This was the final season in which the Ivy League competed in Division I-A.; the league was lowered to Division I-AA (FCS) for 1982. Through 2009 season, the Ivy League has yet to participate in the post-season tournament, despite an automatic bid, citing academic concerns.
Clemson's match-up with North Carolina proved to be the landmark game of the season and a huge turning point for the ACC. This game which Clemson won 10–8 marked the first time two ACC teams met while ranked in the top 10. ABC broadcast this game live nationally, a huge bit of exposure for what was usually known as a basketball conference. The game ended with Jeff Bryant recovering a lateral with a minute left.
Clemson's Orange Bowl opponent Nebraska featured future NFL stars Roger Craig, Irving Fryar, Mike Rozier, and Dave Rimington while finishing second nationally in rushing with 330 yards per game. But Clemson was able to take advantage of an injury to Nebraska quarterback Turner Gill. Eight out of twelve Nebraska possessions ended in a three and out, they crossed the 50 only four times and ended up with just two scoring opportunities.
Entering the game, Clemson was ranked #1, Georgia #2, then Alabama and Nebraska in one poll and Pittsburgh in another. After Georgia and Alabama had lost in Sugar and Cotton Bowls respectively, The Orange Bowl was for the national championship, although with Pitt beating Georgia, it is likely that Nebraska would have split the title with Pitt had they beaten Clemson. The final score was 22–15.
Pittsburgh, which was the consensus number one until being beaten soundly by Penn State in their season finale, beat Georgia, fresh off its second national title, in the Sugar Bowl. Also in the national title hunt till the very end, Alabama lost to number six Texas in the Cotton Bowl Classic.