The signs area already beginning to show -
1. I saw a combine harvesting grain in the east field behind our house.
2. The back to school ads and displays are starting to pop up in the stores.
3. The evening seems to come just a little bit sooner than it did early in the summer.
4. Halloween displays begin popping up in stores (I recall once shopping in mid July at Gordman's for birthday gifts for our friends daughters. While Kristie was looking in the toddler clothes section, I meandered away and discovered that they had already set up their Halloween displays. Sure enough, Michael's does this too.)
5. The Haunted Acres ads begin showing up on the counters of gas stations and convenience stores around the area.
6. The leaves on the large maple just as you turn on to Robin Hood Drive are just starting to turn color
7. Cash just got hit in the head by a falling acorn while on the deck.
8. NFL training camps out and pre-season football serves to hold football starved fans over.
9. College football begins!
I can't wait for the kickoff weekend (the first weekend in September) with some excellent games, namely Arizona State vs. Texas A & M and Alabama vs. Wisconsin. Usually the Big 10 is a snoozefest when it comes to scheduling non-conference games, but the Golden Gophers came through this year scheduling a rematch against TCU at home this year. Should be a great game. If the Gophers can slow down that high octane offense of Horned Frogs.
All of this thinking about college football has me thinking about the all-time best college football games I've seen. Here is my list.
10. Revenge! - Colorado vs. Nebraska
Usually, when Nebraska plays (especially when it was against one of the Florida schools), I pulled for them. However, ever since the dashed the national title hopes of my beloved Colorado Buffs back in 1994, I have hated them whenever they played the Buffs.
The 1990's were full of heartbreak for the Buffs when it came to this rivalry.
But in 2001 the Buffs had the Cornhusker's number. They simply ran the ball down the Huskers throats . . . and there was nothing they could do about this. It was so much fun to watch this as I was home for a weekend from grad school.
I could watch this game every day.
Especially since it should have doomed the Huskers shot at a national championship, but it didn't. This game, at least, showed the stupidity of the BSC computers. Nebraska, which didn't even win its conference (losing to CU who would go on and beat Texas in the Big 12 championship game), would end up ranking #2 (behind a stellar Miami team) and getting the chance to still play for a championship. What sense does that make. And it's one of the reason I'm so glad college football finally has a playoff system. Back in these old days, Ohio State would never have had a shot at a national championship.
9. What a grab! - Texas Tech vs. TCU -
Michael Grabtree makes a stellar catch with 3 seconds to go and then somehow manages to break tackles and get into the end zone, with one second left to pith the Red Raiders on top. But it's not over as Texas would make the most out of the remaining second to try and pull out the win.
Kristie and I were watching this and when Crabtree grabbed the ball and made it into the end zone, she jumped out and yelled, 'What a game! I love college football!"
After that, there was no arguing that she was perfect!
8. Greatest National Championship Game Ever - Texas vs. USC
This had the makings of the greatest college football game ever played: USC had two Heisman Trophy winners (Leinart and Bush) and Texas had the guy how should have won the Heisman (Vince Young). You can count the numbers of future NFL players on two hands watching this one.
Usually, when games are billed as the best ever, it's a let down, if not a full fledge blow out. However, this one lived up to the billing. This is one of those games where if you get up for some reason, you miss a major play.
7. The first Big 12 Conference Championship - Texas vs. Nebraska
When I was in college, the Cornhuskers absolutely dominated the conference of my favorite football team, the Colorado Buffaloes. So when they breezed toward the first Big 12 conference championship, I figured it was a forgone conclusion that they'd win and move on toward their third consecutive national championship. Mack Brown's Longhorns, featuring a future NFL star, Priest Holmes, had other ideas. This game features one of the gutsiest fourth down calls I have ever seen.
6. The Upset - Boston College vs. Notre Dame 1993
My mother's favorite college football team (probably her favorite team overall) was her beloved Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Of course, they had to ruin my Colorado Buffs perfect season in 1990. Ever since then I hated the Irish!
It was at this time that I also fell in love with EA College Football. One of my favorite teams in that game was Boston College. I even found a Boston College hat that I wore all the time.
I'll never forget trying to tune in this game on my way out to our house, but I had no luck. I just knew that the Eagles were playing them close. And I knew that I had probably missed the ending over the course of that 10 minute drive from RLF out to our house.
When I pulled into the driveway - with my Boston College cap on, by the way - Mom was on the steps waiting.
