Brian Bosworth

Photo by Fiesta Bowl/Collegiate Images

The last time the Penn State Nittany Lions won the national championship…

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Joe Paterno had plenty of national championship-worthy teams during his lengthy coaching career, but he only saw his team crowned national champion twice. In 1982, the Nittany Lions went 11-1 and defeated Herschel Walker and the Georgia Bulldogs to finally give Paterno his long-awaited national championship. Three years later, the Nittany Lions came up short in the Orange Bowl against Barry Switzer and his Oklahoma Sooners. But Penn State would be back to play for a national championship the following season, and they would do so as a pretty big underdog in a clash of college football cultures.

In 1986, Penn State moved their the regular season without a blip. John Shaffer will never go down as one of Penn State’s top quarterbacks, but he got the job done with a running game fueled by D.J. Dozier. Penn State’s defense was one of the best in school history, with Shane Conlan anchoring things at linebacker. No team scored more than 19 points on Penn State in 1986, including No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Oct. 25, 1986. The upset by the visiting No. 6 Nittany Lions threw Penn State into the national title picture for the final month of the season.

A 24-19 victory at Notre Dame followed by a 34-14 home victory against Pitt to close out the regular season assured Penn State would be no worse than No. 2 going into the bowl season, and thus a national championship game was in the cards.

Penn State would play the decided underdog in the Fiesta Bowl against No. 1 Miami, coached by Jimmy Johnson, quarterbacked by Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde and starring players like Michael Irvin and Jerome Brown. The game would help make the Fiesta Bowl one of the top bowl games it is today, as the unique opportunity to pit No. 1 vs. No. 2 threw the Fiesta Bowl out of its typical pre-Rose Bowl lead-in spot into primetime on its own day, and it pulled in a massive rating for NBC. The classic “Good vs. Evil” storyline was on full display as the teams got off the planes in Arizona, Penn State in their typical travel attire and Miami coming off the plane in battle fatigues. Miami would later walk out of a joint team dinner with Jerome Brown infamously asking “Did the Japanese sit down and have dinner at Pearl Harbor before they bombed them?”

Miami was a heavy favorite, as they had been dominant all season long, but Penn State’s defense would keep the Hurricanes in check. The game reached halftime knotted at 7-7. Miami’s only score came following a fumble recovery at the Penn State 23-yard line. Miami heavily out-gained Penn State, but the Nittany Lion defense buckled down when it had to. Miami ended the game with a 445-162 advantage in offensive yards, and Miami racked up 22 first downs to Penn State’s eight. But the feisty and determined Penn State defense forced a stunning seven turnovers against the nation’s top team, including five interceptions of Testaverde. The final interception, by linebacker Pete Giftopoulos, helped clinch a national title for Penn State, the second and final one for Paterno.

It’s been a while since the Nittany Lions were the No. 1 team. LEt’s look back at what else was happening in 1986 when Penn State won it all.

Last National Championship: 1986 (33 years and counting)

Who was President?

Ronald Reagan was in the White House in 1987, when the Fiesta Bowl for the 1986 season was played, so the Nittany Lions made a trip to the White House. Reagan was in the Oval Office each time Penn State won the national championship.

The current president, Donald Trump, was paying $70 million to buy out the interest in a casino property following poor financial results. He also received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

What was on TV?

America was loving the sitcoms of the day. The Cosby Show continued to pull in the top ratings, followed by Family Ties and Cheers as NBC was leading the way with Must See TV at the time. The Golden Girls was also a hit on NBC, as well as Night CourtMurder, She Wrote was leading the way for CBS and ABC was not doing too bad with Growing PainsMoonlighting and Who’s the Boss? It’s safe to say, the theme shows from all of these shows probably still give you some warm fuzzy feelings.

1986 marked the debut for some notable television shows, such as MatlockPerfect StrangersL.A. Law, and ALF. One of the top game shows on Nickelodeon made its debut with the premiere of Double Dare. And one of the most iconic daytime talk shows hit the air for the first time with Oprah Winfrey launching The Oprah Winfrey Show.

