Crimson Tide Rolls In Instant Classic National Championship Game
Here are some top highlights from the season that might just last fans until August:
The Comeback (Or, The Collapse)
Down 44-10 to Texas A&M with four minutes to play in the third quarter, the 2017 season began as poorly as possible for UCLA. A 75-yard, two-minute touchdown drive to close the quarter seemed like it would be little consolation.
That is, until Josh Rosen threw a fourth quarter touchdown pass. And then another. And another. And then one more off a fake spike with 0:43 remaining to take the lead 45-44. The improbable 34-point comeback was the second largest in FBS history.
The Zombie Team That Could
In December 2014, the controversial decision was made to shut down UAB’s football program. Although shortly after it was decided to reinstate the program for the 2017 season, more than 50 players had transferred and it was clear that even a return to .500-level football would be an uphill battle.
Yet miraculously, it wasn’t. In its first season back after the two-year hiatus, UAB went 8-5, registering its most wins in a season since joining FBS/1-A in 1999. The Blazers never lost at home and defied expectations by earning just their second bowl game bid in program history.
While Iowa State’s stunning of #3 Oklahoma and Syracuse’s own shock defeat of #2 Clemson didn’t end up affecting the playoff picture like we thought it might, several other large upsets ultimately did.
A week after outlasting #2 Penn State, #6 Ohio State went to Iowa City and was flattened 55-24 in what likely cost the Buckeyes a playoff spot. On the final week of the regular season, undefeated and #2 ranked Miami was bowled over in similar fashion, losing 24-14 to the Pittsburgh Panthers (who were a big +13.5 home dogs at online betting providers). The Canes left Heinz Field with their playoff dreams remotely intact, but those were quieted by a 38-3 loss to Clemson the following weekend.
A Wild Knight Out
Two seasons after going 0-12, UCF won its division, its conference, beat Auburn, and went undefeated. These are all things Alabama didn’t do in 2017, yet it was the Knights that didn’t even sniff a playoff spot (then again, look at its schedule).
But after that Peach Bowl win, UCF did do something other teams have done several times in the past: claim a disputed national championship. The Knights went all in, holding a parade at Disney World, ordering a championship banner, and paying their coaches the title-winning bonuses stipulated in their contracts. Regardless of whether you think the self-proclaimed title is merited or childish, some claim it shows the sport still has a ways to go in figuring out how to best determine a champion.
Although many bemoaned another all-SEC title game and feared it would be reminiscent of the what some termed lifeless 2012 BCS Championship (except for Crimson Tide fans), we were instead treated to an all-time classic. Facing at a 13-0 halftime deficit, Nick Saban made the gutsy decision to pull quarterback Jalen Hurts.
In his place would be true freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who needed just a half to make himself a legend. The Tide chipped away at the Bulldogs’ lead, eventually tying the game with 3:49 to play. Bama kicker Andy Pappanastos missed horribly on his opportunity to win the title at the buzzer, sending the game to OT. After UGA settled for a field goal on its possession, Tagovailoa made a huge freshman mistake by taking a 16-yard sack. But the very next play he hit DeVonta Smith (also a true freshman) on a 41-yard touchdown pass to win Bama’s fifth title in nine years.