1985 College Football Season: The Road To The Major Bowls

The 1985 college football season marked the first of a two-year stretch where Oklahoma, Penn State and Miami all stayed at the top of the polls. This time around, the Sooners won the national championship, beating the undefeated Nittany Lions in the Orange Bowl. The Hurricanes beat Oklahoma in the regular season and had a shot at the title themselves, before a Sugar Bowl loss to Tennessee took them out.

Beyond the Big Three, college football fans saw the following in 1985…

*Iowa and Michigan played one of the memorable games of the regular season, ranked 1-2 in the polls when they met in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes won that game and ultimately went to the Rose Bowl. The Wolverines had a big year themselves and made the Fiesta Bowl.

*Nebraska chased a national championship through most of the regular season before losing to Oklahoma and settling for the Fiesta Bowl spot opposite Michigan.

*It was a threshold year for the programs in Tennessee and Texas A&M, each ran by men who had come in from Pitt. Johnny Majors reached the Sugar Bowl for the first time since coming to Knoxville in 1977, fresh off a national title in Pittsburgh. Jackie Sherrill took A&M to the Cotton Bowl for the first time, after coaching Dan Marino in the Steel City.

*UCLA was at the end of a four-year run where they reached a major bowl game every year, including three Rose Bowls. The Bruins started the season by knocking off defending national champion BYU and ended it against Iowa in Pasadena.

*The Heisman Trophy had one of its closest votes in history. Auburn running back Bo Jackson nipped out Iowa quarterback Chuck Long for the award. It was the bright spot in a year where Auburn otherwise failed to meet expectations. They still got a Cotton Bowl bid to play Texas A&M in spite of an 8-3 record.

This blog compilation, available for Amazon, is the season-long journey of all ten teams that played in the big bowl games of January 1. We look at their key players and season-defining moments. They are separated into five articles–one for each major bowl–that are published individually on TheSportsNotebook.com, then brought together and edited for the compilation. Collectively, they serve to tell the story of the 1985 college football season through the eyes of its best teams.