The biggest development in the 1980 college football season was the arrival of a freshman running back that would define the sport for the next three years. Herschel Walker made Georgia must-see television at the outset of the decade and in his first year he led the Bulldogs to an undefeated season and a national championship.
Two more traditional powers played important parts in the drama of the season. Georgia had to displace two-time defending national champion Alabama in the SEC. The Crimson Tide slipped a bit this year, but were still good enough to reach the Cotton Bowl and get what would prove to be the final major bowl victory for the great Bear Bryant.
Notre Dame was looking to return to the top and to do it for outgoing coach Dan Devine. The Irish made a serious run at #1, highlighted by a dramatic head-to-head win over Alabama. A late season loss ultimately ended those dreams, but Notre Dame got a crack at Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
Another pair of traditional powers didn’t make a serious run at a national title, but they impacted the season and won major bowl games. Oklahoma survived a challenge from Nebraska and won its third straight Big Eight title, earning the automatic ticket to the Orange Bowl. Michigan won the Big Ten, which by itself wasn’t unusual. But they also won the Rose Bowl and that was outside the norm—in fact, for current head coach Bo Schembecler it was unprecedented.
Outside, the world of the “Bluebloods”, Florida State showed that their run to the Orange Bowl in 1979 was no fluke, by doing it again this year and this time matching up much better with Oklahoma. And Pitt, with a who’s who of future NFL talent up and down its lineup, made a run at the top and settled for the #2 spot in the final polls.
This articles below take you on a season-long run through the seven most consequential teams in college football’s 1980 season: