The complete history of college football bowl games goes back to 1902, when “The Grandaddy Of Them All”, the Rose Bowl was played for the first time. No postseason in any sport has undergone as much evolution as college bowl games have and the historian looking for a benchmark of when the modern era begins has a number of viable choices…
*1966 was the first threshold year. Prior to that, the bowls were an exhibition and not used in determining the national champion. Whomever led the writers and coaches’ polls at the end of the regular season was the champ. In 1966, the AP writers poll decided to push its final vote to after the bowl games.
*In 1974, the UPI coaches’ poll followed suit.
*In 1995, several conferences got together and guaranteed their two highest-rated teams would play each other in a bowl game. The Bowl Alliance was aimed at increasing the likelihood of a 1 vs. 2 championship game.
*In 1998, the process started above reached its fruition when the Big Ten, Pac-10 and the Rose Bowl all joined. The Alliance was re-named “The Bowl Championship Series (BCS)”.
*In 2006, the BCS created an additional game that it separated from the rest of the bowls. For the first time, college football had a specifically titled “Championship Game.”
*In 2014, the system we know today—the College Football Playoff—came into being, with its key feature being two of the bowls being used as playoff semi-finals for the top four teams.
You could pick any one of these dates and be right. If we fast-forward the clock a few decades, a future generation will have no problem in choosing 1995 or later—the championship-game era—as the starting point.
But I have a different idea and this timeline is going to start in 1976. One subtle development happened that year. All the bowls were played on January 1. For the first time, college football’s biggest games would be on the same day and the national championship would be settled. The sport had a true postseason showcase for the first time.
This page tracks the development of that showcase. It includes the arrival of new bowls—the Fiesta and more recently the Peach—as majors. You’ll see the Cotton be on the national stage, depart and then come back again. Most importantly, you’ll have the results of every major bowl game played since 1976, including the record and ranking of each team coming in.
Each season includes a brief summary that wraps up the national championship situation and other loose ends. Bookmark this page as a reference point. Check out our Pinterest page for a pictorial ride through the same era. And let’s get started with our tour of the modern era of college football’s major bowl games, from 1976-2019.
Sugar: Pitt (11-0, #1) 27 Georgia (10-1, #5) 3
Rose: USC (10-1, #3) 14 Michigan (10-1, #2) 6
Cotton: Houston (9-2, #6) 30 Maryland (11-0, #4) 21
Orange: Ohio State (8-2-1, #11) 27 Colorado (8-3, #12) 10
Summary: It was a year for Cinderella stories in college football, starting with Pitt coming out of the East as the top-ranked team in the country, led by Heisman Trophy-winner Tony Dorsett. Maryland had also gone unbeaten, while Colorado edged out the Oklahoma-Nebraska tandem in the Big Eight.
The Panthers validated their success with a thumping of Georgia. But the Terps could not, digging a big hole early before losing to Houston. USC and Michigan had been hoping to play a national title fight, but with Pitt’s Sugar Bowl win coming in the early afternoon time slot, the Trojans and Wolverines took the field knowing they were playing to be #2.
Cotton: Notre Dame (10-1, #5) 38 Texas (11-0, #1) 10
Orange: Arkansas (10-1, #6) 31 Oklahoma (10-1, #2) 6
Sugar: Alabama (10-1, #3) 35 Ohio State (9-2, #9) 6
Rose: Washington (7-4, #13) 27 Michigan (10-1, #4) 20
Summary: Texas was supposed to enjoy a coronation party at the Cotton Bowl after thundering through the regular season behind Heisman Trophy-winner Earl Campbell. But another player destined for big-time NFL success—Joe Montana of Notre Dame, engineered a rout. Oklahoma had the chance to keep the voting easy. But in spite of Lou Holtz’s Arkansas playing without three key suspended players and being a 24-point underdog, the Sooners blew it.
The nationat title race was officially chaos. Michigan missed its chance to make a case when they were upset by Warren Moon’s Washington. Alabama didn’t miss, in rolling over Ohio State. The vote came down to the Irish and Crimson Tide and buoyed by the momentum of their Cotton Bowl rout, Notre Dame won the vote.
Sugar: Alabama (10-1, #2) 14 Penn State (11-0, #1) 7
Rose: USC (11-1, #3) 17 Michigan (10-1, #5) 10
Orange: Oklahoma (10-1, #4) 31 Nebraska (9-2, #6) 24
Cotton: Notre Dame (8-3, #10) 35 Houston (9-2, #9) 34
Summary: Drama on the goal-line Alabama preserved its win over Penn State with a big goal-line stand late in the fourth quarter. USC edged Michigan, thanks in no small part to a “Phantom Touchdown”, where running back Charles White clearly lost the ball for going over the goal line, but was awarded a TD anyway. The championship vote split—Alabama won one poll, thanks to beating the #1 team and the controversial nature of USC’s win. The Trojans won the other, thanks to having defeated the Crimson Tide during the regular season.
In the other games, Joe Montana put the finishing touches on his Notre Dame legend, rallying the Irish from a 34-12 deficit in the fourth quarter. An Orange Bowl rematch was as anticlimatic as you might expect. Read more about the 1978 college football season.
Sugar: Alabama (11-0, #2) 24 Arkansas (10-1, #6) 9
Rose: USC (10-0-1, #3) 17 Ohio State (11-0, #1)16
Orange: Oklahoma (10-1, #5) 24 Florida State (11-0, #4) 7
Cotton: Houston (10-1, #8) 17 Nebraska (10-1, #7) 14
Summary: Alabama and Ohio State were undefeated and each atop one poll. The Sugar Bowl was early in the day and the Crimson Tide were in complete command in dismantling the Razorbacks. The Buckeyes looked ready to do the same, building a 16-3 lead on the Trojans. Then White, the Heisman Trophy winner, took off on two long runs, USC scored twice and we had an undisputed national champion—the last one for Alabama’s great Bear Bryant.
Houston’s Cotton Bowl win came on a last-second touchdown pass thrown by a backup quarterback. Florida State was a new player on the national stage with a rising young coach named Bobby Bowden. Oklahoma showed the ‘Noles still had a ways to go to reach the elite. Read more about the 1979 college football season.
