The Game of the Century may be a loosely used term in college football, but they’re still events worth remembering when Notre Dame football played in them.
Whether we are talking about the Notre Dame football team or any other college program, there is more than one “Game of the Century.” That’s just one of the strange realities of college football. Often the moniker is used as a marketing ploy. It’s a phrase used to sell tickets, and get viewers at home to tune in.
Despite knowing this, there’s magic in the phrase. No matter what, when you hear “Game of the Century,” your mind runs flush with images of triumph and glory, defeat and sorrow.
Today, the phrase is used too often. In modern college football, due to conference championship games and the College Football Playoff, there are opportunities for #1 vs #2 match-ups annually. We see top 3 ranked teams play with National Championship implications all the time. Now, that’s great and exciting, but there are times when people act like Alabama is playing in two or three Games of the Century a season. That’s just not in the spirit of a Game of the Century.
So, what is in the spirit of a Game of the Century? It’s equal parts build-up, and name brands.
The first thing you need is a reason to watch the game. Frankly, this means there needs to be a reason to market the game as a Game of the Century. Typically, this means the game is between a 1st ranked and a 2nd ranked team. Remember, before the BCS and College Football Playoff, this was very rare.
By having the game between the top two teams in the country, it almost always means that the winner is in prime position to win a National Championship. This was especially true in the era of National Champions being decided by the polls.
Another simple reality is that it helps that the game is between two name-brand programs. This is because it means the fanbases are larger. Therefore, the interested audience is bigger as well. If UConn and Georgia Southern, for two random examples, were to meet ranked #1 and #2 it wouldn’t be named the Game of the Century. Their fanbases simply aren’t large enough to use the marketing campaign on that.
Oftentimes, after the game, people wouldn’t have any interest in calling a Game of the Century so much as Game of the Decade after it’s played. That’s the sad reality of on-field performance affecting the legacy of the games.
Other games can earn a title as the ‘best game’ or greatest game’ after the fact. These are the games that are probably most deserving of the moniker Game of the Century, from their sheer on-field performance. Typically, though, these games lacked the build-up and viewership required of a Game of the Century.
This means that a Game of the Century isn’t about what happens on the field at all.
Notre Dame football, due in large part to being a historically great program and playing a national schedule, has been fortunate enough to play in multiple games of the century. This has led to a lot of electric atmospheres, and exciting build-up for fans. This is a brief look at those games.