CFB Greatest Of All Time Tournament – Round 5 and 6: 2014 National Championship Rematch?

We’re into Round 5 and 6 of our Greatest of all time College Football simulation, and by the end of this article, we will be down to our final six teams. A few teams will play twice in this piece, as we narrow it down to the final three teams from each bracket. As a reminder of where we stand currently: 2012 Alabama (Bracket A) and 2001 Miami (Bracket B) are the only remaining undefeated teams and must be defeated twice in the bracket championship. 2019 LSU and 2009 Alabama fell victim to each of those teams respectively and have earned their spot in the final six participants. Four teams in each bracket are left to duke it out for the final two entries into the seventh round. In Bracket A, 2018 Clemson, 2008 Florida, 2008 Oklahoma, and 2000 Miami fight for survival. On the other side of things, 2013 Florida State, 2003 LSU, 2014 Ohio State, and 2014 Oregon will clash for that sixth and final spot. Let’s get into it. 

Bracket A Loser’s Bracket

6. 2008 Florida vs. 2. 2018 Clemson
Clemson 37 Florida 27
Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers are moving on, as Travis Etienne ran for 147 yards and a touchdown, while Lawrence tossed a pair of scores on 24-36 passing and 293 yards. Clemson opened up a touchdown lead at halftime and never trailed, as Tim Tebow and his 2008 Gators could not seal the deal against Dabo Swinney’s 15-0 championship team. 

13. 2000 Miami vs. 9. 2008 Oklahoma
Oklahoma 45 Miami 27
Miami’s hopes now lie in their unbeaten ‘01 squad, after the 2008 Sooners torched the Hurricanes through the air and on the ground, dominating start to finish in a 45-27 victory. Chris Brown ran for 104 yards on 21 carries while finding the end zone twice. Bradford threw for 336 yards and two touchdowns, as Oklahoma led by double digits by the end of the first quarter and never let Miami come within a touchdown. 

Bracket A Loser’s Bracket – Round 6

2018 Clemson vs. 2008 Oklahoma
Clemson 52 Oklahoma 31
This one was never close from the start. Trevor Lawrence threw two first half touchdowns to open up a 14-point halftime lead, while Travis Etienne racked up 186 yard and three touchdowns on just 20 carries, as 2018 Clemson cruised to a 52-31 victory, moving on to the final three in Bracket A and earning a much anticipated clash with 2019 LSU. 

Bracket B Loser’s Bracket – Round 5

7. 2003 LSU vs. 4. 2013 Florida State
Florida State 41 LSU 38 OT
In a game largely dominated by running backs, Florida State’s Jameis Winston came in clutch down the stretch, rescuing the Seminoles from a 7-point deficit entering the fourth quarter. Karlos Williams ran for 104 yards and two touchdowns to keep Florida State in it, and Winston threw for 325 yards – coming up with 132 in the fourth quarter and a pair of touchdown passes to force overtime. There, FSU got the ball second after an LSU field goal. Williams ran for eight yards, Winston scrambled for one, and on 3rd and short, Winston found Kelvin Benjamin for a 16-yard, game-winning touchdown to secure the victory in an instant classic.

12. 2014 Oregon vs. 9. Ohio State
Ohio State 54 Oregon 27
In a rematch of the 2014 national championship, Ohio State beat down Oregon once more, doubling up the ducks on the strength of an efficient performance from J.T. Barrett and a fearsome rushing attack. Ezekiel Elliot ran 25 times for 146 yards and 3 touchdowns, Barrett went 20 times for 103 yards and two touchdowns, while throwing for another 293 yards and a score. The Buckeyes only led 23-20 at halftime, but they absolutely dominated the Ducks in the final two quarters to seal the deal. 

Bracket B Loser’s Bracket – Round 6

4. 2013 Florida State vs. 9. 2014 Ohio State
Florida State 37 Ohio State 34 2OT
In a clash of the final BCS champion and the first ever CFP champion, the 2013 BCS-winning Florida State Seminoles won their second straight overtime battle over the Buckeyes. A blocked punt and pick-6 were major factors in FSU engineering another comeback. While Jameis Winston did throw for 261 yards and 3 touchdowns, it was Lamarcus Joyne’s interception return for a touchdown that tied the game at 28 points apiece with 5:54 to play in the game. After trading off field goals in overtime, Florida State got the ball down three, needing a touchdown to win. Winston scrambled right for 7 yards and then hit Devonta Freeman for a 9-yard gain and a first down. There, the redshirt freshman Heisman winner once again found Kelvin Benjamin open in the end zone, firing a 9-yard dart for a game-sealing touchdown. 

Round 7 and 8 Schedule

Bracket A
1. 2019 LSU vs. 2. 2018 Clemson

Winner vs. 7. 2012 Alabama

Bracket B
3. 2009 Alabama vs. 4. 2013 Florida State

Winner vs. 1. 2001 Miami

College Football Relevancy Rankings: Top 15

What makes a college football team relevant? Is it wins? That would be unfairly biased towards Group of 5 programs with the ability to rack up wins against horrific teams while unfairly punishing teams out of the SEC, Big 10, and other Power-5 conferences that load their schedules with premier competition each year. No offense to Boise State (or maybe a little bit), but the Broncos are not the best team in the country by really any other measure. And beating up on San Jose State, New Mexico, and UNLV does not qualify one for college football supremacy. However, to strictly take playoff berths and national championships seems flawed as well, as that essentially completely discounts UCF, Boise State, and other great but smaller-name programs. What about elite recruiting? Or draft picks and successful NFL careers?

