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ESPN ranks 2005 Texas Longhorns as best national champion of past 20 years

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Analytics indicate that Vince Young’s 2005 Longhorns stand alone as the top team of the past two decades.

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12 seasons have come and gone since Vince Young led the 2005 Texas Longhorns to the program’s fourth national championship to cap what still stands as arguably the greatest game in college football history — an unforgettable 41-38 victory over the powerhouse USC Trojans.

12 national champions have been crowned since that Jan. 4 night at the Rose Bowl, yet there’s a case to be made that each pale in comparison to the Young-led Longhorns.

ESPN made that exact case, using analytics to calculate “overall, offensive and defensive ratings to find the true strength of a champion through a comparison of top college football programs across seasons.” By that measure Texas takes the cake and the top spot as the best national championship team of the past two decades, edging out powers including the 2008 Florida Gators, the 2001 Miami Hurricanes, the 2013 Florida State Seminoles, and the 2004 Trojans.

“The 2005 Longhorns are the top championship team of the last 20 years in large part because they claim the best player of the last 20 years,” ESPN’s Jake Trotter said. “Quarterback Vince Young, remarkably, didn’t win the Heisman Trophy that season, but he produced one of the greatest individual seasons in recent college football history, culminating with one of the greatest individual game performances the sport has ever seen.”

“In the Rose Bowl against heavily favored USC, Young completed 30 of 40 passes, rushed for 200 yards and delivered the game-winning play, an 8-yard touchdown dash on fourth down with 19 seconds remaining. That play defined the BCS era. And turned Young into a legend,” Trotter added. “Young wasn’t the only star for Texas, which also boasted a top-10 defense. Michael Huff was the Jim Thorpe Award winner and, like Young, became a top 10 NFL draft pick. Linemen Jonathan Scott and Rodrique Wright were consensus All-Americans, as well. The ‘05 Longhorns never lost. And saved their best for the biggest stage.”

Not surprisingly, more than an entire decade later, Young and the 2005 Longhorns are still held in such high esteem and widely regarded as one of the top teams in college football history, much less the last 20 years.

Whether it was defeating the dynasty in progress that was USC, which entered the evening on the heels of back-to-back titles and riding a 34-game winning streak, the small army of NFL-bound talent that navigated the Longhorns sideline, or Young himself, Texas put forth a truly unforgettable performance. In doing so, the 2005 Texas Longhorns etched their place as the top title-winning team of the past two decades.