football-fbs flag | September 23, 2013

Photo Essay

More: When perfect isn't good enough

As football campaigns wear on, we all wonder if any teams will have the opportunity to chase the elusive perfect championship season, much less pull it off. Turns out, it's happened more than you may think.

1938 | TCU | 11-0
In 1938, TCU's football team outscored its opposition 269-60. In all, six members of this team, including Heisman Trophy winner Davey O'Brien, were drafted into the NFL.
TCU Athletics
1940, 41 | Minnesota | Combined 16-0
The 1940 Golden Gopher offense was highlighted by the dynamic running tandem of George Franck and Bruce Smith who, together, combined to score more than 60 percent of the touchdowns for the Maroon and Gold. In 1941, it was all about Smith, who won the Heisman despite missing all or part of three games that season due to injury.
TCU Athletics
1944 and '45 | Army | Combined 18-0
The two folks in this picture, Glenn Davis (41) and Doc Blanchard (35) had a history making run together at Army in 1945. Blanchard won the Heisman Trophy despite running for just 718 yards. However, he did manage to find the endzone 19 times. Davis finished third in the Heisman voting despite setting an NCAA record for yards per play that still stands today.
Collegiate Images / Getty Images
1947 | Notre Dame | 9-0
Behind quarterback Johnny Lujack, the 1947 Fighting Irish went 9-0 and gave head coach Frank Leahy his second consecutive title. Lujack, who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1960, went 61-of-109 for 777 yards and nine touchdowns. Eight members of this team went on to the College Football Hall of Fame.
Collegiate Images / Getty Images
1948 | Michigan | 9-0
In its first year under head coach Bennie Oosterbaan, Michigan defeated six ranked opponents by a combined score of 122–17 and dominated the final AP poll of the season. The Wolverines garnered 192 first-place votes to second-place Notre Dame's 97. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that Michigan did it despite an entirely different backfield from its 1947 team, which also went unbeaten and untied. By the end of the 1948 season, Michigan's win streak stood at 23 games.
Michigan Athletics
1949 | Notre Dame | 10-0
The 1949 Notre Dame team is considered the last of the great "Notre Dame Dynasty" which went 36-0-2. captured three national titles and two Heisman Trophies. Led by Heisman winner Leon Hart, this particular Irish team outscored its opposition 360-86 and sent six of its members to the College Football Hall of Fame.
Collegiate Images / Getty Images
1952 | Michigan State | 9-0
Michigan State's only undefeated, untied national championship football team had its biggest scare of the season in just its second game, squeaking out a 17-14 win at Oregon State. After that victory, the Spartans outscored their seven remaining opponents 265-57. They also had six different quarterbacks attempt at least one pass.
Michigan State Athletics
1954 | Ohio State | 9-0
Coached by the legendary Woody Hayes and led by quarterback Dave Leggett, the 1954 Buckeyes began the season ranked 20th, but secured the national title by dominating USC in a very rainy Rose Bowl. Leggett recovered a fumble that led to a touchdown, hit Bobby Watkins with a 21-yard TD pass, and scored himself on a 3-yard run in Ohio State's 20-7 victory. The title would be the first of five for Hayes. Howard "Hopalong" Cassady, pictured here, after running for 92 yards in that Rose Bowl win, would go on to win the Heisman one year later.
Ohio State Athletics
1955-56 | Oklahoma | Combined 21-0
It wasn't until the eighth week of the season that the 1955 Oklahoma team took over the No. 1 spot in the rankings. By then, the Sooners were 26 games into a winning streak that would eventually reach an NCAA record of 47. OU polished off an 11-0 record in 1955 that included an astonishing four consecutive shutouts to end the regular season. In the Orange Bowl game, No. 3 Maryland did manage six points and a halftime lead, but Oklahoma eventually prevailed, 20-6. A season later, teams were prohibited from making bowl appearances in consecutive years, but the Sooners finished 10-0 and led the nation in total offense while logging six shutouts, including a 40-0 blanking of Paul Hornung and Notre Dame. Tommy McDonald, pictured here, was named the Sporting News Player of the Year in 1956.
Sporting News/Getty Images
1957 | Auburn | 10-0
Auburn was recognized as national champions by the AP Poll even though it was on probation and did not participate in a bowl game. Still, the Tigers' 40-0 victory against Alabama in that season's "Iron Bowl" did two things: It got Auburn the title and ended the coaching career of Alabama's J.B. Whitworth, who would be succeeded by a guy named Bear Bryant.
Auburn Athletics
1958 | LSU | 11-0
After crushing Tulane 68-0 in its final regular-season game, Mickey Magnham's halfback option pass to Billy Cannon in the Sugar Bowl against Clemson led to a 7-0 Tiger triumph and the school's first perfect season of the modern era. The team was led by running back Billy Cannon, who won the Heisman Trophy the following season.
