n 1993, Florida State and Notre Dame played one of the all-time classic games in college football history.
In addition to being a great game, the 1993 Florida State-Notre Dame game was also highly influential on the next two decades of college football. These modern aspects of the sport all have their roots in that game:
College Gameday. In the considerable buildup before the game, ESPN got the crazy idea to stage their weekly College Gameday show on location, in South Bend. They built a set right in the middle of the fans; Lee Corso made a prediction and put on that team's hat; they flagged down winning coach Lou Holtz for a postgame interview. Needless to say, the idea caught on. But like every other form of reality television, it became phony and stage-managed.
This Year in Schadenfreude. The modern Internet being what it is, much of the fun of college football is watching other people's reactions to big moments. We can watch reaction videos. SBNation has a regular feature, This Week in Schadenfreude, which surveys the most broken hearts of various fan bases for our amusement. But if there was ever a greatest moment in the history of college football schadenfreude, it was after this game.
Florida State had a wide receiver named Matt Frier. Matt Frier was every jerk jock you've ever met. He was the smug blonde asshole diving team captain from Back to School. You could just picture him shoving nerds into lockers during the week, and going home to Jackie Gleason's mansion in the The Toy on on the weekends.
After Notre Dame held off a late FSU rally to win 31-24, Matt Frier cried his little eyes out. He managed to choke out "I don't think we should fall farther than #2," with this look on his face like he'd just watched the World Trade Center fall on his entire family and his uninsured inheritance. Scott Tenorman was hardly so humiliated. If you weren't a Noles fan, it was the most delicious thing ever. Frier later said he received tons of nasty messages from Nebraska and West Virginia fans... on his answering machine. It was a simpler time.
But Matt Frier would get the last laugh, because he influenced another aspect of modern college football.
Politicking. While politicking for a better place in the polls is nothing new, it took on a new importance at this time. After the 1990 and 1991 seasons ended with split national tiles, the Bowl Alliance was formed. Through this agreement, the top two available teams in the "alliance poll" would face each other, free from the hard conference-bowl tie-ins that existed. This gave the polls a new importance, as they explicitly determine who played for the national title.
The 1993 FSU-ND game was expected to be a de facto national seminfinal. It was assumed that the loser would drop to #3 behind unbeaten Nebraska, setting up a game between the Orange Bowl-tied Huskers, and the game's winner.
To the surprise of many, Florida State fell only to #2, remaining ahead of Nebraska, also-unbeaten West Virginia, and unbeaten but ineligible Auburn. The possibility of a rematch was raised, but Notre Dame was upset by #17 Boston College in the last game of the regular season. Florida State returned to #1; the Irish fell all the way to #4, and the stage was set for the Huskers-Seminoles game in the Orange Bowl. One of two long-suffering head coaches - Bobby Bowden or Tom Osborne - would finally win his first national title.
FSU won the Orange Bowl, Florida exposed West Virginia 41-7 in the Sugar Bowl, and Notre Dame won the Cotton Bowl over #7 Texas A&M. That left FSU and ND as the only viable national championship contenders. Again, in a somewhat surprising result, Florida State was voted unanimous national champion over the team that had defeated them six weeks ago.
Which raises the question: how much influence did Matt Frier's plea have with pollsters? There were other factors: a desire to see Bobby Bowden finally win the big one after years of heartbreaking losses; the desire to avoid another split national title; FSU's extremely challenging schedule. But this sort of campaigning for poll position is now as important to success as touchdowns and field goals, and this is one of the earliest cases where it made a difference.
After all that, this weekend's game between #2 Florida State and #6 Notre Dame seems like small potatoes. The game has been marred by the various accusations surrounding Jameis Winston. And that's a shame. There aren't even many betting lines, since some books had the game Off The Board due to Winston's unknown availability. There isn't even an over-under available, though there are point spreads and money lines available. Let's see if anyone took them:
Use the space below to talk about your picks, and this week's games.