People always talk about the greatest college teams, but a 12-0 football team from the great Northwest is never going to get any respect.
A 12-0 team from Miami will more than likely get all of the respect in the world.
Yet, in 1991 the 12-0 Washington Huskies and the 12-0 Miami Hurricanes split the national championship. The AP Poll favored the Miami Hurricanes and the Coaches Poll had the Washington Huskies winning it all.
Who was the better team?
That we will never know.
The Miami Hurricanes started the 1991 season rated #3 in the country. Florida State was the preseason #1 team with the Michigan Wolverines ranked 2nd.
The Hurricanes did not let the voters down in their opening game with a 31 to 3 beat down of the Arkansas Razorbacks in Little Rock, Arkansas. Pretty impressive whipping by the Hurricanes and on the road which propelled them past Michigan and into the #2 ranking.
Then, almost equally as remarkable, the Hurricanes hosted #10 Houston and pounded them 40-10.
They followed that showing with stomping Tulsa and Oklahoma State.
Their next test was #9 Penn State and they barely survived 26-20 at home in the Orange Bowl.
The Hurricanes thumped Long Beach State, Arizona and West Virginia before facing their annual biggest test of the season, the Florida State Seminoles.
The Seminoles were #1 and right in the middle of their Dynasty period when they finished in the top 5 in the Polls for 14 straight seasons.
This game was the classic match up of #1 versus #2 that college football fans like me love to see every season.
In what would become one of the more famous regular season games of all time, the Seminoles kicker Gerry Thomas missed a 34 yard Field Goal that would have won the game, potentially. This game would become known as Wide Right 1 as the Hurricanes held on to win, 17-16.
This win obviously moved Miami into the #1 slot in the weekly Polls with only 2 seemingly easy games remaining on their schedule.
The first easy opponent didn’t turn out so easy with a close 19-14 win over Boston College. Their last game was against San Diego State and they won going away, 39-12.
The Hurricanes finished their season with a 22-0 whitewashing of the 11th ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Everyone believes that the 2001 Miami Hurricanes football team was possibly one of the best college teams of all time, and certainly the top team that school has produced. But, this 1991 version wasn’t too bad, either.
At Quarterback, they had 1992 Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torretta. The most loaded position on this team was at Linebacker where they had Darrin Smith, Michael Barrow and Jessie Armstead.
They were definitely a talented team which was proven by their 12-0 record.
Meanwhile, out in the Northwest, the Washington Huskies also rolled along.
The Huskies started their season at #4 in the polls right behind the 3rd ranked Michigan Wolverines. Their first game was against Stanford down in California and the Huskies administered a 42-7 beating to the Cardinal.
After that, they had a tough challenge in Lincoln, Nebraska against the 9th ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Huskies escaped with a 36-21 win and few opponents won at Lincoln back in those years.
Back in Seattle, the Huskies trounced Kansas State, 56-3. This was the Kansas State Wildcats of the Bill Snyder era, not the horrible ones from the 1980’s and before.
Still at home, they roughed up Arizona, 54-0, and this was before the Wildcat’s famous Desert Swarm defense of the mid 1990’s.
Then, they had patsy Toledo come to town only to be spanked 48-0.
The Washington Huskies were 5-0 and now ranked #3 in the country behind Florida State and Miami.
The 7th ranked California Golden Bears lay in wait down in Berkeley and they proved to be the Huskies biggest test of the season. Washington flew out of California with a 24-17 hard earned win.
The Huskies had no problems with Oregon or Arizona State, but then they had to travel down to Los Angeles to take on revenge minded USC. The Huskies had beaten the Trojans 31-0 the previous season and USC had definitely not forgotten.
They thoroughly destroyed Oregon State, 58-6 and Washington State, 56-21, and the only reason the games were not more convincing was that Washington head football coach Don James liked to pull his starters when the games were out of hand.
The only challenge left for Washington that season was the Rose Bowl and the 4th ranked Michigan Wolverines. The Big 10 champions had Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard, Butkus Award winner Erick Anderson and Quarterback Elvis Grbac. They had been beaten by the top ranked Florida Seminoles early in the season, 51-31, but they recovered enough to win the Big 10 and earn a Rose Bowl berth.
The Washington Huskies won going away, 34-14, and the game was not as close as the score. Michigan scored late against the Washington defensive reserves to make it appear a better game.
This Washington Husky team was loaded. At Quarterback, they had injured Mark Brunell and starter Billy Joe Hobert. Both would play in the NFL and Brunell would play at the highest level for 19 years.
At Running Back they had Beno Bryant and Napoleon Kaufman and at Wide Receiver Orlando McKay. Up front, they had huge Offensive Tackle Lincoln Kennedy, Center Ed Cunningham and Siupeli Malamala.
On defense, Steve Emtman would become the very first pick in the entire draft. Emtman may have been the most dominating Defensive Lineman of all time. He just crushed people. Defensive Back Dana Hall also went in the 1st round. Brett Collins, Jaime Fields and Dave Hoffman among others were dominating Linebackers.
These Huskies were good, and the coaches poll named them national champions for the 1991 season.
So, were they better than the Miami Hurricanes?
That, we will never know. Both of these teams were great and a playoff could have been fun even back in 1991.