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Best Seasons College Football History

Rob Joyce
January 14, 2020 - 3:31 pm

LSU capped one of the most magical seasons of all-time on Monday, beating Clemson 45-25 to win the national title a perfect 15-0. As a team it’s arguably the best season of all-time, beating seven teams ranked inside the AP Top-10, trailing once by more than one possession (they trailed 17-7 briefly on Monday) and putting up a record-setting offense. Of course, the on-field leader of that charge was Joe Burrow, the Heisman winner and surefire No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft (hey, Bengals!).

Burrow’s raw numbers on the season make it one of the best in college football history... but where does it rank? On a night when the sport’s ten greatest players of all-time were honored, here’s where Burrow’s 2019 season stands in CFB lore:

5) Steve McNair, 1994:

For a player at the FCS level to make this list, it takes a near-impossible performance across an entire season, and that’s what McNair managed to do at Alcorn State. In the regular season he accounted for 5,799 yards of total offense (4,863 passing, 936 rushing), and including the postseason totaled 5,377 passing yards and 47 TDs, enough for him to finish third in Heisman voting.

For context, his 6,281 yards of total offense came in 11 games. In 15 games, Joe Burrow accumulated 6,056 yards.

4) Marcus Allen, 1981:

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The USC running back became the first player in FBS history to reach the 2,000-yard mark in the regular season, finishing with 2,342 yards with 23 touchdowns. He did it by going over the 200-yard mark eight times in 11 regular season games. Including the bowl game, he totaled 2,427 yards in setting 14 NCAA records and winning the Heisman.

3) Tim Tebow, 2007:

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The sophomore took the reins of Urban Meyer’s offense and because a legend at Florida. As a passer Tebow threw for 3,286 yards and 32 touchdowns – in itself a very good year. Tack on 895 yards and 23 TDs rushing, and you have a historic year. He became the first player in FBS history to have at least 20 touchdowns both passing and rushing (mind you, he went 30-20) in the same season, leading to him being the first sophomore to win the Heisman.

2) Joe Burrow, 2019:

Unlike everyone else on this list, Burrow had the luxury of playing 15 games – no one else played more than 13 – but it doesn’t make his numbers any less impressive. He threw for 5,671 yards and a record-setting 60 touchdowns, compared to just six interceptions, completing 77 percent of his passes. He averaged 10.8 yards per attempt, and did it against the likes of teams ranked second (Clemson), fourth (Georgia), ninth (Florida), 20th (Alabama), 28th (Auburn) and 30th (Texas A&M) in total defense.

To cap it off, he threw for 1,305 yards, 16 touchdowns (with no interceptions) and ran for two more scores in three postseason games, winning a national championship.

1) Barry Sanders, 1988:

After a 603-yard performance in ’87, Sanders put up what is still the single-greatest season by a player in college football history with Oklahoma State. The future Hall of Famer set FBS records that still stand today: 2,628 rushing yards, 37 rushing touchdowns in 11 games (for those who aren’t mathematical prodigies, that’s an average of 238.9 yards and 3.4 touchdowns per game). What’s crazier is that those numbers don’t even tell the whole story: the NCAA didn’t recognize bowl game stats, so his 222-yard, five-touchdown performance in the Holiday Bowl aren’t included.

In totality, Sanders ran for 2,850 yards and 42 touchdowns in a dozen games, a pair of records that will likely stand forever.