Football Fiesta Bowl: Historic Moments, Impactful Games, and 2024 Matchup Highlights

Ashley Hopkinson

Football Fiesta Bowl

Kicking off the new year with a bang, the 2024 Fiesta Bowl brought college football fans to the edge of their seats.

Held at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, this 53rd annual showdown featured the Liberty Flames from Conference USA clashing with the Oregon Ducks of the Pac-12 Conference.

As one of the key games concluding the 2023 NCAA Division I FBS football season, the stakes couldn’t have been higher.

You tuned in at 11:00 AM MST, eager to witness this thrilling match aired on ESPN. The Fiesta Bowl, part of the 2023-24 NCAA football bowl games, didn’t disappoint.

With teams selected by the College Football Playoff committee, the game showcased top-tier talent and strategic prowess, making it a must-watch event for any football enthusiast.

History of the Football Fiesta Bowl

The Fiesta Bowl, established in 1971, has evolved from its origins to become one of college football’s most prestigious postseason games.

Initially created to provide a bowl berth for the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) champion, the Fiesta Bowl quickly gained prominence within the college football landscape.

Origins and Growth

The Fiesta Bowl began as a response to the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) being snubbed from major bowl invitations. In 1971, supporters created the bowl to guarantee a spot for the WAC champion.

Arizona State defeated Florida State 45-38 in the inaugural game on December 27, 1971. The bowl’s tie-in with the WAC ended in 1978 when Arizona and Arizona State moved to the then-Pac-10 conference.

Over the years, the Fiesta Bowl grew in prestige, becoming one of the premier college football events.

Notable Milestones

The Fiesta Bowl has hosted several landmark games that have left lasting impressions on college football history:


The Fiesta Bowl featured a showdown between Miami and Penn State, both ranked as the nation’s top two teams. Penn State won a tightly contested battle 14-10, a game that garnered the highest television rating in college football up to that time.


The bowl faced controversy when several schools declined invitations due to Arizona’s refusal to recognize the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.


The Fiesta Bowl hosted the first Bowl Championship Series (BCS) national championship game, where Tennessee defeated Florida State 23-16.


The Fiesta Bowl was embroiled in scandal when an investigation uncovered financial improprieties involving CEO John Junker, resulting in a significant fine and probation.

Despite this setback, the bowl continued to showcase compelling matchups, such as the thrilling 2007 game where Boise State famously defeated Oklahoma 43-42 in overtime with a series of bold plays, including the iconic “Statue of Liberty” play.

Teams and Participation

The Football Fiesta Bowl has always featured prominent college football teams, drawing widespread interest and intense competition. The selection process and participation details highlight the prestige and significance of this annual event.

Selection Criteria

Teams participating in the Fiesta Bowl are primarily selected based on their performance during the college football season. The selection committee considers various factors such as team rankings, strength of schedule, and overall performance.

The Fiesta Bowl, part of the New Year’s Six bowl games, often includes top-ranked teams, contributing to its reputation for high-caliber matchups.

Notable Teams Over the Years

Numerous notable teams have participated in the Fiesta Bowl, creating memorable moments in college football history.

  • Ohio State: Featured multiple times, the Buckeyes have delivered remarkable performances, including their 2003 victory against Miami.
  • Boise State: Their 2007 overtime win against Oklahoma remains one of the most thrilling games.
  • Oregon: Known for its dynamic play, Oregon has appeared several times, including the significant 2024 game against the Liberty Flames.
  • Nebraska: With several appearances, Nebraska has showcased its football prowess, particularly in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

These teams, among others, have contributed to the Fiesta Bowl’s legacy, ensuring it remains a highlight of the college football season.

Game Highlights

The Fiesta Bowl has hosted numerous unforgettable games and standout performances over the years. Below are some of the most famous matches and key player performances in the bowl’s storied history.

