This is a fun read.
I feel the rankings on some of those wins were off (i.e. BYU 2004, 2008).
On first glance, I believe the game that is overlooked here is Colorado State-Utah in 1994 on national TV as the ABC featured contest of the week with Brent Musberger in his heyday.
Extended highlights here: YouTube
Both teams were undefeated and the Utes had a ballhawking defensive backfield with Kareem Leary and Harold Lusk, an all-team D-line great in Luther Elliss and Mike McCoy at quarterback.
Similar to the Freedom Bowl against Arizona later that year, the Utes couldn’t do anything on offense in the first half but the nation’s No. 4 defense kept them in it. Things got better in the second half and the Utes were up by two touchdowns before the Rams, who were also ranked in the top 15, tied it at 31-31.
McCoy managed a long, controlled drive and hit Curtis Marsh for the go-ahead touchdown late in the 4th.
The Rams came right back and looked like they were going to even it up but Lusk picked off a would-be touchdown pass and strutted down the field to celebrate the win with an over-to-the-top TD return.
The game marked the largest crowd ever at Hughes Stadium in Fort Collins. They brought in temporary bleachers and crammed 39,107 fans into a 30,000-seat facility. CSU’s most celebrated coach Sonny Lubick remembers it as the most electrifying atmosphere in his 15 years there even though they lost.
“I can remember our (University) President Al Yates, Tom Jurich was the AD, and they brought in extra bleachers,” Lubick said. “Plus in the south end zone where the scoreboard is, as I remember looking at that, it was just completely filled with people … I think that would be one big (memory) just because of the enormity and electricity of the crowd was something.”
A pretty good bunch of Ute fans had made their way to Colorado and celebrated with McBride and the players long after the game was over.
If it wasn’t for the two what-the-hell-happened-here road losses to New Mexico (21–23) and Air Force (33-40), the Utes would have been invited to a major bowl that season and scared the college football power brokers into at least considering them as the best team in nation, ala BYU in 1984. Nebraska and Penn State ended up going undefeated that year and Utah was ranked No. 10 in the final AP poll.
That 1994 team was a great team and was part of easily the best year for our conferences in the pre-PAC12 era. CSU beat Arizona, BYU beat Notre Dame and destroyed Oklahoma (should add the Sooners didn’t have their starting QB but the Cougars killed them), Utah beat Oregon (who went to the Rose Bowl) then beat Arizona in their bowl game. All 3 wound up ranked. Utah beat both CSU and BYU, but somehow stumbled against the Lobos and Falcons.
My wife lays claim to having personally attended 8 of the top 10 games on this list. I’m a mere pauper at 6 of 10, all of them after I got together with her. She’s been good for me.
I went to the 1994 Freedom Bowl and remember being incredibly excited. I still have a football signed by the members of that team – one of my prized possessions.
11 total, including 4 in the top 10.
Great game to attend and they let all the fans onto the field at the end to mingle with the players. Got to meet Luther Ellis, Cal Beck (who had a huge late runback to set up the winning score) and many others. Luther was pure class. Everyone was swarming around him and at one point I heard him try to ask the fans to let him go get a shower and that he would come back, but other fans kept on going up to him and he stayed there meeting everyone and signing autographs.
I’ve attended 13 of those games. Wow, I hadn’t realized. I don’t think this list is perfect (any such list will be a little controversial) but it sure does bring back some pleasant memories.
Fabulous column - great list of games. I’ve had season tickets since 1994, and while my son was at home we went frequently to bowl games as my Christmas present to the family. I’m surprised to find that I attended 6 of the top 10, and 18 of the remaining 40. There are a lot of great family and football memories on that list.
One of my biggest regrets of the last 20 years, is choosing not to go the the Sugar Bowl - what a mistake I was running a startup at the time and simply could not spare the cash. Had I gone, I would have attended exactly half of the 50 games, and witnessed the number 1 win.
I console myself with the hope that we end up in the granddaddy of them all, this year. I and my family will NOT miss that game.
I’m particularly fond of that '72 game against AZ.