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1981 NCAA Division I-A football season: Wikis


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The 1981 Division I-A college football ended with the Clemson Tigers, unbeaten and untied, taking the national championship after a victory over traditional power Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. This was also the first year of the California Bowl, played in Fresno, California; this game fancied itself as a "junior" version of the Rose Bowl as it pitted the Big West champion vs. the MAC champion.

This was the final season in which the Ivy League competed in Division I-A.; the league was lowered to Division I-AA (FCS) for 1982.[3] Through 2009 season, the Ivy League has yet to participate in the post-season tournament, despite an automatic bid, citing academic concerns.



Florida State played a brutal series of games known as "Octoberfest", playing traditional powers Nebraska, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and LSU all on the road and going 3-2 in that stretch.

Important game

Clemson's match-up with North Carolina proved to be the landmark game of the season and a huge turning point for the ACC. This game which Clemson won 10–8 marked the first time two ACC teams met while ranked in the top 10. ABC broadcast this game live nationally, a huge bit of exposure for what was usually known as a basketball conference. The game ended with Jeff Bryant recovering a lateral with a minute left.

Orange Bowl

Clemson's Orange Bowl opponent Nebraska featured future NFL stars Roger Craig, Irving Fryar, Mike Rozier, and Dave Rimington while finishing second nationally in rushing with 330 yards per game. But Clemson was able to take advantage of an injury to Nebraska quarterback Turner Gill. Eight out of twelve Nebraska possessions ended in a three and out, they crossed the 50 only four times and ended up with just two scoring opportunities.

Entering the game, Clemson was ranked #1, Georgia #2, then Alabama and Nebraska in one poll and Pittsburgh in another. After Georgia and Alabama had lost in Sugar and Cotton Bowls respectively, The Orange Bowl was for the national championship, although with Pitt beating Georgia, it is likely that Nebraska would have split the title with Pitt has they beaten Clemson. The final score was 22–15.

Pittsburgh, which was the consensus number one until being beaten soundly by Penn State in their season finale, beat Georgia, fresh off its first national title, in the Sugar Bowl. Also in the national title hunt till the very end, Alabama lost to number six Texas in the Cotton Bowl Classic.

Kenneth Sims of Texas was the first pick overall in the 1982 NFL Draft and was the winner of the Lombardi Award, given to the nation's best lineman.

Southern Methodist won the Southwest Conference and was ranked fifth, but was ineligible for post-season play due to NCAA probation, but could have still qualified for the national title.

Consensus All-Americans




#1 and #2 Progress

WEEKS #1 #2 Event
PRE Michigan Oklahoma
1 Michigan Alabama Wisconsin 21, Michigan 14 Sep 12
2 Notre Dame USC Michigan 25, Notre Dame 7 Sep 19
3 USC Oklahoma USC 28, Oklahoma 24 Sep 26
4-5 USC Penn State Arizona 13, USC 10 Oct 10
6 Texas Penn State Arkansas 42, Texas 11 Oct 17
7-8 Penn State Pittsburgh Miami 17, Penn State 14 Oct 31
9-12 Pittsburgh Clemson Penn State 48, Pitt 14 Nov 28
13 Clemson Georgia Clemson 22, Nebraska 15 Jan 1

Bowl Games

Heisman Trophy

  1. Marcus Allen - TB, Southern California
  2. Herschel Walker - TB, Georgia
  3. Jim McMahon - QB, Brigham Young
  4. Dan Marino - QB, Pittsburgh
  5. Art Schlichter - QB, Ohio State

Award winners



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