An Evaluation of National Championships 1936-2013

selmaborntidefan

TideFans Legend
Mar 31, 2000
26,155
9,026
287
51
Wishing I was somewhere close to Duluth with a sli
1987 AP FINAL POLL
National champion: Miami
Undefeated teams: Syracuse 11-0-1 (undefeated in regular season, tied in Sugar Bowl)
UPI Champion: Miami

1) "If we could just do away with tie games...."


Ties played an unusually large role in the outcome of the 1987 season. The teams ranked 4 through 8 wound up there largely because of tie ballgames that took all of them out of the running. The most egregious case involved Syracue but more on that in a moment.

Tennessee played for a tie with Auburn in September, sending out a PAT kicker in a situation that demanded a two-point conversion try with 80 seconds remaining against Auburn. On the same day, LSU wound up with a tie against Ohio State in a game they desperately tried to win and wound up throwing an end zone interception as well as one in their own end of the field that nearly lost them the game. The tie in September looked good - until Ohio State imploded in November coming down the stretch and wound up 6-4-1. Illinois blocked a winning field goal attempt by Michigan State at the final gun to forge a 14-14 tie in late October, but it didn't matter much as Sparty already had two losses. And then there was the loudest tie in college football since perhaps 1966, when Auburn Coach Pat Dye spoiled an atttempt by Syracuse to complete a dream undefeated season by kicking a field goal with 4 seconds left to end an excellent Sugar Bowl game in an unsatisfying 16-16 tie, the first in the 54-year history of the Sugar Bowl. Dye's decision befuddled even his own players as Auburn was at the Syracuse 13 in a bowl game that wasn't going to overly affect Auburn's ranking one way or another. Of course, nothing is ever as simple as the media makes it sound, and while the narrative has long been "Dye cost Syracuse a possible national title," such musings are absurd. Syracuse never led the entire game until they kicked a field goal with 2:04 remaining. Auburn then drove the length of the field, converting a fourth and five in the process and then escaped New Orleans with a tie that set off outrage from coast to coast.

The fact Dye's decision probably kept the sport from having a long-running "but what if" scenario from Syracuse has never been appreciated despite the fact Dye would have been better served playing for the win. After the game, Syracuse's head coach Dick MacPherson absoultely would not shut up, and a batch of ties were sent to Auburn, which they actually sold and made a profit. Auburn responded by sending Syracuse some literal sour grapes, fourth class mail no less. MacPherson didn't shut up his whining until Auburn offered to play Syracuse in a ten-year home/home series similar to Alabama/Penn State.

2) And if that Bowden fella had just gone to Alabama....

1987 was the year Bobby Bowden sprouted in full bloom, and the nation first became aware of a valiant effort by Florida State that ended in heroic defeat and gave the Noles the #2 ranking as the season ended. In early January, Bowden was considered a lock to replace the departed Ray Perkins at Alabama. But a mishandled "interview" resulted in Bowden remaining at Florida State for what turned out to be the rest of his career. On October 3, Bowden's Noles blew a 19-3 third quarter lead and fell behind Miami, but a courageous effort to close the game to a single point - and an even more courageous decision to play for the win that fell short - elevated Bowden and Florida State in the public's eye.

One week after Bowden's public acclaim began, Alabama lost a stunning upset to Memphis State that helped ensure the tenure of Tide coach Bill Curry would never get fully off the ground.

3) The Big Two, the Little Six, and Another Blown National Championship

Continuing a tradition begun by 1978 Oklahoma AND Nebraska, the 1987 Sooners became the seventh Big Eight team in eight tries (bailed out only by the lucky 1985 Sooners) to blow a surefire national championship by losing the one game that actually meant something. OU began the year on top and save for a one-week drop when the pollsters migrated to the idea Nebraska was better, they remained there until facing Miami in the Orange Bowl. Miami, who has lost just enough high profile games since beating Nebraska in 1984 for the title, owned the game from start to finish and crossed the threshold to Jimmy Johnson's first national championship. But the usual question remained: why not Syracuse?

4) Syracuse and the Strength of Schedule Dilemma

Syracuse demonstrated once again how selective SoS arguments are when nobody seriously considered them to be a potential national champion. Because OU and Nebraska reached their mammoth showdown undefeated, Miami's best option was to take a home field Orange Bowl against the winner and hope. Syracuse left much richer thanks to the Sugar Bowl, but national championship consideration was never rendered.

Why not?

Syracuse played much the same schedule Penn State had played in 1986 en route to the title. Five of their opponents were the exact same teams, and they played each other. Penn State's one shining opponent in 1986 was then #2 Alabama and yes, they played Notre Dame, but the Irish weren't that good in 1986 anyway. Penn State's SoS received a large boost because they got the chance to play - and beat - Miami. Syracuse also had the nation's best passer and - in all honesty - the guy who probably should have won the Heisman Trophy, Don MacPherson (no relation to coach Dick).

Syracuse wasn't hurt by the fact their schedule was basically the Penn State one, they were hurt by two factors they couldn't control:
1) the role of dominant and undefeated indepdendent was filled by Miami, who had just won a title in 1983
2) they began the season unranked and had to play catch up

By struggling as they did against an Auburn team playing for little more than pride, Syracuse's performance validated (fairly or unfairly) the idea that against powerful teams they would not have finished the year undefeated. Miami, known for careful scheduling, wound up playing the 2nd toughest schedule in the nation in 1987, and absolutely deserved the national championship.

5) Think How Close We Came To Utter Chaos.....

Folks don't think this one through, but the most important result in the 1987 season was actually Alabama's stunning upset of then unbeaten LSU, 22-10, in Baton Rouge on November 7. Why? Because if LSU wins that game, the Sugar Bowl winds up matching up UNDEFEATED (and one tie) LSU against UNDEFEATED Syracuse, and you think there wouldn't have been a lot of clamor for a split national title? If Syracuse beats LSU IN New Orleans by any score, they're no longer a (oops!) paper tiger. LSU's win may be offset by a tie, but it also would have given LSU a tougher schedule than Miami faced, too.

