Ranking CFB’s Greatest Dynasties Ever
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If Alabama wins its third national title in four years on Monday night, it will enter the discussion of college football’s greatest dynasties ever. Will the Crimson Tide have the same legacy as our picks for the top five dynasties ever? We selected this quintet based on their dominance and longevity (Note: Early 1900s teams not included due to lack of competition).
While the biggest name from this era of Alabama football was QB Joe Namath, it was the Tide defense that really powered the program. Over 77 games from ’61 to ’66, Alabama allowed a total of 395 points, a miniscule average of 5.1 PPG. In 22 of those games, the Tide pitched a shutout. And the 1961 Alabama defense is considered by many to be the greatest of all time.
It's little wonder that Alabama rang up a 68–6–3 record, enjoyed separate winning streaks of 19 and 17 games, won three national titles (1961, 1964 and 1965) in that span and had another perfect 11-0 season in 1966.
Irish coach Frank Leahy missed the 1944 and 1945 seasons while serving as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Upon returning to South Bend, the Knute Rockne pupil showed that wartime didn't hurt his coaching abilities.
If anything, wartime improved them. Notre Dame did not lose a single game in Leahy’s first four seasons back (36–0–2). Only a 14–14 tie with archrival USC in the 1948 season finale prevented the Irish from winning an unprecedented four consecutive national championships.
As the case was, they had to “settle” for titles in 1946, 1947 and 1949, as well as Heisman Trophy wins by of Johnny Lujack in '47 and Leon Hart in '49. It was the Golden Age for the most golden of programs.
In Tom Osborne’s final five seasons as Nebraska’s coach, the Huskers went an amazing 60-3, winning two national titles outright (1994 and 1995) and sharing a third with Michigan (1997). Oh, and it was a missed field goal in the 1994 Orange Bowl away from another national title. Not only did Nebraska win, they won in dominant fashion.
The offense of the 1995 team averaged 52.4 points/game. The QB of that team (Tommie Frazier) is unanimously considered one of the sport’s all-time great players. In turn, his touchdown run in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl is considered one of the sport’s all-time great plays during a 62-24 thrashing of Florida.
An endless array of superlatives could be used to describe that Huskers juggernaut. All of them would be deserved.
The Hurricanes’ swagger made them college football’s ultimate bad boys. If they were just another team, they could have been ignored. But their success rendered that an impossibility.
Despite having three different coaches leading the program — Howard Schnellenberger (1983), Jimmy Johnson (1984–1988) and Dennis Erickson (1989–1992) — Miami’s 10-season stretch was the envy of the rest of college football. A 107–14 record. Four national titles (1983, 1987, 1989 and 1991) and two other national title game appearances. Eight seasons with an end-of-year ranking of No. 3 or higher.
And of course, there was that polarizing braggadocio the Hurricanes brought to every game. Two decades after the end of that stretch of dominance, memories of “Catholics vs. Convicts” and “The Fatigues Game” burn almost as bright as Miami’s on-field exploits.
No program epitomized dominance in college football like Oklahoma under legendary coach Bud Wilkinson. In years two through 12 of Bud Wilkinson's tenure in Norman, Wilkinson guided the Sooners to a 107–8–2 record, highlighted by an NCAA record 47-game winning streak from 1953–1957 that has never truly been threatened.
OU won three national titles (1950, 1955 and 1956) in that span, had two other undefeated seasons (1949, 1954) and took home the first Heisman Trophy in program history in ’52 (HB Billy Vessels). In its most dominant season in 1956, Oklahoma outscored opponents by more than a 10-to-1 ratio (466–45), pitching shutouts in seven of its 10 games.
Even though more than five decades have passed since the Sooners’ decade of dominance ended, they’re almost universally held up as college football’s greatest dynasty ever for the excellence and longevity they experienced. The numbers, namely the legendary winning streak, solidify it.
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