College Football Bowl Games: Finding Each Game's Classic, Part III

Part II of this series ended with Georgia's classic victory over Virginia in the 1998 Peach Bowl. In our final installment, we take a look back at all the bowls that will take place on Jan. 2 or later this year and find the best game for each.

In order to maintain consistency, the year noted in each bowl game will be the season it represents: For example, the Rose Bowl in 1962 is actually the game that was played on Jan. 1, 1963. Also, from 1998-2005, the games that were designated as the BCS national championship game will be considered only for the BCS title game, and not for that particular bowl game.

If all that makes sense, then you're ready for Part III of our classic bowl games:

TicketCity Bowl (first played: 2010, this year: second edition): Played at the Cotton Bowl to replace the eponymous game that's moved to Cowboys Stadium, the first edition (played Jan. 1, 2011) of the former Dallas Football Classic wasn't half bad. After taking a 38-17 lead against Northwestern, Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville inexplicably called for an onside kick. The Wildcats recovered and began a furious rally, twice cutting the Tech lead to seven points. But the Red Raiders managed to earn two big first down on their final drive to hold on to a 45-38 victory.

Capital One Bowl (1946, 66th): For sheer drama, the 2004 game (played Jan. 1, 2005) had it in spades. It was Nick Saban's final appearance as LSU coach, as he would be headed to the Miami Dolphins after the game. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz also had NFL suitors, but decided to sign an extension that made him the highest-paid college football coach. The Tigers rallied when freshman quarterback JaMarcus Russell came in the game and threw two fourth-quarter TD passes to Skyler Green, the second of which put them ahead, 25-24, with 46 seconds to go. Yet, Iowa quarterback Drew Tate, on the last play of the game, tossed a 56-yard pass - and not a Hail Mary - to a streaking Warren Holloway on a fly pattern to give the Hawkeyes an improbable 30-25 victory.

Gator Bowl (1945, 67th): The 1978 game was most memorable for one play: The punch. After Clemson nose guard Charlie Bauman intercepted Ohio State's Art Schlichter's pass to seal the Tigers' 17-15 victory, he was tackled near the Ohio State sideline. Then out of nowhere came an enraged Woody Hayes, who slugged Bowman just below his facemask before being restrained. The TV broadcasters made no mention of the incident that led to a melee, but it was missed by nobody else, including the Ohio State president and athletic director. After a quick and secret meeting at a Jacksonville resort that night, Hayes' reign as the Buckeyes coach - 28 seasons and two national titles - came to a swift and stunning end the following morning.

Outback Bowl (1986, 26th): The 1987 game (played on Jan. 2, 1988) featured two college football heavyweights finishing disappointing seasons. Both Michigan and Alabama were 7-4 and coming off losses against hated arch rivals (Ohio State and Auburn, respectively). The Wolverines were also without coach Bo Schembechler, who was home recuperating from heart surgery, as Gary Moeller took charge on the sideline. Michigan dominated the first half with Jamie Morris scoring on three TD runs, but Alabama came back to take a 24-21 lead late. Facing fourth-and-2 with under a minute left, Michigan quarterback Demetrius Brown threw a 20-yard TD pass to John Kolesar in the corner of the end zone to give the Wolverines a 28-24 victory - a play that made Schembechler "jump off the couch."

BBVA Compass Bowl (2006, 6th): The only game in this bowl's short history that wasn't decided by double digits was the 2008 edition. N.C. State jumped out to a 17-6 lead but lost quarterback Russell Wilson (yep, the same one playing in the Rose Bowl this year for Wisconsin) to a knee injury. As a result, Rutgers rallied, scoring three times in the fourth quarter for a 29-23 victory.

