|1982 NCAA Division I-A season|
Memorial for legendary coach Bear Bryant, who retired after the 1982 season, and died 28 days later.
|Number of teams||105|
|Preseason AP No. 1||Pittsburgh|
|Duration||December 17, 1982 – |
January 1, 1983
|Heisman Trophy||Herschel Walker (running back, Georgia)|
|Division I-A football seasons|
The Penn State Nittany Lions won their first consensus national championship, closing out an 11–1 season by defeating Georgia and Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker 27–23 in the Sugar Bowl to edge out undefeated SMU for the national championship. It was Joe Paterno's first national championship, after three undefeated non-championship seasons.
UCLA moved from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to the Rose Bowl and fulfilled a promise made by coach Terry Donahue by closing out their season there as well, beating Michigan 24–14 in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.
- The penalty for incidental grasping of a facemask was reduced from 15 yards to 5 yards. The 5 yard version of this penalty would be later abolished in the 2008 season.
- Coaches are no longer allowed to request a conference with the referee regarding a misapplication or misinterpretation of a rule, modifying a 1981 rule permitting such conferences, though a player or substitute can still request them.
- The penalty for offensive pass interference or illegal touching of a forward pass in the end zone was changed to a 15-yard penalty (5 yards for illegal touching) from a touchback.
- Penalties on the defense for fouls committed away from a catchable ball will be enforced from the previous spot and will no longer be considered pass interference.
- Intentional grounding where the spot of enforcement is in the end zone will no longer result in an automatic safety. The defense will have the option to take the result of the play or the safety.
- Intentional grounding will not be called if a passer throws the ball out of bounds to conserve time.
- Penalties against the offense that occur behind the scrimmage line will be enforced from the previous spot and not from the spot of the foul.
- Use of adhesive material (such as stickum) is prohibited.
- The penalty for ineligible receiver downfield was reduced from 15 yards plus loss of down to 5 yards plus loss of down.
Conference changes and new programs
- This was the first season the Ivy League, Southern Conference, and Southland Conference competed at the I-AA (FCS) level. Southwestern Louisiana was the only team from those three conferences to remain in Division I-A, becoming an independent.
- Ivy League — Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale
- Southern Conference — Appalachian State, Chattanooga, East Tennessee State, Furman, Marshall, The Citadel, VMI, and Western Carolina
- Southland Conference — Arkansas State, Lamar, Louisiana Tech, McNeese State, and Texas–Arlington
- Most of the Missouri Valley Conference football schools were also reclassified. This began the few years where the MVC hosted both 1-A and 1-AA teams. Drake, Illinois State, Indiana State, Southern Illinois, and West Texas State did not meet 1-A standards and were reclassified to 1-AA. New Mexico State, Tulsa, and Wichita State remained in 1-A.
- This season also saw the loss of Division I-A independent teams Colgate, Holy Cross, Northeast Louisiana, North Texas State, Richmond, and William & Mary; dropping the total number of Division I-A teams down to 106 from the previous season's 137 teams.
- As of 2020, Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Northeast Louisiana (renamed the University of Louisiana at Monroe in 1999), Louisiana Tech, Marshall, and North Texas have returned to Division I-A, renamed FBS in 2006.
|School||1981 Conference||1982 Conference|
|Colgate Raiders||I-A Independent||I-AA Independent|
|Holy Cross Crusaders||I-A Independent||I-AA Independent|
|Northeast Louisiana Indians||I-A Independent||Southland (I-AA)|
|North Texas State Mean Green||I-A Independent||1-AA Independent|
|Richmond Spiders||I-A Independent||I-AA Independent|
|UNLV Rebels||I-A Independent||PCAA (Big West)|
|William & Mary Tribe||I-A Independent||I-AA Independent|
Notable rivalry games
- Arizona 28, ASU 18
- Auburn 23, Alabama 22 (Auburn's first victory in the series since 1972; Alabama coach Bear Bryant's last regular season game)
- Cal 25, Stanford 20 (The Play)
- UCLA 20, USC 19 – In the first game of this rivalry contested at the Rose Bowl, USC trailed 20-13 and had fourth down and goal from the one-yard line with 0:01 left in the game. USC scored a touchdown and decided to go for the two-point conversion with 0:00 on the clock. USC announcer Tom Kelly remarked, "Typical of this great rivalry--even when it's over, it isn't over!" On the ensuing try for two by USC, UCLA's Karl Morgan sacked USC QB Scott Tinsley. This occurred within minutes of The Play, which was happening 400 miles to the north in Berkeley.
