[Ed-Seth: This being the 20th anniversary of the 1997 National Championship, Michigan historian Dr. Sap is taking us game-by-game through it. Previously: Those Who Stayed (Colorado); The Hit (Baylor); The Stop (Notre Dame); The Captain’s Down (Indiana); Vengeance (Northwestern), Gut Check (Iowa), Six Picks (Michigan State), The Trap (Minnesota)]
November 8, 1997: #4 Michigan 34, #2 Penn State 8
- also #1 Nebraska 45, Missouri 38 (OT) thanks to the “Flea Kicker”
- also also #3 Florida State 20, #5 North Carolina 3
watch the whole thing if you’ve got time.
Week #8 was barely in the books when ESPN’s Beano Cook lit the fuse for the much anticipated match-up between #4 Michigan and #2 Penn State. While Michigan easily took care of Minnesota the week before, Penn State held on to beat Northwestern by only a single point. Much like UM, perhaps PSU had a “Trap Game” of their own?None of this mattered to the Howard Cosell-like curmudgeon, Cook.
To Beano, the unabashed East Coast lover of all things Notre Dame and Penn State, victory for JoePa was a mere formality the next week against Lloyd Carr and his Wolverines. So much so that on Saturday night, one week before the big game, he uttered the now famous phrase: “Don’t even bother showing up next week, Michigan. JUST SEND THE BAND!”
The buildup to the titanic clash of undefeateds was raised up another notch when at the Monday press conference in Ann Arbor, Charles Woodson didn’t shy away when asked what was on everyone’s minds:
just the nation?
Prophetically, Woodson also offered this nugget: "If everybody says that the Heisman Trophy is given to truly the best player in the country, I would think I'd have a legitimate shot at winning," he correctly offered.
|Penn State vs. Michigan’s band|
No one in that room argued that point, and neither did Penn State head coach Joe Paterno when he said that he thought #2 was a great athlete and quite possibly the best EVER in college football history! JoePa’s compliments on Woodson start at the 5:17 mark in this clip here.
To ratchet up the pre-game hype even more, ESPN dubbed the historic weekend, “Judgment Day.” This wasn’t just because of the UM-PSU tilt. The ACC had their own epic clash of undefeateds as 3rd-ranked Florida State (8-0) was playing at 5th-ranked North Carolina (8-0), in Chapel Hill, NC. For all you Husker lovers out there, #1 Nebraska was playing at Missouri this same day and was expected to win rather easily.
The historical significance of this type of day in college football occurring so late in the season was best described by Beano Cook (at the 2:50 mark in this clip):
For those of you too young to know what Hale-Bopp was, there was a comet we could all just go outside and stare at for over a year
[Hit THE JUMP for the best game Michigan ever played]