Coaches Paul “Bear” Bryant of Alabama and Ara Parseghian of Notre Dame met before the 1973 Sugar Bowl, the last time the Crimson Tide faced the Irish with a title on the line.
When Alabama and Notre Dame square off for the BCS championship on January 7, they will be playing for college football supremacy — not only for the 2012 season but for all time. Since the Associated Press began ranking team in 1936, Bama and ND have each finished number one eight times, more than any other school. Overall, the two schools have combined for 25 national titles, 14 by Alabama.
Going into this year’s BCS championship game, the Lou Saban led Crimson Tide have won two of the last three BCS titles. Meanwhile, the Irish last ranked first in the AP poll under Lou Holtz in 1988.
Notre Dame has won five of six meetings with Alabama. Their very first meeting, on New Year’s Eve 1973, was one of the most famous games in college football history. Both the Tide and the Irish entered the Sugar Bowl at Tulane University in New Orleans with undefeated records. Alabama was ranked number one by both the AP and UPI (Coaches poll), with Notre Dame in the top four in both polls. Legendary coaches Paul “Bear” Bryan and Ara Parseghian were meeting for the first time.
In a preview story, Sports Illustrated said: If ever there was a bowl game made in heaven…it is Alabama vs. Notre Dame. And before the game, ABC broadcaster Howard Cosell said: “At Notre Dame football is a religion; at Alabama it’s a way of life.”
A 93-yard kickoff return by Al Hunter in the second quarter sparked the Irish to a 14-10 halftime lead. Early in the fourth, Alabama scored on a trick play — a 25-yard touchdown pass to backup quarterback Richard Todd, to go in front 23-21. But kicker Bill Davis mixed the extra point and that would prove costly.
Notre Dame got a field goal to take the lead with a little more than four minutes remaining. Shortly after, the Irish were backed up on their own 3-yard line, but quarterback Tom Clemens connected on a 35-yard pass to reserve wide receiver Robin Weber on a third and long. That got ND out of trouble,and the Irish held on for the victory. Notre Dame was voted national champion by the AP but Alabama won the UPI Coaches poll. .
The teams met the next year in the Orange Bowl, and ninth-ranked Notre Dame edged second-ranked Alabama 13-11 in Parseghian’s final game. Alabama’s only win in the series was a 28-0 victory in 1986. ND and Bama last met in 1987, and the Irish ran away with a 37-6 win in South Bend.
History lesson: If you consider 1936 as the beginning of the modern era in college football, as most experts do, Alabama and Notre Dame are kings with eight number one rankings apiece. Oklahoma has won seven and USC and Miami five apiece. Going back to the beginning of college football in 1869, Princeton claims 28 national championships and Yale 26. Princeton won the last of those championships in 1950.
Lacking a bona fide playoff system, college football fans are left to wonder each year which time is the best. But there’s no doubt about this list — the SportsLifer’s top 10 college football teams of all time.
We used several simple criteria in the selection process. Teams had to finish undefeated, untied and undisputed national champions to quality for the SLTop10. And the quota is one champion per school.
Herewith, the 10 best college football teams ever:
# 1 — 1995 Nebraska, 12-0
Quite simply, the most dominant team in college football history. The 1995 Cornhuskers, coming off an unbeaten 1994 campaign, averaged 50 plus points a game, and defeated four teams ranked in the Top 10. The Tom Osborne-coached Huskers won every one of those games by no less than 23 points. Big Red averaged 53 points a game, and gave up 14 per game. Do the math, that’s a margin of victory of 39 points a game. Nebraska trailed for one quarter all season, and handed Florida its only loss of the season, 62-24, in the Fiesta Bowl for the National Championship. Talented? A total of 27 future pros played for Nebraska in 1995. Some Big Red fans and experts might argue the 1971 team was better, but for sheer gridiron dominance, the 1995 squad stands peerless in the history of college football. The 1994 Nebraska team was pretty good too. Both the ’71 and ’94 squads finished 13-0 and capped off championship seasons with Orange Bowl victories.
# 2 — 1972 Southern California, 12-0
The USC team of 1972 is generally considered the best football team in Trojan history. They went undefeated and beat Ohio State, 42-17, in the Rose Bowl. Led by Coach John McKay and Fullback Sam “Bam” Cunningham, USC plowed through the competition in 1972 with ease, defeating six ranked teams. Only Stanford came within 10 points of the Trojans all year. USC’s offense averaged 39 points a game, and their opponents averaged 10. How good was Southern Cal in 1972? They were the first team to ever receive every single first place vote in every single poll. The 2004 Trojans, who went 13-0 and won the BCS with a 55-19 thrashing of Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, also deserve mention.
