Going undefeated for an entire season doesn’t necessarily earn a team a spot amongst the greatest of all-time. However, it certainly doesn’t hurt, does it? So today we’re going to rank the greatest undefeated teams of all-time.
Before we get started, though, a few quick notes…
First off, we’re not just talking regular season only, but playoffs too. Because who cares if you go 31-0 and lose in the first round of the playoffs to a lesser team?
Second, we’ll only be considering men’s and women’s leagues followed relatively closely in North America—so in other words, high-level football, basketball, baseball, hockey, and soccer played in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Does that exclude your favorite college lacrosse team that went 35-0 last year? Sorry, tough luck.
Third, try not to obsess over the exact order of the list. It’s not easy to compare a college football team from the 1940s to a women’s basketball team from the 2000s because the context is so different. That being said, do let us know what you think. Did we evaluate a certain team unfairly? Did we miss an obvious one altogether? Then join the discussion.
But enough of the formalities. Want to see who made the cut? Then right this way…
The 1956 Oklahoma Sooners football team is by all accounts a dominant team. The national champs were #1 in points scored per game (46.6) and #2 in points allowed (5.1), and the closest they came to losing was a game against Colorado, which they still won 27-19.
The problem with the '56 Sooners? Not one of the opponents they throttled was ranked. So yeah, they'll have to settle for 15th on the list of all-time best undefeated teams.
15. 1956 Oklahoma Sooners (10-0)
The A.C. Milan clubs from the late 80s and early 90s are regarded as some of the greatest of all-time, so you might think their undefeated Serie A season in 1991-92 would rank higher. However, there are extenuating circumstances here.
First of all, not losing any games is not the same as winning every game. So you have to knock a few points off for that. Moreover, Serie A is not as strong as the Premier League. And that might not have been a factor had AC Milan competed in one of the European competitions in 1991-92 to show how they stacked up against other top squads. However, they did not compete in any European club competitions in 1991 because they were banned. And that's enough to keep this formidable Rossoneri club from moving any higher than 14th.
14. 1991-92 A.C. Milan (22-12-0)
The Dons won their second straight National Championship in 1956, and if you go back to the previous year they actuall won 55 games in a row...which is pretty good.
So how'd they do it? Well, they had these future NBA Hall of Famers K.C. Jones and Bill Russell, which helped them beat teams by an average of 19 points per game.
13. 1955-56 San Francisco Dons (29-0)
The 2001 Miami Hurricanes are one of the most dominant college football teams in recent memory. With Willis McGahee, Clinton Portin, and Frank Gore in the backfield, they outscored opponents 512-117, and the only time they even came close to losing was a 26-24 win over #14 Virginia Tech.
The only knock against the 2001 Canes? Well, it's not their fault, but they only played one opponent in the top 10, and that was #4 Nebraska in the Rose Bowl—which they won 37-14.
12. 2001 Miami Hurricanes (12-0)
Now the 2009 Crimson Tide—there's a team that faced a lost of tests and passed every single one. Their offense wasn't as potent as that of the 2001 Hurricanes, but they beat teams ranked 7th, 20th, 22nd, 9th, 1st, and 2nd en route to the BCS Championship. Moreover, the closest the Tide came to losing was a 26-21 win over Auburn at Auburn. So this team? Yeah, they were pretty good.
11. 2009 Alabama Crimson Tide (14-0)
The 2003-04 Gunners are the only club to finish a Premier League season without a loss. And given that the EPL is the best soccer league in the world, that's a big deal. However, as with the 1991-92 A.C. Milan club, there are some mitigating factors here.
First off, again, not losing is not as good as winning, so there's one strike against them (to mix sports metaphors). Second, and more important, Arsenal lost three times in Champions League play in 2003-04—twice in the group stage to Inter Milan and Dynamo Kiev, and then again in the second leg of their quarterfinal matchup against EPL foe Chelsea.
So going undefeated for an entire EPL schedule? Amazing. But it wasn't as amazing as what the nine teams ahead of them did.
10. 2003-04 Arsenal (26-12-0)
Some people say the 1972 Trojans might be the best college team ever. They're wrong, but they aren't insane.
That year USC was #3 is points scored per game (38.9) and #8 in points allowed (11.2), and the closest they came to losing was a nine-point win over #15 Stanford in week five. Meanwhile, in their final three games of the season they beat #14 UCLA 24-7, #10 Notre Dame 45-23, and #3 Ohio State 42-17 in the Rose Bowl for the National Championship.
