Sometimes, it’s hard to believe those incredible games happened so long ago. Now that we have reached deep down in the memory bank, we’ll get a little closer to current day. In this countdown, we go from 2003 to just less than 12 months ago. Settle in while we bring you The Best College Football Games in the Last 30 Years. (Part Two)
The Mighty Have Fallen
California was just two years removed from a 1-11 season and was trying to get back to prominence under new coach Jeff Tedford. Meanwhile, the Southern Cal train was rolling. Headlining the charge for the Trojans was Matt Leinart looking to play for a National Championship.
Another quarterback that you may have heard of by the name of Aaron Rodgers led Cal to a shocking 21-7 first half advantage. After a second-half charge that led the game to Overtime, it was all up to the kickers. In particular, Tyler Fredrickson from Cal who had his previous two attempts blocked nailed a 38-yard attempt to give the Bears the upset 34-31.
Oh, what could have been for the Auburn Tigers. Unable to play for or win a National Championship the undefeated record and Sugar Bowl game was truly a game of pride. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech was coming in as one of the hottest teams in the country with eight consecutive victories.
Auburn dominated most of this football game. Using a suffocating defense and an efficient offense headlined by Jason Campbell and the duo of Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown, the Tigers lead 16-0 heading into the fourth quarter. However, a furious rally brought the score to 16-13. The comeback would end there as Auburn recovered the onside kick to preserve the perfect season.
The Bush Push
USC came in with a 27-game winning streak. Comparatively, Notre Dame was looking to turn around their luck against USC as the Trojans had won the last three contests by 31 points each.
Notre Dame took a 21-14 lead into halftime off of a 59-yard punt return touchdown by Tom Zbikowski. Mounting a comeback, Notre Dame Quarterback Brady Quinn ran five yards for a score to give the Irish the advantage with about two minutes left. In one of the most iconic plays in College Football history. Matt Leinart opted for a quarterback sneak. After being initially stopped by the Notre Dame defenders, Reggie Bush helped to get Lineart into the end zone by pushing him across the goal line. This would give USC the 34-31 victory.
The Greatest Game Ever
It was nearly impossible to disregard both the “Bush Push” and the National Championship game. Headlined by an incredible individual performance by Vince Young, Texas capped off an incredible season with a late touchdown run, defeating USC 41-38 and winning the National Championship.
This game was the highest watched BCS game with 21.7% of households viewing the contest. The Rose Bowl victory was the 800th in the history of the school. This was also the last game ever called by historic broadcaster Keith Jackson. Finally, this was the first game in which two Heisman trophy winners were in the same lineup with Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush.
The Next Game of the Century
This was the first time in the storied rivalry between Ohio State and Michigan that they both came in ranked one vs two. The stakes couldn’t have been higher in 2006. The winner was almost certainly guaranteed a spot in the National Championship game.
Both teams marched down the field on their opening drive for touchdown scores. Ohio State took the upper hand with an eight-yard touchdown pass to take a 28-14 lead into halftime. The Bucks and the Wolverines traded blows in the later stages of the third quarter and into the fourth in holding a 35-31 advantage. Again, after trading touchdowns, Michigan executed a two-point conversion to make the score 42-39 in favor of Ohio State. Michigan had one last attempt with an onside kick, but that was recovered by the Buckeyes securing a three-point victory.
I’m sorry, Michigan fans. I know this one is going to hurt. This was at the time and continues to be the biggest upset in College Football history. At the time, Appalachian State was an FCS team. Typically, these games are paydays for the FCS team and are rarely competitive. However, this opening Saturday in 2007 would leave us with memories we could never forget.
Michigan came into 2007 with a top-five preseason ranking on the heels of a tremendous 2006 season. Meanwhile, Appalachian State was one of the FCS favorites, but few believed they had the talent or depth to keep up with the Wolverines. The game started in predictable fashion as Michigan marched down the field to take a 7-0 lead. However, the Mountaineers would score on their first four possessions of the game building a 28-14 lead late in the first half. Michigan finally took a lead at 32-31 with four minutes left in the game. After a Michigan interception, they attempted a field goal which was blocked by Appalachian State. In just over a minute, the Mountaineers drove the length of the field to make a 24-yard field goal to give them a 34-32 advantage. Amazingly, Michigan drove back down the field to set up for a game-winning field goal. However, that kick was also blocked preserving the biggest upset in modern football history.
The Day There Were Three
2008 was about as crazy of a season in the Big 12 as there have been in recent memory. Texas had defeated Oklahoma earlier in the season and were ranked number one. Texas Tech had their best season in recent years climbing up to number six in the polls for this game.
The dramatic play at the end of this game, as well as the aftermath, is what is most intriguing. After trailing most of the game, Texas finally took the lead for the first time with just over a minute and a half left. With eight seconds remaining Tech Quarterback Graham Harrell hit Michael Crabtree for a game-winning score with one second remaining for the Red Raider victory.
The next week, Oklahoma would defeat Texas Tech setting up a three-way tie for the South division of the Big 12. Based on the tiebreaker rules, the highest ranked team in the BCS standings would break the tie and go on to play in the Big 12 championship game. Oklahoma won that tie and went on to win the Big 12 championship.