Collegiate Images/Getty Images
1959 | Syracuse | 11-0
Syracuse got its first -- and still only -- national title by beating Texas 23-14 in the Cotton Bowl. The offense scored 413 points while allowing only 73. Ernie Davis rushed for a team-high 686 yards (at an all-time SU-record 7.0 yards per carry) and scored 10 touchdowns to power Coach Floyd (Ben) Schwartzwalder's Orange that season. In the Cotton Bowl, he scored a pair of touchdowns -- one on an 87-yard halfback option pass from SU captain Ger Schwedes.
Collegiate Images/Getty Images
1961 | Alabama | 11-0
In the final six games of its 1961 regular season, Alabama did not allow a single point. After beating Arkansas 10-3 in the Sugar Bowl, Bear Bryant made good on a promise he made at the start of his first season at Alabama in 1958 -- the promise of a national title.
Collegiate Images/Getty Images
1962 | USC | 11-0
Many credit USC head coach John McKay with revolutionizing the game by adopting the "I" formation with this team. After dominating through a 10-0 regular season, all was nearly lost for the Trojans in the Rose Bowl, when Wisconsin's Ron VanderKelen threw for more than 400 yards and spurred a 23-point, fourth-quarter comeback which fell just short. USC won the game 42-37.
Collegiate Images/Getty Images
1963 | Texas | 11-0
After a 10-0 season which included an upset of then-No. 1 Oklahoma, Texas and head coach Darrell Royal accepted an invitation to face Navy on New Year's Day in the Cotton Bowl in a showcase of the nation's top-ranked teams. Navy quarterback Roger Staubach, winner of the Heisman Trophy, received much of the Cotton Bowl pregame hype. It was the Longhorns, however, who took center stage when the game ended, defeating the Midshipmen 28-6. Quarterback Duke Carlisle became the first UT quarterback to throw for 200 yards in a ball game and defensive standouts Scott Appleton and Tommy Nobis shut down Staubach's offense.
Sporting News Archive/Getty Images
1968 | Ohio State | 11-0
The 1968 Ohio State team is arguably the strongest in the school's history, including 11 All-Americans and six first-round NFL draft picks. Quarterback Rex Kern and running back Jim Otis leading a stout OSU offense and Jack Tatum led a stingy defense. They ended the regular season with a 50-14 win against Michigan, then beat USC 27-16 in the Rose Bowl. Incidentally, this was also the first year the Buckeye players were awarded Buckeye pride stickers for their helmets for a good play. OSU was the first team to have such a program.
Ohio State Archives
1969 | Texas | 11-0
The 1969 season marked the 100th year of college football and ABC television executive Beano Cook arranged for Texas and Arkansas to play the final game of the regular season, moving their usual October date to the first weekend in December. As it turned out, it was a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup. The Longhorns overcame turnovers and a 14-0 Arkansas lead to post a 15-14 victory. James Street scrambled for one touchdown, got a two-point conversion and then hit Randy Perschel on a dramatic 4th-and-3 play late in the game. Donnie Wigginoton, the third-string quarterback who was the holder, made a big save on a high snap and Happy Feller booted the extra point for the winning score with 3:58 remaining. President Richard Nixon awarded a plaque symbolic of the national title to the victorious Longhorns.
Texas Athletics
1971 Nebraska | 13-0
Just how stacked was the Nebraska football team in 1971? The team boasted six All-Americans: Rich Glover, Willie Harper, Johnny Rodgers (20), Larry Jacobson, Jeff Kinney and Jerry Tagge. Rodgers won the Heisman Trophy that year and Glover finished third.
UNL Photographic Services
1972 | USC | 12-0
USC's 1972 title-winning team was the first in history to get a No. 1 vote on every ballot in both the coach and media polls. In the preseason polls, they were ranked eighth.
Collegiate Images/Getty Images
1973 | Notre Dame | 11-0
The Fighting Irish won the 1973 title by defeating the previously unbeaten and No. 1 ranked Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, 24-23. Late in the 4th quarter Alabama pinned Notre Dame back deep in Irish territory with a punt, hoping to get the ball back within easy range of a game-winning field goal, however, on third and long Irish QB Tom Clements connected with backup TE Robin Weber on a long pass that gave the Irish a first down and allowed them to run out the clock. Tight end Dave Casper earned All-American honors for the Irish.
Collegiate Images/Getty Images
1974 | Oklahoma | 11-0
This was the first of three national championship squads for head coach Barry Switzer. Only one opponent lost by less than 14 points and four failed to score a touchdown. Oklahoma led the nation in scoring offense with an average of 43 points per game and had eight All-Americans.
Duane Howell/Getty Images
1976 | Pitt | 12-0
In December, Tony Dorsett became the first Pitt Panther to win the Heisman Trophy. He led the nation with 1,948 rushing yards. The 11-0 Panthers faced second-ranked Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Pitt defeated the Bulldogs 27-3 and was voted No. 1 by both the Associated Press and Coaches polls, claiming their ninth title. The American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) named head coach Johnny Majors the 1976 Coach of the Year.
Sporting News Archive/Getty Images
1979 | Alabama | 12-0
Just two teams scored in double digits against the 1979 Crimson Tide and four opponents didn't score at all. That's not to say the team did not have close calls. Against Tennessee, Alabama fell behind 17-0 in before winning 27-17. Three weeks later, against LSU, they won 3-0. In the regular-season finale against Auburn, the Tigers had an 18-17 fourth quarter lead before Alabama triumphed 25-18.
Sporting News Archive/Getty Images
1980 | Georgia | 12-0
The Bulldogs beat Notre Dame 17–10 in the Sugar Bowl to finish 12–0 and claim the national title. Notable contributors during the season included prized recruit Herschel Walker. The season began with sophomore Carnie Norris starting ahead of Walker at tailback as the Bulldogs faced Tennessee on Sept. 6 in Knoxville. Tennessee led 15-2 late in the third quarter when Walker scored on a pitch sweep from 16 yards out with 1:03 left in the 3rd quarter. Walker scored again five minutes later off a 9-yard touchdown run as Georgia went on to win the game 16-15.
Sporting News Archive/Getty Images
1981 | Clemson | 12-0
When Clemson won the title, head coach Danny Ford became the youngest head coach in history to win it at age 35. Linebacker and team captain Jeff Davis was a Consensus All-American that season. Davis was also named MVP of the ACC and was the defensive MVP of the Orange Bowl victory against Nebraska which claimed the title. To this day, Davis is third in career tackles in Clemson history and leads the team in fumbles caused and fumbles recovered.
Clemson Athletics
1984 | BYU | 13-0
The Cougars rose from unranked to 12th, sixth, fourth, down to eighth, to fifth for two weeks, back to fourth, then third, back to fourth, again to third and then first in the 1984 campaign. Baylor head coach Grant Teaff, whose team lost at BYU 47-13, in game two, was the first to cast a No. 1 vote for the Cougars. Controversy was abundant as many of the so-called experts such as NBC announcer Bryant Gumbell and Oklahoma head coach Barry Switzer, accused BYU of playing a “Bo-Diddley Tech” schedule. No school from a non-major conference (other than Notre Dame) has won a national title since.
BYU Athletics
1986 | Penn State | 12-0
The 1986 Nittany Lions were full of stars, including team captains, Shane Conlan, John Shaffer, Steve Smith and Bob White. The team also produced four All-Americans, as linebacker Conlan, tackle Chris Conlin, running back D.J. Dozier and defensive tackle Tim Johnson all were honored. Dozier's six-yard touchdown run in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl gave the Nittany Lions the lead en route to their second title of the decade. Dozier became the first Penn State back to lead the team in rushing four consecutive seasons.
Collegiate Images/Getty Images
1987 | Miami | 12-0
The 1988 Orange Bowl was another "Game of the Century," as undefeated and top-ranked Oklahoma faced off against undefeated and second-ranked Miami for the national championship. Adding to the hype was the recent on-field history between the teams. Oklahoma was a dominant force in college football, winning the national championship in 1985 and losing just one game in each of the preceding two years. Miami, though, had proven to be the thorn in Oklahoma's side, as the Sooners' losses in '85 and '86 had both come at the hands of Miami. Further fuel for the fire was provided by the growing personal animosity between Johnson and Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer. The Hurricane defense held Oklahoma to just 255 yards of offense, while quarterback Steve Walsh's efficient play (18 of 30, 209 yards, 2 TD) paced the Hurricane offense and helped complete Miami's first unbeaten season.
Collegiate Images/Getty Images
1988 | Notre Dame | 12-0
The 1988 Irish, one of 11 national championship teams for Notre Dame, is considered to be one of the best teams in the history of the sport. The Irish beat the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 teams in the country at the time they played them. Their signature victory is 31-30 upset of No. 1 ranked Miami, ending the Hurricanes' 36-game regular season winning streak.
Collegiate Images/Getty Images
1991 | Miami | 12-0
In 1991, Miami beat nine of its 12 opponents by double digits and knocked off four ranked teams: No. 10 Houston, No. 9 Penn State, No. 1 Florida State and No. 11 Nebraska. In the Orange Bowl, the Hurricanes stymied Nebraska’s offense as few had, limiting the Cornhuskers’ ground game to just 82 rushing yards and giving Dennis Erickson his second national title.
Miami Athletics
1992 | Alabama | 13-0
This team was responsible for winning the Tide's 20th SEC title by beating Florida 28-21 in the inaugural SEC title game. They won the national title with a surprising 34-13 victory against heavily favored Miami in the 1993 Sugar Bowl to complete the 100th year of its football program.
Miami Athletics
1994-95 Nebraska | Combined 25-0
After losing to Florida State in the 1994 Orange Bowl thanks to a missed field goal, Nebraska came back with a tale of two quarterbacks. Junior Tommie Frazier, a two-year starter, opened the season as if he might run away with the Heisman Trophy before being sidelined by blood clot problems in his right knee after the fourth game. Frazier’s misfortune represented an opportunity for junior Brook Berringer, who came off the bench to lead Nebraska to the Big Eight title and the Orange Bowl victory. A year later, despite being defending champs and having players like the above Ahman Green, was not ranked No. 1 in the AP poll until the 10th week of the season. Florida St. was number 1 through the first nine weeks – and did not play in Week 10.
Collegiate Images/Getty Images
1997 | Michigan | 12-0
Michigan's defense was led by cornerback and Heisman-winner Charles Woodson. Woodson intercepted eight passes and scored touchdowns with pass receptions, runs from scrimmage and punt returns. He became the first primarily defensive player to win the Heisman. On offense, the Wolverines were not what you would call conventional, as they had neither 1000-yard rusher nor a 500-yard receiver.  Still, Michigan earned the top spot in the season's final AP poll.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
1998 | Tennessee | 13-0
Tennessee's 1998 national championship was the first for the Vols since 1951, and came on the heels of the school's first 13-0 season. Tennessee beat second-ranked Florida State 23-16 in the Fiesta Bowl to clinch the championship. Tee Martin completed 11 of 18 passes for 278 yards and threw TD passes to Shawn Bryson and Peerless Price in the game. Price set a school record, tallying 199 yards receiving in the contest.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
1999 | Florida State | 12-0
A year after losing in the national championship game, Florida State left no doubt in 1999, becoming the first team in history to be No. 1 in all three of the major polls from wire to wire. It also gave Bobby Bowden his first perfect season in 40 years as a head coach after a 46-29 victory against Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
2000 | Oklahoma | 13-0
The Sooners opened the season ranked 19th, the first time they had made it into a preseason poll in five years. By season's end, Oklahoma had the most wins in a season in school history, its first Big 12 title and its seventh national title after beating defending champion Florida State 13-2 in the national title game. Quarterback Josh Heupel -- who is now OU's offensive coordinator, was the AP Player of the Year in 2000 after throwing for more than 3,600 yards.
Oklahoma Athletics
2001 | Miami | 12-0
After feeling left out by the BCS computers a year earlier, Miami left no doubt under new head coach Larry Coker. The Hurricanes scored 512 points while yielding only 117. Miami beat opponents by an average of 32.9 points per game, the largest margin in the school's history, and also set the school scoring record, while the defense led the nation in scoring defense (fewest points allowed), pass defense, and turnover margin.
Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images
2002 | Ohio State | 14-0
The 2002 Buckeyes Began the season ranked 13th, won five of its games by six points or less and ended Miami's 34-game winning streak with a 31-24 double-overtime win in the Fiesta Bowl to claim the Big Ten's first unanimous national title since 1968.
Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images
2005 | Texas | 13-0
Texas' penultimate victory of the 2005 season, the Big 12 Championship Game, featured the biggest margin of victory in the history of that contest, as Texas defeated Colorado 70-3. The Longhorns finished the season by winning the 2006 Rose Bowl against the USC Trojans for the national championship in a game that won a ESPY for best game of the year -- in any sport. With 19 seconds left, Texas QB Vince Young ran for a touchdown and the subsequent two-point conversion to give the Longhorns the lead. USC QB Matt Leinart had time to attempt one pass but his pass fell out of bounds as time expired; Texas won 41–38
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
2009 | Alabama | 14-0
Alabama had four regular-season wins against top-25 teams and met Florida for the SEC championship in a rematch of the 2008 title game. Alabama took the title 32–13. then beat Texas 37–21 to win its first BCS Championship. Mark Ingram became Alabama's first Heisman Trophy winner that season.
Harry How/Getty Images
2010 | Auburn | 14-0
The Tigers, led by second year head coach Gene Chizik and Heisman-winning quarterback Cam Newton, led the SEC in scoring offense, total offense, rushing offense, pass efficiency, first downs and first-down conversions. They say games are won in the fourth quarter, and the Tigers allowed an average of only 3.7 fourth-quarter points.
Harry How/Getty Images

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