Impressive? Hell yes. But the previous year's National Champs were even more impressive.
9. 1972 USC Trojans (12-0)
The 1971 Nebraska Cornhuskers won all but one game by at least 24 points. But what was that one exception, you ask? Only Nebraska's showdown with the #2 Oklahoma Sooners in week 11, a 35-31 that just happens to be known in some circles as "The Game of the Century."
After knocking off the Sooners it was smooth sailing for the Huskers, who beat #2 Alabama in the Orange Bowl 38-6.
8. 1971 Nebraska Cornhuskers (13-0)
The Army Black Knight celebrated the end of Wold War II in 1945 by going 9-0 and claiming their second straight National Championship. And unlike Oklahoma's undefeated run in 1956, this one was not filled with patsies. After beating #9 Michigan 28-7 in week 3 and #19 Duke 48-13 in week 5, Army had to run the gauntlet in weeks 7-9, playing #2 Notre Dame, #6 Penn, and #2 Navy.
Of course, all they did was win those games 48-0, 61-0, and 32-13 respectively.
7. 1945 Army Black Knights (9-0)
Pat Summit coached the Tennessee Lady Vols to National Championships in 1996 and 1997, however, the 1998 three-peat team was easily the best. That season Chamique Holdsclaw and company knocked off all 13 ranked opponents they faced, including a 15-point win over #3 UConn and an 18-point win over #4 Louisiana Tech in the National Championship game.
Still, as great at the 1997-98 Lady Vols were, there is not one but two women's college hoops teams that rank ahead of them on this list...
6. 1997-98 Tennessee Lady Volunteers (39-0)
Both the 2002-03 Huskies and the 2010-11 Huskies had identical 39-0 records. So what sets them apart from the 1997-98 Lady Vols?
Well, it's simple: margin of victory. The '02-'03 squad starring Diana Taurasi beat opponents by 35.4 points per game, while the '10-'11 squad starring Maya Moore beat opponents by 35.9 points per game. Both of those numbers are absolutely insane and make up for the relative lack of competition in women's college basketball to get these teams among the top five.
5. Tie: 2002-03 & 2010-11 UConn Huskies (39-0)
At #4 we have the last men's college basketball team to finish a season undefeated—Bobby Knight's 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers. Like those women's Huskies teams, they absolutely destroyed the vast majority of their opponents, averaging a 27-point margin of victory thanks to Scott May, Kent Benson, and Quinn Buckner, who would each go on to become first round NBA draft picks. In fact, the only reason these Hoosiers don't rank higher is that they came pretty close (66-64) to blowing their season on January 3 to a really bad Ohio State team.
That's pretty nitpicky, of course, but you've got to find something to separate the teams at the top.
4. 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers (32-0)
You want to have a debate about the best college football teams of all-time? It starts with the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers. They were #1 in points scored per game with an insane 53.2, but also #4 in points allowed with just 14.5. The only team Nebraska didn't completely humiliate was Washington State, and they still beat them by 14 points. Everybody else got annihilated, including #2 Florida, whom the Huskers beat 62-24 in the Fiesta Bowl for the National Championship.
3. 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers (12-0)
If the debate over the best college football team of all-time begins with the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers, the debate over the best college basketball team of all-time begins with the 1971-72 UCLA Bruins. Or maybe the 1972-73 UCLA Bruins. Both went 30-0.
Of course, both teams were led by the great Bill Walton, and both teams absolutely crushed their opponents. If you really wanted to pick one over the other, I guess you'd have to go with the '71-'72 team, because they won their regular season games by an average of 30.3 points, which is an NCAA record.
Then again, that team only won the championship game that year by five points, while the '72-'73 team won by 21 points.
Either way you want to go, however, these were probably the best teams in the history of college basketball.
2. Tie: 1971-72 & 1972-73 UCLA Bruins (30-0)
Was there ever any doubt as to who the #1 undefeated team would be? Sure, some of the those college teams were probably more dominant relative to their competition. After all, the '72 Dolphins did almost lose to the Bills in Week 6, just barely pulling out a 24-23 win. But the fact remains that this is the only team in the Super Bowl era to go undefeated through the regular season and the playoffs, and they were loaded with Pro Bowlers (Dicker Anderson, Jakes Scott, Paul Warfield) and led by Hall of Famers (Bob Griese and Don Shula).
So yeah, they're #1.
1. 1972 Miami Dolphins (17-0)
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