As Yogi Berra once quipped, "It's like déjà vu all over again."
ESPN.com's Brad Edwards calculates that if USC beats Notre Dame and UCLA, the Trojans will climb ahead of Michigan in the BCS rankings. But if USC loses, we're staring at Michigan-Ohio State II, on a neutral field, for the national title.
We'll let everyone debate the merits of that scenario, but it did get us at Page 2 thinking about some of our favorite déjà vu moments and big rematches in sports history. (Note: only same-season rematches were considered, so nothing along the lines of Lakers-Celtics meeting in the NBA Finals in '84 and '85 or Red Sox-Yankees in the '03 and '04 ALCS.)
10. 1960 Sugar Bowl: Mississippi 21, LSU 0
LSU had won the regular-season matchup 7-3 on a Billy Cannon punt return in the mud and muck of Tiger Stadium. Entering the Sugar Bowl, both teams had one loss (LSU had lost 14-13 to Tennessee) and Ole Miss was ranked No. 2 and LSU No. 3. It was no contest, as Mississippi held LSU to 74 total yards and Heisman winner Cannon to just eight yards rushing. Mississippi ended the year outscoring its opponents 329-21 and was considered the national champion in some polls (Syracuse was the consensus national champ).
9. 1997 Sugar Bowl: Florida 52, Florida State 20
In the final regular-season game, No. 2 Florida State beat No. 1 Florida 24-21 in Tallahassee to take over the top spot in the polls. Florida dropped to No. 4 in the polls, but a series of events set up the rematch in New Orleans to give Steve Spurrier's Gators a chance at the national title. First, Florida beat Alabama 45-30 in the SEC title game; Texas upset No. 3 Nebraska in the Big 12 title game; and Ohio State beat No. 2 Arizona State in the Rose Bowl. In the rematch, Florida led 24-17 at halftime before blowing the game open. Danny Wuerffel threw for 304 yards and three TDs (all to Ike Hilliard) and the Gators held FSU star Warrick Dunn to 28 yards rushing. The Gators were the champs.
8. 1980: McEnroe vs. Borg
Bjorn Borg captured his fifth consecutive Wimbledon championship by outlasting John McEnroe in one of the most memorable tennis matches ever. McEnroe survived two match points in the third set, eventually winning a tiebreaker 18-16. Borg captured the fifth set 8-6 to keep his Wimbledon streak alive. Months later in New York, McEnroe bounced back to defeat Borg in five sets in the U.S. Open final. McEnroe looked to be cruising after winning the first two sets, and then held on to claim his second consecutive U.S. Open title despite losing the next two sets.
7. 1988 NCAA championship: Kansas 83, Oklahoma 79
The Sooners had defeated the Jayhawks twice in the regular season, both times by eight points. But Danny and the Miracles were not to be denied and pulled off the stunning upset of Billy Tubbs and Co., with Manning scoring 31 points and grabbing 18 rebounds.
6. Bobby Thomson homers off Ralph Branca
When Brooklyn's Don Newcombe couldn't finish off the Giants in the bottom of the ninth inning of the 1951 playoff game, Dodgers manager Charley Dressen had Branca and Carl Erskine warming up. Dressen went with Branca, who had lost five times to the Giants that season. Thomson, of course, hit his three-run Shot Heard 'Round the World to give the Giants a 5-4 win and trip to the World Series. Branca gave up 19 home runs in 1951 11 to the Giants, including one to Thomson two days before in the first playoff game.
5. Super Bowl XXXVI : Patriots 20, Rams 17
There have been 10 rematches in Super Bowl history, but this was the biggest upset. The high-powered Rams were 16-2, with two losses by a combined 10 points; they were 14-point favorites over the 14-5 Patriots. While the Rams looked invincible, New England had lost to St. Louis 24-17 in Week 10 the Patriots' only loss in their previous 11 games. (True, the Rams had outgained the Pats 482 to 230 in that game.) In the Super Bowl, the Rams similarly outgained the Pats, 427 to 267, but St. Louis committed three turnovers, including a Ty Law interception return for a TD, and New England capped off the 2001 season with its first title of the Belichick Era.
4. 1985 NCAA championship: Villanova 66, Georgetown 64
The game has been given the label "The Perfect Upset." It was. Patrick Ewing and the Hoyas were unbeatable, or so it seemed. Their Big East rivals barely made the tournament as an eighth seed, but scratched their way to the title game. Georgetown was a 10-point favorite and had beaten Villanova twice during the season but only by two points and seven points. The Wildcats, of course, did play the perfect game (shooting 79 percent and missing just one field goal in the second half).
3. 1978: Affirmed vs. Alydar
Affirmed remains not only the last Triple Crown winner, but the winner of the greatest series of Triple Crown races ever. With 18-year-old jockey Steve Cauthen aboard, Affirmed first won the Kentucky Derby over Alydar by a length and a half. In the Preakness, the two horses battled down the stretch run, with Affirmed winning by a neck. In the Belmont, Alydar moved earlier than in the other two races and the horses raced side by side the final half mile. At one point, Alydar took the lead. Cauthen was forced to switch hands with his whip, the horses were so close. The stirring stretch run immortalized in the famous call by CBS (and Belmont track) announcer Chic Anderson saw Affirmed regain the lead to win by a nose.
2. 1980: Duran vs. Leonard
When Roberto Duran stepped in to fight welterweight champ Sugar Ray Leonard in June 1980, it was billed as "The Brawl in Montreal." Leonard abandoned his usual style and went toe-to-toe with Duran, with much of the bout fought against the ropes. It went 15 torrid rounds, with Duran pulling out the unanimous decision. Five months later, there was a rematch in the Superdome. Leonard danced more this time and began toying and taunting Duran in Round 7 leading to Duran's infamous "No Mas" moment in Round 8 when he turned away from Leonard and quit. "To make a man quit to make a Roberto Duran quit was better than knocking him out," Leonard said.
1. Roger Clemens tries to kill Mike Piazza
It was the rematch everyone was anticipating once the Yankees and Mets reached the 2000 World Series. Earlier that season in an interleague game, Clemens had come hard and in on Piazza, hitting him in the head, giving him a concussion and nearly inciting a brawl. Some would say the pitch was hard, in and dirty. In Game 2 of the World Series, Yankee Stadium was buzzing when Piazza stepped up in the first inning. On a 1-2 pitch, he hit a foul ball, breaking his bat. Clemens memorably picked up the shattered end of the bat and tossed it in Piazza's direction. "I didn't know if it was the bat or the ball," said the Rocket afterwards.
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