We did our best to combine the variety of factors, weighing the success of college alums in the NFL, draft position, bowl appearances – with an emphasis on New Year’s 6 bowls – and CFP appearances. Of course, extra points were awarded for national championships – Group of 5 teams can cry all they want about how biased the CFP committee is, but the reality is they don’t have the ability to consistently defeat high-level programs. In a recent simulation we ran, we expanded the CFP to include the top Group of 5 team from each season, the non Power-5 squads went 1-6 with only 2017 UCF picking up a win. Relevancy or dominance can also not be claimed from one amazing season (LSU fans would have you believe they’re the greatest program in history because Joe Burrow dropped about a million points on everyone), nor can it be claimed by a 1988 national championship (looking at myself and fellow Irish fans on that one). 

So, taking all these factors into consideration, here are the rankings of the top 15 most relevant football programs heading into the 2020 season. For the keyboard warriors, rage type all your angry thoughts to collegetalking@gmail.com, where you can contact any of our writers.

15. Wisconsin 

Wisconsin just exudes hard and tough vibes, and that’s exactly the type of product the Badgers put out on the gridiron year in and year out. Their biggest strengths lie in their backfield and in the trenches. Recent alum of the program and 2017 first-round pick Ryan Ramczyk has already posted 47 starts and garnered All-Pro honors, while 2019 picks Michael Deiter and David Edwards have already combined for 25 starts. Behind their grind-it-out, ground-and-pound style, Wisconsin has won four of six West Division titles since the Big 10 split into East/West divisions. They’ve posted three top-15 finishes in that time period, rising into the top-6 at various points in each of the past four years, along with a 5-1 record in Bowl Games, including an Orange Bowl victory in 2017. However, an 0-4 record in Big 10 championships and struggles on the recruiting class (not in the Top 25 over the past five seasons), keep the Badgers from rising too far up this list. 

14. Washington

The Huskies edged out Wisconsin on the strength of three NY6 bowl appearances, and a spectacular stretch from 2016-2018 that was highlighted by a College Football Playoff berth in 2017. Playoff berths were certainly valued highly in the compilation of these rankings, as were conference championships, both areas where Washington beat out the Badgers, as the Huskies have won a pair of Pac-12 titles. They’ve had success in developing professional prospects in the secondary and at tight end, and they had no losing records in the past decade. However, they were really only elite for a 3-year stretch and went 2-3 in their last five bowl appearances, so Washington stays at #14 here. 

13. Boise State

As much as I like to give grief to the Broncos, they do at least belong on this list. Spoiler Alert: They’re the only Group-of-5 team that cracked the top 15. Boise State has not been the best Group-of-5 squad in recent years, having not been to a New Year’s 6 bowl since 2014, but their remarkable consistency earns them a place here – the Broncos have won at least 8 games in every season since 1998, posting 17 ten-win campaigns in that 21-year stretch. Their easy strength of schedule (not a single above-average SOS in program history) will always present an asterisk to their name that anyone will throw in their face, but Boise State gets Ws, and they have for 25 years, and they’ve been superb since joining the FBS in 2011, cracking the top 25 in every season. Their winning percentage over the last decade ranks fifth in the country at .805, and the Broncos sit fourth with 107 wins during that time. Now, I will throw in this statistic, so whether you’re a Boise State fan ready to brag about breaking the top 15 or insulted that you are put that low ( I truly don’t know what to expect out of that rabid and slightly delusional fanbase) – Since 2012, Boise State is just 1-4 against ranked Power-5 teams, and they don’t have a top-10 win since 2010. So they’re not a top-10 program, but they do deserve recognition for their consistency and sheer quantity of wins. 

12. Florida 

Florida would be a lot higher on this list if we were putting greater emphasis on history. Long gone are the days of Urban Meyer, Tim Tebow,  and the 2008 national championship, and even further gone is the era of Steve Spurrier, accompanied by four consecutive SEC championships and a couple more national titles. However, the Gators haven’t won the SEC title since that ‘08 run, and they haven’t appeared in the championship game since 2016. They’ve continued to recruit well, with their recruiting classes ranked #14 over the past five seasons, and they still pump out solid NFL talent, particularly on the offensive line and at defensive back – the boys in Gainesville are one of many teams to claim DBU. Florida has a pair of losing seasons in the past decades, but they’ve rebounded nicely in the past couple seasons, ending their previous two campaigns with major bowl victories (Peach and Orange Bowls), keeping them in the top 15. 

11. Notre Dame

Yes they’ve struggled in big games recently, and the Irish are still sitting on zero championships in the BCS/CFP era, but Notre Dame’s ability to bring in top level talent and turn that talent into NFL prospects keeps the Irish highly relevant, but I couldn’t justify bringing them into the top 10 without major recent accomplishments. However, the Irish produce some elite professional players, particularly on their offensive line in recent years (Quentin Nelson, Mike McGlinchey, Zack Martin). They have a .713 winning percentage in the past decade, and they’re 4-2 in their past six bowl game appearances, highlighted by a pair of thrilling victories over LSU. They’ve been ranked in the top 12 in four of the past five seasons, and combined with a Playoff appearance, it was enough to put Notre Dame at #11 on the list. 

