The Top 7 BCS Bowl Games Ever … As Gangster Movies

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In March of 1972, The Godfather hit the box office and forever changed the way we looked at movies.

On December 20th, two years later, the sequel was released and one of the greatest stories ever told just got better.

It’s crazy to think that The Godfather is 40 years old. For a movie that old to remain relevant, not feel dated, and still impact the way we look at movies is an accomplishment in and of itself.

the-godfatherUnfortunately, The Godfather did spur one undesirable development in movie history: the awful mobster ripoff movie.

Seriously, let’s all just agree that Get Carter, Be Cool, and Mickey Blue Eyes never happened.

Thinking about the impact of The Godfather got me thinking about the contemporary mob bosses that are controlling billions of dollars on a daily basis: that’s right, the mob bosses that head up the NCAA.

As hard as it is to believe that The Godfather is 40, it’s almost as hard to believe that the BCS is about to feature its 15th season of bowl games.

It seems like only yesterday that Michigan and Nebraska split the national championship and sent the college football world into a state of chaos.  It was only yesterday (almost literally) that the Big Ten once again raided a smaller conference because of unbelievable greed.

Like The Godfather, the BCS has created many undesirable consequences – namely, that it has failed to follow through on its sole purpose of creating a national champion. Just ask LSU and USC…or the Auburn team that finished undefeated in the SEC and didn’t even play for the national championship.

However, it’s easy to forget about all the exciting moments that the BCS has delivered. So let’s focus on the positive and count down the top 7 BCS Bowl Games from the past 14 seasons, matching each one with a gangster movie that also delivered.

***SPOILER ALERTS – if you somehow haven’t seen these movies, first of all…shame on you. Second of all, just know that the explanations below will spoil some endings.***

#7: Utah over Alabama in 2009 Sugar Bowl

Gangster Movie Comp: The Usual Suspects

We start things off with a movie that is not necessarily a classic “gangster” movie.

Usually, when we think of gangster movies, we think of dark suits, thick Italian accents, and a few shocking scenes. However, the always reliable Wikipedia defines a gangster movie as “a subgenre of crime films dealing with organized crime, often the Mafia.” The Usual Suspects absolutely fits that category and deserves to be included for two reasons:

  1. Keyser Soze was every bit as diabolical of a criminal as any of the other mob bosses in history.
  2. The plot line and unbelievable ending are rarely approached by movies today.

urban-meyer-utahLike The Usual Suspects, the 2009 Sugar Bowl was not supposed to be a “typical” BCS Bowl Game.

The SEC powerhouse, Alabama, was coming off of a tough loss to Florida in the SEC Championship to cap off a year that they had finished undefeated otherwise. Meanwhile, the undefeated Utah Utes had finished an undefeated season of their own, but out west.

The game was supposed to be a blowout, with favored Alabama giving 11 points. Yet, in a plot twist nearly as good as Kevin Spacey revealing Keyser Soze’s identity, not only did Utah come out and win, but they flat out laid the smack down on the Crimson Tide.

Two years after Boise State had crashed the BCS Party, Utah legitimized the mid-majors’ place in BCS Bowl games.

#6: Michigan over Alabama in 2000 Orange Bowl

Gangster Movie Comp: Donnie Brasco

As far as gangster movies go, not many have a better first hour and a half than Donnie Brasco.

The flick features some of the most legendary gangster scenes and dialogues, including what it means to be “vouched for,” and the unforgettable “Forget about it” conversation between Johnny Depp and Paul Giammati. Al Pacino and Depp both pull off memorable performances while Anne Heche’s performances was among the least annoying of mob wives from any gangster film.

Of course, the problem with this movie is the ending – Depp receives his award in front of his family, takes a few pictures, and fades into obscurity. To this day, I wish somebody would provide an alternate ending that is a little more satisfying.

The 2000 Orange Bowl offered a similar narrative.