Sugar: Georgia (11-0, #1) 17 Notre Dame (9-1-1, #7) 10
Rose: Michigan (9-2, #5) 23 Washington (9-2, #16) 6
Orange: Oklahoma (9-2, #4) 18 Florida State (10-1, #2) 17
Cotton: Alabama (9-2, #9) 30 Baylor (10-1, #6) 2
Summary: Two proud programs got big breakthroughs. Georgia sealed its national championship with a big game from freshman running back Herschel Walker and sent Notre Dame coach Dan Devine into retirement. Michigan got it is own landmark win—the first Rose Bowl triumph for the great Bo Schembecler and five futile tries in Pasadena.
But the best game of the package was the prime-time show at the Orange Bowl. Florida State, hungry for redemption after last year, went toe-to-toe with Oklahoma and led 17-10 late in the game. But a missed field goal earlier in the game came back to haunt. The Sooners won the game on a touchdown drive and two-point conversion engineered by future Congressman, J.C. Watts. Read more about the 1980 college football season.
FIESTA BOWL BECOMES A MAJOR
Orange: Clemson (11-0, #1) 22 Nebraska (9-2, #4) 15
Sugar: Pitt (10-1, #10) 24 Georgia (10-1, #2) 20
Cotton: Texas (9-1-1, #6) 14 Alabama (9-1-1, #3) 12
Rose: Washington (9-2, #12) 28 Iowa (8-3, #13) 0
Fiesta: Penn State (9-2, #7) 26 USC (9-2, #8) 10
Summary: Danny Ford’s Clemson team wereatop the polls, but they had doubters. Georgia, Alabama and Nebraska were lying in wait. The Crimson Tide fell early in the day. The Sugar Bowl, moved into prime-time, saw Pitt upend Georgia on a last-second touchdown strike from Dan Marino. The door was open for Nebraska, but Clemson showed they were no fluke, staying in control and winning the national championship.
Hayden Fry was on the national stage for the first time, bringing his surprise Iowa team that broke the Michigan-Ohio State lock on the Big Ten’s Rose Bowl bid. So was the Fiesta Bowl, which landed an elite matchup for their New Year’s debut, but the Penn State defense spoiled out by shutting down USC’s Heisman Troph-winning back Marcus Allen. Read more about the 1981 college football season.
Sugar: Penn State (10-1, #2) 27 Georgia (11-0, #13) 23
Cotton: SMU (10-0-1, #4) 7 Pitt (9-2, #6) 3
Orange: Nebraska (11-1, #3) 21 LSU (8-2-1, #13) 20
Rose: UCLA (9-1-1, #5) 24 Michigan (8-3, #19) 14
Fiesta: Arizona State (9-2, #11) 32 Oklahoma (8-3, #12) 21
Summary: Joe Paterno was looking for his first national championship at Penn State. Georgia was looking to solidify the Herschel Walker Dynasty Era. The Nittany Lions came out on the attack and early 20-3 lead. They turned back a Bulldog rally with an interception in the end zone and a long touchdown pass to seal their win.
SMU’s case was undermined by a weak schedule, but they still shut down Dan Marino in bad conditions at the Cotton Bowl. Nebraska, still frothing over a bad call that cost them a win at Penn State during the season won a sloppy game in the Orange. UCLA’s dominance of Michigan was greater than the score showed and a disappointing year for Oklahoma ended on a disappointing note. Read more about the 1982 college football season.
Orange: Miami (10-1, #5) 31 Nebraska (12-0, #1) 30
Cotton: Georgia (9-1-1, #7) 10 Texas 9 (11-0, #2)
Sugar: Auburn (10-1, #3) 9 Michigan (9-2, #8) 7
Rose: UCLA (6-4-1 , unranked) 45 Illinois (10-1, #4) 9
Fiesta: Ohio State (8-3, #14) 28 Pitt 23 (8-2-1, #15)
Summary: Nebraska’s greatness was presumed, and Texas’ outstanding defense got honorable mention. But a late Longhorn turnover led to their defeat. The Cornhusker defense was exposed in prime-time by Miami quarterback Bernie Kosar. Nebraska still could have kicked a tying extra point and surely been national champs, but they went for two and missed it.
Illinois missed a chance to stake their own case with an utterly atrocious Rose Bowl performance. Auburn, with Bo Jackson in the backfield, had played an amazing schedule, but their Sugar Bowl win was ugly next to the Orange Bowl thriller. Miami won the vote and the era of “The U” had begun. Read more about the 1983 college football season.
Orange: Washington (10-1, #4) 28 Oklahoma (9-1-1, #2)17
Sugar: Nebraska (9-2, #5)28 LSU (8-2-1, #11) 10
Rose: USC (8-3, #18) 20 Ohio State (9-2, #6) 17
Fiesta: UCLA (8-3, #14) 39 Miami (8-3, #13) 37
Cotton: Boston College (9-2, #8) 45 Houston 28 (7-4, unranked)
Summary: It was all quiet for New Year’s—BYU was #1 in the country and had beaten Michigan in the Holiday Bowl. There were still rumblings that the Washington-Oklahoma winner—particularly if it were the second-ranked Sooners could leapfrog the Cougars, given BYU’s bad schedule and bowl win over a 6-5 team. But it wasn’t likely to happen in any event and Washington won the Orange.
Earlier in the day, Doug Flutie put the finishing touches on his magnificent college career in leading Boston College to its biggest win in forty years. Miami, under new head coach Jimmy Johnson, suffered their third straight defensive collapse in losing the Fiesta Bowl and the Big Ten’s Pasadena woes continued on as highly regarded Ohio State fell. Read more about the 1984 college football season.
Orange: Oklahoma (10-1, #3) 25 Penn State (11-0, #1) 10
Sugar: Tennessee (8-1-2, #8) 35 Miami (10-1, #2) 7
Rose: UCLA (8-2-1, #13) 45 Iowa (10-1, #4) 28
Fiesta: Michigan (9-1-1, #5) 27 Nebraska (9-2, #7) 23
Cotton: Texas A&M (9-2, #11) 36 Auburn (8-3, #16) 16
Summary: Three teams entered the day with a shot at the national title, with Oklahoma-Penn State and Miami all playing in prime-time. When the Hurricanes, who had beaten the Sooners in the regular season, imploded in the Sugar, it ensured the Orange would produce an undisputed national champ. Oklahoma capitalized on Penn State turnovers and won a game tougher than the score indicates.
Bo Jackson’s college career ended in disappointment, as Texas A&M, a rising power in the old Southwest Conference under Jackie Sherrill, made a big statement. Iowa fell apart in the Rose Bowl, with Ronnie Harmon losing four fumbles. And Michigan’s win over Nebraska moved the Wolverines to #2 in the final polls—marking it the most significant Fiesta Bowl ever played…for now. Read more about the 1985 college football season.
Orange: Oklahoma (10-1, #3) 42 Arkansas (9-2, #9) 8
Sugar: Nebraska (9-2, #6) 30 LSU (9-2, #5) 15
Rose: Arizona State (9-1-1, #7) 22 Michigan (11-1, #4) 15
Fiesta: Penn State (11-0, #2) 14 Miami (11-0, #1) 10
Cotton: Ohio State (9-3, #11) 28 Texas A&M (9-2, #8) 12
Summary: The Fiesta Bowl moved its game to January 2 to entice Miami and Penn State to come to Tempe. It was a one-year thing for now, it was the first step to what’s now standard—major bowls played on different nights. Penn State’s stunning 14-10 upset remains the highest-rated college football game of all-time.
Oklahoma’s only loss was again to Miami and the Sooners put the exclamation point on another vintage Barry Switzer team. Michigan jumped out to an early double-digit lead in the Rose before Arizona State rallied. The game put ASU coach John Cooper on the map and eventually got him the Ohio State job…where he lost almost without fail to Michigan. Wolverine fans had to play the long game on this one. Read more about the 1986 college football season.
Orange: Miami (11-0, #2) 20 Oklahoma (11-0, #1)14
Sugar: Syracuse (11-0, #4) 16 Auburn (9-1-1, #6) 16
Fiesta: Florida State (10-1, #3) 31 Nebraska (10-1, #5) 28
Rose: Michigan State (8-2-1, #8) 20 USC (8-3, #16) 17
Cotton: Texas A&M (9-2, #13) 35 Notre Dame (8-3, #12) 10
Summary: The regular season produced de facto semi-finals with Miami-Florida State and Oklahoma-Nebraska. The winners went to the Orange to play for the national title, while the losers played a consolation game in the Fiesta. Miami’s win over Oklahoma was much more decisive than the score indicates. Florida State’s win marked another sign of the pro-style offenses from the Sunshine State beating the old-style option attacks from Middle America.
Auburn drew criticism for settling for a late field goal and tie against Syracuse. Lou Holtz returned Notre Dame to prominence although the Cotton Bowl showed there was still work to do. Michigan State got the Big Ten a long-awaited win the Rose, thanks to a clutch throw by Bobby McAllister setting up the winning field goal. Read more about the 1987 college football season.
Fiesta: Notre Dame (11-0, #1) 34 West Virginia (11-0, #3) 21
Orange: Miami (10-1, #2) 23 Nebraska (11-1, #6) 3
Sugar: Florida State (10-1, #4) 13 Auburn (10-1, #7) 7
Rose: Michigan (8-2-1, #11) 22 USC (10-1, #5) 14
Cotton: UCLA (9-2, #9) 17 Arkansas (10-1, #8) 3
Summary: Notre Dame returned to glory with a decisive win over West Virginia. The lead was as high as 21 points in the second half. The real battle for the Irish had been with Miami in the regular season. The Hurricanes’ blowout win showed how large the gap was between ND-Miami and the rest of the country.
USC completed a late-season fade where they went from #1 on the country on Thanksgiving weekend to losing to both Notre Dame and Michigan. Pac-10 counterpart UCLA fared better in the Cotton, with Troy Aikman winning his collegiate finale while simultaneously introducing himself to the people of Dallas. Another future NFL Hall of Famer, Deion Sanders, sealed Florida State’s win with an interception in the end zone. Read more about the 1988 college football season.
Orange: Notre Dame (11-1, #4) 21 Colorado (11-0, #1) 6
Sugar: Miami (10-1, #2) 33 Alabama (10-1, #7) 25
Rose: USC (8-2-1, #12) 17 Michigan (10-1, #3) 10
Fiesta: Florida State (9-2, #5) 41 Nebraska (10-1, #6) 17
Cotton: Tennessee (10-1, #8) 31 Arkansas (10-1, #10) 27
Summary: Colorado broke the Oklahoma-Nebraska lock on the Big Eight for the first time since 1976, but the Buffaloes’ Cinderella story came to an end when Notre Dame took over the second half of the Orange Bowl. That opened the door for Miami, playing at the same time in the Sugar, to get back to the top. The Hurricanes had beaten the Irish handily in November.
By season’s end no team was better than Florida State, who bounced back from an 0-2 start, beat Miami and then thumped Nebraska in the Fiesta. Bo Schembecler announced his retirement prior to the Rose Bowl, but Michigan couldn’t give him a going-away present. A debatable penalty call aided USC’s drive to break a 10-10 tie and win.
Orange: Colorado (10-1-1, #1) 10 Notre Dame (9-2, #5) 9
Cotton: Miami (9-2, #4) 46 Texas (10-1, #3) 3
Sugar: Tennessee (8-2-2, #10) 23 Virginia 22 (8-3, unranked)
Rose: Washington (9-2, #8) 46 Iowa (8-3, #17) 34
Fiesta: Louisville (9-1-1, #18) 34 Alabama (7-4, #25) 7
Summary: Three factors watered down the product in this year’s major bowls. One was that 1990 was an insanely chaotic year. Another was that Georgia Tech, ranked #2 and 10-0-1, was in the Citrus Bowl (today’s Capital One Bowl). And a number of top teams boycotted the Fiesta Bowl over the state of Arizona’s refusal to make Martin Luther King Day an official holiday.
Georgia Tech blew out Nebraska early in the day. Colorado needed a Notre Dame clipping penalty to nullify Raghid Ismail’s last-minute punt return for a touchdown. The Buffs and Yellow Jackets shared the national title. Miami got more attention for over 200 yards of penalties, much of it to do with taunting, then they did for their utter demolition of Texas.
Orange: Miami (11-0, #1) 22 Nebraska (9-1-1 #11) 0
Rose: Washington (11-0, #2) 34 Michigan (10-1, #4) 14
Sugar: Notre Dame (9-3, #18) 39 Florida (10-1, #3) 28
Fiesta: Penn State (10-2, #6) 42 Tennessee (9-2, #10) 17
Cotton: Florida State (10-2, #5) 10 Texas A&M (10-1, #9) 2
Summary: Miami’s big regular season win at Florida State had set up the Hurricanes to win yet another national championship. Nebraska was non-competitive in the Orange and no one expected any different. But Miami had to share—Washington won a share of the title with their dismantling of a Michigan team led by Heisman Trophy-winning Desmond Howard.
