Joe Paterno's 400th Win: Power Ranking His Greatest Victories

Sam OlesonCorrespondent INovember 8, 2010

Joe Paterno's 400th Win: Power Ranking His Greatest Victories

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    After 45 years on the job, numerous championship seasons and an almost unfathomable amount of coaching awards, Penn State coach Joe Paterno earned his 400th win on Saturday—becoming the only coach in FBS history to do so.

    Despite falling behind 21-0 to Northwestern, the Nittany Lions were not going to delay JoePa's historic moment any longer. They roared back in the second half, scoring 35 unanswered points and giving Paterno another milestone in his legendary coaching career.

    But, although every win counted the same in Paterno's quest for 400, there were certainly some victories that stood out over the past half a century.

    Here are Joe Paterno's 10 greatest victories as the coach of Penn State.

No. 10: Maryland: Sept. 17, 1966

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    It's only fitting that JoePa's first-ever game as Penn State head coach ended in a victory for the Nittany Lions.

    Although the 15-7 win over Maryland had no significant bearing on a season that saw the Lions go 5-5, it's always nice to start off a career on a good note.

    Little did Penn State fans realize this was only the beginning of what would be a dominant half-century for Nittany Lions football.

No. 9: Orange Bowl vs. Missouri: Jan. 1, 1970

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    Capping off a second consecutive 11-0 season, Penn State's 1970 Orange Bowl victory over Missouri led to their highest end-of-year ranking at that point in school history.

    Following the 10-3 victory over the Tigers, Penn State was voted as the No. 2 team in the country by both the Coaches' and AP polls.

    After only four years on the job, Paterno had already recorded two undefeated seasons. Yeah, quite a way to start off a career.

No. 8: Minnesota: Sept. 4, 1993

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    Although relatively insignificant in a season that saw Penn State finish 10-2, the Lions' 38-20 win over Minnesota on September 4, 1993 was incredibly important in the fact that it was Penn State's first conference win as a member of the Big Ten.

    After playing as an independent program for the previous 100 years, Penn State finally accepted an invitation to a conference, joining the Big Ten in 1990 and starting athletic play in 1993.

    They immediately showed they belonged. The Lions finished the year with a 6-2 conference record and ended the season with a 31-13 whipping of No. 6 Tennessee in the Citrus Bowl.

No. 7: Orange Bowl vs. Florida State: Jan. 3, 2006

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    Not only did Penn State's 26-23 triple-overtime thriller over Florida State in the 2006 Orange Bowl cap off an 11-1 season and give the program their first-ever BCS bowl win, it may have saved JoePa's job.

    Coming off 3-9 and 4-7 seasons, many were calling for Paterno to step down as head coach if Penn State had another dismal season. Well, that certainly didn't happen.

    The Lions cruised to a share of the Big Ten title (losing only at No. 10 Michigan), restoring the faith of Penn State fans in the process.

No. 6: Northwestern: Nov. 6, 2010

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    Although this win probably won't have a huge impact on what is turning out to be an average season in Happy Valley, it gave Paterno his 400th win as head coach of Penn State.

    No big deal. After all, he's the only coach in the history of FBS (formerly NCAA Division I-A) football to accomplish that feat. In fact, Paterno may be the only coach who will ever do this.

    It took him 45 years with some extraordinary teams to accomplish this feat. If you expect a whole lot of other coaches to not only coach for 45 years, but have the same quality of teams Paterno had year in and year out, you're seriously mistaken.

No. 5: Rose Bowl vs. Oregon: Jan. 2, 1995

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    Not only did Penn State's 38-20 win over Oregon give the Lions a 12-0 season in 1994-95, it also gave them their first Rose Bowl victory in school history.

    Penn State was last in the Rose Bowl in 1923, losing to USC 14-3.

    Behind the running of Ki-Jana Carter, Penn State thoroughly dominated the Ducks en route to finishing the season as the No. 2 team in the country.

    As the Big Ten's premier bowl game, the Rose Bowl is incredibly important for the conference. The fact that Penn State was able to win it in only their third season in the conference can't be overlooked.

No. 4: Orange Bowl vs. Kansas: Jan. 1, 1969

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    With their 15-14 win over Kansas in the 1969 Orange Bowl, not only did Penn State cap off an undefeated 11-0 season, but they also gave Joe Paterno arguably his first huge win as head coach.

    This was Paterno's first bowl win as Penn State's head coach, and it capped off the best season in school history up to this point.

    Although Paterno was going to have many more huge wins in the coming years, none may stick out in his mind as much as this one.

    This one put Penn State—and Joe Paterno—on the map.

No. 3: Ohio State: Oct. 27, 2001

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    Although Penn State was in the midst of a mediocre 5-6 season, one of their victories in 2001 was one of the most important in school history and in their coach's career.

    With the Lions' come-from-behind 29-27 win over Ohio State, Joe Paterno notched his 324th career win, moving him past Alabama's Paul "Bear" Bryant as FBS college football's all-time winningest coach.

    Although the win had no real effect on Penn State's season as a whole, its significance for not only Joe Paterno but college football as a whole can't be underestimated.

No. 2: Fiesta Bowl vs. Miami (FL): Jan. 2, 1987

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    Despite coming into Arizona as considerable underdogs to No. 1 Miami, Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions overcame the odds and upended the Hurricanes 14-10 to cap off a 12-0 season and capture their second national title in five years.

    Led by quarterback Vinny Testaverde, Miami was supposed to wipe the floor with No. 2 Penn State. And they certainly racked up some yards.

    But, against a staunch Penn State "D", Miami was never able to finish off drives and the Lions did just enough on offense to hold them off.

    As one of the most-hyped games in college football history, the game drew the largest television audience ever for a college football game.

    It's only fitting that the most-revered coach in NCAA football was a participant in maybe the most historic bowl game in history.

No. 1: Sugar Bowl vs. Georgia: Jan. 1, 1983

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    Like the 1987 Fiesta Bowl, Penn State came in as underdogs. Like that Fiesta Bowl, Penn State left as national champions.

    Following a 10-1 regular season, Penn State headed into the Sugar Bowl in 1983 as the No. 2 team in the country. Facing the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs, Penn State wasn't supposed to win.

    But, behind a high-powered offense and a defense that held Herschel Walker to only 103 yards rushing, the Nittany Lions capped off their historic season with a 27-23 win and captured their first national championship in school history.

    Although there are countless great wins in Paterno's career, there can be no doubt that getting that national title monkey off his back has to be tops.