There were some notable shows that also went off the air in 1986 as well. David Hasselhoff and KITT rode off into the sunset with the final episode of Knight RiderThe Love Boat also dropped anchor on its run on television after a decade of programming. And The Merv Griffin Show, which debuted in 1972, wrapped up as well. The set of the show would later show up in an episode of Seinfeld.

What movies were hot?

Do you have the need? The need for speed? Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer starred in the top-grossing movie of 1986 with the release of “Top Gun,” and you will never escape the visuals and the music for as long as you live.

Maybe Penn State fans will hope the stars align once again with a brand new “Top Gun” movie coming in 2020. The box office in 1986 was also fueled by some sequels, including “The Karate Kid Part II,” “Aliens,” and “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.” A cult classic was also born in 1986 with the release of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

A couple of other cult classics of sorts included “Little Shop of Horrors” and “The Three Amigos,” each featuring Steve Martin. Oen of the best sports movies of all time was also released with Gene Hackman starring in “Hoosiers.”

On the other side of the spectrum, and in a world long before movies involving Marvel characters were a sure box office hit, “Howard the Duck” also hit theaters to dismal reviews and results.

What else happened in 1986?

College football’s conference championships in 1986 were awarded to Arizona State (Pac-10), LSU (SEC), Michigan and Ohio State (Big Ten), Oklahoma (Big Eight), Clemson (ACC), Texas A&M (Southwest Conference), San Diego State (WAC), San Jose State (PAcific Coast Athletic Association) and Miami Ohio (MAC). Oklahoma’s Brian Bosworth was named the Dick Butkus Award winner, while Testaverde won the Heisman Trophy.

The most iconic moment of the year in sports in 1986 happened in the World Series, when a baseball off the bat of Mookie Wilson got by Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, allowing the New York Mets to steal Game 6 of the World Series. The Mets, of course, kept the Red Sox World Series drought ongoing by capturing the second (and most recent) world championship in franchise history.

A season after the Chicago Bears did the Super Bowl shuffle earlier in 1986, it was Bill Parcells, Phil Simms, Lawrence Taylor and the New York Giants that were on their way to a Super Bowl championship during the 1986 season. The Giants would capture their Super Bowl title in the Rose Bowl, back when the NFL would play their championship game in a college football venue.

Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics took down the Houston Rockets in six games in the NBA Finals. Louisville won the NCAA MEn’s Basketball Tournament over Duke.

Mike Tyson became the youngest world heavyweight boxing champion at 20 years and four months with a knock out of Trevor Berbick. On the flip side of the age spectrum, Jack Nicklaus became the oldest Masters winner (46) and won his last major golf championship at The Master’s.

What about that 1994 team?

A few years after winning the national championship, the landscape of football started to change with expansion. Penn State would make the move to join the Big Ten in 1993, with some believing the Nittany Lions would become a regular Big Ten champion. After taking a couple losses in conference play in 1993, Penn State put together one of the best offenses college football had seen in 1994 and ran the table to go 11-0 and win the Big Ten title. The championship earned Penn State a trip to the Rose Bowl, where Paterno would become the first coach to win each of the four major bowl games (Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl). Penn State was locked into the Rose Bowl as the Big Ten champion and was forced to face Pac-10 champion and No. 12 Oregon, while top-ranked Big 8 champion Nebraska was free to play their bowl game against No. 3 Miami in the Orange Bowl. Penn State would play their Rose Bowl a day after Nebraska defeated Miami, when the argument for the national championship was all but decided by the media after the Huskers pulled away from the Hurricanes.

Years later the debate still wages on for some; would Penn State have beaten Nebraska in a national championship game in 1994? They most certainly would have scored some points on Nebraska, but the Huskers offense would have been able to pile up some yards and point son Penn State’s defense as well. It remains a fun debate to this day.

Penn State has had a few years where a national championship season was off to a good start, but tough losses in nail-biting fashion and blowout fashion in conference play have derailed those hopes over the years. A bizarre home loss to Minnesota. A last-second loss at Michigan and at Iowa. Being unable to hold leads against Michigan State or Ohio State. Penn State’s more recent seasons under James Franklin have had some promise for a possible spot in the College Football Playoff, and the Nittany Lions could be a program that makes regular appearance son the playoff radar in the years to come.