Florida State ended the season on a dour note and the Cotton Bowl was a truly awful football game. Penn State trailed Tennessee in the second half before a stunning flurry of points created a blowout. Notre Dame’s Sugar Bowl came under fire after the Irish had a down season and there were more worthy candidates. But they defeated the first Florida team to be officially acknowledged as SEC champs.
Sugar: Alabama (12-0, #2) 34 Miami (11-0, #1) 13
Orange: Florida State (10-1, #3) 27 Nebraska(9-2, #11) 14
Rose: Michigan (8-0-3, #7) 38 Washington (9-2, #9) 31
Fiesta: Syracuse (9-2, #6) 26 Colorado (9-1-1, #10) 22
Cotton: Notre Dame (9-1-1, #5) 28 Texas A&M (12-0, #4) 3
Summary: It’s hard to fathom today, but Alabama was a nice underdog story in the Sugar Bowl, given little chance against Miami. Instead, the Crimson Tide won their first title of the post-Bear Bryant era. Florida State again suffered an agonizing loss to Miami in the regular season and again won a major bowl game—now six in a row for FSU on the biggest stage, even if they couldn’t win a national championship.
Michigan concluded the strangest of undefeated seasons—one where they played Notre Dame, Illinois and Ohio State to ties—and got an exciting Rose Bowl win behind a big game from running back Tyrone Wheatley. Notre Dame, after falling from the title race early, concluded a strong finish with their Cotton Bowl win.
Orange: Florida State (11-1, #1) 18 Nebraska (11-0, #2) 16
Sugar: Florida (10-2, #8) 41 West Virginia (11-0, #3) 7
Rose: Wisconsin (9-1-1, #9) 21 UCLA (8-3, #14)16
Fiesta: Arizona (9-2, #16) 29 Miami (9-2, #10) 0
Cotton: Notre Dame (10-1, #4) 24 Texas A&M (10-1, #7) 21
Summary: It was the last time the major bowls were all played on New Year’s Day and it proved a fitting grand finale. Three games—Orange, Sugar and Cotton—were a national championship factor. There was also a nice Cinderella story—Wisconsin was making its modern-day debut on the New Year’s stage.
Notre Dame kept their title hopes alive when a big punt return set up the game-winning field goal. West Virginia had been disrespected by pollsters and then played down to expectations in getting crushed by Florida. The Orange Bowl was a crazy back-and-forth game, with a couple key penalties against Nebraska aiding FSU’s winning drive. The Seminoles got more help when voters ignored their head-to-head loss to the Irish and gift-wrapped Bobby Bowden his first national championship.
Orange: Nebraska (12-0, #1) 24 Miami (10-1, #3) 17
Sugar: Florida State(9-1-1, #7) 23 Florida (10-1-1, #5) 17
Rose: Penn State (11-0, #2) 38 Oregon (9-3, #12) 20
Fiesta: Colorado (10-1, #4) 41 Notre Dame (6-4-1, unranked) 24
Cotton: USC (7-3-1, #21) 55 Texas Tech (6-5, unranked) 14
Summary: The Orange Bowl went in prime-time on New Year’s Night, a Sunday, with the rest of the games on Monday. The Cornhuskers trailed 17-9 in the fourth quarter. But they took over the line of scrimmage, scored twice in the fourth quarter and won.
Penn State’s Rose Bowl win got off to a rousing start when Ki-Jana Carter went 80 yards to the house on the first play. But voters had settled on the Lions at #2. The Sugar Bowl was a rematch of a tie game between Florida and FSU and became known as “The Fifth Quarter In The French Quarter.” The decline of the SWC and the insistence on showcasing Notre Dame no matter what, hurt the quality of the other games.
Fiesta: Nebraska (11-0, #1) 62 Florida (12-0, #2) 24
Orange: Florida State (9-2, #8) 31 Notre Dame (9-2, #6) 26
Sugar: Virginia Tech (9-2, #13) 28 Texas (10-1-1, #9) 10
Rose: USC (8-2-1, #17) 41 Northwestern (10-1, #3) 32
Summary: The big feature of the new Bowl Alliance was a championship game scheduled after New Year’s Day. Nebraska and Florida were head-and-tails above everyone else and the Cornhuskers proved to be even better than that. They physically manhandled the Gators and were one of college football’s great all-time champions.
Northwestern’s rise from nowhere to the Big Ten title was the greatest Cinderella story in the history of college football, though it ended on a down note in Pasadena. Notre Dame and Florida State were each a little off where they wanted to be, but they played a good game the Seminoles won behind quarterback Danny Kanell. And the Sugar Bowl marked the arrival of Frank Beamer and Virginia Tech on the national stage.
Sugar: Florida (11-1, #3) 52 Florida State (11-0, #1) 24
Rose: Ohio State (10-1, #4) 20 Arizona State (11-0, #2) 17
Orange: Nebraska (10-2, #6) 41 Virginia Tech (10-1, #10) 21
Fiesta: Penn State (10-2, #7) 38 Texas (8-4, #20) 15
Summary: The Rose Bowl’s refusal to join the Alliance put a crimp in the championship-game plans, but Arizona State wasn’t able to close the deal in Pasadena. A late drive pulled out the win for Ohio State and opened the door for Florida. The Gators had lost the regular season finale to Florida State, but a series of upsets set up the rematch that was now a clear-cut title bout. With Danny Wuerffel at the controls, it was another blowout in the Alliance’s featured game.
Nebraska’s three-peat bid ended when they lost the championship game of the newly formed Big 12 Conference to Texas. The Cornhuskers soothed their wounds by pounding Virginia Tech. Penn State suspended their top back, Curtis Enos, but still made easy work of the Longhorns.
Rose: Michigan (11-0, #1) 21 Washington State (10-1, #8) 16
Orange: Nebraska (12-0, #2) 42 Tennessee (11-1, #3) 17
Sugar: Florida State (10-1, #4) 31 Ohio State (10-2, #9) 14
Fiesta: Kansas State (10-1, #10) 35 Syracuse (9-3, #14) 18
Summary: The Rose Bowl was more than a fly in the Alliance’s ointment this time. The Rose had the consensus #1 team in Michigan and the Heisman Trophy winner in defensive back/return man Charles Woodson. They knocked off a Washington State team that had a coach/QB combo of Mike Price and Ryan Leaf—each had some rough days ahead. Meanwhile, Tom Osborne’s well-timed retirement announcement built sentiment for the Cornhuskers, especially after they dismantled Peyton Manning and Tennessee. Voters split the championship between Michigan and Nebraska.
Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder made his first appearance on the national stage. And though Florida State had lost their national title chances with a late loss to Florida, they delivered an impressive beatdown of Ohio State.
BOWL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES IS FORMED
Big Ten, Pac-10 & Rose integrated into 1 vs 2 rotation system
Fiesta: Tennessee (12-0, #1) 23 Florida State (11-1, #2) 16
Orange: Florida (9-2, #7) 31 Syracuse (8-3, #18) 10
Sugar: Ohio State (10-1, #3) 24 Texas A&M (11-2, #8) 14
Rose: Wisconsin (10-1, #9) 38 UCLA (10-1, #6) 31
Summary: All the bowls were under the same roof and a 1 vs. 2 matchup guaranteed. Tennessee might have said goodbye to Manning, but they still ran the table and ultimately won a Fiesta Bowl title game that was less exciting than the score makes it look. Ohio State, who had spent much of the regular season looking dominant before a loss to Nick Saban’s Michigan State, took Sugar Bowl consolation.
Barry Alvarez brought Wisconsin to Pasadena for the second time and again defeated UCLA on their home field. The muscle of Ron Dayne’s running overcame Cade McNown’s high-powered Bruin attack. Syracuse’s defeat marked three straight blowout losses for the Big East and raised questions as to their ability to compete with Miami temporarily fallen from grace.
Sugar: Florida State (11-0, #1) 46 Virginia Tech (11-0, #2) 29
Orange: Michigan (9-2, #8) 35 Alabama (10-2, #5) 34 OT
Rose: Wisconsin (9-2, #4) 17 Stanford (8-3, #22) 9
Fiesta: Nebraska (11-1, #3) 31 Tennessee (9-2, #6) 21
Summary: Florida State’s unbeaten team was led by electrifying receiver Peter Warrick. Virginia Tech had a breakout freshman quarterback named Michael Vick. They staged a championship battle in the Sugar that was much closer than the score indicates—the Hokies led 29-28 after three quarters before Warrick unleashed in the fourth quarter to give Bowden his second national title.
Wisconsin became the first Big Ten team to win back-to-back Rose Bowls, with Dayne capping off his Heisman season in the win over Stanford. The best bowl game was between a pair of blueboods in the Orange. Alabama had a running back in Shaun Alexander who would one day be NFL MVP (2005). And Michigan had a quarterback who turned out okay in the pros—Tom Brady.
Orange: Oklahoma (12-0, #1) 13 Florida State (11-1, #2) 2
Sugar: Miami (10-1, #3) 37 Florida (10-2, #7) 20
Rose: Washington (10-1, #4) 34 Purdue (8-3, #14) 24
Fiesta: Oregon State (10-1, #5) 41 Notre Dame (10-2, #9) 9
Summary: Oklahoma and Florida State had the quarterbacks who finished 1-2 in the Heisman voting, with the Seminoles’ Chris Weinke and the Sooners’ Josh Heupel, but the Orange Bowl title game was all about defense. Florida State’s participation in the game was controversial, with Miami having beating the ‘Noles head-to-head and being ranked #2 by the AP. The Hurricane demolition of Florida further emboldened the dissenters.
No one talked about Washington, who had beaten Miami head-to-head and then won pretty comfortably over Drew Brees and Purdue. Notre Dame made its first major bowl appearance of the post-Lou Holtz era and faced a familiar foe—former Miami coach Dennis Erickson was now at Oregon State. The Beavers’ superiority was evident from the outset in the Fiesta Bowl.
Rose: Miami (11-0, #1) 37 Nebraska (11-1, #2) 14
Orange: Florida (9-2, #5) 56 Maryland (10-1, #6) 23
Sugar: LSU (9-3, #12) 47 Illinois (10-1, #7) 34
Fiesta: Oregon (10-1, #2) 38 Colorado (10-2, #3) 16
Summary: The Rose Bowl’s turn in the championship rotation meant this was the first time the Big Ten and Pac-10 wouldn’t be in Pasadena. Instead, one of the most loaded rosters of all-time, the 2001 Miami Hurricanes, were on hand and demolished Nebraska. Just like 2000, the results strengthened critics who had a problem with the Cornhuskers’ selection—Nebraska gave up 62 points in a season-ending loss to Colorado.
The Colorado-Oregon Fiesta Bowl was the real battle for #2, and the Ducks were an easy winner. The late surge of LSU to an SEC title marke the first major bowl bid for a Nick Saban-coached team. And Maryland’s terrific Cinderella story—ending Florida State’s nine-year hold on the ACC—crashed hard against Steve Spurrier’s Florida Gators.
Fiesta: Ohio State (13-0, #2) 31 Miami 24 (12-0, #1) 2 OT
Orange: USC (10-2, #5) 38 Iowa (11-1, #3) 17
Sugar: Georgia (12-1, #4) 26 Florida State (9-4, #16) 13
Rose: Oklahoma (11-2, #8) 34 Washington State (10-2, #7) 14
Summary: The regular season looked like a repeat coronation parade for Miami and they were heavily favored over an overachieving Ohio State team under second-year head coach Jim Tressel. In shades of 1986, the Hurricanes lost in the desert to the underdogs from the Rustbelt. The ending was fraught with controversy over a pass intereference call on Miami in overtime that extended the game when it appeared the ‘Canes had won.
Iowa shared the Big Ten crown with Ohio State, but the Hawkeyes were crushed by USC. The game marked the arrival of Pete Carroll’s Trojan program as the power that defined college football through 2008. The Rose and Sugar Bowl weren’t quite as badly mismatched, but Georgia and Oklahoma were both firmly in control in their wins.
Sugar: LSU (12-1, #1) 21 Oklahoma (12-1, #2) 14
Rose: USC (11-1, #1) 28 Michigan (10-2, #4) 14
Orange: Miami (10-2, #10) 16 Florida State (10-2, #9) 14
Fiesta: Ohio State (10-2, #7) 35 Kansas State (11-3, #8) 28
Summary: This was the most unsatisfying end that any college football season has ever seen. USC was ranked #1 by the AP, but third by the BCS. The AP chose to crown the Trojans as champs, creating a split. LSU’s win over Oklahoma was as unexciting as a one-score game for the national championship can be.
