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Ranking the College Football National Champions since 1998

Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State Buckeyes

Many consider the modern era of college football to be 1998-present — when the Bowl Championship Series went into effect.

Every team that wins the season’s final game is historically great in its own unique way, but trying to figure out who would win among those champs is a fun exercise.

Here is our best shot at ranking the national champions in the modern era of college football (1998-present):

1. Miami, 2001 (12-0, 7-0)

Head Coach: Larry Coker

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.

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2001 Schedule:

Sept. 1: Miami 33, Penn St 7

Sept. 8: Miami 61, Rutgers 0

Sept. 27: Miami 43, Pitt 21

Oct. 6: Miami 38, Troy 7

Oct. 13: Miami 49, (#14) Florida St 27

Oct. 25: Miami 45, W. Virginia 3

Nov. 3: Miami 38, Temple 0

Nov. 10: Miami 18, B. College 7 

Nov. 17: Miami 59, (#14) Syracuse 0

Nov. 24: Miami 65, (#12) Wash. 7

Dec. 1: Miami 26, (#14) V. Tech 24

Jan. 3: Miami 37, (#4) Nebraska 14

2. USC, 2004 (13-0, 8-0)

Head Coach: Pete Carroll

After a split national title in 2003 with LSU, the Trojans entered 2004 as the No. 1 team in the nation. The Trojans went wire to wire as the No. 1 team in the nation, claimed the Heisman Trophy and put together the most impressive national championship game in the history of the BCS. Quarterback Matt Leinart capped his Heisman campaign with 332 yards and a BCS bowl record five touchdown passes in the destruction of unbeaten No. 2 Oklahoma. The two-headed rushing attack of LenDale White and Reggie Bush made it virtually impossible to stop these Trojans. Eighteen different players from this team were selected in the first or second rounds of the NFL Draft.

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2004 Schedule:

Aug. 28: USC 24, V. Tech 13

Sept. 11: USC 49, Colorado St 0

Sept. 18: USC 42, BYU 10

Sept. 25: USC 31, Stanford 28

Oct: 9: USC 23, (#7) Cal 17

Oct. 16: USC 45, (#15) Arizona St 7

Oct. 23: USC 38, Wash. 0

Oct. 30: USC 42, Wazzu 12

Nov. 6: USC 28, Oregon St 20

Nov. 13: USC 49, Arizona 9

Nov. 27: USC 41, Notre Dame 10

Dec. 4: USC 29, UCLA 24

Jan. 4: USC 55, Oklahoma 19

3. Texas, 2005 (13-0, 8-0)

Head Coach: Mack Brown

Texas entered the season ranked No. 2 behind defending national champion USC, and that’s where the two found themselves when they met in the Rose Bowl. To get to Pasadena, Texas steamrolled the competition, averaging more than 50 points a game. Texas became the first non-conference opponent in 15 years to defeat Ohio State at home, and followed that win up a month later by dominating Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry. The Longhorns destroyed Colorado in the Big 12 Championship to set up the showdown with USC. The Rose Bowl title tilt lived up to every bit of its billing as Vince Young put on the most impressive performance in BCS title game history to capture the Longhorns’ fourth national championship in thrilling fashion. Young was one of four consensus All-Americans for this Texas team — which produced a total of 24 NFL Draft picks.

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2005 Schedule:

Sept. 3: Texas 60, La-Lafayette 3

Sept. 10: Texas 25, (#4) Ohio St 22

Sept. 17: Texas 51, Rice 10

Oct. 1: Texas 51, Missouri 20

Oct. 8: Texas 45, Okla. 12

Oct. 15: Texas 42, (#24) Colo. 17

Oct. 22: Texas 52, (#10) T. Tech 17

Oct. 29: Texas 47, Okla. St 28

Nov. 5: Texas 62, Baylor 0

Nov. 12: Texas 66, Kansas 14

Nov. 25: Texas 40, Texas A&M 29

Dec. 3: Texas 70, Colo. 3

Jan. 4: Texas 41, (#1) USC 38

4. Florida State, 2013 (14-0, 8-0)

Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher

The Noles rolled through its 2013 schedule with surprising ease, beating 13 regular season opponents by more than six touchdowns per game (42.3). Elite defensive players at every level compliment a Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback, a veteran offensive line and big-time playmakers at the skill positions. Even the special teams were elite and decorated with the Groza winner kicking field goals. This team is one of only four 14-win, unblemished BCS championship teams — and is the highest scoring team in FSU history (723, 51.6 ppg). The '13 Noles will go down as one of the most dominant, decorated and successful teams in college football history after erasing the biggest deficit in BCS title game history (18).

