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The showdowns' best of show

College football's regular season - well, for Division I-A - concludes today with four noteworthy games: the SEC championship, the Big 12 championship, USC vs. UCLA and the classic Army-Navy game. All have rich traditions even though the conference championship games have been around for less than 20 years.

Here's a look back at the best games in these showdowns.


The first championship game in 1992 remains the most thrilling. Florida and Alabama were tied at 21 late in the fourth quarter when Alabama's Antonio Langham intercepted a Shane Matthews pass and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown to give the Crimson Tide a 28-21 victory. The Tide went on to knock off heavily favored Miami to win the national championship.


In 1998, Kansas State was undefeated and ranked No. 1 by the coaches and No. 2 by the writers. All the Wildcats needed to do to play for the national championship was beat No. 10 Texas A&M. But the Aggies upset Kansas State in double overtime, paving the way for Florida State to play Tennessee for the national title. Kansas State was shut out of a BCS game.


In 1967, the Bruins, led by eventual Heisman Trophy winner Gary Beban, were 7-0-1 and ranked No. 1 in the country. USC was 8-1 and ranked third. UCLA broke a 14-14 tie early in the fourth quarter, but USC blocked the extra point. The Trojans then won when running back O.J. Simpson sprinted 64 yards for a touchdown and USC was successful on the extra point.


Today is the 107th meeting. The 1963 game was the first time instant replay was ever used. The most entertaining game might have been a rain-soaked contest in 1996. Navy jumped out to a 21-3 lead, but Army stormed back to go ahead 28-24. Twice Navy drove deep into Army territory in the final six minutes. In all, Navy ran eight plays from inside the Army 11, but did not score and Army held on.

Other voices

Arkansas RB Darren McFadden is fast. Really fast. (Tonight), he will play inside the Georgia Dome on the same artificial field that fellow speedsters Justin Vincent (2003 SEC title game) and Steve Slaton (2006 Sugar Bowl) have treated like their own private treadmill. Try not to blink. Arkansas will beat the Gators 24-20.

Stewart Mandell, Sports Illustrated

I don't know anyone who's happy with the current state of NFL announcing. You can't say things deteriorated this season because this has been an ongoing problem for more than 20 years, ever since the Cosell-Meredith-Gifford team peaked and John Madden exploded onto the scene, followed by the networks' collective deciding, "instead of accepting that these were two once-in-a-lifetime situations that cannot be recreated, we're going to kill ourselves trying to recreate them.''

And they did. And they failed. And they keep failing.

Bill Simmons,

On his way out

The word out of Detroit is Lions chief Matt Millen, right, will meet with owner William Clay Ford after the season and at the end of that meeting, Millen will be fired or will step down. In a related item, the earth is round.

On his way in

New Blackhawks coach Denis Savard is going to start interviewing candidates for the assistant coach's opening. One name that has come up is former Lightning assistant John Torchetti.

On his way ... somewhere

Free-agent lefty Barry Zito is closing in on a team for next season. The Cubs and Rangers are pitching hard, but the leader in the clubhouse at the moment appears to be the Mets.