Those that know me best know that college football is truly my favorite sport. You know what gets me pumped for college football season? I absolutely L-O-V-E ESPN’s countdown of their Top 25 Games of last season. They do this every year in July and August as they prep for the upcoming season on the gridiron. When they started their countdown, I happened to catch the 23rd best game of 2016, #23 Florida St. at #10 Miami from Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, FL.
By the way, have you seen the revamped Hard Rock Stadium? Hard Rock Stadium might confuse you, but this is the place that used to be known under the following seven names: Joe Robbie Stadium, Pro Player Park, Pro Player Stadium, Dolphin Stadium, Land Shark Stadium, and Sun Life Stadium. For the first time, it is finally a great looking park. They added a partial roof which must help against that scorching Florida sun. Anyway, it looks like a place I’d enjoy checking out a game.
Someday. But for now, I’m driving my son to closer stadiums. This Autumn…..Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana where we’ll see the beloved Huskers of Nebraska at Purdue on October 28.
I know……..not too exciting but it’s all part of seeing each and every B1G stadium. So far I’ve been to games at Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern, Wisconsin, and of course Nebraska and Illinois. I’ve also been to Minnesota and Indiana on non-game days. So that leaves us with Ohio St., Penn St., Maryland, Michigan St., Rutgers, and of course, Purdue.
So here is the list of ESPN’s Top 25 games of 2016:
#25 – Florida St. 45 vs Ole Miss 34 – An offensive explosion. The QB’s in this one, Deondre Francois for FSU and Chad Kelly for Ole Miss inspired both teams to dream of the National Championship. Unfortunately for Ole Miss, Kelly was injured in his 9th game. They went 4-5 in his 9 starts but the offense wasn’t the problem for the Rebels. Their defense allowed 34.0 ppg! As for Francois, he played like a freshman at times, but a wonderfully talented freshman. Going into ’17, Francois is a Heisman contender and FSU is a National Championship contender, starting the season ranked #3.
#24 – Toledo 53 at BYU 55 – Brigham Young’s RB Jamaal Williams ran for 286 yards and 5 TD in this crazy 55-53 victory. This brought back shades of the ‘Wild Wild WAC’ days of yesteryear.
#23 – Pittsburgh 36 at North Carolina 37 – Both Pitt and UNC played in plenty of tight games in ’16. This one was no different.
#22 – Alabama 10 at LSU 0 – I don’t remember watching this one last year (or this year). Maybe I’m just all “Bama’d” out. Does this ten to nothing shutout surprise you? This was a typical SEC slobberknocker, I’m guessing.
#21 – N.C. State 17 at Clemson 24 (OT) – How many tight games did Clemson win in 2016? They won seven games by 7 points or less. They lost one. Spoiler alert! They finished as National Champions with a 14-1 record. That makes tight victories like this all the more important. When the Wolfpack took them to Overtime last October, it improved a shaky Clemson team to 7-0 with 4 tight wins. Most people were wondering what in the world was going on with them. I’ll tell you what was going on. They were forging bonds during tough, hard-fought wins that ultimately propelled them to legends.
#20 Central Michigan 30 at Oklahoma St. 27 – Games like this are what makes college football a special game. Remember this one? CMU threw a Hail Mary after Okie St. was penalized for throwing the ball out-of-bounds on a 4th down as time ran out. The refs wrongly gave CMU one un-timed down because of the Cowboys intentional grounding. So what do you think was gonna happen? Central Michigan caught the Hail Mary, the WR ran it all the way into the end zone after catching it in play and making an incredible run. CMU won! As for Oklahoma State?…….Talk about getting hosed!!!! They finished 11-2……I mean 10-3 doh! The NCAA referees acknowledged their mistake after the game but to no avail. You can’t open up Pandora’s box afterwards.
PS: A similar play happened here in Illinois in the IHSA high school state playoffs between Fenwick and Plainfield North. I know! What is wrong with these referees! If you don’t know for sure, get out the rulebook and consult with IHSA officials or Athletic Directors or somebody before you end up forcing a judge to sit through a courtroom case brought about by a lawsuit. In this case, Fenwick got hosed, losing 18-17 in OT! I can’t believe this really happened twice within a couple of months! Who got screwed more? I vote for Fenwick. They lost a playoff game whereas Oklahoma St. only lost a non-conference game that luckily, ultimately, didn’t derail their championship hopes. As for Fenwick, I’ll be cheering for them this Autumn.