# 3 – 1945 Army, 9-0
Army absolutely dominated the college football season in 1945. They averaged 48 points a game, while giving up only five and recording five shutouts. None of their games were closer than 19 points. The Black Knights of the Hudson had back-to- back Heisman winners in 1945 (Doc Blanchard), right, and 1946 (Glenn Davis), and each ran for more than 1,000 yards in the 1945 season. Army beat rivals Notre Dame and Navy by scores of 48-0 and 32-13, respectively. West Point bookended the 1945 team with two other pretty good clubs. The Cadets went undefeated and won the national championship in 1944, and played eventual champion Notre Dame to a scoreless tie in the 1946 “Game of the Century.”
#4 — 2001 Miami, 12-0
Miami was dominant on both sides of the ball in 2001, scoring 512 points and surrendering only 117 during the year. The Hurricanes capped off a perfect season by beating Nebraska, 37-14, in the Rose Bowl for the BCS championship. Miami’s margin of victory was greater against ranked teams than against unranked opponents. The Miami defense allowed 13 touchdowns and Miami also scored 11 non-offensive touchdowns. And the Hurricanes may have been the most talented college football team ever — at least six players on the 2001 roster went on to play in the NFL Pro Bowl.
#5 — 1924 Notre Dame, 10-0
The most celebrated team in Notre Dame’s glorious history, the Irish finished 10-0 — and eight of those opponents had winning records. Notre Dame beat Stanford, 27-10, in the Rose Bowl, the school’s only bowl appearance until the 1970 Cotton Bowl. The hero of the 1925 Rose Bowl was fullback Elmer Layden who scored the first touchdown of the game and later returned passes of Stanford All-American back Ernie Nevers 78 and 70 yards for scores. Coach Knute Rockne’s 1924 Irish were led by the heralded Four Horsemen — quarterback Harry Stuhldreher, halfback Don Miller, halfback Jim Crowley and Layden – -and anchored by the Seven Mules on the line. The 1949 Notre Dame team which finished 10-0 and won the national championship under coach Frank Leahy was also considered.
# 6 — 1956 Oklahoma, 10-0
This Oklahoma team was in the midst of their still-standing NCAA record 47-game win streak, and though conference rules in that time prohibited teams from participating in Bowl games in back to back seasons, OU did not need a bowl game to be crowned NCAA champion. The 1956 Sooners averaged 46 points a game, and held their opponents to 51 points on the season. The Sooners were coming off an 11-0 season in 1955, when they were crowned national champions. This was legendary coach Bud Wilkinson at his best. The Sooners were led by halfback Tommy McDonald, who ran for 14 TDs, caught four and even passed for three in 1956.
#7 — 2005 Texas, 13-0
The 2005 Texas Longhorns scored 652 points in 13 games while holding their opponents to 213 points. With Vince Young at quarterback, they beat previously unbeaten and defending champion Southern California, 41-38, in a thrilling BCS title game in the Rose Bowl to finish with a perfect season and a national title. In 1969 Texas finished 11-0 and beat #2 Arkansasa, 15-14, and then Notre Dame, 21-17, in the Cotton Bowl.
#8 — 1968 Ohio State, 10-0
The 1968 Ohio State team produced 11 All-Americans and six first round draft picks. The Buckeyes won the Big Ten title and then topped unbeaten and once-tied USC, 27-16, in the Rose Bowl. Afterwards USC All-America running back OJ Simpson told the Buckeyes: “You’re the greatest team in the country and don’t let anybody tell you what you aren’t.” In 1968, Ohio State began a string of three straight seasons and nine in 10 in which it won or shared the Big 10 title.
# 9 — 1979 Alabama, 12-0
One of Bear Bryant’s last teams, the Crimson Tide finished 12-0 and beat Arkansas 24-9 in the Sugar Bowl. Alabama posted five shutouts, and won seven of 12 games by three touchdowns or more. The Tide ranked first in scoring defense, second in total and passing defense and fifth in rushing defense.
# 10 — 1902 Michigan, 11-0
The Wolverines, in their second year under head coach Fielding H. Yost, finished the season 11-0 and outscored the opposition 644 to 12, averaging 58.6 points per game. The 1901 Michigan squad was unbeaten, untied and unscored upon (555 to 0), but shared the national championship with Harvard. In 1948, the Wolverines finished 9-0 and was voted #1 in the nation.