The irony? Everyone thought that Miami and Florida State were the two best teams, similar to 2011 Alabama and LSU. Yet a BCS -style championship matches up Miami and Oklahoma while a four-team playoff (if LSU beats Alabama, which was the expected result) ALSO excludes Florida State: Miami, OU, Syracuse, and LSU.

Sometimes the most important results are the most obscure at the time.
 
Last edited:

selmaborntidefan

TideFans Legend
Mar 31, 2000
26,155
9,026
287
51
Wishing I was somewhere close to Duluth with a sli
1988 AP FINAL POLL
National champion: Notre Dame
UPI Champion: Notre Dame

1) Penn State 86, Syracuse 87, West Virginia 88


What do these teams have in common? They're Eastern based independents in charge of their own schedules who ran the regular season table unbeaten and then were faced with various circumstances based on what happened with other teams. Penn State, of course, won the national championship. Syracuse was denied a possible game (first) and their tie ensured they'd be denied a possible share of the title (second). West Virginia got their title shot, and it took them three plays (or as long as it took for their best player to get injured seriously enough to affect his performance) for WVA to decide maybe they weren't going to win the title. WVA got luckier than Syracuse - the rise of Notre Dame and the concurrent fall of the Big Eight (most specifically Oklahoma, who had a good year for almost any other school) gave the Mountaineers an opening even if Jimmy Johnson wasn't buying it.

2) Jimmy Johnson - the consummate college football hypocrite.
In 1985, Jimmy Johnson first came to the attention of national fans when he began saying - legitimately - that Miami should be ranked ahead of Oklahoma because they had beaten the Sooners in the regular season. He further asserted that if Miami won their bowl game and Oklahoma theirs, Miami should be the national champion. This was a defensible assertion.

In 1988, however, Johnson shifted gears. He now decided that if West Virginia beat the Notre Dame team that Miami didn't, then MIAMI (and not WVA) should be #1. Johnson began whining about his team's difficult schedule on November 27, saying that if West Virginia won, he would now advocate a playoff because it would prove that the way to win a national title was to schedule weak teams and then get into a game with the #1 team and win it. (The fact this was exaclty what 1983 Miami had pulled while Auburn played the murderer's row did not seem the least bit ironic to Johnson at all, although I note he was not the coach of Miami in 1983).

Johnson spent a month boasting about his team beating the Big 10 and SEC champions and barely losing to Notre Dame. Don Nehlen tweaked Johnson by pointing out that nobody from West Virginia was on the Miami sidelines when they opted for the two-point conversion that failed and kept Notre Dame undefeated.

The fact that West Virginia's route was the exact same followed by 1973 Notre Dame, 1976 Pitt, 1979 Alabama (to some extent), 1980 Georgia, and 1983 Miami did not seem to deter Johnson in the least. The fact Miami was rather sub-mortal in bowl games away from home didn't seem to to register, either.

3) Catholics vs Convicts II was proposed - and rejected by Notre Dame.


Thanks to shuffling and title game in 1986 between Miami and Penn State, the Fiesta Bowl was now one of the Big Boys. And in so doing, Miami created the monster that helped devour them. The Fiesta Bowl suggested a Miami-Notre Dame rematch, and the Irish rejected it outright. And why not? Notre Dame had everything to lose and nothing to gain from such a contest. Miami wound up playing Nebraska in the Orange Bowl at home.

4) Has there ever been a more anonymous 1 vs 2 game than 1988 Notre Dame vs USC?

How many of you even remember this was a 1-2 game? Furthermore, it had the potential to upset the apple cart because.....what if USC had won and gone into the Rose Bowl as #1 in the nation? Ask fans today to name "which teams played the 1 vs 2 game in 1988" and it's a sure bet most fans who get it right are probably USC fans over 40 years old.

5) 1988 - Florida State's First Choke

The annual Bowden Choke began in 1988 to rave reviews. Nobody blamed FSU for losing a thriller to Miami in 1987, but in 1988, the Noles began the year at #1 and opened with Miami. After getting smashed with a 31-0 loss, the pollsters and Noles went back to the drawing board. FSU losing the one game they needed to win would become an almost annual tradition, including the 1993 national championship year.

6) Did the right team win the national championship?

It was clean and clear, but it was also damned lucky.

If Miami beats Notre Dame, they're #1 and West Virginia is likely shut out of any chance.

If USC beats Notre Dame, the Rose Bowl features USC against a mid-level Michigan team - and a month of Jimmy Johnson insisting that if USC doesn't beat Michigan by the same number of points, Miami should be the champions.

A BCS title game probably gives us a Notre Dame-Miami rematch.

A four-team playoff provides endless controversy - Notre Dame and Miami for sure and then a free-for-all debate among Florida State, WVA, USC, Nebraska, and Auburn. Five teams for two slots? Ouch.
 
  • Like
Reactions: TideEngineer08

TideEngineer08

Hall of Fame
Jun 9, 2009
23,834
7,407
187
Beautiful Cullman, AL
I wish Georgia Tech never would have exited the SEC. They had rivalries with Alabama and Auburn. Plus, that end of the conference is at a serious lack of class with all the bowl cut haircuts.
 

selmaborntidefan

TideFans Legend
Mar 31, 2000
26,155
9,026
287
51
Wishing I was somewhere close to Duluth with a sli
1989 AP FINAL POLL
National champion: Miami
UPI Champion: Miami

1) An absolute train wreck that demanded a playoff.


