STANFORD (CBS/AP) – Alabama and LSU played what had been dubbed The Game of the Century, a tag that didn’t quite fit after the SEC rivals traded field goals and defensive stops. A week later, the Pac-12 gets its shot in the spotlight.
Saturday’s game between No. 3 Stanford and sixth-ranked Oregon may not generate the same kind of hype as LSU-Alabama, but it has the potential to be one of the greatest games in a conference that’s had its share over the years.
Will it become a classic like the 1982 Big Game between Cal and Stanford? That might be a stretch, but with a spot in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game likely on the line, not to mention BCS bowl and national title implications, it has the potential to be a doozy.
So, to get you ready for the big game—note the lowercase, for now—here’s a look at some of the most memorable games during the various incarnations of the conference along the West Coast.
> Cal 25, Stanford 20, Nov. 20, 1982. No list of great games— anywhere—is complete without “The Play.” A nondescript game heading in, the 1982 version of the Big Game became an instant classic when Cal used five laterals and got through the Stanford band to score the winning touchdown on the last play of the game. The sheer madness of those laterals would have been enough to vault this game to elite status, but the band running onto the field and the ensuing trombone-player takedown in the end zone made it an all-time great. That Stanford still doesn’t recognize Cal’s win— the Cardinal contend the final play was illegal—adds to it even more.
> USC 21, UCLA 20, Nov. 18, 1967. Considered to be among the greatest college football games of the 20th Century, this matchup between two top-5 teams is widely considered the premier game in the long-standing rivalry between Southern California neighbors. UCLA came into the game ranked No. 1 and had Heisman Trophy candidate Gary Beban. USC was No. 4 and had its own Heisman hopeful, running back O.J. Simpson. Playing in the AAWU Conference, a precursor to even the Pac-8, the Bruins and Trojans played an epic game that turned on an electric 64-yard touchdown run by “The Juice” in the fourth quarter. USC won the game and, later, the national championship. Beban went on to win the Heisman in a somewhat controversial vote for some drama after the drama.
> Oregon 56, Arizona State 55 (2OT), Oct. 28, 2000. Oregon was undefeated and Arizona State was having another strong season when these two equally matched teams squared off. They traded scoring plays throughout the game until the Sun Devils appeared to have the upper hand. Trying to run out the clock leading 49-42, Arizona State couldn’t—Mike Williams fumbled, the Ducks recovered, Joey Harrington threw his sixth TD pass to send the game to overtime. The craziness ended, fittingly, on a crazy play when Arizona State coach Bruce Snyder called for a fake extra point try and Jeff Krohn’s pass attempt fell short.
> Oregon State 0, Oregon 0, Nov. 19, 1983. Dubbed the Toilet Bowl not only because of the driving rain in Eugene that day, but because of the final score of this Civil War. The game featured four missed field goals—two from less than 30 yards—five interceptions and six fumbles. With neither team doing much of anything in a rain that came in sideways, fans reportedly started a chant of “Bor-ing!” at the end of the game. It would go down as the last scoreless tie in the history of college football; in 1996, the NCAA changed the rules to allow for overtime. It may not have been exciting, but it was certainly memorable. Besides, we just like saying Toilet Bowl.
> Stanford 49, Oregon 42, Oct. 20, 2001. Oregon entered the game ranked fifth and on a 23-game home winning streak. The Ducks, behind Heisman Trophy favorite Joey Harrington, were in control of the game, too. Stanford came storming back, though, blocking two punts, picking off two of Harrington’s passing and scoring 21 straight points in the fourth quarter to pull out the win—one that would ultimately keep Oregon from playing for the BCS championship.
> Stanford 56, USC 48 (3OT), Oct. 29, 2011. It’s hard to put a game played so recently into historical perspective, but this will likely rate somewhere high. Trading big plays and momentum swings, the fourth-ranked Cardinal and 20th-ranked Trojans played an epic game in which neither team could stop each other—until the very end. USC took the lead when Nickell Robey returned an interception 33 yard for a touchdown with 3:08 left, but Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck shook off the pick and coolly led the Cardinal down for the tying score. The teams traded scores in the first two overtimes until Stanford stripped USC’s Curtis McNeal and recovered the fumble in the end zone.
These, of course, are only a handful of the conference’s most memorable games and everyone has their favorites. Another could be added to the list on Saturday if everything falls into place. Let’s hope so.
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