- USC 17, Notre Dame 13
- Tulane 31, #7 LSU 28 (Tulane's first win at Tiger Stadium since 1948 and the Green Wave's most recent victory in the series. The series has not been played annually since 1994 and not at all since 2009.)
- Ohio St. 24, Michigan 14
- #8 Nebraska 28, #11 Oklahoma 24
- #8 Penn St 27, #2 Nebraska 24
The pre season poll had a top 5 of 1. Pittsburgh, 2. Washington, 3. Nebraska, 4. Alabama, and 5. North Carolina. Penn State was #8.
On September 11, #5 North Carolina lost at #1 Pittsburgh by a score of 7-6; the Tar Heels would never return to the top 5 as they went 8-4. Meanwhile, Washington, by virtue of its 55-0 win over UTEP, moved ahead of Pitt in the next poll. Florida replaced North Carolina in the top 5 that was 1. Washington, 2. Pittsburgh, 3. Nebraska, 4. Alabama, and 5. Florida.
After games of September 18, Pittsburgh was again leapfrogged by a team that dominated a weak opponent, as Nebraska beat New Mexico 68-0 and moved ahead of Pitt to #2. The rest of the top 5 was unchanged.
On September 25, #2 Nebraska was defeated at #8 Penn State by a score of 27-24 in a game that ultimately decided the national title. The outcome of the game was controversial as Penn State tight end Mike McCloskey would later admit catching a key pass out of bounds that kept the winning drive alive. Penn State replaced Nebraska in the new top 5 that was 1. Washington, 2. Pittsburgh, 3. Penn State, 4. Alabama, and 5. Florida.
On October 2, #5 Florida lost at home to unranked LSU 24-13. Georgia replaced Florida in the top 5 and also moved ahead of Alabama. The new poll was 1. Washington, 2. Pittsburgh, 3. Penn State, 4. Georgia, and 5. Alabama.
On October 9, #5 Alabama defeated #3 Penn State in Birmingham 42-21. Alabama jumped up top to #2 while SMU replaced Penn State in the top five. 1. Washington, 2. Alabama, 3. Pittsburgh, 4. Georgia, 5. SMU.
On October 16, #2 Alabama was knocked off in Knoxville by Tennessee, 35-28. Nebraska returned to the top five. 1. Washington, 2. Pittsburgh, 3. Georgia, 4. SMU, 5. Nebraska.
On October 23, Washington struggled to beat Texas Tech 10-3 so Pittsburgh moved ahead of them in the poll. The same day, Nebraska squeaked by Missouri at home 23-19 and slipped to #6, with Arkansas taking their place in the top 5. The new poll was 1. Pittsburgh, 2. Washington, 3. Georgia, 4. SMU, and 5. Arkansas.
On October 30 in Palo Alto, John Elway and Stanford stunned #2 Washington 43-31. SMU jumped ahead of Georgia into the #2 spot with a 47-9 drubbing of Texas A&M. Undefeated and #7 Arizona State beat #12 USC 17-10 and moved up to #4. The new poll was 1. Pittsburgh, 2. SMU, 3. Georgia, 4. Arizona State, and 5. Arkansas.
On November 6, #1 Pittsburgh was stunned at home by unranked Notre Dame, 31-16. #5 Arkansas was knocked off by Baylor in Waco 24-17. #3 Georgia romped over #20 Florida 44-0 and moved to the top spot. The new poll was 1. Georgia, 2. SMU, 3. Arizona State, 4. Nebraska, and 5. Penn State.
On November 13 in a Pac-10 showdown in Tempe, #7 Washington beat #3 Arizona State 17-13. That put the Huskies back in the top 5. Remembering that Penn State defeated Nebraska earlier in the season, the pollsters moved the Nittany Lions ahead of the Cornhuskers in the new poll that was 1. Georgia, 2. SMU, 3. Penn State, 4. Nebraska, 5. Washington.
On November 20, #2 SMU was tied by #9 Arkansas 17-17. #5 Washington had its Rose Bowl hopes ended as rival Washington State upset the Huskies 24-20. Pittsburgh returned to the top five replacing Washington. 1. Georgia, 2. Penn State 3. Nebraska, 4. SMU, 5. Pittsburgh.
