Link to Recaps of the College Football seasons of the 1970s

Link to Recaps of the College Football seasons of the 1990s

1980 College Football Recap

Before 1980,Georgia finished in the Top 3 of the final AP poll twice—No.2 in 1942 and No.3 in 1946. Those were also the only two years the Bulldogs had a consensus All-America running back—first Heisman winner Frank Sinkwich, then Heisman runner-up Charlie Trippi.

Thirty-four years later, along came Herschel Walker and Georgia ran all the way to Number One. With Walker rushing for a NCAA freshman record 1,616 yards, the Dawgs went undefeated and untied and clinched their first national title ever in the Sugar Bowl with a 17–10 victory over Notre Dame.

Important as Walker was, the play that saved Georgia’s perfect season was a 93–yard TD pass from quarterback Buck Belue to split end Lindsay Scott in the last two minutes to beat Florida, 26–21.

Pittsburgh, led by defensive end Hugh Green, was the nation’s second-ranked team. The Panthers won 11 of 12, losing a regular season game to Florida State. FSU was undefeated everywhere but in the Orange Bowl where it lost two games by a point. The Seminoles were beaten 10–9 by Miami early in the season, then lost 18–17 to Oklahomaon New Year’s.

Alabama’s attempt to win an unprecedented third straight national title fell short with two November losses to Mississippi State and Notre Dame. The Tide did, however, get Bear Bryant his 300th career victory. And Michigan finally won a Rose Bowl for Bo Schembechler, his first in six attempts

1980 College Football Polls

1981 College Football Recap

At one time or another during the 1981 season, six different teams were able to say they were Number One. After the bowl games only Clemson could say so.

The Tigers improved their 1980 record of 6–5 to 11–0 then beat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, giving the ACC its first national champion in 28 years. Thirty-three year-old Danny Ford became the youngest coach to ever win the title and he did it in only his third full year in charge.

Until Clemson held its own in the postseason, being named No.1 by AP was a curse. Michigan was the preseason pick but lost its opening game to Wisconsin. Notre Dame moved up but lost to Arizona.Texas took over and lost (by 31) to Arkansas. Penn State was next and lost to Miami. Then Pittsburgh was promoted and lost (by 34) to Penn State.

Alabama didn’t get a chance at No.1, but the Crimson Tide did go 9–1–1 during the regular season. Their 28–17 victory over state rival Auburn was not only ninth straight against the Tigers, but gave Bear Bryant his 315th career win, one more than Amos Alonzo Stagg and a new major college record.

Texas beat Bama in the Cotton Bowl to finish behind Clemson in the final AP poll.Penn State and Pitt placed 3rd and 4th.

Southern Cal’s Marcus Allen became the first running back to gain over 2,000 yards in one season, a feat that enabled him to out poll Georgia sophomore Herschel Walker for the Heisman.

1981 College Football Polls


1982 College Football Recap

Penn State finally got a shot at a “winner take all” game for the national championship in 1982 and won it.

Facing top-ranked and undefeated Georgia in a No.1  vs  No.2 Sugar Bowl match-up, the Lions led from the start and upset the Dawgs, 27–23.

A loser to only Alabama (42–21) during the regular season, PSU’s climb to the top came after 17 years and 162 victories under Joe Paterno. It was a frustrating wait. Three other years they had gone 11–1 and nobody seemed to notice. This year, they stopped Heisman-winner Herschel Walker & Co. and everybody noticed.

Southern Methodist was the only undefeated team in the Top 20 and ranked second. The Mustangs won their second straight SWC championship, returned to the Cotton Bowl for the first time in 16 years, and beat Pitt. Nebraska won 12 games, the Big Eight and the Orange Bowl to place third. The Huskers’ only loss came on a last second field goal against Penn State.

The Play of the Year? Easy: California’s last second, “kickoff return to beat the band” against Stanford. Bears won 25–20.

Meanwhile, Alabama(8–4) finished out of the Top 20 for the first time in 11 seasons, but won the Liberty Bowl. The victory pushed Bear Bryant’s 38–year record to 323–85–17.  He died less than a month later.

1982 College Football Polls


1983 College Football Recap

During the regular season,Nebraska was undefeated, untied and unmerciful. The Huskers beat the teams on their 12–game schedule to a pulp. They piled up 624 points and won by an average score of 52–16. Were they tough? Ask Minnesota, an 84–13 victim.

Nebraska in 1983 reminded folks of Army in 1944. Not the football team, the Normandy invasion force. Led by Heisman-winning back Mike Rozier and Outland winner Dean Steinkuhler, the Big Eight champs had won 24 games in two years. They had been the preseason choice for No.1 and nothing had changed.

