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Ranking College Football's National Champions Since 1998

Derrick Henry

Derrick Henry

Alabama has been one of the top teams in college football over the past couple of decades, but how do Nick Saban’s four national championship teams at Alabama and one at LSU compare to other past national championship teams?

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Related: Alabama Edges Clemson in 45-40 Thriller to Win College Football’s National Championship

For the purposes of this updated ranking of top national championship teams, we will go back to the start of the BCS Championship Era in 1998 and roll right on up to the second season of the College Football Playoff. Here is how the champs stack up.

Note: Opponent’s ranking at time in parentheses

College Football Top 25: Miami

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

Head Coach: Larry Coker

Since the dawn of the BCS Era, few teams have carried the amount of NFL talent on one roster the way the 2001 Miami Hurricanes did. Larry Coker stepped in as head coach following Butch Davis’ departure for the NFL, and he took over a program as locked and loaded that any coach would dream of running. The season started off with a dominating victory over Penn State, which set the tone for the championship run. Miami ripped through Florida State, avoided a letdown against Boston College and nipped Virginia Tech while blitzing through the rest of the schedule, which included victories against four top-15 teams before the BCS National Championship Game. Nebraska wiggled its way into the national championship game but was clearly out of its league against Miami in the Rose Bowl. Miami’s 37-14 victory over the Cornhuskers capped an undefeated season for the best national championship team of the era.

2001 Schedule:

Sept. 1: Miami 33, Penn State 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 State 27

Oct. 25: Miami 45, West Virginia 3

Nov. 3: Miami 38, Temple 0

Nov. 10: Miami 18, Boston College 7

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

Nov. 24: Miami 65, (12) Washington 7

Dec. 1: Miami 26, (14) Virginia Tech 24

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

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

Head Coach: Pete Carroll

The Trojans had to settle for the rare split national title during the BCS years in 2003, but left no doubt about who the top team was in ’04. USC started the season as the No. 1 team in the country and never lost a grip on the top spot in the poll, picked up a Heisman Trophy season from quarterback Matt Leinart and saw the running duo of Reggie Bush and LenDale White give opposing defensive coordinators nightmares all season long. In all, this USC team, which destroyed Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl for the national championship, saw 18 players get selected in either the first or second round of the NFL Draft and was absolutely loaded on offense, is arguably one of college football’s best in decades.

2004 Schedule:

Aug. 28: USC 24, Virginia Tech 13

Sept. 11: USC 49, Colorado State 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 State 7

Oct. 23: USC 38, Washington 0

Oct. 30: USC 42, Washington State 12

Nov. 6: USC 28, Oregon State 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

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

Head Coach: Mack Brown

The 2005 season saw No. 1 USC and No. 2 Texas on a season-long collision course for the national championship. The two remained in the top two spots of the poll all season long, setting up the game for the ages in the Rose Bowl for the BCS National Championship. But before Texas could let Vince Young turn in a game legends are made of, the Longhorns first had to get through the regular season. An early victory over No. 4 Ohio State was later followed up with blowout wins over Oklahoma, No. 10 Texas Tech and rival Texas A&M before tearing up Colorado, 70-3, in the Big 12 Championship Game. In the national title clash with defending champion USC, Young did it all in leading Texas to the victory. This Texas team had four consensus All-Americans and went on to send 24 players through the NFL Draft, while beating perhaps the best team to not win a national title since 1998.

2005 Schedule:

Sept. 3: Texas 60, ULL 3

Sept. 10: Texas 25, (4) Ohio State 22

Sept. 17: Texas 51, Rice 10

Oct. 1: Texas 51, Missouri 20

Oct. 8: Texas 45, Oklahoma. 12

Oct. 15: Texas 42, (24) Colorado 17

Oct. 22: Texas 52, (10) Texas Tech 17

Oct. 29: Texas 47, Oklahoma State 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, Colorado 3

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

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

Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher

We are not so far removed from watching Florida State be the dominant force in college football. Jimbo Fisher’s best team since succeeding Bobby Bowden brought the Seminoles back to the national championship discussion with a dominant start to the year. Redshirt freshman Jameis Winston got things started by jumping head first into the Heisman Trophy discussion after his debut performance on a Monday night at Pittsburgh, and it was off to the races from there. Florida State’s offense was filthy. The Florida State defense was nasty, holding opponents to 14 points or fewer 11 times before facing Duke in the ACC Championship Game. A win in Charlotte sent Florida State’s juggernaut squad off to Pasadena for a matchup with SEC champion Auburn. A 34-31 come-from-behind victory over the SEC champs (FSU was down 18 points at one point) provided the validation needed for Florida State’s perfect season and snapped the SEC’s winning streak in the BCS title game.