The Separate But Equal Bowl
This game goes on record as possibly the bowl game with the most nicknames in College Football history. Besides the “Separate but Equal Bowl,” there was the “BCS kid’s table,” “The Fiasco,” and the “Quarantine” Bowl”. As for the game, there was speculation that the BCS committee maneuvered the matchup to avoid games against automatic qualifier teams.
However, the game was very well played. This was a defensive struggle according to current standards. Heading into the fourth quarter of a 10-10 tie, Boise State reached into their bag of tricks. Facing a fourth down, the Broncos executed a 30-yard fake punt pass play to continue a drive. That drive culminated in a Doug Martin two-yard score which proved to be the game-winner in a 17-10 victory for Boise State.
Cam Does It Again
Cam Newton took the country by storm in leading Auburn to the National Title game in 2010. That storm concluded in the regular season with a Heisman Trophy. Comparatively, Oregon operating on the most successful season in school history ended the season undefeated and led the country in scoring.
Despite two great offensive football teams, this game was a defensive struggle. The game was scoreless going into the second quarter when both teams got going. However, Auburn took control after a safety on Oregon running back LaMichael James and a Newton score gave the Tigers a 16-11 first-half lead. After the game was tied late in the first quarter, Michael Dyer made an improbable run which set Auburn up for a game-winning field goal. The attempt was successful and Auburn won the National Championship in dramatic fashion.
The Field Goal Game
This game re-defined what the meaning of a great game was. In an era of video game scores, it was hard to imagine that a game where neither team reached paydirt would be considered a great game. But, that’s exactly what happened in this first of two games between LSU and Alabama in 2011.
In a game that featured special teams, Alabama squandered more opportunities than LSU. The Crimson Tide missed three field goals and had another one blocked. The last of the miscues occurred in overtime which opened the door for a 9-6 LSU victory. In the aftermath of this contest, LSU went on to an undefeated season. However, Alabama finished number two which would set up a rematch. Alabama would exact some revenge for a 21-0 to win the National Championship.
The De Facto National Semi-Finals
With Notre Dame already holding steady at number one, this game featuring number two and number three would essentially be a semi-final game to get to the National Championship game.
In what was the most watched game in 2012, the defenses took control early in a scoreless first quarter. Alabama kicked a field goal to take a 10-7 lead into the halftime break. However, in the second half, the scoring picked up. Georgia exploded for the first 14 points in the third quarter capped by a blocked field goal which was returned for a touchdown. With Georgia still leading late, A.J. McCarron hit Amari Cooper for the game-winning score. Georgia had one last chance, but a Bulldog receiver was tackled at the Bama five-yard-line and the clock would run out.
The Kick Six
A few weeks earlier, Auburn defeated Georgia via a “Hail Mary” deflected pass. However, that play pails in comparison to what happened on this day.
After falling behind early in the game, Auburn rallied to tie the game at 28 with 32 seconds left. Alabama took the ensuing kickoff to the Auburn 38 yard line when it appeared that time had run out. Nick Saban challenged the ruling and the officials’ ruled there should be one second remaining. A decision that I’m sure will haunt Nick Saban for quite some time. For the rest, we’ll let this short video do it justice.
The 119-point Game
It’s funny how things change with time. We are just three years removed from a 9-6 game being the best game of the year. Now, this 119 point slugfest tops our list in 2014. This has now become an eye-roll in the offense first Big 12 conference.
This was indeed a 12-round boxing match that would make Rocky Balboa and Ivan Drago look on with interest. In the tale of the tape, there were 1,267 total yards, 62 first downs, and 14 touchdowns. Miraculously, there were also 11 punts in this game. In the end, after 24 consecutive points by the Bears and 510 passing yards by Bryce Petty, Baylor won the contest 61-58.
Big House Blunder
Another great ending! Without the “Kick Six” game this matchup would certainly be the best finish in the last 15 years. But, this one will go down as one of the biggest blunders in recent memory.
Michigan had gained control in the fourth quarter. Leading 23-14 with a stout defense, the Wolverines were in a position to win the in-state battle. With just 10 seconds, Michigan was holding to a 23-21 advantage. All that was left is to get a punt off. And, the unthinkable happened. Michigan State recovered a botched punt and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown and the miraculous Spartan victory.
Another Rose Bowl Classic
This was truly a game of two halves. Although, that normally indicates one team dominates the first half and the other takes control of the second. For this Rose Bowl game, USC took the first and fourth quarter and was gracious enough to give Penn State the middle quarters.
Southern Cal rolled off to an early 13 point first quarter lead only to see Penn State come back in the second stanza. The Trojans still maintained a 27-21 victory heading into the break. Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley absolutely exploded in the third quarter. The duo accounted for four touchdowns to give the Nittany Lions a 49-35 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Not to be outdone, Sam Darnold went to work and scored 17 unanswered which was capped off by a 46-yard field goal as time expired to give USC a 52-49 triumph.
The Miracle in Westwood
This was an up and down season for both squads. Both teams ended the season as bowl teams but combined for a 13-13 overall record. But, the magnitude of this game was impossible to ignore.
The Aggies completely dominated the contest for nearly three quarters. With just over four minutes remaining in the third quarter, Texas A&M had taken a 44-10 lead. The lore of Josh Rosen would ultimately be defined over the 19 minutes. Rosen led the Bruins to five consecutive scoring drives while the UCLA defense held the Aggies scoreless over that time. The improbable comeback was complete when Rosen connected with Jordan Lasley for a 45-44 victory.