The College Football Oscars go to…

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Oh, you thought awards season was over for college football? Well, yeah, it is, but that does not mean we cannot have a little more fun during what is typically a slow time, right?

In honor of the Academy Awards tonight, here are some selections for College Football Academy Awards. Feel free to share your own College Football Oscar winners or additional nominations in the comments section below.

Best Picture: The College Football Playoff

It is not all that often the year’s biggest box office winner takes home the golden statue. In this case, the College Football Playoff did just that with massive TV ratings, the biggest story of the season and dramatic flair on the field with a stellar cast, team of directors, production team, original score and more. Simply put, it was the complete package. Just for good measure, it created its own gold trophy too.

Best Directing: Urban Meyer, Ohio State

The 2014 season has already been regarded by many as his best coaching performance of his career. After losing a potential Heisman candidate quarterback in Braxton Miller before the season started, Urban Meyer managed to put together a championship season few saw coming midway through September.

Honorable mentions: Gary Patterson, Art Briles, Dan Mullen

Best Screenplay: Ole Miss and Mississippi State

Not all great stories end with a happy ending. Ole Miss and Mississippi State each had their moments in the spotlight this season and captivated the college football world in the process. The Bulldogs climbed to No. 1 in the polls and Ole Miss upset Alabama in one of the best seasons of college football in the state of Mississippi in a long time. You really could not script a story like it.

Honorable mention: TCU

Best Drama: Florida State

No team delivered drama the way Florida State did in 2014. The Seminoles entered the season as defending national champions and gave fans reason to live on the edge of their seats from start to finish. No matter the situation, Florida State managed to come up with a win until running into Oregon in the Rose Bowl.

Best Comedy: This Frank Beamer Moment

Virginia Tech beat eventual national champion Ohio State in 2014, but this moment from Frank Beamer may have been the funniest of the season.

Frank Beamer 0-0

Best Performance in a Foreign Feature: Sam Ficken, Penn State

Penn State opened the 2014 season abroad with a contest against defending American Athletic Conference champion UCF in Ireland. Kicker Sam Ficken gave the Nittany Lions a last-second victory with a 36-yard field goal as time expired for a 26-24 win. Ficken was four-for-four on field goal attempts (and two-for-two on extra point attempts) in the season-opening win across the Atlantic Ocean.

Best Documentary: “Brian And The Boz”

ESPN added a couple of new documentaries to its 30 for 30 series that would be of interest to college football fans. The feature on former Oklahoma Sooners standout Brian Bosworth was a good one, but you could not go worn with “Rand University,” which profiled the early days of Randy Moss.

Best Original Score: “The Victors,” Michigan

Michigan may not have had much to celebrate in 2014, but “The Victors” remains among the best of the best when it comes to college foght songs. Why some Michigan students feel a need for a new fight song is beyond me.

Best Original Song: Anything but “Centuries”

You heard it all season long during commercials and in-game promos and possibly more. Fall Out Boy’s “Centuries” was dumped on you the viewer from start to finish last season by ESPN to tie into the College Football Playoff. Here’s to a new season, when another song will undoubtedly be crammed down our ears all season long.

Best Costume Design: Nike and Oregon

Oregon v Oregon State
Oregon v Oregon State

Sure, I may be more of a traditionalist when it comes to uniforms, but you have to hand it to Oregon and Nike. The pair continues to set the standard for modern day uniform design that many attempt to emulate. The combo of Nike and Oregon has been named the top uniform by many outlets including USA Today and Bleacher Report.

Best Visual Effects: Army-Navy Game Pregame Card Stunt

The pageantry surrounding the traditional Army-Navy Game is unrivaled in college football even by the bets of rivalries, but the pregame card stunt is often one of the more stunning visuals seen during the college football season and pictures can only do so much justice.

Helmet stickers to The Academy: Reddit, Twitter