Auburn vs. Oregon
BCS National Championship, 2011
Entering the 2011 championship game, the Ducks and Tigers were painted as stylistic opposites. Prolific offenses powered both sides, but Oregon relied on an up-tempo, agile attack as opposed to Auburn’s brute force, powered by Heisman winner Cam Newton.
Despite the offensive pedigrees of the programs, both sides struggled with punching the ball into the end zone all night, racking up yardage totals in the process. The game came down to the wire ending with an Auburn field goal in the final moments, set up by one of the more bizarre plays in championship game history. Tigers running back Michael Dyer was on his way to the ground around midfield before bouncing off Ducks defender Eddie Pleasant, and an innocuous five-yard gain turned into a 37-yard rush for Auburn, pushing them well into enemy territory and ultimately to victory
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Texas vs. USC
Rose Bowl, 2006
The 2006 edition of the Rose Bowl saw a clash of titans that has not been equaled since, and may not have a parallel in college history. Southern Cal rode a ridiculous 34-game winning streak into the National Championship game, becoming the first school to start two past winners of the Heisman trophy in the same backfield (Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush). Texas was no slouch – winners of 19 straight themselves, the Longhorns entered the contest as defending Rose Bowl champions.
For the second year in a row, Texas quarterback Vince Young delivered an absolute classic performance in “The Grandaddy of Them All,” racking up a record 467 total yards and three touchdowns, including the winning score with less than 20 seconds remaining. Avenging his loss to Bush in the Heisman voting and winning in dramatic fashion cemented Young’s status as a college legend. Many entered the game ready to crown USC as the greatest college team of all time, but it was the Longhorns who had the last laugh.
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Much to the delight of college football fans, the BCS system is in the rearview mirror with a tantalizing, eventually growing playoff system taking its place. The seeding process is still going to be divisive for fans, because there’s no way to include everyone in a playoff that is inherently exclusive, but it’s a better option to determine who the best team is in a given season.
Before the beauty that is today’s playoff system, college football’s seasonal king was often decided in games that didn’t pit the top two teams against each other. Left to the mercy of the pollsters, the best and brightest had to hope they shined bright enough on the big stage to earn the votes necessary to win it all. It wasn’t a perfect system, but there was plenty to play for with the title a bit more wide open.
There will never be a perfect playoff system for the NCAA to use, but that doesn’t mean that the ever-changing system hasn’t produced some spectacular contests in decades past. College football is fascinating in that some of its most accomplished players wash out completely at the next level, adding incentive for the players to take advantage of the national stage while they still have it.
Plenty of Heisman winners and college greats have faded into the darkness, but not before giving the public a show en route to a national championship. Which games will stick in our minds for the next 50 changes to the playoff system? Read on to find out.
To get you hyped up for tonight’s big game, these are The Best College Football National Championship Games Ever.
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