With apologies to:
1913 Harvard, 9-0, no bowl game
1940, Minnesota, 8-0, no bowl game
1976, Pittsburgh, 12-0, beat Georgia, 27-3, in Sugar Bowl
1986, Penn State, 12-0, upset unbeaten Miami, 14-10, in Fiesta Bowl
1999 Florida State, 12-0, defeated #2 Virginia Tech, 46-29, in Sugar Bowl
Notre Dame and Army will attempt to “wake up the echoes” Saturday when they renew their historic college football rivalry at Yankee Stadium.
The Fighting Irish and the Black Knights no longer dominate American sports. And they’ll be playing at the new Yankee Stadium, not the original Stadium that was the site for 22 meetings between 1925 and 1969.
But the 50th meeting between Notre Dame and Army is hardly your garden variety regular season game either. The game and the venue hark back to an era –from the Roaring ’20s to post World War II — when the Notre Dame-Army game captivated the nation.
The Irish and Cadets staged their first Yankee Stadium meeting in 1925, a game Army dominated, 27-0.
Three years later at the Stadium, the teams were tied 0-0 at the half when Notre Dame’s legendary coach Knute Rockne inspired his charges with the most famous halftime speech in football history. That day Rockne invoked the words of George Gipp, one of the great players in ND history who died of strep-throat infection in 1920 at the age of 25.
‘Win One for The Gipper’
“Some time when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go out there with all they’ve got and win just one for the Gipper.”
The Irish did just that, scoring a pair of touchdowns in the second half to beat the Cadets, 12-6
Notre Dame dominated the series at Yankee Stadium from then through the mid ‘40s, winning 12 times and tying twice in 15 games.
Army, which was ranked #1 in the polls and finished unbeaten, turned the tables on Notre Dame in 1944 and 1945, whipping Notre Dame 59-0 and then 48-0 at Yankee Stadium.
That set up one of the most famous college football games in history in 1946, #1 Army vs. #2 ND, aka The Game of the Century. Despite predictions of a high scoring game, the two powers played to a scoreless tie before 74,121 at the Stadium. The win ended Army’s 26-game winning streak and the Irish won the national championship when they beat USC 26-6 on the final weekend of the season, while Army edged Navy 21-18.
The Game of the Century
The 1946 Notre Dame-Army game featured four Heisman Trophy winners in uniform Doc Blanchard (1945) and Glenn Davis (1946) of Army and Johnny Lujack (1947) and Leon Hart (1949) of Notre Dame) and 12 members of the College Football Hall of Fame.
One newspaper reported that fans were paying scalpers up to $250 for tickets with a $1 face value. “If Yankee Stadium had a million seats,” Army athletic director Biff Jones said before the game, “we would fill it for this game. I have never seen anything like it.”
After meeting every year since 1919, Army decided to end the annual series following the 1947 season because they felt it was becoming too one-sided in favor of the Irish. The game was played in South Bend for the first time and the Irish won, 27-7.
Notre Dame and Army played one last game at Yankee Stadium in 1969, with the Irish winning easily 45-0. Overall Notre Dame won 14 of those 22 games in Yankee Stadium. Army won five. Three finished in a tie
Through the decades the teams have met infrequently, with Army’s last win coming in 1958. Most of the games have been contested at neutral sites, such as Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, the Polo Grounds and Shea Stadium in New York, Soldier Field in Chicago, Philadelphia’s JFK Memorial Stadium and Giants Stadium in New Jersey. Notre Dame leads the series 37-8-4.
Extra Points: The first Notre Dame-Army matchup in 1913 is generally regarded as the game that put the Irish on the college football map. In that game, Notre Dame revolutionized the forward pass in a stunning 35-13 victory on the Plain at West Point. Irish quarterback Gus Dorias passed for 242 yards that day, including a 25-yard touchdown pass to a young end by the name of Knute Rockne.
The 1924 game at the Polo Grounds provided the setting for the most celebrated lead in the history of sportswriting.
After Notre Dame defeated Army 13-7, Grantland Rice of the New York World Telegram wrote, “Outlined against a blue, gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden.”
Notre Dame and Army met most recently in 2006, when the Irish pounded the Black Knights 41-9 at Notre Dame Stadium.
Related Blogs: The 10 Best Football Games at Yankee Stadium
Earlier this week, a new bowl game to be played in Yankee Stadium in 2010 was announced at a press conference in the Bronx. The game, to be played between Christmas and New Year’s Day, will feature the third- or fourth-place finisher in the Big East against the seventh-place team in the Big 12.
Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz, Jr., is on record as saying the game should the called the “Jeter Bowl.”
In July, the Yankees announced that Notre Dame will host Army at Yankee Stadium on November. 20, 2010, marking the first football game in the new Stadium and the 50th time the schools have will square off against one another in one of the classic rivalries in college football.
The original Yankee Stadium was host to many monumental football games, beginning with Notre Dame-Army clashes in the 1920s. While the New York Giants were playing across the Harlem River at the Polo Grounds, several football teams named the Yankees played at the Stadium, including one in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) from 1946 through 1949.
The Giants moved into the Stadium in time for the 1956 season, and that year won the NFL championship against the Bears.
So, what were the top ten football games in Yankee Stadium history? Here’s the SportsLifer list:
1. In what is called “The Greatest Game Ever Played” the Baltimore Colts defeat the New York Giants, 23-17, in overtime in the game that raised the profile of the NFL. Alan Amache, above, scores the winning touchdown in the December dusk, 1958.
2. At halftime of a scoreless game, Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne urges his squad to “Win one for the Gipper.” And the Irish do just that, rallying to defeat Army, 12-6, in honor of the late Irish All-American George Gipp, 1928.
3. In a game that features four past or future Heisman Trophy winners (Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis of Army, Johnny Lujack and Leon Hart of Notre Dame), the number one ranked Cadets and second-ranked Irish play to a scoreless tie. Lujack’s game- saving tackle of Blanchard preserves the tie in the “Battle of the Century,” 1946.
4. Much as they did 22 years earlier at the Polo Ground, the Giants don sneakers instead of football cleats on an icy field. New York overwhelms the Chicago Bears, 47-7, to win the NFL championship, 1956.
5. Pat Summerall kicks a 49-yard field goal in a swirling snowstorm to give the Giants a 13-10 win over the Cleveland Browns, forcing a playoff for the NFL East crown. The Giants would go on to down the Browns in that playoff and advance to the NFL championship game, 1958.
6. Undefeated Fordham and the Seven Blocks of Granite need one more win to reach the Rose Bowl, but NYU beats Vince Lombardi and company and spoils their Thanksgiving, 7-6,on a muddy field, 1936.
7. Giants quarterback Y.A.Tittle ties NFL record with seven touchdown passes against the Washington Redskins. The Giants win the game, 49-34, 1962.
8. In the second and final edition of the Gotham Bowl, right, Nebraska edged Miami, 36-34, despite an MVP performance by Hurricane quarterback George Mira. Only 6,166 brave the bitter, 14-degree temperatures, 1962.
9. Yankee Stadium plays host to its final NFL Championship game, with the Green Bay Packers defeating the Giants,16-7, on the strength of three field goals by guard Jerry Kramer, 1962.
10. Central State University of Ohio defeats Grambling, 37-21 in the final Whitney M. Young Urban League classic….and the last football game ever played at the old Yankee Stadium. ”They just came to play; we didn’t,” said dejected Grambling coach Coach Eddie Robinson. 1987.
Do the math. The Boston Celtics have won 16 NBA titles, the Los Angeles (nee Minneapolis) Lakers 14. When the 62nd NBA Finals are completed in a few weeks, the Celtics and the Lakers will have combined for 31 titles, exactly half of the 62 championships. This is their 11th meeting in the finals, another NBA record.
What about the other sports?. Who are the champions of championships?
It starts with the New York Yankees, the king of champions. The Yankees have won 26 World Series, the most in any of the North American team sports. That’s more than double the number of championships won by the St. Louis Cardinals (10) and Philadelphia-Oakland A’s (9).
In the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers have each won five Super Bowls. The Green Packers have won nine total NFL titles and the Chicago Bears 7 since the first NFL championship game in 1933.
In hockey, the Montreal Canadiens, Les Habitants, are far away the ring-leaders with 23 Stanley Cups. The Habs are followed by the Toronto Arenas-St. Pats-Maple Leafs with 13 and the Detroit Red Wings with 11, including this year’s Stanley Cup.
UCLA has won 11 NCAA basketball championships and Kentucky seven since the advent of the NCAA tournament in 1939. Kentucky also won a national championship in 1933.
Notre Dame is the king of college football with 13 national championships, including nine since the polls were first instituted in 1936. In the so-called “early years” of college football (1869-1935), Yale won 18 championships and Princeton 17. All told, Alabama and USC have each won 10 total football championships, seven apiece since 1936.