Oklahoma football: How Bud Wilkinson’s best teams compare to the best of today

NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 9: A statue of former head coach Charles Burnham "Bud" Wilkinson of the Oklahoma Sooners stands outside Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on November 9, 2019 in Norman, Oklahoma. OU held on to win 42-41. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 9: A statue of former head coach Charles Burnham "Bud" Wilkinson of the Oklahoma Sooners stands outside Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on November 9, 2019 in Norman, Oklahoma. OU held on to win 42-41. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) /

Recently, I wrote an article detailing the Top 10 teams in Oklahoma football history. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but if you know anything about OU football, then you probably know that Bud Wilkinson’s best teams in the 1950s did very well on that list.

After all, Wilkinson is one of the greatest coaches in the history of the sport and his Sooner teams won 47 straight games at one time, a record that may never be touched.

But college football has changed so much since those days, so the question has to be asked: Where would those great 1050s Oklahoma teams stack up against the best from, let’s say, the early 1990s until now?

There have been so many great teams in the Bowl Coalition era (1992-1994), the Bowl Alliance era (1995-1997), the Bowl Championship Subdivision era (1998-2013) and the College Football Playoff era (2014-present) that these comparisons could go on all day, so let’s try and focus on the cream of the crop of the last thirty years in college football.

Recently, there are three teams that stand out from the College Football Playoff days that really dominated the competition in their respective seasons.

SEC and ACC teams dominate CFP era

In 2020, the Alabama Crimson Tide only let one team play them within single digits (Florida in the SEC Championship game). They featured Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, Mac Jones, Najee Harris and Jaylen Waddle in an offense that was too much for anyone in the country to handle that season. They went 13-0 in the COVID-shortened season and rarely, if ever, looked mortal.

In 2019, the LSU Tigers went 15-0 on the way to winning the national title. They won many games over ranked opponents and were led by Heisman winner Joe Burrow, Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, Derek Stingley and a host of other stars on both sides of the ball. Similarly, to Alabama the following year, there was rarely a time that they looked vulnerable.

In 2018, the Clemson Tigers were the first team to go 15-0 in the CFP era, led by a ferocious defense that was particularly dominant up front with the likes of Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant, Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins. They survived a QB switch midseason and were humming offensively as well when they trashed Alabama in the championship game powered by that stingy Brent Venables-led defense, and QB Trevor Lawrence and RB Travis Etienne on offense.

Florida State cashes in a second chance BCS Championship opportunity

Moving back to the BCS era (and the failed attempts that came before it), the 2013 Florida State Seminoles had NFL talent all over the field on both sides of the ball, and much like 2020 Alabama, the Noles rolled their way to a championship celebration. Jameis Winston took the season by storm as the Heisman winner, but that team was truly a power in all facets of the sport and often gets overlooked for reasons unbeknownst to many college football fans.

The 2010 Auburn Tigers also featured the Heisman winner in QB Cam Newton, but they had much less NFL talent around him. Newton carried the Tigers to the promised land that year. He came out of nowhere to be the best player in the country and he was chosen No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft the following April. However, as a team, the ’10 Tigers probably fall short of the others.

Mack Brown and Vince Young’s 2005 Texas Longhorns have an argument in this discussion as well, as do the Pete Carroll, Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and LenDale White USC teams of the mid-2000s. Texas and USC faced off in one of the greatest games in the sport’s history in the national championship game of the 2005 season. Young and the Longhorns surprised the talent-rich Trojans and were victorious late in that instant classic.

2001 Miami Hurricanes irresistable and immovable

There are many other teams that we could discuss, including: 1992 Alabama, 1994,1995 and 1997 Nebraska, 1997 Michigan,1998 Tennessee, 1999 Florida State, 2000 Oklahoma, 2002 Ohio State and 2009 Alabama, but for my money, the best team of the past three decades has to be the 2001 Miami Hurricanes.

That Miami team was loaded beyond belief. Among the numerous stars on the squad were: quarterback Ken Dorsey; running backs Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Najeh Davenport, and Frank Gore; tight end Jeremy Shockey; wide receiver Andre Johnson; offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie; defensive linemen Jerome McDougle, William Joseph, and Vince Wilfork; linebackers Jonathan Vilma and D.J. Williams; and defensive backs Ed Reed, Mike Rumph, and Phillip Buchanon. On paper, it is hard to imagine that any opponent could beat that Miami team

Additional contributors included future stars Kellen Winslow II, Sean Taylor, Antrel Rolle, Vernon Carey, and Rocky McIntosh. In all, an extraordinary 17 players from the team were drafted in the first-round of the NFL Draft. The team featured an attitude and a swagger that was just unmatched. They knew they were going to beat you, and they told you all about it.

They went 12-0 in Larry Coker’s first season, allowed just 9.8 points per game and defeated five Top 15 opponents by a combined score of 236-72. In the BCS National Championship game, that Canes team defeated Nebraska by a score of 37-14, leading 34-0 at halftime.

Much like the 1955-1956 Oklahoma Sooners coached by Bud Wilkinson, the 2001 Hurricanes decimated every team they faced. Miami also faced tougher opponents and did so four-and-a-half decades later, against better athletes and more complex game plans. Those great Sooner teams are among the best in the sport’s history, but the 2001 Miami Hurricanes top the list, especially when it comes to the last thirty years.