1989 was one of those years that showed simultaneously how GOOD and exciting the game could be as well as how utterly frustrating it was to crown a national champion who didn't even play in the national championship game. And while the "right" champion was ultimately crowned, this year more than any other showed the arbitrary nature of how precedents established as some sort of pattern can be set aside if circumstances warrant. In fact, there wasn't much different in this year and 1978 - except for the final outcome, which went contrary to everything before it.

The inspirational story of Colorado captivated the country in 1989. It doesn't get much more dramatic than a mixed race starting quarterback knocking up the white daughter of an outspoken evangelical pro-life Christian football coach, getting diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer a few months later, and tragically dying during the team's open date in September, leaving a farewell note to the players to "bring home the Orange Bowl." The team then rides the sheer emotion surrounding the situation all the way to a number one ranking and winds up in a national championship game against that (then) all-time great program, Notre Dame. Sadly for Colorado, a bumbling fifteen minute span in the second quarter when they left at least 17 points on the field and went in for halftime in a scoreless tie, succumbing to the superior athleticism and adjustments of the Irish in the second half to watch a rare opportunity slip away. Although it's true Colorado played perhaps the most emotional season in college football history (right alongside Alabama's 2011 post-tornado struggle), the Buffs were stellar in all aspects of the game and probably the best all-around team in 1989, if a little rough around the edges. As they would prove in 1990, sometimes you lose the one you should and win the one you shouldn't. Notre Dame - according to Coach Lou Holtz - was a better team in 1989 than their title year of 1988, but this time the breaks broke against them and opened the door for Miami to claim their third title of the decade. This, too, was in life with the Equilibrium Theory. Miami was far from the best team in the country in 1983, and it's title in 1989 was at least somewhat debatable. But the Canes WERE the best team bar none in 1986, 1987, and 1988, and only walked away with one title in those years. That their achievements were subsequently exposed as little more than "The Program" level shenanigans approved by Jimmy Johnson (now safely in the pros) didn't alter anyone's memory regarding how good they really were.

2) Florida State Chokes Again.

Stop me if you've heard this, it's going to come up again and again like the "Highwayman" song. Starting the year at number six, FSU was one of the favorites to challenge Michigan, Notre Dame, and Miami for the national title, but the Noles were out of the running only nine days into September. First, it was Brett Favre making his bones with a stunning upset of USM over FSU. The next week, Clemson avenged their loss in the infamous 1988 punt-rooskie game, and the Noles plummeted out of the poll. Miraculously, they'd recover to finish third in the AP poll, second in the coach's poll - and beat Miami, the only team to knock off the eventual champions.

3) The Final poll AGAIN has rankings that show the AP voters pay zero attention.

Yeah, Alabama did have TWO losses and Tennessee one. But that doesn't undo the 47-30 pasting that Alabama administered to the Vols, either, particularly when you recall both of Alabama's losses were by a combined 18 points to teams in the top 8. Ranking USC over Illinois after the Illini beat them is also rather specious but likely happened because of the bowl game win over Michigan, who also beat Illinois. And seriously, FSU lost TWO UPSETS, Colorado lost to a team that was slightly favored - and the Noles wind up ahead of the Buffs? Are you serious?

4) Who makes a four-team playoff in 1989?

Well, you have to remember that these selections would be BEFORE the bowl games left teams with losses so.....Colorado for sure........Miami.......Notre Dame.......but who is the fourth team?

One-loss Nebraska (to Colorado)
One-loss Alabama (to Auburn)
One-loss Tennessee (to Alabama)
One-loss Michigan (to Notre Dame)
One-loss Arkansas (to 5-6 Texas)
Two-loss Florida State (to USM and Clemson)

And how can you REALLY take FSU over 2-loss Clemson???

In that era prior to conference championship games, this would have been a disaster. Auburn would have won the West head-to-head over Alabama, which eliminates them. The winner of Tennessee-Auburn - which would have been a rematch - would have a shot, but not the hype.

5) Did the right team win the national championship?

The right team DID win the championship in a world that rewards head-to-head victories, yes. The problem was NOT that Miami won, it's that Notre Dame didn't win despite every other time a one-loss team beat the #1 team in the bowl, they rose to number one. Yes, Miami DID beat Notre Dame by 17...but USC beat Alabama, too, in 1978. The outcome was just, but the process was amazingly inconsistent. Bear in mind Notre Dame's schedule was SUBSTANTIALLY more difficult than Miami's was. Miami played THREE decent teams all year - FSU, Pitt, and Notre Dame. They got blasted by FSU, although the loss was forgiven because the Canes were without their starting QB, Craig Erickson. They beat Pitt and then drew Notre Dame right after the Irish had a knockdown, drag out with Penn State. Yes, Miami won. Yes, Miami deserves the 1989 national championship. But the AP was violating their own precedents in giving Miami the title, too.

1989 was a difficult but not impossible task. For that, we'd need to see the carnage that was 1990.
 
  • Like
Reactions: TideEngineer08

selmaborntidefan

TideFans Legend
Mar 31, 2000
26,155
9,026
287
51
Wishing I was somewhere close to Duluth with a sli
1990 AP FINAL POLL
National champion: Colorado 11-1-1
UPI Champion: Georgia Tech 11-0-1

1) The inevitable finally happened during the television era.


The flush of downward parity, bowl game contract obligations, televised oversaturation, lack of ability to repair officiating blunders, invitations to bowls too early, the inability to settle ties, and enough marquee matchups to wipe out the entire field finally came due in the bills of 1990 when the country wound up with not one but TWO teams that nobody thought deserved the national championship each staking a, er, "legitimate" claim to the trophies. Championships could survive some of the above, but the car crash known as 1990 left the country with one national champion who won a game when given an extra down and another one whose entire case rested upon being the lone unbeaten and having a signature win against a team that was overrated anyway.

