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The biggest
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The national title has truly been on the line only 11 times. Click on one of the matchups at left to get an idea of what's missing from this season's bowl picture.

Of all the valiant efforts in the history of bowl games, few rival the one offered by John Routh, a.k.a. the guy who played Miami's avian mascot, Sebastian the Ibis. On the eve of 1993, with the top-ranked Hurricanes in New Orleans to play No. 2 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, a stray bullet from a reveler's revolver grazed Routh in the noggin while he was strolling down Bourbon Street. "It's going to take a heck of a lot more than a bullet in the head to keep me out of this game," Routh said. He went to the Superdome and performed—significantly better than Miami did, as it turned out.

Such an effort epitomizes a rare postseason showdown of the nation's top two teams. When No. 1 plays No. 2, an ordinary bowl game becomes a collegiate Super Bowl. Everything is at stake.

The atmosphere is pressurized. After a long season of jockeying for poll positions, all talk of voting stops. When No. 1 meets No. 2 on New Year's Day (or thereabouts), the national championship is decided where it should be. On the field.

Text by Mark Bechtel


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