There have been hundreds of college football games that we have seen in just the past few seasons, but only a select few go down as the most significant games in the history of the sport.
Many significant games are defined by thrilling finishes that either ended an era of dominance or perhaps ended the tenure of a coach or legendary player.
Perhaps a program accomplished something that not many have done before, or maybe we witnessed something for the first time ever.
There were many tough decisions to be made and we welcome everybody's opinion, but here is my list of the 50 most significant games in the history of college football.
January 4, 2006
Announcer Keith Jackson’s final game was a true tribute because the football gods rewarded us just a bit. It was on a crucial 4th-and-5, the Trojans defense needed to make just one more play to secure their three-peat and college football immortality (They led 38-33).
Instead, Vince Young escaped from very little pressure, and he cruised to paydirt from eight yards out to secure victory for the University of Texas in the 41-38 thriller.
The two teams combined for over 1,000 yards, with Young rushing for 200 (three touchdowns) and passing for 267.
Matt Leinart was not too shabby, throwing for 365 yards and a touchdown on top of one key interception.
The Heisman winner that year was Reggie Bush (he gave the trophy back but had 177 total yards and one TD), and he will forever be remembered by being left on the sidelines (and his bonehead lateral) for a crucial 4th-and-2 on the Longhorns 45.
USC figured if they picked up the first down that the game would be over.
But LenDale White was stuffed at the line of scrimmage, and Young took things over from there. Texas went on to win what I think was one of the most thrilling games in all of college football history.
October 15, 2005
USC and Notre Dame gave us a classic in 2005, but it did not come with a ton of drama at the end of the game. It came down to a 4th-and-9 for the Trojans deep in their own territory.
Matt Leinart then connected with Dwayne Jarrett all the way down to Notre Dame’s 13, which gave USC new life.
Matt Leinart nearly ran for a touchdown as he was clobbered in bounds, but the ball went flying out of bounds. There was time for one more play and Matt Leinart attempted to sneak it from the 1.
Reggie Bush gave Leinart an old tap from the behind and his momentum carried him in for the game-winning touchdown.
This game was vital because it allowed the Trojans to compete for a share of their third straight national championship.
Although USC had their lone BCS title victory taken away, the memories remain and the entertainment they gave us will never go away.
October 6, 2007
Jim Harbaugh and the Stanford Cardinal were basement dwellers of the Pac-10 (as it was known at the time), and USC was fairly dominant on account they were the top ranked team on the planet.
The Trojans were 41-point favorites and some didn’t think Stanford was going to even cover, but they pulled off the greatest upset in the history of points spreads between FBS schools.
USC managed just 23 points as they lost by one point, and Stanford took advantage of five USC turnovers (including 4 interceptions by John David Booty).
September 1, 2007
Speaking of upsets, Appalachian State was a 40-point underdog also, although this game was not between two FBS schools.
Michigan outgained the Mountaineers by nearly 100 yards, but Chad Henne’s offense coughed it up twice.
Dexter Jackson ran circles on his three receptions that day against Michigan’s defense, as the fifth-ranked Wolverines were stunned 34-32. They dropped from the polls and would not return until the end of October although they did finish the season at 9-4 by defeating the Heisman Trophy winner in Tim Tebow and his Florida Gators in the Capital One Bowl.
January 1, 2007
Talk about all-time crazy and thrilling finishes.
Although it was not the BCS National Championship, Chris Petersen's Boise State Broncos were simply magical that New Year’s night.
They upset the Sooners 43-42 in a spectacular overtime game, but there were so many events leading up to the finish that you may have never seen in your entire life.
To go for two in a game where nobody would have the guts to even ponder the thought is beyond crazy. Any coach would play for a second overtime and another possession.
In addition, remember that you are forced to go for a two-point conversion starting in the third overtime. For the Broncos to have the stones to put all their eggs into one basket allowed the finish to be one of the best bowl games we have ever seen.
Running back Ian Johnson took the Statue of Liberty handoff for the conversion and the win. It may remain one of the greatest bowl games we will ever see.
