1988 Orange Bowl: No. 2 Miami (11-0) 20, No. 1 Oklahoma (11-0) 14
After losing three straight bowl games, Jimmy Johnson finally got a victory as the Hurricanes stifled the Sooners' powerhouse wishbone offense, and holding on when Oklahoma had the ball and 77 yards to go with 57 seconds left in the game. The matchup, besides being a rare No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the Orange Bowl, may be most remembered for the Sooners' fumblerooski play with 2:05 to go in the fourth quarter. Trailing 20-7, Oklahoma QB Charles Thompson intentionally fumbled, placing the ball within easy reach of guard Mark Hutson, who took it in 29 yards for a TD.
The Hurricanes boasted the game's other remarkable play. Early in the second half, they faced fourth-and-14 at Oklahoma's 40. Johnson gambled by giving placekicker Greg Cox a chance for a 56-yard field goal. He nailed it straight and with about 10 yards to spare, setting an Orange Bowl record. Miami's defense had halved Oklahoma's usual offensive output, cutting its 500-yards-per-game average to just 255, and QB Steve Walsh spearheaded the offense, completing 18 of 30 for 209 yards and two TDs.
1983 Sugar Bowl: No. 2 Penn State (10-1) 27, No. 1 Georgia (11-0) 23
For 32 years Joe Paterno walked the Penn State headlines, the previous 17 as head coach. He'd coached three teams that completed undefeated, untied seasons, but he'd never won a national title. But the Nittany Lions did the job on both sides of the line. On offense, RB Curt Warner and QB Todd Blackledge led the charge. Warner, despite cramps that kept him out for parts of the second half, ran for 117 yards on 18 carries. Blackledge completed 13 of 23 passes for 228 yards and one TD. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions' D mashed Herschel Walker, who could only muster 103 yards on 28 carries.
But it was, as the score indicates, a close game. Penn State went ahead 20-3 in the second quarter, but Georgia remained within distance into the fourth quarter. Trailing 27-17 with 5:38 remaining, Georgia QB John Lastinger capped a six-play, 43-yard drive with a 9-yard TD pass. But Penn State held on Walker's subsequent 2-point attempt, and the Nittany Lions then ran out the clock. Even with the win, it wasn't clear that Paterno would get his first title -- SMU had defeated Pitt 7-3 in the Cotton Bowl to finish an 11-0-1 campaign. After the game, Paterno said, "I hope nobody doubts we're No. 1 after today." Turned out nobody did, as Penn State topped the AP, UPI, National Football Foundation, and Football Writers Association polls. It was the first national championship in Penn State's 96-year gridiron history.