's final year in Oxford, Ohio, was a magical one for Redhawks fans. Big Ben threw for 4,486 yards and 37 touchdowns (111 rush yards, 3 TDs) en route to the winningest season in program history. The 602 points the '03 outfit scored shattered the previous mark of 412 (1997).
12. Utah Utes, 2004 (12-0)
Rushing Offense: 236.1 ypg (13th)
Passing Offense: 263.7 ypg (1st)
Total Offense: 499.8 ypg (1st)
Scoring Offense: 45.3 ppg (1st)
The 2010 Ute team was a better all-around football team that defeated better competition. But the Alex Smith-led 2004 bunch was the highest-scoring team in Utah history. Smith finished No. 2 nationally in passing efficiency (176.52) and No. 5 in total offense (298.6 ypg). He was taken first overall by San Francisco and led the 49ers to a 13-3 record and the NFC Championship game in 2011. This season, he was off to a 6-2-1 start before sustaining a concussion and giving way to Colin Kaepernick.