Even the Orange and Fiesta were letdowns. Fans had anticipated a rematch of Miami-Ohio State in the Orange Bowl. Instead, the Orange opted to put the Hurricanes in a regular season rematch with Florida State, meaning the two rivals would play three times in a calendar year. It was all very unsatsifying, but the first championships for Nick Saban at LSU and Pete Carroll at USC at least give 2003 some historical juice.
Orange: USC (12-0, #1) 55 Oklahoma (12-0, #2) 19
Sugar: Auburn (12-0, #3) 16 Virginia Tech (10-2, #9) 13
Rose: Texas (10-1, #6) 38 Michigan (9-2, #13) 37
Fiesta: Utah (11-0, #5) 35 Pitt (8-3, #19) 7
Summary: Three teams came out of major conferences with perfect records. Auburn had played the strongest schedule, while USC and Oklahoma met the proverbial “eye test”. The BCS left the Tigers by the wayside. Then the Trojans left the Sooners by the wayside as a hyped matchup quickly turned into a massacre. The combo of Matt Leinart at quarterback, Reggie Bush at running back and Carroll coaching was the toast of college football.
Texas and Michigan played one of the best bowl games seen in this entire era. Vince Young got the ball last and led a drive to a last-second field goal that won it for the Longhorns. The forgotten unbeaten was Utah No one forgot their coach though—Urban Meyer cashed this season into the Florida job.
Rose: Texas (12-0, #2) 41 USC (12-0, #1) 38
Orange: Penn State (10-1, #3) 26 Florida State (8-4, #22) 23 3 OT
Sugar: West Virginia (10-1, #11) 38 Georgia (10-2, #8) 35
Fiesta: Ohio State (9-2, #4) 34 Notre Dame (9-2, #5) 20
Summary: USC went wire-to-wire in the regular season as #1, was a solid favorite coming into the Rose Bowl and with a 38-27 lead in the fourth quarter, looked poised for third straight national title. Texas had been kept in the game by foolish USC mistakes and the Longhorns got a final chance thanks to awful clock management from Carroll. Young directed two touchdown drives and made himself a Texas legend.
It was a fantastic end to a very good major bowl season. West Virginia jumped out to a big lead and then held off Georgia. The Orange Bowl matched up Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden in a terrific game and Penn State completed a comeback year. And Ohio State’s offense was in command against Notre Dame.
BCS Separates Championship Game From Bowls
One Of The Major Bowl Sites Hosts Two Games
BCS Championship Game (Tempe): Florida (12-1, #2) 41 Ohio State (12-0, #1) 14
Orange: Louisville (11-1, #5) 24 Wake Forest (11-2, #15) 13
Sugar: LSU (10-2, #4) 41 Notre Dame (10-2, #11) 14
Rose: USC (10-2, #8) 32 Michigan (11-1, #3) 18
Fiesta: Boise State (12-0, #9) 43 Oklahoma (11-2, #7) 42 OT
Summary: The Big Ten was the story coming into the major bowls, but it ended up an SEC show. Ohio State had beaten Michigan in a battle of the unbeatens. But the Buyckeyes bid ended with a demolition at the hands of the faster Florida Gators, now under Urban Meyer. LSU crushed Notre Dame and finished #2. The Big Ten was further exposed when Michigan was easily outclassed by USC.
But perhaps the longest-lasting memory of this season is what happened in the Fiesta Bowl. Boise State won the hearts of the nation and reshaped how many of us view the so-called “mid-major conferences.” With a dazzling display of offense and trick plays, they upended Oklahoma in one of the best bowl games of all-time.
BCS National Championship Game (New Orleans): LSU(11-2, #2) 38 Ohio State (11-1, #1) 24
Orange: Kansas (11-1, #8) 24 Virginia Tech (11-2, #5) 21
Sugar: Georgia (10-2, #4) 41 Hawaii (12-0, #10) 10
Rose: USC (10-2, #6) 49 Illinois (9-3, #13) 17
Fiesta: West Virginia (10-2, #11) 48 Oklahoma (11-2, #3) 28
Summary: It was chaotic as any season since 1990 and LSU was able to get into the championship game as a two-loss team—one of them coming in the regular season finale. Once they got there though, the Tigers were decisively better than Ohio State, again outclassed by the SEC on the biggest stage.
It was more of the same in other bowls—USC could still look like the best team in the nation at any time and Oklahoma could come up short as a favorite in the Fiesta Bowl. No one could say the Orange Bowl was a familiar sight though—Kansas enjoyed its only noteworthy college football season of the modern era and capped it off with a win over Virginia Tech.
BCS National Championship Game (Miami): Florida (12-1, #1) 24 Oklahoma (12-1, #2) 14
Orange: Virginia Tech (9-4, #21) 20 Cincinnati (11-2, #12) 7
Sugar: Utah (12-0, #7) 31 Alabama (12-1, #4) 17
Rose: USC (11-1, #5) 38 Penn State (11-1, #6) 24
Fiesta: Texas (11-1, #3) 24 Ohio State (10-2, #10) 21
Summary: Florida’s Tim Tebow fulfilled a promise he’d delivered to Gator Nation after their lone regular season loss and brought them back to the title game. OU had Heisman Trophy-winning Sam Bradford at quarterback. It was a good game, but one the Gators were able to take control of.
Alabama had a breakout year under Nick Saban before losing to underappreciated Utah. Texas felt they had their own case to be in the championship game, with a head-to-head win over Oklahoma. The Longhorns settled for beating Ohio State on a late drive led by Colt McCoy. And it was more of the same from USC—stumble when they shouldn’t in the regular season, look like the best team in the country in the major bowls.
BCS National Championship Game (Pasadena): Alabama (13-0, #1) 37 Texas (13-0, #2) 21
Orange: Iowa (10-2, #10) 24 Georgia Tech (10-2, #9) 14
Sugar: Florida (12-1, #5) 51 Cincinnati (12-0, #4) 24
Rose: Ohio State (10-2, #8) 26 Oregon (10-2, #7) 17
Fiesta: Boise State (13-0, #6) 17 TCU (12-0, #3) 10
Summary: Alabama was out to finish the job they started the previous year. Texas was motivated by visions of returning to Pasadena four years after the legendary ‘05 team and winning another championship, this time with McCoy. But the Longhorn quarterback was injured in the first quarter, UT made some key mistakes and Alabama just ran the football too well with Heisman Trophy-winner Mark Ingram.
Fans of the midmajors cried foul when unbeatens Boise State and TCU (then in the Mountain West) were paired with each other rather than being able to prove their worth against the power conferences. Ohio State, after three years of humiliation in big non-conference games, got a cathartic Rose Bowl win, while Iowa won its first major bowl game of the modern era.