10. Florida State

One of the most dominant teams in college football in the first half of the decade, Florida State has faded from relevancy, posting just an 18-20 record in their prior three seasons. However, the Seminoles’ 59-9 record in the five years prior was more than enough to earn FSU some consideration for making this list. Ultimately, their BCS national championship and CFP appearance was enough to just barely crack the top 10. The Seminoles have continued to recruit at a high level, despite their recent struggles, as they’ve boasted the 6th-best recruiting classes over the past five years. They’ve had a pair of quarterbacks drafted in the first round, and clearly on-field talent isn’t the issue – if Florida State can sort out some off-field issues, the Seminoles should return to their elite ways. If not? They’ll slip very quickly off this list. 

9. Oregon
Recent first-round pick Justin Herbert has completed the Ducks’ turnaround, after Oregon spent nearly a decade as one of the best teams in the country. From 2008-2014, the Ducks went 80-15, with that stretch of dominance sandwiched by a pair of 9-4 seasons. They also were a consistent presence in major bowl games, winning the Rose Bowl twice, the Fiesta Bowl once, and appearing in two national championship games and the Playoff. Oregon bottomed out in 2016 with a 4-8 record, but they’ve surged once more, with a 21-6 record over the past two years, punctuated by another thrilling Rose Bowl victory in 2020. The Ducks continue one of the premier teams on the West Coast, but they need to break through to get a national title to stay in the top 10. 

8. Auburn

The Tigers started the decade off with the brilliance of Cam Newton and a national championship, so it was certainly tough to match that, but Auburn certainly continues to a premier team in college football. Playing in the SEC, the Tigers constantly face one of the most brutal schedules in the country, and I think they could be trending upwards, with another two seasons of Bo Nix coming and some victories on the recruiting trail. Their record (62-31) over the past seven seasons may not be as flashy as others on this list, but don’t forget that winning two of three in the SEC is far more impressive than winning three of four in most other conferences, and seven straight winning seasons while playing in the toughest division in the toughest conference in college football is worthy of a top-10 appearance. A CFP appearance is needed soon, but that BCS national championship and consistent SEC relevancy slots Auburn at #8. 

7. USC

Look, I get it. This seems way to high for a team that hasn’t won a championship since 2003-2004, and I’m not particularly happy about slotting the Trojans here – I’m a diehard Irish fan and Notre Dame student, and one of my favorite memories of my freshman year was watching the boys in blue and gold dust USC at Notre Dame Stadium. But before a recent slump, USC had posted winning records in every season from 2002 to 2017, including seven straight years of at least 11 wins. Despise some recent struggles, the Trojans have been ranked in the AP Poll at some point for each of the past 19 seasons, including a #3 finish in 2016. In recruiting talent and NFL talent they bring in and pump out, USC deserves to be in the top 10. Notre Dame may lead the series in this rivalry, but USC has been better in big games. This will likely be the most controversial ranking on the list, but I’ll stick with it. USC is such a national brand that with the premier talent they bring in year in and year out, they will always be a story, and if they can get a relatively hapless Clay Helton off the sideline, the Trojans can return to national glory. 

6. Georgia

Another great team that has just been completely unable to break through on the national level, as Georgia has returned to national relevance, but they can’t quite get that big win. After finishing every season from 1997-2008 ranked inside the Top 25, the Bulldogs faded slightly, but they stayed near the top of the rankings, appearing in the top 10 in every season since 2012. Under Kirby Smart, Georgia has surged once more, finishing no lower than seventh in the past three seasons, with an SEC Championship, three SEC title game appearances, a CFP and national championship appearance, as well as wins in the Rose and Sugar Bowls. Talent wise, Georgia has absolutely dominated their in-state rivalry, allowing them to dominate the in-state recruiting battles. As such, Georgia has dominated on the recruiting front, and they produce some elite NFL prospects, particularly in the backfield, pushing the Bulldogs to 6th in our 2020 relevancy rankings. 

5. Oklahoma

Since 2000, Oklahoma has consistently been one of the top teams in college football – cracking the top ten in every season in that stretch with appearances in the top 5 in 17 of those 20 seasons. They’ve qualified for four consecutive Playoffs, and while they’ve struggled on that stage, Oklahoma has dominated their conference, been a mainstay in the rankings, featured top-10 talent, had two Heisman winners, and produced highly sought after draft prospects for the NFL. By every standard except Playoff success, Oklahoma is one of the best programs in the country, so don’t let their struggles in the spotlight cloud your judgement of the Sooners. 

4. LSU

Yes LSU is great. No they are not the best team in the nation. The Tigers returned to true national relevance in Joe Burrow’s first season, finishing sixth in the AP Poll – their first top ten finish since 2011. Then, of course, there was last year: one of the greatest seasons and quarterbacking efforts of all-time en route to a 15-0 season. That CFP appearance and national championship bumps the Tigers into the top 5. LSU recruits at a top-five level in most seasons, and they probably have the most legitimate claim to DBU with four All-Pro alums and 2017 first-round pick Jamal Adams on his way to becoming the best safety in the NFL. LSU is always relevant, and they’ve turned the corner after spending much of the decade as an afterthought in the national championship race – now they need to succeed in the post-Burrow era to validate this ranking. 

