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You can change CFB history by changing one old touchdown. Which will you choose?

Here are some old games we’d revise, whether for entertainment, justice, or pure spite. Add yours in the comments.

Texas A&M V Kansas State

2004 USC vs. Cal, by Brian Floyd

Let’s get Marshawn Lynch a national championship.

In early October, No. 7 Cal traveled to No. 1 USC and lost by six despite significantly outplaying the Trojans. USC went on the win the BCS in a year when the rankings were so messed up, it helped pave the way for a playoff. Cal was left out of the Rose Bowl, perhaps partly because of lobbyist Mack Brown.

Add one more touchdown to Cal’s score against USC, and a lot changes. Cal goes to the title game. The argument over a bowl berth becomes USC-Texas, potentially erasing Vince Young’s first Rose Bowl moment (Michigan loses in either world). USC and Texas will settle the argument the next season anyway.

Putting a blemish on USC possibly ruins Matt Leinart’s Heisman campaign. This either puts the trophy in the hands of Adrian Peterson or opens a mystery door where Aaron Rodgers wins it.

Rodgers leads Cal to a title game victory, and a freshman Lynch leads a postgame medical cart parade throughout Miami.

2005 Penn State vs. Michigan, by Alex Kirshner

You’ll recall Mario Manningham’s game-winning catch as time expired, which provided Penn State’s only loss:

The Nittany Lions were going to finish 10-1 and third in the BCS standings behind the wire-to-wire 1 and 2, USC and Texas. I’m not here to argue that without Manningham’s catch, Vince Young’s second night at the Rose Bowl never would’ve happened.

But I am here to argue that, with too many undefeated power-conference teams for a second year in a row, the hollering for a playoff would’ve grown so incessant, there’s a chance college football would’ve had a system before it actually did.

The 2003 season had been a mess for the BCS, with LSU winning the title game and USC the AP title. That caused the BCS to de-emphasize its computer calculations and lean more on the human polls.

With the arrival of the 2004 season, there was a different mess, with unbeaten Auburn getting relegated to the Sugar Bowl against two-loss Virginia Tech (plus undefeated Utah and Boise State teams having no shot). The AP embarrassed the BCS by telling it to stop using the poll. Even worse, OU was uncompetitive against USC in the championship.

Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese acknowledged the ‘04 situation was “like crack” for playoff proponents. I don’t think university presidents would’ve withstood the public-relations whoopass if Penn State had then stayed unbeaten in ‘05.

The BCS had a TV deal with Fox that ran through 2010 for the non-Rose bowls. I believe we’d have had a playoff in 2011, not 2014, if Penn State hadn’t lost to Michigan.

We could’ve forced Bama to earn a rematch against LSU in ‘11, but in 2013, we’d have been required to watch Michigan State in yet another playoff. So it’s probably for the best that Manningham caught it.

1966 Notre Dame vs. Michigan State, by Richard Johnson

I’m gonna break a personal rule and acknowledge championships before the sport fully integrated in 1972. But I am still ignoring an undefeated Alabama that was four years away from being rocked by a USC filled with black players, highlighting Bama’s need to integrate.

Giving the ‘66 Spartans this outright national title seems fitting. That Michigan State roster featured a whopping 20 black players, including quarterback Jimmy Raye. Notre Dame had one.

On Nov. 19th, the teams met in East Lansing in a so-called “Game Of The Century,” ranked 1 and 2.

After missing what would have been a go-ahead field goal, Notre Dame had the ball with another chance to win. The Irish opted not to.

Even as the Michigan State defenders taunted them and called the timeouts that the Irish should have been calling. Notre Dame ran into the line, the place where the big game was hopelessly played all afternoon. No one really expected a verdict in that last desperate moment. But they wanted someone to try. When the Irish ran into the line, the Spartans considered it a minor surrender. [...]

“I was saying, “You’re going for the tie, aren’t you? You’re going for the tie,’ “ said (George) Webster. “And you know what? They wouldn’t even look us in the eyes. They just turned their backs and went back to their huddle.” Bubba (Smith) had hollered, “Come on, you sissies,” while other Spartans were yelling at (Notre Dame Coach Ara) Parseghian.

Let us right this wrong. Let us make this score 17-10 in favor of the green and white.

1998 Kansas State vs. Texas A&M, by Steven Godfrey

What’s the least accomplished program to make a national championship game? Use any metric: recruiting rankings, coaching salaries, athletic department spending, marketing campaigns, alternate uniforms, whatever.

Wouldn’t K-State’s mere presence in a BCS title game invalidate the curmudgeon logic that only the biggest, richest, and most geographically gifted schools can really compete — even if that might be the truth?

Let’s swap some points in the 1998 Big 12 Championship at the historic TWA Dome in St. Louis. Undefeated K-State blew a 27-12 fourth quarter lead and lost in double overtime, 36-33, choking away the chance to end decades of ignominy. I don’t need seven points — just let Texas A&M miss its two-point conversion.

Tennessee could’ve still won the BCS, and FSU’s legacy wouldn’t be changed much by absence. But Kansas State wouldn’t have suffered the indignity of falling out of the BCS bowls despite being No. 3, a clear early sign of how the stupid BCS hid college football’s old school biases with new junk math.

If the Cats merely made the game, we’d have an example that this sport can still produce a bootstraps champion.

2009 Tennessee vs. Alabama, by Jason Kirk

I wanted to take a title from a dynasty and give it to a non-power.

For example, change a 1975 Miami midfield fumble into a touchdown against reigning champ Oklahoma, and the WAC’s Arizona State is your final AP No. 1.

Give 1899 Harvard a loss to Yale — not that true national champion Sewanee needs the help, but still.

Or, if Tennessee’s last-second field goal makes it past Terrence Cody’s hands and goes through, 2009’s title game might (with some additional fantasy — the rankings weren’t super close, but let’s live a little) be Texas vs. Cincinnati.

Maybe Mack Brown wins and stays at Texas forever. Maybe Brian Kelly wins and jumps to the Bills. Maybe Louisville, Pitt, Syracuse, or West Virginia becomes a realignment loser as the ACC and Big 12 fight over Cincinnati.

Maybe, without a 2009 title, Nick Saban gets less benefit of the doubt from the BCS’ human voters in 2011, when the computers preferred Oklahoma State over a team that’d already lost to LSU. Maybe Saban having two fewer titles gives the 2017 Playoff committee a little doubt as well.

The good news for Bama is that, in most timelines, Cincy wouldn’t win it all in 2009, meaning Saban still gets to enjoy facing Kelly’s Notre Dame in 2012.

Also, that 2009 win by Tennessee vaults Vols coach Lane Kiffin to a really big job, like maybe USC or something.

Tennessee v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

2015 Tennessee vs. Alabama, by Ryan Nanni

The Vols now win, 21-19, in Tuscaloosa. That means Butch Jones is 9-3 in his third year, with Tennessee’s first win over the Tide in nine years, and probably a bid to the Citrus Bowl instead of the Outback. I’m betting he gets another contract extension.

At two 2015 losses, the narrative for Nick Saban since winning the 2012 title by destroying Notre Dame is now this:

  • 2013: Missed the SEC title game, got torn up by Trevor Knight in the Sugar Bowl
  • 2014: Won the SEC, got torn up by Cardale Jones in the Playoff semifinal
  • 2015: Missed the SEC title game and the Playoff

Would this mean Saban had lost his touch? No. Would it mean sportswriters would fill up column after column suggesting that? Yes.

Also, the SEC Championship is now Florida against Ole Miss.

Florida beating the Rebels for the second time that season would give the Gators a Sugar Bowl bid against a beatable Oklahoma State, meaning Jim McElwain and Butch Jones land long-term contracts in the SEC East.

Or Ole Miss wins its first SEC title since 1963. You’re probably thinking the NCAA’s just gonna overturn this, but you’re wrong! Of the 33 victories the school was forced to vacate, zero occurred in 2015.

Now the Playoff committee has to pick between Stanford, Iowa, and Ohio State for the last spot. Pick three-loss Ole Miss and get people talking.

2002 Georgia vs. Florida, by Holly Anderson

I want to hand Georgia seven points, meaning a game that endures so many overtimes, everyone agrees to call it a tie, accomplishing several mean agenda items at once.

First! It saddles the undefeated Bulldogs with an asterisk. This gifts them a claim on the BCS title game, but Georgia holds in its grubby paws a hope as indigestible as store-brand kibble to a purebred bulldog. With two unblemished teams elsewhere, the Dawgs’ postseason angst is maximized, and even the balm of a win over their hated rival is denied them. Welcome to hell; it’s cocktail hour.

Second! Georgia’s thin claim complicates a clean BCS matchup between Miami and Ohio State. The outcome is now tainted for Ohio State, no matter what happens. With a Buckeyes’ loss, Georgia claims it should have had the shot at Miami. Or the Georgia argument applies yet another layer to an already clouded Ohio State win, following one of the most contested pass interference calls of all time. We leave the Buckeyes here, at their normal baseline level of misery/triumph.

Third and finally! Those seven points remove Florida’s only accomplishment in 2002: ruining Georgia’s season.

2012 Stanford vs. Oregon, by Spencer Hall

Oregon had so much going for it: uninjured future Heisman winner Marcus Mariota, Kenjon Barner totaling 2,023 yards, a rampaging offense averaging 49 points a game, and the No. 25 scoring defense.

The Ducks had Chip Kelly, riding his final death machine into a gig with the Philadelphia Eagles. Six years later, the Eagles would win the Super Bowl. These facts definitely have something to do with each other, as long as no one looks up what happened.

This millennium, the Ducks had several real, live shots at a national title. 2012 was maybe their best, given that they had Mariota and would’ve played the beatable Fighting Irish in the title game.

You’re just saying that because of how badly Notre Dame lost to Alabama. Oh, absolutely, but: the Irish came into Miami at unsustainable heights, thanks to close wins during a favorable schedule. Their limited offense only survived thanks to a stout defense, and the centerpiece of that defense wilted against Alabama. In a lot of ways, the 2012 Irish had been clearly living on borrowed time.

If anything, Oregon would have made it worse. After 30 minutes of industrial rinsing, Alabama only scored twice in the second half against Notre Dame. Kelly teams commonly put up three scores in the third quarter alone.

Only Stanford, capable of putting Oregon’s boom-time offense into a depression, kept Oregon from doing this to Notre Dame. The Cardinal held the Ducks to 14 points and squatted on the ball for almost 38 minutes in a repossession of hopes.

Stanford did this despite turning the ball over three times, Oregon putting up 400 yards, and almost no one wearing a color besides red wanting it to happen. This seems like an okay motto for Stanford history. Stanford football: Few want it to happen, but look, it’s going down anyway.

Nothing about Stanford-Oregon made sense in 2012, and nothing about it makes sense in 2019. So let’s just pretend it didn’t happen.

On Nov. 17, 2012, the Ducks emerged in a 21-14 win over the Cardinal. They later beat Notre Dame by a score of 114-24, which everyone thought was insanely cool.