Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Top 10 'Games of the Century'

Let the hype begin.

How big is Saturday's LSU-Alabama showdown? It's only the 12th time in the post-World War II era that the top two ranked teams will be facing each other in a regular season game in November or December. At stake: The winner is just about assured of a place in the BCS championship game and the loser might have a fighting chance to earn a rematch, if the game is close.

So this will amount to college football's latest "Game of the Century," a phrase that's not entirely hyperbolic and ironic. Whereas in pro football and other sports, the most hyped games frequently end in disappointment, that's rarely been the case in college football. In the aforementioned 11 games, nine were decided by a touchdown or less and only one was a blowout.

Some of those games were so good that there were literally no losers (it's called a tie, for you youngsters unfamiliar with the concept) and some have far-reaching historical significance. Many of those propelled players into winning the Heisman Trophy, if not for the same season, then as a notice to be served for the next season.

College football's biggest brand names were almost always involved in these games: Oklahoma, Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, USC, Florida State, Miami. But there was a time when the service academies ruled the sport.

In 1946, an Army team that was ranked No. 1 entered its showdown with Notre Dame on a 25-game winning streak, having obliterated the Irish in the previous two meetings by a combined score of 107-0. The Cadets had Doc Blanchard, "Mr. Inside," who won the Heisman the year before and Glenn Davis, "Mr. Outside," who would win the trophy that season.

But Notre Dame managed to bottle up Army's high-powered offense in a remarkable game at Yankee Stadium, ending the Cadets' winning streak with a scoreless tie. The Irish, featuring two of the next three Heisman winners in Johnny Lujack and Leon Hart, went on to win the mythical national championship that year, with Army finishing second.

That was the first one, and others followed. Will the Tussle in Tuscaloosa become a worthy addition? If history repeats itself, we should have yet another all-time classic in a sport where the regular season isn't just there to help set up playoff positions.

While we soak in the hype, let's review the Top 10 "Games of the Century" in College Football History:

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