1984 College Football: The Road To The National Championship

The 1984 college football season was a year of chaos and it started early. Every one of the preseason Top 5 teams had lost a game by the time September was out, and three of those teams—Auburn, Pitt and Clemson would go on to be disappointments. It opened the door for not only a Cinderella national championship. In this blog compilation you’ll read about the following…

*How BYU capitalized on the chaos to ride an undefeated season to the national title and managed to do so while playing a 6-5 Michigan team in the Holiday Bowl on December 21.

*Washington and Oklahoma met in the Orange Bowl and had the backing of the anti-BYU coalition among college football fans. The Huskies won the game, but not the vote.

*No play from this season—nor any other—has stood the test of time like Doug Flutie’s desperation pass to Gerald Phelan that gave Boston College an improbable 47-45 win over Miami on Black Friday. The Eagles were playing some pretty good football before that and already had a Cotton Bowl bid wrapped up. The Hurricanes did okay for themselves as well and went to the Fiesta Bowl.

*Miami lost the Fiesta Bowl to UCLA, was one part of a Pac-10 Power Trio that owned New Year’s Day. Washington was another part of it. And we haven’t gotten to the team that won the conference title. USC finished with three losses due to a tough non-conference slate, but got their first bid to Pasadena in five years.

*Another proud program had been absent the Rose Bowl for five years and that was Ohio State. The Big Ten race itself was a little wild and woolly, with several teams going into November with a shot at Pasadena. The Buckeyes ultimately survived a race with Iowa.

Nebraska had come within one agonizing play of winning the national title in 1983. The Cornhuskers had a chance at redemption in 1984, before losing to Oklahoma. Nebraska went to the Sugar Bowl as a consolation prize. The opponent there was LSU, who was SEC runner-up, but with champion Florida on probation, the Tigers got the nod for New Orleans.

Finally, we come to the unpredictable SWC. It looked like Texas was going to roll to the now-defunct conference’s Cotton Bowl bid before they fell apart in November. It resulted in a packed race that was ultimately won by Houston. It completed a great year for Cougar athletics, as they made their third straight Final Four in basketball in March and went to the Cotton Bowl the following January.

This blog compilation consists of six articles that are posted individual on TheSportsNotebook.com and pulled together and edited. The first article is about BYU. The ensuing five pieces are divided by each major bowl game and look at the path each team took to New Year’s Day. Taken together, the six articles tell the story of the 1984 college football season through the eyes of its best teams.