The biggest problem was the fact there were no dominant teams - as in NONE. Teams went through various periods of dominance through the year - most notably Notre Dame and Miami - but those two combined for five losses between them and yet to hear the sportswriters tell it, they were the two best teams in the country. Colorado, by contrast, played one of the most challenging schedules ever given and should be remembered as one of the great one-year champions of all-time but won't thanks to the officiating error of all officiating errors, the "Fifth Down," a game that barely be remembered nowadays except for the fact the victor wound up with the championship.

If ever a year screamed for a four-team playoff, it was 1990. And guess what? You'd still have endless debate over which four teams should comprise the field.

2) There's no good argument to be made for any team - including Georgia Tech.

Media coverage focused primarily on Miami. Indeed, Miami's 46-3 destruction of Texas in the Cotton Bowl was perhaps the first time punditry went full crapola, as they boasted about how this demolition by the Canes was somehow proof of how great they were. Dennis Erickson, the Miami coach, actually had the gall to boast after that win that the Canes were "probably the best team in the country." Too bad they failed to show up to play BYU or Notre Dame. But the amusing part was that all of the boasting about Miami was a narrative flipped 180 degrees on Georgia Tech! Yes, Tech boat racing Nebraska? "Well, you can't really count this the same because of all the extra time to prepare." So Miami with extra time? Great! Tech? Nah, they don't deserve any credit. Wash, rinse, repeat.

The team that DID have the best argument - were it not for an officiating faux pas that made Tom Ritter's crew look absolutely competent - was Colorado. Facing a murderer's row that included the SEC champion, Pac Ten champion, the SWC champion, Big Ten runner-up, and best Independent, Colorado had one whale of a season. Even when comparing resumes with Notre Dame prior to the Orange Bowl, the Buffs stacked up well.

Colorado beat Stanford, Notre Dame lost to them.
Colorado tied Tennessee, Notre Dame beat them by 5 - but Colorado pulled that off without their best player taking a single snap, too, and early in the season.

And once again, Colorado didn't get the same permission to lose to good teams that Miami somehow did. Miami lost to BYU, and the story was, "Well, they'd win a rematch." Colorado lost to a better team - Illinois - on the road, and it was "proof" they shouldn't be champion. Miami, we were all told, would win a rematch with Notre Dame. Colorado only needed one shot at the Irish. In context, the problem wasn't even Colorado, it was the biased media coverage in favor of certain teams that was utterly embarrassing or would be if TV pundits had an ounce of shame.

Of course, media scrutiny did focus quite intently on Colorado's controversial Fifth Down win over Missouri on October 6. The pollsters DID punish the Buffs with a two-spot drop in the polls. One could argue this was one of those years where the pollsters saw Colorado's late charge that included back-to-back wins over Oklahoma and Nebraska in consecutive weeks as sufficient to overcome the controversy. There were two problems, though: 1) analysis of Colorado that gave Miami and Notre Dame a free pass ("they'd blow that team off the field if they played again") didn't extent to Colorado despite the fact they won the game without their starting QB; 2) the faux pas was one that indisputably contributed to the team actually winning a game - and with a second loss, there's no way on planet earth CU gets considered for the national title.

Georgia Tech, meanwhile, quietly put together an undefeated season and announced their presence on-stage with an exciting win in the best game of the year, a 41-38 upset of #1 Virginia on November 3. After thumping a depleted Nebraska team in the Citrus Bowl, Bobby Ross - simultaneously showing support for his players as well as being a pompous ass - went with the old "we beat Clemson who killed Illinois who beat Colorado" argument in the post-game press conference and then whined that the national media underrated the ACC. Never mind that ACC former lead dog Virginia became the first unranked team of the TV era to play in the Sugar Bowl thanks to a late-season implosion that left the Sugar Bowl brass shaking their heads at the choice.

Different teams looked very good at different times. Miami, Notre Dame, Auburn, Nebraska. But the race went to the slow and steady teams - and the ones who got lucky.

3) The Carryover Theory

In all honesty, Colorado won IN PART because of a concept I call "the carryover theory," which might also be called the "confirmation bias" theory depending on how long we're talking. This phenomenon shows itself when pollsters PRETEND that a game played last year or the previous year has any bearing - or quite frankly anything at all to do - with this year's game or team. It happened to Auburn in 2004. "Well, we know Auburn can't beat USC, because they lost to them the previous two years!" (None of these morons ever mentions that 2001 and 2002 USC lost to Kansas State). Colorado's dream season from 1989 wasn't quite the same, but they wound up benefiting when it became a two-horse race between the Buffs and Tech.

4) "Dear Tech - Here's The Make-Up Call for 1952!"

Once again, equilibrium. Tech loses a title in 1952 they should win; they win one in 1990 they really shouldn't. It all balances out.

5) But did the right team win the national championship?

Well, yes - and no - because anyone who can look at this entire thing and tell me who is REALLY the best team or the deserving champion has more brains than I can ever hope to have.

You can argue for Tech using the old criteria, yes. No, they didn't play anybody but then again, who did 1983 Miami play? And Tech didn't lose. In all honesty - if Tech had been named Clemson in the 1980s or FSU in the 90s or 00s, they probably win both polls. Why didn't they? Mostly because everyone who looked at it thought Colorado would beat Tech in a head-to-head game, and they were probably right.

But I leave 1990 with this thought as expressed the morning after the Orange Bowl and after Rocket Ismail's electrifying punt returned was called back on a clipping penalty: "Does any team dumb enough to kick the ball to the best punt returner in America with the national championship on the line deserve any consideration whatsoever?"

A rhetorical question - that's all we can say about 1990.
 
  • Like
Reactions: TideEngineer08

81usaf92

Hall of Fame
Apr 26, 2008
22,642
13,055
187
South Alabama
1990 AP FINAL POLL
National champion: Colorado 11-1-1
UPI Champion: Georgia Tech 11-0-1

1) The inevitable finally happened during the television era.