3. Ohio State

Seemingly always a powerhouse, but rarely on top. The Alabama-Clemson dual-dynasties may have dominated the second half of the decade, but Ohio State was always right in the mix, but, sans the first ever College Football Playoff, the Buckeyes have not been able to break through. Ohio State has been ranked second in the AP Poll in each of the past four years, but they haven’t sat atop the rankings since 2015. However, outside a blip in 2011 when the Buckeyes went 6-7, Ohio State has been one of the most consistent teams in the country, with extended stretches of dominance – you have to go back to 1967 to find the last season that OSU didn’t make an appearance in the AP Poll. However, Ohio State has not been able to punctuate their dynasty with more than the occasional title, meaning their spot at #3 is anything but secure, with LSU’s recent surge and Oklahoma a CFP win or two from being considered a premier program. 

2. Clemson

These rankings were always going to come down to Bama-Clemson at 1 and 2, it was just a matter of who ranked where. Ultimately, while it’s brutally difficult to decide in just the last few years, Alabama’s dynasty has simply been longer (more on that later), so Clemson ranks second. They’ve been incredibly dominant for five seasons now, and their dynasty doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon. I believe the Tigers have the biggest claim to WRU, where they’ve produced DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, and Mike Williams, and their 6-3 record in the CFP  and two national titles are wildly impressive. Had I wrote this article in 2015, I’m not sure Clemson would even be on this list, so it’s safe to say it’s a truly special period of dominance that saw the Tigers skyrocket to the top so fast.

1. Alabama

2007. That was the last time that a season went by and Alabama wasn’t ranked #1 at some point during the season. Toss in five national championships in that era, and the top ranking on this list simply couldn’t go to anyone but the Tide. Last year, they finished eighth in the AP Poll, their first time outside the top 5 since 2013 and their lowest ranking since 2010. As for the other qualifications for this list? Alabama dominates the recruiting landscape virtually every season, and they pump out NFL talent at almost every position. Although I stick with my pick of Clemson, Alabama stake a claim for WRU, and defensively, nobody can top the Tide who boast defensive line and linebacker talent like no other program. Their running backs tear up the NFL (see Derrick Henry and Mark Ingram), and the Tide have been the standard in the best conference in America for over a decade. It’s really not a question who is #1 here. 

Top 3 BCS Championship Quarterback Performances

Yesterday, we ran our top 5 quarterback performances of the College Football Playoff, which proved to be very popular, so today, we’re going back a little further, to look at the best QB efforts in the history of BCS championship games  – enjoy these throwback great performances! This list will be the Top 3 and cover only the official BCS games from 2006-2014. 

Honorable Mention

Tim Tebow, Florida, 2008-09 vs. Ohio State: 18-30, 231 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, 22 carries, 109 yds, 1 TD

#3 – Chris Leake, Florida, 2006-07 vs. Ohio State
In the first of Florida’s two titles in three years, the Gators were led by the quiet leadership of Chris Leake, who punctuated his four years as the starting signal-caller in the Swamp with one of the best BCS Championship performances. Leake went 25-36 for 213 yards and a touchdown, putting forth an efficient and mistake-free effort, which was more than enough for the Gators in their 41-14 victory. His 14-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter eliminated Ohio State’s only lead of the game, and he made a series of beautiful throws to extend possessions and milk an astounding 24:48 to 11:52 advantage in time of possession.

#2 – A.J. McCarron, Alabama, 2011-12 vs. LSU
AJ McCarron may not have found much of success in the NFL, but he put up some amazing postseason performances for the Crimson Tide. Posting a 23-34 effort for 234 yards, McCarron was extremely impressive in a highly defensive contest that saw no touchdowns in the first three quarters. Ultimately, on the strength of five field goals and a fourth quarter touchdown, the Tide rolled 21-0. While Alabama’s defense deservedly gets most of the credit, McCarron led the Tide to 21 first downs (to LSU’s five) and six scoring drives and played turnover-free football, forcing LSU into bad field position in nearly every drive. In a game where every small victory was needed, McCarron delivered for Alabama. Enjoy McCarron (and the rest of Alabama’s) highlights here:

#1 – A.J. McCarron, Alabama, 2012-2013 vs. Notre Dame
As an Irish fan, this one pains me to recall. I was a hopeful Notre Dame fan, ready to watch my beloved Irish take on the mighty Crimson Tide. My innocent optimism lasted for about 20 minutes, as McCarron and Alabama absolutely dismantled a Notre Dame defense that was previously untouchable and led by Heisman finalist Manti Te’o. From his 25-yard dot in the first minute of the game, to his 264 yards and four touchdowns, McCarron was on-point from the get-go, going 20-28 under center. Until the Irish return to glory, McCarron lives in my nightmares for this lethal performance.

NCAA FOOTBALL TOP MOMENTS – #1: Vince Young becomes a Texas legend, beats USC in epic Rose Bowl

Coming up with a list of the top 7 moments to feature this week in college football was brutally difficult. Some of these are a series of games, others a specific national championship, and others are an unlikely or inspirational run to a national title. For the most part, I refined this list to postseason moments, or games that decided a national championship, simply because with such an overwhelming list of possible options to feature, I decided that the ones with the biggest impact would be the ones that had championship implications. 

If you’ve been on our website, you had to know this was coming. The #1 moment in our NCAA football moments countdown is the 2006 Rose Bowl, an absolute thriller played between the Texas Longhorns and USC Trojans for the national championship –  a game whose defining moment was captured in one of the most iconic football photos ever. From the storylines leading into the game, the star performances and epic duel between two football powerhouses, this was an easy choice for the #1 moment on our countdown. 