January 3, 2003
This "Game of the Century", a double-overtime thriller, is referred by many as the greatest bowl game and national championship of all time.
Miami was favored by 11.5 points and appeared as if they were by far the better team on paper. The Buckeyes defense stifled Ken Dorsey, and had Willis McGahee never gotten injured, we could have had a different outcome.
Give kudos to the Buckeyes, whose defense limited the extremely potent Hurricanes offense: Andre Johnson, Kellen Winslow, Willis McGahee, Sean Taylor, Jon Vilma, Vince Wilfork—the list of superstars was endless. If the game would have been played 100 more times, who knows if Ohio State would have won many, if any.
The talent the Hurricanes had on the field may go down as the greatest and most talented team to never win a BCS National Championship, and the program has not been the same since.
However, this game will certainly forever remain as arguably the greatest championship game of all time.
January 1, 2011
The Badgers were considered to be too much for a non-AQ team because of the talent that is often around the bigger programs.
Teams like Boise State and TCU have not received much credit, but when they have been given the chance they sure as hell have shown up.
The Horned Frogs gave the Badgers all they could handle, and they found a way to squeak by them in regulation 21-19, in one of the more entertaining Rose Bowls.
TCU has since moved to the Big 12 and it may lead to bigger and better power conferences down the road.
January 2, 1984
Tom Osborne and the Huskers attempted to go for the win on a two-point conversion against the Howard Schnellenberger-led Hurricanes.
Remember, there was no overtime and Nebraska did not want to put their season in the hands of the voters. So they refused to tie and instead went for the win.
Miami's Kenny Calhoun batted down the attempted pass from signal-caller Turner Gill to running back Jeff Smith. The underdog Hurricanes prevailed with a 31-30 upset victory over the then-top-ranked 'Huskers.
November 9, 2002
Guy Morriss thought his Wildcats had pulled off a shocking upset over the LSU Tigers as he was doused with a Gatorade bath since there were only 11 seconds remaining. UK had just kicked the potential game-winning field goal to give them a 30-27 lead.
Marcus Randall completed a pass to Michael Clayton to move the ball to LSU’s own 26, and there was time for just one more play.
Randall hit Devery Henderson in stride as he caught the ball at the 15 and broke a shoestring tackle. The play that hit the jackpot was called, "Dash Right 93 Berlin" and the Bayou Bengals absolutely crushed the hearts of UK.
The fans had tore down the goalposts and they started to celebrate only to eventually notice LSU players running around the field in jubilation thanks to their unnoticed last second “Bluegrass Miracle”.
January 1, 1993
Some Nebraska fans are very bitter over the fact that they had a punt return touchdown brought back, but the Huskers had their chances and Florida State made the most of them in their 18-16 1994 Orange Bowl (national championship) victory.
This game was beyond epic, as Florida State was ranked atop the polls in the Associated Press and Nebraska was ranked first in the Coaches Poll. This was FSU’s first ever title and this was officially the start of a dominant era for the Seminoles.
January 3, 2001
Still to this day, arguably the most impressive record in all of sports (some argue easily college football) is Florida State’s 14 year streak (1987-2000) of finishing the season in the top four of a final poll.
Nowadays, it certainly looks like it will not even be touched since a team would have to either go undefeated or have just one loss for 14 straight seasons.
January 4, 2000
USC did the seemingly impossible-to-repeat in 2004 when the Trojans went wire-to-wire as the top ranked team in the country.
Florida State was the first squad to accomplish such a task in 1999 when they went wire-to-wire in their domination of a 12-0 national championship season.
These collection of games were vital because it has set the barrier and standard to become the best.
October 29, 2011
The Nittany Lions' defense helped out Joe Pa become victorious for 409th time of his career as they defeated the Illini 10-7.
Illinois missed a field goal by hitting the goal post as time expired, but most would have bet the house on Paterno coaching for the rest of the season and perhaps even a few more seasons.
