Friday's showdown (and College Football Playoff Semifinal) between Michigan and Georgia will be one of the biggest Orange Bowls ever played. Whether it will be one of the greatest Orange Bowls ever played will be determined on the field.
Since its founding in 1935, the Orange Bowl has seen several breathtaking contests, many of which impacted the national championship. Here are the five greatest games ever.
5. Oklahoma 18, Florida State 17
Jan. 1, 1981
Tied 10-10 late in the fourth quarter, Oklahoma’s Mike Keeling lined up deep in his own territory to punt, but the snap sailed over his head into the end zone. Florida State pounced on the ball in the end zone to give the Seminoles a 17-10 lead. The Sooners wishbone quarterback, J.C. Watts, used his passing to lead the team 78 yards and punctuated the drive with an 11-yard touchdown strike to Steve Rhodes with 1:27 left. Head coach Barry Switzer opted to go for two and Watts hit tight end Forest Valora to go ahead by one. Florida State kicker Bill Capece attempted a 62-yard field goal as time expired, but it fell short.
4. Florida State 18, Nebraska 16
Jan. 1, 1994
Nebraska had lost six straight bowl appearances and entered the game as a 16.5-point underdog despite being 11-0. But Florida State quickly realized it was dealing with a different Husker squad in what would be a war of attrition. Then with 1:16 left in the game, kicker Byron Bennett booted a 27-yard field goal to give Nebraska a 16-15 lead. Two penalties gave the Seminoles excellent field position and Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward drove his team inside Nebraska’s 10-yard line where kicker Scott Bentley kicked a 22-yarder with 21 seconds left to give FSU an 18-16 lead. A decent return gave Nebraska the ball back on its 46-yard line and quarterback Tommie Frazier hit tight end Trumane Bell with a pass to get the Cornhuskers to the Seminoles’ 28-yard line. Time seemed to expire and FSU head coach Bobby Bowden was doused with Gatorade. However, officials determined there was one second left and Bennett lined up for a 45-yard attempt. This one went wide left, giving Florida State and Bowden their first national title.
3. Michigan 35, Alabama 34
Jan. 1, 2000
SEC champion Alabama jumped out to a 14-0 second-quarter lead, but Tom Brady led Michigan back to tie the game with a 57-yard touchdown pass to David Terrell early in the third quarter. Then Alabama went up 28-14 thanks to a 50-yard touchdown run by Shaun Alexander and a 62-yard punt return by Freddie Milons. Michigan tied the game before the end of the third quarter with a 20-yard pass TD from Brady to Terrell and a three-yard scoring run by Anthony Thomas. Alabama blocked a Wolverine field goal as time expired and the game went into overtime for the first time in the history of BCS Bowls. Michigan got the ball and Brady hit Shawn Thompson for a 25-yard touchdown strike on the first play. Alabama responded with a 21-yard pass from Andrew Zow to Antonio Carter, but Ryan Pflugner missed the extra point, giving the Wolverines a one-point win.