On November 26, in a game that likely decided who would meet #1 Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, #2 Penn State shut down Dan Marino and #5 Pittsburgh, 19-10. The next day, #6 Arizona State was knocked out of the Rose Bowl by rival Arizona, 28-18. That gave UCLA the Pac 10 title and Rose Bowl berth. The Bruins replaced Pittsburgh in the top 5 in the final regular season poll. 1. Georgia, 2. Penn State, 3. Nebraska, 4. SMU, 5. UCLA.
#1 and #2 progress
|PRE-1||Pittsburgh||Washington||Washington 55, UTEP 0||Sep 11|
|2||Washington||Pittsburgh||Nebraska 68, New Mexico St. 0||Sep 18|
|3||Washington||Nebraska||Penn State 27, Nebraska 24||Sep 25|
|4-5||Washington||Pittsburgh||Alabama 34, Arkansas St 7||Oct 2|
|6||Washington||Alabama||Tennessee 35, Alabama 28||Oct 16|
|7||Washington||Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh 14, Syracuse 0||Oct 23|
|8||Pittsburgh||Washington||Stanford 43, Washington 31||Oct 30|
|9||Pittsburgh||SMU||Notre Dame 31, Pitt 16||Nov 6|
|10-11||Georgia||SMU||Arkansas 17, SMU 17||Nov 20|
|12-14||Georgia||Penn State||Penn State 27, Georgia 23||Jan 1|
- Sugar: #2 Penn State 27, #1 Georgia 23
- Orange: #3 Nebraska 21, #13 LSU 20
- Cotton: #4 SMU 7, #6 Pittsburgh 3
- Rose: #5 UCLA 24, #19 Michigan 14
- Sun: North Carolina 26, #8 Texas 10
- Gator: Florida State 31, #10 West Virginia 12
- Tangerine: #18 Auburn 33, Boston College 26
- Liberty: Alabama 21, Illinois 15
- Bluebonnet: #14 Arkansas 28, Florida 24
- Peach: Iowa 28, Tennessee 22
- Fiesta: #11 Arizona State 32, #12 Oklahoma 21
- Independence: Wisconsin 14, Kansas State 3
- Hall of Fame: Air Force 36, Vanderbilt 28
- Holiday: #17 Ohio State 47, Brigham Young 17
- Aloha: #9 Washington 21, #16 Maryland 20
- California: Fresno State 29, Bowling Green 28
Final AP and UPI rankings
|1.||Penn State||Penn State|
|6.||Arizona State||Arizona State|
|12.||Ohio State||Ohio State|
|13.||Florida State||North Carolina|
|19.||West Virginia||West Virginia|
- Herschel Walker, RB, Georgia, 1,926 points
- John Elway, QB, Stanford, 1,231
- Eric Dickerson, RB, SMU, 465
- Anthony Carter, WR, Michigan, 142
- Dave Rimington, C, Nebraska, 137
- Todd Blackledge, QB, Penn State, 108
- Tom Ramsey, QB, UCLA, 65
- Tony Eason, QB, Illinois, 60
- Dan Marino, QB, Pittsburgh, 47
- Mike Rozier, RB, Nebraska, 40
- Curt Warner, RB, Penn State, 40
- Walker and Rozier were juniors
Other major awards
- Outland Trophy (Interior Lineman): Dave Rimington, Nebraska
- Vince Lombardi/Rotary Award (Lineman or Linebacker): Dave Rimington, Nebraska
- Walter Camp Award (back): Herschel Walker, Georgia
- Davey O'Brien Award (Quarterback): Todd Blackledge, Penn State
- Maxwell Award (college player of the year): Herschel Walker, Georgia
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-10-02. Retrieved 2009-01-01.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Mitchell, Billy (December 30, 1982). "Pleasant way to go, Bear says". Tuscaloosa News. (Alabama). p. 1.
- "Only dissent on No. 1 comes from No. 2". Eugene Register Guard. (Oregon). AP, UPI. January 3, 1983. p. 1C.
- "At long last". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. January 3, 1983. p. 23.
- Donovan, Dan (January 3, 1983). "National title belongs to players - Paterno". Pittsburgh Press. p. C1.
- New York Times – 2006-11-17
- "Walker wins his Heisman on third try". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). UPI. December 5, 1982. p. 1D.