Alternate History

1997 Manhattan Bowl (Napoleon's World)

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The 1997 Manhattan Bowl was the final game of the 1996-97 Division I college football season, pitting the No. 1 Michigan Wolverines against the No. 2 Montana State Bobcats. In the last game hosted by the old Hudson River Dome prior to its demolition in the early summer of 1997, Michigan defeated the surprising and non-traditional power of Montana State 34-27 to win its first national championship since 1950, a drought of 46 years for the program with the most titles in college football history.

The game, broadcast on NBC, is regarded as a classic for several reasons - first, it featured a comeback by the Wolverines, who came back from a 27-17 deficit in the middle of the third quarter to win the game. Besides also handing the long-suffering Wolverines their first title in four and a half decades (in the midst of an era in which their archrival Huron had won two of four titles in 13 years), it also featured the first "title buster" since the 1980's, with scrappy and small-school Montana State going undefeated in the mighty Central Conference and nearly winning the national title, nearly becoming the first non-traditional power since New Mexico in 1980 to do so, and nearly handing Michigan their second national title loss at the hands of a relative startup (the 1986 Rose Bowl loss to Arkansas being one such example). The 1997 Manhattan Bowl is typically regarded as the #3 best title game of the 1990's, behing the 1998 Silver and 1995 Rose.

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