The flush of downward parity, bowl game contract obligations, televised oversaturation, lack of ability to repair officiating blunders, invitations to bowls too early, the inability to settle ties, and enough marquee matchups to wipe out the entire field finally came due in the bills of 1990 when the country wound up with not one but TWO teams that nobody thought deserved the national championship each staking a, er, "legitimate" claim to the trophies. Championships could survive some of the above, but the car crash known as 1990 left the country with one national champion who won a game when given an extra down and another one whose entire case rested upon being the lone unbeaten and having a signature win against a team that was overrated anyway.

The biggest problem was the fact there were no dominant teams - as in NONE. Teams went through various periods of dominance through the year - most notably Notre Dame and Miami - but those two combined for five losses between them and yet to hear the sportswriters tell it, they were the two best teams in the country. Colorado, by contrast, played one of the most challenging schedules ever given and should be remembered as one of the great one-year champions of all-time but won't thanks to the officiating error of all officiating errors, the "Fifth Down," a game that barely be remembered nowadays except for the fact the victor wound up with the championship.

If ever a year screamed for a four-team playoff, it was 1990. And guess what? You'd still have endless debate over which four teams should comprise the field.

2) There's no good argument to be made for any team - including Georgia Tech.

Media coverage focused primarily on Miami. Indeed, Miami's 46-3 destruction of Texas in the Cotton Bowl was perhaps the first time punditry went full crapola, as they boasted about how this demolition by the Canes was somehow proof of how great they were. Dennis Erickson, the Miami coach, actually had the gall to boast after that win that the Canes were "probably the best team in the country." Too bad they failed to show up to play BYU or Notre Dame. But the amusing part was that all of the boasting about Miami was a narrative flipped 180 degrees on Georgia Tech! Yes, Tech boat racing Nebraska? "Well, you can't really count this the same because of all the extra time to prepare." So Miami with extra time? Great! Tech? Nah, they don't deserve any credit. Wash, rinse, repeat.

The team that DID have the best argument - were it not for an officiating faux pas that made Tom Ritter's crew look absolutely competent - was Colorado. Facing a murderer's row that included the SEC champion, Pac Ten champion, the SWC champion, Big Ten runner-up, and best Independent, Colorado had one whale of a season. Even when comparing resumes with Notre Dame prior to the Orange Bowl, the Buffs stacked up well.

Colorado beat Stanford, Notre Dame lost to them.
Colorado tied Tennessee, Notre Dame beat them by 5 - but Colorado pulled that off without their best player taking a single snap, too, and early in the season.

And once again, Colorado didn't get the same permission to lose to good teams that Miami somehow did. Miami lost to BYU, and the story was, "Well, they'd win a rematch." Colorado lost to a better team - Illinois - on the road, and it was "proof" they shouldn't be champion. Miami, we were all told, would win a rematch with Notre Dame. Colorado only needed one shot at the Irish. In context, the problem wasn't even Colorado, it was the biased media coverage in favor of certain teams that was utterly embarrassing or would be if TV pundits had an ounce of shame.

Of course, media scrutiny did focus quite intently on Colorado's controversial Fifth Down win over Missouri on October 6. The pollsters DID punish the Buffs with a two-spot drop in the polls. One could argue this was one of those years where the pollsters saw Colorado's late charge that included back-to-back wins over Oklahoma and Nebraska in consecutive weeks as sufficient to overcome the controversy. There were two problems, though: 1) analysis of Colorado that gave Miami and Notre Dame a free pass ("they'd blow that team off the field if they played again") didn't extent to Colorado despite the fact they won the game without their starting QB; 2) the faux pas was one that indisputably contributed to the team actually winning a game - and with a second loss, there's no way on planet earth CU gets considered for the national title.

Georgia Tech, meanwhile, quietly put together an undefeated season and announced their presence on-stage with an exciting win in the best game of the year, a 41-38 upset of #1 Virginia on November 3. After thumping a depleted Nebraska team in the Citrus Bowl, Bobby Ross - simultaneously showing support for his players as well as being a pompous ass - went with the old "we beat Clemson who killed Illinois who beat Colorado" argument in the post-game press conference and then whined that the national media underrated the ACC. Never mind that ACC former lead dog Virginia became the first unranked team of the TV era to play in the Sugar Bowl thanks to a late-season implosion that left the Sugar Bowl brass shaking their heads at the choice.

Different teams looked very good at different times. Miami, Notre Dame, Auburn, Nebraska. But the race went to the slow and steady teams - and the ones who got lucky.

3) The Carryover Theory

In all honesty, Colorado won IN PART because of a concept I call "the carryover theory," which might also be called the "confirmation bias" theory depending on how long we're talking. This phenomenon shows itself when pollsters PRETEND that a game played last year or the previous year has any bearing - or quite frankly anything at all to do - with this year's game or team. It happened to Auburn in 2004. "Well, we know Auburn can't beat USC, because they lost to them the previous two years!" (None of these morons ever mentions that 2001 and 2002 USC lost to Kansas State). Colorado's dream season from 1989 wasn't quite the same, but they wound up benefiting when it became a two-horse race between the Buffs and Tech.

4) "Dear Tech - Here's The Make-Up Call for 1952!"

Once again, equilibrium. Tech loses a title in 1952 they should win; they win one in 1990 they really shouldn't. It all balances out.

5) But did the right team win the national championship?

Well, yes - and no - because anyone who can look at this entire thing and tell me who is REALLY the best team or the deserving champion has more brains than I can ever hope to have.

You can argue for Tech using the old criteria, yes. No, they didn't play anybody but then again, who did 1983 Miami play? And Tech didn't lose. In all honesty - if Tech had been named Clemson in the 1980s or FSU in the 90s or 00s, they probably win both polls. Why didn't they? Mostly because everyone who looked at it thought Colorado would beat Tech in a head-to-head game, and they were probably right.

But I leave 1990 with this thought as expressed the morning after the Orange Bowl and after Rocket Ismail's electrifying punt returned was called back on a clipping penalty: "Does any team dumb enough to kick the ball to the best punt returner in America with the national championship on the line deserve any consideration whatsoever?"

A rhetorical question - that's all we can say about 1990.
I have less issue with the 5th down than I do with the Nebraska kick in 1997. One is an error that wasn’t caught by all 3 parties and one was an illegal play.
 

selmaborntidefan

TideFans Legend
Mar 31, 2000
26,155
9,026
287
51
Wishing I was somewhere close to Duluth with a sli
I have less issue with the 5th down than I do with the Nebraska kick in 1997. One is an error that wasn’t caught by all 3 parties and one was an illegal play.
The Fifth Down only happened because they introduced the spike rule in 1990. Prior to that time, a QB had to throw the ball out of bounds to stop the clock. The officials got confused in the whole mess.

But I blame Missouri for it, too. THEY KNEW the downs and didn't bother to say anything about it. The one guy on Colorado who knew the downs was center Jay Leuwenberg, and he decided he had lost count somewhere after disputing Coach McCartney's proposed play sequence.

Extra downs - like umps losing count of the outs and balls and strikes in baseball - happen every so often. The only reason anyone remembers this is because the benefitting team won the national title. If they hadn't, nobody besides Missouri would even remember it.
 
  • Like
Reactions: TideEngineer08

81usaf92

Hall of Fame
Apr 26, 2008
22,642
13,055
187
South Alabama
The Fifth Down only happened because they introduced the spike rule in 1990. Prior to that time, a QB had to throw the ball out of bounds to stop the clock. The officials got confused in the whole mess.

But I blame Missouri for it, too. THEY KNEW the downs and didn't bother to say anything about it. The one guy on Colorado who knew the downs was center Jay Leuwenberg, and he decided he had lost count somewhere after disputing Coach McCartney's proposed play sequence.

Extra downs - like umps losing count of the outs and balls and strikes in baseball - happen every so often. The only reason anyone remembers this is because the benefitting team won the national title. If they hadn't, nobody besides Missouri would even remember it.
Its why I see it as an error missed by all 3 parties (Refs, Mizzou, and Colorado). Missouri should have paid attention.
 
  • Like
Reactions: TideEngineer08

selmaborntidefan

TideFans Legend
Mar 31, 2000
26,155
9,026
287
51
Wishing I was somewhere close to Duluth with a sli
Its why I see it as an error missed by all 3 parties (Refs, Mizzou, and Colorado). Missouri should have paid attention.
Their excuse never made much sense to me. "Well, we were afraid that they wouldn't listen to us, and then Colorado would have time to get set."

My favorite story - a true one - out of that is the Missouri guy in the press box who was charting plays and turned to the guy next to him and said, "So where should I log fifth down?"

then there's the old joke about Colorado led the nation in Fifth Down conversions in 1990.
 
  • Like
Reactions: TideEngineer08

DzynKingRTR

TideFans Legend
Dec 17, 2003
29,315
9,474
187
Vinings, ga., usa
1989 AP FINAL POLL
National champion: Miami
UPI Champion: Miami

1) An absolute train wreck that demanded a playoff.


1989 was one of those years that showed simultaneously how GOOD and exciting the game could be as well as how utterly frustrating it was to crown a national champion who didn't even play in the national championship game. And while the "right" champion was ultimately crowned, this year more than any other showed the arbitrary nature of how precedents established as some sort of pattern can be set aside if circumstances warrant. In fact, there wasn't much different in this year and 1978 - except for the final outcome, which went contrary to everything before it.

The inspirational story of Colorado captivated the country in 1989. It doesn't get much more dramatic than a mixed race starting quarterback knocking up the white daughter of an outspoken evangelical pro-life Christian football coach, getting diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer a few months later, and tragically dying during the team's open date in September, leaving a farewell note to the players to "bring home the Orange Bowl." The team then rides the sheer emotion surrounding the situation all the way to a number one ranking and winds up in a national championship game against that (then) all-time great program, Notre Dame. Sadly for Colorado, a bumbling fifteen minute span in the second quarter when they left at least 17 points on the field and went in for halftime in a scoreless tie, succumbing to the superior athleticism and adjustments of the Irish in the second half to watch a rare opportunity slip away. Although it's true Colorado played perhaps the most emotional season in college football history (right alongside Alabama's 2011 post-tornado struggle), the Buffs were stellar in all aspects of the game and probably the best all-around team in 1989, if a little rough around the edges. As they would prove in 1990, sometimes you lose the one you should and win the one you shouldn't. Notre Dame - according to Coach Lou Holtz - was a better team in 1989 than their title year of 1988, but this time the breaks broke against them and opened the door for Miami to claim their third title of the decade. This, too, was in life with the Equilibrium Theory. Miami was far from the best team in the country in 1983, and it's title in 1989 was at least somewhat debatable. But the Canes WERE the best team bar none in 1986, 1987, and 1988, and only walked away with one title in those years. That their achievements were subsequently exposed as little more than "The Program" level shenanigans approved by Jimmy Johnson (now safely in the pros) didn't alter anyone's memory regarding how good they really were.

2) Florida State Chokes Again.

Stop me if you've heard this, it's going to come up again and again like the "Highwayman" song. Starting the year at number six, FSU was one of the favorites to challenge Michigan, Notre Dame, and Miami for the national title, but the Noles were out of the running only nine days into September. First, it was Brett Favre making his bones with a stunning upset of USM over FSU. The next week, Clemson avenged their loss in the infamous 1988 punt-rooskie game, and the Noles plummeted out of the poll. Miraculously, they'd recover to finish third in the AP poll, second in the coach's poll - and beat Miami, the only team to knock off the eventual champions.

