Admittedly, college football in 2008 did not have the peril at the top of the rankings like the season before. However, this season did provide many lasting images and memorable moments.
Prevalent themes for this season included the searches for the Cinderella mid-major to crash the BCS party and the team that could separate from the rest of the national title contenders.
Along the way, some teams, some players, and some coaches manifested greatness beyond expectations in moments that captivated the college football nation.
Finally, here are the top 25 moments and images of college football in 2008 (in three parts), accompanied by a headline and a description about what made it so special.
25. USC, UCLA each sacrifice first half timeout to wear home uniforms to renew tradition
Early in the week leading up to the rivalry, USC announced that it would wear its cardinal red home jersey instead of its road white jersey. Following the opening kickoff, the Trojans were penalized a timeout for failing to wear its road uniform. As a gesture to renew an old tradition, UCLA sacrificed one its timeouts.
Such events renewed the old tradition, when the teams shared the Los Angeles Coliseum as their home venue. Until 1981, they were allowed to wear their home uniforms when they faced each other. When UCLA moved to the Rose Bowl, the NCAA required separate home and road uniforms, forcing the teams to abandon the tradition in feat of losing a timeout.
24. Rutgers returns to form after 1-5 start, wins seven straight to finish season
The recent Big East title contender had moderate expectations entering this season, despite losing leading rusher Ray Rice to the NFL. After losing to Cincinnati and West Virginia to begin Big East play, Rutgers reeled off seven straight wins, including its bowl win over upstart North Carolina State.
The Scarlet Knights’ season hinged upon the success of returning senior quarterback Mike Teel. After throwing seven interceptions in the team’s first five games, Teel rebounded, throwing just six the remainder of the season.
23. Ball State cracks Top 25 for first time in history, stays unbeaten until MAC Championship
In Week Seven, the Cardinals were ranked No. 25 in the country, marking the first time in school history the team was ranked. Ball State rolled through its MAC foes, finishing the season unbeaten and earning a berth in the MAC Championship at Ford Field in Detroit.
Led by backfield mates Nate Davis and MiQuale Lewis, the Cardinals entered the game looking to maintain their unbeaten campaign despite not being in position to play in a BCS game. Ball State was defeated by Buffalo, however, halting its winning streak.
22. Knowshon Moreno makes pair of highlight plays
Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno topped the list of players for potential Heisman Trophy candidates in the preseason. Though the Bulldog did have an outstanding sophomore season, he didn’t garner any considerable hype concerning the trophy, mainly due to his team’s slip-ups in the season.
What Moreno did do, however, was provide a pair of dynamic plays that spoke of his ability with the football in his hands. The first was a majestic leap to the end zone against Arizona State in Week Four. The second was a hurdle over a Central Michigan defender at home.
Click here to see the leap. Click here to see the hurdle.
21. Vanderbilt survives Auburn at home to go 5-0, wins first bowl game in 53 years
The Vanderbilt Commodores began the season 5-0 for the first time in school history. The team collected five solid wins at Miami (Ohio), versus Rice, which made a bowl game, and against SEC foes South Carolina, Mississippi, and Auburn.
As a result of its success this season, Vanderbilt earned a bowl bid. It played ACC runner-up Boston College in the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl. The game was played in Nashville, the home of the Commodores. Vanderbilt emerged the winner, narrowly defeating the Eagles, 16-14.
20. Boise State, TCU end great seasons with bowl that lives up to pregame hype
Boise State, unofficially America’s BCS Cinderella, entered the 2008 season unranked and out of the sight of many college football fans. However, the Broncos handled their difficult schedule, beating six eventual bowl teams along the way. Boise State finished the season 12-0 and in the midst of discussion of a BCS bowl appearance.The Broncos were left out of the BCS picture and, instead, it squared off against TCU in its bowl game.
The Horned Frogs enjoyed a successful season as well. TCU dropped just two games this season, one against severe favorite Oklahoma and the other to unbeaten Utah. In the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, TCU survived the Broncos, winning 17-16.
19. Penn State forces Pryor fumble, scores go-ahead touchdown to seal win at Ohio State
Ohio State disposed of Michigan State the week before, setting the table for the showdown against Penn State at home. Penn State leaped to the forefront of college football after a tremendous start. Each team was undefeated in conference play, and the winner in the showdown landed itself in the driver’s seat for the Big Ten Conference title.
In a slugfest that saw Penn State commit zero penalties, Ohio State freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor committed the game’s only turnover with a 6-3 lead midway through the fourth quarter. Penn State capitalized on the mistake, scoring a touchdown minutes later and tacking on a late field goal to secure the win, 13-6.
18. Buffalo tops unbeaten Ball State; Turner Gill emerges as top coaching candidate
Buffalo surfaced as the MAC East representative in the conference championship game. After starting conference play 1-2, the Bulls won four straight games, including two in overtime to clinch the division.
As a result, Buffalo was slated to face Ball State. The Bulls scored 35 second half points, upsetting Ball State, 42-24, via the aid of two fumble returns for touchdowns. The win was the football program’s first versus a ranked team and first conference title as well.
Following the game, Buffalo head coach Turner Gill headlined the list of names to fill a number of head coaching vacancies. But he chose to remain at the school.
17. Joe Paterno receives hip replacement, coaches rest of season from press box
Penn State legend Joe Paterno has suffered discomfort in his hip since August, after demonstrating an onside kick attempt in practice. Until December, the head of coach of 43 seasons walked gingerly, often with a cane. Following the win against Michigan State, Paterno underwent an operation to replace his ailing hip.
Paterno was forced to watch games from the press box, alongside his coordinators, instead of walking the sideline as custom. Now 83 years old, Paterno prefers being on the sideline, intending to do so next season, because he can give players his input immediately, instead of having to relay messages from the press box.
16. Utah goes unbeaten, emerges as BCS Cinderella, will play Alabama in Sugar Bowl
The Utah Utes emerged as this season’s BCS Cinderella. Among many other candidates, Utah, along with Boise State, was the only team in the FBS to go undefeated. The Utes were able to land a berth in the Sugar Bowl, largely because Boise State received less votes than Utah in the preseason polls, though both were unranked.
As a reward for its success, Utah will play one-loss Alabama in the AllState Sugar Bowl. Though it is nearly a home game for Alabama, Utah believes it has a chance to compete with the mighty Tide.
NOTE: To nominate your own moment or image, leave a comment below. If your moment or image is worthy and your argument to support it is sufficient, I will edit the article to include others from college football in 2008.
To transition to Part Two, click here.