#19 LSU 13 at Auburn 18 – Oh my God! Reliving these fantastic games is wonderful. Remember this one? In what turned out to be Coach Les “The Hat” Miles’ last game as LSU head coach, the Tigers (which one?) thought they threw a game-ending 15 yard TD pass. But wait! The officials reviewed it and determined that the snap on the last play was too late. The game clock had indeed just barely run out before the Tigers’ (which one?) center snapped the ball prior to the miraculous game winner. So who won? The Tigers……naturally. (ICYMI, Auburn’s ‘War Eagle’ won……naturally rather than the LSU “Geaux” Tigers. People wonder why our youth are so confused. I’m confused both reading AND writing this column. Whatever man, “This is the SEC!” I could probably delve into a whole sub-article here about academics in the B1G (Big Ten) vs the SEC but I’ll spare you.) Thanks Dutch!
#18 Ohio St. 30 at Wisconsin 23 (OT) – This was a solid B1G game. This column is getting too long so I’ll refrain from commenting on this one. Oh wait. I have a question for you: Is “Jump Around” a tradition? I mean, this tradition started based on a lousy 90s rap/crap/hip-hop song from 1992? Is that a tradition? Maybe the B1G is dumber, and closer to the SEC, than I thought. I know what you’re thinking……all my Wisky friends are enraged and throwing a fit right now, and possibly “unfollowing” the Dutch Lion concurrently.
#17 Florida St. 20 at Miami 19 – This one brought back memories of earlier games in this once national series but 2016’s edition was not a truly fantastic matchup. It’s good clean hate but it lacks the buildup of what it once was…..one of the greatest meaningful rivalries that the entire nation watched with eyes wide open. Did someone say “wide”, as in “Wide Right!”?
#16 Michigan 13 at Iowa 14 – Great game! Michigan had a perfect 9-0 record, ranked #2 going into Iowa City. Iowa was #1 (you’re dreaming again, of 1985!) In 2016 Iowa was unranked but primed for an upset of Jim Harbaugh. Is Iowa Jim Harbaugh’s kryptonite? Nonetheless, outside of the Hawkeyes current struggles, it was “Shades of 1985!” Seriously, it was eerie. Here’s a column I wrote last Autumn, detailing one of my all-time favorite college games that made me love the sport forever:
#15 North Carolina 37 at Florida St. 35 – I don’t think I watched this one live, unlike most of the games on this list. Now that the Bears drafted Mitch Trubisky, I have extra interest. Check it out and scout #10 in powder blue!
#14 Arkansas 41 at TCU 38 (2OT)
#13 Army 21 vs Navy 17 – This rivalry is so special. Lately, Navy wins almost every year. Not last year. Army broke a long, 14 game losing streak, winning 21-17. I watch it just to see the passion of the cadets and the midshipmen. Who cares who wins? Well, Army and Navy vets do. My buddy Bush is an Army guy. “Go Army, Beat Navy!” My buddy Thomas Sullivan Magnum, P.I. is a Navy guy. “Go Navy, Beat Army!”
#12 Tennessee 38 at Texas A&M 45 (2OT) – Another nutty game. Go watch it. You’ll see.
#11 Orange Bowl: Florida St. 33 vs Michigan 32 – I remember Michigan DE Taco Charlton ripping guys heads off. FSU won on Francois’s game-winning TD pass with 36 seconds left.
#10 Clemson 37 at Florida St. 34 – Fantastic game! The Tigers and Seminoles have such a long-lasting rivalry and it continues to play out better than ever the last few years. Both are National Title contenders as of late and they always seem to play tight ballgames. This is one of the newest great rivalries that isn’t getting enough hype. The winner of this game has won the ACC Atlantic Division Championship how many years in a row? The answer is 8. Every year since 2009. Each team has won 4 times. It’s probably gonna happen again in 2017, this time in Death Valley, South Carolina on November 11. Look for this year’s version to make next year’s Top 25……again.
#9 Alabama 48 at Ole Miss 43 – The Ole Miss Rebels seem to be the only team that can hang with the Crimson Tide the last few years. Last year, Ole Miss had a huge 24-3 lead, but then what happened? Oh, you know!
#8 Ohio St. 21 at Penn St. 24 – I was all geared up for this one. Good game in the 3rd quarter. Then all of a sudden the Chicago Cubs won the NL for the first time since 1945. All the local stations including ABC-7 (the only station showing OSU at PSU) decided they had to show the bozos celebrating in the streets. Ok. I’ll watch that for a minute or two. But ruin the entire, amazing 4th quarter comeback by PSU in Happy Valley? Call me furious! What a shame. Thanks for ruining an electric game atmosphere by showing people looting and pouring beers all over their idiot friends because their lovable losers finally won a league for the first time in 72 years. PSU! More like P-U. You stink!
#7 Notre Dame 47 at Texas 50 (2OT) – Good opening weekend capper on Labor Day weekend. Who is better, Malik Zaire or DeShone Kizer? Hmmmmm. Kizer threw for 5 TD. Zaire……he stunk more than Cubs fans. Who stunk more than Zaire? Head Coach Brian Kelly! If he had just declared Kizer the starter prior to the game, they may have avoided not only this loss but 7 others throughout that disastrous 2016 season. Coaches have off years too. Kelly admits he did a poor job in ’16. Another bad year soon and as the Hawk says, “He Gone!”
