Top 10 College Football Teams of the Playboy Era

By Gary Cole

The '88 Irish vs. the 2001 'Canes vs. Bear Bryant's '61 Bama squad. Who came out on top?

During Playboy’s 50-plus-year span of covering college football, we’ve witnessed many all-time great players and hundreds of unforgettable games. Having ranked the best programs of the Playboy era, we got to thinking about the best college football squads since Playboy began its coverage of college football. From Paul “Bear” Bryant’s 1961 Bama team which held opponents to 25 points total all season to the flamboyant and fantastic 2001 Miami Hurricanes featuring Willis McGahee, Kellen Winslow Jr., Ed Reed and the late Sean Taylor, here is our Top 10.

10 Notre Dame (1988) Under the inspirational coaching of Lou Holtz, the Irish returned to prominence by clinching the national championship with a win over West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl. Rocket Ismail, Chris Zorich and Rickey Watters starred for this team. 

9 Florida State (1999)

The Seminoles were #1 in the preseason rankings, a spot they held through a perfect 12-0 season including a victory over Virginia Tech and Michael Vick in the Sugar Bowl. Quarterback Chris Weinke took home the Heisman Trophy that year.

 8 Florida (1996)

Under the tutelage of coach Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel and the Gators rolled through the tough SEC conference unblemished but lost a close game (24-21) in November to in-state rival Florida State. Florida would avenge that loss and win the national championship by crushing the Seminoles 52-20 in a rematch in the Sugar Bowl.

7 Texas (2005)

The Longhorns finished off a perfect 13-0 season when quarterback Vince Young skipped into the end zone on 4th and goal with time running out to defeat USC. The loss broke a 20-game USC win streak and earned Texas and coach Mack Brown the national championship.

6 USC (2004)

It was the Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush show as the Trojans went undefeated and ranked number one wire to wire, only the second team to ever accomplish the feat. The Trojans crushed Oklahoma 55-19 in the Orange Bowl.

5 Oklahoma (1974)

The Sooners defense, led by brothers Lee Roy and Dewey Selmon, was the hallmark of this Barry Switzer-coached team. Oklahoma won its 5th national championship with a perfect 11-0 record.

4 Alabama (1961)

Hats were off for Coach Paul “Bear" Bryant as he led the Crimson Tide to a national championship. Alabama totaled 297 points on offense that season. Their opponents only managed 25. 

3 USC (1972)

The Trojans dominated their competition, defeating six ranked teams on their way to a 42-17 win over Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. The USC offense averaged 39 points a game with Sam “Bam” Cunningham churning out the yards. 

2 Miami (2001)

Willis McGahee, Clinton Portis, Kellen Winslow, Jr, Ed Reed, Sean Taylor, Jeremy Shockey, Andre Johnson and Ken Dorsey headlined perhaps the most talent-laden team in college football history. The Hurricanes margin of victory this year was 34. 

1 Nebraska (1995)

Quarterback Tommie Frazier and the Cornhuskers absolutely dominated the opposition all season long, running up 50-plus points in six games including an unbelievable 62-24 win over Florida to win the national championship.

Also: Playboy’s list of the Top 10 College Football Programs of the Playboy Era, featuring ten additional exclusive Jaime Edmondson illustrations


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