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Published: Jan. 8, 2015 at 11:14 a.m.

Top 10 most memorable college football 'title games'

The first national championship game of the playoff era looks as if it could be quite memorable, what with two high-powered offenses getting together. In addition, it features one of the most tradition-laden programs (Ohio State) against the best program never to have won a national title (Oregon).

Will the matchup prove as memorable on the field as it appears on paper? Everyone hopes so. Will it be one of the most memorable "title games" in history? Getting into our top 10 will be difficult.

Here's our list of the 10 most memorable "title games" (i.e., postseason games involving at least one team with a shot at the national title) in history.

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11 Photos Total

  • <b>The result:</b> USC beats Wisconsin, 42-37, for the 1962 national title<br>
<b>The skinny:</b> We need to mention the 1963 Rose Bowl here, even though it technically wasn't a title game. That's because back then the final polls came out <i>before</i> the bowls. There was a poll after the bowls in 1965, then not regularly until the 1968 season, when a post-bowls poll became annual. The 1963 Rose Bowl featured No. 1 USC vs. No. 2 Wisconsin, and it was the first 1-2 meeting in a bowl game in history. USC led, 42-14, early in the fourth quarter before Badgers QB Ron VanderKelen caught fire and led a furious rally that fell just short, with <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2v-UJ3FMBs" target="new">the Trojans prevailing, 42-37</a>. 11

    Associated Press

    (Honorable mention) 1963 Rose Bowl: USC vs. Wisconsin

    The result: USC beats Wisconsin, 42-37, for the 1962 national title
    The skinny: We need to mention the 1963 Rose Bowl here, even though it technically wasn't a title game. That's because back then the final polls came out before the bowls. There was a poll after the bowls in 1965, then not regularly until the 1968 season, when a post-bowls poll became annual. The 1963 Rose Bowl featured No. 1 USC vs. No. 2 Wisconsin, and it was the first 1-2 meeting in a bowl game in history. USC led, 42-14, early in the fourth quarter before Badgers QB Ron VanderKelen caught fire and led a furious rally that fell just short, with the Trojans prevailing, 42-37.

  • <b>The result:</b> Florida State beats Nebraska, 18-16, for the 1993 national title<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Both coaches -- FSU's Bobby Bowden and Nebraska's Tom Osborne -- had a ton of success, but neither had won a national title going into this No. 1 (FSU was No. 1 in the AP poll, Nebraska was atop the coaches' poll) vs. No. 2 (Nebraska was No. 2 in AP, FSU No. 2 in the coaches' poll) showdown. Bowden got his first ring, thanks to a field goal by Scott Bentley with 21 seconds left. Nebraska's Byron Bennett had hit a field goal with 1:16 left for a 16-15 lead. However, Nebraska's ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, plus the Cornhuskers later were penalized for a late hit after a 20-yard pass play, which set up Bentley's field goal. Still, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vk8FB8bD9Jo" target="new">the game wasn't decided until the last play</a>. The Huskers quickly moved downfield after Bentley's kick, but Bennett's 45-yard attempt on the final play went wide left. 10

    Hans Deryk/Associated Press

    10. 1994 Orange Bowl: Florida State vs. Nebraska

    The result: Florida State beats Nebraska, 18-16, for the 1993 national title
    The skinny: Both coaches -- FSU's Bobby Bowden and Nebraska's Tom Osborne -- had a ton of success, but neither had won a national title going into this No. 1 (FSU was No. 1 in the AP poll, Nebraska was atop the coaches' poll) vs. No. 2 (Nebraska was No. 2 in AP, FSU No. 2 in the coaches' poll) showdown. Bowden got his first ring, thanks to a field goal by Scott Bentley with 21 seconds left. Nebraska's Byron Bennett had hit a field goal with 1:16 left for a 16-15 lead. However, Nebraska's ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, plus the Cornhuskers later were penalized for a late hit after a 20-yard pass play, which set up Bentley's field goal. Still, the game wasn't decided until the last play. The Huskers quickly moved downfield after Bentley's kick, but Bennett's 45-yard attempt on the final play went wide left.

