The 25 Best College Football Teams of the 2010s

By Nate Wilmot on April 7, 2020 at 8:00 am
Jan 8, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (13) celebrates with the trophy after defeating the Georgia Bulldogs 26-23 in the 2018 CFP national championship college football game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
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Re-Re-Introduction

Last week we started counting down the top 26 teams of the 2010's and ran through #26 - 16 (Part 1 and Part 2). As reminder, the methodology uses a combination of S&P+ and WAR to generate a quantitative understanding of the FBS college football landscape from 2010 - 2019.

Recap

  • 26. 2017 Penn State Nittany Lions
  • 25. 2014 Georgia Bulldogs
  • 24. 2012 Oregon Ducks
  • 23. 2011 LSU Tigers
  • 22. 2010 Oregon Ducks
  • 21. 2010 Alabama Crimson Tide
  • 20. 2013 Oregon Ducks
  • 19. 2010 Boise State Broncos
  • 18. 2011 Oklahoma State Cowboys
  • 17. 2018 Georgia Bulldogs
  • 16. 2014 Alabama Crimson Tide

15. 2010 Ohio State Buckeyes

It took a while but we finally have our first true Big Ten representation in the rankings (the 2017 Penn State team notwithstanding). Additionally, the 2010 Buckeyes are the only winless team to make the list. On the field, they beat 12 out of 13 teams but all those wins were vacated because of the tattoo scandal that forced out Jim Tressel. This, of course, led to the reign of Urban Meyer that lasted from 2012-2018. From 2006-2010 the Buckeyes went 56-9 then, under Luke Fickell in 2011 went 6-7. Since then, under Meyer and Day (2019), OSU has gone 99-10 over the last eight seasons and has only finished out of the final AP Top-10 once (2013). What would the Big Ten landscape have looked like if their scandal didn’t happen? Would Tressel still be there today? Where would Urban have ended up? There is an alternate reality where Michigan probably makes a Big Ten Championship Game in the last decade.

2010 OSU

14. 2019 Clemson Tigers

Last year’s Clemson team was expected to win the ACC and make the playoff for the fifth straight year. They entered the season as the No. 1 team in the country and had the most favorable schedules of all of the contenders. Their only expected challenge was against Texas A&M who entered the year with its own high expectation and a top-12 ranking. As it turned out, TAMU was no real challenge for Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, Tee Higgins, Isaiah Simmons, and the rest of the soon to be millionaires on the Clemson roster (the Tigers won 24-10). The only real scare that Clemson got in the 2019 regular season was against UNC in Chapel Hill where the Tar Heels were a failed two-point conversion away from taking the lead with a minute to play. As it was, Clemson won 14 of 15 games and made their 4th national title game in five years after dispatching Ohio State in the semi-finals. They couldn’t win back-to-back national titles though as they lost to LSU in the championship.

2019 Clemson

13. 2012 Texas A&M Aggies

Texas A&M? Yes, savor this paragraph because it gets a bit monotonous from here. TAMU made the move to the SEC in 2012 and in its first year in the conference went 11-2. The Aggies finished the season 5th in the AP after beginning unranked and opened with a close loss to No. 24 Florida. Then, Johnny Manziel happened. In one of the most spectacular breakout seasons that college football has ever seen, Johnny Football beat out Manti Te'o for the Heisman Trophy. In the 2012 season, he accounted for more than 5000 yards of offense and 47 touchdowns while making some of the more dramatic plays of the decade. It also didn’t hurt that he had Mike Evans to throw to. A&M finished the season by routing Oklahoma in a Big 12 throwback game 41-13 in the Cotton Bowl. Manziel had a solid 2013 campaign before moving onto the NFL in 2014.

2012 TAMU

12. 2013 Alabama Crimson Tide

The 2013 version of Nick Saban’s death squad entered the season No. 1, was coming off the 2012 National Championship, and had a roster that would make a decent NFL fantasy roster for 2017. For the year, the Tide's offense scored 38.2 PPG versus a mere 13.9 against. Alabama cruised through the first eleven games with only one ending in less than a 10 point margin of victory (against Manziel’s A&M team). Then the Iron Bowl came against one-loss No. 4 Auburn. I don’t know Nick Saban but I’m sure he prepares for everything that can possibly happen on a football field and the decade of dominance shows that his teams execute at an insane rate. But, unfortunately for the Tide, they were on the losing end of one of the most iconic plays in college football history. One kick-six later, Alabama's shot at a three-peat was over.

2013 Alabama

11. 2017 Alabama Crimson Tide

Like several other Tide teams of the 2010s, the 2017 version opened the season ranked No. 1. In fact, the lowest rank that Alabama had in the preseason AP Poll this decade was No. 3 (2015). 2017 saw the Tide open with No. 3 ranked Florida State (LOL) where they cruised to a 24-7 win under Jalen Hurts. With a backfield of Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough, Najee Harris, and Josh Jacobs (all current or soon to be NFL backs) the Tide averaged 250 rushing YPG (5.7 YPC). Defensively, they gave up about 260 total YPG with a rush defense that allowed only 2.8 YPC. Their first big showdown came in the Iron Bowl against No. 6 Auburn. As in years past, the Tigers beat the Tide to spoil their undefeated season. Entering conference championship week the Tide was 5th behind Clemson (11-1), Oklahoma (11-1), Wisconsin (12-0), and Auburn (10-2). Both Auburn and Wisconsin would’ve been in the playoff had they beat UGA and Ohio State, respectively. Auburn lost to eventual national runner-up Georgia and Wisconsin lost 27-21 to the Buckeyes giving Alabama, who didn’t win their division(?!) a spot in the playoff. They first defeated Clemson 24-6 in the semifinal before playing Georgia in the championship game, where the legend of Tua Tagovialoa was born.

2017 Alabama

Next time, we'll be in the Top-10. There are many contenders left for the best team of the decade. Will it be an Ohio State team? Alabama? Clemson? Someone else?

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