I knew it was either to gloat (if Notre Dame won) or to let me have it (if somehow Boston College was able to pull off the upset).
She had her hands on her hips and a scowl on her face as she said, "You just had to get that cap didn't you?"
Then she informed me that Boston College hit an improbable last second field goal to doom the national championship hopes of the Fighting Irish.
Here is that awesome kick -
5. Two Emerging Teams - Louisville vs. Rutgers. In this 2006 Thursday night classic, the Scarlett Knights were an emerging team (ranked #15) while Louisville was turning into a surprising powerhouse, after losing just one game and beating Boise State in 2004.
Louisville seemed to have the game in the bag, but the Scarlett Knights wouldn't give up and made the big plays down the stretch. Seeing the Knights fans rush the field in a sea of red was one of the best college football images I've ever seen.
4. The best playoff game I've ever listened to - 1990 NDSU vs. Pittsburgh State. The first college football game I ever saw in person was in 1989 (my sophomore year of high school) when our high school football team went to Dacotah Field in Fargo to see NDSU take on Augustana. Though I went in a Bison fan, I ended up pulling for Augustana (they were the underdog, after all). This wasn't a smart move as we were sitting in the NDSU student section. The game ended in a 7-7 tie.
The next fall we would go see the Bison play the Sioux in Grand Forks, where they destroyed the Sioux on the way to the national championship. The NDSU players were legends - Tony Satter, Phil Hanson, and Chris Simdorm.
I tuned in to the third round of the Division II playoffs (to hear Ed Schultz call the game) on my mom's radio in our kitchen.
The game was amazing. The Bison won by 10, but it was a back and forth game where you couldn't leave for a minute or you'd miss a big play.
What made this game so amazing was that the Bison and the Gorillas were mirror images of each other, each running the option.
It was a classic. After winning this game, the national championship would be a walk in the park for the Bison!
3. The Miracle at Michigan - Colorado vs. Michigan
It was 1994. If Colorado ever had a chance to win another National Championship, this was the year. The Buffs had so much talent - The Heisman winner Rashan Salaam; College football's best player Kordell Stewart; a first round pick at wide receiver, Michael Westbrook (who hauls in this last second pass from Stewart); a Butkus award candidate in linebacker Ted Johnson while a young linebacker Matt Russell who would win the award a few years later; the Jim Thorpe award winner in CB Chris Hudson; a future first round pick (and murderer) Rai Carruth; future NFL TE Christian Fauria; and a future All-America and top ten pick at guard, Chris Naeole.
This team was loaded. But it the Big House in Michigan is no easy place to win (well, that's how it used to be anyway). This was a great back. The Buffs would score and then Michigan would score. The Buffs had to rally late and then force Michigan to punt with just a couple seconds left.
And as I rematch it, I see that the Buffs illegally had a lineman downfield. But who was watching that? All eyes were on Stewart and his amazing pass!
Then Stewart heaved a massive shot down field where it was tipped up and into Westbrook's diving hands. If only the Buffs wouldn't have lost to Nebraska that year, they'd have won another national championship. This is likely the most talented team to ever not win a championship.
Oh, by the way . . . who did the Buffs crush in their bowl game? Notre Dame! That was at least some consolation!
2. The Iron Bowl - Auburn vs. Alabama
Since my hometown teams that I always played on either lost or were always the underdog, I've come up always having a soft spot for the underdog in any sport.
So when the mighty Alabama played at Auburn in 2013, I was pulling for the underdog Tigers. It was a great game where Auburn was able to hang in there long enough to make it interesting. Alabama also missed field goals and had crucial turnovers that kept them from putting the game away.
And it changed how the world looked at attempting long field goals in the closing seconds of games.
No one saw this coming, except for Auburn, who made the most out of the short kick. When I saw this happen, it was one of those surreal moments that I couldn't believe was really happening.
1. Fiesta Bowl - Boise State vs. Oklahoma
My family watched this stellar game (again, which features the most prominent of all underdogs) the night my father passed away. While he was resting peacefully, it was divine providence that this game would become so epic, since my dad loved his football.
This was one of those games where the underdog roared out to a huge lead too early. And the viewer just knows that the other team is just too good to stay down for too long. It took the mighty Oklahoma about 57 minutes to take the lead, but once they did . . . things really became interesting.
The final few moments of this game, and Boise State's gutsy play calling in OT are the stuff of legend.