What’s there to remember about the year 2001? Besides George W.’s rookie season as commander-in-chief, Shaq and Kobe going for title #2, Nas Vs. Jay-Z, Aaliyah’s plane crash and September 11th? Nothing much, aside from the Miami Hurricanes. A team so dominant, so vindictive, so overly-cocky, so physical and so much better than anyone they took the field against, the Canes legitimately resembled a real-life video game.
For the past week and change, the question I’ve posed to friends centers around the best college football team at least of the past 20 years. Names like the ’96 and ’06 Florida squads, ’95 Nebraska, ’99 Florida State (personal favorite), ’04 USC and ’00 Oklahoma were all thrown around for their respective and acceptable reasons. But all paled in light to the 2001-2002 Miami squad with the range of comparison not even that close. Many forget the team that back alley mauled Nebraska for the national title probably should have played Oklahoma for that very same honor the previous year.
Miami beat Florida State, yet was left on the outside looking in at the Orange Bowl because the foolproof BCS computers selected Bobby Bowden’s band of misfits because of the always logical “strength of schedule” factor. “The U’s” loss to Washington earlier that year was overruled by FSU’s loss to the #3 team in the country by a field goal. And with the way things ended up playing out, Miami’s case appeared much more plausible.
The ‘Noles loss by the God-awful score of 13-2 – thanks largely to Snoop Minnis’ suspension – still ranks top three overall on my personal “most embarrassing losses” scale. The other two were accompanied by binge drinking and the subsequent hangover the following morning – LeBron’s Game 4 of the 2011 NBA Finals and the Cowboys’ 44-6 bitch slap in 2008 at the hands of the Eagles the last game of the season with a playoff birth on the line.
As if being forced to live with the taste of college football’s Illuminati pissing in their lemonade the season before wasn’t enough, then-head coach Butch Davis took his talents to Cleveland to lead the Browns, making for one of the strangest cases of irony in sports history we just weren’t aware of yet. No one knew how Davis’ players would react to playing under Larry Coker. Some expected Miami to contend for a national title while others expected the first year transition to be just that, a transition. What happened next, however, proved to be an actual hurricane not one program in the country was prepared to defend.
The only games in any doubt even provided classics. Boston College had Miami reeling until Ed Reed pulled off one of the greatest football plays ever filmed and Virginia Tech post-Vick used an inspired fourth quarter comeback to only lose by two. Excluding those pair of contests, the season was never in jeopardy with South Florida’s hottest ticket beating opponents by a score of 225-17 over a five game stretch. No, seriously, let that sink in. 225-17. Or in other words, an average score of 45-3.
Those who remember the season remember the dominance. Maybe it was playing in the Big East, or maybe it was Cam Newton’s dad representing every player or maybe the planets actually sat in alignment for the duration of the season. What was witnessed every Saturday of the fall and winter of 2001, though, was the most transcendent exhibition of high quality collegiate football ever displayed. The Canes were a touring rock band. Better yet, the Canes were the aliens from Independence Day. They came, they saw, they – in the immortal words of Dale and Brennan from Stepbrothers – “fucked shit up” and left campuses in ruins.
Then again, when the team is littered top to bottom with created player-like freaks of nature, the scale of difficulty drops drastically: Willis McGahee, Najeh Davenport, Andre Johnson, Antrel Rolle, Mike Rumph, Kevin Beard, DJ Williams, Ed Reed, Sean Taylor, Clinton Portis, Phillip Buchanon, Frank Gore, Johnathan Vilma, Joaquin Gonzalez, Vince Wilfork, Bryant McKinnie, Kellen Winslow, Jr., Roscoe Parrish, Jeremy Shockey, William Jospeh and Jerome McDougle. Regardless of the impact each individual player had, seeing all those names on one roster was flat out disrespectful.
Notice there was no mention of the Eric Foreman of college quarterbacks, Ken Dorsey, who tallied a ridiculous 38-2 record as a starter. Even had Walter Payton’s son, Jarrett, was along for the ride. Trick Daddy being offensive coordinator was the only way the team could have gotten anymore rock star-ish.
The range between the 2001 Hurricanes and whoever #2 is may not be exactly in arms-reach either. Truthfully, a 20-point spread and open bar would be enough to convince me to take them over the 2007-2008 Detroit Lions. I know what I gawked over that year and what I saw was the type of performance in all three facets of the game that mirrored near perfection.
Their 37-14 victory over the Eric Crouch-led Cornhuskers was a clinic in precision, domination and intimidation. It was almost as if the BCS had dropped a live mouse (Nebraska) into a cage with a python (Miami). In such a blowout, the game had its fair share of timeless moments too like Johnathan Vilma’s two baptisms (it’s in your best interest to click those links). Or Andre Johnson’s trot into the end zone which is still the only occurrence in history a player has signed his pro contract during mid-play in college. Seriously, he was that wide open.
Too talented to lose and too pissed off to fail, “The U” embraced the hype, lived up to it and then created their own legacy from such a position. And what’s crazier to think is the university was two moronic calls away from potentially winning three straight and becoming a bonafide dynasty. Yes, I’m talking to you B(ullshit) C(hampionship) S(eries) and Ohio State.