#1 vs. #2 | Syracusefan.com

#1 vs. #2

SWC75

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Next week LSU, which is #1 in the BCS standings, as well as the coach’s and writer’s polls, will play Alabama, who is #2 in each. The reputation of these teams is such that it’s been suggested that there should be a rematch in the national championship game even if some other team is still undefeated. It’s been a while since a regular season game has been as anticipated as this one and it prompted me to look into the history of #1 vs. #2 games.

The writers’ poll, which has always been run by Associated Press, (AP) began in 1936. The coach’s poll, which has been successively run by United Press International, USA Today, CNN and ESPN, began in 1950. The BCS standings began in 1998. The ESPN College Football Encyclopedia has the weekly writer’s and coaches polls through 2004. I got the rest from ESPN’s website. That website has the weekly BCS rankings from 2007 onward. I was unable to find a site that had anything but the final BCS rankings before that. Based upon that information, here are the #1 vs. #2 games since 1936:

1936-1942 none. There were fewer intersectional games back then, no made for TV games and very few bowl games. The service academies, Notre Dame and the Big Ten didn’t go to bowl games in that era ands they dominated the rankings.

10/9/43: #1 Notre Dame 35 #2 Michigan 12. Michigan was the home team. They had been #1/#2 for a week. Notre Dame was so strong that Michigan, which won all it’s other games easily wound up ranked #2 at the end of the season despite this one-sided loss.

11/20/43: #1 Notre Dame 14 #2 Iowa Pre-Flight 13. They’d been #1-2 for a week. Notre Dame was the home team. During the war, military training station teams were treated as if they were college teams, even though these weren’t four year schools and their players weren’t college students. I’ve always objected to this and feel these should be considered exhibition games. Apparently there was some feeling in this direction at the time. Notre Dame lost on the last play of their last game to Great Lakes Naval Training Station, 14-19 but were still ranked #1 in the final poll.

12/2/44: #1 Army 23 #2 Navy 7 at Baltimore. They’d been #1-2 for two weeks. The service academies, (there was no Air Force academy then), fared very well during the war, as one might imagine. I’ve read that Doc Blanchard was at North Carolina and got drafted. He was assigned to West Point as a cadet, (he did go on to a distinguished military career. Army became a super-power, the most dominant college team there has ever been. From 1944-45 they were 18-0-0, outscored their opponents 916-81, (51-5 per game), and this was their closest game.

11/10/45 #1 Army 48 #2 Notre Dame 0 in New York. They’d been #1-2 for three weeks. Army had beaten the Irish 59-0 the previous year and the Golden Domers wanted revenge. A lot of their best players were in the service, listening to this game on the radio and wanting the war to end so they could line up against Army. They shouldn’t have felt too bad, though. Army beat #6 Michigan 28-7, #8 Pennsylvania 61-0, (a record for a margin of defeat suffered by a ranked team that would last until 1999), and #13 Duke 48-13.

12/1/45 #1 Army 32 #2 Navy 13 at Philadelphia. They’d been #1-2 for three weeks.

11/9/46 #1 Army 0 #2 Notre Dame 0 at New York. They’d been #1-2 for four weeks. This was perhaps the most anticipated football game ever player. Notre Dame was full of ex-servicemen who had been fighting the war and Army was full of cadets who had yet to hear a shot fired in anger. Notre Dame wanted revenge for the last two year’s debacles. But both coaches were so obsessed with not making the big mistake that would cost them the game that both used ultra-conservative game plans that produced no points. Army remained #1 for the next three polls but when a 1-7 Navy team put a scare into them, losing 21-18 while the Irish beat #16 USC 26-6, Notre Dame slipped ahead of Army in the final poll, thus preventing Black Knights from winning three straight national championships.

There wouldn’t be another #1 vs. #2 game for 14 years. The closest was the 1/1/56 Orange Bowl. #1 Oklahoma beat #3 Maryland 20-6. The Terps had been #2 for four weeks until the last poll. They completed an undefeated regular season by beating George Washington 19-0 while one loss Michigan State beat Marquette 33-0. Somehow that convinced the voters to make the Spartans #2. The next year #3 Tennessee beat #2 Georgia Tech 6-0 on 11/10/56. But Oklahoma was #1 wire to wire that year.

11/5/60 Minnesota is #2 in the coach’s poll, #3 in the writer’s polls. They beat Iowa, #1 in both polls, at home, 27-10. Missouri was #2 in the writer’s poll. They’d been ranked that way for a week. It was the first time a #2 team had beaten a #1 team.

1/1/63 Rose Bowl #1 Southern California 42 #2 Wisconsin 37 in the greatest football game of my youth. They’d been ranked that way for 2 weeks.

10/12/63 #2 Texas 28 #1 Oklahoma 7 in Dallas. They’d been ranked that way for a week.

1/1/64 Cotton Bowl #1 Texas 28 #2 Navy 6. They’d been ranked that way for 5 polls.

11/19/66 #1 Notre Dame #2 Michigan State 10 at Michigan State. The most anticipated confrontation of my youth. They’d been ranked #1-2 for 6 weeks.

(The 11/18/67 USC-UCLA game, while well remembered, was not a #1 vs. #2 game. UCLA was #1 and USC #4/3 in the writer’s and coach’s poll. But they won on OJ‘s famous run and went on to win the national title.)

9/28/68 Purdue, #2 in the coach’s poll, #1 in the writer’s poll 37 at Notre Dame, (which was #1 and #2) 22. They’d been ranked that way for a week.

1/1/69 Rose Bowl. #1 Ohio State 27 #2 Southern California 16. They’d been ranked that way for the last 8 polls.

12/6/69 #1 Texas 15 at Arkansas 14. The Razorbacks were #2 in the writer’s poll. Penn State was #2 in the coach’s poll. They’d been ranked that way for 2 weeks.

11/25/71 #1 Nebraska 35 at #2 Oklahoma 31. They’d been ranked that way for 7 weeks. Another legendary confrontation, one that actually produced a great game.

1/1/72 Orange Bowl #1 Nebraska 38 #2 Alabama 6. They’d been ranked that way for 2 polls. The Cornhuskers beat the #2,3 and 4 teams in the final poll, (Oklahoma, Colorado and Alabama), by a total of 60 points.

1/1/79 Sugar Bowl #2 Alabama 14 #1 Penn State 7 on that goal-line stand. They’d been ranked that way for 3 polls.

9/26/81 #2 Southern California 28 #2 Oklahoma 24 in the Coliseum. They’d been ranked that way for a week. It was the first regular season #1-2 game in a decade.

1/1/83 Sugar Bowl #2 Penn State 27 #1 Georgia 23. They’d been ranked that way for 3 weeks. JoPa final wins a national title.

10/19/85 #1 Iowa 12 Michigan 10 at Iowa. The Wolverines were #3 in the coach’s poll and #2 in the writer’s. Oklahoma was #2 in the coach’s. They’d been ranked that way for a week.

9/27/86 #2 Miami 28 #1 Oklahoma 16 at Miami. They’d been ranked that way for three weeks.

1/02/87 Fiesta Bowl. #2 Penn State 14 #1 Miami 10. They’d been ranked that way for 5 polls.

1/1/88 Orange Bowl #2 Miami 20 #1 Oklahoma 14. They’d been ranked that way for 2 polls.

11/26/88 #1 Notre Dame 27 #2 Southern California 10. They’d been ranked that way for 4 polls.

(Notre Dame’s 34-21 win over West Virginia in the 1/02/89 Fiesta Bowl was not a #1 vs. #2 game. Miami, who had lost to the Irish by a point in South Bend was ranked ahead of the undefeated Mountaineers.)

9/16/89 #1 Notre Dame 24 at #2 Michigan 19. They’d been ranked that way for three weeks.

11/16/91 #2 Miami 17 at #1 Florida State 16. Wide Right. They’d been ranked that way for 10 weeks.

1/1/93 Sugar Bowl. #2 Alabama 34 #1 Miami 13. They’d been ranked that way for 5 polls.

11/13/93 #2 Notre Dame 31 #1 Florida State 24 in South Bend. Boston College came in next week and turned that upside down. They’d been ranked that way for four weeks.

1/1/94 Orange Bowl Florida State 18 Nebraska 16. The Noles were #3 in the coach’s poll and #1 in the writer’s poll. Nebraska was #2 in the writer’s poll and #1 in the coach’s. West Virginia was #2 in the coach’s poll. They’d been ranked that way for two polls.

1/02/96 Fiesta Bowl #1 Nebraska 62 #2 Florida 24. They’d been ranked that way for 3 polls. The best team of the modern era, (whatever that is).

11/30/96 #2 Florida State 24 #1 Florida 21 in Tallahassee. They’d been ranked that way for a week. Florida would reverse that result- and then some- in the Sugar Bowl to win their first national title.

The BCS started in 1998 and every BCS national title game has been a #1 vs. #2 game, according to the BCS standings. They haven’t always been that in the coach’s and writer’s polls, however.
1/04/99 Fiesta Bowl #1 Tennessee 23 #2 Florida State 16. They’d been ranked that way for 1 poll.
1/04/00 Sugar Bowl. #1 Florida State 46 #2 Virginia Tech 29. They’d been ranked that way for 5 pools.

1/3/01 Orange Bowl #1 Oklahoma 13 Florida State 2/ Miami was #2 in both polls, had the same record as Florida State and had beaten them. But the BCS somehow rated the Noles #2.