2013 Schedule:

Sept 2: Florida State 41, Pitt 13

Sept. 14: Florida State 62, Nevada 7

Sept. 21: Florida State 54, Bethune-Cookman 6

Sept. 28: Florida State 48, Boston College 34

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

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

Oct. 26: Florida State 49, NC State 17

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

Nov. 9: Florida State 59, Wake Forest 3

Nov. 16: Florida State 59, Syracuse 3

Nov. 23: Florida State 80, Idaho 14

Nov. 30: Florida State 37, Florida 7

Dec. 7: Florida State 45, (20) Duke 7

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

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

Head Coach: Nick Saban

Nick Saban was hired by Alabama to win and win big. It did not take long to deliver on that expectation. With Heisman Trophy-winning running back Mark Ingram (the first Heisman winner in Alabama history) and steady Greg McElroy at quarterback, Alabama had the makings of a reliable offense, but it was Alabama’s defense that took the Crimson Tide to the next level. Alabama held three ranked SEC teams to fewer than 16 points on the way to Atlanta for a showdown with Urban Meyer, Tim Tebow and the No. 1 Florida Gators. This one was no match as Alabama squashed the Gators, 32-13, to advance to the national championship game, where it took out Texas quarterback Colt McCoy early on and never gave the Longhorns much of a chance. Alabama ended up sending 11 players through the first round of the NFL Draft in the years that followed.

2009 Schedule:

Sept. 5: Alabama 34, (7) Virginia Tech 24

Sept. 12: Alabama 40, FIU 14

Sept. 19: Alabama 53, North 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) South Carolina 6

Oct. 24: Alabama 12, Tennessee 10

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

Nov. 14: Alabama 31, Mississippi State 3

Nov. 21: Alabama 45, UT-Chattanooga 0

Nov. 27: Alabama 26, Auburn 21

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

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

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

Head Coach: Urban Meyer

Florida jumped out to a nice 3-0 start in 2008 with big victories over Hawaii, Miami and Tennessee, but Ole Miss stunned the Gators in the swamp in the fourth game of the season. From that point on, Florida was unbeatable. With Tim Tebow energizing the team with his leadership, Florida went on a tear with a decisive victory over Arkansas, a 30-point blowout of No. 4 LSU, a 39-point win over No. 10 Georgia, 50-point victory over No. 24 South Carolina, a 30-point thumping of No. 23 Florida State and then an 11-point triumph over No. 1 Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Against No. 2 Oklahoma, Florida pulled away for a 24-14 victory to wrap up the national title.

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) South Carolina 6

Nov. 22: Florida 70, The Citadel 19

Nov. 29: Florida 45, (23) Florida State 15

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

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

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

Head Coach: Phillip Fulmer

The first national champion of the BCS Era came one year after Peyton Manning moved on to bigger and better things in the NFL. Tee Martin took over as quarterback and Phillip Fulmer had plenty of talent around Martin to put together a strong season with a strong backfield with Travis Henry and Jamal Lewis and Peerless Price catching passes. The Vols’ defense held nine opponents to 18 points or fewer while racking up five wins against top 25 teams, including a confidence-boosting 20-17 victory over Steve Spurrier and the Florida Gators. Paired up against Florida State in the BCS Championship Game, the Vols came out on top with a 23-16 win in the first BCS National Championship Game.

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, South 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) Mississippi State 14

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

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

Head Coach: Nick Saban

Alabama took care of business left and right, whipping aside ranked opponents at ease – 27-11 vs. No. 23 Penn State, 38-14 vs. No. 14 Arkansas, 38-10 vs. No. 12 Florida – to remain on a collision course with division foe LSU. The much hyped Game of the Century between the top two teams in the country turned into a field goal extravaganza with Alabama coming up short, 9-6, in overtime in November. Little did we know at the time, these two teams would get a rare rematch in the BCS Championship Game despite Alabama not winning or playing for the SEC championship. Alabama, with a roster featuring nine first-round NFL Draft picks, would score their revenge in a big way by completely mastering LSU and keeping the Tigers from crossing the 50-yard line until the second half. This may have been Saban’s best defense.

