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ASU Best Teams: No. 1 1996-97 Football vs. No. 3 1986-87 Football

A decade separated two great teams

Photos by Sun Devil Athletics and Rick Stewart / Allsport

We continue our best teams from ASU ever this summer with our next matchup. No. 1 1981 Baseball beat No. 6 1970-71 Football in our last matchup. Now it’s No. 1 1996-97 Football vs. No. 3 1986-87 Football.

Here’s the current bracket:

No. 1 1996-97 Football

Record: 11-1, PAC-10 Champions Finished 4th in AP Poll

Head coach: Bruce Synder

Notable players: Jake Plummer, Pat Tillman, Keith Poole

The rundown: The season that brought a lot of joy till the end. The Sun Devils behind Jake Plummer, who finished third in the Heisman voting, rolled through the regular season 11-0. With the flashiest win of the season during Week 3 with a 19-0 victory over at the time first-ranked Nebraska. Besides the season opener against Washington and a trip to UCLA, every ASU win was decided by two possessions. As the No. 2 in the country ASU faced Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, the Sun Devils were in position to secure a possible national championship with No. 1 Florida State falling to No. 3 Florida, but a Buckeye touchdown with 20 seconds left sent ASU to its lone defeat of the season.

No. 3 1986-87 Football

Record: 10-1-1, Rose Bowl Champions

Head coach: John Cooper

Notable players: Eric Allen, Darryl Harris, Jeff Van Raaphorst

The rundown: A prolific offense and defense, Arizona State ranked ninth in terms of points per game on both sides of the ball. After starting the season unranked, the team went undefeated (with a tie with Washington State) in the first 10 weeks of the season without allowing more than 21 points. Their single loss came in Tucson in a 34-17 loss, but ASU rebounded with its lone Rose Bowl win over Michigan.

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