Famous Matches

The Fiesta Bowl has hosted numerous famous matches that have become legendary in college football history. Here are some of the most iconic and memorable games:

2007: Boise State vs. Oklahoma

The 2007 Fiesta Bowl is renowned for Boise State’s dramatic victory over Oklahoma, ending 43-42 in overtime. The game featured the iconic Statue of Liberty play, which helped Boise State clinch the win.

2003: Ohio State vs. Miami (FL)

Ohio State defeated Miami (FL) in a double-overtime thriller with a final score of 31-24, securing the BCS national championship. Craig Krenzel and Mike Doss played pivotal roles for Ohio State.

1999: Tennessee vs. Florida State

Tennessee triumphed over Florida State 23-16 in the inaugural BCS national championship game. Peerless Price and Dwayne Goodrich were key players for Tennessee.

Ohio State (2006)

Troy Smith and AJ Hawk led Ohio State to a resounding 34-20 victory over Notre Dame. Smith’s passing and Hawk’s defensive skills were critical to the win.

Utah (2004)

Alex Smith and Paris Warren propelled Utah to a dominant 35-7 win over Pittsburgh. Smith’s passing and Warren’s receiving made significant impacts.

Oregon State (2001)

Jonathan Smith and Darnell Robinson excelled as Oregon State crushed Notre Dame 41-9. Smith’s quarterbacking and Robinson’s defensive prowess were standout elements in the game.

Impact on College Football

The Football Fiesta Bowl has significantly influenced college football in several facets. It plays a crucial role in media coverage and sponsorship, and it impacts college football rankings.

Media Coverage and Sponsorship

The Fiesta Bowl garners extensive media coverage. Major networks like ESPN broadcast the event, attracting millions of viewers. The 2022 game, for instance, drew an audience of 16.1 million. This wide viewership boosts the bowl’s prominence.

Sponsorship also plays a vital role. Brands like Tostitos and PlayStation have previously sponsored the event, enhancing its financial stability and visibility.

Influence on College Football Rankings

The Fiesta Bowl significantly affects college football rankings. Teams’ performances in this high-stakes game often influence their end-of-season standings.

For example, Ohio State’s victory over Miami (FL) in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl helped secure their first national championship in over three decades.

Similarly, Boise State’s dramatic win against Oklahoma in 2007 elevated the school’s national profile, impacting future rankings. The bowl’s selection process, based on teams’ performance, further emphasizes its role in shaping college football standings.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Fiesta Bowl?

The Fiesta Bowl is a prestigious college football bowl game established in 1971. It has been part of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) and now the College Football Playoff (CFP) system.

When was the first Fiesta Bowl played?

The first Fiesta Bowl was played on December 27, 1971.

Where is the Fiesta Bowl held?

The Fiesta Bowl is held at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Which teams played in the 2024 Fiesta Bowl?

The Liberty Flames and the Oregon Ducks played in the 2024 Fiesta Bowl.

What is a notable moment in Fiesta Bowl history?

A notable moment is Boise State’s thrilling victory over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.


The Football Fiesta Bowl stands as a monumental event in college football, showcasing thrilling matchups and unforgettable moments. Its rich history and continued prestige make it a cornerstone of the sport, influencing team rankings and national profiles.

With each game, the Fiesta Bowl reinforces its legacy, captivating millions of fans and solidifying its place in the annals of college football history.

Whether you’re a die-hard fan or a casual viewer, the Fiesta Bowl offers an unparalleled experience that’s sure to leave a lasting impression.

From dazzling pre-game festivities to nail-biting finishes, this bowl game encapsulates the excitement and passion of college football. Its prime-time broadcasts and top-tier matchups ensure that the Fiesta Bowl remains a must-watch event every season.

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Ashley Hopkinson

Ashley Hopkinson is an esteemed American Football coach at South Gloucestershire and Stroud College. With a passion for the game and a dedication to mentoring young athletes, Ashley has played a pivotal role in developing the college's football program. His expertise and motivational skills have not only enhanced players' performances on the field but also fostered a strong team spirit and work ethic. Under his guidance, the team has achieved significant success, reflecting his commitment to excellence and sportsmanship. LinkedIn

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