I have, two inches to the left of my computer, a copy of the USA Today Sports section from Friday, November 30th, 2007. Not altogether unusual for the McPaper, they’ve put together an interesting and roundly numbered list to blaze across the front of their splashy section: “25 years of college’s most memorable games.”
Regardless of the fact that thousands would no doubt put Super Mario Kart, beer pong (uh, Beirut?) and Let’s See How Quickly I Can Write Fifteen Pages On Tolstoy As The Model For “Melrose Place” Characters, an underrated favorite at the University of Chicago, I’m told, USA Today chose to interpret their ambiguous title as a reason to write about college football.
The lede includes a useful disclaimer: “Games from this season, which would be the 26th, were not considered.” And they weren’t dramatic at all anyway, so there’s no real loss.
Scanning the list in reverse numerical order, to compensate for a #1-#25 “countup” and artificially inject drama where it might have been intended and was instead ruined, one almost immediately sees the 2006 Insight Bowl; that was a scintillating rally by Texas Tech over Minnesota that almost seven people watched, so it’s a good choice at #22.
Hey, there’s Virginia’s 33-28 win over Florida State in 1995 at #18! Man, that was maybe the only time FSU lost in the 1990s! Thanks for reminding Bobby Bowden to forget about the present!
The November 10th, 1984 game between Maryland and Miami that launched the legend of Frank Reich seems critical, and may by seriously underrated at #14.
There! At #10! There’s that 64-61, Marshall over East Carolina, Byron Leftwich on offensive line’s back game! It was the GMAC Bowl, in 2001. I was looking for it on the list but I couldn’t find the 6-6 Teams From Conferences That Don’t Play Defense Bowl…
The “Bush Push” comes in at #7. I don’t remember that game, because between Matt Leinart and Brady Quinn, there must have been a perfect storm of overrated on the field that conspired to transcend this plane of existence. It’s a good thing Reggie Bush was there, because he probably had the money to pay the officials to ignore that illegal push at the end of the game.
Last year’s David over Goliath upset (Boise State over Oklahoma, for the uninitiated) is right up there at the top at #3. I tell you what, I totally never thought it was a better game than the “Stanford Band” game a spot above it. Considering I was riveted to my couch watching it for about two hours, and have never seen more than one play from the #2 tilt, the economizing of those California kids was obviously something the editors of USA Today are justly rewarding.
Atop the list is the 2006 Rose Bowl. I think we can all agree, that game was awesome.
But further scanning of the list turns up some questions.
Like, where are the SEC teams?
There are 25 games on the list, so there’s potential for 50 separate teams to be represented. Of the 50, exactly zero are from the SEC. As in none. At all.
That’s ridiculous. This game between Arkansas and Kentucky in 2003 was the longest in NCAA history, after all. And Arkansas played two other six-overtime games in this century. LSU and Auburn played two separate defensive slugfests where neither team scored more than ten points. And Auburn and Florida’s game last year was named ESPN’s “Atmosphere of the Year” and featured the “Game-Changing Play of the Year.”
Fans of the diminished Florida State-Miami rivalry can console themselves by seeing none of those memorable Wide Rights are remembered here. (Those games that helped decide national championships were not as important as you thought.)
And, hey, that Red River Shootout with Roy Williams leaping over the line to force a pick-six? Or the Nebraska win over Oklahoma with Eric Crouch catching action? You won’t find them here.
It’s really an unfair task to select anything subjectively, as critics like me will pick those selections apart. But in this case, USA Today dropped the ball and omitted some significant games and moments.