The title holder for the best college football team of the 21st century differs based on who you ask. However, the 2019 LSU Tigers refuse to be ignored, continuing to make their mark at the professional level more than three seasons after winning the College Football Playoff during a perfect 15-0 season.
The 2019 LSU Tigers roster was basically an NFL roster.
This has to be one of the Top-3 college rosters EVER, if not the best.
QB: Joe Burrow (Bengals)
RB: Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Chiefs)
RB: Tyrion Davis-Price (49ers)
WR: Ja’Marr Chase (Bengals)
WR: Justin Jefferson (Vikings)… pic.twitter.com/W3toVmCXp8
— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) November 15, 2023
The 2019 version of the LSU Tigers dominated college football but continues to make their mark at the NFL level. However, they aren’t the first college football team of the 21st century to find success after the curtains shut on their collegiate careers. With the Tigers, especially the trio of Justin Jefferson, Joe Burrow, and Ja’Marr Chase, earning NFL elite status over the years, is 2019 LSU the most outstanding college football team of the past 23 seasons?
2019 LSU Tigers Football Team; Offensive Powerhouse for the Record Books
The 2019 LSU Tigers are arguably the most remarkable college football team of the 21st century. The Tigers ran the table, going a perfect 15-0 and winning both College Football Playoff games by a combined score of 105-53. Led by Heisman Trophy Award winner Joe Burrow, LSU scored 48.4 points per game, the highest mark in college football that year. Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase earned All-American honors, while fellow wideout Justin Jefferson led the NCAA in receptions. Meanwhile, Clyde Edwards-Helaire posted a team-best 1,868 scrimmage yards. LSU failed to score more than 35 points just ONCE in 2019. Only three times did an opponent finish the game within a touchdown of the Tigers.
Defensively, LSU allowed 21.9 points per game, the 32nd-lowest average in college football that year. The offense undoubtedly carried the Tigers, but they kept teams under 14 points six times, including beating top-ranked Georgia 37-10 in the SEC championship.
Naturally, the 2019 LSU Tigers churned out a lot of NFL talent. There are 26 players from that team on an active NFL roster (as of Week 11 of the 2023 season), with another three being recent free agents. Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow headlines the group. Burrow followed up a 60-passing touchdown season with the Tigers to become the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft. The gunslinger has quickly become one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, winning Comeback Player of the Year in 2021 and garnishing MVP votes in 2022.
The 2019 rendition of the LSU Tigers also housed two of the NFL’s current best wide receivers, Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase. Jefferson won Offensive Player of the Year last season, totaling an NFL-best 128 receptions and 1,809 yards. Meanwhile, Chase, a two-time Pro-Bowler, averages 87.4 receiving yards per game across his three-year NFL career.
There are also a handful of Tigers that have consistent roles in the NFL. Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and wideouts Terrance Marshall and Trey Palmer get a decent amount of snap share on their teams despite not being stars. The 2019 LSU Tigers also won the Joe Moore Award for the NCAA’s top offensive line, and the trio of Ed Ingram (Vikings), Lloyd Cushenberry III (Broncos), and Damien Lewis (Seahawks) have become everyday NFL starters within the trenches.
The 2019 version of the LSU Tigers produced three NFL defensive mainstays. Baltimore Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen sits ninth in solo tackles this season and was a 2020 NFL All-Rookie Team member. Tennessee Titans corner and former second-round pick Kristian Fulton has 143 tackles and four interceptions in 39 career NFL games. Meanwhile, when healthy, Derek Stingley Jr. has shown flashes of becoming a lockdown corner.
2001 Miami Hurricanes: Arguably the Greatest Team EVER
When discussing the greatest college football teams of all time, the 2001 Miami Hurricanes are a pillar of conversation. They went 12-0, allowed a microscopic 8.6 points per game (best in the NCAA), and scored 39.6 points per contest. Outside a 26-24 road win against a ranked Virginia Tech squad, the Hurricanes won every game by at least 20 points.
They kept three ranked opponents to under 14 points scoring that season while scoring more than 40 points in a game six times. The 2001 Miami Hurricanes produced a ludicrous 38 NFL draft picks. NFL standouts Andre Johnson, Sean Taylor, Bryant McKinnie, Jonathan Vilma, Jeremy Shockey, Antrel Rolle, Vince Wolfork, Willis McGahee, Ed Reed, Clinton Portis, Roscoe Parrish, and Frank Gore all played on the 2001 Miami Hurricanes. For reference, that’s 22 All-Pro and 43 Pro Bowl appearances.
2020 Alabama Crimson Tide and 2004 USC Trojans: Among the Best College Football Teams of the 21st Century
The 2020 Alabama Crimson Tide and the 2004 USC Trojans also have a claim for the best college football team during the 21st century. The 2020 Crimson Tide finished 2nd in points scored (48.5) and 13th in points allowed per game (19.4). Alabama beat six ranked opponents by a combined 125 points. Wide receiver DeVonta Smith won the Heisman, quarterback Mac Jones won the Davey O’Brien and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Awards, running back Najee Harris took home the Doak Walker Alward, offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood earned the Outland Trophy, center Landon Dickerson won the Rimington Trophy, and the offensive line snagged the Joe Moore Award.
However, from an NFL draft perspective, Landon Dickerson, DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, and Patrick Surtain II are the only players from the 2020 team to earn star status at the next level. Najee Harris, Mac Jones, and Alex Leatherwood have struggled to break through, with Jones and Harris losing hold of their starting job in 2023.
The 2004 USC Trojans were also stacked. USC finished in the top six in both points scored and allowed per game while going 13-0 under head coach Pete Carroll. Despite playing just two ranked opponents in the regular season, the Trojans dominated in the title game, beating the breaks off of the No.2 ranked Oklahoma Sooners 55-19. Quarterback Matt Leinart, running back Reggie Bush, defensive end Shaun Cody, linebacker Matt Grootegoed, defensive tackle Mike Patterson, and linebacker Lofa Tatupu all earned All-American status. So the question remains: who do YOU have as the best college football team in the 21st century, and do the 2019 LSU Tigers belong?