20 years later, a November to remember

November, 1, 2013
11/01/13
9:30
AM ET
BowdenAP Photo/Doug MillsIt wasn't without controversy, but the 1993 season ended with Bobby Bowden and Florida State winning the national championship.

Twenty years ago, we had one of the wildest months in college football history. Over the span of four weeks, seven top-10 teams lost, including the No. 1 team twice. Florida State entered the month as No. 1, fell out of that spot and still ended the month atop the polls.

By the end of November, three teams would finish the regular season unbeaten (Nebraska, West Virginia and Auburn), but only two were eligible to play for the national title, and only one would wind up playing for it. The debate simmered for years.

Notre Dame fans were upset that Florida State was playing for the national title with one loss, since that one loss came against the Fighting Irish. West Virginia fans were also upset that FSU was playing for the national title with one loss, with the Mountaineers finishing the season undefeated.

[+] EnlargeTom Osborne
Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty ImagesTom Osborne was denied his first national title when the Cornhuskers lost to the Seminoles in the Orange Bowl.
In addition, WVU argued that it should be included in the national title game since it had a higher ranking in the coaches poll (No. 2) than Nebraska (No. 3). In the AP poll, Nebraska finished the regular season No. 2 and WVU No. 3. Meanwhile, Auburn fans claimed the Tigers were actually the best team in college football, finishing the season 11-0 and with a win over the eventual SEC champion Florida Gators. The Tigers, however, were on NCAA probation and ineligible for postseason play.

As we begin another month of potential unbeaten controversy in college football, here's a look at 20 things to remember from November 1993.

1. Florida State was the No. 1 team in the AP poll every week of the season prior to November. Entering the month, the Seminoles were 8-0 and had outscored their opponents by a combined total of 350-38.

2. Three of the teams that garnered a lot of attention in November were still not even ranked in the top 5 by the beginning of the month. Nebraska (8-0) was No. 6, Auburn (8-0) was No. 8 and West Virginia (7-0) was No. 11.

3. Ohio State also entered November 8-0, its best start since 1979. Two decades later, the Buckeyes enter November again undefeated.

4. The Miami-WVU game on Nov. 20, 1993, drew a crowd of 70,222 at Mountaineer Field (now called Milan Puskar Stadium). It’s still the largest home crowd in the history of the stadium, which opened in 1980. Capacity for that stadium at that time was 63,000, meaning it was 7,000 over capacity for that game.

5. Notre Dame was ranked No. 7 in the preseason AP poll, the lowest preseason rank for the Irish since 1988, when they were ranked 13th and went on to win the national title.

6. No. 1 Florida State was a 6 1/2-point favorite for its Nov. 13 matchup at No. 2 Notre Dame on Nov. 13, 1993.

7. ESPN's College GameDay staged its first live remote show at the FSU-ND showdown in South Bend.

8. The “Game of the Century” matchup with Florida State was the ninth 1 versus 2 game in Notre Dame history, and the second for FSU. Overall, it was the 14th regular-season 1 versus 2 matchup in AP poll history.

9. The Irish beat the favored Seminoles 31-24 to improve to 10-0, the third time in the previous six seasons the Fighting Irish started a season 10-0 or better (1988, 1989).

10. In a wild month, the following Saturday (Nov. 20) was easily the biggest day. Consider what occurred:

  • No. 1 Notre Dame was upset at home by No. 17 Boston College, 41-39, on a last-second 41-yard field goal by David Gordon.
  • No. 9 West Virginia upset No. 4 Miami, 17-14, keeping WVU's undefeated season alive.
  • No. 5 Ohio State suffered its first loss of the season at the hands of its rival, Michigan, losing 28-0.
  • No. 6 Auburn won the Iron Bowl, beating No. 11 Alabama 22-14 and completing a perfect regular season.

11. That Boston College could come in and beat a No. 1 Notre Dame team was surprising enough -- especially considering the Irish had won that matchup by 47 the year before. But it was more of a shocker when you consider the Eagles started the 1993 season 0-2, including a loss at Northwestern, a team that finished just 2-9.

12. A lot was made about how West Virginia did not deserve to play for the national championship over Florida State or Nebraska, because the Mountaineers played a weaker schedule. Mountaineer fans did not want to hear it, but the numbers appear to back up that argument. FSU’s opponents finished 81-61 (.570), Nebraska’s 59-54-1 (.522) and WVU’s 59-64-2 (.480).

13. West Virginia's argument about deserving a shot at the national championship was always the following: WVU beat the team (Boston College, in the regular-season finale) that beat the team (Notre Dame) that beat the team (Florida State).

14. To understand how wacky the month of November was, look at how the AP poll played out since the middle of October:

  • Oct. 18 poll: FSU received all 62 first-place votes
  • Oct. 25: FSU received all 62 first-place votes
  • Nov. 1: FSU received all 62 first-place votes
  • Nov. 8: FSU received all 62 first-place votes
  • Nov. 15: Notre Dame received all 62 first-place votes
  • Nov. 22: Five different teams received at least one first-place vote
  • Nov. 29: Three different teams received at least one first-place vote
  • Dec. 6: Five different teams received at least one first-place vote.
[+] EnlargeChampion
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesNotre Dame fans are probably still upset about being kept out of the 1993 national championship game despite having beaten FSU.
15. Prior to the Bowl Championship Series, college football's championship game matchups were determined by an organization called the Bowl Coalition. It was made up of five conferences: Big East, ACC, SEC, Big 8 and Southwest -- and Notre Dame. The group had six bowl tie-ins: Orange, Fiesta, Cotton, Sugar, Gator and John Hancock (now Sun Bowl). But it did not include the Pac-10 and Big Ten, because those teams had the tie-in to the Rose Bowl. After the wackiness of November, the top five heading the bowls was:

1. Florida State
2. Nebraska
3. West Virginia
4. Auburn
5. Notre Dame

16. West Virginia was actually invited to play No. 7 Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, but instead decided to play in the more lucrative Sugar Bowl against No. 8 Florida. The Sugar Bowl was worth approximately $1.1 million more than the Cotton, which elected to invite Notre Dame instead (which beat the Aggies 24-21). The move obviously backfired on the Mountaineers, as they were soundly beaten by the Gators in the Sugar Bowl, 41-7.

17. After losing to Miami on missed field goals in the final seconds in 1991 and 1992, Florida State recruited the top high school kicking prospect, Scott Bentley. Bentley struggled early in his FSU career (seven missed extra-point attempts in the first five games), but eventually was a difference-maker in the Seminoles' run to the national title, kicking the game-winning field goal in a 18-16 Orange Bowl victory against No. 2 Nebraska and giving Bobby Bowden his first national title (and denying Tom Osborne his).

18. Florida State became the first preseason AP No. 1 team to go on to win the national title since Oklahoma in 1985.

19. Auburn's win streak, which began in 1993 as the lone unbeaten, would eventually reach 20 straight before a tie against Georgia on the next-to-last game of the 1994 season. The Tigers lost the following game to Alabama in the Iron Bowl.

20. The matchup that many Mountaineers fans wanted (WVU versus Nebraska) eventually took place … in 1994. The Cornhuskers slammed the Mountaineers in the 1994 Kickoff Classic in the Meadowlands, 31-0.

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