1988 NCAA Division I-A season
Number of teams104
Preseason AP No. 1Florida State[1]
Post-season
Bowl games17
Heisman TrophyBarry Sanders (running back, Oklahoma State)
Champion(s)Notre Dame (AP, Coaches, FWAA)
Division I-A football seasons
← 1987
1989 →

The 1988 NCAA Division I-A football season ended with Notre Dame winning the national championship. The Fighting Irish won the title via a 34–21 defeat of previously unbeaten West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Arizona. With 4 of the final Top 5 teams being independents (with the University of Miami and Florida State joining the Fighting Irish and Mountaineers), 1988 became a focus for fans and critics who wondered how the traditional conferences would deal with the indies (the answer ultimately involved all of these teams joining major conferences).

Notre Dame had several notable victories this season, including a 19–17 victory over No. 9 Michigan, won on a last drive field goal, which started off the championship season. The season's marquee game was a 31–30 victory over No. 1 Miami. Entering the game, Miami had a 36-game regular season winning streak, 20 straight road victories and a 16-game winning streak overall. This year was also the first time Notre Dame and USC had ever met when ranked No. 1 and No. 2. Most notable about this game is Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz's decision to leave behind two of his stars, Tony Brooks and Ricky Watters because they were late, cementing discipline as the main theme of this championship team.

This year's edition of the UCLA–USC rivalry game featured a second ranked USC and a fourth ranked UCLA. For the second year in a row the Rose Bowl berth was on the line but for USC it also had national title implications as the rivalry game with Notre Dame was the following week. USC beat UCLA but lost to Notre Dame, and then lost to Michigan in the Rose Bowl.

Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders ran the Wing T offense all the way to the Heisman Trophy and numerous rushing records.

Rule changes

Conference and program changes

Conference standings

1988 Atlantic Coast Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team W   L   T W   L   T
No. 9 Clemson $ 6 1 0 10 2 0
Virginia 5 2 0 7 4 0
NC State 4 2 1 8 3 1
Wake Forest 4 3 0 6 4 1
Maryland 4 3 0 5 6 0
Duke 3 3 1 7 3 1
North Carolina 1 6 0 1 10 0
Georgia Tech 0 7 0 3 8 0
  • $ – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1988 Big Eight Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team W   L   T W   L   T
No. 10 Nebraska $ 7 0 0 11 2 0
No. 14 Oklahoma 6 1 0 9 3 0
No. 11 Oklahoma State 5 2 0 10 2 0
Colorado 4 3 0 8 4 0
Iowa State 3 4 0 5 6 0
Missouri 2 5 0 3 7 1
Kansas 1 6 0 1 10 0
Kansas State 0 7 0 0 11 0
  • $ – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1988 Big Ten Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team W   L   T W   L   T
No. 4 Michigan $ 7 0 1 9 2 1
Michigan State 6 1 1 6 5 1
Illinois 5 2 1 6 5 1
Iowa 4 1 3 6 4 3
No. 20 Indiana 5 3 0 8 3 1
Purdue 3 5 0 4 7 0
Ohio State 2 5 1 4 6 1
Northwestern 2 5 1 2 8 1
Wisconsin 1 7 0 1 10 0
Minnesota 0 6 2 2 7 2
  • $ – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1988 Big West Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team W   L   T W   L   T
Fresno State $ 7 0 0 10 2 0
Cal State Fullerton 5 2 0 5 6 0
Utah State 4 3 0 4 7 0
San Jose State 4 3 0 4 8 0
UNLV 3 4 0 4 7 0
Long Beach State 3 4 0 3 9 0
Pacific (CA) 2 5 0 2 9 0
New Mexico State 0 7 0 1 10 0
  • $ – Conference champion
1988 Mid-American football standings
Conf Overall
Team W   L   T W   L   T
Western Michigan $ 7 1 0 9 3 0
Eastern Michigan 5 2 1 6 3 1
Ball State 5 3 0 8 3 0
Central Michigan 5 3 0 7 4 0
Ohio 4 3 1 4 6 1
Toledo 4 4 0 6 5 0
Kent State 3 5 0 5 6 0
Bowling Green 1 6 1 2 8 1
Miami 0 7 1 0 10 1
  • $ – Conference champion
1988 Pacific-10 Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team W   L   T W   L   T
No. 7 USC $ 8 0 0 10 2 0
No. 6 UCLA 6 2 0 10 2 0
No. 16 Washington State 5 3 0 9 3 0
Arizona 5 3 0 7 4 0
Arizona State 3 4 0 6 5 0
Washington 3 5 0 6 5 0
Oregon 3 5 0 6 6 0
Oregon State 2 5 1 4 6 1
Stanford 1 5 2 3 6 2
California 1 5 1 5 5 1
  • $ – Conference champion
Rankings from AP Poll
1988 Southeastern Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team W   L   T W   L   T
No. 19 LSU + 6 1 0 8 4 0
No. 8 Auburn + 6 1 0 10 2 0
No. 15 Georgia 5 2 0 9 3 0
No. 17 Alabama 4 3 0 9 3 0
Florida 4 3 0 7 5 0
Tennessee 3 4 0 5 6 0
Ole Miss 3 4 0 5 6 0
Kentucky 2 5 0 5 6 0
Vanderbilt 2 5 0 3 8 0
Mississippi State 0 7 0 1 10 0
  • + – Conference co-champions
Rankings from AP Poll
1988 Southwest Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team W   L   T W   L   T
No. 12 Arkansas $ 7 0 0 10 2 0
Texas A&M* 6 1 0 7 5 0
No. 18 Houston 5 2 0 9 3 0
Texas Tech 4 3 0 5 6 0
Baylor 2 5 0 6 5 0
Texas 2 5 0 4 7 0
TCU 2 5 0 4 7 0
Rice 0 7 0 0 11 0
  • $ – Conference champion
  • *- Ineligible for conference championship and postseason bowl games due to NCAA sanctions.
Rankings from AP Poll
1988 Western Athletic Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team W   L   T W   L   T
Wyoming $ 8 0 0 11 2 0
UTEP 6 2 0 10 3 0
Hawaii 5 3 0 9 3 0
BYU 5 3 0 9 4 0
Utah 4 4 0 6 5 0
Air Force 3 5 0 5 7 0
San Diego State 3 5 0 3 8 0
New Mexico 1 7 0 2 10 0
Colorado State 1 7 0 1 10 0
  • $ – Conference champion
1988 NCAA Division I-A independents football records
Conf Overall
Team W   L   T W   L   T
No. 1 Notre Dame       12 0 0
No. 2 Miami (FL)       11 1 0
No. 3 Florida State       11 1 0
No. 5 West Virginia       11 1 0
Southern Miss       10 2 0
No. 13 Syracuse       10 2 0
Army       9 3 0
Louisville       8 3 0
South Carolina       8 4 0
Northern Illinois       7 4 0
Pittsburgh       6 5 0
Memphis State       6 5 0
Southwestern Louisiana       6 5 0
Rutgers       5 6 0
Akron       5 6 0
Penn State       5 6 0
Tulane       5 6 0
Louisiana Tech       4 7 0
Temple       4 7 0
Tulsa       4 7 0
Boston College       3 8 0
Cincinnati       3 8 0
East Carolina       3 8 0
Navy       3 8 0
Virginia Tech       3 8 0
Rankings from AP Poll

