Nebraska rumbled through its first 12 games like a Big Red locomotive, flattening opponents by scores like 84-13, 72-29 and 67-13. The Cornhuskers amassed an NCAA-record 624 points, and despite a near derailment at Oklahoma State, they took their third straight Big Eight championship, I-back Mike Rozier won the Heisman Trophy by leading the nation in rushing and carrying for 29 touchdowns, an NCAA record. "There are no great football teams anymore," said the Washington Redskins' John Riggins, "except Nebraska, and they're not on our schedule, thank God." Of course, this was before the Huskers came across The Little Engine That Could, No. 4-ranked Miami, in the Orange Bowl. An 11-point underdog, the Hurricanes had been humiliated 28-3 in their opener at Florida, but with freshman Bernie ("I Think I Can, I Think I Can") Kosar, at the throttle, Miami won its next 10. Kosar hit two early TD passes against Nebraska, and Miami clattered ahead 17-0 in the first quarter and 31-17 after three. The Huskers chugged back to trail by a point with 48 seconds to go. But Hurricane defensive back Kenny Calhoun got three fingers on a two-point conversion attempt, and Miami was No. 1.
OF LIONS, DUCKS AND BEAR
It was a year of reverses and double reverses. Kentucky went from 0-10-1 in 1982 to a bowl game with West Virginia. Mississippi, 4-7 in '82, played Air Force in the Independence Bowl. Oklahoma's Marcus Dupree turned himself around at the Jackson, Miss. airport after a visit home and enrolled at Southern Mississippi. Defending national champion Penn State dropped its first three games, but the Lions won seven and tied one of their next nine. With Illinois fans in the stands wearing buttons inscribed NOMOBO, and carrying items bearing the slogan WISHIGAN MICHIGAN, the Fighting Illini beat the Wolverines for the first time since 1966 and made their first Rose Bowl trip in 20 years. Minnesota, on the other hand, wasn't going anywhere, except back to receive another kickoff. The 1-10 Gophers lost to Nebraska 84-13 and allowed 518 points for the year. And then there was North Carolina, which was ranked No. 3 in the country when it had a 7-0 record but finished in the tar pits by losing four of its last five.
Pac-10 teams played like pachyderms at times, losing 15 of 35 non-conference games. The Oregon Ducks even waddled into the running for the Rose Bowl for a while but the bid went to UCLA, which finished the regular season 6-4-1. USC was 4-6-1, its worst record in 22 years. The Bruins regained some of the league's lost prestige by dotting the Illini 45-9 in the Rose Bowl. In what may have been the most efficient military airlift since Entebbe, close to 10,000 fans were flown to the Army-Navy game in Pasadena. Two of the game's legends died—Alabama's Bear Bryant, the winningest coach of all time, and Tennessee State's John Merritt, who won seven national black college championships.
UCLA started 0-3-1, but a victory over Washington helped it to the Rose Bowl.
This last-minute kick by Auburn's Al Del Greco ticked off Michigan in the Sugar Bowl, 9-7.
Picking off passes wasn't merely a sideline for Brigham Young's safety, Kyle Morrell.
Bo Jackson of the Auburn War Eagles swooped over Michigan 22 times for 130 yards. Overall, he gained 1,343 yards and made 14 touchdowns.
Dawg Gary Moss (24) fetched a Texas fumble to set up John Lastinger's Cotton Bowl TD.
Jeff Atkins had a fine 6.1-yard rushing average, but to the major bowls, SMU was all wet.
Navy's fleet junior Napoleon McCallum gained 1,587 yards.
Rozier shoved his way to 2,295 yards, but couldn't knock over Miami.
Ballcarriers like Santio Barbosa helped Missouri run all over Iowa State, but the Tigers got caught by the tail in BYU's 21-17 Holiday Bowl victory.
Though only 5'9‚Öù", Doug Flutie of Boston College finished way up in the Heisman voting.
Thanks to Turner Gill (above), Nebraska almost passed Miami in the Orange Bowl. UCLA's Rick Neuheisel (below) did more than a passable job in the Rose Bowl.
Miami's offensive linemen weren't the only ones who took their hats off to freshman Kosar.
Columbia's secret weapon: John Witkowski.
BYU's Steve Young led the nation's passers.
Michigan shuttered when Husky Mark Pattison scored this touchdown.