By MARK KNUDSON
The accolades were free flowing following the Clemson Tigers thrilling 35-31 win over Alabama in the College Football Play-off title game Monday night. Many were quick to label the contest one of the best title games ever – and it’s on a short list that includes the epic Rose Bowl between Texas and USC in 2005, Miami’s harrowing one-point Orange Bowl win over Nebraska in 1984, and Ohio State’s overtime Fiesta Bowl win over Miami in 2002.
The list of title games that turned one sided is longer. More often than not, these games don’t live up to the hype. Here’s a six-pack of title game routs that had TV sets around America clicking off early:
6. #1 Nebraska over #2 Alabama 38-6, 1972 Orange Bowl. Bear Bryant’s Crimson Tide had no answer for the powerful Cornhuskers, who stormed out to a 28-0 halftime lead and were never threatened. The first half outburst was highlighted by future Heisman winner Johnny Rodgers 77-yard punt return touchdown.
It was a penultimate game really. The actual title was decided in “The Game of the Century” between the top-ranked Huskers and second-ranked Oklahoma on Thanksgiving Day, 1971. Nebraska won that one 35-31. Having earlier beaten Colorado, which would end up #3 in the final polls, Nebraska was the only team to ever beat the second, third and fourth-ranked teams (OU finished #2 and Alabama #4) in the same season.
5. #1 Miami over #2 Nebraska 2001 37-14, 2002 Rose Bowl. The BCS computers were the biggest losers in this game, having matched the wrong team with the unbeaten and star studded Hurricanes. The BCS #4 Oregon Ducks (#2 in the AP Poll) who whipped #3 Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl, should have been playing Miami for the title. The BCS computers also picked the Huskers over CU – a team that had beaten them soundly in the regular season finale but who had lost twice during the season – and Oregon, the one-loss Pac 10 champ. The game was never close as Ken Dorsey threw three TD passes and Miami raced to a 34-0 halftime lead. The ‘Canes stifled the Nebraska offense and Heisman winner Eric Crouch and coasted to the easy win.
4. #2 Alabama over #1 Notre Dame 42-14, 2013 BCS Championship game. Despite considerable hype from the fan bases of these two blue-blood programs, odds makers knew he game probably wouldn’t be close, and it never was. Despite being top-ranked, the Irish were a double digit underdog. A quick five-play touchdown drive to start the game was the beginning of what would bulge to a 35-0 Crimson Tide lead before the Irish cracked the scoreboard late in the third quarter. The normally mundane Alabama offense rolled up 529 yards against the vaunted Irish defense while the Tide defense held Notre Dame to 32 rushing yards for the entire game.
3. #2 Florida over #1 Ohio State 41-14, 2007 BCS Championship game. The Buckeye’s Ted Ginn Jr. ran back the opening kick-off for a touchdown – then was injured in the celebration. From there, the Gators took over, tying the game on their ensuing drive and expanding the lead to 20 points, 34-14 at halftime following a strip sack deep in Buckeye territory and a Tim Tebow scoring pass…really! The outcome validated the BCS polls decision to elevate the Gators to #2 over Michigan and prevent a rematch with Ohio State in the first ever stand alone BCS title game.
2. #1 Nebraska over #2 Florida 62-24, 1996 Fiesta Bowl. Lee Corso picked the Gators. While watching game film as they prepped for the contest, the top-ranked Huskers – who hadn’t won a game by less than two touchdowns all season – knew just how wrong he would be. Trailing 10-6 after the first quarter, Nebraska exploded for 29 points in the second quarter to take a 35-10 halftime lead and the rout was on.
The game is best remembered for Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier’s amazing 75-yard touchdown run that featured no fewer than seven broken tackles. Nebraska rushed for a bowl record 524 yards.
1. #1 USC over #2 Oklahoma 55-19, 2005 Orange Bowl. The game featured three Heisman Trophy winners, including the opposing quarterbacks Jason White (OU) and Matt Leinhart (USC.) The Sooners scored first, but the also committed four first half turnovers. On the other side, Leinhart threw four first half scoring passes (five in all) for the Trojans, who expanded their 38-10 halftime lead to 55-10 early in the fourth quarter before calling off the dogs. The game also featured the infamous Ashlee Simpson halftime show debacle, making it an all around forgettable night…so much so that it was one of the wins USC was forced to “vacate” after it was discovered that future Heisman winner Reggie Bush was ineligible. Bush had to return his Heisman but not the Sooners battered feelings.