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Biggest All-Time NCAA College Football Game

Which is the biggest all-time NCAA College Football game?

Of the hundreds of thousands of college football games ever played, picking the biggest of all time is virtually impossible. No, it is actually impossible.

But, we've done it anyway. Naturally, we picked the biggest all-time SEC football victory as the biggest all-time NCAA College Football Game.

The game is the 1998 National Championship game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Florida State Seminoles.


Well, surely, the top all-time NCAA college football game in history should be a National Championship game. Of course we've only had "true" National Championship games since the advent of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) in 1998.

Before that, College Football's National Champion was determined by voting in the various sports writer and football coaches polls. It was a matter of opinion.

Certainly polls and subjectivity still play a major roll in selecting the two finalists to play in the BCS Championship. But, we now have a system, that most everyone has signed up for, in which the winner of the BCS College Football Championship game is considered (by most everyone) to be the National Champ.

In view of that history, what game could be bigger than the very first BCS Championship Game? [Perhaps we show our bias a bit since an SEC team happened to have won that game. Still, we have a solid argument.]

The 1998 BCS Championship game was held at the Fiesta Bowl, on January 4th, 1999, in Tempe, Arizona (in Sun Devil Stadium). This was the first time in college football history that the winner of one game was assured college football's NCAA National Championship.

There were other factors as well that made the 1998 National Championship game compelling.

Tennessee was the underdog coming into the game. They had lost their great QB, Peyton Manning, to the NFL draft the year before. The Vols had also lost two other first round draft picks: wide receiver Marcus Nash and cornerback Terry Fair - along with 3rd rounder, linebacker Leonard Little.

So, the '98 version of Tennessee Volunteers football was predicted to be a step down from the '97 version.

But Tennessee was still loaded. They were led by quarterback Tee Martin and a bunch of other future NFL players including: Al Wilson, Jamal Lewis, Peerless Price, Travis Henry, Cedrick Wilson, David Martin, Shaun Ellis, Travis Stephens, Shawn Bryson, Deon Grant, and Raynoch Thompson.

The Vols were a seasoned group - after four years of big-time games with Peyton Manning. They had won several miracle games during the season (notably against Syracuse, Florida and Arkansas). They came in undefeated (12-0); yet the underdog to 11-1 Florida State; and probably had a bit of a chip on their shoulders.

Volunteer and Seminole fans sat at the edge of their seats, as a nail-biting first quarter resulted in no score for either team. In the second quarter, the Vols struck first with a 4-yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead. A roughing-the-kicker penalty on the extra point showcased the intensity of the contest.

Then, on the very next series, the Volunteers defense made a statement when Dwayne Goodrich intercepted the ball, returned it 54-yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 Tennessee lead. Tennessee was feeling pretty good, as both scores came within the first 25 seconds of the 2nd quarter.

Often, after a team gives up two touchdowns in 25 seconds, they collapse. Not the Seminoles. They fought back with a 1-yard touchdown run (missed extra point) and later a 34 yard field goal to make the halftime score 14-9.

The third quarter was a hard-fought defensive struggle as both teams scratched for the advantage.

Tennessee's offense finally struck decisively with a 78-yard touchdown pass from Tee Martin to Peerless Price, making the score 20-9.

But, again, the Seminoles fought back. This time with a 7-yard touchdown run to cut the Vols lead to 23-16. The Vols only needed to run the clock out. But, they couldn't. Running back, Travis Henry fumbled, giving the Seminoles new life with less than 2 minutes remaining in the game. However, a Tennessee interception sealed the win for the Vols. Final score, 23-16.

With the win, Tennessee had another NCAA Football National Championship. Their first since Bob Neyland was Coach, 47 years earlier.

MVP's for the game were Tennessee WR Peerless Price (199 yards receiving; TN bowl record) and CB Dwayne Goodrich (who largely shut down the Noles great wide receiver, Peter Warrick).

One interesting aspect of the game is that a punter greatly influenced the outcome. During the game, Peter Warrick, returned a punt and was in the open field. He only had one man to beat. That man was Volunteers punter David Leaverton. Leaverton managed to make a memorable open field tackle to save the game. Florida State did not score on the subsequent drive. Therefore, had Warrick scored on that kick return, the Seminoles would have made up the 7 points they eventually lost the game by.

So, essentially, a punter decided the biggest all-time NCAA college football game.

Click on this link to vote for the Top All-Time SEC Football Team. You might also be interested in this Great Early College Football History Book.

Biggest All-Time NCAA College Football Game
Biggest All-Time NCAA College Football Game
Biggest All-Time NCAA College Football Game

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What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

BCS Champion Is Not Legit National Champ  
Ummmm, your biggest NCAA college football game ever wasn't even a sanctioned NCAA event. The NCAA does not recognize the BCS games as a determinant for …

Notre Dame vs Alabama/Sugar Bowl 1973  
Although my Bama team did not win, in my 35+ years of going to Bama games, I have never been around one that had the electricity of this game. It was …

USC vs Texas  
#1 vs #2. Two undefeated teams. 2 Heisman winners and another Heisman candidate. Numerous players now in the NFL. Capped off a storybook ending.

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