Picture a Saturday morning on any campus with major college football. For the biggest of the big-time games, a certain television crew shows up six days in advance and sets up shop near the stadium. College GameDay, more often than not, is the flag planted on the college football landscape for the biggest game on a Saturday.
Sometimes magic happens. The home team comes out later that day and beats the road team, creating one of the most special Saturdays you’ll ever have as a fan. Other times ... we’re here to talk about those.
What follows is a grouped list of every College GameDay blowout that:
- Saw the road team beat the home team (just in on-campus games, so no neutral sites or bowls)
- Had a final scoring margin of 21 points or more
Why 21? Have you ever played the NCAA Football or Madden video games with your friends? If there is any sense of decorum on the sticks, the controller gets passed when a lead hits 21 points. Loser out, next opponent in. Thus, we will use this as our formal blowout cutoff for these games. It’s canon.
These types of games don’t happen all that often in the broader history of the show, but they are eye-popping when they do. They fall into a few distinct categories:
A blueblood getting wrecked
1995: Colorado 38, Oklahoma 17
2019: Ohio State 48, Nebraska 7
- There was a time between Barry Switzer and Bob Stoops when Oklahoma was nothing more than an also-ran. Colorado dusting the Sooners in what would become a 5-5-1 season for OU continued a run of average that would soon become misery for a proud program.
- There are beatings with the college football world looking on, and then there’s what Ohio State did to Nebraska on this night. To date, it is the largest road victory in College GameDay history. It’s not that Nebraska fans felt that they’d win this game, but for a program trying to claw back to relevancy, getting pasted on national television showed how far they still had to go. This visit from the show was much more about the Buckeyes playing in this game than anything the Huskers had done that season.
So comprehensive was this evisceration that the enduring image of it, for me, will always be this:
Nebraska fans let balloons loose for their team’s first touchdown. They waited two and a half hours to do that.
Blowouts in which the home team was the spread favorite
2002: Miami 41, Florida 16 (UF -3)
2004: Auburn 34, Tennessee 10 (UT -1.5)
2005: Notre Dame 42, Pitt 21 (Pitt -3)
2011: Oregon 53, Stanford 30 (Stanford -2.5)
These spreads should tell you something. It’s not that our friends in the desert think these home teams were head and shoulders better than their opponents, but it does show us that Vegas felt they were at least on near-equal footing before applying the customary home-field advantage. That is certainly not what the final scores indicated when it was over!
Nobody told the road team to Respect The Troops
2003: USF 28, Army 0
The show does not always go to the capital-B Biggest game of the day. About once a year they’ll venture off the beaten path, either to an FCS game or saluting the service academies.
But once this game kicked off, nobody told USF about the occasion.
1995: Tennessee 41, Alabama 14
1995: Nebraska 44, Colorado 21
2001: Miami 49, Florida State 27
2011: Alabama 42, Auburn 14
2013: Oregon 45, Washington 24
2015: Oklahoma 58, Oklahoma State 23
There is nothing better in college football than watching your team toast a rival — especially when it’s in your rival’s stadium. Whether the animosity is artificially manufactured or baked into the relationship, these annual spats were the games of the week while also having rivalry stakes.
A non-blueblood getting wrecked
1997: Florida State 20, UNC 3
1998: Florida State 34, Georgia Tech 7
2001: Florida 54, South Carolina 17
2015: UCLA 56, Arizona 30
Some of the best College GameDays are when a downtrodden team experiences a run of success and ESPN comes calling, usually because that team is facing a big-time opponent.
And sometimes reality hits hard. Besides 2015 Arizona, these teams enjoyed successful seasons, and not even by standards of their own historical woefulness. They coulda been even better, had they pulled it off on the biggest stage. Alas ...
Alabama grinding LSU into a fine powder
1996: Alabama 26, LSU 0
2018: Alabama 29, LSU 0
If watching Shaun Alexander absolutely shred the Bayou Bengals to the tune of 291 rushing yards in grainy standard definition interests you, then friend, you’ve come to the right place.
He entered Tiger Stadium as a freshman, buried deep on the depth chart, and left a freshman still deep on the depth chart. But what he showed on this night was the promise that would turn him first into a Bama legend, and eventually an NFL MVP.
By now, Nick Saban bringing his Tide back to his former place of employment is no longer a novelty. Neither is the Tide looking dominating in a matchup that doesn’t exactly live up to the hype surrounding it. But 2018’s rendition of the SEC West classic saw the biggest margin of victory the Tide have had under Saban over LSU. This game and its predecessor in ‘96 do share another spiritual connection: missed extra points by the Tide.
Non-Boise State teams who thought they could unseat TCU on the non-powers’ throne
2009: TCU 38, BYU 7
2010: TCU 47, Utah 7
BYU had a bit of revenge in mind after a 2008 obliteration by the Horned Frogs knocked the Cougars out of BCS contention. A year later, the Frogs were pursuing a BCS berth with the eyes of the sport trained on Provo on Saturday morning. By Saturday night, they were looking elsewhere.
For good measure, TCU pulled the Holy War double, spoiling Utah’s party in Salt Lake City in 2010.
The road team on its way to at least a natty/Playoff appearance
2002: Miami 26, Tennessee 3
2006: Ohio State 38, Iowa 17
2010: Oregon 53, USC 32
2011: LSU 47, West Virginia 21
2013: Florida State 51, Clemson 14
2017: Clemson 47, Louisville 21
There is no shame in losing to a team that’s just really stinkin’ good. Maybe you’re a footnote in history, but you do have a helluva story to tell.