For nearly 30 years, some of the nation’s best college football teams have come from the Sunshine State. But who is the best of the best from Florida? Is it Charlie Ward and the 1993 Seminoles? Is it one of the five Miami championship teams? Or one of the Gator teams put together by the ole ball coach, Steve Spurrier?
Here’s how Sports Addict ranks them, knowing full well that some of you might strongly disagree:
10. 1978 FAMU Rattlers: The Rattlers have had a tremendous history, featuring teams with some of football’s greatest athletes such as Olympian “Bullet Bob” Hayes. But this team was a high point for FAMU and Coach Rudy Hubbard. Following a perfect season in 1977, Hubbard’s Rattlers won the first-ever Division 1-AA national championship en route to a 11-1 season.
9. 1989 Miami Hurricanes: Built around a smothering defense, first-year coach Dennis Erickson helped guide the Canes to an 11-1 record and their third title in the ’80s. The defense was the key, limiting teams to less than 10 points a game. The one downside is that the Canes were solidly beaten that year by FSU.
8. 1983 Miami Hurricanes: The start of a college football dynasty. After getting routed by the Gators in the opening game of the season, the Canes and QB Bernie Kosar reeled off 10 straight wins and got a spot in the Orange Bowl against then #1 Nebraska. No one except the Canes faithful expected them to win. But the team pulled off a monumental upset after Nebraska failed to convert a two-point conversion in the waning moments.
7. 1993 FSU Seminoles: The team that ended years of frustration for Noles fans and head coach Bobby Bowden. Led by Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward, this explosive team also featured sensational tailback Warrick Dunn. Despite a loss to Notre Dame that initially knocked them out of title contention, FSU came back with a win over the Gators that was capped by a dramatic 79-yard touchdown pass from Ward to Dunn. This was followed by a narrow victory over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl that gave FSU its first ever national title.
6. 2006 UF Gators: The Gators earned a second national championship in 10 years with this team led by QB Chris Leak which also featured hard-charging backup QB Tim Tebow.But the key to the Gators success was a punishing defense that shut down offenses. During the regular season, the team only surrendered 17 touchdowns and held Tennessee to -11 yards rushing. The team’s crowning achievement was a 41-14 rout of then No. 1 Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game.
5. 1991 Miami Hurricanes: Want proof that defense win championships? Look no further than this 12-0 team, which shut out Nebraksa in the Orange Bowl and gave the Canes a fourth national championship. Of course this team is also remembered for “Wide Right” when the Canes beat FSU 17-16 after FSU kicker Gerry Thomas missed a game-winning field goal at the end of the game. The one letdown: the Canes were forced to share the national title with the Washington Huskies, who also had an undefeated season.
4. 1996 UF Gators: Led by Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel, this Gator team rolled up the points (an average of 46.6 per game) and the wins as it marched victoriously through a killer schedule, including beating a Tennessee team led by Peyton Manning. But the Gators fell short In their regular season finale against FSU as the Seminoles defense managed to harass Wuerffel all day. But six weeks later the Gators would get their revenge – and a national championship – when they routed FSU 52-20 in the Sugar Bowl.
3. 1999 FSU Seminoles: This team gave FSU its first perfect season and second national title. The Seminoles were led by Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke and featured standout wide receiver Peter Warrick. In the Sugar Bowl, the Noles managed to pound the Virginia Tech Hokies 46-29 despite QB Michael Vick rushing for nearly 100 yards and throwing for another 225 yards.
2. 1987 Miami Hurricanes: Featuring future NFL Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin and College Football Hall of Fame Safety Bennie Blades, this Canes team always found a way to win, most notably in an amazing come-from-behind win at Florida State (See below). The Canes were down 19-3 late in the third quarter, only to storm back with the help of two touchdowns from QB Steve Walsh to Irvin. The Canes shut down top-ranked Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl to win their second championship of the ’80s.
1. 2001 Miami Hurricanes: Don’t believe me? ESPN has already crowned this team one of the best of all time and the best in the BCS era. And the reasons are plenty. A 12-0 perfect season. A star-studded roster that featured future pros such as RB Clinton Portis, WR Andre Johnson and TE Jeremy Shockey. This team was so loaded that TE Kellen Winslow, RB Frank Gore, and RB Willis McGahee weren’t even starters.
1987 FSU Seminoles: One of the most heart-breaking seasons in FSU history. This team – which included Deion “Prime Time” Sanders – had just one loss, a devastating 1 point defeat to the Canes at home. Instead of going for a tie in the closing seconds of the game, Coach Bobby Bowden opted to try for a two-point conversion. (There was no overtime back then.) The pass from Noles QB Danny McManus was broken up by a Canes defender, sealing FSU’s fate.
1986 Miami Hurricanes: Yes, they were an extremely talented team. Yes, they went perfect during the regular season. Yes, they had a Heisman Trophy winner in QB Vinny Testaverde. But in the end, they will be remembered for what happened at the Fiesta Bowl. They sauntered off their airplane dressed in combat fatigues but couldn’t back it up on the playing field against the Penn State Nittany Lions. Testeverde got picked off five times as the Nittany Lions held on to a 14-10 win.
2002 Miami Hurricanes: For so many years things always went the Canes way (Just ask FSU). But a phantom call in the title game against Ohio State kept this superbly talented Canes squad from winning back-to-back national championships.
1989 FSU Seminoles: If you want an argument for why playoffs are needed in college football, look no further than this team. The Seminoles dropped their first two games of the season, including a close loss to Southern Mississippi and some guy named Brett Favre. But somehow the team led by QB Peter Tom Willis rallied and won 10 straight games, including dominating wins against both of their arch rivals, UM and Florida. By the end of the year, FSU was the most dangerous team in the nation but the two early losses kept them out of the title hunt.