  • <b>The result:</b> Penn State beats Georgia, 27-23, for the 1982 national title <br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno finally got his first national title. The second-ranked Nittany Lions took a 27-17 lead early in the fourth quarter, then held on to upset the top-ranked Bulldogs, who were going for their second title in three seasons. Heisman winner Herschel Walker ran for 103 yards for Georgia in his final college game. Penn State's Curt Warner ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns. 9

    Associated Press

    9. 1983 Sugar Bowl: Georgia vs. Penn State

    The result: Penn State beats Georgia, 27-23, for the 1982 national title
    The skinny: Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno finally got his first national title. The second-ranked Nittany Lions took a 27-17 lead early in the fourth quarter, then held on to upset the top-ranked Bulldogs, who were going for their second title in three seasons. Heisman winner Herschel Walker ran for 103 yards for Georgia in his final college game. Penn State's Curt Warner ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns.

  • <b>The result:</b> USC beats Ohio State, 17-16, giving Alabama the 1979 national title<br />
<b>The skinny:</b> The Buckeyes were unbeaten and ranked No. 1, but they couldn't handle USC TB Charles White, who had won the Heisman a few weeks before for the third-ranked Trojans. White had 39 carries for 247 yards, including 70 of the 83 yards on the Trojans' winning drive. He capped the drive with a 1-yard plunge for the 17-16 win. USC finished with 519 yards of offense. No. 2 Alabama, which was unbeaten, beat No. 6 Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl and was atop both polls in the post-bowl voting. USC, which was 11-0-1, finished second. 8

    Associated Press

    8. 1980 Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. USC

    The result: USC beats Ohio State, 17-16, giving Alabama the 1979 national title
    The skinny: The Buckeyes were unbeaten and ranked No. 1, but they couldn't handle USC TB Charles White, who had won the Heisman a few weeks before for the third-ranked Trojans. White had 39 carries for 247 yards, including 70 of the 83 yards on the Trojans' winning drive. He capped the drive with a 1-yard plunge for the 17-16 win. USC finished with 519 yards of offense. No. 2 Alabama, which was unbeaten, beat No. 6 Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl and was atop both polls in the post-bowl voting. USC, which was 11-0-1, finished second.

  • <b>The result:</b> Alabama beats Penn State, 14-7, for a share of the 1978 national title <br />
<b>The skinny:</b> One of the most famous goal-line stands in football history enabled Bear Bryant and the second-ranked Tide to topple top-ranked Penn State, which had won 19 in a row. Alabama's high-powered wishbone offense had produced five consecutive 30-point games heading into the Sugar Bowl. While Penn State's touted defense held the Tide to 14 points, it wasn't enough. That's because the Tide's defense kept the Nittany Lions out of the end zone after Penn State had first-and-goal from the 8 with about six minutes left; the final two plays of the possession officially came from Alabama's 1 (more like the 1-foot-line, actually), but still Penn State couldn't score. Alabama LB Barry Krauss stuffed Penn State RB Mike Guman in mid-air on the fourth-down play. Alabama won The Associated Press national title, and USC finished atop the final UPI poll. 7

    Associated Press

    7. 1979 Sugar Bowl: Penn State vs. Alabama

    The result: Alabama beats Penn State, 14-7, for a share of the 1978 national title
    The skinny: One of the most famous goal-line stands in football history enabled Bear Bryant and the second-ranked Tide to topple top-ranked Penn State, which had won 19 in a row. Alabama's high-powered wishbone offense had produced five consecutive 30-point games heading into the Sugar Bowl. While Penn State's touted defense held the Tide to 14 points, it wasn't enough. That's because the Tide's defense kept the Nittany Lions out of the end zone after Penn State had first-and-goal from the 8 with about six minutes left; the final two plays of the possession officially came from Alabama's 1 (more like the 1-foot-line, actually), but still Penn State couldn't score. Alabama LB Barry Krauss stuffed Penn State RB Mike Guman in mid-air on the fourth-down play. Alabama won The Associated Press national title, and USC finished atop the final UPI poll.

  • <b>The result:</b> Florida State beats Auburn, 34-31, for the 2013 national title <br />
<b>The skinny:</b> The final championship game of the BCS era was one of the three best in that span. The fourth quarter was especially exhilarating and featured 31 points, including three TDs in the final 4:31. After Auburn kicked a field goal for a 24-20 lead with 4:42 left, FSU answered with a 100-yard kickoff return by Kermit Whitfield for a 27-24 lead. Auburn then answered back, driving 75 yards in eight plays and taking a 31-27 lead on a 37-yard run by Tre Mason with 1:19 left. But Heisman winner Jameis Winston then coolly guided the Seminoles on a seven-play, 80-yard drive that ended with him throwing a 2-yard TD pass to Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds left. Winston was 6-of-7 on the drive. 6