2011 Schedule:

Sept. 3: Alabama 48, Kent State 7

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

Sept. 17: Alabama 41, North 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, Mississippi State 7

Nov. 19: Alabama 45, Georgia Southern 21

Nov. 26: Alabama 42, Auburn 14

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

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

Head Coach: Bob Stoops

The revival of Oklahoma football hit full force in 2000 when the Sooners showed off a fully equipped offense with quarterback Josh Heupel and defense early on and scored major victories in October. Oklahoma’s key three-game stretch with wins over No. 11 Texas, No. 2 Kansas State and No. 3 Nebraska came by a combined score of 135-59. The Sooners later handed Kansas State another loss in the Big 12 Championship Game to clinch a spot in the BCS Championship Game against Florida State. Stoops’ defense shut down a potent FSU offense and Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke and scored a 13-2 victory for the national championship.

2000 Schedule:

Sept. 2: Oklahoma 55, UTEP 14

Sept. 9: Oklahoma 45, Arkansas State 7

Sept. 23: Oklahoma 42, Rice 17

Sept. 30: Oklahoma 34, Kansas 16

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

Oct. 14: Oklahoma 41, (2) Kansas State 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, Texas Tech 13

Nov. 25: Oklahoma 12, Oklahoma State 7

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

Jan. 3: Oklahoma 13, (3) Florida State 2

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

Head Coach: Bobby Bowden

With Chris Weinke and Peter Warrick on offense, few teams could handle Florida State’s offense. The Seminoles scored 40 points or more in each of their first five games, which included victories over No. 10 Georgia Tech and No. 20 NC State. A 31-21 victory over No. 19 Miami helped push Florida State on its championship drive, and a season-ending victory over No. 4 Florida locked Bobby Bowden’s squad into the championship game, where it managed to outlast Virginia Tech quarterback Mike Vick in the Sugar Bowl for a 46-29 victory. This was Bowden’s second national championship team.

1999 Schedule:

Aug. 28: Florida State 41, Louisiana Tech 7

Sept. 11: Florida State 41, (10) Georgia Tech 35

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

Sept. 25: Florida State 42, North Carolina 10

Oct. 2: Florida State 51, Duke 23

Oct. 9: Florida State 31, (19) Miami 21

Oct. 16: Florida State 33, Wake Forest 10

Oct. 23: Florida State 17, Clemson 10

Oct. 30: Florida State 35, Virginia 10

Nov. 13: Florida State 49, Maryland 10

Nov. 20: Florida State 30, (4) Florida 20

Jan. 4: Florida State 46, (2) Virginia Tech 29

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11. Alabama, 2012 (13-1, 7-1)

Head Coach: Nick Saban

Coming off a national championship season with a loaded roster once again, Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide set the tone right out of the gate with a complete dismantling of No. 8 Michigan, 41-14, in Arlington. That was followed by two straight shutouts, including a 52-0 blasting of Arkansas. Everything was running smoothly for Alabama until a November afternoon when SEC newcomer Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel scored a wild upset in Tuscaloosa, but Alabama was one play away from avoiding the upset. Alabama remained in the national title hunt though and snuck back into the BCS Championship Game where it dominated and overpowered undefeated top-ranked Notre Dame, 42-14.

2012 Schedule:

Sept. 1: Alabama 41, (8) Michigan 14

Sept. 8: Alabama 35, Western Kentucky 0

Sept. 15: Alabama 52, Arkansas 0

Sept. 22: Alabama 40, FAU 7

Sept. 29: Alabama 33, Ole Miss 14

Oct. 13: Alabama 42, Missouri 10

Oct. 20: Alabama 44, Tennessee 13

Oct. 27: Alabama 38, (13) Mississippi State 7

Nov. 3: Alabama 21, LSU 17

Nov. 10: (15) Texas A&M 29, Alabama 24

Nov. 17: Alabama 49, Western Carolina 0

Nov. 24: Alabama 49, Auburn 0

Dec. 1: Alabama 32, (3) Georgia 28

Jan. 7: Alabama 42, (1) Notre Dame 14

12. LSU, 2003 (13-1, 7-1)

Head Coach: Nick Saban

Before Nick Saban arrived on the scene to return Alabama to its place among college football’s elite, Saban’s first job in the SEC ended with a bang. In 2003, Saban’s LSU Tigers led the nation in defense and allowed just 11 points per game. With Joseph Addai running the football and a steady passing attack, the Tigers made their case for the rightful title of national champion with victories over four ranked teams in SEC play and a BCS championship victory over Oklahoma. LSU settled for a share of the national title after the AP gave USC its No. 1 spot, but nobody in Baton Rouge is complaining.

2003 Schedule:

Aug. 30: LSU 49, UL Monroe 7