Athlon Sports ranks the best dynasties in college football since the AP Poll debuted.
Dynasty is a word that gets tossed around all too liberally by fans and media members alike. However, there are periods of time in sports where the term is not only applicable but completely accurate. The NFL had the Packers of the '60s, the Steelers of the '70s, the 49ers of the '80s, the Cowboys of the '90s and the Patriots of the '00s. The NBA has the Celtics, Lakers, Bulls and soon-to-be Heat dynasties.
This elite defensive end is one of very few people to win a championship on every level of play. In fact, Wistrom landed three National Championships while in Lincoln – 1994, 1995, 1997. The Huskers went 49-2 in Wistrom’s tenure in college, and the talented end was one of very few freshman to contribute on the ’94 title team. The two-time consensus All-American was the fourth Lombardi Award winner in school history after his stellar ’97 season. He posted 51 tackles, 8.5 sacks and 17 tackles for a loss that year. Wistrom earned Defensive Player of the Year honors in the Big 12 when he posted 75 tackles, 9.5 sacks and 20 tackles for a loss in 1996. Overall, Wistrom holds the school record for tackles for a loss with 58.5 and ranks second all-time with 26.5 sacks. He was selected with the sixth overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams and was inducted into the NCAA Hall of Fame in 2009.
College or pro, Shields is one of the greatest blockers in the history of the game. The list of awards and acclaim is long and distinguished. Shields helped the Huskers lead the nation in rushing in three of his four seasons as a starter. He is one of 16 Huskers to have their numbers retired. He was a three-time all-conference performer. But his best season was his final year in Lincoln, when Shields won the prestigious Outland Trophy as the best lineman in the nation. He was a consensus All-American that season and a Lombardi semifinalist as well. Shields fell to the third round, where the Kansas City Chiefs selected the 12-time Pro Bowler.
Crouch was yo-yoed in and out of the lineup during his first year and nearly left the team after his second season in Lincoln. But in week three of the 1999 season, Crouch took over for good and led the Huskers to a Big 12 championship and a 12-1 record. In 2000, he led the Huskers to a 10-2 mark, setting the stage for a massive 2001 campaign. In only the first game of the season, Crouch passed Tommie Frazier as the school’s all-time total offense leader. Records then began to fall weekly. He became the Big 12’s all-time leading rushing quarterback against Rice. The next week against Mizzou, his 95-yard TD run was the longest in school history. The following week against Iowa State, Crouch broke the record for TDs by a quarterback. After becoming only the fourth player in D-1 history with 3,000 yards rushing and passing, Crouch ran his most famous play, Black 41 Flash Reverse Pass. As both QB and WR, Crouch likely won the Heisman Trophy by catching a 63-yard TD pass against the Sooners. He set school records for wins by a QB (35–7), led the team to an 11–1 record and a berth in the national title game. He claimed the 2001 Heisman, Davey O’Brien and Walter Camp awards.
As one of the school’s most electric players, Rodgers has the honor of being the school’s first Heisman Trophy winner. “The Jet” was a stellar return specialist, receiver and running back totaling 5,586 all-purpose yards, a number that still stands as a career Nebraska record. His 1,983 yards in 1971 were a single-season record until he broke his own mark with 2,011 yards the following year (since broken). Rodgers has been described as the greatest returner in college football history, as his seven career punt return TDs stood as a record for decades. Rodgers also set Nebraska school records for receptions with 143 and yards with 2,479. He played on two National Championship teams (1970, 1971) as NU posted a 32-2-2 mark during his tenure. Despite being drafted in the first round of the 1973 NFL Draft by the Chargers, Rodgers instead signed a contract with the Montreal Alouettes. Rodgers was inducted into the NCAA Hall of Fame in 2000. As a side note, Rodgers is the only player to be convicted of a felony prior to receiving the Heisman Trophy.
After playing alongside arguably the best center to ever play (Dave Rimington), Steinkuhler won the school's third consecutive Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman in 1983, after Rimington had claimed the award in 1981 and 1982. Steinkuhler also claimed the Lombardi Award for Nebraska for the second year in a row. Nebraska is the only team that has had consecutive winners of both the Outland and Lombardi awards. Steinkuhler is one of 16 players to have their Nebraska number retired and is the player who made the “Fumblerooski” famous when he picked up Turner Gill’s intentional fumble in the 1984 Orange Bowl and rumbled 19 yards for a touchdown. The Houston Oilers selected the big ugly with the second overall pick in the 1984 NFL Draft.
The list of accolades for Rimington is astounding. He was a two-time consensus All-American (1981, 1982). He won Big-8 Player of the Year in 1981 — the only time an offensive lineman earned such honors. He claimed back-to-back Outland Trophies as the nation’s top lineman — and is the award's only two-time winner. He claimed the Lombardi Award in 1982 as well and finished fifth in the Heisman voting. He is one of 16 Huskers to have his jersey retired and was inducted into the NCAA Hall of Fame in 1997. Rimington was such a dominant force at center that now the award given to the nation’s top center each year carries his name. The stellar hog molly was drafted with the 25th pick in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.
“The greatest defensive player I ever saw,” is how former NU coach Bob Devaney described Glover. In 1972, Glover won the program’s first Lombardi Award and the school’s second ever Outland Trophy. He was the first player in school history to win both awards. As a two-time consensus All-American, Glover led the Big Red defense to back-to-back National Championships in 1970 and 1971, leading the team in tackles in with 92 stops in '71. The following year Glover landed Big 8 Defensive Player of the Year honors and finished third in the Heisman voting (teammate Johnny Rodgers won the Heisman that year). He had his number retired by the Huskers and was inducted into the NCAA Hall of Fame in 1995. He was drafted in the third round of the 1973 NFL Draft by the New York Giants.
Suh was arguably the most dominant defensive lineman of the last twenty seasons in all of college football; there are fewer awards that he didn't win than those he earned. He earned freshman all-league honors as a redshirt freshman. As a junior, Suh became the first defensive tackle to lead the team in tackles (76) since 1973. He also led the team in tackles for a loss (19.0), posted 7.5 sacks and returned two INTs for touchdowns. He also caught a TD while moonlighting as a fullback. In 2009, Suh made 85 stops, 12 sacks, 24 tackles for a loss, three blocked kicks and one very huge interception against Mizzou. Suh dominated awards night that season, earning the Nagurski Trophy for top defensive player in the nation, the Outland Trophy for best interior lineman, the Lombardi for the top lineman or linebacker and Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation’s top defensive player. The unanimous All-American was a Heisman finalist in 2009, finishing fourth. Suh was taken with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions and took home NFL Rookie of the Year honors.
In just three seasons, the two-time All-American became Nebraska’s all-time leading rusher with 4,780 yards. As a junior, he set the Big Red single-season rushing record with 1,689 yards while leading the Huskers to a second straight outright Big 8 championship. As a senior, Rozier posted mind-boggling numbers with 2,486 all-purpose yards, 2,148 rushing yards, 29 total TDs and 174 total points — all of which are still Nebraska single-season records. He became the school’s second Heisman Trophy winner that season leading the Huskers into the 1984 Orange Bowl against Miami for the national title. The 31-30 loss was marked by a Rozier ankle injury that kept the Heisman winner out of the fourth quarter after 138 yards at halftime. Rozier also won the Maxwell Award and the Walter Camp Player of the Year award in 1983. He was selected in the first round of both the NFL and USFL Drafts in 1984 and was inducted into the NCAA Hall of Fame in 2006.
Despite not joining Eric Crouch in winning the prestigious Heisman Trophy, Frazier is easily the greatest quarterback to ever play for Nebraska — a program with a long list of elite quarterbacks. Frazier posted a 33-3 record as a starter and won back-to-back National Championships in 1994 and 1995. It would have been three straight championships had NU managed to convert a last-second field goal in the 1994 Orange Bowl. Despite blood clots in his leg in 1994, Frazier brought the Huskers back to the title game and claimed his second straight bowl MVP award and, this time, claimed his first national title game. These first two years under center merely set the stage for the 1995 campaign, in which Frazier led what many consider the best football team in NCAA history back to its third straight title game. The greatest run in college football history — Frazier’s seven broken tackle, 75-yard TD run against Florida — capped a 62–24 romp over the vaunted Gators and gave Big Red its second straight title. Frazier was once again took home the MVP, making him the only player in history to win three MVPs in national championship games. He finished second in the Heisman balloting that season but won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and was a consensus All-American.
Down seven points with 1:02 left and with its national title hopes waning, Nebraska drove to the Missouri 12-yard line. On the last play of regulation, Scott Frost tossed a pass into the end zone that glanced first off the hands and then off the feet of Shelvin Wiggins. As the ball floated toward the turf, Matt Davison caught it, forcing overtime. The Cornhuskers prevailed, 45-38, and went on to claim a share of the national crown.
Tom Osborne had lost his first five games in a row to Oklahoma, and many in Lincoln were wondering whether he had been the right choice to succeed Bob Devaney when the top-ranked Sooners came to Lincoln to face the fourth-rated Cornhuskers. But Nebraska forced nine fumbles and recovered six en route to a stirring, 17-14 win fueled by the nasty Black Shirts defense and 113 yards rushing and a touchdown from Rick Berns.
After having lost the last seven bowl games they played against teams from Florida, number-one Nebraska took on third-rated Miami in the Orange Bowl and secured coach Tom Osborne’s first national title with a 24-17 win. The Cornhuskers spotted Miami a 17-7 lead but stormed back and clinched the win when fullback Cory Schlessinger rumbled 14 yards for a touchdown.
Number two Oklahoma invaded Lincoln for “The Game of theCentury” with the top-ranked Cornhuskers, and the contest lived up to its name. Johnny Rodgers’ 72-yard punt return opened the scoring, but Jeff Kinney’s two-yard run with 1:38 left was the decisive play in a 35-31 Nebraska triumph.
Who are the greatest college running backs of the BCS era?
Greatness is defined in so many different ways. Statistical production, individual awards, team success, longevity, supporting cast, level of competition, raw talent and athletic ability all factor heavily in determining overall greatness. Sometimes, you simply know greatness when you see it.
So all factors were considered when trying to determine who the greatest running backs of the BCS era have been. Here are the Top 50 ball carriers since the BCS was implemented in 1998: