2001 Miami football clearly the team of the 2000s

3 Jan 2002: DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr/Getty Images
3 Jan 2002: DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr/Getty Images /

The debate on the best team in the history of college football should begin and end with the 2001 Miami Hurricanes. The Miami football team sandwiched a 34-game winning streak that ended controversially in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl.

In an article recently published by The Athletic’s Matt Brown as part of a series for each decade celebrating the 150th anniversary of college football, the 2001 Miami football team was named the best of the decade. It’s not even a debate.

The 2002 Miami football team would have made the list if not for a controversial pass interference call in a double-overtime loss to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. It can be said that the Hurricanes are cursed in the desert. No team had as much talent as the Miami football program from 2000-02.

The 2001 Miami Hurricanes were led by tackle Bryant McKinnie on offense and newly inducted Pro Football Hall of Famer Ed Reed on defense. McKinnie was a two-time all-American who finished eighth in the 2001 Heisman Trophy balloting.

McKinnie and Orlando Pace are the only offensive linemen since 1996 to finish in the top ten in the Heisman Trophy balloting. McKinnie is arguably the greatest offensive lineman in the history of the Miami football program. Reed was also a two-time consensus all-American and holds the Miami career record for interceptions.

The 2001 Hurricanes and 1995 Nebraska team that obliterated Florida 62-24 in the Fiesta Bowl are considered by most historians to be the two best in college football history. Nebraska’s talent and that of any other team in the history of the sport does not compare to Miami. Here is Brown’s take on the 2001 Hurricanes.

"“1. 2001 Miami. Most debates about the best team in modern college football history focus on two candidates: 1995 Nebraska and 2001 Miami. Butch Davis rejuvenated the Hurricanes and left for the NFL after an 11-1 season in 2000. Miami promoted Larry Coker, who inherited a roster overflowing with pro talent.In the next four NFL Drafts, 33 Miami players were selected, including a staggering 16 first-round picks. The 2001 backfield alone featured Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Frank Gore and Najeh Davenport. Other prominent players included tackle Bryant McKinnie, receiver Andre Johnson, safety Ed Reed, cornerback Phillip Buchanon, cornerback, Mike Rumph, linebacker D.J. Williams and LB Jonathan Vilma. And though he wasn’t a top pro prospect, Ken Dorsey expertly ran the show at quarterback and was a two-time Heisman finalist.The highest-ranked team Miami beat was Nebraska, which fell to No. 8 in the final AP poll after getting blown out by Colorado and the ’Canes. But six of Miami’s 12 wins came against teams that finished in the AP Top 25, including a 59-0 win vs. Syracuse, a 65-7 win vs. Washington…The 37-14 demolition of the Huskers in the Rose Bowl that was not as close as the score indicated. The ’Canes outscored opponents by an average of 32.9 points per game, held eight teams to a touchdown or less and were only seriously challenged by Virginia Tech in a 26-24 win in Blacksburg.The debate about which team belonged in the Rose Bowl as the opponent was ultimately moot: Miami finished far ahead of the pack in 2001. In fact, it may have been better than any team in the history of the sport.”"

Ultimately if not for a phantom interference call in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, Miami would have won back to back titles and carried a 35 game winning streak and back to back national titles into the 2003 season. Miami probably took Ohio State too lightly in a game that the Hurricanes should not have allowed to go to overtime.

In a three-year span that began in 2000, the Miami went 35-2 and finished in the top two all three seasons. Add in the 2003 season and the Hurricanes were 46-4 under Butch Davis and Larry Coker in that four-year span. The 2000 team many contend was robbed a chance of playing for the national championship.

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The Hurricanes defeated Florida State in 2000 but finished slightly behind the Seminoles in the BCS standings. If Miami had finished ahead of Florida State, Washington, who defeated Miami, would have barked it is unfair that they were not in the championship game. The Hurricanes crushed Florida in the Sugar Bowl.