1/3/02 Rose Bowl #1 Miami 37 Nebraska 14. Believe it or not Nebraska, which didn’t even win it’s own division of the Big 12, was #4 in both polls. Oregon who had the same record as Nebraska was #2 and Colorado who had beaten Nebraska 62-36, was #3. But the Huskers were #2 in the BCS and were out of it by halftime. They’d been ranked that way for one poll.

1/3/03 Fiesta Bowl #2 Ohio State 31 #1 Miami 24 in overtime. They’d been ranked that way for 5 polls.

1/04/04 Sugar Bowl Louisiana State 21 Oklahoma 14. They were #2 and #3 in the polls. Southern California was #1 in both polls but #3 in the BCS standings. The Sooners were #1 in the BCS even after getting crushed by Kansas State, 7-35 in the Big 12 title game. They’d been ranked that way for 1 poll.

1/04/05 Orange Bowl #1 Southern California 55 #2 Oklahoma 19. They’d been ranked that way for the entire season- 15 polls. The Trojans had two Heisman Trophy winners- QB Matt Leinart and TB Reggie Bush. The Sooners had one- QB Jason White and would have another- TB Adrian Peterson, except for injury and an early jump to the NFL. (He actually turned out to be the best player of the four of them.) This should have been one of the greatest games of all time but instead was one of the worst. If anything it wasn’t as close as the score indicated.

1/04/06 Rose Bowl #2 Texas 41 #1 Southern California 38. They all had been ranked that way wire to wire, 15 polls. It was the same scenario as the year before but Vince Young outplayed all those Trojan super-stars in what may have the greatest game of all time.

11/18/06 #1 Ohio State 42 #2 Michigan 39 in the Big Horseshoe. The only time these two had been ranked #1-2 for their final confrontation. They’d been ranked that way for 5 polls. It was suggested that the national tile game should be a rematch, (which is already being suggested for Alabama-LSU). Those suggestions stopped after the next #1-2 game.

1/8/07 in Glendale, Arizona, (the first national title game that was it’s own special game.)
#2 Florida 41 #1 Ohio State 14. They’d been ranked that way for one poll. Ted Ginn Jr. returned the opening kick-off 93 yards for a score and it looked like it would be easy. It was- for the Gators, who made the Buckeyes, (and by implication, Michigan) look like 1AA team, outgaining them 370-82.

1/07/08 in New Orleans #2 Louisiana State 38 #1 Ohio State 24. They’d been ranked that way for one poll. People think of this as a replay of the previous year’s Florida game but the Buckeyes were actually much more competitive in this game, outgaining the Tigers 353-326. That’s not winning but they didn’t get pushed around as they did against the Gators.

12/6/08 #2 Florida 31 #1 Alabama 20 in the SEC title game at the Georgia Dome. They’d been ranked that way for 2 weeks.

1/8/09 in Miami. Florida 24 Oklahoma 14 The Gators were #1 in the writer’s poll, the Sooners #1 in the coach’s and BCS. They’d been ranked that way for 1 poll.

12/5/09 #2 Alabama 32 #1 Florida 13 in the SEC title game in the Georgia Dome, making Tim Tebo cry.

1/7/10 in Pasadena. #1 Alabama 37 #2 Texas 21 They’d been ranked that way for one poll.

1/10/11 in Glendale, Arizona. Auburn 22 Oregon 19. The Tigers were #1 in the BCS and writer’s poll, the Ducks in the coach’s poll. They’d been ranked #1-2 in the various polls for five polls.

The venue makes little difference, (as it rarely does to really good teams). When a team that is #1 in at least one of the three rankings plays a team that is no better than #2 in any of them, (I’m excluding games were both teams were #1 to somebody), the #1 team is 4-3 at home, 5-3-1 on the road and 13-13-1 at neutral sites, including bowl games. (Some of those bowl games were hardly neutral like Texas in the Cotton Bowl, USC in the Rose Bowl, LSU in the Sugar Bowl, Miami in the orange Bowl, etc. but per these numbers it really doesn’t seem to matter.)

 
 
Next week LSU, which is #1 in the BCS standings, as well as the coach’s and writer’s polls, will play Alabama, who is #2 in each. The reputation of these teams is such that it’s been suggested that there should be a rematch in the national championship game even if some other team is still undefeated. It’s been a while since a regular season game has been as anticipated as this one and it prompted me to look into the history of #1 vs. #2 games.

Good stuff here...and a great deal of work and research...Seems like the Notre Dame lustre is gone but even so would be good to have the golden dome in the ACC--all teams in of course.
 
Alabama by double digits.

Nope. They are going to play tight because that's the style of Coach Saban. This one is going to be close, and hopefully the refs call the game cleanly.
 

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