In the Orange Bowl, the Huskers met a cocky, young Miami team that was ranked fifth and playing in its first major bowl game in 33 years. The Hurricanes were 10–1, but a fortunate 10–1, winning their last two regular season games by a total of six points.

At game time, Miami had a theoretical shot at No.1. Second-ranked Texas had lost the Cotton Bowl, No.4 Illinois had lost the Rose Bowl and No.3 Auburn had been very unimpressive in winning the Sugar Bowl. All the Canes had to do was beat Nebraska.

Playing on its home field, Miami scored the first 17 points of the game, led 31–17 after three quarters, then barely survived a furious Nebraska comeback in the fourth. The Huskers scored to make it 31–30 with 0:48 left, went for the win with a two-point conversion attempt, and failed.

Finally, defending Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker passed up his senior year at Georgia to play in the USFL.

1983 College Football Polls

1984 College Football Recap

Halfway into the 1980s, it was obvious that parity had overtaken Division 1–A college football. For the fifth consecutive year the national champion was a first-time winner.

Georgia,  Clemson, Penn State, Miami, and now Brigham Young. Of the five, only BYU’s credentials were suspect. Critics accused the high-scoring WAC champion of having a quarterback (Robbie Bosco) with a strong arm and a schedule with a weak heart. Real weak. None of the teams on it would make the final AP Top 20.

Still, the Cougars were the only major college team to win all their games, so they were national champions by default. The way to the top was cleared on Nov.17th. BYU, ranked third behind Nebraska and South Carolina, rose to No.1 that afternoon when Oklahoma beat the Huskers and the Gamecocks lost to Navy.

A 6–5 Michigan team that finished sixth in the Big Ten gave the Cougars a scare in the Holiday Bowl, but BYU won by a touchdown to wrap up the title before Christmas.

Washington, a winner over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, and first-time SEC champ Florida ranked 2nd and 3rd. On probation,Florida had to vacate its title.

BC quarterback Doug Flutie, the first player to pass for 10,000 yards, won the Heisman. He also engineered the most memorable play in the year’s most exciting game: a 65–yard pass to end Gerard Phelan for the winning touchdown in a wild, 47–45 victory over Miami.

1984 College Football Polls

1985 College Football Recap

The parade of first-timers to the national championship ended in 1985 as Oklahoma claimed its sixth AP title (one less than Notre Dame).

Like Georgia in 1980,Oklahoma was led by a freshman back—quarterback Jamelle Holieway, who took over for injured starter Troy Aikman (broken ankle) four games into the season. Aikman went down in OU’s only loss, a 27–14 beating at Miami.

Under Holieway, the Sooners climbed to No.3 in the polls by winning seven straight games and reaching the Orange Bowl. In Miami, they met No.1 Penn State for the championship. The Lions scored first, but Oklahoma had the lead by halftime and won 25–10.

Miami went into the Sugar Bowl ranked second and needing a convincing win over SEC champ Tennessee to keep its title hopes alive should Penn State lose. Instead, the Hurricanes suffered their worst defeat of the year, 35–7.

Back on Oct. 19,Iowa and Michigan met in Iowa City for the season’s only No.1 vs No.2 showdown. The largest crowd ever to see a sporting event in Iowa(66,350) saw the top-ranked Hawkeyes win, 12–10, in the last two seconds on Rob Houghtlin’s fourth field goal. Two weeks later, Iowa lost to Ohio State.

Auburn running back Bo Jackson beat out well-named Iowa QB Chuck Long by 45 points in the closest Heisman vote to date. And Grambling’s Eddie Robinson passed Bear Bryant as the winningest coach of all time with 329 victories.

1985 College Football Polls


1986 College Football Recap

Miami and Penn State each finished the regular season at 11–0 and met in the Fiesta Bowl for the national championship. It was the first No.1 vs No.2 clash between two independents since the last Army-Notre Dame showdown in 1946.

With neither team obligated to a particular bowl, bidding for the game among the lesser bowl committees was frenzied. The Fiesta Bowl (and NBC Sports) won by agreeing to double its payment to both teams (to $2.4 million each) and moving the game from New Year’s Day afternoon to prime time on Jan.2.

On paper, No.1 Miami was the clear favorite. The Hurricanes had beaten defending national champ Oklahoma for the second time in two years and had Heisman-winner Vinny Testaverde at quarterback. In the hype that preceded the game, No.2 Penn State came off as being more bland than their uniforms.

