AP ranks the best college football matches


The mere idea of ​​trying to rank the greatest “games of the century” doesn’t make sense, which makes it perfect for college football.

The national champion, after all, was determined for decades by educated guesses, which meant that there could be multiple games considered single events played in the span of just a few years.

But the scarcity of matches between the best in the country made these occasions important. Finally, a definitive answer to the most essential question in college football: who is No. 1?

“It was the closest thing we had to real resolution in college football. Otherwise it was just the polls,” said journalist Michael Weinreb, author of “Season of Saturdays: A History. of College Football in 14 Games “.

The Bowl Championship Series ultimately created a 1v2 title game to end the season. The College Football Playoff took it a step further with a four-team format.

When the MFF inevitably rises again, the game of the century will be extinguished.

“We were all kind of agitated about this stuff and now that it’s here and the sport has gotten more professional, it’s still great, but some of that uniqueness is gone,” Weinreb said. “Part of that idea – that these teams were never going to meet any other way, and that they’ve met over this random season over a random week that elevates this game to something that seems so important – isn’t will simply no longer be there. “

Motivated by Nebraska and Oklahoma renewing their rivalry on Saturday, 50 years after the Cornhuskers and Sooners played their version of the Game of the Century in 1971, The Associated Press ranked the best of the best with the help of 33 editors and sports broadcasters.

There were only two qualifiers: The pick had to be a regular season game and it had to match No.1 against No.2 in a major poll.

As a result, the 2006 Rose Bowl national title game between Texas and Southern California is not being held. Vince Young’s removal of the Trojans may be the greatest college football game ever to be played, but the BCS orchestrated it. A game of the century has to happen organically.

Voters submitted a top five in order. The votes for first place were worth five points, four for second, and so on. So this is it :

Game n ° 1: n ° 1 Nebraska 35, n ° 2 Oklahoma 31 – 1971

21 first-place votes, 144 points

For about two decades, it could be argued that Oklahoma-Nebraska was the most important rivalry in college football. From 1971 to 1988, the Sooners and Cornhuskers played 15 top-five games.

This game kicked off that period of domination in college football and it is still the best of the bunch. Big Eight rivals Nebraska and Oklahoma finished 1-2 in the AP poll for seven weeks before their famous Thanksgiving showdown.

Cornhuskers star Johnny Rodgers became legend with his punt return touchdown to start the scoring.

“If you learn the history of college football from the huge games, Johnny Rodgers’ dizzying comeback is a must see,” said Fox’s Bruce Feldman.

The Huskers and Sooners traded the lead four times in the past 31 minutes, before Jeff Kinney’s fourth touchdown put Nebraska ahead with 1:38 remaining.

Some Games of the Century are marked by controversy during or after the game. That’s not really the case with ’71 Nebraska-Oklahoma, a game that delivered all of its hype.

Game n ° 2: n ° 1 Texas 15, n ° 2 Arkansas 14 – 1969

4 first place votes, 74 points

Rivals from the Southwestern Conference jumped to No.1 and 2 in the polls after Ohio state was upset by Michigan the week before Thanksgiving, leaving just a few weeks to prepare for the Finals of the season between the Longhorns and the Razorbacks.

The Longhorns ‘fourth-quarter comeback led by quarterback James Street erased Arkansas’ 14-0 lead and sent Texas undefeated into the Cotton Bowl, but the event saw equally interesting things outside. ground.

Evangelist Billy Graham led the pre-game prayer in Fayetteville, Arkansas. President Richard Nixon arrived by helicopter to watch the game, and subsequently declared the Longhorns national champions, well in advance of their bowl game. Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who also led his team to an unbeaten season in 1969, has never forgiven Nixon.

“Talk about administrative overrun,” said CBS college football writer Dennis Dodd.

Texas was the last all-white team to win a major national college football title.

Game n ° 3: No. 2 Miami 17, No. 1 Florida State, 16 – 1991

4 first place votes, 58 points

Better known as Wide Right I.

Seminoles kicker Gerry Thomas hit the potential 34-yard field goal with 29 seconds left. Florida State coach Bobby Bowden even fooled for a moment.

The game was the first 1-2 clash between two teams in the same state since Purdue and Notre Dame in 1968, and it marked a shift in the college football landscape towards the Sunshine State.

The Hurricanes and Seminoles weren’t used to competing with schools like Notre Dame, Nebraska and Alabama, but they now had the players. The following season, Miami No.3 defeated Florida State No.2 in Wide Right II. Eventually the Seminoles overtook the Hurricanes and then the Florida Gators jumped up and won a national title as well.

Game n ° 4: No. 2 Notre Dame 31, No. 1 Florida State 24 – 1993

3 first place votes, 57 points

The game that gave birth to ESPN’s “College GameDay” as we know it. The network decided to bring their pre-game show to South Bend to delve into the hype that had been building up over the past month.

Future Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward and the Seminoles had followed their schedule like a juggernaut, but the Fighting Irish took a big lead and then held on for the upset.

The game was a thriller, but it’s the way the season unfolded that makes it so memorable. Notre Dame was bowled over by Boston College the following week. Florida State returned to No.1 in the polls and beat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl for Bowden’s inaugural National Championship.

“Still, I don’t know how ND didn’t get the national title that year,” said Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated.

Notre-Dame fans also remain perplexed.

Game n ° 5: No. 2 Michigan State 10, No. 1 Notre Dame 10 – 1966

51 points

The Spartans and Fighting Irish spent six weeks retaining the top two spots in the AP poll as the country anxiously awaited the clash of the titans.

As the excitement mounted, fans across the country pressured ABC to televise the game nationally, rather than regionally, like NCAA rules then l ‘demanded. The network has given way.

“I think you can say that was when college football became a nationalized sport and this Games of the Century became something that everyone in the country wanted to see,” Weinreb said.

The game itself in East Lansing, Mich. Was a chore, most memorable for Irish coach Ara Parseghian, who played it safe in the end without his injured starting quarterback and was content with equality.

Yet it was an inflection point in the history of sport during the civil rights movement. Michigan State coach Duffy Daugherty’s squad was filled with star black Southern players like Bubba Smith, Gene Washington and Jimmy Raye who weren’t recruited by their state’s flagship colleges. ‘origin. Notre Dame had only one black player in 1966, the future Hall of Famer Alan Page.

The equality was enough for Notre-Dame to retain number 1 and be crowned national champion. Alabama, who also had an unbeaten season with a separate team, was second in the polls.

Other games receiving votes:

• No.1 Ohio State 42, No.2 Michigan 39, 2006 (29 points)

• N ° 1 LSU 46, N ° 2 Alabama 41, 2019 (24)

• N ° 1 Army 0, N ° 2 Notre Dame 0, 1946 (22)

• N ° 1 LSU 9, N ° 2 Alabama 6, OT, 2011 (1 vote for first place, 19)

• No. 4 USC 21, No. 1 UCLA 20, 1967 (12)

• No. 2 Florida State 24, No. 2 Florida 21, 1996 (4)

• No, 1 Iowa 12, n ° 2 Michigan 10, 1985 (1)


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