The Greatest Dynasties
Top-ranked Florida is chasing much more than another BCS championship in 2009. It has its sights fixed on a permanent place within the history books.
Winners of the national title in 2006 and 2008, the Gators have a chance to pull up a chair at the dynasty table, joining some of the storied programs in the history of the sport. Urban Meyer and the program are not chasing a shadow of the past or some print in a record book this fall? History has a face and colors, like the crimson of Oklahoma and the red of Nebraska. It evokes giants of the game, such as Bud Wilkinson, Red Blaik, and Frank Leahy. The sport’s renowned dynasties are alive and preparing to welcome in a new member. Greatness will be synonymous with this recent stretch of Florida football no matter what happens in 2009. Joining the ranks of the all-time greatest dynasties, however, will require the Gators to finish the season the way they’re starting it.
11. Miami (2000-2003) - To truly understand how far Miami has fallen of late, just crane your neck out and review how dominant it was earlier in the decade. It might feel otherwise, but it wasn’t that long ago, when the ‘Canes were rolling through the schedule with impressive ease. During this four-year stretch, the program flooded the NFL with alums and went 46-4, winning four Big East championships, three BCS bowl games, and the 2001 national championship over Nebraska. How much higher would this group have been had it not lost the 2003 Fiesta Bowl to Ohio State, snapping a 34-game winning streak.
10. Oklahoma (1948-1950) - It was only three years, testing the laws of a dynasty, but it sure was a flash of brilliance. The Sooners went 31-2, earning Sugar Bowl berths at the end of each season and sandwiching 31 consecutive wins between losses to Santa Clara and Kentucky. The 1950 team was supposed to be rebuilding under Bud Wilkinson, but ended up winning the school’s first national championship. Two years before copping the program’s first Heisman Trophy, Billy Vessels was one of the offensive leaders during that perfect regular season, scoring 15 touchdowns. The 1949 team, which also had a flawless regular season, outscored opponents by an average of 36-8.
9. Oklahoma (1971-1975) - This five-year run was part Chuck Fairbanks, part Barry Switzer, and all dominance in Norman. The Sooners lost only three times over that period, winning national championships in 1974 and 1975 with Switzer at the controls. Fueled by the wishbone and such luminaries as Steve Davis, Joe Washington, and the Selmon brothers, Oklahoma took no prisoners, rarely getting challenged and often rolling up more than 500 yards a game. It was the start of a special period of Sooner football that would stretch until the end of the 1980s.
8. Army (1944-1946) - Three seasons. No losses. The closest anyone came to beating the Cadets was a scoreless tie with Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium in 1946. Yeah, it was a different era entirely, but with Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis, Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside, slicing through defenses with virtual ease, Army posted eye-popping numbers, regularly putting up more than 50 points in an afternoon. Over the course of three years, it went 27-0-1, taking a pair of national championships and outscoring opponents by an average of 42-6.
7. USC (2002-Present) - Get used to it, Trojan haters. This program is in the midst of a dynastic run. Since 2002, USC has won an unprecedented seven consecutive Pac-10 titles, going a sparkling 82-9 in the process. It has consistently been home to some of the nation’s best talent and a breeding ground for the NFL. The head-scratching losses sure have become an issue, but the Trojans have birthed three Heisman winners during this time, won a share of the 2003 national championship, took the title outright in 2004, and were a one-for-the-ages Vince Young drive from doing it again in 2005. That Rose Bowl loss, by the way, snapped a 34-game winning streak.
6. Florida State (1992-2000) - Florida State was to the ACC in the 1990s what USC is to the Pac-10 today. From the moment they left the ranks of the independents, the Seminoles ruled the conference, losing just two league games in nine years and winning or sharing the championship every season. It was also during this time that the program won its two national titles, losing once to Notre Dame in 1993 and going unbeaten in 1999. In almost a full decade of superlatives and individual stars, Florida State went 99-11-1, and was a perennial fixture in the top 5 of the end-of-season rankings.
5. Alabama (1961-1966) - The peak of the Bear Bryant era, ‘Bama went 60-5-1 during a six-year swath, delivering a pair of perfect seasons, a share of three national championships, and four SEC titles. The Tide was a wicked 5-1 in New Year’s Day bowl games, beating the likes of Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Arkansas, and making the Sugar and Orange Bowls its own personal playground. The storied first half of the 1960s also gave birth to a bunch of Alabama icons, such as Joe Namath, Billy Neighbors, Lee Roy Jordan, and Ray Perkins.
4. Miami (1986-1992) - With Heisman-winning quarterbacks Vinny Testaverde and Gino Torretta forming a bookend, this was the most prolific stretch in the history of Hurricane football. Miami went 76-6 over seven seasons, grabbing a piece of three national championships and coming within a bowl victory of two others. The program of the 1980s in college football, the ‘Canes became a pop-culture phenomenon and the team everyone either adored or loved to hate. Jimmy Johnson got things off the tarmac in his five-year stint before heading to the Dallas Cowboys and handing the reigns over to veteran coach Dennis Erickson. Both coaches won national titles, a testament to the machine that had been forged in Coral Gables.
3. Nebraska (1993-1997) - This was the last great run by the Huskers. And arguably the best in the fabled history of the program. In five seasons, Nebraska earned a piece of three national championships, missing out on a fourth with an 18-16 loss to Florida State in the 1994 Orange Bowl. The Huskers didn’t just win, going 60-3 in Tom Osborne’s final five seasons, often obliterating opponents with a relentless ground game and the attacking Blackshirts D. Some of the all-time greats featured during this vintage period included QB Tommie Frazier, RB Ahman Green, and linemen Aaron Taylor, Zach Wiegert, Grant Wistrom, and Jason Peter. The seminal moment for the Huskers in the 1990s was their 62-24 Fiesta Bowl destruction of Florida to win the 1995 crown.
2. Notre Dame (1946-1949) - While there were certainly many other peaks in South Bend, this was a crowning achievement for the Irish. As the nation began to settle into a post-war climate, Notre Dame was still preparing for battle, going 36-0-2 and never trailing over the course of four seasons. The closest the Irish came to a loss were ties with Army and USC in 1946 and 1948, respectively. Frank Leahy laid the groundwork for a Hall of Fame coaching career, leading the Irish to three national championships during that four-year block. An indication of its superiority, only four of Notre Dame’s 36 wins were by less than 10 points.
1. Oklahoma (1953-1958) - The measuring stick for all other college football dynasties, the Sooners went 60-3-1 over these six years, including an NCAA-record 47 consecutive wins that began in 1953 and didn’t end until 1957. A juggernaut of epic proportions, Oklahoma won back-to-back national championships under Bud Wilkinson, cruising to victories by an average margin of more than four touchdowns. The poster boy on offense was RB Tommy McDonald, though he was also surrounded by some of the nation’s toughest offensive linemen. Plus, often underrated during those six seasons, the Sooner defense pitched an incredible 27 shutouts.