The 2012 BCS championship game on Jan. 9 will be remembered for the Alabama Crimson Tide defense - and likely nothing else. The Tide's 21-0 win over the LSU Tigers was defined by Alabama only giving up 92 total yards and only four plays in Tide territory. College football fans like myself have never seen a performance like that in a BCS championship game - and have to go back perhaps 25 years to remember something like it in a title game period.
It is sadly ironic that this season marked the 25'th anniversary of the 1987 Fiesta Bowl between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Miami Hurricanes - especially to Penn State followers like myself. That game became one of the biggest upsets in that era thanks to the Penn State defense throttling Vinny Testaverde and the all-powerful Miami offense. But 25 years later, the architect of that defensive attack would define a college football season in much uglier ways.
Jerry Sandusky's brilliance in January 1987 is now forever tainted thanks to where he is 25 years later. Sandusky would have been officially arraigned on Jan. 11 before his upcoming child molestation trial had he not waved on the process. It is still yet another milestone in how far he has fallen from the highs he reached in 1987, when he led the Nittany Lions' defense to shocking glory.
Nevertheless, college football never saw such a dominant defensive performance on such a big stage again until Alabama slaughtered LSU in the Superdome. Tide fans could argue that it was more on par with their slaughter of the Hurricanes in the 1993 Sugar Bowl/national championship game. However, the victory over LSU came more out of nowhere than that - or at least the sheer dominance of it did.
The 1987 Nittany Lions and 2012 Tide were underdogs in different ways. However, they were facing extremely potent and powerful opponents who were being talked about as two of the greatest of all time before their bowl games. Of course, the 1986-87 Hurricanes were much more hyped up and divisive than the 2011-12 Tigers - and the Tigers were a far less heavy favorite over the Tide than the Hurricanes were over the Nittany Lions.
Regardless, absolutely no one anticipated how Penn State would clamp down on Miami, force five Testaverde interceptions and intimidate the most feared college football team of its era. 25 years later, Alabama's triumph and defensive slaughter over LSU was less shocking, yet absolutely no one saw LSU being held to 92 yards and not having a single trick or answer up its sleeves.
The Tide's performance was even more shocking considering this current era, where 70 points being scored in bowl games isn't out of place anymore. In a time where video game like scores are the norm, Alabama and its defense are relics from a bygone age - like the one in which Sandusky and his Penn State defense thrived in.
A lot of things are different in 2012 than they were in 1987 - with Sandusky a tragic example. But an all powerful defense does still have a place in college football, as Alabama's work in the 2012 BCS championship game was perhaps the best example that college football has seen in 25 years.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and Penn State fan.
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