The 2005 USC Trojans entered the year looking to repeat, or three-peat if you ask them, as national champions, a feat never accomplished in the AP Poll Era. Their rise to the top of college football had come suddenly, as from 1996-2001, the Trojans compiled a 37-35 record, never finishing with more than 8 wins and never finishing a season ranked. Then in 2002, under second-year head coach Pete Carroll, USC went 11-2 with an Orange Bowl win. They improved on that in each of the following years, finishing ‘03 and ‘04 with 12-1 and 13-0 records, respectively. They won the 2003 AP National Championship, although LSU was named the BCS champion, leading to a split title. They won the sole championship in 2004. They were led into battle in 2005 by 2004 Heisman winner and quarterback Matt Leinart, along with the eventual 2005 Heisman winner, running back Reggie Bush. 

The Trojans were an absolute force in 2005, as not a single team could contain their offense. USC put up 63, 70, and 45 points in their first three games. #14 Arizona State kept them under 40 points, but the Trojans still won 38-28. Their first real test came in a rivalry game at #9 Notre Dame. USC was 5-0 but trailed at halftime, and trailed 31-28 with seven seconds left at the Notre Dame 1-yard line. Rather than attempt the field goal, USC called for a quarterback sneak, and after Leinart’s initial effort was stopped, Bush executed what became known as “The Bush Push”, driving Leinart over the goal line. USC won their final six games with relative ease, with only one opponent coming within 25 points of them. #16 Fresno State led 21-13 at halftime, but USC put up 28 points in the third quarter, and got a last-minute interception to seal a 50-42 win. They punctuated the year with a 66-19 rivalry win over UCLA, sealing another berth in the BCS Championship.

Texas hadn’t exactly been a nobody in the college football world, and they had long been a more consistent program than USC. Under head coach Mack Brown, the Longhorns had finished seven consecutive seasons ranked, including three in the Top 6, and in 2004, they had pulled off a Rose Bowl win to finish the season #5. However, Texas had not won a national championship since 1970, and they were fighting to get back to the top of the mountain. After an easy win in the opener, the Longhorns had an immediate road test against #4 Ohio State. Texas trailed 22-16 in the fourth quarter, but quarterback Vince Young tossed a touchdown pass late, and the Longhorns added a safety to win the highly anticipated battle by three points. After that, it was smooth sailing for Texas, as no other opponent came closer than eleven points. They didn’t score under 40 points, and they dismantled #24 Colorado twice, and crushed #10 Texas Tech en route to an undefeated regular season, setting up a big-time national championship game. 

The Rose Bowl was a clash of the two teams with the longest active winning streaks – USC with 34 and Texas with 19, and it also featured the top two finishers in the Heisman race, with Reggie Bush edging Vince Young out for the award. To start the game, USC did not gain a first down, but Texas fumbled the ensuing punt, giving USC’s lethal offense a short field, which they quickly converted into a touchdown, leading 7-0 into the second quarter. Texas took advantage of a USC turnover, and Young led a 53-yard drive which culminated in a field goal. USC’s next drive ended in the red zone with a Leinart interception, and the Longhorns capitalized once more. Young powered the drive with his arm and with his legs, finishing it off by sprinting ten yards and tossing a lateral to Selvin Young who polished off the final twelve yards for a touchdown for a 9-7 lead after a failed extra point. The Longhorns extended the lead to 16-7, but USC cut it to 16-10 at halftime. 

The offenses exploded to start the second half, as running back LenDale White punched in a score for the Trojans, Young responded with the first of his three rushing touchdowns, and USC fired right back as White converted a 4th and 1 on a 12-yard touchdown run. After the fireworks, the score stood at 24-23, and Texas missed a go-ahead field goal, keeping them down by one entering the final stanza. 

Things looked bleak for Texas, as USC continued to dominate the second half through the first half of the fourth quarter. After Texas’s missed field goal, USC drove 80 yards, with some superb passing from Leinart and a 26-yard touchdown rush by Reggie Bush. Texas was able to get into the red zone on their ensuing drive, but the Trojans stiffened at the last second, holding the Longhorns to a field goal. USC needed very little time to respond as Leinart and fullback David Kirtman connected for 33 yards, and then 15 more were added to the total on a roughing the passer penalty. Leinart executed a toss to receiver Dwayne Jarrett so swept through the defense for a 22-yard touchdown, and USC opened up a commanding 38-26 lead with just 6:42 to play in the game. 

Texas wasn’t down and out yet, as Vince Young threw the Longhorns on his back and personally accounted for 69 yards in just 2:39. He completed five passes for 44 yards and ran for the remaining 25, including 17 yards for a touchdown to bring Texas within five with 3:58 to play. After yielding one first down, Texas needed a stop to leave any kind of time remaining for their offense to work some magic. They got a third-down stop, forcing USC into a 4th and 2 just past midfield with 2:13 to play. Pete Carroll decided to put the game in the hands of his trusty offense rather than punt and rely on a defense that had struggled to stop Vince Young and the Longhorns. He called for a LenDale White run, but Texas stiffened and stuffed him for just a yard, allowing Texas to take over at their own 44-yard line.