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2013 Schedule:

Sept 2: Florida St 41, Pitt 13

Sept. 14: Florida St 62, Nevada 7

Sept. 21: Florida St 54, Beth-Cookman 6

Sept. 28: Florida St 48, B. College 34

Oct. 5: Florida St 63, (#25) Maryland 0

Oct. 19: Florida St 51, (#3) Clemson 14

Oct. 26: Florida S 49, NC State 17 

Nov. 2: Florida St 41, (#7) Miami 14

Nov. 9: Florida St 59, W. Forest 3

Nov. 16: Florida St 59, Syracuse 3

Nov. 23: Florida St 80, Idaho 14

Nov. 30: Florida St 37, Florida 7

Dec. 7: Florida St 45, (#20) Duke 7

Jan. 6: Florida St 34, (#2) Auburn 31

5. Alabama, 2009 (14-0, 8-0)

Head Coach: Nick Saban

Led by boy genius quarterback Greg McElroy and a host of national award-winning first round NFL Draft picks, the Alabama Crimson Tide won their first national title since 1992. Nick Saban defeated five ranked opponents before taking down No. 2 Texas in the BCS National Championship game 37-21. This was the best defense in the nation, finishing second nationally in three of the four major statistical categories. Heisman winner Mark Ingram rushed 28 times for 113 yards and three scores in the tear-inducing 32-13 win over Florida in SEC title game rematch. This Bama team featured 11 first round NFL Draft picks.

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2009 Schedule:

Sept. 5: Alabama 34, (#7) V. Tech 24

Sept. 12: Alabama 40, FIU 14

Sept. 19: Alabama 53, N. Texas 7

Sept. 26: Alabama 35, Arkansas 7

Oct. 3: Alabama 38, Kentucky 20

Oct. 10: Alabama 22, (#20) Ole Miss 3

Oct. 17: Alabama 20, (#22) S. Carolina 6

Oct. 24: Alabama 12, Tennessee 10

Nov. 7: Alabama 24, (#9) LSU 15

Nov. 14: Alabama 31, Miss. St 3

Nov. 21: Alabama 45, Tenn-Chatt. 0

Nov. 27: Alabama 26, Auburn 21

Dec. 5: Alabama 32, (#1) Florida 13

Jan. 7: Alabama 37, (#2) Texas 21

6. Florida, 2008 (13-1, 7-1)

Head Coach: Urban Meyer

Tim Tebow had his Heisman Trophy (2007) and a national championship ring (2006). But when the Florida Gators lost to the Ole Miss Rebels in The Swamp on a final drive fourth-down stop, Tebow took his legendary legacy to new heights, giving one of the most famous speeches in college football history: “You will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season.” The Gators then went on to crush quality opponents Arkansas, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida State and Alabama by an average of 31.8 points per game. The win over No. 1 and unbeaten Alabama pushed the Gators into the national title game against another No. 1. The Chosen One then delivered on his promise (and halftime speech) by outlasting Oklahoma 24-14. These Gators tied the 1996 national champs as the highest-scoring team in school history (611 points).

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2008 Schedule:

Aug. 30: Florida 56, Hawaii 10

Sept. 6: Florida 26, Miami 3

Sept. 20: Florida 30, Tennessee 6

Sept. 27: Ole Miss 31, Florida 30

Oct. 4: Florida 38, Arkansas 7

Oct. 11: Florida 51, (#4) LSU 21

Oct. 25: Florida 63, Kentucky 5

Nov. 1: Florida 49, (#8) Georgia 10

Nov. 8: Florida 42, Vanderbilt 14

Nov. 15: Florida 56, (#24) S. Carolina 6

Nov. 22: Florida 70, Citadel 19

Nov. 29: Florida 45, (#23) Florida St 15

Dec. 6: Florida 31, (#1) Alabama 20

Jan. 8: Florida 24, (#2) Oklahoma 14

7. Tennessee, 1998 (13-0, 8-0)

Head Coach: Phillip Fulmer

In Year 1 A.P. (after Peyton), the Vols put together their greatest season in nearly five decades. Tee Martin and a monster backfield that included Travis Henry, Jamal Lewis, Travis Stephens and Shawn Bryson, led the Vols past six ranked opponents for Tennessee’s sixth national championship. The defense held nine of its 13 opponents to 18 points or less. Despite a BCS record 199 yards receiving (242 all-purpose yards) and the game-winning 79-yard touchdown for game MVP Peerless Price, the most important and memorable moment from the 1998 title run came late in the Arkansas game. Tennessee was all but beaten until Billy Ratliff forced guard Brandon Burlsworth into quarterback Clint Stoerner, who gently and inexplicably “placed” the football on the ground. The Vols used a Henry touchdown run in the final seconds to seal the comeback from a 21-3 deficit and the eventual national championship.

