SANTA CLARA, California — There will never be a definitive answer to the greatest team in college football history.
That didn’t stop Clemson coach Dabo Swinney from lobbying for his squad.
The Tigers wrapped up the first 15-0 season by a major college football team Monday night with a dominating 44-16 victory over Alabama, the defending national champion and ranked No. 1 all season by The Associated Press.
“There was a lot of talk about the best ever all year long,” said Swinney, referring to Alabama. “We were never in that conversation. But tonight, there’s no doubt. We’re the first 15-0 team.”
Swinney was especially proud to knock off two of the nation’s most storied programs in the College Football Playoff.
“We beat Notre Dame and Alabama,” he said. “We left no doubt, and we walk off the field tonight as the first 15-0 team in college football history.”
Clemson certainly joins the conversation with teams such as Knute Rockne’s Notre Dame powerhouses of the 1920s, the dominant Army teams of the 1940s and Bud Wilkinson’s Oklahoma dynasty of the 1950s. More recently, the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers, 1999 Florida State Seminoles, 2001 Miami Hurricanes and 2004 Southern Cal Trojans were unbeaten national champions considered among the best teams ever.
But the Tigers are the first team to win every game in the playoff era, which began during the 2014 season. They went 12-0 during the regular season, surviving close calls against Texas A&M (28-26) and Syracuse (27-23) but winning every other game by at least 20 points. Then, they routed Pittsburgh 42-10 for the Atlantic Coast Conference title, blew out Notre Dame 30-3 in the Cotton Bowl semifinal and handed coach Nick Saban the most lopsided loss of his Alabama tenure in the national championship game.
“They have a really good team.” Saban acknowledged.
In the mind of defensive tackle Clelin Ferrell, all those accomplishments push the Tigers ahead of everyone else.
“I feel like we’re the best team ever. We’re 15-0,” he said. “Most wins by a senior class and we beat the team that was considered the best team in the history of college football.”