The Top 3 Football Teams in Longhorn History

Vince Young Longhorns
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Before I did any research for this article, the introductory paragraph had already been written. It was a typical opening about the upcoming season and how this is as good a time as any to look back on some of the Longhorns’ successes. This would be followed by my attempt at an objective top-3 of the greatest Longhorn football teams in history. Yet, as I scrolled through the years on my internet browser, looking at every result from every season, I quickly realized how daunting a task I had given myself. I deleted the paragraph and started anew.

Through 119 seasons of college football in Austin, the Longhorns have had 102 winning seasons and a win percentage of .715. In other words, Texas has had some great teams. The Horns have defeated titans in bowl games, handed out Heismans to human cheetahs, claimed numerous conference championships, and even raised a few national championships.

How could you possibly rank these great teams? Initially, I was going to allot points for beating ranked teams, winning bowl games, conference championships, etc. In the end, I decided to simplify my approach; I tried to imagine what it would have been like to live through all 119 seasons as a fan.

In the 26 years I’ve been watching Longhorn football, there were teams that made me jump for joy, teams that made me wring my hands in anxiety, teams that made me high-five everyone in sight, and teams that made me punch walls and boisterously ask “what the hell was that?” In nearly all cases, a single team in a single season made me do all of the above. Such is the life of an avid sports fan.

In an attempt to apply these emotions to the other 93 years, I went through every season, every game, every blowout and every nail biter of all 119 seasons. I even found myself shaking my head at pivotal bowl losses in the 1960s, perhaps taking even more years off my life.

With a tip of the cap to some statistics and a few subjective tie breaks, I finally had my top 3:


1.  2005

Rank Record Conf. Margin Post Season Result Coach
1st 13-0 1st 33.8 Defeated #1 USC 41-38 in Rose Bowl Mack Brown

Vince Young’s transcendent performance in the Rose Bowl gives Horns fans goose bumps to this day, and his 4th and 5 run into the end zone is the most iconic moment in Longhorn athletic history. The game itself, which pitted the Horns against two-time defending national champs USC (who employed two Heisman trophy winners at quarterback and running back), was one for the ages. USC and Texas were ranked #1 and #2 respectively through the whole season, both going undefeated until their meeting in Pasadena.

Yet, don’t let that single game overshadow the other 12 too much. The 2005 team had arguably the greatest regular season in Longhorn football history, finishing with an otherworldly 33.8 average margin of victory; a Texas record that could stand the test of time.

Though the Big 12 wasn’t particularly packed this year (Texas played only four ranked teams), the Longhorns found a worthy foe in non-conference play when they defeated #4 ranked Ohio State at the cacophonous “Horseshoe” in the second game of the season. That Ohio State team would go on to defeat Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.


2.  1969

2023 Texas Longhorns Football Season Tickets
Rank Record Conf. Margin Post Season Result Coach
1st 11-0 1st 29.3 Defeated #9 Notre Dame 21-17 in Cotton Bowl Darrell K. Royal

Because this year, like the year below, was before any attempt at an organized post season – a la the BCS – the #1 ranked Longhorns faced the #9 ranked Fighting Irish in the Cotton Bowl. However, this fact doesn’t dilute the victory. Defeating Notre Dame in the 60s was not like defeating Notre Dame today. The Irish were the powerhouse of college football, and if you question that, I suggest watching “Rudy.”

This ragtag crew led by quarterback James Street, who was more of a baseball pitcher than a quarterback, and fullback Steve Worster gave Royal is second of three titles, the last one coming from the Coaches Poll the very next year. Despite the lack of star power, this was Royal’s most dominant team, posting the second highest margin of victory in Longhorn history at 29.3.

The game of the year, and one of the greatest games in UT history, came in the last matchup of the regular season when Texas defeated the #2 ranked Arkansas Razorbacks 15-14. This game essentially decided who would be playing for the title in the Cotton Bowl.


3.  1963

Rank Record Conf. Margin Post Season Result Coach
1st 11-0 1st 15.6 Defeated #2 Navy 28-6 in Cotton Bowl Darrell K. Royal

Before the advent of the BCS, it was rare to see the #1 and #2 teams play one another in the post season. Well, that’s exactly what happened in 1963, and Texas came out on top with a dominant 28-6 victory over the Roger Staubach-led #2 Navy.

Led by linebacker Tommy Nobis and tackle Scott Appleton, this Longhorn clan employed suffocating defense to win games, as they pitched four shutouts and no team crossed the 13-point threshold in a game.

The margin of victory is less than expected of a national title team, but this was in an era of college football when defense ruled. And such arguments are petty when considering that this team also trounced the #1-ranked Oklahoma Sooners 34-7. Thus, giving this Horns team the distinction of defeating both a #1-ranked team and a #2-ranked team in the same year.

This was also Texas’ first national championship, which opened the floodgates of Longhorn football that we know and love today.


Honorable mentions: 1970, 1977, 2008


Also See: Mack Brown supremely Confident in Reporting Day Press Conference

Brian Kendall

Part-time journalist turned full-time blogger, Brian is an online staff writer at Horns Illustrated and serves as senior staff writer for digital marketing agency Speak Social. Brian currently resides in Austin and you can read his blog at the following address: