Some of the greatest teams in college football history weren’t able to close out the season with a national title. As is the case with every sport, you sometimes need a little luck on your side.
ESPN recently ranked the 50 best teams to not win a national title. To create the rankings, Bill Connelly used his SP+ ratings from full play-by-play data going back to 2005, then created estimated versions for before 2005 using points scored and allowed. He then eliminated teams with more than one loss.
The 2008 squad for Texas led by head coach Mack Brown and quarterback Colt McCoy landed at No. 18 overall. It was a year of ‘what could have been’ that left an everlasting image of Michael Crabtree’s touchdown reception to lift Texas Tech over Texas in a crucial Big 12 matchup on the minds of many.
Here’s what ESPN had to say about this particular Longhorns squad:
Florida beat Oklahoma in the 2008 national title game. Both teams were totally deserving of their places in the title game — yes, OU lost to Texas, but they also destroyed the Texas Tech team that ended up knocking off the Horns, so that’s always been a wash to me — but it didn’t change the fact that the 2008 season produced more than two deserving teams.
Aside from losing an all-time classic to Tech, the Horns were outstanding, beating three consecutive top-11 teams midseason (OU, Missouri, Oklahoma State), then taking down Ohio State by four in the Fiesta Bowl to finish 12-1.
This season is a touchy subject for many Texas fans, but there’s no doubt the Longhorns were deserving of reaching the national title game. In October of 2008, Texas defeated the No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners at the Cotton Bowl. After Texas dropped a close road game to Texas Tech a few weeks later, it created a three-way tie (Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma) in the Big 12 South.
Despite Texas closing out the season by defeating Texas A&M 49-9, Oklahoma moved past Texas in the BCS rankings. The three-way tie was then resolved by the fifth tie-breaker and the Sooners ultimately advanced to the Big 12 Championship instead of Texas.
Primary playmakers for Texas throughout the 2008 season were Jordan Shipley, Colt McCoy, Earl Thomas, Quan Cosby, Blake Gideon, Sergio Kindle, Roddrick Muckelroy, and Brian Orakpo.