There are many traditions that go with the American observance of Thanksgiving, some of which are more recent in origin and involve sports. Many of college football’s biggest rivalry games are played on Thanksgiving weekend each year and are often among the most entertaining games of the season.
The following list includes what I consider to be 10 of the best Thanksgiving weekend games over the past few decades:
1) Boston College 47, Miami 45 — November 23, 1984: Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie put himself into a prominent spot in college football history by completing a Hail Mary pass for the win over the defending national champions, the Miami Hurricanes. Flutie’s 48-yard touchdown heave to receiver Gerard Phelan as time expired in Miami was one of the greatest finishes to any college football game in history.
2) Nebraska 35, Oklahoma 31 — November 25, 1971: The top-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers, the defending national champions and winners of 20 straight games, traveled to Oklahoma to play the No. 2-ranked Sooners. Both teams had offenses with multiple star players. It showed in the final score, with a shootout for a 35-31 win for Nebraska as the team closed in on its second consecutive national title.
3) Alabama 31, Auburn 7 — November 27, 1971: The teams entered the game with undefeated records: Auburn at 9-0 and Alabama with a 10-0 mark. Alabama dominated the contest throughout and took a convincing 31-7 victory. Alabama, though, would go on to suffer its first defeat on New Year’s Day in the Orange Bowl, courtesy of the national champion Nebraska Cornhuskers.
4) Florida State 24, Florida 21 — November 28, 1996: With both teams sporting perfect 10-0 records and occupying the top two spots in the national polls, the much-anticipated matchup did not disappoint in providing plenty of drama and excitement. Florida State burst out to an early lead and held off Florida for a 24-21 win. Florida, however, exacted revenge in a Sugar Bowl rematch in January — a 52-20 win for its first national title.
5) USC 55, Notre Dame 24 — November 30, 1974: In one of the most famous editions of the Notre Dame-USC football rivalry, the Trojans overcame a 24-point deficit to soundly defeat the Fighting Irish in Los Angeles. The Irish held a 24-0 advantage just prior to halftime, but the Trojans got a touchdown in the waning seconds of the quarter. USC then returned the opening kickoff of the second half for a touchdown, and it went on to demolish the defending national champions.
6) Alabama 26, Auburn 21 — November 27, 2009: A very talented Alabama team made the trip to Auburn’s home field as the favorites to not only win the game, but also the national title. The resurgent Tide, looking for their first national championship since 1992, fell behind early by two touchdowns. However, a strong second-half performance on offense, including a well-executed late touchdown drive, gave Alabama a 26-21 win over its bitter rival. Alabama went on to claim the national title with a Rose Bowl victory over Texas.
7) USC 27, Notre Dame 25 — November 25, 1978: Notre Dame’s signal caller was superstar Joe Montana. Winners of eight straight contests, the Irish were still underdogs to the Rose Bowl-bound Trojans. USC stormed out to a 24-6 lead, but the brilliant Montana led his squad back to a 25-24 advantage with less than a minute remaining. The lead was short-lived, however, as USC was able to take the ensuing kickoff and move quickly into field-goal range. A successful boot through the uprights gave USC a 27-25 win.
8) Michigan 26, Ohio State 24 — November 23, 1986: Legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler became the all-time winningest coach in school history with 166 victories as his Wolverines were the beneficiaries of a missed last-minute field goal by the Buckeyes. Additionally, Michigan’s win was earned on OSU’s home turf and gave the Wolverines the coveted Rose Bowl berth.
9) Nevada 34, Boise State 31 (OT) — November 26, 2010: Boise State made the trip to Reno to face the Nevada Wolf Pack as heavy favorites to continue its undefeated season and possibly get a spot in the BCS National Championship game. Nevada had other ideas, though, as it played Boise State to a tie at the end of regulation. Boise State missed a chip shot field goal in extra time, allowing Nevada to take a very satisfying 34-31 win.
10) Colorado 62, Nebraska 36 — November 23, 2001: Nebraska entered the game with the No. 1 ranking and possessed a nine-game winning streak over Colorado. But the Buffaloes stampeded to an overwhelming victory, routing the Cornhuskers with a powerful running game that racked up yards and scores while keeping the Cornhuskers’ top-notch offense from getting enough chances with the ball.
Patrick Hattman is a Marshall University graduate and continues to be a big supporter of Thundering Herd football.