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Saturday, January 4
This title game trumps the rest

By Ivan Maisel

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Declaring Ohio State's 31-24, double-overtime victory over Miami in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl as the greatest championship game in the history of college football is easy, given that there haven't been that many. The BCS has had five, and the previous four had not been decided by fewer than seven points in regulation.

Overtime gave the Fiesta Bowl an unfair advantage. Actually, the lack of overtime provided the thrilling conclusion to the best of the previous national championship matchups. In the 1984 Orange Bowl, Miami won its first national championship by beating No. 1 Nebraska, 31-30. The Huskers scored a touchdown with :48 to play to pull within a point. When coach Tom Osborne chose to go for two points and the victory, he sealed the game's place in history, regardless of the outcome of the play.

Nineteen years later, Osborne's gutsy decision wouldn't have been necessary. Without overtime, Miami and Ohio State would have shared the national championship, and all of us would have been denied the Buckeyes' gutsy finish.

The rest of the pre-BCS top national championship games:

1987 Fiesta Bowl -- No. 2 Penn State's five interceptions of Vinny Testaverde, the last by Pete Giftopoulos at the goal line with :18 to play, keyed the Nittany Lions' 14-10 upset of No. 1 Miami.

1978 Sugar Bowl -- No. 2 Alabama defeats No. 1 Penn State, 14-7, thanks to a goal-line stand which ended when Crimson Tide linebacker Barry Krauss collided with fullback Mike Guman in midair and knocked him backward.

1963 Rose Bowl -- No. 1 USC holds off a wild comeback by No. 2 Wisconsin to win, 42-37. Badgers quarterback RonVanderKelen threw for 401 yards but couldn't overcome Trojans' quarterback Pete Beathard's four touchdown passes.

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for He can be reached at

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