3) The Final poll AGAIN has rankings that show the AP voters pay zero attention.

Yeah, Alabama did have TWO losses and Tennessee one. But that doesn't undo the 47-30 pasting that Alabama administered to the Vols, either, particularly when you recall both of Alabama's losses were by a combined 18 points to teams in the top 8. Ranking USC over Illinois after the Illini beat them is also rather specious but likely happened because of the bowl game win over Michigan, who also beat Illinois. And seriously, FSU lost TWO UPSETS, Colorado lost to a team that was slightly favored - and the Noles wind up ahead of the Buffs? Are you serious?

4) Who makes a four-team playoff in 1989?

Well, you have to remember that these selections would be BEFORE the bowl games left teams with losses so.....Colorado for sure........Miami.......Notre Dame.......but who is the fourth team?

One-loss Nebraska (to Colorado)
One-loss Alabama (to Auburn)
One-loss Tennessee (to Alabama)
One-loss Michigan (to Notre Dame)
One-loss Arkansas (to 5-6 Texas)
Two-loss Florida State (to USM and Clemson)

And how can you REALLY take FSU over 2-loss Clemson???

In that era prior to conference championship games, this would have been a disaster. Auburn would have won the West head-to-head over Alabama, which eliminates them. The winner of Tennessee-Auburn - which would have been a rematch - would have a shot, but not the hype.

5) Did the right team win the national championship?

The right team DID win the championship in a world that rewards head-to-head victories, yes. The problem was NOT that Miami won, it's that Notre Dame didn't win despite every other time a one-loss team beat the #1 team in the bowl, they rose to number one. Yes, Miami DID beat Notre Dame by 17...but USC beat Alabama, too, in 1978. The outcome was just, but the process was amazingly inconsistent. Bear in mind Notre Dame's schedule was SUBSTANTIALLY more difficult than Miami's was. Miami played THREE decent teams all year - FSU, Pitt, and Notre Dame. They got blasted by FSU, although the loss was forgiven because the Canes were without their starting QB, Craig Erickson. They beat Pitt and then drew Notre Dame right after the Irish had a knockdown, drag out with Penn State. Yes, Miami won. Yes, Miami deserves the 1989 national championship. But the AP was violating their own precedents in giving Miami the title, too.

1989 was a difficult but not impossible task. For that, we'd need to see the carnage that was 1990.
One of the things I really remember about 1989 was Miami converting a 4th and 40 something against Notre Dame. Just for that Notre Dame would not deserve a playoff bid.
 

DzynKingRTR

TideFans Legend
Dec 17, 2003
29,315
9,474
187
Vinings, ga., usa
3rd and 44. Deep in their own end.
Thanks. Don't know why I thought it was 4th down. Fuzzy memories. Still letting a team convert a 3rd and 44 is just embarrassing.

Also for some reason I thought the final score was much worse. I looked it up and it was only 27-10. Granted in 1989, losing by 17 was a beat down; however, I thought it was like 30-40 point beat down. Again fuzzy memories.
 

selmaborntidefan

TideFans Legend
Mar 31, 2000
26,155
9,026
287
51
Wishing I was somewhere close to Duluth with a sli
1991 AP FINAL POLL
National champion: Miami 12-0
UPI Champion: Washington 12-0

1) From the sublime to the ridiculous


It happened yet again in 1991. The press overrates a team, another team beats them and basically wins the national championship primarily on the basis of that one game that assumes a level of infallibility nobody possesses. How in the hell can you credit Miami for beating Florida State, who not only wasn't the best team in the USA, they were the THIRD BEST team in the state of Florida???

Miami won the title, and we all know why - because they entered the season with all that dynastic nonsense and "Carryover" from previous years. Poor old Washington stuck out on the West Coast did nothing but win by huge margins and all they got for it was backing into a title because the coaches couldn't stomach Miami chickening out of a date with Florida. As a reminder, Miami wasn't really all that good in bowl games AWAY from home.

1985 Fiesta - L, UCLA, 39-37
1986 Sugar - L, Tennessee, 35-7
1987 Fiesta - L, Penn St, 14-10
1990 Sugar - W, Alabama, 33-25
1991 Cotton - W, Texas, 46-3
1993 Sugar - L, Alabama, 34-13
1994 Fiesta - L, Arizona, 29-0

That's a 2-5 record with three of those blowout losses, one of which ended a 29-game winning streak. It should not surprise anyone why Miami felt safer playing bowl games at home as once they were in games with teams of near equal talent, they lost games away from Miami pretty regularly. (Alabama fans will point out had officials not had two colossal brain farts, it would be 1-6).

2) Florida State's Annual Choke, Take Four.

Once again Florida State was a high-dollar favorite to win it all.
Once again Florida State choked in their biggest game of the year.
Wash, rinse, repeat.

3) The frustration of inevitability.

From the moment that Florida State's field goal attempt went wide right on November 16, everyone knew that this was going to be 1990 on steroids but instead of NO worthy champions, it was going to be two teams that couldn't play each other. Locked into the Rose Bowl, Washington's only chance was to demonstrate excellence and hope they appealed to enough voters to win. They got one - and damn near got the other.

After Miami beat FSU, the Hurricanes had a commanding lead in FPVs, 46-14. Washington gradually closed the gap each poll until the final one, when they came up just four points short of a tie in the AP poll; it two voters had switched Miami for Washington, it would have been a tie atop the polls, which probably would have made everyone not named Miami content.

This was one of those year like 1983, 1986, or 1987, where everyone looked at the two teams and wanted them to play for the championship (with apologies to Syracuse). Just like 1983, however, we got a mixture of bowl games that weren't really very satisfying at the end.

