The sport of college football is built upon its history and tradition. Each week during the season, FootballMatters.org will take a look at some of the history behind some of the upcoming weekend’s top games.
Capital One Orange Bowl: #6 Michigan vs #11 Florida State, Friday, December 30, 8:00 pm, ESPN at Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL
All-Time Series: Michigan Wolverines and Florida State Seminoles are tied at 1-1.
First Played: 1986
The Orange Bowl kicks off the New Year’s Six set of bowl games this year and it features a matchup of two traditional college football powerhouses. Both Michigan and Florida State have made multiple appearances in the game, but never against one another and never in the postseason. The two schools have not played against one another since 1991. This year’s game features some truly special talents, including consensus first-team All-Americans Dalvin Cook, Jake Butt, Jabrill Peppers, DeMarcus Walker, and Jourdan Lewis. Head Coaches Jim Harbaugh and Jimbo Fisher are also two of the most respected men in the business. This year’s contest promises to be a good one. Notable Orange Bowl games include:
January 1, 1993 – In 59th edition of the Orange Bowl, the Florida State Seminoles were making their third appearance in the game and seeking their first win. Standing in their way was College Football Hall of Fame Head Coach Tom Osborne and his 11th ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers. Leading the way for Bobby Bowden – himself a future College Football Hall of Famer – and his #3 ranked Seminoles was his All-American signal caller, future Heisman Trophy winner, and future College Football Hall of Famer Charlie Ward. In the first quarter, Ward found wide receiver Tamarick Vanover on a 25-yard touchdown strike that put the ‘Noles up 7-0. They would go on to build a 20-7 halftime lead after Nebraska’s future College Football Hall of Fame QB Tommie Frazier threw a 41-yard touchdown pass in the waning seconds. Frazier would connect on another touchdown in the fourth quarter to trim the lead to 27-14, but they would get no further. The Seminoles would close out the year ranked #2 overall.
January 1, 2000 – The 66th installment of the Orange Bowl turned out to be one for the ages and featured two top-10 ranked teams in the Alabama Crimson Tide and Michigan Wolverines. The legendary Lloyd Carr led his Wolverines into battle against Mike Dubose and his SEC Champion Crimson Tide. After a scoreless first quarter, Alabama running back Shaun Alexander scored two short-yardage rushing touchdowns to put the team up 14-7. He would tack on a third rushing TD in the third and ‘Bama was up 28-14 heading into the fourth quarter. It was then that the world would first catch glimpse of a skinny kid by the name of Tom Brady. The future All-Pro threw for 369 yards and four touchdowns, leading the Wolverines back from a pair of 14-point deficits in regulation. He also threw the game winning TD in overtime; the game was won, however, when Alabama placekicker, Ryan Pflugner, missed a PAT following their own touchdown in overtime. The final score was Michigan 35, Alabama 34 in the first overtime BCS Bowl game.
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl #4 Washington vs #1 Alabama, Saturday, December 31, 3:00 pm, ESPN, Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
All-Time Series: Alabama leads 4-0 over Washington
First Played: 1926
The College Football Playoffs begin with the 49th Annual Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, and so does the march toward the National Championship. The Pac-12 Champion Washington Huskies will tangle with the defending National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide. Neither team has made an appearance in the Peach Bowl, but they have tangled in the postseason before. Consensus First Team All-Americans abound on both sidelines, including Cam Robinson, Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster, Minkah Fitzpatrick, John Ross, and Budda Baker. Two of the game’s best Head Coaches will match wits, with Nick Saban – seeking his sixth National Championship – taking on Chris Petersen. Notable games include:
January 1, 1926 – The Crimson Tide entered the 1925 season as the defending Southern Conference champions and rolled through the year shutting out every opponent on their schedule but the Birmingham-Southern College Panthers (whom they defeated 50-7). Led by College Football Hall of Fame fullback and future Hollywood film star Johnny Mack Brown, “The Dothan Antelope,” College Football Hall of Fame Head Coach Wallace Wade’s Crimson Tide finished the regular season 9-0. They were the first southern school to ever accept an invitation to the Rose Bowl. At 10-0-1, the Washington Huskies, under Head Coach Enoch Bagshaw, were the Pacific Coast Conference champions. Led by the powerhouse backfield of College Football Hall of Famer George “Wildcat” Wilson and Elmer Tesreau, the Huskies outscored their opponents in 1925 by a tally of 480-59. When the two teams locked horns in Pasadena, this was a true clash of titans. For the first time ever, the game was broadcast on radio and the 55,000 in attendance and the thousands who listened live were thrilled to a great game. The Crimson Tide scored 20 unanswered points in the third quarter and would hang on to defeat Washington 20-19. The game has subsequently been known as “the game that changed the South” for its importance in Southern football history.
