Ti­tle game up­sets

A look at some na­tional col­lege ti­tle sur­prises

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - SPORTS - BY RICHARD ROSEN­BLATT

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

BOWL)

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

ROSE BOWL)

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.

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