BCS National Championship Game (Tempe): Auburn (13-0, #1) 22 Oregon (12-0, #2) 19
Orange: Stanford (11-1, #5) 40 Virginia Tech (11-2, #12) 12
Sugar: Ohio State (11-1, #6) 31 Arkansas (10-2, #8) 26
Rose: TCU (12-0, #3) 21 Wisconsin (11-1, #4) 19
Fiesta: Oklahoma (11-2, #9) 48 UConn (8-4, #25) 20
Summary: Auburn had Cam Newton at the controls, while Oregon reached its high point under the coaching of Chip Kelly. A game that seemed oddly ho-hum for how close it was, stayed tied 19-19. Tiger back Michael Dyer ripped off a big run that set up the winning field goal on the final play.
Two big names burst on the scene at Stanford—head coach Jim Harbaugh and quarterback Andrew Luck and the Cardinal picked apart Virginia Tech in the second half. TCU again went undefeated and this time sealed the deal when they stopped a late Wisconsin two-point conversion. Ohio State’s victory came at a cost—when players traded their Sugar Bowl memorabilia for tattoes it got the program on probation and head coach Jim Tressel fired.
BCS National Championship Game (New Orleans): Alabama (11-1, #2) 21 LSU (13-0, #1) 0
Orange: West Virginia (9-3, #23) 70 Clemson (10-3, #14) 33
Sugar: Michigan (10-2, #13) 23 Virginia Tech (11-2, #17) 20 OT
Rose: Oregon (11-2, #6) 45 Wisconsin (11-2, #9) 38
Fiesta: Oklahoma State (11-1, #3) 41 Stanford (11-1, #4) 38 OT
Summary: LSU had won at Alabama during the regular season, so forcing a rematch hardly seemed fair. LSU didn’t help their case when their offense did nothing to move the ball and Alabama won an anti-climatic, boring football game.
There were no such problems in the other games. Oklahoma State, who should have been playing LSU, beat Luck and Stanford. Oregon’s Rose Bowl win came over Russell Wilson’s Wisconsin squad and was only decided by a late Badger fumble. A controversial catch/no-catch call in overtime of the Sugar Bowl helped pushed Michigan past Virginia Tech, in what proved to be the high point of the Brady Hoke era. And Clemson was on the national stage for the first time in the Dabo Swinney era..though the defense did not exactly show up in Miami.
BCS National Championship Game (Miami): Alabama (12-1, #2) 42 Notre Dame (12-0, #1) 14
Orange: Florida State (11-2, #13) 31 Northern Illinois (12-1, #16) 10
Sugar: Louisville (10-2, #22) 33 Florida (11-1, #4) 23
Rose: Stanford (11-2, #8) 20 Wisconsin (8-5, unranked) 14
Fiesta: Oregon (11-1, #5) 35 Kansas State (11-1, #7) 17
Summary: Alabama’s SEC Championship Game win over Georgia, sealed with a late goal-line stop, was realistically the national championship. The title game itself saw ‘Bama blowing huge holes in the Irish defensive line, building a 28-0 lead in the first half and coasting home.
Oregon and Kansas State had each lost November games to cost themselves a shot at Notre Dame, and the Ducks played their final game under Kelly in an easy win. Teddy Bridgewater was at the helm for Louisville, as they picked apart Florida with surprising ease. Northern Illinois could not follow in the footsteps of Boise State or Utah as a midmajor. The Rose Bowl took a hit when two probations in the Big Ten created a situation for five-loss Wisconsin to get the bid.
BCS National Championship Game (Pasadena): Florida State (13-0, #1) 34 Auburn (12-1, #2) 31
Orange: Clemson (10-2, #2) 40 Ohio State (12-1, #7)35
Sugar: Oklahoma (10-2, #11) 45 Alabama (11-1, #3) 31
Rose: Michigan State (12-1, #4) 24 Stanford (11-2, #5) 20
Fiesta: Central Florida (11-1, #15) 52 Baylor (11-1, #6) 42
Summary: Florida State rode a freshman quarteback in Jameis Winston, while Auburn had turned around from a 2-10 season in 2012 under first-year coach Gus Malzahn. The Seminoles dug themselves a 21-3 hole, but a big comeback was capped by a frenzied final five minutes in which each team appeared to seal a victory. Winston and FSU had the ball last.
Alabama and Ohio State had both been unbeaten late into the season before losses ended their title hopes. Saban and Urban Meyer, now in Columbus, ended their season on dour notes. Clemson got its biggest win to date under Swinney, while Michigan State won an old-fashioned, physical Rose Bowl battle with Stanford. Central Florida was led by Blake Bortles in winning a scoring race with Baylor.
THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF ERA BEGINS
Peach Bowl included in major bowl rotation; Cotton Bowl returns
Top 4 teams placed in two bowls designated as semi-final sites
Championship game follows approximately a week and a half later
Host of championship game does not have to be a bowl site
Sugar (CFP Semi-Final): Ohio State (12-1, #4) 42 Alabama (12-1, #1) 35
Rose (CFP Semi-Final): Oregon (12-1, #2) 59 Florida State (13-0, #3) 20
Orange: Georgia Tech (10-3, #10) 49 Mississippi State (10-2, #8) 34
Fiesta: Boise State (11-2, #21) 38 Arizona (10-3, #12) 30
Cotton: Michigan State (10-2, #7) 42 Baylor (11-1, #4) 41
Peach: TCU (11-1, #6) 42 Ole Miss (10-3, #9) 3
CFP National Championship Game (Arlington): Ohio State 42 Oregon 20
Summary: The era of the Playoff began with Oregon’s complete dominance of Florida State in the Rose Bowl and sending Winston on to the NFL. Alabama started off the Sugar looking like they might do the same to Ohio State, but the Crimson Tide defense crumbled. Injuries had forced the Buckeyes to use third-string quarterback Cardale Jones, but he smoothly stepped into an offense keyed by Ezekiel Elliot’s running. The same formula led the Buckeyes past the Ducks.
TCU and Baylor were each in the Playoff mix to the very end. The Horned Frogs made their case. The Bears did for three quarters before their defense crumbled against the Spartans. Mississippi State’s late-season fade ended with a disappointing Orange Bowl showing, while Boise kept disproving their power-conference doubters.
