College Football: Ranking the 10 Greatest No. 1 vs. No. 2 Games Ever

Jeffrey SchmidtCorrespondent IIINovember 4, 2011

College Football: Ranking the 10 Greatest No. 1 vs. No. 2 Games Ever

0 of 11

    LSU and Alabama. In other words, it's No. 1 vs. No. 2. This game could be one of the best ever, and it has inspired me to take a look at the 10 greatest No. 1 vs. No. 2 battles of all time. 

    Since the AP poll started in 1936, the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams have met 45 times, the first of which came in 1943. The No. 1 team has won 26 times, lost 17 and tied twice.

    Their have been some great battles over the years, but here are the 10 best No. 1 vs. No. 2 battles ever. 

10. No. 1 Penn State vs. No. 2 Alabama, Jan. 1, 1979, Sugar Bowl

1 of 11

    The Buildup

    The No. 1 Nittany Lions were on a 19-game winning streak and they were led by a defense that allowed 97 points all year. 

    Much of the pregame hype surrounded the Penn State defense matching up with the Alabama offense because this would be the first wishbone offense that Penn State had played all season. 

     

    The Game

    Alabama 14, Penn State 7

    The game started off with what was expected by most: a defensive struggle. The score at halftime was 7-0 Alabama with the only score coming on a pass from QB Jeff Rutledge to Bruce Bolton. 

    Penn State had -7 yards rushing, and only 29 yards passing in the first half, but they managed to tie the game in the third quarter after a touchdown pass from Chuck Fusina to Scott Fitzgee.

    The Tide would answer back in the third, however, after a pitch from Rutledge to Major Ogilvy, which put Alabama ahead, 14-7. 

    The fourth quarter provided a ton of excitement as Penn State was within range to tie the game. Coach Joe Paterno went for it on 4th-and-goal from the inch line and fullback Mike Guman tried to dive up the middle. The end result was a stuff by 'Bama's linebacker Barry Krauss. 

9. No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Michigan State, Nov. 19, 1966, Regular Season

2 of 11

    The Buildup

    The game was not shown live on national TV. Each team was allotted one national television appearance and two regional television appearances each season, which meant that ABC and the NCAA had to break a few rules for the entire country to witness the game.

     

    The Game

    Michigan State 10, Notre Dame 10

    The defenses were just too good in this game. Notre Dame had the ball on its own 30-yard line with 90 seconds remaining, but coach Ara Parseghian chose to run out the clock rather than attempt a long pass to move into field-goal range.

    This move proved to benefit Notre Dame, as they would go onto to destroy USC 51-0 the next week, which gave them the national title. 

8. No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 2 Notre Dame, Nov. 13, 1993, Regular Season

3 of 11

    The Buildup

    NBC called the contest "Game of the Century," and ESPN put College GameDay on a campus for the first time.

    The Seminoles and the Irish had been ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the month leading up to the game in South Bend, and Florida State was led by quarterback Charlie Ward, who would go on to win the Heisman Trophy that season.

     

    The Game

    Notre Dame 31, Florida State 24

    Notre Dame outplayed Florida State the entire game, and they had secured a 31-17 lead with 1:39 to play in the fourth quarter. Charlie Ward drove Florida State down the field and hit Kez McCorvey on 4th-and-20 for a touchdown, after the pass was previously deflected by Notre Dame safety Brian McGee. 

    The Irish then went three-and-out on their next possession, which allowed Ward to drive FSU to the Notre Dame 14. The Seminoles failed to score, however, because Ward had his final pass attempt batted down by the Notre Dame defense. 


7. No. 1 Army vs. No. 2 Notre Dame, Nov. 9, 1946, Regular Season

4 of 11

    The Buildup

    Both teams were undefeated going into the 1946 game at Yankee Stadium. Army had a 25-game winning streak, with their last lost coming to Notre Dame in 1943 (26-0). They had won the last two contests between the schools by scores of 59-0 and 48-0. 

    This game was hyped to be one of the best shootouts in college football history as both teams averaged over 30 points per game.

     

    The Game

    Army 0, Notre Dame 0

    This game became one of the most famous defensive battles in college football history.

    The Army offense drove inside the Irish 30-yard line six different times, but the Notre Dame defense held tough time and again. 

6. No. 1 Texas vs. No. 2 Arkansas, Dec. 6, 1969, Regular Season

5 of 11

    The Buildup

    This game would decide the Southwest Conference Championship, as well which team would earn a birth to the Cotton Bowl. 

    The game was moved from Oct. 18 to Dec. 6 to give it more of a national audience as well as to allow President Richard Nixon to attend. 

     

    The Game

    Texas 15, Arkansas 14

    Arkansas had a 14-0 lead going into the fourth quarter and had controlled all aspects of the game. Then, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Longhorn quarterback James Street scrambled for a 42-yard touchdown.

    Street then dove into the end zone on the two-point conversion attempt to make it 14-8 (Texas head coach Darrell Royal had decided before the game to go for a two-point conversion after the Longhorn's first touchdown to avoid a tie). 

    After a number of defensive stops, the longhorns converted on 4th-and-3 with a pass play that went for 44 yards. This play then set up tailback Jim Bertelson to score on a two-yard run and ultimately give the Longhorns the win. 

5. No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Michigan, Nov. 18, 2006, Regular Season

6 of 11

    The Buildup

    Legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler died the day before one of the biggest games in the history of the Michigan-Ohio State football rivalry.  

    For the first time in the history of the rivalry, the two teams squared off while holding the top two spots in the Bowl Championship Series rankings. The winning team would receive the right to play in the BCS National Championship. 

     

    The Game

    Ohio State 42, Michigan 39

    The game opened up with successful scoring drives from each team. Then, Ohio State scored 21 unanswered points. Needing to stem the tide, Adrian Arrington answered the call for Michigan, catching a Chad Henne pass for a touchdown. Ohio State would score once more before the half, making the score 29-14 at intermission. 

    The second half of the game began with Michigan coming back into the game. The Wolverines scored on their first two possessions of the half, after a touchdown from Mike Hart and a field goal by Garrett Rivas.  

    However, Ohio State broke the game open once more as Antonio Pittman galloped for a 52-yard touchdown run, making the score 35-24. 

    As Ohio State seemed to pull away, Michigan came back with another Mike Hart touchdown to begin the fourth quarter. The Buckeyes answered back quickly, though, after Brian Robiskie scored on a 13-yard pass.

    Michigan scored on a 16-yard pass to Tyler Ecker and were successful on the two-point conversion to bring the game to a score of 42-39. The Michigan defense failed to stop the Ohio State offense as the clock ran out. 

4. No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 2 Miami, Nov. 16, 1991, Regular Season

7 of 11

    The Buildup

    This No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown between Sunshine State rivals was described as "the most highly anticipated regular season clash" since the 1971 Nebraska-Oklahoma game.

    The Seminoles entered with a then-school record 16-game winning streak, while the Hurricanes had won 14 straight. Both teams were the two most dominate in college football, as Miami was outscoring its opponents by an average of 28.9 points per game and the Seminoles were winning by an average of 25.9. 

     

    The Game

    Miami 17, Florida State 16

    Things were going the Seminoles' way early as Miami turned the ball over three times in the first half, but Miami's No. 1-ranked defense kept the game close with a 10-7 score. 

    The Seminoles dominated the third quarter statistically, but they only led 13-7 heading into the fourth quarter. Miami would go on to rally after converting a 4th-and-6, which would later set up a touchdown from Larry Jones. Both teams would exchange field goals to make the score 17-16 to Miami. 

    Florida State quarterback Casey Weldon drove the Seminoles to the Miami 18 in the final minute, but kicker Gerry Thomas, who made all three of his field goals on the day, missed a 34-yard attempt. The kick would be known as "Wide Right I" and it would bring Bobby Bowden his sixth defeat in seven years to the Hurricanes.


3. No. 1 Nebraska vs. No. 2 Oklahoma, Nov. 25, 1971, Regular Season

8 of 11

    The Buildup

    The teams combined for 17 of the 22 first-team All-Big Eight players. 

    Nebraska had the nation’s top-ranked defense, while Oklahoma had the nation's most productive offense, with their wishbone averaging over 472 rushing yards per game, an NCAA record.

    The Sooners' average margin of victory was 30 points and the Cornhuskers' was 36.

