Alabama/LSU and the 10 Most Anticipated Regular Season Games of All-Time
Game of the Century. The Immovable Object Meets The Unstoppable Force. Superlatives like these have been used for years to describe the hype surrounding much anticipated college football games. These matchups have national title implications and often seem like a championship game.
The upcoming LSU/Alabama game (Saban Bowl IV) on November 5th has a similar feeling. It's by far and away the biggest regular season game of 2011. The cheapest ticket on StubHub! is going for about $400 (plus service and shipping fees). Forget the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. This SEC West matchup is seen by many as the de facto BCS National Championship Game this year.
The winner of this game could face the winner of the Bedlam Series or Big Ten in New Orleans for the BCS National Championship. There might even be a rematch after Oklahoma and Wisconsin's recent losses. It will be the 23rd regular season matchup of all-time between the #1 and #2 teams in the AP Poll. Saban Bowl IV has a build up and expectation similar to these historic college football games.
1946: #1 Army vs. #2 Notre Dame
The Cadets were the two-time defending national champions and entered the game with a 25 game winning streak. Their last loss (26-0) came against the Fighting Irish in 1943. This matchup at Yankee Stadium was the only game to ever feature four Heisman winning players. Army had a backfield of Mr. Inside (Doc Blanchard) and Mr. Outside (Glenn Davis). On offense Notre Dame was led by quarterback Johnny Lujack and their defense was anchored by Leon Hart. Both teams entered the game averaging over 30 points a game (a lot for the 1940's), but this clash of titans ended a scoreless tie. The Fighting Irish were voted national champions at the end of the season and the Cadets finished at number two.
1966: #1 Notre Dame vs. #2 Michigan State
Notre Dame got off to a rough start in more ways than one heading in to their matchup with number two ranked Michigan State. In the first quarter quarterback Terry Hanratty was knocked out of the game after getting sacked by Spartans defensive end Bubba Smith. Running back Nick Eddy wasn't able to play in the game at all because of a shoulder injury. He slipped on ice while getting off the train in East Lansing.
Despite the setbacks, they were only behind 10-7 at halftime. After a scoreless third quarter, Notre Dame tied the game with a field goal on the first play of the 4th quarter. The game ended in a 10-10 tie.
The Fighting Irish beat the USC Trojans 51-0 the following week and were voted AP and UPI National Champions for the first time since 1949. The Spartans finished number two in both polls, but were selected as co-National Champions by the Helms Athletic Foundation.
1967: #4 USC vs. #1 UCLA
The 1967 Battle for Los Angeles was the unofficial Pac-8 and National Championship game. It was also a matchup of Heisman contenders. UCLA was led by senior quarterback Gary Beban (eventual winner) and USC's offense featured junior running back O.J. Simpson (1968 Heisman winner).
With the game tied at 14-14 in the fourth quarter, UCLA scored a touchdown for the lead, but had their extra point blocked. USC won the game off a memorable play when backup quarterback Toby Page handed the ball to O.J. Simpson who ran it for a 64 yard score. USC made their extra point and finished with 21-20 victory.
USC finished the season as the consensus National Champion. UCLA was unranked in the final AP poll (only 10 teams were ranked then) and #11 in the UPI poll.This was also the final season that the final AP poll was released before the bowl games were played.
1969: #1 Texas vs. #2 Arkansas
Frank Broyles and Darrel Royal dominated the Southwest Conference respectively, after their arrivals at Fayetteville and Austin. Arkansas and Texas had combined to win or share eight of the last ten conference titles going in to the game.
The Razorbacks led 14-0 after three quarters of play. James Street's touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter and a two pointer conversion cut the Texas deficit to 14-8. Longhorns completed their comeback with a seven point drive with 3:58 remaining in the game. Arkansas had one more attempt for a late field goal, but a Texas interception sealed the deal with less than a minute left in regulation.
Texas won more than just a trip to the Cotton Bowl. President Richard Nixon attended the game and gave a plaque to the Longhorns proclaiming them as National Champions, much to the dismay of Joe Paterno Penn State fans.
1971: #1 Nebraska vs. #2 Oklahoma
This Big Eight clash on Thanksgiving is still regarded by many as the greatest game of all-time. Their was talent all over the field from the coaching staff to the players. Both sides were led by Hall of Fame coaches (Bob Devaney and Chuck Fairbanks), not mention their notable offensive coordinators (Tom Osbourne and Barry Switzer)
Sports Illustrated's headline the week of the game was "Irresistible Oklahoma Meets Immovable Nebraska."
Bob Devaney's Cornhuskers had the nation's top defense.The Blackshirts were holding opponents to 6.4 points game and had only surrendered five touchdowns. Chuck Fairbanks's Sooners were the most productive offense in the land, averaging over 472 rushing yards a game (an NCAA record). 17 of the 22 all Big-Eight players from that season were either Cornhuskers or Sooners.
The Cornhuskers got off to a good start leading 14-3 early, but the Sooner's wishbone offense responded with two touchdowns for a three point halftime advantage. Nebraska responded with a pair of their own in the third quarter, but trailed once again after quarterback Jack Mildren put the Sooners up again. Jeff Kinney scored his fourth rushing touchdown of the game to give Nebraska a 35-31 with less than two minutes left in regulation.
The Cornhuskers would go on to demolish Alabama 38-6 in the Orange Bowl and were voted National Champions for a second consecutive year.
Oklahoma beat Auburn 40-22 in the Sugar Bowl and finished #2 in the AP poll.
The Big Eight also had the nation's third ranked team at the end of the season after Colorado won the Bluebonnet Bowl.
1988: #1 Miami vs. #4 Notre Dame
No list of most anticipated college football games would be complete without mentioning "Catholics vs. Convicts." Jimmie Johnson and the defending National Champion-Miami Hurricanes came in to South Bend with a 36 regular season game winning streak on the line. The Fighting Irish led 7-0 after one quarter, but a high scoring 2nd quarter resulted in a 21-21 split at halftime.
Down 31-24 in the fourth quarter, the Hurricanes missed a chance to tie the game after Cleveland Gary fumbled on the one yard line ( a still controversial call). Miami recovered quickly after Notre Dame quarterback Tony Rice fumbled on the Fighting Irish's next drive. The Hurricanes scored four plays later and were left with a big decision down 31-30.
Miami failed on an ensuing two point conversion and lost their only game of the year. Notre Dame finished the year as National Champions with a 31-24 victory in the Fiesta Bowl over West Virginia. Miami finished second after 23-3 Orange Bowl rout against Nebraska.
1991: #2 Miami vs. #1 Florida State
This Sunshine State showdown was only the second matchup ever between top ranked teams from the same state (first was Purdue and Notre Dame in 1968). Florida State entered the game averaging over 41 points per game. The top ranked Miami defense that included future NFL Pro Bowlers and a WWF champion, had yet to surrender a first half touchdown.
What this game will always be remembered for is Wide Right. It was the first of five games over the next 12 years when a Seminoles kicker botched a field goal that would have won or tied the game in the fourth quarter against Miami.
Down 17-16 with 29 seconds, Gerry Thomas (three for three on the day) missed a 34 yard field goal that would have won it for the Seminoles. Florida State would lose two weeks later to Florida, finishing 4th in the nation with an 11-2 record.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes went 12-0 and won a share of the National Championship. Miami was first in the AP poll and Washington finished atop of the Coaches poll.
1993: #1 Florida State vs. #2 Notre Dame
Despite their double digit win totals and top-five rankings, Bobby Bowden and the Seminoles had yet to bring a national championship to Tallahassee. They came to South Bend (dressed in green hats and shamrocks) with a 16 game winning streak on the line. NBC was promoting it as the "Game of the Century." The hype for this game was so large, that ESPN decided to have their first ever on-campus broadcast of College Gameday.
Notre Dame won 31-17 and took over the top spot in polls, while Florida only slipped to #2. All that stood between the Fighting Irish and Fiesta Bowl berth (for a potential rematch with Florida State) was a home game the following week against Boston College. The Eagles upset them 41-39 after a last second field goal.
Notre Dame would beat Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl 24-21 and finished #2 in the final AP poll. Florida State finally got their long awaited national title after a 18-16 win over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl (Cornhuskers missed a last second field goal.)
2006: #2 Michigan vs. #1 Ohio State
Ohio State the preaseason number one and played like it through the year. Led by Heisman winner Troy Smith, the Buckeyes won all their games by at at least 17 points. This matchup in Columbus wasn't their first #1 vs. #2 game that season. Smith and the top-ranked Buckeyes demolished the defending National Champion-Texas Longhorns 24-7 in their second game of the season. Michigan began the year at #15 and gradually moved to the number two ranking behind their conference rival.
The game was essentially the Big Ten Championship Game and BCS play-in-game with no opponents left on the Buckeyes and Wolverines schedule. Aside from the anticipation, both sides lost a legend the day before kickoff when former Ohio State assistant and Michigan coach Bo Schembechler passed away.
Tied 7-7 after the first quarter, the Buckeyes never trailed after Chris "Beanie" Wells ran for a 52 yard touchdown. Ohio State led 28-14 at halftime. Michigan came within four points twice in the second half, before Troy Smith's fourth touchdown pass of the day gave the Wolverines an 11 point deficit with 5:38 left to play. Michigan scored once more, but lost 42-39.
After such a close game some were arguing for a rematch in the National Championship Game, which set off yet another BCS controversy.
Instead both teams lost in their BCS bowl games.
USC beat Michigan 32-18 in the Rose Bowl. The Florida Gators routed Ohio State 41-14 in the BCS National Championship Game, beginning the SEC's national championship streak.
2009: #1 Florida vs. #2 Alabama
This was a rematch of the 2008 SEC Championship (Florida won 31-20). After winning two of the last three National Championships, Tim Tebow and the Gators were heavy favorites to bring another title to Gainesville. Florida's defense returned all of their first and second string players. The Crimson Tide started the season ranked fifth and were looking to end their national title drought after an embarrassing Sugar Bowl loss (31-17 against Utah).
Florida and Alabama were on a collision course all year after both teams went 12-0 after tough SEC schedules. It wasn't a clear path tough. The Gators and Crimson Tide had their fair share of routs, as well as close calls in the nation's toughest conference.
Their matchup in Atlanta was the first time that a conference championship game was played between unbeaten teams.
The Crimson Tide never trailed and their revenge in 32-13 win. Heisman winner Mark Ingram ran for 113 yards with a pair of touchdowns and Tim Tebow was in tears on the sideline after the Gators 22 game winning streak was snapped.
Alabama went on to Pasadena and defeated Texas in the BCS National Championship Game, ending their 17 year title drought. Florida finished #3 in the polls after a 51-24 rout over Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl.
2011: #1 LSU vs. #2 Alabama
Both teams are going in to the game with a record of 8-0. It's one of the most anticipated regular season matchups in years. Saban Bowl IV could go down as one of the best of all-time if it lives up to the hype.
1936: Notre Dame vs. Ohio State
1944-1945: Army vs. Navy
1963: Texas vs. Oklahoma
1968: Purdue vs. Notre Dame
1986: Oklahoma vs. Miami
1996: Florida vs. Florida State