The 2005 football season will be forever etched in the burnt-orange hearts of Longhorn loyalists. As if any diehard Horns fan needed a reminder, that’s the season when quarterback Vince Young and his teammates captured the national football championship in a goose-bump-inducing matchup against the heavily favored University of Southern California Trojans.
Now, the Horns can hoist another trophy of sorts, as ESPN crowned the 2005 Longhorns as the top college football championship team of the past 20 years. In order to determine the best team in college football, ESPN analyzed 15,000 games over 20 years, assigned each team offensive and defensive ratings, and then used that data to calculate an overall score.
In declaring the winner, ESPN also heaps praise on Young as “the best player of the past 20 years.”
“Quarterback Vince Young, remarkably, didn’t win the Heisman Trophy that season,” ESPN notes, “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.”
USC was the favorite in the 2006 Rose Bowl, which would determine the national champion of the 2005 college football season. Young had other ideas, completing 30 of 40 passes for 267 yards, and rushing for 200 yards. Young also scored the game-winning play — an 8-yard touchdown on fourth down with 19 seconds left on the clock. (Final score: 41-38.)
“That play defined the BCS [Bowl Championship Series] era. And turned Young into a legend,” ESPN says.
ESPN does point out, though, that Young didn’t single-handedly lead the Horns to victory. Michael Huff won the Jim Thorpe Award, recognizing him as the top defensive back for the 2005 season, and went on to join Young as a top NFL draft pick. Meanwhile, offensive tackle Jonathan Scott and defensive end Rodrique Wright were unanimous All-American picks that season.
In lionizing the Young-helmed and Mack Brown-coached squad, ESPN concludes: “The ’05 Longhorns never lost. And saved their best for the biggest stage.”
By the way, the 2000 Oklahoma Sooners football team turned up at No. 13 in the ESPN ranking. There’s something fitting about the Sooners being in the unlucky 13th spot, isn’t there?