Tuesday Question - Ten Greatest Bowl Games

Posted Sep 5, 2006

Tuesday Question ... The Ten Greatest Bowl Games of All-Time.

- 10 Greatest Quarterbacks of All-Time
- 10 Greatest Defensive Players of All-Time
- 10 Greatest Regular Season Games of All-Time
- 10 Greatest Playmakers of All-Time
- 10 Worst Heisman Winners
- All-Time Offensive Team | All-Time Defensive Team

Pete Fiutak     
Q: The Ten Greatest Bowl Games ...

A: 10. USC 17 … Ohio State 16   January 1, 1980  Rose Bowl
With new head coach Earle Bruce in the first season after Woody Hayes, the Buckeyes weren’t supposed to do too much. Bruce and his team marched through the 1979 season going 11-0 with a shot at the national title. Southern Cal came in 10-0-1 with a devastating running game led by Charles White. Behind the running of White, who carried the ball six times for 71 yards on the drive, the Trojans tied the game at 16 late on a one-yard scoring run. The extra point gave the Trojans enough for the win with 1:32 to play. For the game, White carried the ball 39 times for a Rose Bowl record 242 yards.
9. Texas 21 … Notre Dame 17   January 1, 1970   Cotton Bowl
After already being declared the national champion by President Richard Nixon, Texas still had to win it on the field against a great Irish team in its first bowl game in 45 years. Notre Dame went up 10-0 on a Joe Theismann 54-yard TD pass. With its bruising wishbone attack, Texas didn’t panic going up 14-10 on two long marches. With just under seven minutes to play, Theismann connected with Jim Yoder for a 24-yard TD pass to put the Irish up 17-14 and in position to upset the Longhorns. It was then up to the quarterback James Street and the daring play calling of head coach Darrell Royal to save the day. Street converted two fourth down plays on a 17-play drive including 44-yard completion on fourth and three. With 1:08 to play, Billy Dale took a Street pitch for a score to take the lead. A Texas interception squashed the final Irish drive, and finally, it was the true national champion.
8. Ohio State 20 … Arizona State 17   January 1, 1997 Rose Bowl
OSU was up 14-10, and then the fireworks really began. Arizona State star Jake Plummer, who had led the Sun Devils to several heart-stopping wins during the season, marched down the field including a 29-yard completion on fourth down to keep the final drive alive. On third down on the OSU 11, Plummer weaved and waggled his way through the Buckeye D for an apparent game-winning touchdown run. But OSU QB Joe Germaine had one final shot. With the help of several ASU pass interference penalties, the Buckeyes moved the ball to the Sun Devil fiveWR David Boston juked his way into being wide open in the end zone where Germaine coolly hit him for the game-winning score with only :19 to play. Ohio State would finish the season number two while Arizona State would finish fourth. Had ASU won, it would’ve been the national champion.
7. Florida State 18 ... Nebraska 16     January 1, 1994    Orange Bowl
The Noles and Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward were supposed to roll over the unbeaten and top ranked Huskers, but the two battled in a classic.
With 1:16 to play and down one point, the ball was in the hands of Ward who was having an efficient but unspectacular game. A Ward pass to Warrick Dunn and two Husker penalties set up a Scott Bentley field goal to give FSU the win. Not quite. A celebration penalty resulted in the Huskers getting the ball near midfield with :14 to play, Tommie Frazier completed a pass over the middle of the field as time apparently ran out. The clock read :00 and Bobby Bowden, who was wearing a national championship hat, was given a Gatorade bath while giving a post-game interview. But no. The officials put one second back on the clock giving Husker PK Byron Bennett a final shot to break the hearts of Seminole fans, but he badly hooked the 45-yard attempt and FSU finally won its first national title after the voters gave Bowden the title over Notre Dame.
6. Alabama 14… Penn State 7   January 1, 1979 Sugar Bowl
It should say something that Keith Jackson calls a game the greatest he ever saw. It was No. 1 Penn State vs. No. 2 Alabama for the national title. Down 14-7 late, Penn State was within range to tie the game after recovering a Tide fumble on Bama 19. QB Chuck Fusina moved the Nittany Lions down to the one yard line and an almost certain game-tying score. On third down, Matt Suhey was able to only get a half a yard making it fourth and goal from the six-inch line. Mike Guman tried to dive up the middle but Bama linebacker Barry Krauss stuffed him and the Tide had its goal line stand for the ages. Penn State had what looked to be one final shot late when Alabama shanked a punt, but a penalty for having 12 men on the field gave the ball, and the national title, to the Tide.
Notre Dame 35 … Houston 34    Jan. 1, 1979   Cotton Bowl
Forever known as the chicken soup game, a young Irish quarterback named Joe Montana had his national coming out party (even though he had already won a national title the year before) by leading an improbable comeback against Houston while fighting hypothermia. At halftime, Montana was fed chicken soup to try and bring his body temperature up after having problems on the chilly Dallas day. With 7:37 to play the Cougars were up 34-12 and put their backups in the game. On the final play, Montana rolled right and fired a bullet to Kris Haines for a touchdown in the front corner of the end zone to all but complete a wild comeback with that saw everything go right for the Irish. The game was tied when Joe Unis came out for the extra point and the improbable win. He nailed it, but the Irish were called for an illegal procedure penalty and it was called back. Haines converted the extra point on the second chance and the Montana legend was born.
USC 42 … Wisconsin 37   Jan. 1, 1963   Rose Bowl
The No. 1 ranked Trojans led the No. 2 Badgers 42-14 in the fourth quarter on the way to an apparently easy win. Wisconsin was able to mount an epic comeback scoring 23 straight points in a furious comeback. Badger quarterback Ron Vanderkelen passed for a Rose Bowl, and Wisconsin, record 401 yards. Wide receiver (and future athletic director) Pat Richter caught eleven passes for 163 yards with the final catch for a 19-yard touchdown coming with 1:19 to play. The onside kick was recovered by USC to snuff out the comeback attempt, but Wisconsin made it one of the most exciting finishes ever. The 79 combined points were a Rose Bowl record that stood for 28 years.
 3. Texas 41 … USC 38   January 4, 2006  Rose Bowl
Texas came back from down 12 in the final 6:42 as Vince Young ran for a 17-yard score with 4:03 to play, the defense held USC's LenDale White on fourth down, and then Young led the offense on a ten-play, 56-yard drive culminating in an eight-yard touchdown run on fourth down for the win. Young ran for 200 yards and three touchdowns, but the Trojan rushing attack was equal to the task with 209 yards led by White's 124 yards and three scores. The Trojans appeared to have it won after Reggie Bush dove for a 26-yard touchdown and Dwayne Jarrett caught a 22-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, but Young proved to be too much to stop. USC cranked out 574 yards of total offense, Texas 556.
 2. Ohio State 31 ... Miami 24 2OT   January 3, 2003  Fiesta Bowl 
It seems like many outside of Columbus have forgotten how amazing this game was. It was a double-overtime national championship; the extra time alone cranked up the intensity factor over most of the other great bowls in college football history. There was the controversy of the Glenn Sharpe pass-interference-non-pass-interference that almost closed out the win for the Canes. There was the ugly turn of the Willis McGahee injury, the amazing strip of Sean Taylor by Maurice Clarett leading to a key field goal, and there was more excitement than any game ever except for …
 1. Miami 31 ... Nebraska 30   January 1, 1984  Orange Bowl
Many will say the 2006 Rose Bowl was the greatest ever, but this was simply a better, more exciting game. Nebraska was considered one of the greatest teams of all-time blowing through almost everyone in its path, Miami started the season unranked and worked its way into the position to be a player in the national title discussion. It was simply the greatest, most interesting game ever with wild momentum swings, big plays on both sides, and of course, the ill-fated decision at the end by Tom Osborne to go for two and the win rather than kick the extra point and win the national title.

Richard Cirminiello  
Q: The Ten Greatest Bowl Games ...

: First off, in terms of best bowl games in the annual lineup, the Rose Bowl gets the nod, and it’s not even close.  In terms of pageantry and setting, there’s the Granddaddy and then there’s everyone else.  It’s the one bowl game that matters regardless of which two teams are paired together.  And it’s the one game that, in most years, has a rivalry feel with the Pac-10 and Big Ten champs squaring off.  No other bowl game can make either claim.  Give me the Rose Bowl to start the year because nothing else epitomizes college football or the bowl season better than a New Year’s Day afternoon in sunny Pasadena.  

10. 2001 GMAC Bowl – Marshall 64 East Carolina 61 – Alright, this game had no historical significance and is a quirky choice, but any time two teams combine for 125 points and 1,141 yards, and the winning team trailed by 30 at one point, it deserves an honorable mention.  Byron Leftwich was the catalyst, throwing for 576 yards and four touchdowns, most of which came after halftime.

9. 1979 Cotton Bowl – Notre Dame 35 Houston 34 – The legend of Joe Montana was actually birthed here on an icy day in Dallas.  The temperatures, the wind, a 22-point second-half hole—none of it could keep Montana from being, well, Montana.  In a precursor to his pro career, he led the Irish all the way back for one of the great comebacks in bowl history.  

8. 1980 Holiday Bowl – BYU 46 SMU 45 – Vintage Holiday Bowl, when the Holiday Bowl was the next best thing to the smorgasbord of New Years’ Day games.  And vintage Jim McMahon, spitting in the eye of a 20-point deficit late in the fourth quarter, and somehow finding Clay Brown’s breadbasket for the game-winner on the game’s final play.

7. 1994 Orange Bowl – Florida State 18 Nebraska 16 – A rare pre-BCS No. 1 vs. No. 2 with the whole world watching.  Scott Bentley gave Florida State the lead with :22 seconds left, but Bobby Bowden had to sweat out his first national championship until Nebraska’s Byron Bennett badly hooked a 45-yard game-winning attempt on the game’s last play. 

6. 1979 Sugar Bowl – Alabama 14 Penn State 7 – The 1979 Sugar Bowl goes down as one of the great epic defensive battles of the modern era of college football.  The game, which pitted Bear Bryant against Joe Paterno, was memorialized by a ‘Bama goal line stand midway through the fourth quarter and a jarring Barry Krauss hit on Mike Guman that helped preserve a national title and left Krauss unconscious on the Superdome turf.  

5. 1987 Fiesta Bowl – Penn State 14 Miami 10 – Both teams were undefeated, but this was still one of those David vs. Goliath deals that sells so well to the fans and media.  As if the game needed more hype, the ‘Canes, playing the role of Goliath, further polarized the two programs by arriving at a pre-game media event sporting military fatigues.  The blue collar Lions weren’t pretty that night, but they did pick off Heisman winner Vinny Testaverde five times, the last one by Pete Giftopoulos at the goal line with :18 to play.

4. 2005 Rose Bowl – Texas 38 Michigan 37 – Much more than just a sensational New Years’ Day game, this will always be remembered as the birth of a champion.  Texas’ win as time expired was the launching point for last year’s national championship and Vince Young’s elevation to a whole new stratosphere.  Lost in Young’s shadow that day was a Rose Bowl-record 315 total yards from Michigan’s Steve Breaston.  

3. 2003 Fiesta Bowl – Ohio State 31 Miami 24 – Now this is why the BCS was invented.  In a classic, the 11 ½-point underdog Buckeyes went toe-to-toe with the mighty ‘Canes in a game that required two overtimes and had the requisite controversial call that’s inherent to all epic games.  Ohio State’s 14th win of a miraculous 2002 season ended Miami’s 34-game winning streak and quest for back-to-back national titles.

2. 1984 Orange Bowl – Miami 31 Nebraska 30 – Before the recent run of heart-stoppers, this classic stood alone atop this debate.  The Huskers entered the game 12-0, averaging 52 points a game and generating debates whether they were the best team of all-time.  They left Miami upset victims after a two-point attempt for the win was batted down with under a minute left.

1. 2006 Rose Bowl – Texas 41 USC 38 – Yes, you can say you watched the greatest bowl game ever played.  Considering how hyped this match up of unbeaten powerhouses was, it’s still pretty amazing that it actually exceeded expectations.  Vince Young’s final drive and overall effort was one of the great individual performances in college football history.

John Harris  
Q: The Ten Greatest Bowl Games ...

1.  2006 Rose Bowl – Texas – 41 vs. USC – 38 – If you didn’t see it, I can’t do it justice, well not in a paragraph, anyway.  Texas QB Vince Young, the best Rose Bowl QB ever, put on a show.  In fact, he was 33 yards passing away from going 300/200 pass/rush, which has only been done one time in the history of college football.  He did that in the biggest game, arguably, since the inception of the BCS.  USC QB Matt Leinart was fabulous in the second half, but VY worked his magic one more time to upset the greatest team of all-time.

2.  2003 Fiesta Bowl – Ohio State – 31 vs. Miami – 24 – Similar to the way that I felt after the 2006 Rose Bowl, there was just this sadness of finality when this game was over.  It was so emotion-packed from play one to the final play of the game that it grabbed your attention and didn’t let go.  Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel called a magnificent game (Craig Krenzel ran 20 times?), but the pass interference call on fourth down against Miami in overtime opened the door for Ohio State to extend the game and then seal the deal in the third overtime.  Man, this was a good one.

3.  1984 Orange Bowl – Miami – 31 vs. Nebraska – 30 – This one began the Hurricanes run of four national titles in nine years and what a way to kick it off.  Miami’s Bernie Kosar shredded the Nebraska secondary and shocked the Huskers in a way that they hadn’t seen all season.  An ankle injury slowed the 1983 Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier, but the Huskers had a final chance to win the game on a two point play after a Jeff Smith touchdown run late in the game.  But, the Canes knocked down QB Turner Gill’s throw on the two point conversion and the Canes took home the Orange Bowl trophy and their first national championship.

4.  1973 Sugar Bowl – Notre Dame – 24 vs. Alabama – 23 – The throw from Notre Dame’s Tom Clements to TE Robin Weber out from deep in his own end zone was perhaps one of the gutsiest calls in bowl history.  Both teams threw, and landed, some major haymakers throughout the game, but the one to Weber is what most people remember. 

5.  2005 Rose Bowl – Texas – 38 vs. Michigan – 37 – World meet Vince Young.  Vince Young say hello to the world.  If you had seen what he did against Michigan in this game, you’d not have thought he could do it again in the 2006 Rose Bowl.  The Wolverines battled throughout as the Texas defense couldn’t stop them either.  But, VY loved the bright lights in Pasadena, well, that and the fact that Michigan is still trying to tackle him.  Michigan WR/KR Steve Breaston and WR Braylon Edwards were magnificent, but VY was transcendent.  This win set the tone for the Horns historic 2005 season.

6.  1979 Cotton Bowl – Notre Dame – 35 vs. Houston – 34 – Chicken Soup.  Icy conditions.  Fourth quarter comeback.  Yep, it’s Joe Montana.  The one thing most people forget is that Montana was all levels of horrible before catching fire in the fourth quarter.  The Houston veer offense was dominating the game, but when they had to have a big fourth down run in the fourth quarter to seal the win, the Irish shut them down.  Then, Montana and Kris Haines became Irish legends.

7.  1980 Holiday Bowl – BYU – 46 vs. SMU – 45 – BYU’s comeback just didn’t seem plausible, but the ending – the Hail Mary from Jim McMahon to Clay Brown made it absolutely absurd.  The Pony Express didn’t find much resistance throughout the game, but McMahon pulled this one out of nowhere, giving the Holiday Bowl one of the greatest finishes of all-time.

8.  1963 Rose Bowl – USC – 42 vs. Wisconsin – 37 – Another furious comeback in a bowl game, this time, though, Wisconsin’s QB Ron Vander Kelen couldn’t do what Jim McMahon and Joe Montana did after him - win.  But, he and USC’s Pete Beathard were tremendous.  Beathard only completed 8 passes, but four of them went for touchdowns.  Vander Kelen threw for 401 yards, while WR Pat Richter caught 11 for 163 and one touchdown, but it wasn’t enough to knock off the Pac-8 champs.

9.  1997 Rose Bowl – Ohio State – 20 vs. Arizona State – 17 – Throughout the year Arizona State QB Jake Plummer had pulled out victories with his sheer will, and it looked as though he’d done that again when he scrambled for a touchdown to put the Sun Devils ahead with precious little time remaining.  But, OSU QB Joe Germaine drove the Buckeyes down in the final minutes, using a couple of pass interference calls to get close enough to find WR David Boston for the game winner.

10.  (Tie) 2000 Orange Bowl – Michigan – 35 vs. Alabama – 34 and 2003 Insight Bowl – Cal – 52 vs. Virginia Tech – 49 – The 2000 Orange Bowl was a track meet, led by Alabama RB Shaun Alexander and Michigan QB Tom Brady.  No one really remembers Brady’s career at Michigan, but the performance that he displayed in Miami was a sign of things to come in the NFL.  No one will ever remember the Insight Bowl, but the two teams combined for over 100 points, over 1,000 yards total offense and a game to remember forever, well, for those who saw it.  Cal QB Aaron Rodgers threw for over 394 and K Tyler Fredrickson kicked the game winner (as he did against USC earlier in the season).

Matthew Zemek     
Q: The Ten Greatest Bowl Games ...

Please note that this discussion, like the other "all-time best" debates we've conducted here in the past several weeks, can be defined and framed in different ways. Others might choose certain points of emphasis that would differ from mine, but I can only use the criteria I see fit.

So, with respect to the best bowl games ever, I must define them in these

terms: great all-time bowl games must, in my mind, necessarily involve both huge levels of significance and high-quality play. Separate lists would need to be made for significance and (on the other hand) quality of play in their own right, but the great bowl games must have both... this is the list of those games.

You'll notice, for instance, that all of these games below either crowned a national champion or--in the old days--lent confirmation to the greatness of a given team.

1) 1984 Orange: Miami 31, Nebraska 30. That this game could have been a tie--except for a noble decision made by Tom Osborne--makes it the best game. The team playing on its home field maxed out for so long, but the formidable No. 1 team in the land made a comeback worthy of the Nebraska name. A classic in every sense, with the kind of ending that made you proud to be a college football fan, regardless of your rooting interest.

2) 2006 Rose: Texas 41, USC 38. A number of distinctly rough edges, but those sloppy patches didn't amount to much against the backdrop of some spectacular athleticism in a suffocating environment thick with pressure.

Two great college quarterbacks--especially Vince Young--made all-time great statements in this shootout. This deserves its elevated place in the college football pantheon.

3) 1973 Sugar: Notre Dame 24, Alabama 23. Two storied programs, two legendary coaches, two passionate teams fighting tirelessly. Stacks of big plays and momentum swings, with some inspired play calling mixed in. College football couldn't get much better than it did on this night in Tulane Stadium.

4) 1983 Sugar: Penn State 27, Georgia 23. Five words: Joe Paterno's first national title. Four more words: Curt Warner, Herschel Walker. Three more

words: Gregg Garrity's catch. Two more words: epic battle. One more word: historic.

5) 1965 Orange: Texas 21, Alabama 17. A Texas goal-line stand for the ages made this classic sing.

6) 2003 Fiesta: Ohio State 31, Miami 24 (OT). Drama of the highest order, and a tremendously gutsy performance by the Buckeyes' defense, not to mention plucky QB Craig Krenzel. But too ragged a first half for the game to rate even higher on the list.

7) 1979 Sugar: Alabama 14, Penn State 7. Barry Krauss, immortalized in paintings by Daniel Moore, was the centerpiece of a goal-line stand that helped the Tide, unlike the Orange Bowl setback fourteen years earlier against the Longhorns. Very low-scoring games don't usually make all-time lists of great games, but this is the exception that proves the rule. The great bowl game for old-school fans of head-knocking defense.

8) 2000 Sugar: Florida State 46, Virginia Tech 29. One of the most deceiving margins in college football history, let alone the history of bowl games.

FSU won, but all anyone could talk about was this Vick kid for the Hokies.

Michael is still making quite an imprint in the world as we speak.

9) 1962 Rose: USC 42, Wisconsin 37. John McKay won his first national title, while Ron Van der Kelen made a name for himself... along with former Badger Athletic Director Pat Richter. A game filled with dynamic offensive performances that have stood the test of time in college football.

10) 1970 Cotton: Texas 21, Notre Dame 17. The first of three Cotton Bowls these proud schools would play in the 1970s; also the best. The Horns--a bunch of fourth-quarter comeback artists--repeated their Arkansas magic from four weeks earlier to nip the Irish at the wire and, in the process, extend a winning streak that would reach 30 games. The team that would break the streak? Notre Dame, in the '71 Cotton Bowl. But before Notre Dame gained its revenge, the Horns would prove just how great a team they were in a memorable 1969 season, capped by this gutsy, late charge against another member of college football's elite crowd.