On Monday night, Oregon and Ohio State will play in the first College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Arlington, Texas. It will be the first time since the 1968 season a team from the Big Ten and the Pac-12 (or the Pac-8 in this case) battled for college football’s top honor.
Somehow, the Big Ten and Pac-10/Pac-12 missed each other during the BCS Era. The Big Ten and Pac-10 combined for six BCS championship game appearances (SEC fans laugh at that stat, probably), including a string of four straight years at one point, but the two never overlapped on the biggest of stages. Until now.
In 1968, the Rose Bowl just happened to have a dream match-up in Pasadena with No. 1 Ohio State representing the Big Ten against No. 2 USC from the Pac-8. Woody Hayes and his Buckeyes pulled away with Ohio State quarterback Rex Kern winning game MVP honors following the 27-16 victory over John McKay and his Trojans, with 1968 Heisman Trophy winner O.J. Simpson (that Heisman Trophy was just recovered following a 20-year search).
The 1969 Rose Bowl between Ohio State and USC was the second Rose Bowl to be played between top two teams. No. 1 USC defeated No. 2 Wisconsin in the 1963 Rose Bowl in the other. The 1980 Rose Bowl featured No. 1 Ohio State losing to No. 3 USC, which gave Alabama the national title as a result. USC also claimed the national title after defeating No. 3 Ohio State in the 1973 Rose Bowl, with the Trojans ranked No. 1 going in. So championships have been on the line, but very rarely were they the definitive national championship game between the two power conferences.
There have also been other seasons in which one of the top two teams in the country played in the Rose Bowl Game with a hope to win a share of the national championship. USC laid claim to a split of the 2003 season’s national title with a win over Michigan in the 2004 Rose Bowl. Michigan earned a share of the 1997 national championship, but Penn State was left with nothing to show for a 12-0 season ending with a victory in Pasadena against Oregon in the 1995 Rose Bowl.
Still, considering the traditional strength of each conference, it is amazing to think it has taken this long for both conferences to be represented in a no-questions-asked national championship game.
Maybe it will be worth the wait.
TCU head coach Gary Patterson has been named the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year for the second time in his career. Patterson was named this year’s coach of the year by the Football Writers Association of America and is the eighth coach to win the award multiple times.
“I’d like to thank the Football Writers Association of America,” Patterson said in a statement released by the FWAA Monday afternoon. “I’m very honored and humbled to be a part of such a great award and the man it represents.”
The award is named after former Grambling head coach Eddie Robinson, the all-time winningest coach in Division 1 history with 408 wins*. Robinson coached Grambling to 17 SWAC titles and nine Black College Football Championships during his coaching career.
Patterson guided TCU to a record of 11-1 and a share of the Big 12 championship in the third year as a Big 12 member for the Horned Frogs. TCU slipped out of the College Football Playoff field, but the success of the season in Fort Worth should not be overlooked. Patterson is known more for his defensive mindset, but this year he and his staff opened things up offensively and used that to their advantage. The ability and will to adapt is something that separates great coaches from the good coaches.
Other coaches to win the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year award at twice are Nick Saban, Lou Holtz, Darrell Royal, John McKay and Johnny Majors. The only three-time winners of the award were Woody Hayes and Joe Paterno. Alabama’s Saban was one of the finalists for the award as well. Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, Oregon’s Mark Helfrich and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, Baylor’s Art Briles, Boise State’s Bryan Harsin, and Justin Fuente of Memphis were also finalists for the award this season.
Patterson was named the Home Depot Coach of the Year during last week’s college football awards show. He has also been named the Big 12 coach of the year by the Associated Press and the Big 12.
* Joe Paterno broke the record with 409 wins but was stripped of the record as a result of NCAA sanctions against the Penn State program in 2012.
Everybody seems to have some sort of opinion on the push for a college football players union unfolding before our eyes. That includes college football’s only two-time Heisman Trophy winner, Archie Griffin. The president and CEO of the Ohio State Alumni Association was on hand for a recent Buckeyes spring practice, and he took some time to answer some questions about the news this week regarding the National Labor Relations Board’s ruling that Northwestern football players should be classified as employees of the university, a ruling that helps the College Athletes Players Association move another step closer to formal unionization.
“It doesn’t surprise me, I’ll say that,” said Griffin according to The Columbus Dispatch. “We should have seen it coming with college football the way it is today, with the dollars being made, the prices being charged for tickets, and the salaries of coaches and administrators.”
While the idea of actually paying the players is not at the top of the agenda for the CAPA, having a seat to represent players at the NCAA table and addressing other concerns is. As the sport has grown over the years, so to has the business operations behind the scenes. With student-athletes not receiving a slice of the pie, Northwestern players, led by Kain Colter, formed a group seeking to unionize at some point in the future. It is no surprise to Griffin to see how this group of players has come together and started to have some impact.
“The players are not blind,” Griffin said. “They see the dollars being made in the game. It’s obvious. That’s kind of why they are where they are. They feel the term amateur is keeping them from getting what they deserve.”
The union talk has led to reactions from many coaches, including South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier and Clemson’s Dabo Swinny. Both coaches are in favor of stipends, but had slightly different reactions to the news out of Chicago this week. Asked how his former coach, Woody Hayes, would have reacted to the news, Griffin said Hayes would have supported the players.
“I honestly think Coach would have been for what’s best for the players,” said Griffin.