No matter, the Lions’ defense intercepted five Testaverde passes, held the Canes’ 38-points-per-game offense to a touchdown and a field goal, and won 14–10.

Oklahoma, a 34–point winner over Arkansas in the Orange Bowl, placed third in the AP poll. The Sooners’ 28–16 upset loss to Miami back in September was the season’s other battle between No.1 and No.2.

Testaverde was a landslide winner in the Heisman vote, but gridiron throwback Gordie Lockbaum, a two-way junior at Division 1–AA Holy Cross, received enough support to come in fifth.

1986 College Football Polls

1987 College Football Recap

For the second year in a row it was No.1 vs No.2 in a bowl game, this time the Orange Bowl.

Miami, the upset loser to Penn State in the championship game a year ago, returned as the underdog. Oklahoma was the favorite and had a 17–7 victory over former No.1 Nebraska to merit such support. But this was also the third meeting between the Hurricanes and Sooners in three years and the Canes had won the first two.

In a driving rain New Year’s Night,Miami made it three in a row, surprising the Sooners 20–14 for their second national title in five years.

But the game of the year was the Miami-Florida State thriller in Tallahassee Oct.3. In that one, the Canes rallied from a 19–3 deficit late in the third quarter to overtake the Seminoles, 26–19, then held on as FSU scored in the last minute and missed a two-point conversion try.

It was the only game Florida State lost all year and when the final polls came out Miami and FSU were ranked 1–2, a first for two teams from the same state.

In February, the NCAA cancelled Southern Methodist’s football season citing repeated rules violations. Other sanctions led SMU to forgo its ’88 season as well as saying it couldn’t be competitive.

And Columbia set a new NCAA Division 1 record for futility as its five-year losing streak reached 41 and counting. The old losing streak low water mark had been 34, set by Northwestern (1979–82).

1987 College Football Polls

1988 College Football Recap

Notre Dame returned to the top of the heap after 11 years in 1988, going 12–0 to claim the national championship for a record eighth time since the AP poll began in 1936.

The Irish clinched the title by beating No.3 West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl, but it was regular season victories over defending champ Miami and Southern Cal that made them the top-ranked team.

Miami was No.1 and Notre Dame No.4 when they met in South Bend on Oct.15. The Irish held a 31–21 lead in the third quarter, but the Hurricanes rallied to within 31–30 on a touchdown with 45 seconds left in the game. The Canes went for the two-point conversion and missed.

Six weeks later, No.1 Notre Dame visited No.2 USC at the L.A. Coliseum (burial ground for many highly-regarded Irish teams). This time, however, it was N.D. that did the burying, 27–10.

Miami and Florida State, last year’s Top Two, both finished at 11–1 to place second and third. In the season opener for both, the Hurricanes crushed the Seminoles 31–0, despite the fact that FSU was nearly everyone’s preseason favorite for No.1.

The star of the year was Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders, who came out of nowhere and with no fanfare to shatter the NCAA single season records for rushing yards (2,628) and touchdowns (39) and run away with the Heisman Trophy.

Finally, Columbia snapped its record Division 1 losing streak at 44, beating Princeton, 16–13, on Oct.8.

1988 College Football Polls

1989 College Football Recap

The Miami Hurricanes cemented their claim as team of the decade by winning their third national title of the 1980’s. The ‘Canes beat the defending national champions Notre Dame, 27–10, in the biggest game of the year on Nov. 25 and then edged once-beaten Alabama in the Sugar Bowl while the Fighting Irish toppled No.1 Colorado, 21–6, in the Orange Bowl. The Ericksons (head coach Dennis and star quarterback Craig, no relation) and it done on the field but Notre Dame got it done at the bargaining table, inking an unprecedented six-year, $30 million deal with NBC giving the network exclusive rights to televise all Irish home games through 1995.

The Buffaloes, inspired by fallen teammate and starting quarterback Sal Aunese, who succumbed to cancer on Sept. 23, played with a fervor previously unseen and won the Big Eight title, finished the regular season unbeaten and ranked number one in the national polls.

Houston quarterback Andre Ware ran-and-shot his way to the NCAA record books and the Heisman trophy. Then opted to forgo his senior-season and make himself eligible for the NFL draft. Also in 1989, two big names left the coaching ranks, while one soon-to-be big name found a new home.Michigan fixture Bo Schembechler retired from the Wolverines while Oklahoma’s Barry Switzer resigned under pressure. Meanwhile, Florida hired head coach Steve Spurrier away from Duke in an effort to clean up its act.

1989 College Football Polls