Season summary

September

The first AP Poll of the year led off with No. 1 Florida State, No. 2 Nebraska, No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 4 Clemson, and No. 5 UCLA. Nebraska defeated No. 10 Texas A&M in the Kickoff Classic on August 27, and the top five teams remained the same going into September.

September 3: No. 1 Florida State opened against No. 6 Miami. The Hurricanes had won the previous year’s matchup by a single point, but this year they were far more dominant, shutting out the Seminoles 31-0. No. 2 Nebraska defeated Utah State 63-13, while No. 3 Oklahoma was idle. No. 4 Clemson beat Virginia Tech 40-7, and No. 5 UCLA won 59-6 over San Diego State. The top five in the next poll were No. 1 Miami, No. 2 Nebraska, No. 3 Clemson, No. 4 Oklahoma, and No. 5 UCLA.

September 10: No. 1 Miami was idle. No. 2 Nebraska visited No. 5 UCLA, and the Bruins prevailed 41-28. No. 3 Clemson defeated Furman 23-3, No. 4 Oklahoma opened with a 28-0 shutout of North Carolina, and No. 6 USC won 24-20 at Stanford. The top five in the next poll were No. 1 Miami, No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 Clemson, No. 4 Oklahoma, and No. 5 USC.

September 17: No. 1 Miami made a furious comeback, scoring two touchdowns and a field goal in the last five and a half minutes to defeat No. 15 Michigan 31-30. No. 2 UCLA overwhelmed Long Beach State 56-3. No. 3 Clemson lost 24-21 to No. 10 Florida State on a “puntrooskie,” a fake punt which set up a 78-yard run and a game-winning field goal for the Seminoles. No. 4 Oklahoma beat Arizona 28-10, No. 5 USC was idle, and No. 6 Auburn won 56-7 over Kansas. The next poll featured No. 1 Miami, No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 4 Auburn, and No. 5 USC.

September 24: No. 1 Miami played another Big Ten opponent and had a much easier time, defeating Wisconsin 23-3. No. 2 UCLA was idle, while No. 3 Oklahoma lost 23-7 at No. 5 USC. No. 4 Auburn beat Tennessee 38-6, and No. 8 Notre Dame crushed Purdue 52-7. With losses by the sixth- and seventh-ranked teams, the Irish moved into the top five: No. 1 Miami, No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 USC, No. 4 Auburn, and No. 5 Notre Dame.

October

October 1: No. 1 Miami blew out Missouri 55-0. No. 2 UCLA won 24-17 at No. 16 Washington, and conference rival No. 3 USC visited Arizona for a 38-15 victory. No. 4 Auburn defeated North Carolina 47-21, and No. 5 Notre Dame beat Stanford 42-14. The top five remained the same in the next poll.

October 8: No. 1 Miami was idle. No. 2 UCLA beat Oregon State 38-21, and No. 3 USC defeated No. 18 Oregon 42-14. In the famous “Earthquake Game,” No. 4 Auburn held a 6-0 lead over LSU near the end of the fourth quarter. But LSU quarterback Tommy Hodson led a late drive which culminated in a touchdown pass for a 7-6 victory, and the crowd cheered so loudly that the noise registered as an earthquake at a nearby laboratory. No. 5 Notre Dame won 30-20 at Pittsburgh, and No. 6 Florida State beat Georgia Southern 28-10. The top five in the next poll were No. 1 Miami, No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 USC, No. 4 Notre Dame, and No. 5 Florida State.

October 15: This week featured one of the most iconic football games of all time as No. 1 Miami, who had not lost a regular-season game since September 1985, matched up with No. 4 Notre Dame, a traditional power enjoying their best season in several years. The contrast between the buttoned-up Fighting Irish and the flashy Hurricanes was played up as a clash of “Catholics vs. Convicts.” The game turned on a disputed fumble call midway through the fourth quarter, as Miami lost the ball at the Notre Dame one-yard line while they were trailing by just seven points, costing the Hurricanes the chance to tie or take the lead. Miami did score a touchdown with 45 seconds left to cut the score to 31-30, but a failed two-point conversion ensured a win for the Irish. No. 2 UCLA won 38-21 at California, and No. 3 USC beat No. 16 Washington 28-27 in another game which was decided on an unsuccessful two-point attempt. No. 5 Florida State defeated East Carolina 45-21, but still fell out of the top five in the next poll. No. 7 Nebraska, who won 63-42 over No. 10 Oklahoma State, moved up: No. 1 UCLA, No. 2 Notre Dame, No. 3 USC, No. 4 Miami, and No. 5 Nebraska.

October 22: No. 1 UCLA won 24-3 at Arizona, No. 2 Notre Dame beat Air Force 41-13, No. 3 USC was idle, No. 4 Miami crushed Cincinnati 57-3, and No. 5 Nebraska visited Kansas State for a 48-3 win. The top five remained the same in the next poll.

October 29: No. 1 UCLA led Washington State by 21 points in the second half, but the Cougars came all the way back to take the lead. A last-minute UCLA drive was halted at WSU’s six-yard line, and Washington State was the winner in a 34-30 upset. No. 2 Notre Dame defeated Navy 22-7, No. 3 USC won 41-20 at Oregon State, and No. 4 Miami beat East Carolina 31-7. No. 5 Nebraska posted an unimpressive win over Missouri, gaining just one first down in the first half before coming back for a 26-18 victory. No. 6 Florida State (idle this week) and No. 7 West Virginia (beat Penn State 51-30) moved ahead of the Cornhuskers in the next poll: No. 1 Notre Dame, No. 2 USC, No. 3 Miami, No. 4 West Virginia, and No. 5 Florida State.

November-December

November 5: All of the top-ranked teams dominated their opponents by 30 points or more. No. 1 Notre Dame defeated Rice 54-11, No. 2 USC beat California 35-3, No. 3 Miami was a 34-3 victor over Tulsa, No. 4 West Virginia won 51-13 at Cincinnati, and No. 5 Florida State shut out No. 15 South Carolina 59-0. The top five remained the same in the next poll.

November 12: No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 3 Miami were idle. No. 2 USC blanked Arizona State 50-0, No. 4 West Virginia won 35-25 at Rutgers, and No. 5 Florida State beat Virginia Tech 41-14. A few conference races were decided this weekend: No. 11 Arkansas defeated Texas A&M 25-20 to win the SWC title and a Cotton Bowl berth, while No. 13 Michigan clinched the Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl appearance by beating Illinois 38-9. The top five again remained the same in the next poll.

November 19: No. 1 Notre Dame defeated Penn State 21-3. No. 2 USC visited No. 6 UCLA with the Pac-10 title and a spot in the Rose Bowl on the line. Battling a case of the measles, USC quarterback Rodney Peete led the Trojans to a 31-22 victory over Troy Aikman and the Bruins. No. 3 Miami won 44-3 at No. 11 LSU, No. 4 West Virginia finished an undefeated regular season with a 31-9 win over No. 14 Syracuse, and No. 5 Florida State was idle. As was customary in the 1980s, the Big 8 title came down to a meeting between No. 7 Nebraska and No. 9 Oklahoma. The Cornhuskers won a 7-3 defensive struggle (their first victory over the Sooners in five years) to earn the Orange Bowl berth. The top five remained the same for the third straight week.

November 25-26: For the first time in the history of their storied rivalry, Notre Dame and USC met when both teams were undefeated and untied. Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz benched key players Ricky Watters and Tony Brooks for “repeated irresponsible tardiness,” but the No. 1-ranked Fighting Irish nevertheless had little trouble, coming away with a 27-10 victory over the No. 2 Trojans. No. 3 Miami edged No. 8 Arkansas 18-16, holding the Razorbacks to minus-14 yards of offense in the fourth quarter. No. 4 West Virginia had finished their season, and No. 5 Florida State concluded their schedule with a 52-17 defeat of Florida. The last remaining conference race was decided this weekend, as No. 7 Auburn’s 15-10 victory over No. 17 Alabama moved the Tigers into a tie for the SEC title with No. 16 LSU. Despite LSU’s head-to-head victory in the earthquake game, the Sugar Bowl organizers picked Auburn (who had a better overall record and higher ranking) to represent the conference. The next poll featured No. 1 Notre Dame, No. 2 Miami, No. 3 West Virginia, No. 4 Florida State, and No. 5 USC.

December 3: No. 2 Miami defeated Brigham Young 41-17. The other top-ranked teams had finished their schedules, and the top five remained the same in the final poll before the bowls.

The only two undefeated teams (No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 3 West Virginia) were both independents; they headed to the Fiesta Bowl, which had no conference tie-in, for a de facto national championship game. Fellow independents No. 2 Miami (whose only loss was to Notre Dame) and No. 4 Florida State (whose only loss was to Miami) would respectively play No. 6 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl and No. 7 Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. No. 5 USC (whose only loss was also to Notre Dame) met No. 11 Michigan in the Rose Bowl, while No. 8 Arkansas and No. 9 UCLA matched up in the Cotton Bowl.

No. 1 and No. 2 progress

WEEKS No. 1 No. 2 Event
PRE Florida State Nebraska Miami 31, Florida St. 0 Sep 3
1 Miami Nebraska UCLA 41, Nebraska 28 Sep 10
2-6 Miami UCLA Notre Dame 31, Miami 30 Oct 15
7-8 UCLA Notre Dame Washington St. 34, UCLA 30 Oct 29
9-12 Notre Dame USC Notre Dame 27, USC 10 Nov 26
13-14 Notre Dame Miami Notre Dame 34, West Virginia 21 Jan 1

Bowl games

Main article: 1988–89 NCAA football bowl games

Polls

Main article: 1988 NCAA Division I-A football rankings

Final AP Poll

  1. Notre Dame
  2. Miami (FL)
  3. Florida State
  4. Michigan
  5. West Virginia
  6. UCLA
  7. Southern California
  8. Auburn
  9. Clemson
  10. Nebraska
  11. Oklahoma State
  12. Arkansas
  13. Syracuse
  14. Oklahoma
  15. Georgia
  16. Washington State
  17. Alabama
  18. Houston
  19. LSU
  20. Indiana

Final Coaches Poll

  1. Notre Dame
  2. Miami (FL)
  3. Florida State
  4. Michigan
  5. West Virginia
  6. UCLA
  7. Auburn
  8. Clemson
  9. Southern California
  10. Nebraska
  11. Oklahoma State
  12. Syracuse
  13. Arkansas
  14. Oklahoma
  15. Georgia
  16. Washington State
  17. Alabama
  18. North Carolina State
  19. Indiana
  20. Wyoming

Awards

Heisman Trophy

  1. Winner: Barry Sanders, Oklahoma State, Jr. RB
  2. Rodney Peete, Southern California, Sr. QB
  3. Troy Aikman, UCLA, Sr. QB
  4. Steve Walsh, Miami (FL), Jr. QB
  5. Major Harris, West Virginia, So. QB

Other major awards

References

  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-10-02. Retrieved 2009-01-03.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ D'Angelo, Tom (November 23, 1988). "Add college coach to endangered species list". The Palm Beach Post. p. 24.
  3. ^ Bilinski, Bill (November 6, 1988). "No. 1 Irish 'Rocket' past Rice". South Bend Tribune. p. B4.
  4. ^ Climer, David (November 13, 1988). "In storm, with disbelief, Vols get 3rd straight win". The Tennessean. Nashville, Tennessee. p. 1C.