#6 Tennessee 34 at Georgia 31 – I’ve seen the end a billion times, but I’m still dying to watch the entire game that led up to that crazy ending. I have it saved on the DVR. Both teams’ fans were dumbstruck in the last minute. Spoiler alert…..not one but two Hail Mary’s!!!
#5 Louisville 36 at Clemson 42 – This game had one of the greatest buildups I’ve ever seen on television! Did you watch this? It was an ABC Saturday Night classic. Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit were there and ABC showed the traditional Clemson run down the hill and touching Howard’s Rock. What made this one unique was ABC had cameras outside in the street showing the bus that drove the players and Coach Dabo Swinney to the entrance gates above Howard’s Rock. Incredible intensity! (start watching at about 10 minutes in until at least the end of Louisville’s 1st series at about 21 minutes in) I felt like I was there. Honestly, the crowd and atmosphere brewed up one of the top experiences I’ve ever seen on TV. I had it saved preciously on my AT&T U-Verse DVR until those AT&T bozos screwed up and lost all my recordings earlier this Summer. Thanks AT&T! Rather, thank god for Youtube. I NEED to attend a Clemson night game someday to experience this in person. Nonetheless, this game at #5 on the countdown, will live in my memory, hopefully forever.
#4 Pittsburgh 43 at Clemson 42 – How many times was Clemson on this Top 25 list? The answer is five, with four in the top 10! That’s insane and hard to believe. That’s what makes them all the more important, knowing that they won the Championship. When DeShaun Watson threw a late interception on a bad pass into the end zone, I recall thinking, “DeShaun will just not be a good pro QB”. Then as the NFL Draft approached, I desperately wanted the Chicago Bears to take Watson 3rd overall. As it turned out, I’m really happy the Bears selected North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky. Meanwhile, Houston drafted Watson and the whole time since, I keep thinking about that Pitt interception.
#3 Michigan 27 at Ohio St. 30 (2OT) – Wow! This was a really great game. Double Overtime!! Incredibly tough defense throughout most of the game as regulation ended with a 17-17 tie. Ohio St. won 30-27 with some controversial measurements, penalty calls, LACK of penalty calls. Everyone was talking about Coach Jim Harbaugh’s ranting on the sidelines. Well, he’s a Bo Schembechler guy and after some of these referees calls, Jimmy is http://widgets.boxxspring.com/MjA1NSw0MDUzNzM1OA” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>bitter…..bitter!
I don’t blame Harbaugh. I would’ve been stretched to my limits if I was a Michigan man too. We’re already beginning to see shades of the “Ten Year War”! Depending on the length of the Harbaugh/Meyer Era, we have just embarked on what will likely go down as the “Ten Year War: Part 2”. So far, Urban Meyer leads 2-0. When will Harbaugh “put one on the board”? I’m betting on ’17. The game is in Ann Arbor on November 25.
#2 Rose Bowl: Penn St. 49 vs USC 52 – This could’ve been the best game of the year. Every time I watch and re-watch I’m just amazed by this nutty game. Ultimately, Trace McSorley was a little too aggressive, throwing 3 interceptions and showing his sophomore inexperience as PSU’s first time starting quarterback as they were outscored 17-0 in the 4th quarter. Meanwhile, over on the other sideline USC sophomore QB Sam Darnold was proving why he’s a top option for next year’s NFL Draft. He threw for 453 yards and 5 TD in one of the all-time greatest Rose Bowls.
#1 National Championship: Clemson 35 vs Alabama 31 – ‘Bama hardly ever loses. But when they do, it’s so much fun to enjoy! Hunter Renfrow’s game-winner with 1 second left was the stuff dreams are made of. Congratulations to Watson, Renfrow, Dabo Swinney, and all of the Clemson Tigers fans who have waited since 1981 to experience that National Championship feeling all over again.
So there you have it. Another amazing season. What does 2017 have for us? It all starts this week. Pumped much?
College Football is the one sport I wish I knew more about. We get some of the games up here on weekends, but I find it hard sitting through an entire game without any attachment to either team. I love the atmosphere though. Canadian university sports are nothing like that, though they have been recently trying to give them more of an atmosphere and “event” feel. My university didn’t even have a football team so I’m kinda jealous of the whole American College Football experience.
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I bet you’d love it Paul. Some people compare American college football to European soccer because of the extreme fandom, the colors, the regional differences, the different coaching styles, etc. I’ve loved it since I was a kid. It’s hard to explain but it’s just something special. Maybe you should cross the border and take a trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan to see the Michigan Wolverines someday. You might enjoy it. Thanks Paul!