There was no BCS to make sure Nos. 1 and 2 played each other after the 1982 regular season. That left No. 1 Nebraska facing No. 4 Miami in what was expected to be a coronation for the powerful Cornhuskers.
It ended up being one of the great games in college football history, spawning a superpower in south Florida.
Ahead of the college football season, The Associated Press asked its panel of voters in the Top 25 poll to weigh in on the bowl games before the Bowl Championship Series era.
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The 1984 Orange Bowl was voted No. 1, followed by five other memorable postseason games.
1. 1984 Orange Bowl, Miami 31, Nebraska 30.
The Cornhuskers of Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier and Turner Gill were on their way to one of the greatest, most dominant seasons in college football history until they met Bernie Kosar and the Hurricanes. Miami sealed the 31-30 upset and its first national championship by breaking up Gill’s pass on a 2-point conversion after Nebraska scored with 48 seconds left. A tie would probably have been good enough to give the Huskers the national title. ”We wanted an undefeated season and a clear-cut national championship,” Nebraska coach Tom Osborne said. In defeat, Osborne was never more respected.
2. 1979 Sugar Bowl, Alabama 14, Penn State 7.
The second-ranked Crimson Tide beat the top-ranked and undefeated Nittany Lions, making a goal-line stand that goes down as one of the most famous in college football history. Tide linebacker Barry Krauss made the saving hit on Penn State running back Mike Guman inches away from the end zone.
3. 1980 Holiday Bowl, BYU 46, SMU 45.
The Cougars had Jim McMahon and a state-of-the-art passing game. The Mustangs had the Pony Express backfield of Eric Dickerson and Craig James. SMU led 45-26 in the fourth quarter, but the Cougars scored the final three touchdowns, capping the comeback with a Hail Mary touchdown pass from McMahon to Clay Brown as time expired.
4. 1979 Cotton Bowl, Notre Dame 35, Houston 34.
The Chicken Soup Game. Ailing quarterback Joe Montana led the Fighting Irish to a come-from-behind victory on a frigid day in Dallas. The Irish scored 23 points in the fourth quarter.
5. 1973 Sugar Bowl, Notre Dame 24, Alabama 23.
The third-ranked Irish and top-ranked Tide went back and forth in a classic at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans with Notre Dame holding on for a victory and a national championship.
6. 1980 Rose Bowl, USC 17, Ohio State 16.
Heisman Trophy winner Charles White ran for 247 yards and the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter for the Trojans.