Michigan, behind the leadership of one Tom Brady (Pacino), pulled off two 14-point comebacks in the same game to force overtime. David Terrell (Depp) actually submitted the best performance of the bunch and earned the honor of Game MVP.

Unfortunately, as exciting as the first 60 minutes plus of this game were, like Donnie Brasco, it ended on a real downer.


After Brady’s Wolverines scored on the initial play in OT, Alabama countered with a beautiful TD of its own. All that was needed was an extra point to force the game into Double-OT. Of course, the dumb kicker missed, and Alabama fans, not unlike Johnny Depp’s, were left wanting more and thinking about what might have been.

#5: Texas over Ohio State in 2009 Fiesta Bowl

Gangster Movie Comp: The Departed

The Departed was basically Donnie Brasco with a better ending.

Guy goes undercover; guy joins the mob; guy gets sucked into the mob; guy becomes one of most trusted of the Mob Boss’s goons; guy hates what he has become; guy struggles to get out; guy appears to get out scott-free…and so the movie ends.

Or so we thought.

We had thought we had been here before in the gangster genre…but then, there was more! We learned that not only had a policeman infiltrated the mob, but a mobster had infiltrated the police force. The movie came to a climactic conclusion where Leonardo di Caprio and Matt Damon finally faced off in one of the most shocking endings in movie history.


Ohio State was coming off back to back bowl defeats in 2009. The story was that nobody in the nation, including Ohio State, could match the “SEC SPEED” that had destroyed them in consecutive years. The ’09 Buckeyes tried to turn the tide and faced off in a memorable battle against a Colt McCoy-led Texas Longhorns team.

After three quarters, Ohio State trailed 17-6, and again the storyline seemed to be writing itself. Just when we were ready to close the book on Jim Tressel for another year, Ohio State came roaring back to take a four-point lead with just 2 minutes left in the game.

Ohio State would be vindicated – if not for Colt McCoy’s stunning 2-minute drill and 26-yard TD pass with only 16 seconds left on the clock. Buckeye fans were disheartened, but the rest of us were treated to one of the most exciting and fulfilling games in recent memory.

Like The Departed, this game is still a little too recent to understand its historical significance.

You could say that the loss helped to cement Tressel’s fate in Columbus, and ended up being a good thing as Ohio State got their hands on Urban Meyer. Or, it could be viewed as the beginning of the end as Ohio State would go through allegations a few years later that ruined their football program forever.

Will The Departed stand the test of time as a classic? Or will it be ruined by the rat sequence that a few critics hated? We just don’t know for sure. Only time will tell.


You’ve seen the first three, now it’s time for the top 4 BCS bowl games of all-time, plus their gangster movie comparable. Relive:

  • The most memorable single play in BCS history.
  • The most memorable in-game speech in BCS history.
  • And, of course, the single greatest individual performance in BCS history.

Click here to continue reading.

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About Jon Washburn

Jon Washburn grew up in Indianapolis, IN and as such, is a diehard Pacers, Colts, and Cubs fans. When it comes to college, he cheers for Notre Dame football fan and Purdue basketball. Yes, this sounds shady, but since he grew up without cable, he learned to love Notre Dame - the only team on TV. Glenn "The Big Dog" Robinson was at Purdue when Jon was in his formative years, so he latched onto them as well. Did that make him a fair-weather fan at the time? Sure. Give him a break...he was 8...and he has stayed with those teams ever since. Currently, he lives in Charleston, SC with his wife who grew up in Cleveland. Although he is no longer physically in the Midwest, his heart will always be there. Jon goes by the name "Twitch" because he has Tourette's Syndrome. Hit him up on his twitter @jwtwitch.


  1. Phil Iorillo says:

    Hi Jon
    read your column and I liked the way you brought the old movies and the bowl games together. Nice to see someone who sees us old timers in a positive light. Have doing some writing of my own. Maybe I’ll let you read my thoughts. See you soon.
    Grandpa P

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