The 1987 NCAA Division I-A football season ended with Miami winning its second national championship during the 80s in an Orange Bowl match-up featuring a rare No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup between the top ranked Oklahoma Sooners and the Hurricanes.
Miami's first three games were against ranked opponents, in what was labeled as a rebuilding year, when after some late game theatrics by Michael Irvin against rival Florida State, the Hurricanes were 3–0, the national media started to take notice.
Oklahoma was also seen as quite the juggernaut, averaging 428.8 yards rushing per game with their potent wishbone offense. Miami was able to hold Oklahoma to just 179 yards on the ground, winning the game 20–14.
Also having notable seasons were Syracuse, LSU and Florida State. Syracuse finished the season 11–0–1 and ranked No. 4 after a controversial Sugar Bowl game in which Auburn kicked a late field goal to end the game in a tie. LSU went 10–1–1, ending the season ranked No. 5. This was LSU's first ten win season in 26 years and their highest ranking since 1961.
Florida State finished ranked No. 2, their only loss to Miami, and began a streak of 14 years where FSU either finished in the top 5 or played for the national championship. The Seminoles beat Rose Bowl champion Michigan State and SEC champion Auburn on the road and beat Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl.
This was the first season Akron was a Division 1-A football member. Wichita State discontinued their football program after the 1986 season and have never fielded a team since then. This would be the first of two years SMU would not field a team due to the NCAA's death penalty. The loss of Wichita State and SMU and the gain of Akron decreased the number of teams to 104.
The Oklahoma Sooners were No. 1, and their Big 8 Conference rivals, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, were No. 2, during the first eleven polls taken in 1987. Beginning with the September 29 poll, Miami was ranked No. 3. For polls 4 through 11, the ranking remained 1.Oklahoma 2.Nebraska 3.Miami. With the Big Eight champion contracted to play in the Orange Bowl in Miami, the hometown Hurricanes were an obvious choice. The only question was whether the Big 8 team would be the Sooners or the Huskers.
In the 12th poll, issued on the Tuesday before the annual Nebraska–Oklahoma game, 9–0–0 Nebraska was voted No. 1 and 10–0–0 Oklahoma No. 2. The two teams met at Lincoln, Nebraska, on November 21, 1987, with Oklahoma winning 17–7. In the last three polls, Oklahoma stayed at No. 1 and Miami at No. 2.