GoDaddy.com Bowl (1999, 13th): Never mind the bowl's second-rate status, the 2001 game between Marshall and East Carolina was truly a classic. In a game featuring two future Jacksonville Jaguars quarterbacks, David Garrad led ECU early en route to an apparent rout, taking a 38-8 halftime lead. But Byron Leftwich directed Marshall's comeback, scoring four touchdowns in the third quarter and finally catching ECU when he drove the Herd 80 yards in the game's final 50 seconds - but Marshall's Curtis Head missed the game-winning PAT, sending the game to overtime. It was finally settled when Leftwich hit Josh Davis in the second overtime to cap a 64-61 comeback win, which still stands as the highest-scoring bowl game in history. Leftwich's 576 passing yards also tied BYU's Ty Detmer for a bowl record.

Cotton Bowl (1936, 76th): Before he won four Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers, the legend of Joe Montana was born in the 1978 game (played on Jan. 1, 1979), better known as the Chicken Soup Game. Suffering from the flu, the Notre Dame quarterback was forced to stay in the locker room and keep warm by eating chicken soup. Meanwhile, Houston seemed to have taken an insurmountable 34-12 lead halfway through the fourth quarter. But after a blocked punt sparked the Irish, Montana engineered the epic comeback, hitting Kris Haines on a TD pass with no time remaining on the clock. Joe Unis' PAT gave the Irish an unthinkable 35-34 victory.

Sugar Bowl (1934, 78th): In terms of epicness, it doesn't get much bigger than the 1978 game (played on Jan. 1, 1979) that featured two legendary programs and legendary coaches in a battle of No. 1 vs. No. 2. Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions were ranked No. 1, with the top-ranked defense that's pitched three shutouts. But it was the Tide's defense that won the game in a titanic defensive struggle. In the fourth quarter, Alabama sealed its victory with a goal-line stand, stopping the Lions twice inside the 1-yard line to preserve a 14-7 win.

Orange Bowl (1934, 78th): The 1983 game (played on Jan. 2, 1984) put 'The U' on the map was perhaps the also best bowl game ever played. The upstart Hurricanes found themselves in the last game of the season, suddenly with a chance to win the national championship, with both No. 2 Texas and No. 4 Illinois having lost early in the day. They rode Bernie Kosar's arm to a 31-17 lead, before No. 1 Nebraska stormed back in the fourth quarter. After scoring a touchdown in the final minute, 'Huskers coach could've opted to kick a PAT and a tie that would ensure his team the national championship, but he decided to go for the win. When Turner Gill's 2-point conversion pass was broken up, the 'Canes had a 31-30 victory and their first national title.

Fiesta Bowl (1971, 41st): The game that vaulted Fiesta Bowl into a major player in the bowl season was the 1986 showdown (played on Jan. 2, 1987) between No. 1 Miami and No. 2 Penn State. It had the buildup of a heavyweight title fight and lived up to it. It was memorable for the 'Canes stalking out of a pre-game meal with Jerome Brown uttering the infamous line of "did the Japanese go and sit down and eat with Pearl Harbor before they bombed them?" It was remembered for Vinny Testaverde's five interceptions, the last of which sealed Penn State's 14-10 victory. It also remains television's highest-rated college football game in history.

Rose Bowl (1901, 98th): In John McKay's third season, he had returned USC to glory, taking the top-ranked and unbeaten Trojans into the 1962 game (played on Jan. 1, 1963) poised to win their first national title in 22 years. And USC pounced on second-ranked Wisconsin, taking a 42-14 lead early in the fourth quarter. But the Badgers staged an epic rally, scoring three touchdowns and a safety and had one final chance at an onside kick with over a minute left. The suddenly flustered Trojans finally were able to catch their breath after recovering the kick to hold on to a 42-37 victory.

BCS national championship (1998, 14th): Even if the NCAA wants you to believe the 2005 game (played on Jan. 4, 2006) never happened, we prefer to trust our own lyin' eyes. No. 1 USC rode a 34-game winning streak into the game, with two Heisman Trophy winners in tow, poised for a three-peat. But No. 2 Texas, behind Vince Young's magnificent play, rallied from a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to stun the Trojans in Pasadena. It's still the most-watched college football game in the BCS era.

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