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Ranking Every College Football National Championship Game

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With Clemson and Alabama delivering one of the greatest college football games ever in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship that literally went down to the final second, here's a ranking of all 22* championship games since the formation of the Bowl Coalition 25 years ago.

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*The 1995 Orange Bowl, ’97 Sugar Bowl and ’98 Orange Bowl are not included in the rankings because they are not considered true national championship games. In fact, these outcomes were part of the reason why the BCS replaced the Bowl Coalition/Alliance in 1998.

— Rankings by Jim Weber, a veteran college sports journalist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. Weber has written for CBS Sports Network, NBCSports.com, ESPN the Magazine and the college sports website he founded and sold, LostLettermen.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JimMWeber.

22. 2002 Rose Bowl — Miami 37, Nebraska 14

Don’t let the final score fool you, folks: This was an absolute bloodbath. With a roster full of future NFL stars like Clinton Portis, Jeremy Shockey, Andre Johnson, Jonathan Vilma and Ed Reed, “The U” stormed out to a 34-0 halftime lead and started celebrating its fifth national title at halftime.

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21. 2005 Orange Bowl — USC 55, Oklahoma 19

Everything about this Orange Bowl was laughable – from the final score to Ashlee Simpson’s halftime show. Oklahoma actually scored first in this game but then watched USC score 55 of the next 58 points thanks to five Matt Leinart touchdown passes.

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20. 1996 Fiesta Bowl — Nebraska 62, Florida 24

Florida led Nebraska 10-6 after the first quarter but it was all Cornhuskers after that. Nebraska scored 56 of the next 70 points by running over, around and through Florida’s defense. Tommie Frazier’s legendary 75-yard TD run put an exclamation point on the blowout win.

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19. 2012 BCS National Championship Game — Alabama 21, LSU 0

What was supposed to be a thrilling rematch of the regular season’s “Game of the Century” between these two teams instead turned into one of the most pathetic offensive performances of all-time. LSU finished with a total of 92 yards and didn’t cross midfield until the third quarter.

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18. 2013 BCS National Championship Game — Alabama 42, Notre Dame 14

The highlight of this game was Brent Musburger ogling AJ McCarron’s girlfriend, Katherine Webb, in the stands while talking to Kirk Herbstreit by saying: “You quarterbacks, you get all the good-looking women!” The game also was a laugher, as Notre Dame didn’t score a point until the third quarter.

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17. 2007 BCS National Championship Game — Florida 41, Ohio State 14

Ted Ginn returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown but was injured in the ensuing celebration and it was all downhill from there. Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith was stymied by a suffocating Florida defense as Urban Meyer laid a beatdown on his future program.

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16. 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship — Ohio State 42, Oregon 20

After the Big Ten had fallen in prestige in recent years, Meyer brought back smash-mouth football as the Buckeyes pounded Oregon on the ground with 246 rushing yards courtesy of Ezekiel Elliott in a 42-20 throttling of the Ducks.

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15. 2001 Orange Bowl — Oklahoma 13, Florida State 2

The 2001 Orange Bowl was close throughout, if not necessarily pleasant to watch. Oklahoma’s defense dominated Florida State and Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke, as only a fourth-quarter safety prevented a shutout in this snoozer.

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14. 2010 BCS National Championship Game — Alabama 37, Texas 21

What was supposed to be an epic showdown was quickly derailed when Colt McCoy got hurt on the Longhorns’ fifth play from scrimmage and true freshman Garrett Gilbert was inserted into an impossible situation. Texas closed the score to within 24-21 in the fourth quarter before being subdued by the Crimson Tide.

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13. 1993 Sugar Bowl — Alabama 34, Miami 13

Everyone expected the big, bad Hurricanes to crush Alabama but it was the Crimson Tide that rolled in New Orleans as ‘Bama’s defense limited Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torretta and the ‘Canes to six offensive points. The game is best remembered for Alabama safety George Teague stripping Miami WR Lamar Thomas on what looked like it was going to be an 89-yard touchdown for “The U.”

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12. 2008 BCS National Championship Game — LSU 38, Ohio State 24

After arguably the craziest season in college football history, LSU ended up in the title game despite two losses. The Tigers certainly looked deserving on an invitation to New Orleans by the end as they used a 21-0 second quarter to pull away from the Buckeyes.

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11. 2009 BCS National Championship Game — Florida 24, Oklahoma 14

The game itself was devoid of spectacular plays but did enter the fourth quarter tied at 14 before Tim Tebow and the Gators pulled away for Florida’s second national title in three years and another loss in a title game for “Big Game” Bob Stoops. 

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10. 2004 Sugar Bowl — LSU 21, Oklahoma 14

Nick Saban’s first national title featured just one offensive score in the second half as both defenses dominated. Making the game even less intriguing, LSU had to split the national title with USC — the exact situation the BCS was created to prevent. Whoops. 

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9. 2000 Sugar Bowl — Florida State 46, Virginia Tech 29

The game was closer than the score indicated and featured a performance for the ages by Virginia Tech QB Michael Vick. Vick finished with 97 rushing yards, 225 more passing, two touchdowns and countless highlight-reel plays but was ultimately outdone by Chris Weinke’s 329 yards and four touchdowns, most notably a 64-yard strike to WR Peter Warrick.

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8. 1999 Fiesta Bowl — Tennessee 23, Florida State 16

The first BCS title game was a thriller, as Tennessee lead the game 14-9 in the fourth quarter when Tee Martin hit WR Peerless Price for a scintillating 79-yard touchdown strike to put the game out of reach. 

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7. 2011 BCS National Championship Game — Auburn 22, Oregon 19

What was supposed to be an offensive shootout turned into a defensive slugfest, as both offenses appeared rusty after the long layoff. Auburn RB Michael Dyer magically kept his knee from touching the turf for a 37-yard gain with two minutes to go to set up a Wes Byrum 19-yard field goal to win it at the buzzer, right after Brent Musburger exclaimed, “This is for all the Tostitos...”

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6. 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship — Alabama 45, Clemson 40

If the rematch between Alabama and Clemson lives up to the original, then get your popcorn ready for Monday night, as the two teams combined for 85 points and more than 1,000 yards of offense last year. The play of the game was a shocking onside kick by the Crimson Tide after tying the score up at 24 in the fourth quarter, a decision that propelled Alabama to its 16th national title.

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5. 2014 BCS National Championship Game — Florida State 34, Auburn 31

The battle royale between Florida State and Auburn was a roller-coaster ride of emotions, as the lead changed hands three times in the final five minutes of the game. Just when it appeared Tre Mason had won the game for Auburn with a go-ahead TD with 1:13 remaining, Jameis Winston marched FSU back down the field and tossed the winning touchdown to Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds to go.

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4. 1994 Orange Bowl — Florida State 18, Nebraska 16

It was a game befitting two of the greatest college quarterbacks of all time in Tommie Frazier and Charlie Ward. After field goals had undone several potential Florida State national title teams, Scott Bentley came through for Bobby Bowden with a go-ahead 22-yarder with 21 seconds left. Incredibly, Nebraska got the ball in position for kicker Byron Bennett to win it with a 45-yard attempt, but it went wide left as the clock expired to give FSU its first national title.

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3. 2003 Fiesta Bowl — Ohio State 31, Miami 24 (2OT)

It was teased as David vs. Goliath when the Buckeyes faced off against the defending national champions in the desert. The instant classic headed into overtime where, aided by a controversial pass interference call at the end of the first OT, Ohio State prevailed. 

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2. 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship — Clemson 35, Alabama 31

It took a little while for things to warm up, as Alabama led 14-7 at the break after a sluggish first half. But the final quarter was the sublime title fight we had all hoped for. The two sides exchanged blow after blow and the lead changed hands three times in the final five minutes, capped by Deshaun Watson's two-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow with one second left to deliver Clemson's first national title in 35 years.

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1. 2006 Rose Bowl — Texas 41, USC 38

Many people still call it the 2006 Rose Bowl the greatest college football game ever played. In an epic, back-and-forth clash between two super teams, Texas rallied from 12 points down in the fourth quarter as Vince Young scampered into the end zone on fourth down with 19 seconds left to clutch the crystal football.

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