Like any normal person, I sometimes fantasize about time travel. Think of the possibilities! You could go back to any point in history -- witness history as it happens, or even change the course of history! You could stop great tragedies from ever occurring, or you could right things that went wrong in your own life!
Or, if you’re like me, you could travel back to historically significant college football games, and heckle the players.
Here’s my list of the top ten football games I would choose to attend, and the things I would drunkenly bellow at the players.
1869 - Rutgers 6, New Jersey (Princeton) 4
This is an obvious one -- commonly recognized as the first gridiron football game, it’s a seminal moment in the history of American sport. Sure, there were 25 players on each team. Sure, players weren’t allowed to throw or carry the ball, and it more closely resembled soccer than anything we’re used to seeing on a football field today. And sure, the scoring system was odd -- the teams played ten “games”, each ending when a point was scored, with the winner being the team with the most points of those ten. But it’s the moment when it all began, a sport 150 years and running, and it’d be amazing to have a front-row seat for the birth of our game.
Thing I would drunkenly yell at this game: HEY RUTGERS GET USED TO SCORING SIX POINTS A GAME
1893 Navy 6, Army 4
The first documented use of a football helmet in a game -- Navy’s Joseph Reeves, under advisement from his doctors that he risked dying after previous on-field head injuries, hired a local shoemaker to craft a leather helmet -- the first step in managing the myriad risks in what was then a crude, violent and deadly game. It was an important moment for normalizing the sport and allowing it to continue as long as it did.
Thing I would drunkenly yell at this game: HOCKEY PLAYERS DON’T NEED HELMETS YOU SNOWFLAKES. IS HOCKEY A THING YET? DO YOU KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT?
1901 Stetson 6, Florida Agricultural College 0
The first intercollegiate football game played in the state of Florida, featuring current FCS school Stetson against one of the four predecessor institutions that would eventually become the University of Florida, this is a huge step in the spread of the game beyond its cradle in the Northeast and Midwest. While we take for granted now that the game is hugely popular in the South, it would’ve been largely unknown before this game at the Jacksonville Fair.
Thing I would drunkenly yell at this game: COME ON, YOU’RE LOSING TO A HAT. WHAT IS THIS, SEVEN OF THE ELEVEN TIMES YOU PLAYED AGAINST LES MILES?
1916 Georgia Tech 222, Cumberland 0
I love a good blowout, and there’s none bigger than this -- the most lopsided result in college football history. Who wouldn’t want to see this?
Thing I would drunkenly yell at this game: CUMBERLAND YOU SHOULD HIRE BRIAN VAN GORDER, HE HELD THEM TO 66
1926 Rose Bowl (Alabama 20, Washington 19)
Building off the seminal games in Southern football history, this one is truly pivotal -- the Crimson Tide’s arrival on the national stage, defeating a highly-respected opponent and beginning their long march to dominance; the luggage the Crimson Tide carried on this trip would inspire their traditional elephant logo. Plus, it’s the Rose Bowl! Who wouldn’t want to attend this game?
Thing I would drunkenly yell at this game: Y’ALL DIDN’T PLAY LAFAYETTE, BROWN OR NORTHWESTERN. WHY YOU SCARED, BAMA
1943 Notre Dame 35, Michigan 12
The first game recognized as pitting a #1 against a #2, this wartime clash features two of the sport’s biggest brands at the height of their powers. It’s an all-time classic -- the rare matchup that would be as appealing today as it over 75 years ago.
Things I would drunkenly yell at this game: DON’T FEEL BAD, MICHIGAN, YOU’LL WIN TWO MORE TITLES THIS DECADE, AND THEN HALF OF ONE LIKE 50 YEARS LATER
1968 Rose Bowl (#1 Ohio State 27, #2 USC 16)
Much like the previous entry, this’d be an exciting entry today -- two superpowers in the best possible setting. This Ohio State team was a steamroller -- Woody Hayes’s finest squad rolled to 10-0 season, including a 50-14 blowout over rival Michigan that would hasten coach Bump Elliott’s retirement and precipitate the hiring of future legend Bo Schembechler. Meanwhile, USC was loaded, featuring future NFL players (and coaches) such as wide receiver Bob Chandler, quarterback Mike Holmgren, defensive tackle Al Cowlings and halfback O.J. Simpson.
Thing I would soberly consult at this game: Al, listen, if you’re talking to strangers on the phone, they’re not gonna know who you are. Don’t get mad at us for it.
1974 Oklahoma 28, Nebraska 14
A bowl-banned Barry Switzer team barrelling its way to an undefeated where they were hardly even threatening, beating the tar off of nearly every team they faced and earning an AP national championship despite their ban from the Coaches’ Poll.
Thing I would drunkenly yell at this game: BARRY I REALLY RESPECT WHAT YOU’RE DOING HERE, LET’S HANG OUT AFTER
1983 Orange Bowl (Miami 31, Nebraska 30)
Thing I would drunkenly yell at this game, and perhaps maybe I did, perhaps I’ve already perfected time travel and was at this game as an adult, even though I was 18 months old when it happened?: GO FOR TWO, TOM
Well, that’s nine. There’s a lot of places I could go for #10. 1982 Stanford-Cal, 2002 Ohio State-Miami, the 2013 Iron Bowl, 2009 Cincinnati-Pittsburgh. So what’s it going to be?
2014 Baylor 61, TCU 58
One of the most fun games any of us have ever watched on television, this had to be absolute madness to witness in person. An absolute shootout between two of the best Big 12 offenses in recent memory, an underrated classic.
Thing I would drunkenly yell at this game: CAN YOU IMAGINE BOTH OF THESE TEAMS MIGHT MAKE THE INAUGURAL COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF? THIS CONFERENCE IS THE BEST.