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Dan McDonald | | July 30, 2019

9 notable college football games that ended in a tie

Notre Dame Athletics Notre Dame and Michigan State tied in 1966

Beginning in the fall of 1996, overtime rules were added to regular-season games in college football to settle ties after regulation.

But prior to that season, there was no free football after 60 minutes. Games simply ended in a draw.

In high-profile games, this meant rival trophies were left unclaimed that year and fans were left with no bragging rights to rest on until the next year.

INTO THE NIGHT: Here are the longest overtime games in college football history

In a few cases, the national championship hung in the balance thanks to a tie game.

Here are nine of the most impactful tie games in college football history:

Illinois 3, Wisconsin 3 (1995)

We start with the most recent page from the history books. Illinois was 5-5 entering the game and looking to end the 1995 season on a positive note with a win at Camp Randall. Wisconsin was 4-5-1 entering the game and looking to get back to .500 for the season and send their fans home with a winning feeling. Neither team got the satisfaction they were looking for and they now have a place in the history books as the last tie game in college football.

Washburn 0, Fairmount 0 (1905)

This tie game serves as maybe the most influential game on this list for one reason: the forward pass. Using experimental rules created just for this game, the first legal forward pass was thrown in a game. Thankfully, the rule became permanent and created the game we know and love today.

EXTRA TIME: How college football overtime works

No. 1 Texas 15, No. 3 Oklahoma 15 (1984)

The Red River Showdown became two teams navigating a flooded river in 1984 when Texas and Oklahoma met as top-ranked teams. Through the driving rain, Texas got out to a 10-0 lead at the half. But Oklahoma rallied in the second half to pull ahead 15-12. With 10 seconds remaining and trailing by a field goal, Texas took one last chance at the end zone before a field-goal attempt. Texas’ Todd Dodge appeared to be intercepted in the end zone, but officials ruled it incomplete. Texas subsequently kicked a field goal and the game ended in a tie.

Army 21, Navy 21 (1948)

It’s sometimes said by fans that if their team went winless, but beat their biggest rival, the season would be a success. In this case a push was a win for the Navy Midshipmen. They played the role of spoiler entering the game at 0-8 against an Army team that was 8-0. Ruining your rival’s perfect season and vindicating a long season of losses? Doesn’t get much better than that.

College Football: Memorable Army-Navy Games | High Five


California 0, Washington & Jefferson 0 (1922 Rose Bowl)

In 1922, the team from the PCC — now the Pac 12 Conference — was the undefeated California Bears. And their opponent was now NCAA Division III school Washington & Jefferson from Washington County in western Pennsylvania. A game that was expected to be heavily one-sided turned into W&J — playing with only 11 players — holding the top offensive team in the country to no points and almost pulling off one of the greatest upsets in Rose Bowl history.

MORE: The full incredible story behind the 1922 Rose Bowl

Washington & Jefferson Athletics 1922 Rose Bowl Washington and Jefferson


No. 4 Syracuse 16, No. 6 Auburn 16 (1988 Sugar Bowl)

The most controversial bowl game tie (to Syracuse fans) came in the 1988 Sugar Bowl. Instead of trying for a touchdown and the win at the end of regulation, Auburn's Win Lyle kicked a 30-yard FG to tie the game with one second left, sending Syracuse fans home with a sour taste in their mouths.

BOWL TIES: The 24 bowl games which have ended in a tie


Michigan 10, Ohio State 10 (1973)

Today, it’s one of the fiercest rivalries in all of sports. Much of the intensity between Michigan-Ohio State, however, stems back to a 10-year span when Bo and Woody roamed the sidelines and hurled disdain for each other up and down US-23. But for one year during the 10 Year War, there were no bragging rights to be had when the final whistle blew. And it led to a fundamental change in how postseason football operates today. 

Since the teams tied for a Big Ten Championship, the athletic directors of the Big Ten voted who would receive the bid to the Rose Bowl. They voted 6-4 to award it to Ohio State, meaning Michigan would be left out of the bowls. In that time, the Big Ten only sent one team to a bowl game — The Rose Bowl. Schembechler was enraged about the process and successfully lobbied for the one-team rule to change. This opened the gates for creating a full bowl game schedule that we see today. 


Notre Dame 0, Army 0 (1946)

Notre Dame’s second “Game of the Century” took place at Yankee Stadium as undefeated, defending National Champion Army, took on No. 2 and also undefeated Notre Dame. Army entered the matchup on a 25-game winning streak and had dominated the Irish in their previous two matchups, 59-0 and 48-0. In the battle of incredible defenses, neither team was able to get on the board. It was Notre Dame that would win in the end, as they were voted the AP national champion. As Army’s win streak would officially come to an end the following season, Notre Dame wouldn’t lose another game until 1950 following the tie.

Notre Dame 10, Michigan State 10 (1966)

“The Game of the Century” tag was brought out again as undefeated squads No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Michigan State met in East Lansing with a national championship on the line. With a minute remaining deep in Michigan State territory, Notre Dame opted to run the clock out and accept the tie. 

Hall of Fame writer Dan Jenkins described the game for Sports Illustrated as such: “For 59 minutes in absolutely overwrought East Lansing last week the brutes of Michigan State and Notre Dame pounded each other into enough mistakes to fill Bubba Smith's uniform—enough to settle a dozen games between lesser teams—but the 10-10 tie that destiny seemed to be demanding had a strange, noble quality to it. And then it did not have that anymore. For the people who saw it under the cold, dreary clouds or on national television, suddenly all it had was this enormous emptiness for which the Irish will be forever blamed.” 

The Fighting Irish were voted as the national champion across the majority of polls, with Michigan State and Alabama each also claiming a share of the national championship. 

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