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 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 description about what made it so special.
Below is the second part. To see the first part, click here.
15. Notre Dame keeps Weis amidst program scrutiny, tops Hawai’i in bowl game
Preseason speculation credited Notre Dame to win from as little as three games to as many as 10. The Irish were clearly better compared to last season, but the team still had plenty of room to improve.
The knock on this season’s team was that it couldn’t win games against teams with winning records. In losses to North Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Boston College, such criticism proved to be true.
In the midst of bowl season, the debate raged whether to retain Charlie Weis as head coach. Thankfully for Irish fans, however, Notre Dame stomped Hawai’i in its bowl game after learning Weis would return.
14. Pat White punctuates great career, becomes only quarterback to start and win four bowl games
The Mountaineer quarterback established himself as arguably the best dual-threat quarterback in the history of college football. He set the record for the most rushing yards by a quarterback in FBS history.
Against Louisville, White played his best game of the season, recording season-highs 200 yards rushing and three rushing touchdowns. In the Meineke Car Care Bowl against North Carolina, the senior set the bowl record for most passing yards with 332. Appropriately, White threw the go-ahead touchdown, as his Mountaineers topped the Tar Heels, 31-30.
White was largely responsible for maintaining continuity at West Virginia amidst a coaching change and also was partially responsible for resurrecting the program back to the national spotlight.
13. Virginia, Maryland exemplify inconsistency; every ACC team loses at least three conference games
Simply put, the ACC bled inconsistency this season. Each team produced head- scratching moments, which total too many to mention. Defending conference champion Virginia Tech managed to win the title again this season via a win over Boston College in the ACC Championship.
Definitions of highs and lows, Virginia and Maryland were laughable at times. Virginia was drubbed by USC, Connecticut, and ACC bottom dweller Duke early. Then, it blanked Maryland and collected three respectable wins against East Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia Tech. Finally, the Cavaliers lost four straight to close the season.
Maryland, meanwhile, was dropped by Middle Tennessee State early in the season, then it was shut out by Virginia but blanked Wake Forest the following week. All in all, the Terrapins won six games against bowl participants but had its struggles throughout.
12. Notable coaches dismissed at top programs: Bowden, Fulmer, and Tuberville
Tradition-laden programs became stale with head coaches who were no longer living up to expectations. The removals of these coaches led to a fury of coaching dismissals towards the close of the season.
At Tennessee, Phil Fulmer was told he won’t be returning next season. He won the 1998 national championship, but recent mediocrity left that accomplishment nearly meaningless.
At Clemson, Tommy Bowden was fired midseason when the team struggled from the start after many experts projected them to win the ACC. Interim coach Dabo Swinney led the Tigers to a berth in the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl against Nebraska.
At Auburn, Tommy Tuberville was supposedly forced to resign. The spread offense never unfolded, and the Tigers were left behind in the SEC West.
11. Oregon runs over Oregon State in Civil War shootout
Oregon State controlled its Pac-10 destiny when it upset No. 1 USC at home on a Thursday night. The Beavers used the strength of freshman running back Jacquizz Rodgers to beat the Trojans.
In the regular season finale, Oregon State was virtually run past and run over by Oregon, losing 65-38 in the Civil War. The Ducks racked up 385 yards rushing in the win.
10. Win at West Virginia in OT, win over Pittsburgh gives Cincinnati Big East title, BCS berth
In the Big East, preseason favorites South Florida and West Virginia had not done enough. Trendy pick Pittsburgh wasn’t able to do enough. And so, the Cincinnati Bearcats emerged as the conference champion in the Big East.
After losing to Connecticut in its second conference game, the Bearcats topped South Florida, West Virginia, Louisville, and Pittsburgh in four straight weeks to clinch the conference title. Their success merits the program’s best season in school history.
9. Texas Tech throttles Oklahoma State to remain unbeaten atop Big 12 North
Following a beatdown of Kansas on the road, after surviving Texas at home, Texas Tech hosted Oklahoma State in the Red Raiders’ third consecutive top-ten showdown and fourth straight game against a ranked opponent.
Quarterback Graham Harrell and receiver Michael Crabtree connected three times for touchdowns in the 56-20 rout of the Cowboys. Harrell added three other touchdown tosses, along with 629 total yards for the Red Raiders, en route to the win. Texas Tech was No. 2 in the BCS standings and still unbeaten atop the Big 12 North.
8. Bradford pirouettes in leap to goalline, providing Heisman highlight, later wins trophy
Typically in the course of an eventual-Heisman Trophy winner’s season, he provides a signature performance or memorable image that showcases not only his talent and ability, but also his worthiness to receive the trophy.
In 2008, quarterbacks Colt McCoy, Graham Harrell, Tim Tebow, and Sam Bradford all put forth performances worthy of winning the trophy. But Bradford was the one who provided the ultimate highlight for Heisman voters, which all but sealed the award for him. In the highlight, Bradford leaped for the endzone versus Oklahoma State, collided with a Cowboy defender, and spun magnificently in the air before coming to a crash landing.
Click here to see Bradford’s highlight leap.
7. Oklahoma edges Oklahoma State in Bedlam Game, catapulting Sooners in rankings
As the debate between Texas and Oklahoma progressed as the 2008 season wore on, many college football fans were skeptical of how the Sooners were apparently leapfrogging the Longhorns in both the polls and BCS rankings, despite them losing to Texas earlier in the year.
In the annual Bedlam Game against Oklahoma State, the Sooners scored 60+ points for the fourth straight game in a back-and-forth shootout in Stillwater. The win was the final piece of evidence that swayed voters to catapult Oklahoma over Texas.
6. Oregon State upsets powerhouse No. 1 USC on Thursday primetime game
Early indications suggested that USC was going to be unstoppable this season on its way to a berth in the national championship. The Oregon State Beavers had other intentions for the Trojans, however.
Oregon State dominated at home in the first half of the Thursday primetime game against USC and was able to stifle the comeback effort of the Trojans in the second half to pull off the upset.
Effectively, the loss kept USC out of the BCS national championship game. The loss combined with a fairly weak Pac-10 schedule left USC behind many other one-loss teams in both the polls and BCS rankings. Perhaps, the Trojans were of the best teams at the end of the season but were unable to do anything about it in hopes of a national title.
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 Three, click here.