Title game upsets
A look at some national college title surprises
Favourite or underdog? For those who don’t having a rooting interest when Alabama meets Clemson for the national championship tonight, consider cheering for the team oddsmakers are giving little chance to win.
It works, sometimes. It did for Penn State against Miami in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl; for Miami against Nebraska in the 1984 Orange Bowl; for Texas against Southern California in the 2006 Rose Bowl.
There were other ‘dogs who delivered, too, and won a national championship as a result.
This time around, Clemson is a 6 1/2-point underdog against Alabama even though the Tigers are undefeated and ranked No. 1. This is a familiar position for Clemson. Actually, Alabama has been in a similar spot.
A look at a few recent title-deciding games in which the favourite fell.
ALABAMA 34, MIAMI 13 (1993 SUGAR BOWL)
The first title game chosen by the Bowl Coalition matched near-unanimous No. 1 Miami against Alabama. Both teams were undefeated, with Miami going for its second straight title and favoured by eight points. The rout was on – for the Crimson Tide. Led by safety George Teague, a ferocious defence hammered the tough-talking Hurricanes, with Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torretta throwing three interceptions. It was Alabama’s first national title since 1979, the year Bear Bryant won his record fifth championship. The game is remembered for “The Strip.” The play occurred when Miami’s speedy receiver Lamar Thomas was on his way to the end zone, Teague caught him, stripped the ball and ran the other way. Although nullified by a penalty, the amazing play was a reminder that ‘Bama was back.
OKLAHOMA 13, FLORIDA STATE 2 (2001 ORANGE
The Sooners (12-0) were undefeated and an overwhelming No. 1 heading into the Orange Bowl. They were matched against No. 3 Florida State (11-1) in the BCS title game, a controversial choice since No. 2 Miami had beaten the Seminoles, and each team finished the regular-season with a loss. Nonetheless, Florida State was an 11-point favourite with a high-scoring offence led by Heisman winner Chris Weinke, not to mention a decided home-field playing in South Florida. OU’s defence rose to the occasion, and the Sooners led 6-0 entering the fourth on their way to a fifth AP national title.
OHIO STATE 31, MIAMI 24, 2 OT (2003 FIESTA BOWL)
Yes, Miami again. The Hurricanes were poised for another perfect season. They were a unanimous No. 1 choice riding a 34-game winning streak. Ohio State also was unbeaten, ranked No. 2, but appeared to be no match for the speedy ‘Canes. The Buckeyes were 11 1/2-point underdogs. Led by freshman running back Maurice Clarett, though, Ohio State outplayed Miami for much of the game. But it was a still debated pass interference call in overtime that allowed the Buckeyes another chance, and they won 31-24 in double OT. With his team down 24-17 and facing fourth down in OT, Craig Krenzel’s pass into the end zone was called incomplete by one official, but another ruled interference against Miami. Ohio State then tied it, and won it in the second OT for its first national crown in 34 years.
TEXAS 41, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA 38 (2006
It was one of the most exciting start-to-finish games to decide a champion. Texas QB Vince Young’s fourth-down, final seconds TD gave the seven-point underdog Longhorns a dramatic win that ended the Trojans’ 34game winning streak and run at a second straight national title. Both teams were unbeaten. USC was No. 1 and Texas No. 2 virtually all season. And USC had two Heisman winners in the backfield – running back Reggie Bush and quarterback Matt Leinart.