Happy New Year everyone! We ended 2013 with a list, so why not ring in 2014 with some more? New Year’s Day is full of great traditions, especially the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and Winter Classic. To reflect on the great contests of the past, I have ranked the Top 5 games of each annual event and predicted this year’s winners. Which game was the best in each series? Which other games round out the Top 5? Who’s going to win today? Let’s do it!
- 5. 1980 Rose Bowl: USC 17, Ohio State 16. Heisman winner Charles White and his Trojans were the underdogs going into this matchup against the top-ranked Buckeyes, and they trailed for most of the game. But then SC went on a game-winning drive capped off by White’s one-yard run. The win ended Ohio State’s championship hopes and gave the Trojans the #2 slot in the AP poll.
- 4. 1997 Rose Bowl: Ohio State 20, Arizona State 17. The Buckeyes redeemed themselves in the 1997 Granddaddy of them All. This game featured many future NFL players (Jake Plummer, Pat Tillman, Derek Smith, Derrick Rogers, Mike Vrabel, Orlando Pace, Antoine Winfield), and it lived up to the hype, especially when Ohio State freshman David Boston burned the Sun Devil defense with 17 seconds left for the game-winning touchdown.
- 3. 2005 Rose Bowl: Texas 38, Michigan 37. This game belonged to Vince Young. When it looked like the Wolverines were going to beat Young’s Longhorns despite his five-touchdown performance, he rose to the occasion, leading them on a furious late-game drive to set up the game-winning field goal. Little did Young know this wasn’t his last game-winning drive in Pasadena.
- 2. 1963 Rose Bowl: USC 42, Wisconsin 37. You weren’t there, I wasn’t there, but this has been called one of the greatest games in college football history. USC almost blew a 42-14 fourth quarter lead, giving up 23 unanswered points to the Badgers, but the comeback fell just short and the Trojans held on to win the football game. The win gave USC the national championship.
- 1. 2006 Rose Bowl: Texas 41, USC 38. This was the greatest title game of the BCS era and one of the best bowl games period. Standing on the ground he had won the Rose Bowl on the year before, Vince Young had led Texas through a wild 59 minutes, but it was the final minute of play that made him a college football legend. On fourth and five with a 38-33 lead, USC’s defense only needed one more stop to win their 35th straight game and repeat as national champions, but Vince Young came up clutch once again. #10 escaped from the defense and ran it into the end zone from eight yards out to win the title for Texas. As he threw his fist into the air and the confetti swirled all around him, it was clear that America had just witnessed one of the greatest finishes ever.
- 2014 Rose Bowl Prediction: Stanford 27, Michigan State 16. Max Bullough’s suspension really hurts this Spartan defense, and rebounding from it will be difficult, especially with Stanford’s consistency and coaching. Connor Cook will play his hardest at quarterback, but the Cardinal will repeat as Rose Bowl champs in Pasadena.
- 5. 1996 Fiesta Bowl: Nebraska 62, Florida 24. Nebraska defended their national championship in powerful fashion, destroying the Gators in the Fiesta Bowl to cap off a perfect season. Tom Osborne remains one of the most underrated coaches in the history of the game, and Tommie Frazier had a magnificent season that year for the Huskers. Sometimes pure domination deserves a spot in the Top 5.
- 4. 2012 Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State 41, Stanford 38. This overtime thriller definitely deserves a spot on the list. The teams went back and forth all game, with plenty of offense throughout. Stanford had a seven-point lead until the 2:30 mark, when Joseph Randle tied the game with a four-yard run. The game would go to overtime, and it was Mike Gundy’s Cowboys who pulled it out to defeat David Shaw, Andrew Luck and the Cardinal. Also of note: Justin Blackmon went off that night, with three touchdown catches, two of which were over 40 yards.
- 3. 2009 Fiesta Bowl: Texas 24, Ohio State 21. When Ohio State tailback Dan Herron ran for a 15-yard touchdown to give the Buckeyes a four-point lead with two minutes on the clock, the celebration in Columbus had already started. Too bad OSU left too much time for Colt McCoy to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. McCoy led the Longhorns on a game-winning drive with seven completed passes capped off by a 26-yarder to Quan Cosby. Mack Brown’s squad had never stopped believing, and they proved they were worthy of a shot at the title game.
- 2. 2007 Fiesta Bowl: Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42. The fact that this is second on the list shows how good #1 is, because the 2007 version was simply unforgettable. Against Adrian Peterson and the mighty Sooners, the David-like Broncos weren’t supposed to win, coming in as 7 1/2-point underdogs. The press was giving them no respect even though they had gone undefeated in the regular season. They were David, Oklahoma was Goliath. Well, we all know what happened next. Boise State hooked, laddered, and ran their way to the overtime win, Ian Johnson proposed to his girlfriend (the head cheerleader), and the little team from Idaho had won one of the greatest games of all time.
- 1. 2003 Fiesta Bowl: The star-power in this game was unmatched, and the finish was awe-inspiring. Miami had come in with a 34-game winning streak (just like USC in the Rose Bowl…) led by quarterback Ken Dorsey, running back Willis McGahee and tight end Kellen Winslow, among many future NFLers. But Ohio State benefited from a great performance by Maurice Clarett and some questionable calls from the officials to capture the national title. What made the game even more memorable was the unfortunate knee injury to Willis McGahee, which has been Youtubed about 800,000 times in the past few years.
- 2014 Fiesta Bowl prediction: Baylor 52, UCF 35. I see a very high-scoring game in this one where the best offense in the land is too much for their opponent to overcome. Bryce Petty is the man, and he’ll throw for plenty of touchdowns in this one.
Winter Classic Top 3 (Since there have only been six)
- 3. 2010 Winter Classic: Bruins 2, Flyers 1 (OT). Marco Sturm’s overtime winner capped off a great day at Fenway Park, where the snow flurries were flying and the players took part in a hard-fought, defensive battle until Boston broke through. The rivalry was also heated, with Shawn Thornton and Dan Carcillo dropping the gloves in the first period. When the NHL gets to the point where it has a repeat site, Fenway Park may be the place to go; it was a great stadium to have the game at.
- 2. 2009 Winter Classic: Red Wings 6, Blackhawks 4. To have ten goals scored in an outdoor hockey game was unthinkable before these two Original Six teams faced off. Jiri Hudler and the Red Wings eked this one out in impressive fashion, and Wrigley Field made for a great backdrop, with many fans enjoying the birds-eye views from the rooftops outside of the stadium.
- 1. 2008 Winter Classic: Penguins 2, Sabres 1 (Shootout). The NHL will never forget the first game of this series, which was played at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo. The setting resembled that of a snow globe, and the eyes of the fans in attendance as they watched the game showed that the idea was a great one for the league. And though they will never admit it, the league office had to be thrilled when Sidney Crosby, the NHL’s biggest star, scored the game-winning goal in the shootout. Where was the script?
- 2014 Winter Classic prediction: Red Wings 3, Maple Leafs 2 (OT). At Michigan Stadium, in front of the biggest crowd to ever witness a hockey game, Detroit’s biggest star will shine the brightest. Pavel Datsyuk will score the game-winning goal in overtime to win a tightly-contested battle for the Wings.