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1998 Schedule:

Sept. 5: Tennessee 34, (#17) Syracuse 33

Sept. 19: Tennessee 20, (#2) Florida 17

Sept. 26: Tennessee 42, Houston 7

Oct. 3: Tennessee 17, Auburn 9

Oct. 10: Tennessee 22, (#7) Georgia 3

Oct. 24: Tennessee 35, Alabama 18

Oct. 31: Tennessee 49, S. Carolina 14

Nov. 7: Tennessee 37, UAB 13

Nov. 14: Tennessee 28, (#10) Arkansas 24

Nov. 21: Tennessee 59, Kentucky 21

Nov. 28: Tennessee 41, Vanderbilt 0

Dec. 5: Tennessee 24, (#23) Miss. St 14

Jan. 4: Tennessee 23, (#2) Florida St 16

8. Alabama, 2011 (12-1, 7-1)

Head Coach: Nick Saban

Alabama rolled through its schedule — which included easy victories over three ranked opponents — until the "Game of the Century" on November 5 against LSU. The Tide outplayed the Tigers on offense and defense in that game, but special teams cost Saban a perfect season. After crushing rival Auburn, the Tide headed to New Orleans for a rematch with LSU. In a performance that would make the Bear weep, the Tide held the Bayou Bengals to five first downs, 92 yards of offense and no points. Alabama led the nation in every major defensive team NCAA statistic and it showed in the title game. This Crimson Tide team is the only BCS National Champion who failed to win its conference championship and the offense did not possess the same level of explosive talent on offense (and it lost a game) to be ranked ahead of the '09 Alabama title squad. This team featured nine first round NFL Draft picks.

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2011 Schedule:

Sept. 3: Alabama 48, Kent St 7

Sept. 10: Alabama 27, (#23) Penn St 11

Sept. 17: Alabama 41, N. Texas 0

Sept. 24: Alabama 38, (#14) Arkansas 14

Oct. 1: Alabama 38, (#12) Florida 10

Oct. 8: Alabama 34, Vanderbilt 0

Oct. 15: Alabama 52, Ole Miss 7

Oct. 22: Alabama 37, Tennessee 6

Nov. 5: (#1) LSU 9, Alabama 6

Nov. 12: Alabama 24, Miss. St 7

Nov. 19: Alabama 45, Ga Southern 21

Nov. 26: Alabama 42, Auburn 14

Jan. 9: Alabama 21, (#1) LSU 0

9. Oklahoma, 2000 (13-0, 8-0)

Head Coach: Bob Stoops

This Sooners team entered the season ranked No. 19 in the country, but fueled by an impressive three-game stretch in October, it ended the season in the title game. Behind quarterback and Heisman Trophy runner-up Josh Heupel and a stingy defense, the Sooners would battle with Florida State in the Orange Bowl. The Seminoles’ potent offense, led by quarterback and Heisman winner Chris Weinke, was held in check and scoreless by the Sooners defense in the lowest scoring Orange Bowl in 30 years. Fittingly enough, linebacker Torrance Marshall, who had six tackles and an interception, took home MVP honors as Oklahoma defeated Florida State 13-2 to capture its seventh national championship and first since 1985.

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2000 Schedule:

Sept. 2: Oklahoma 55, UTEP 14

Sept. 9: Oklahoma 45, Ark. St 7

Sept. 23: Oklahoma 42, Rice 17

Sept. 30: Oklahoma 34, Kansas 16

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Oct. 7: Oklahoma 63, (#11) Texas 14

Oct. 14: Oklahoma 41, (#2) Kansas St 31

Oct. 28: Oklahoma 31, (#3) Nebraska 14

Nov. 4: Oklahoma 56, Baylor 7

Nov. 11: Oklahoma 35, (#23) Texas A&M 31

Nov. 18: Oklahoma 27, T. Tech 13

Nov. 25: Oklahoma 12, Okla. St 7

Dec. 2: Oklahoma 27, (#8) Kansas St 24

Jan. 3: Oklahoma 13, (#3) Florida St 2

10. Florida State, 1999 (12-0, 8-0)

Head Coach: Bobby Bowden

This team claimed nine first-team All-ACC performers and six second-team selections. Florida State became the first team in history to go wire-to-wire as No. 1 team in all three polls after beating five ranked opponents. It was the third-highest scoring Noles team in school history at the time (fifth now). Chris Weinke and Peter Warrick outlasted Michael Vick and the Hokies in the memorable 1999 championship game. Warrick, after surviving some off-the-field incidents, claimed MVP honors after catching six passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns and returning a punt for a score. The win gave Bobby Bowden his second national championship.

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1999 Schedule:

Aug. 28: Florida St 41, La. Tech 7

Sept. 11: Florida St 41, (#10) Ga. Tech 35

Sept. 18: Florida St 42, (#20) NC State 11

Sept. 25: Florida St 42, N. Carolina 10

Oct. 2: Florida St 51, Duke 23

Oct. 9: Florida St 31, (#19) Miami 21