    Ben Liebenberg/NFL

    6. 2014 BCS National Championship Game: FSU vs. Auburn

    The result: Florida State beats Auburn, 34-31, for the 2013 national title
    The skinny: The final championship game of the BCS era was one of the three best in that span. The fourth quarter was especially exhilarating and featured 31 points, including three TDs in the final 4:31. After Auburn kicked a field goal for a 24-20 lead with 4:42 left, FSU answered with a 100-yard kickoff return by Kermit Whitfield for a 27-24 lead. Auburn then answered back, driving 75 yards in eight plays and taking a 31-27 lead on a 37-yard run by Tre Mason with 1:19 left. But Heisman winner Jameis Winston then coolly guided the Seminoles on a seven-play, 80-yard drive that ended with him throwing a 2-yard TD pass to Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds left. Winston was 6-of-7 on the drive.

  • <b>The result:</b> Penn State beats Miami, 14-10, for the 1986 national title <br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Most folks remember this as the "fatigues game." Top-ranked Miami was supposed to roll past the second-ranked Nittany Lions. The Hurricanes showed up at a pregame steak cookout wearing battle fatigues, further cementing their rebel image. They lost some of that swagger during the game, committing <i>seven</i> turnovers and falling 14-10 despite outgaining Penn State 445-162. Vinny Testaverde threw five interceptions, with the last one to LB Pete Giftopoulos in the Penn State end zone with 18 seconds left. 5

    Associated Press

    5. 1987 Fiesta Bowl: Miami vs. Penn State

    The result: Penn State beats Miami, 14-10, for the 1986 national title
    The skinny: Most folks remember this as the "fatigues game." Top-ranked Miami was supposed to roll past the second-ranked Nittany Lions. The Hurricanes showed up at a pregame steak cookout wearing battle fatigues, further cementing their rebel image. They lost some of that swagger during the game, committing seven turnovers and falling 14-10 despite outgaining Penn State 445-162. Vinny Testaverde threw five interceptions, with the last one to LB Pete Giftopoulos in the Penn State end zone with 18 seconds left.

  • <b>The result:</b> Ohio State beats Miami, 31-24, in overtime for the 2002 national title <br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Top-ranked -- and seemingly unbeatable -- Miami kicked a field goal at the end of regulation to send the game with the second-ranked Buckeyes into overtime tied at 17. Miami, which was going for its second consecutive title, scored on its first possession of OT, and on an Ohio State fourth down, Hurricanes CB Glenn Sharpe knocked away a pass in the end zone, and Miami started celebrating. But wait: There was a late flag, Sharpe was called for interference, and Ohio State had new life. The Buckeyes scored, then scored another touchdown (by freshman phenom Maurice Clarett) on the first possession of the second OT. Miami had a first-and-goal from the 1 in the second OT but couldn't punch it in, and the Buckeyes stunningly won the national title. 4

    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    4. 2003 Fiesta Bowl: Miami vs. Ohio State

    The result: Ohio State beats Miami, 31-24, in overtime for the 2002 national title
    The skinny: Top-ranked -- and seemingly unbeatable -- Miami kicked a field goal at the end of regulation to send the game with the second-ranked Buckeyes into overtime tied at 17. Miami, which was going for its second consecutive title, scored on its first possession of OT, and on an Ohio State fourth down, Hurricanes CB Glenn Sharpe knocked away a pass in the end zone, and Miami started celebrating. But wait: There was a late flag, Sharpe was called for interference, and Ohio State had new life. The Buckeyes scored, then scored another touchdown (by freshman phenom Maurice Clarett) on the first possession of the second OT. Miami had a first-and-goal from the 1 in the second OT but couldn't punch it in, and the Buckeyes stunningly won the national title.

  • <b>The result:</b> Notre Dame beats Alabama, 24-23, for the 1973 national title <br />
<b>The skinny:</b> Both had perfect records, and the Tide came in No. 1 and the Irish No. 3 (No. 2 Oklahoma was on probation); this was the first meeting in history between the teams, and it took place on New Year's Eve. Alabama scored a TD to take a 23-21 lead early in the fourth quarter but missed the extra point. Notre Dame's Bob Thomas kicked a 19-yard field goal with 10:34 left to give the Irish a 24-23 lead. Late in the game, Alabama downed a punt at Notre Dame's 1. On third-and-8 from the 3 and with little more than two minutes left, Irish backup TE Robin Weber basically was left uncovered because of a blown coverage and <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDyiutPA92c" target="new">hauled in a 37-yard reception</a> from Tom Clements to seal the win and the No. 1 ranking. 3