    The Game

    Nebraska 35, Oklahoma 31

    The game was coined "The Game Of The Century" and it did not disappoint. The Thanksgiving Day battle featured four lead changes and just one penalty, despite the hatred that both programs possesed for each other.  

    Oklahoma was shut down on its opening drive and was forced to punt the ball away to future Heisman winner Johnny Rodgers. Rodgers took the punt 72 yards to the house after a brilliant display of avoiding would-be tacklers. 

    Oklahoma rallied to take the lead at the half after Jack Mildren tossed a touchdown pass. A third quarter rally by Nebraska pushed them ahead 28-17, but they failed to keep it long as the Sooners rallied again to take a 31-28 lead with seven minutes remaining. 

    The Huskers never lost faith as they marched down the field on an epic 74-yard scoring drive, which was finished off with a two-yard touchdown run by Jeff Kinney with 1:38 remaining.


2. No. 1 USC vs. No. 2 Texas, Jan. 4, 2006, Rose Bowl

9 of 11

    The Buildup

    Southern California entered the game with a 34-game winning streak, then the longest active streak in Division I-A, while Texas brought the second-longest active streak, having won 19 straight games. 

    The teams' combined 53-game win streak was an NCAA record for teams playing each other. The game was also the first to have matched teams ranked first and second in every iteration of the BCS standings. 

     

    The Game

    Texas 41, USC 38

    This was one of the greatest games that I have ever personally witnessed. The teams combined for 1,130 yards of total offense and combined for 79 points.

    Vince Young completed 30 of 40 passes for 267 yards and ran 19 times for 200 yards and three touchdowns, while his counterpart Matt Leinart completed 29 of 40 passes for 365 yards and one touchdown. 

    The Trojans appeared to have the game well in hand, but an unsuccessful 4th-and-1 attempt gave the Horns new life. 

    The game was a back-and-forth contest, and it was not decided until the final 19 seconds of the game. Vince Young, who was facing 4th-and-5 from the 9-yard line, won a foot race after a key block to seal the victory for the Longhorns. 

1. No. 1 Miami vs. No. 2 Ohio State, 2 OT Jan. 3, 2003, Fiesta Bowl

10 of 11

    The Buildup

    The Hurricanes finished the regular season with yet another undefeated season, which increased their winning streak to 34 games. Ohio State battled their way through a number of tough games, but they still managed to go undefeated.

    The Hurricanes were the overwhelming favorite to win their second consecutive national title.

     

    The Game

    Ohio State 31, Miami 24

    Ohio State secured a shocking 14-7 halftime lead after the team rallied with 14 unanswered points in the second quarter. 

    Miami was expected to come out firing, but Ohio State would be the first to strike in the second half. The Buckeyes increased their lead to 10 after Mike Nugent connected on a field goal. The Canes answered back, led by stud running back Willis McGahee in the second half. McGahee capped off a key Miami drive with a nine-yard touchdown. 

    Ohio State failed to run out the clock, which allowed QB Ken Dorsey one last drive for a national title. The Canes reached Ohio State territory but subsequently had to settle for a Todd Sievers field goal and overtime.

    The first OT started with Miami on offense. The Canes scored on a seven-yard pass from Dorsey to Kellen Winslow, which meant a Miami stop would win them their second consecutive national title. The Canes failed to do so as Craig Krenzal took it in himself from one-yard away. 

    The second OT gave the ball to Ohio State first. The Buckeyes had a number of successful plays, which ended with Maurice Clarett taking it in from five yards out. 

    Miami had a 1st-and-goal from the 2-yard line, but the Buckeye defense held Miami to only one yard over the next three plays, which brought up a gigantic 4th-and-goal. Ken Dorsey threw an incomplete pass from the 1-yard line, resulting in an upset victory for Ohio State. 

No. 1 LSU vs. No. 2 Alabama?

11 of 11

    This game is the biggest game of the 2011 season, and with a bye week for both teams leading up, how could it not be? 

    This game has the script to be a classic and who knows it may grace itself on the list when it is all over. 

    The winner of this game should propel themselves to the national championship, meaning that it has a "Game of The Century" feeling to it. 

    Follow me on twitter @JeffSchmidt9 enjoy the game!