December 25, 1986 – Christmas Day in 1986 at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, was the last meeting between the Crimson Tide and the Huskies. The game proved to be the final one for Alabama Head Coach Ray Perkins, who had succeeded the legendary Bear Bryant beginning in 1983. Future College Hall of Fame Head Coach Don James was in the midst of his tenure at Washington when the two squads met. The 1986 version of the Sun Bowl was notable for being the first one in history with corporate sponsorship, as John Hancock Insurance came on board for the game. The matchup itself was between two perennial powerhouse schools who had relatively down years. Alabama running back Bobby Humphrey got the Tide rolling early and he would go on to find the end zone on three separate trips. Quarterback, and future Alabama Head Coach, Mike Shula was the engine that drove the offense, connecting with Humphrey and wideout Greg Robinson on two scores. They ultimately upended the Huskies by a final score of 28-6.
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl #3 Ohio State vs #2 Clemson, Saturday, December 31, 7:00 pm, ESPN, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ
All-Time Series: Clemson leads 2-0 over Ohio State.
First Played: 1978
As with many of the New Year’s Six bowl matchups, the Fiesta Bowl will feature two of college football’s elite programs in the Ohio State Buckeyes and Clemson Tigers. This will mark only the third time the two schools have met on the field; this is also the Tigers first ever trip to the Valley of the Sun for the annual Fiesta Bowl. The Buckeyes have found a home away from home in Glendale, making their eighth trip to the game (holding a 5-2 record). All-Americans abound on both sidelines, including Clemson’s Carlos Watkins, Christian Wilkins, and Cordrea Tankersley – not to mention two-time Heisman Trophy finalist Deshaun Watson. The Buckeyes boast a bevy of All-Americans, as well including Pat Elflein, Malik Hooker, Billy Price, and Curtis Samuel. Head Coaches Urban Meyer and Dabo Swinney have been fixtures in the College Football Playoffs and each have their teams poised for another title run. Notable games include:
December 29, 1978 – The 1978 Gator Bowl will go down as one of the most infamous and ignominious in the history of Ohio State football. With Steve Fuller under center, the Tigers rolled through the 1978 regular season, going 11-1 and were undefeated in the ACC. After Charley Pell’s departure following the conclusion of the regular season, Danny Ford stepped in as Head Coach for the Gator Bowl. The 1978 season was a down one by Buckeye standards, especially under the tenure of the legendary Woody Hayes. No one could have foreseen how the season would ultimately end when the two schools met in Jacksonville. With just two minutes left in the game, OSU trailed Clemson 17-15. Quarterback Art Schlichter missed on an errant pass that was intercepted by Clemson’s Charlie Bauman. As Bauman raced toward the sidelines with what looked like the play that would preserve a win for the Tigers, he was shoved to the ground out of bounds. As Bauman got up, he was punched through his facemask by Hayes. The incident was caught on film and proved to be the Coach’s undoing. He was relieved of his role with OSU the following day after 28 years on the job.
January 3, 2014 – The final era of the BCS saw a matchup between the Buckeyes and Tigers at the 2014 Discover Orange Bowl. Meyer and Swinney both had stellar teams coming into this game. Clemson entered the game at 10-2 and ranked #8 in the nation, while Ohio State came in at 12-1 and ranked #7. Tajh Boyd got the Tigers on the board early after a stellar 48-yard touchdown run; this would be matched on the next drive by OSU, as Braxton Miller responded with a 33-yard run of his own. In the fourth quarter, the Buckeyes took a 35-34 lead, thanks again to Miller’s touchdown pass to running back Carlos Hyde. Clemson would take the lead, thanks again to another touchdown pass by Boyd. The two-point conversion failed, leaving the door open for a late game charge by OSU. It was not to be, however, as Braxton Miller was intercepted and Clemson was able to run out the clock for the win.
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic #15 Western Michigan vs #8 Wisconsin, January 2, 1:00 pm, ESPN, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
All-Time Series: Wisconsin leads 3-1 over Western Michigan.
First Time Played: 1963
The Badgers have long been “players” on the national scene, having been one of the original, founding members of the Big Ten Conference. Two Heisman Trophy winners – Alan Ameche and Ron Dayne – have played for Wisconsin in their history and scores of consensus All-Americans have suited up in Madison. The Western Michigan Broncos are recent additions to the national landscape. The team is making their second seventh appearance in a bowl and this is the first one of the magnitude of the annual Cotton Bowl Classic. The Broncos are also in search of their first-ever postseason victory. Several All-Americans will be on the field on January 2; for Western Michigan, wide receiver Corey Davis earned All-American honors and for Wisconsin, offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk and linebacker T.J. Watt did the same. Head Coaches Paul Chryst and P.J. Fleck both add high energy to their programs and will help make this a matchup to watch. Notable games include:
December 11, 1982 – In 1982, the Wisconsin Badgers, under Head Coach Dave McClain, did battle with Head Coach Jim Dickey and the Kansas State Wildcats in that year’s version of the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, LA. History was made as this was the first-ever bowl game ever televised by ESPN. The weather did not cooperate at all, which might have ultimately played in favor of the Badgers. Rain and up to 23-mile per hour wind combined to drop game time temperatures to around 10 below zero and played a factor in keeping the game scoreless for much of the first half. Despite what turned out to be a low-scoring affair, quarterbacks Randy Wright and Darrel Ray Dickey dueled all afternoon, setting numerous Independence Bowl records. Wright tossed two touchdown passes on the day and Dickey set a K-State record by attempting 35 passes on the day. Ultimately, the Badgers won out 14-3 and notched the first bowl game victory in the program’s history.
January 6, 2007 – In 2007, the Western Michigan Broncos and Cincinnati Bearcats did battle north of the border in the inaugural International Bowl at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. This contest was one of most significant college football games held in Canada under American football rules. Head Coach Bill Cubit and his Broncos were just their third appearance in a bowl game in the program’s history. Brian Kelly took over the reins of the Bearcats in time for what would be the ninth bowl appearance in school history. The Bearcats jumped out to a massive 24-0 lead, but the Broncos battled back scoring 24 unanswered points of their own to tie the game going into the fourth quarter. The Bearcats pulled ahead 27-24; the Broncos ultimately missed a 51-yard field goal that would have tied the game and send it into overtime. Kelly, who earlier in the season was the Head Coach with Central Michigan, became the first head coach in history to defeat the same team twice in the same season at different schools.
Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual #9 USC vs #5 Penn State, Monday, January 2, 5:00 pm, ESPN, Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA
All-Time Series: The Trojans hold the slightest of edges in their overall series against the Nittany Lions, 5-4.
First Time Played: 1923
Few programs in college football history can match the legacies and histories of the Penn State Nittany Lions and USC Trojans. With 13 National Championships and 8 Heisman Trophy winners between the two schools, the two programs are among the elite in all of college football. This year will mark the second time the two schools have met in the Rose Bowl and the third time they have met in the postseason. Head Coaches Clay Helton and James Franklin both look to have turned the corners with their respective programs and look to be bringing them both back to national prominence. The Nittany Lions are the reigning Big Ten Champions and the Trojans have one of the nation’s most prolific offenses. Notable games include:
January 1, 1982 – The Fiesta Bowl in 1982 marked the second time in history that Penn State and USC would meet on the gridiron. Head Coach John Robinson’s squad boasted a litany of talent that would go on to be some of the game’s best, including the 1981 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Allen. Also suiting up for the Trojans were future greats Bruce Matthews, Chip Banks, Joey Browner, Keith Browner and Jack Del Rio. For Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions, they would send no fewer than 10 members of the 1981 team into the NFL the following year, including Mike Munchak, Sean Farrell, Leo Wisniewski, and Jim Romano. Both schools were 9-2 and ranked in the AP and Coaches top 10. The weather at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, turned rainy and soggy, which ultimately turned the game in the favor of the ground game of Penn State. Running back Curt Warner scored on his first carry of the game to put the Nittany Lions up early. USC would respond when Banks returned a Todd Blackledge interception 20 yards for a score. Blackledge would redeem himself though and connect with wide receiver Greg Garrity on a 52-yard score that put Penn State up for good. They would go on to win 26-10 and finish the season ranked #3.
January 1, 2009 – The 95th edition of the Rose Bowl would feature the most recent matchup between USC and Penn State. The Men of Troy, under Head Coach Pete Carroll, boasted an incredible overall team, led by Heisman Trophy finalist, quarterback Mark Sanchez. Paterno’s Nittany Lions were again stout defensively, led by linebacker NaVorro Bowman. The day would be one of Sanchez’s crowning moments while at USC, as he became only the quarterback in Rose Bowl history to pass for 400 yards; on the day he threw for 413 yards total and connected on four touchdowns. He would earn MVP honors for the game in leading the Trojans to a 38-24 victory. This would be the final time the two schools would meet until the upcoming Rose Bowl.
Allstate Sugar Bowl #14 Auburn vs #7 Oklahoma, Monday, January 2, 8:30 pm, ESPN, Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA
All-Time Series: The Sooners have only played once against the Tigers and have a 1-0 lead in this series.
First Time Played: Oklahoma and Auburn have only played one another one other time in the history of these two programs. In in the 1972 Sugar Bowl, the Sooners, under Head Coach Chuck Fairbanks, defeated Ralph Jordan’s Tigers 40-22. The Big 8 Champion Sooners would end up the season ranked #3 on the year. This time around, both schools are ranked in the top 15. The Sooners, under long-time Head Coach Bob Stoops, are this year’s Big 12 champions and are buoyed by Heisman Trophy finalists Baker Mayfield and Dede Westbrook. Gus Malzahn’s Tigers boast their own stars, including All-American defensive lineman Carl Lawson. In what promises to be a study in contrasts, the high-flying offense of Oklahoma will once again do battle against the hard-hitting defense of Auburn at this year’s Sugar Bowl. Notable games include:
January 1, 1949 – The Sooners would make their first ever trip to the Sugar Bowl in time for the 1949 contest. The legendary Bud Wilkinson, then in his second year minding the sidelines of the Sooners, led his team in battle against the third ranked North Carolina Tar Heels. Wilkinson’s bunch finished the year 10-1 and went undefeated in the Big Seven Conference, earning the title as champions. The high-powered Sooners outscored their opponents by a tally of 350-121 on the year, paced by All-Americans Buddy Burris and Jack Mitchell. Carl Snavely, aka “The Grey Fox,” prowled the sideline in his second stint with the Tar Heels. His high-powered squad looked to be equally matched against Oklahoma. The ground games of both squads proved to be the stars, as “The General, Mitchell gave the Sooners the lead on their way to a 14-6 victory. He was ultimately named the game’s MVP.
January 2, 1984 – The 50th installment of the Sugar Bowl saw the #3 ranked Auburn Tigers tangle with the #8 ranked Michigan Wolverines in what would turn out to be a slugfest of a game. In what proved to be a chess match between legendary Head Coaches Pat Dye and Bo Schembechler, the Tigers proved to ultimately have the winning formula. The rushing attack of Auburn, paced by future Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson and backfield mate Tommy Agee ground down the Wolverines. Ultimately, it would be the heroics of Auburn placekicker Al Del Greco that would prove to be the difference. He would kick three field goals on the day and led the Tigers to a 9-7 victory, with Jackson earning MVP honors. The Tigers finished the year 11-1, but failed to earn National Championship honors.