4) Who would have made a four-team playoff?


Boy is this is an easy one to answer: Miami, Washington, Florida, and Michigan.

Or is it that easy? Florida State manhandled Michigan. Iowa had one loss - a thumping from Michigan. Alabama had one loss, too, a 35-0 clobbering by Florida (and five close calls, including a ludicrous 10-7 survival win over Memphis). Or maybe Texas A/M, with a fluke loss to Tulsa.

Once again - THREE teams in a four-team playoff are always easy. The other team is just there to make sure the #1 seed has someone to drill.

5) Did the right team win the national championship?

No, it really should have been a Washington sweep to tell you the truth. If Washington had won the 1984 title, they probably would have taken it. Miami's ranking was based solely on reputation and "oh yeah, got lucky and beat Florida State."

Now having vented my spleen, the outcome WAS JUST in the abstract sense precisely because the two teams couldn't play each other. Yes, I think Washington would have beaten Miami - and I also think it would have been a damn good game, too. But given the circumstances, there wasn't much choice. After the 1990 debacle - let's just say if TECH deserved a title for 1990 then BOTH TEAMS deserved one for 1991. It's a shame, yes, but one more long step in the parade for a playoff, too.
 

selmaborntidefan

TideFans Legend
Mar 31, 2000
26,155
9,026
287
51
Wishing I was somewhere close to Duluth with a sli
1992 AP FINAL POLL
National champion: Alabama
Undefeated teams: #5 Michigan 9-0-3 (Texas A/M was undefeated prior to the bowl game)
UPI Champion: Alabama

1) Take a bow, Corky Simpson


It was Halloween, 1992, and ESPN decided it was time to expose that voter who apparently didn't know a guitar string from a G string (partly because a guitar HAS a G string, but I digress). Corky Simpson's name was read out on the air as ESPN tried their best to inform the country that, well, Alabama just wasn't really any good, and Simpson probably needed psychiatric help or perhaps burned at the stake and not necessarily in that order. The mockery and disrespect shown by ESPN should remind everyone that like "Bonfire of the Vanities," the media shows up to tell you their version of the story rather than the story itself.

2) Take a bow, Lee Corso

The November 14, 1992 ESPN GameDay postgame coverage of the Alabama-Mississippi State game was the stuff of legend. Lee Corso got one right, saying that Florida State should be ranked ahead of Texas A/M when the new poll came out. They were, and all hell broke loose in College Station. Corso never backed down, but it wasn't a perfect night for "the Coach" either thanks to....

3) Beano Cook 1, Lee Corso 0

In the other prominent discussion - Michigan's tie with Illinois - Beano Cook threw his hands up in exasperation by pointing out that Michigan's kicking a field goal to settle for a tie with the Ilini was next-level dumb and had cost the Wolverines any shot at the national title. Corso dogmatically disagreed, and said that when you're a Big Ten coach, you want to go to the Rose Bowl, and Michigan was on track to do that. Unsatisfied with this response, Cook leveled Corso "you're no Jack Kennedy" style by saying that playing for a tie for the Rose Bowl "might make sense if you're Indiana and never go, but Michigan's been to the Rose Bowl a bunch of times." When Corso basically reworded the same argument, Cook snorted, "And that's why the Big Ten is a mediocre conference, because they think the Rose Bowl is the Holy Grail."

4) Florida State's Choke Chronicles, Chapter 5

You had to start wondering what exactly Florida State could do that would make their apologists realize they were winning big games only AFTER getting eliminated. Mike Lupica intoned after the Alabama wipeout of Miami in the Sugar Bowl about how he'd like to say the Tide against FSU. But Tony Kornheiser basically told him that it's not Alabama's fault FSU chokes in the big game every year.

5) Just Because You Think You Know...

1992 saw the first of (too) many conference championship football games in FBS, starting (as expected) in the SEC. Given the 1980s parity and wipeouts where multiple one-loss SEC teams took each other out of the national picture, pundits said that the extra game was going to cost the SEC to the point they might never win another national title ever again. What happened instead was proving the mettle of the overall team, and the SEC as a whole rose to the occasion and began turning out national champions like week old laundry.

6) Did the right team win the national championship?

Yes, as long as you don't listen to the "yeah but" crowd that despite years of evidence continued to bleat nonstop about how FSU was built perfectly to beat Alabama, using their high-powered offense of Vannover and Charlie Ward. Even the AP poll got into the act by ranking FSU at #2, ahead of the Miami team that beat them. Michigan "finally won a Rose Bowl" as Keith Jackson said during the Sugar Bowl telecast, but nobody really cared. The sun was setting on bowl game national championships, and the public could be glad for that reality.
 

tusks_n_raider

Hall of Fame
May 13, 2009
6,842
2,624
187
Mobile, AL
As far as I'm concerned there is no 'Yeah But..." FSU w/ Ward could have done this or that to Alabama in 1992 caveat.

On Jan 1st 1993 that '92 Defense comprised of Copeland, Curry, Teague, Langham, Shade, Johnson, Donnelly, Hall, Rogers, Oden. Londen, Nunley etc etc were not going to allow ANY team to score more points than Alabama.

That Defense didn't give up a single TD to Miami , who was thought to be every bit the Offensive Juggernaut as FSU or anyone else.

The TD that Miami did score against the Special Teams via Punt Return shouldn't even have counted because Kevin Williams foot touched out of bounds on the sideline and it should have been dead right there.

Alabama beat Miami 34-6 in reality and if Replay had been allowed then that would be the final.

FSU would have been just as cocky and loud mouthed as Miami was pre the game being played and they would have been mauled just as badly because of it and not to mention FSU always choked then.

Did the right team win the National Championship in 1992?

You're Damn right they did.... Period.
 
Last edited: