There have undoubtedly been too many amazing college football games to count especially because offenses usually rule the day resulting in exciting high-scoring affairs. Here’s a subjective look at the best of the best.
The Greatest College Football Games in History
The criteria used here for identifying the best college football games ever must include one of the following. The game must have meant something such as a huge rivalry or a championship-type game. Or there must have been a big comeback. Another criterion is that something very unusual must have happened in the game. Lastly, the game and what happened in it must have received nationwide and lasting attention. Essentially, everyone was talking about it when it happened and people still talk about the game to this day.
The Band is Out on the Field!
In 1982, Cal and Stanford met in Berkeley for their annual tussle known as The Game. Fans of Ohio State/Michigan and Harvard/Yale may question whether this really was “The Game “ but that’s what they call it.
John Elway had just driven Stanford down the field for a field goal to take the lead, 20-19 with almost no time left on the clock. As Stanford prepared to kick off pretty much everyone thought that the game was over and that Stanford had just completed an upset win over their biggest rival. When Cal fielded a short kickoff you can hear announcer Joe Starkey’s voice beginning to get louder as the Bears continued to lateral the ball hoping to keep the play alive. As the final ball carrier Mariet Ford approached the Stanford 30-yard line, several members of the Stanford band were already on the field celebrating their unlikely victory. Ford ran through and around some of the band members on his way to the end zone and then ran over one of them right after he scored.
Chaos ensued but surprisingly it didn’t take long for the officials to determine that the touchdown would stand and Cal had won the game. We’ve never seen anything like this before and we might never see anything like it again. “Oh my god!!” were Starkey’s words at a very high decibel level. It truly was an amazing sight. Water cooler talk the following week generally started with “Did you see that”? Of course, people still talk about it today.
The Kick Six
The rivalry between Auburn and Alabama is so fierce that legend has it that newborn babies have to declare their allegiance to one of the universities at birth. The annual game between the two biggest universities in Alabama is known as “The Iron Bowl” and is not for the faint of heart.
The Iron Bowl game is always the last game of the regular season for Auburn and Alabama. The Kick Six Game, AKA, Kick Bama Six pitted the number-one ranked and unbeaten Crimson Tide against the fourth-ranked Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 20, 2013.
After a tense back-and-forth affair, the two teams were tied with only seconds remaining. Alabama coach Nick Saban made what would be a very controversial decision to attempt a very long field goal to win the game. Auburn had just tied the game at 28-28 with 32 seconds left to play. However, Alabama quickly moved into Auburn territory and the 38-yard line as the clock ran out. Saban challenged that the clock had run out and the officials agreed giving the Tide one more play. He then trotted out his kicker to attempt a game-winning 57-yard field goal.
Not surprisingly the kick was short, allowing Auburn’s Chris Davis to catch the ball just in front of the goalposts. It soon became apparent that Davis had daylight all the way to the end zone. This set a wild celebration as the entire field was covered with happy Tiger supporters. The significance of the game wasn’t lost on anyone as it sent Auburn to the SEC championship game and knocked Alabama out of national title contention. Later, Saban would lament the fact that his team had a lot of fat guys on the field for the fateful play.
Hook ’em Horns in Hollywood
The stars were out on New Year’s Day in Pasadena for the BCS national championship game between USC and Texas because the biggest stars in college football were playing.
USC was seeking a third consecutive national championship and was riding an almost unheard-of 34-game winning streak. They had Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush, both of whom would win a Heisman Trophy during their college careers. Texas had dual-threat quarterback Vince Young. While Young didn’t win a Heisman, he did finish second in the voting the year Bush got his. They were undoubtedly the three biggest stars in college football and three of the biggest stars the college game had seen in some time.
A back-and-forth shootout would leave the Trojans clinging to a late fourth-quarter lead, 38-33, and trying to run out the clock. However, a failed fourth down attempt on short yardage gave the Longhorns one more shot. Vince Young didn’t disappoint. Facing his own fourth down situation near the USC goal line with the clock winding down, Young was flushed out of the pocket but managed to scramble his way into the corner of the end zone. Game over. Streak over. New national champs. And the end of an era for USC football.
Have There Been Better Games?
This won’t end the debate for all time over what were the greatest college football games ever played. But can anyone name three better ones?