Celebrating New Year's Day while watching our beloved Crimson Tide dismantle the undermanned troop from East Lansing brought to mind a few similarities to the college football season from twenty years ago. The 1990 season was a unique one, ending with a split national championship between two schools who hadn't enjoyed much modern-era football success in Colorado and Georgia Tech. Growing up as a kid in Georgia and witnessing the vitriol between UGA and Tech folks, I recall vividly the UGA faithfuls' constant assertion of Tech's unworthiness. While some argued that the entire title should have gone to Colorado, many pegged the Miami Hurricanes as the best team in the country. That Miami team was similar in many ways to the Alabama team we saw in 2010.
The Hurricanes entered the 1990 season carrying national championship expectations, having won the 1989 title after besting Alabama 33-25 in the Sugar Bowl. Many prominent starters returned for the 1990 season including QB Craig Erickson, WRs Randal Hill and Wesley Carroll, OT Leon Searcy, and the top overall pick in the 1991 NFL draft in DT Russell Maryland. Coming into the season ranked number one, fans of "the U" had reason to believe a repeat was in order.
Unfortunately for the Hurricanes and their fans, the pressure of defending a national title proved to be insurmountable. They lost two tough road games; the first at BYU, quarterbacked by Heisman winner Ty Detmer, and the second to Notre Dame in South Bend. The Bowl season saw Miami heading to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas needing a win over #4 Texas, in a virtual home game for the Longhorns, to secure a ten win season. The Longhorns had overachieved by most standards, following two consecutive losing seasons with a 10-1 record entering the Bowl. A win over the talented Hurricanes could have vaulted the downtrodden Texas program back onto the national stage in a big way.
Much like the 2011 Capital One Bowl, the 1991 Cotton Bowl was over before it started. The Hurricanes, with fifteen players on the roster who would be selected by the NFL over the 1991 and 1992 drafts, steamrolled the overmatched Longhorns 46-3. Texas failed to become bowl eligible in each of the following three seasons. Miami, despite losing Erickson, Hill, Carroll, Maryland, and five others to the NFL, went on to win twenty-three consecutive games over the next two seasons and a share of the 1991 national title. Memorably to those who bleed Crimson and White, the Miami win streak was halted by Alabama in the 1993 Sugar Bowl.
I believe that the boys in Crimson, like their counterparts from Miami in 1991, took out the frustration of an underachieving season on a less talented but overachieving Bowl opponent. Like the Hurricanes, Alabama will have to replace several key starters including a decorated winner at QB, a defensive lineman who will be among the first players taken in the upcoming NFL draft, and their two best offensive skill players. Also like Miami, the cupboard is stocked with talented youngsters ready to show what they can do. Let's hope we can look back a year from now and compare undefeated seasons with the 1991 Miami contingent. I know I'll be watching win or lose. Roll Tide!