Texas still needed a touchdown, and they were forced into a few unsavory positions on their final drive. They lost two yards on their first two plays and were immediately confronted with a 3rd and 12. However a short completion and facemask penalty extended the drive for the Longhorns. Young then rushed for seven yards and found rarely-used receiver Brian Carter twice for 26 yards, pushing Texas to the USC 14-yard line. However, the Longhorns gained just five yards in three plays, and they faced a do-or-die 4th and 5 from the 9-yard line. Young dropped back but couldn’t find an open receiver. He scrambled and found space to his right, bolting for the corner of the end zone. Receiving a critical block from Justin Blalock, Young won a footrace into the corner of the endzone for a 39-38 Texas lead. A successful 2-point conversion gave the Longhorns a 3-point advantage. 

Leinart had just 16 seconds and no timeouts to work his magic for USC, and although he got the Trojans to the Texas 43, there was simply not enough time, and Texas snapped USC’s lengthy winning streak and handed Leinart just the second loss of his collegiate career. 

The Aftermath

Vince Young was named the Rose Bowl MVP for the 2nd consecutive year, and he also received the Manning Award, given to the nation’s top quarterback and the only award based partly on bowl results. In the game, Young put up a Rose-Bowl record 467 all-purpose yards, collecting 200 on the ground and 267 more through the air while running for three touchdowns. Had USC won, Leinart (365 pass yards and a touchdown) or LenDale White (3 touchdowns) would have been prime MVP candidates. 

Bush, Young, Texas’s Michael Huff, and Leinart all were top-10 picks in the 2006 NFL Draft, with Bush and Young being selected second and third overall. USC ended up vacating their 2004 national championship and their 2005 wins, as Reggie Bush was found to be ineligible after accepting thousands of dollars worth of gifts from a few California agents. Bush also voluntarily forfeited his Heisman trophy. Although USC’s winning streak was virtually destroyed by this, and their official 2005 record was 0-1, the Rose Bowl versus Texas still remains one of the most iconic games of all times, with Vince Young’s performance and game-winning touchdown serving as one of the best individual efforts in college football history.

NCAA FOOTBALL TOP MOMENTS – #2: Controversy, Double-Overtime, and A Legendary Goal-line Stand

Coming up with a list of the top 7 moments to feature this week in college football was brutally difficult. Some of these are a series of games, others a specific national championship, and others are an unlikely or inspirational run to a national title. For the most part, I refined this list to postseason moments, or games that decided a national championship, simply because with such an overwhelming list of possible options to feature, I decided that the ones with the biggest impact would be the ones that had championship implications. 

If you only recently became a college football fan, then Ohio State being near the top of the football world isn’t anything groundbreaking. Miami being a 6-9 win team wouldn’t make front page headlines either. However, neither of these truths used to be in the land of college football, as Miami once boasted a proud dynasty, and Ohio State was, at least relatively, the upstart newcomer hoping to challenge the beast. This 2003 National Championship was not only a thriller, but it represented a dramatic changing of the guard that quite simply threw the power structure into upheaval and ended a dynasty that had been in existence for 20 years, and particularly lethal for the previous two.

The 2002 Miami team had a tough act to follow, as they succeeded the ‘01 Hurricanes that went down as one of the best teams of all time. In the prior two seasons, Miami was 23-1 with a national championship and Sugar Bowl win to their name. Their dynasty had experienced a major resurgence after a lull in their dominance. Miami won the national title in 1983, and then they finished in the Top 10 in every season from 1985-1992, collecting titles in ‘87, ‘89’, and ‘91. However, the 2002 Hurricanes were up to the challenge of following their dominant predecessors, getting off to a 5-0 start, with their closest game a 23-point victory. They beat #6 Florida in Gainesville by 25 points. They survived #9 Florida State, 28-27, and then rolled through the rest of their schedule for a 12-0 record and #1 record. They were ranked #1 in the AP Poll for all but one week of the season. Only FSU and #17 Pittsburgh (28-21) came within a possession of the Hurricanes. 

The Buckeyes hardly had as much pedigree to live up to as the Hurricanes, having not finished in the Top 25 since 1998; they were also nearly 35 years removed from their last national title in 1968. Despite their 7-5 season the year before, there was a sense of optimism heading into Ohio State’s season, and they were gifted a #13 preseason ranking. Their statement win came in Week 3, as the Buckeyes hosted #10 Washington State with College GameDay and a 104,000 fans in attendance. Ohio State thumped the Huskies 25-7, letting the college football world know they were there. Although the Buckeyes didn’t cruise through their schedule with the same level of dominance as Miami, largely due to their somewhat average offense, Ohio State steadily climbed the rankings.

They survived #17 Penn State, 13-7, and throttled #23 Minnesota, 34-3. Against Purdue and Illinois, in back-to-back road games, the Buckeyes struggled but managed to eke out victories both times, beating the Boilermakers 10-6, and escaping the Illini in an overtime thriller, 23-16. That brought them into “The Game”. The Buckeyes welcomed College GameDay back to Columbus, along with 105,539 fans, and they defeated the #12 Michigan Wolverines, 14-9, clinching their spot in the Fiesta Bowl and BCS National Championship game against Miami. 

The 2003 BCS Championship and Fiesta Bowl to determine the national title matched strength against strength, as Miami’s offense was an unstoppable force, posting eight games of at least 40 points, while Ohio State had given up over twenty points just once, all the way back in their season opener. Due to Ohio State’s inconsistent offense, and Miami’s pedigree, the Hurricanes entered the game as 11 ½ point favorites. Miami struck first in the first quarter on their second drive, having held the Buckeyes without a first down on their first two offensive possessions. The Hurricanes got the ball on their 48-yard line, and quarterback Ken Dorsey went to work, delivering a 28-yard pass to Kellen Winslow Jr. and then, three plays later, a 25-yard touchdown strike to Roscoe Parrish for the 7-0 lead. 

