The 31-30 win over Nebraska is still talked about as one of the greatest games of all time, not only for its last minute finish, but for its role in changing the face of college football. Miami came into the game ranked #5, but losses by Texas in the Cotton Bowl Classic and Illinois in the Rose Bowl launched them into the #1 spot.
Nebraska scored a touchdown with 48 seconds remaining, putting them within one point of the Hurricanes. Despite knowing a tie would still give Nebraska the national title, Coach Tom Osborne courageously decided to go for two points and the win rather than one point and the tie. Miami was able to hold, snapping Nebraska's 22 game winning streak and launching Miami as a powerhouse program. This is often regarded as one of the most questionable coaching decisions in history, as a tie would have likely kept Nebraska above Miami in the polls and therefore they would have won the national championship.
This Miami team was the first to win a national title without a single player voted to the first team All-Americans and only the second to win a national title gaining more passing yards than rushing.
The Auburn Tigers, featuring Bo Jackson also had a stellar season going 11-1 and beating Michigan in the Sugar Bowl 9-7. Despite entering the bowl games ranked third in both major polls, and with both teams ranked higher losing their bowl games, the Tigers ended ranked third in the final AP poll as Miami jumped from 5th to gain the National Championship. Auburn had played the toughest schedule in the nation, including eight bowl teams, seven of which were ranked in the top 20 (four in the top ten). Perhaps because of the difficult schedule, the Tigers did finish ranked first in a few polls including the New York Times computer rankings.
The Holiday Bowl was also a classic, as BYU, led by future NFL star Steve Young, defeated Missouri with a last second halfback pass.
The annual rivalry game between Oregon and Oregon State is still widely known and derided as "The Toilet Bowl", as both teams played to a 0-0 tie, the last scoreless tie in college football. The game featured 11 total turnovers, as 6 fumbles were lost (out of 11 total), 5 interceptions, and 4 missed field goals.
This season saw no conference have two or more teams tie for the title—an event that did not happen again in either Division I-A or its successor, Division I FBS, until 2009. (Note, however, that even when a conference officially recognizes multiple champions, it will invariably have some kind of tiebreaker system to determine placement for bowl berths.)
In the preseason poll released on August 27, Big 8 Conference rivals Nebraska and Oklahoma were #1 and #2. After the Oklahoma Sooners lost 24-14 to Ohio State on September 17, the Nebraska Cornhuskers remained #1 and were trailed for nearly the entire season by Texas. Nebraska received all 60 of the first place votes in the polls of September 26 and October 3, and no fewer than 51 as the season continued, while the Longhorns never received more than five votes during the same period. Meanwhile, the University of Miami Hurricanes, unranked in the preseason Top 20, began winning after their first week 28-3 loss to Florida. Miami came in at #15 in the September 26 poll. As they continued unbeaten, the Hurricanes gathered force, rising to #12, #10, #8, #7, and reached #4 by October 31, where they remained in the final regular season poll after they were invited to play against Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.