    Associated Press

    3. 1973 Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Notre Dame

    The result: Notre Dame beats Alabama, 24-23, for the 1973 national title
    The skinny: Both had perfect records, and the Tide came in No. 1 and the Irish No. 3 (No. 2 Oklahoma was on probation); this was the first meeting in history between the teams, and it took place on New Year's Eve. Alabama scored a TD to take a 23-21 lead early in the fourth quarter but missed the extra point. Notre Dame's Bob Thomas kicked a 19-yard field goal with 10:34 left to give the Irish a 24-23 lead. Late in the game, Alabama downed a punt at Notre Dame's 1. On third-and-8 from the 3 and with little more than two minutes left, Irish backup TE Robin Weber basically was left uncovered because of a blown coverage and hauled in a 37-yard reception from Tom Clements to seal the win and the No. 1 ranking.

  • <b>The result:</b> Miami beats Nebraska, 31-30, for the 1983 national title <br />
<b>The skinny:</b> The whole "The U" thing got its start in this epic. Top-ranked Nebraska trailed fourth-ranked Miami, 31-24, with under a minute left. Facing a fourth-and-8 from Miami's 29, Nebraska ran an option (seriously, on fourth-and-8, <i>Nebraska ran the option</i>), and TB Jeff Smith scored after taking a pitch from QB Turner Gill. Cornhuskers coach Tom Osborne disdained an extra point that probably would've won the national title and instead went for two. Gill's conversion pass to Smith was knocked down by Miami SS Ken Calhoun <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkZqYVdcXx8" target="new">to seal the Hurricanes' victory</a>. No. 2 Texas lost 10-9 to Georgia in the Cotton Bowl, No. 3 Auburn edged Michigan 9-7 in the Sugar Bowl, and Miami was voted No. 1. 2

    John Raoux/Associated Press

    2. 1984 Orange Bowl: Nebraska vs. Miami

    The result: Miami beats Nebraska, 31-30, for the 1983 national title
    The skinny: The whole "The U" thing got its start in this epic. Top-ranked Nebraska trailed fourth-ranked Miami, 31-24, with under a minute left. Facing a fourth-and-8 from Miami's 29, Nebraska ran an option (seriously, on fourth-and-8, Nebraska ran the option), and TB Jeff Smith scored after taking a pitch from QB Turner Gill. Cornhuskers coach Tom Osborne disdained an extra point that probably would've won the national title and instead went for two. Gill's conversion pass to Smith was knocked down by Miami SS Ken Calhoun to seal the Hurricanes' victory. No. 2 Texas lost 10-9 to Georgia in the Cotton Bowl, No. 3 Auburn edged Michigan 9-7 in the Sugar Bowl, and Miami was voted No. 1.

  • <b>The result:</b> Texas beats USC, 41-38, for the 2005 national title <br />
<b>The skinny:</b> The greatest college football game ever? A strong case can be made that it was. Texas QB Vince Young played one of the greatest individual games in college history, given the stakes. Second-ranked <a href="/videos/nfl-videos/0ap3000000453018/A-Football-Life-Leading-an-upset" target="new">Texas upset the top-ranked Trojans, 41-38</a>, and the game featured 32 fourth-quarter points and 53 second-half points. Young accounted for 467 yards of offense and three TDs. His last score came on an 8-yard, fourth-down run with 19 seconds left. USC's LenDale White -- who rushed for 124 yards and three TDs -- had failed on a fourth-and-2 run from Texas' 44 with 2:09 left to set up the Longhorns' final drive. <a href="/videos/nfl-videos/0ap3000000453015/A-Football-Life-King" target="_blank">USC was going for a share of its third consecutive title</a> and fell despite rolling up 574 yards of offense. 1

    Paul Sakuma/Associated Press

    1. 2006 Rose Bowl: USC vs. Texas

    The result: Texas beats USC, 41-38, for the 2005 national title
    The skinny: The greatest college football game ever? A strong case can be made that it was. Texas QB Vince Young played one of the greatest individual games in college history, given the stakes. Second-ranked Texas upset the top-ranked Trojans, 41-38, and the game featured 32 fourth-quarter points and 53 second-half points. Young accounted for 467 yards of offense and three TDs. His last score came on an 8-yard, fourth-down run with 19 seconds left. USC's LenDale White -- who rushed for 124 yards and three TDs -- had failed on a fourth-and-2 run from Texas' 44 with 2:09 left to set up the Longhorns' final drive. USC was going for a share of its third consecutive title and fell despite rolling up 574 yards of offense.