Ranking National Champions of the Last Decade

By Sam Kroin

Alabama has won the championship! Again. The Tide dominated college football this year, winning every game by two scores excluding their SEC championship game against Florida where they really were never in danger of losing. This historical dominance has many raving that this year’s iteration of Alabama might be the greatest college football team of the decade, but where does this year’s iteration of Nick Saban’s squad rank up against the other national champions of the decade? Inside Sports Journal ranks all the national champions this decade from worst to best. 

11. Alabama 2017 (13-1)

There are a lot of Alabama squads to get through on this list, so we might as well start with one. The 2017 tide got off to a really strong start, posting an 11-0 record going into the Iron Bowl with Auburn. However, they did have some close calls along the way, with one score wins against Texas A&M and Mississippi state. In the Iron Bowl, the Tide fell apart in a 26-14 defeat against an Auburn team that would go on to lose to “national champion” UCF in the peach bowl. Somehow, the Tide managed to squeak their way into the 4th playoff spot despite not playing in their conference championship, and they made the most of it, taking down #1 Clemson in the semis to make it into the finals against Georgia. Things weren’t looking good for the Tide, as they were down 13-0 at the half, but heroics from backup QB Tua Tagovilloa allowed Alabama to escape with a comeback overtime win. This was a really good team, but they just didn’t display the dominance we usually see from Saban’s squads.

10. Ohio State 2014 (13-1)

The first CFP winners had a bit of a rough road to the championship. An early loss to an unranked Virginia Tech team seemed to derail any chance at glory, but the Buckeyes kept their playoff hopes alive with a double overtime win at Penn State and close wins against Michigan State and Minneosta. Zeke feasted against Michigan and the Buckeyes slaughtered Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big 10 championship to grab the 4th playoff spot. They then proceeded to beat #1 Alabama and #2 Oregon en route to a National Championship. This team started off slow, but just got better and better as the season rolled on. However, I don’t think they would stack up well against most of the teams on this list. 

9. Clemson 2016 (13-1)

Clemson’s first National Championship team performed spectacularly in the playoffs when it counted, shutting out Ohio State and knocking off a great Alabama team in the Natty, but their questionable performance during the regular season knocks them down on the list. The Tigers struggled mightily during the early part of the regular season, barely beating Lamar Jackson and Louisville (respectable), Auburn (ok), NC State in OT (hmmmmm), and Troy (WHAT). Their close calls caught up to them in a loss against Pitt on November 12th, but this loss proved to be the motivation they needed to run the table and take home the championship.

8. Alabama 2012 (13-1)

This was a really solid tide squad. They beat #5 LSU on the road in Death Valley, beat #8 Michigan to start the year, and took down #3 Georgia in the SEC championship, but they dropped a close game to Johnny Football and the Texas A&M Aggies. That put them as the #2 seed in the BCS national championship, where they absolutely destroyed Notre Dame to win their second title in a row. Talent-wise, this team was stacked. When you are boasting a backfield of T.J. Yeldon, Eddy Lacy, and Kenyon Drake, you are in pretty good shape. Amari Cooper at wideout doesn’t hurt to have either. This team deserved to be champions.

7. Alabama 2015 (14-1)

Another solid Alabama team. 6 of Alabama’s 12 regular season wins came against ranked opponents. 3 of those opponents, Georgia, Texas A&M, and LSU were in the top 10. The lone blemish on this Alabama team’s record was a shootout loss to #15 Ole Miss at home. Still, Alabama was able to make the playoff easily in spite of this loss, and the tide shut out Michigan State 38-0 in the semifinal matchup. In the first chapter of their saga with Clemson, the tide pulled out a 45-40 victory in a stunning matchup that saw Saban rely on an onside kick to pick up the win.

6. Alabama 2011 (12-1)

Make it three Alabamas in a row why don’t you. This iteration of the tide dominated ranked opponents like Florida, Penn State, and Arkansas on the way to their “Game of the Century” with #1 LSU. The Tigers won the matchup 9-6 in OT, keeping Alabama out of the SEC championship game. But the tide got revenge in the BCS national championship, knocking off LSU 21-0. 

5. Auburn 2010 (14-0)

The Tigers finished undefeated, but they had a few close calls throughout the season, knocking off Clemson in overtime and holding off Kentucky 37-34. However, Auburn’s closest brush with defeat came in the Iron Bowl against Alabama, where the Cam Newton led Tigers overcame a 20 point deficit to win the game 28-27. Auburn carried the momentum from this comeback to easily claim the SEC championship, and then they beat #2 Oregon for the BCS national championship a few weeks later. 

4. Alabama 2020 (13-0)

Ok hear me out. This Alabama team is really, really, really….. really good, but I just don’t think that they could beat the last 3 teams on this list. I know that Alabama went undefeated (never really had a close game as a matter of fact), but they did play in a freaky COVID-shortened season. This may be controversial, but I think that 2019 Alabama was, as a whole, better than this team before Tua got hurt. Still, what they showed this season was pure dominance, so I understand why people are claiming that they are the best team of the decade.

3. Clemson 2018 (15-0)

The first 15-0 team in college football history, the 2018 Clemson Tigers absolutely breezed through the regular season in an easy ACC conference. They faced some early tests of will against Texas A&M and Syracuse but after that it was smooth rolling for the Tigers, as Trever Lawrence and company demolished every team on their schedule. In the CFP, it was more of the same, as Clemson easily knocked off #3 Notre Dame 31-3 and then walloped a 14-0 Alabama team in the Championship to claim their second title in three years

2. Florida State 2013 (14-0) 

I had to go back and check Florida State’s schedule in 2013 to make sure that they were as good as I remembered, and they definitely are that damn good. The Seminoles absolutely crushed every team they faced off against in the regular season, winning an absurd 10 GAMES by 30 or more. Some highlights include a 63-0 shutout against #25 Maryland and an 80-14 win against Idaho. Oh, by the way, out of the 10 games FSU won by 30 points or more, seven of them were by more than FIFTY POINTS. This domination makes more sense when we look at the talent on the 2013 team. Every single starter from the National Championship Game against Auburn went to the NFL. Every. Single. One. Combine that with pre-turnover bakery Jameis Winston and you have a recipe for success. The only reason this team is not #1 is because they had a relatively weak strength of schedule and only won the National Championship game by 3 points. 

1. LSU 2019 (15-0)

This LSU team is the best team of the decade and if you think otherwise, tell me where you live because I will fight you. The Tigers put together one of the most impressive seasons of all time, defeating an astonishing SEVEN Top-10 teams throughout the season. You can take your pick of the lot, whether it be a 37-10 victory over georgia in the SEC championship, an impressive road win against #9 Texas, or an absolute dismantling of #4 Oklahoma in the CFP semifinal, but nothing will top the win on the road against #3 Alabama. The Tigers came into Bryant-Denny stadium and exercised their demons by beating Alabama for the first time since 2011, as Joe Burrow threw for 393 yards and 5 touchdowns against the tide. The 2019 LSU roster reads like a who’s who of NFL caliber talent, as Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Justin Jefferson, Jamar Chase, and Grant Delpit all have the potential to dominate at the pro level. But the star of this team is Joe Burrow, who put together possibly the greatest college football season of all time on the way to a Heisman Trophy. If you were to put 2019 LSU against any of the other teams on this list, I’m taking the Tigers.

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