Ohio State’s offense continued to struggle, picking up just one first down in the opening quarter, but their dominant defense stifled Miami, keeping the game within reach. Ohio State got an interception that put them in golden field position at the Miami 37, but they stalled after one first down and tried a fake field goal attempt, getting stuffed for no gain. However, the Buckeyes picked off Ken Dorsey yet again, as safety Mike Doss collected a deflection and returned it 35 yards to the Miami 17. It wasn’t pretty, but Ohio State finally capitalized on their defensive prowess, grinding out seventeen yards of offense and punching it in from two yards out on a 4th and 1. The game appeared destined for a 7-7 tie, but the Buckeyes forced yet another turnover out of the Hurricanes’ potent offense, as Dorsey was sacked and fumbled the ball, letting Ohio State’s Darrion Scott recover it at the Miami 14. Maurice Clarett took advantage of the short field, running it in from seven yards out and a 14-7 Ohio State lead. 

The second half got off to a wild start, as the Buckeyes forced a punt and then faced a 3rd and 15 at their own 37-yard line. Ohio State’s Craig Krenzel unleashed a 57-yard bomb to Chris Gamble, putting Ohio State on the Miami 6, but Krenzel followed that up by tossing an interception. Sean Taylor picked off Krenzel and was in the midst of a big return, but Clarett caught up to him and stripped the ball, recovering it and keeping the Ohio State offense on the field. They didn’t move the ball much further, but they got close enough for Mike Nugent to knock a field goal through the uprights for a 17-7 advantage. 

After a few punts, Miami got their offense rolling once more, with the Dorsey to Winsolow connection on full display. The duo worked together for two receptions for 30 yards, and Willis McGahee rolled in from nine yards out, cutting the deficit to 17-14 at the end of the third quarter. After an Ohio State punt, the two squads exchanged missed field goals, bringing the game into its final seven minutes. The Buckeyes recovered a Miami fumble, and they successfully drained the game clock to close to 2 minutes left, but then Parrish returned a punt 50 yards, giving Miami the ball at the Ohio State 26 with 2:02 left. The Hurricanes ran three plays and gained just three yards, but Todd Sievers banged a 40-yard field goal as time expired to send the game to overtime at 17-17. 

Miami got the ball to start overtime, and their offense went to work, punctuated by the trusty Dorsey-Winslow connection, as the pair linked up for a 7-yard touchdown pass. A penalty, sack, and incompletion forced Ohio State into an ugly do-or-die 4th and 14. The Buckeyes came through, but not without controversy. Krenzel found Michael Jenkins for 17 yards, but replays appeared to show offensive pass interference by Jenkins, which would have forced the Buckeyes into a 4th and 24. However, it was not called, and the Ohio State drive continued. Ohio State was forced into another fourth down however, this one a more manageable 4th & 3 from the five yard line. Krenzel threw incomplete, and Miami began to storm the field, only to have their elation quashed by the field judge, who tossed a late flag for defensive pass interference. It was a controversial call to say the least, but it gave Ohio State a fresh set of downs, and three plays later, the Buckeyes punched it in. 

The second overtime was just as thrilling, as Ohio State scored a touchdown to start, this time unaided by controversial penalty calls. They pounded the Miami defense with their run game, and Clarett finished it off with a 5-yard touchdown sprint, putting Ohio State ahead once more, 31-24. Miami converted a 4th and 3 on a pass from Dorsey to Wilson, and they got down to the Ohio State 2 with a first down. However, the Buckeyes stopped three straight runs, giving Miami 4th and 1 from the 1-yard line. Dorsey was hit as he threw, and his pass fell incomplete, giving the Buckeyes the national championship in overtime, punctuating an epic contest with a legendary goal-line stand. 

The Aftermath

To this day, the controversial pass interference call that kept Ohio State alive in the first overtime remains a heated debate among sports fans. Some consider it one of the worst calls ever made on a football field, while others believe it was absolutely the correct call. Either way, the game ended in favor of Ohio State, which in turn sent the two programs in different directions. The Hurricanes had a solid 2003 campaign, going 11-2, but they have not won 11 games since then, and only once have they picked up 10 victories. They’ve finished the year ranked just five times since 2004, and they have not finished in the Top 10. Meanwhile, Ohio State has been ranked at the end of all but one season since 2003, and they’ve ended in the Top 5 in 12 different seasons. Big games are often hyped as a ‘changing of the guard’, but this may have been one of the most dramatic shifts in power in sports history, and it took a double-overtime classic decided by a gutsy goal-line stand to do it. 

The NFL talent on the field was absolutely ridiculous, as 18 of the starters became first-round picks, while 58 of the 100 players who touched the field would go on to play in the NFL, 50 as draft selections.

NCAA FOOTBALL TOP MOMENTS – #4: Tebow and The 2008 Florida Gators

Coming up with a list of the top 7 moments to feature this week in college football was brutally difficult. Some of these are a series of games, others a specific national championship, and others are an unlikely or inspirational run to a national title. For the most part, I refined this list to postseason moments, or games that decided a national championship, simply because with such an overwhelming list of possible options to feature, I decided that the ones with the biggest impact would be the ones that had championship implications. 

