The Greatest Games in College Football History

Whether it's a colossal upset, a shocking play or a historical result, the best games of all time will always stick in our minds. In honor of the 150th anniversary of college football, here is an all-time ranking of the best games in the history of the sport.

10. LSU at Alabama

Nov. 5, 2011

In another reincarnation of the “Game of the Century” (see below), this one pitted No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama on a November night in Tuscaloosa. For those who enjoy offensive football, this wasn’t the game for you. The teams traded field goals in a defensive struggle, with Drew Alleman’s 30-yarder drawing the Tigers even at 6–6 early in the fourth. In overtime, the Crimson Tide missed their fourth field goal of the night, while hit Alleman cashed in from 25 yards out to start LSU’s celebration in a 9–6 victory. But Alabama would get the last laugh that season; in the rematch in the BCS national championship, the suffocating Tide D held the Tigers to a measly 92 yards of offense during a 21–0 drubbing.

9. Miami at Notre Dame: “Catholics vs. Convicts"

Oct. 15, 1988

Lou Holtz’s pregame speech said it all. "You have an afternoon to play, a lifetime to remember. But I want you to do one thing: You save Jimmy Johnson's ass for me!" Miami came into South Bend winners of its last 36 regular season games, but the Hurricanes couldn’t get out of their own way that day, turning the ball over seven times. Still, Miami had a chance to win, getting within one point with 45 seconds to go. But the ‘Canes’ two-point pass attempt was knocked down by Pat Terrell, sealing a 31–30 Irish victory. Notre Dame went on to win its eighth national championship.

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8. Boston College at Miami: “Hail Flutie"

Nov. 23, 1984

On a muddy night in South Florida, Boston College came to town with Heisman contender Doug Flutie. The teams combined for 30 points in the fourth quarter, the last coming on a 48-yard heave on the game’s last play that Flutie dubbed "55 Flood Tip." The last of the QB’s 472 yards ended up in the hands of wideout Gerard Phelan, who somehow no Hurricane defender had paid attention to, and he delivered a 47–45 win. Many forget that in the Hurricanes’ previous game, they blew a 31–0 halftime lead to Maryland and lost 42–40 in the NCAA’s biggest comeback in history to that date.

7. Nebraska at Oklahoma: “Game of the Century"

Nov. 25, 1971

Even SI billed this monumental Thanksgiving weekend matchup as “Irresistible Oklahoma meets immovable Nebraska.” Johnny Rodgers got the fireworks started early when he took a first-quarter punt return 72 yards for a touchdown, weaving in and out of the Sooners’ coverage team with ease. Oklahoma fans still to this day maintain there was a clip on Rodgers’s return. Rodgers’s big day, Jeff Kinney’s 171 rushing yards and three lost Oklahoma fumbles propelled the Huskers to the 35–31 win and to the national championship.

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

6. Clemson vs. Alabama

2017 CFP National Championship

Seeking revenge for a national title loss to the Tide the year before, Deshaun Watson would not be denied. The game featured three lead changes in the final four minutes, and ended in thrilling fashion. After Alabama QB Jalen Hurts’s stunning 30-yard score, Clemson got the ball back with 2:07 left with a chance to make history. Watson completed six plays on the final 68-yard drive, finding Hunter Renfrow from two yards out with a second left to give Clemson a 35–31 win for its first national title since 1981.

5. Notre Dame at Michigan State

Nov. 19, 1966

In only the 10th meeting between teams that were ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the AP Poll, Notre Dame took late game-time management to the extreme. With the score tied at 10 in the fourth quarter, the Irish got the ball back 70 yards from the end zone with 1:10 left. Instead of trying to score, Notre Dame ran out the clock and settled for a tie, in turn keeping its top ranking. The strategy paid off, as the Irish routed USC the next week and claimed the national title in both major polls.

4. Alabama at Auburn: “Kick Six"

Nov. 30, 2013

Perhaps the South’s most heated rivalry took on extra significance in its 78th meeting with a spot in the SEC championship on the line. In a matchup with no shortage of big plays, Auburn crawled back from trailing all game to tie the score at 28 with 32 seconds left. Alabama drove to the Auburn 38-yard line and could have played for overtime, but instead lined up for a 57-yard kick. The kick fell short, and Tigers cornerback Chris Davis caught the ball near the back of the end zone and headed up the left sideline for an 100-yard kick return for a touchdown, giving Auburn a 34–28 win and sending Jordan–Hare Stadium into hysteria.

3. Boise State vs. Oklahoma

2007 Fiesta Bowl

On paper, this game had no business being competitive. Boise State, a mid-major upstart, was a touchdown underdog against Oklahoma, a member of college football royalty. The two teams scored 22 points in the final 90 seconds of regulation, with Boise blowing an 18-point lead along the way before using a 50-yard hook-and-lateral play on 4th-and-18 in the final seconds of regulation to tie the game.  Down by a point in overtime, Boise continued its trickery, using a Statue of Liberty play to win the game, setting off a wild celebration, complete with a marriage proposal.

2. Miami vs. Nebraska

1984 Orange Bowl

Miami staked its claim to its first national championship by defeating previously unbeaten and top-ranked Nebraska. The Huskers hadn’t been challenged all year, but found themselves down 17–0 early before making a furious comeback. Jeff Smith’s 24-yard touchdown got Nebraska within one at 31–30, but quarterback Turner Gill’s pass to Smith on a two-point try was swatted down. Had Nebraska kicked the extra point and played for a tie, it probably would have won the national championship. Tom Osborne would have to wait another decade for that elusive title.

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1. USC vs. Texas

2006 Rose Bowl

USC came into the BCS national championship game with a 34-game winning streak, two Heisman winners in the backfield and enough confidence to fill the 100,000-seat Rose Bowl many times over. What the Trojans didn’t have was Vince Young. Young sliced and diced the USC defense all night, going 30 of 40 for 267 yards and running 19 times for another 200 yards and three touchdowns. He famously brought the Longhorns back from a two-score fourth quarter deficit, scampering into the end zone on a 4th-and-5 to deliver a 41–38 win for the title and ensuring an instant classic for the ages.