The Five Lowest Scoring BCS/CFP National Championship Games

Photo courtesy of Garnet and Great/Florida State football archivist

Another college football season is in the books.

Alabama capped an unusual 2020 campaign on Monday night by handling Ohio State in the National Championship in Miami, 52-24. The victory gave the program its 18th national championship and sixth under head coach Nick Saban.

Despite having an offense that had multiple award winners this past season, Alabama still had a top-20 scoring defense. As the old adage goes, “defense wins championships.” In the second of a 2-part series, we look back on contests where that was especially true.

We go back to the inception of the Bowl Championship Series in 1998 where college football first formally pitted No. 1 vs. No. 2 for the title. The College Football Playoff began in 2014. Without further ado, here’s a look back on the five lowest scoring national title games:

5. 1999 Fiesta Bowl (39)

(2) Florida State 16, (1) Tennessee 23
Date: Jan. 4, 1999
Location: Tempe, AZ
Summary: The first-ever BCS national championship saw a dominant performance by the Tennessee defense. The Volunteers held Florida State to 253 yards and forced three turnovers. Dwayne Goodrich returned an interception off FSU quarterback Marcus Outzen for a touchdown before Steve Johnson sealed the win with a pick of Outzen in the final minute. Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin passed for two touchdowns, including the memorable 79-yard strike to Peerless Price to help put the game away.

4. 2009 BCS National Championship (38)

(2) Florida 24, (1) Oklahoma 14
Date: Jan. 8, 2009
Location: Miami, FL
Summary: In a contest hyped by two Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks in Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow, it was the defenses that shined brightest to close the 2008 season. Bradford’s second of two touchdowns to tight end Jermaine Gresham tied the game at 14 in the final quarter, but Florida scored the game’s final 10 points. Tebow’s touchdown pass to David Nelson with just over three minutes remaining sealed the win for the Gators. Florida finished with 480 yards and went 12-for-17 on third down. The 14 points for Oklahoma was 21 fewer than it had scored in any game all season.

3. 2004 Sugar Bowl (35)

(1) Oklahoma 14, (2) LSU 21
Date: Jan. 4, 2004
Location: New Orleans, LA
Summary: Nick Saban’s first national championship came at LSU and it came courtesy of his defense. The LSU defense intercepted Oklahoma quarterback Jason White twice and sacked the Heisman Trophy winner seven times. Marcus Spears’ 20-yard interception return early in the third quarter gave the Tigers a 21-7 lead. Kejuan Jones scored both Oklahoma touchdowns from a yard out. Skyler Green and Justin Vincent each found the end zone for LSU.

2. 2012 BCS National Championship (21)

(2) Alabama 21, (1) LSU 0
Date: Jan. 9, 2012
Location: New Orleans, LA
Summary: The only title game shutout in the history of the BCS and College Football Playoff came in a rematch of a regular season match-up. LSU had defeated Alabama in overtime 9-6 in Tuscaloosa during the regular season, but Alabama would get sweet revenge. The Crimson Tide held LSU to just 92 yards of offense. After five field goals by Jeremy Shelley, Trent Richardson put the exclamation point on the Alabama victory with the game’s only touchdown — a 34-yard run — with less than five minutes remaining.

1. 2001 Orange Bowl (15)

(2) Florida State 2, (1) Oklahoma 13
Date: Jan. 3, 2001
Location: Miami, FL
Summary: During Bob Stoops’ time at Oklahoma, the Sooners put up a lot of points, but it was the defense that won him his only national championship. Against reigning national champion Florida State and Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke, the Sooners forced three turnovers and held a shutout until the game’s final minute. After managing just a pair of field goals through three quarters, Quentin Griffin scored from 10 yards for Oklahoma and the game’s only touchdown of the night. FSU finally broke up the shutout with a safety on an errant punt snap with 55 seconds remaining.

Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.