Any big sports moment, be it an upset win, championship victory, or inspirational Cinderella run, is made 100 times better with an emotional or spine-chilling speech preceding it (scientifically, don’t question my numbers). That’s why coming it at #4 is the 2008 Florida Gators’ championship run, which started with Tim Tebow’s emotional and impassioned press conference tirade. 

The preseason rankings in 2008 produced a jumble to elite teams at the top, with Georgia, Ohio State, USC, Oklahoma, and Florida all receiving first-place votes, as the Gators slotted in at #5 to start the year. The Gators were one year removed from their 2006 title, but they were coming off a disappointing (by Florida and head coach Urban Meyer standards) season in which they finished 9-4.  With Heisman-winning quarterback Tim Tebow under center, an offense that included Percy Harvin and Aaron Hernandez, a defense boasting Joe Haden, Brandon Spikes, Carlos Dunlap, and Jermaine Cunningham, the Gators were flush with talent at nearly every position, and the expectations were sky-high for Urban Meyer’s squad. 

They started the season with a nonchalant 56-10 win over Hawaii, overcoming a scoreless first quarter to cruise. They were a whopping 24-point favorite against archrival Miami, and the Gators actually almost covered, dominating the Hurricanes in every aspect of the game en route to a 26-3 win, punctuated by a 17-point fourth quarter. After a statement 30-6 win against Tennessee to open up SEC play, the Gators looked to be all they were hyped up to be, but that image was ripped apart in their following game. Florida played their SEC home opener against Ole Miss, and they were massive favorites, especially given their 21-1 home record under Urban Meyer. The Gators gave up 17 points in the third quarter, had a game-tying extra point blocked, and then was stuffed on 4th and 1 from the Ole Miss 32-yard line in the final minute of the game, ultimately losing 31-30 to the unranked Rebels. 

After the game, Tim Tebow politely answered a few questions before launching into an emotional speech: “To the fans and everybody in Gator Nation, I’m sorry, extremely sorry. We were hoping for an undefeated season. That was my goal, something Florida’s never done here.

“But I promise you one thing, a lot of good will come out of this. You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season, and you will never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season, and you will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season. God bless.”

It would have been easy to dismiss the speech as mere frustration after an upset loss, but if that’s all it was, Tebow and the Gators didn’t play like that in the ensuing weeks. They dropped to #12 in the rankings, but after hammering Arkansas 38-7, and dismantling #4 LSU 51-21, Florida  skyrocketed back into the Top 5. And this time, Tebow and the Gators were there to stay. 

Florida improved to 6-1 by thrashing Kentucky, 63-5, bringing them to a road showdown at #8 Georgia. There was some bad blood following Georgia’s signature win over the Gators last year, which was highlighted by Georgia’s full-team celebration of their first touchdown, dubbed the Gator Stomp. This year, there would be no such celebration, as a 21-point third quarter turned a 14-3 game into a 35-3 laugher, as the Gators won 49-10. They climbed to #4 in the AP Poll and garnered a first place vote. Over their final four regular season games, Florida covered massive spreads, all of at least 17 points, with ease, including dominating victories over ranked squads in South Carolina and rival Florida State, and the Gators rolled into the SEC Championship game. Since their stunning upset loss, Florida was 8-0, with their closest game a 42-14 destruction of Vanderbilt. 

However, a new challenge awaited the Gators in the SEC Championship, as they had to taken on the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide. Florida actually trailed, 20-17, heading into the fourth quarter. Florida turned to a ground-and-pound strategy, running the ball on eight of eleven plays and took the lead on a 1-yard run from true freshman Jeffrey Demps. After a sack forced an Alabama punt, Tebow sealed the deal with a touchdown pass, and the Gators won 31-20, clinching a spot in the BCS Championship against Oklahoma. 

The game was a much-hyped contest featuring Heisman winner Sam Bradford under center dueling Tebow, a Heisman finalist himself. The Sooners led the country in offense, averaging over fifty points per game, while the Gators averaged over forty. However, neither offense managed a point in the first quarter, but Florida ended the period at the Oklahoma 21-yard line. Three plays into the second, Tebow connected with Louis Murphy for a touchdown, but Oklahoma evened the score, 7-7 before halftime. Both offenses struggled greatly, and Tebow tossed two interceptions, matching his season total to that point.

On their second drive of the second half, Florida chopped five minutes off the clock and methodically drove down the field. On third and goal from the two, Harvin took a wildcat snap and charged in for the 14-7 lead. Oklahoma would tie it in the fourth quarter, but Florida didn’t give up another point. Harvin broke off a 52-yard run that led to a 27-yard field goal, and then after Ahmad Davis’s NCAA-leading 7th interception of the year, the Gators engineered a 7-minute drive, punctuated by Tebow’s second touchdown pass of the day. Oklahoma had under four minutes to score twice, but they couldn’t even get one drive going, as Joe Haden batted down a fourth-down pass, and Florida claimed the national championship, 24-14. 

The Aftermath

Tebow was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Year, while Spikes and return specialist Brandon James were named All-Americans. Harvin, Murphy, and tight end Cornelius Ingram were drafted in the 2009 NFL Draft, while many other Gators went on to NFL careers later on. Tebow’s impassioned press conference speech is now engraved on a plaque outside Florida’s new stadium. The Gators have not won a national championship since 2008. but they’re back near the top of the football world, having finished in the Top-10 two straight years.