Orange (CFP Semi-Final): Clemson (13-0, #1) 37 Oklahoma (11-1, #4) 17
Cotton (CFB Semi-Final): Alabama (12-1, #2) 38 Michigan State (12-1, #3) 0
Sugar: Ole Miss (9-3, #16) 48 Oklahoma State (10-2, #13) 20
Rose: Stanford (11-2, #5) 45 Iowa (12-1, #6) 16
Fiesta: Ohio State (11-1, #7) 44 Notre Dame (10-2, #8) 28
Peach: Houston (12-1, #14) 38 Florida State (10-2, #9) 24
CFP National Championship Game (Glendale): Alabama 45 Clemson 40
Summary: The Playoff bowl games were competitive for a half. Clemson trailed 17-16 at intermission, before taking over and pounding OU. Michigan State’s defense was able to hang in for nearly two quarters and was driving, down 10-0. But they turned the ball over and the second half was a Crimson Tide avalanche. The championship game was as back-and-forth as the score indicates, with a ‘Bama kickoff return for a TD being the most significant blow.
The other four bow games failed to provide any excitement, although Houston’s win was a nice story. Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey put on a show in Pasadena, while Ohio State honored the ten-year anniversary of their 2005 Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame, by doing the same is just as dominating a fashion.
Peach (CFB Semi-Final): Alabama (13-0, #1) 24 Washington (12-1, #4) 7
Fiesta (CFB Semi-Final): Clemson (12-1, #2) 31 Ohio State (11-1, #3) 0
Orange: Florida State (9-3, #10) 33 Michigan (10-2, #6) 32
Sugar: Oklahoma (10-2, #7) 35 Auburn (8-4, #17) 19
Rose: USC (9-3, #9) 52 Penn State (11-2, #5) 49
Cotton: Wisconsin (10-2, #8) 24 Western Michigan (13-0, #12) 16
CFP National Championship Game (Tampa): Clemson 35 Alabama 31
Summary: The Playoff games were never competitive. The title game made up for it by joining the list of truly outstanding championship events. Clemson’s DeShaun Watson overcame early mistakes to lead the Tigers from ten points down. Alabama answered with a late TD that take a 31-28 lead. Watson rallied Clemson one more time, with a short touchdown pass in the closing seconds.
Penn State had won the Big Ten and beaten Ohio State, but was left out of the Playoff. USC, after a slow start, had surged down the stretch. The Lions and Trojans hooked up to play a riveting Rose Bowl. Michigan was hampered by the loss of two key starters—tight end Jake Butt to injury and safety Jabrill Peppers simply sat out—in their loss to Florida State.
Rose (CFB Semi-Final): Georgia (12-1, #3) 54 Oklahoma (12-1, #2) 48 2 OT
Sugar (CFB Semi-Final): Alabama (11-1, #4) 24 Clemson (12-1, #1) 6
Orange: Wisconsin (12-1, #6) 34 Miami (10-2, #11) 24
Fiesta: Penn State (10-2, #9) 35 Washington (10-2, #6) 28
Cotton: Ohio State (11-2, #5) 24 USC (11-2, #8) 7
Peach: Central Florida (12-0, #10) 34 Auburn (10-3, #7) 27
CFP National Championship Game (Atlanta): Alabama 26 Georgia 23 OT
Summary: Alabama-Clemson III was a dud, as the Tide defense overwhelmed a Tiger offense that no longer had Watson. Georgia rallied from 17 down to win an epic Rose Bowl against Oklahoma and Heisman-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield. The all-SEC title game was another epic. The Bulldogs were in command, when Saban put in second-string freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to start the championship rally.
The Big Ten dominated the New Year’s Six undercard. The Fiesta Bowl win marked Penn State’s first major bowl victory of the post-Joe Paterno era, Wisconsin won its fifth major bowl of the modern era and Ohio State made its case for why they should have been in the Playoff. In beating Auburn, Central Florida took down the team that beat both Alabama and Georgia in November.
Cotton (CFP Semi-Final): Clemson (13-0, #2) 30 Notre Dame (12-0, #3) 3
Orange (CFP Semi-Final) Alabama (13-0, #1) 45 Oklahoma (12-1, #4) 34
Rose: Ohio State (12-1, #6) 28 Washington (10-3, #9) 23
Sugar: Texas (9-4, #15) 28 Georgia (11-2, #5) 21
Peach: Florida (9-3, #10) 41 Michigan (10-2, #7) 15
Fiesta: LSU (9-3, #12) 40 Central Florida (12-0, #8) 32
CFP National Championship: Clemson 44 Alabama 16
Summary: Clemson and Alabama were on a collision course all year long. They were clearly the two best teams nationally. Their spots in the Playoff were never in doubt. Their victories in the bowl games were never in doubt. And a third ‘Bama title in four years was also supposed to be never in doubt. But the Tigers flipped the script and played flawlessly. They started it with a Pick-6 . True freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence was flawless and the Tiger D made multiple fourth-down stops in the second half.
Florida’s Peach Bowl rout was a statement win for the Gators, and a bitter pill for Michigan, who’d harbored playoff aspirations deep into November. Ohio State sent Urban Meyer into retirement with a win that was easier than the score indicates.
Peach (CFP Semi-Final): LSU (13-0, #1) 63 Oklahoma (12-1, #4) 28
Fiesta (CFP Semi-Final) Clemson (13-0, #3) 29 Ohio State (13-0, #2) 23
Orange: Florida (10-2, #6) 36 Virginia (9-4, unranked) 28
Rose: Oregon (11-2, #7) 28 Wisconsin (10-3, #11) 27
Sugar: Georgia (11-2, #5) 26 Baylor (11-2, #8) 14
Cotton: Penn State (11-2, #13) 53 Memphis (12-1, #15) 39
CFP National Championship: LSU 42 Clemson 25
Summary: The transformation of LSU quarterback Joe Burrow from erratic to transcendent defined the season, as a team that had been offensively challenged suddenly couldn’t be stopped. LSU won decisively at Alabama, the key game of the regular season. They, along with Ohio State and Clemson cruised into the Playoff with little difficulty. The only drama in the Playoff was Clemson’s dramatic win over Ohio State, a game marked by officiating controversy and Buckeye mistakes. But neither Clemson nor Oklahoma could stop Burrow.
Oregon and Wisconsin played a thrilling Rose Bowl with a key Badger turnover late being the difference in the best of the New Year’s Six games. Georgia and Florida upheld SEC honor while Penn State won in a shootout over pesky Memphis.