Now that the year 2020 has finally arrived, it’s as good a time as any to look back at the previous decade. It’s no secret that college football over the past few decades has been dominated by southern schools. But the SEC isn’t the only conference to produce dominant programs over the last 10 years. There have been several college football teams that excelled on the field year in and year out from 2010 to 2019. Of course, this is up for debate, but we’d like to share our list of the top college football programs of the 2010s.
Winning the last national championship of the decade was enough to lift the Tigers a hair above programs like Georgia, Wisconsin, and Oregon. It’s not easy playing in the SEC West; not only is LSU regularly overshadowed by Alabama, but they also play a brutal schedule year after year. The transition from Les Miles to Ed Orgeron was a little messy as well. However, the Bayou Bengals were able to show incredible consistency for the past 10 seasons, going to a bowl game in all 10 seasons and only finishing outside the top-25 once.
Despite just one trip to the College Football Playoff, the Tigers made the most of it by winning it all in 2019. They also had another title game appearance back in 2011 on the heels of a 13-0 regular season. LSU gets a few points off for only winning two SEC championships over the past 10 years. However, they won at least eight games every year and had at least 10 wins in six of the last 10 seasons. When they weren’t dominant, the Tigers were at least consistent, avoiding any deep valleys, which is no easy task, especially in the SEC West.
The College Football Playoff has not been kind to the Sooners, but it’s hard to argue that any program has dominated its conference more than Oklahoma over the last 10 seasons. Even with a coaching change after the 2016 season, the Sooners have taken home five straight Big 12 championships and seven conference titles during the 2010’s. Staying on top of a conference, especially a power conference, for such an extended period of time is no easy task.
Dominating the Big 12 for the past 10 years has meant eight trips to New Year’s Six bowl games, including three straight appearances in the CFP. Oklahoma has also finished seven of the last 10 seasons ranked in the top-10. Finally, there’s just been one season in the 2010’s in which Oklahoma failed to win at least 10 games, averaging close to 11 wins per season during that span, showing a kind of consistency that’s been overlooked due to their struggles in the national semi-finals.
3. Ohio State
The Buckeyes have had four different head coaches and battled NCAA sanctions over the past decade, but that hasn’t stopped them from dominating on the field. The Buckeyes suffered through one losing season and had one season in which all 12 wins were vacated. However, Ohio State also won a national championship and was a contender just about every season, finishing in the top-10 in six straight seasons to close out the 2010’s.
In a way, it’s hard to believe the Buckeyes only won a single national title over the last 10 days. One could consider it a bit of a letdown. However, they won four Big Ten titles during the 2010’s and reached the CFP in three of the last six seasons. Finally, if you include their vacated wins from 2010, the Buckeyes have won at least 12 games in eight of the last 10 seasons, averaging 11.7 wins per year and losing a total of 18 games during that span, maintaining a high level in what has become one of the best conferences in college football.
If the Tigers had won the title in 2019, they could have had an argument for the best program of the decade. However, there should be no doubt that Clemson is head and shoulders above every program except the team ranked at no. 1. The decade began with the Tigers going a modest 6-7 in 2010. However, Clemson won at least 10 games and finished the season ranked for the next nine seasons.
Along the way, the Tigers took home six ACC championships, becoming the pre-eminent program in that conference. Even with their subpar 2010 campaign included, Clemson lost just 12 ACC games over the past decade while going undefeated in league play three times. Of course, it’s the five consecutive trips to the College Football Playoff, four national championship game appearances, and two CFP titles that make the Tigers the second-best college football program of the 2010’s.
As if there was any doubt about this; Alabama is clearly the team of the decade in college football. For most of the last 10 years, it’s been a surprise when someone other than the Crimson Tide has won the national championship and a shock when Alabama even loses a game. Of course, that’s what happens when a program only loses 14 games over 10 seasons, which is almost more impressive when you consider that Alabama never went through a season undefeated during those 10 years.
Despite never surviving a full season undefeated, which is understandable in the brutal SEC West, Nick Saban’s team was crowned SEC champions on five occasions and won the national championship four times over the past 10 seasons. On top of the titles, the Crimson Tide won at least 10 games every year during the 2010’s and was an AP top-10 team at the end of every season. When all was said and done, a sluggish 11-2 season in 2019 to close out the decade wasn’t enough to prevent the Crimson Tide from being the best college football team of the decade.