The scandal that would start a few days later was a nightmare for the program and Paterno would pass away less than three months later. Arguably the greatest coach in the history of the sport, Paterno is gone but will never be forgotten.
December 15, 1995
The Toledo Rockets out of the MAC were still an unknown since they did not schedule too many known or popular opponents. So, they entered the Las Vegas Bowl at 10-0-1 against a Nevada squad that was 9-2.
The bowl game entered overtime for the first in college football history and the Rockets held Nevada to a field-goal on their first defensive possession.
On offense they were able to score a touchdown, which ended the game 40-37. Overtime seemed a bit new to everybody at that moment in time, but overtime is often wished upon by many fans these days. The more football being played, the better.
September 24, 1994
“There is no time remaining….There are no flags on the field, only despair for the Maize and Blue.”
Keith Jackson’s famous call of Kordell Stewart’s miraculous touchdown heave to Michael Westbrook is one of the greatest finishes in the history of college football.
There are only a select few games that end with this much excitement or chaos occurring, but this game brought it all with their epic finish.
December 5, 1992
The game was played at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama and it was between the Florida Gators and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The Eastern Division champs have won it 15 times, the Western 26.
The best game heading into the postseason every season is often the SEC Championship because it is normally a play-in game for the BCS National Championship or it at least has BCS title stakes on the line.
November 16, 1991
The Seminoles looked like they had their first title all locked up, and all they had to do was defeat the Miami Hurricanes.
It was a classic “Game of the Century” in which the game was decided by a field goal. Gerry Thomas was unable to convert the game-winning 34-yard field goal as time expired. Miami won the game 17-16 and later went on to win the AP vote as National Champion.
Florida State’s only other loss of the season was to Florida, but they did finish the season in the top four and would get another crack at Miami the following season.
October 3, 1992
The Seminoles once again were ranked among the best teams in the country (third in AP) and the 'Canes were second in the country.
Charlie Ward was the starting quarterback and he was magical throughout his career in Tallahassee, but he could only manage to bring the 'Noles into field goal range.
It simply came down to another kick for FSU. Miami was riding a 20-game winning streak (58 straight at home) and they were the defending national champions, but they looked like they were going to get beat by their rivals in their own backyard.
Dan Mowrey was attempting to end the game in a tie as he just needed to connect from 39 yards out, but he was wide right and the Hurricanes would go on to appear in the national championship before losing to Alabama.
Florida State would run the table and would comfortably defeat Nebraska 27-14 in the Orange Bowl. The bizarre part was that FSU would actually pass Miami in the final polls (FSU second, Miami third) despite losing to them in a game that everybody remembers as “Wide Right II”.
October 6, 1990
Before the “Miracle in Michigan” there was this unforgettable extra down give to the Colorado Buffaloes against the Missouri Tigers.
It is still considered one of the biggest blunders in the history of the sport. The officials unintentionally gave Colorado a fifth down on their final possession, on which they scored the game-winning touchdown.
Colorado went on to get a share of the national championship alongside Georgia Tech (Coaches) since the Buffs were only given the AP title. Colorado beat Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl to cap off their excellent 11-1-1 season.
October 15, 1988
Two of the more popular, accomplished and prestigious programs in the country faced off and it was labeled as the “Catholics vs. Convicts”, but the vital news was that the Canes rode a 36-game regular season winning streak.
Miami trailed by 10 entering the final quarter but stormed back to cut the lead to one in the closing moments.
Instead of going for the tie since there was no overtime, Jimmy Johnson opted to go for two and the thrilling win.
Notre Dame knocked down an attempted pass and they went on to pull off the slight upset over Miami. The aftermath was that Notre Dame went on to win the national championship by going undefeated and it was also the last national championship for the Irish. Miami went on to crush Nebraska in the Orange Bowl as they capped off the season ranked second going 11-1.
September 12, 1970
This game broke the color barrier as the USC Trojans were the first fully integrated team to play in the state of Alabama.
Sam Cunningham was one hell of a running back (12 carries 135 yards) for the Trojans (College Football Hall of Fame), and he found paydirt twice.
USC took care of the Tide 42-21, but all six touchdowns by the Trojans were from African Americans and the game opened a whole new world for the SEC.
November 25, 1971
This 1971 “Game of the Century” is considered by some as one of the greatest games to ever be played.
Nebraska rode 20-game winning streak in this tough road game (29 without a loss), whereas the Sooners were also undefeated as they were ranked second in the country.
Nebraska would rally from 3-point halftime deficit and go on to knock off the mighty Sooners and it led to a national championship over Alabama.
The 1971 Huskers are still labeled as the greatest college football team to ever be assembled, but Oklahoma finished the season at number as they defeated Auburn in the Sugar Bowl.
December 31, 1973
When two of the top programs in all of college football play for a national championship, most would only assume the game will be a classic.
Some believe this 1973 Sugar Bowl between Alabama and Notre Dame is one of the greatest games ever because it was the first time the programs ever met.
Bear Bryant is arguably the greatest coach that has ever lived, but he was never able to take down the Fighting Irish. Despite being awarded the national championship by the Coaches Poll before their Sugar Bowl, Alabama was upset by Notre Dame 24-23.
It was a classic thriller in which Alabama thought they had won backing up Notre Dame in their end zone.
Tom Clements completed a magical pass to tight end Robin Weber out of Notre Dame’s own end zone and it put the game on ice instead of a potential game-losing field that the Crimson Tide would have certainly had an opportunity to attempt.
January 2, 1956
Georgia Tech defeated Pittsburgh 7-0 in the 1956 Sugar Bowl, but it wasn't the final score that was important.
Rather, it was who played in this game that was of such importance. The first African American player to play n the Sugar Bowl, held in segregated New Orleans, was Pitt's Bobby Grier. It was only a month after Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus.
January 1, 1963
USC took on the Badgers of Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl as it was the first ever meeting between the top two ranked teams in both the AP and UPI Polls (1963).
The Trojans and Badgers gave the public a barnburner as USC prevailed 42-37.
October 7, 1916
Yes, there is a most lopsided victory in college football and it belongs to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
This record is arguably more unbreakable than anything out there although I personally am not impressed with this particular statistic as some other may be.
Still, Georgia Tech walloped Cumberland College (who did not field an official team that year) by a final score of 222-0 on October 7, 1916.
December 25, 1907
LSU took on Havana University in the first bowl game out of the United States, and my goodness did this game have some memorable moments (or at least scenery).
The game was played in Havana, Cuba and LSU had their way winning 56-0.
There would be seven more Bacardi Bowls as the last one was in 1946 as Southern Miss defeated Havana 55-0.
November 20, 1986 vs. Arkansas
Craig James and Eric Dickerson were known as the “Pony Express” and they were as dynamic as any backfield duo in the history of college football.
However, since SMU's football program was given the "death penalty" for numerous NCAA violations, the program has not been the same.
The entire 1987 season was cancelled for SMU and they also were banned for two seasons from the postseason. As far as how their final game went against Arkansas, the Razorbacks thumped them 41-0.
November 23, 1984
Doug Flutie to Gerard Phelan is one of the most famous plays in the history of college football. The game was not too shabby either as Boston College was ranked No. 10 and Miami was No. 12 entering the game.
Miami trailed BC 14-0 out of the gates, but both starting quarterbacks went bonkers in this one. Doug Flutie passed for 472 yards and 4 touchdowns as he became the first ever to surpass 10,000 yards in his collegiate career.
Also in the game we saw Bernie Kosar throw for a school-record 447 yards, and running back Melvin Bratton ran for 4 touchdowns.
This memorable classic has been played over and over, but Hail Mary finishes are just rare to witness and this ranks among the greatest ever.
September 5, 1906
Carroll College out of Wisconsin took on St. Louis University, but this vital game was the first ever to record a legal forward pass.
It was Bradbury Robinson who threw a forward pass which was ruled incomplete on the play but there was a vital thing to never forget.
In 1906 a forward pass that was incomplete was ruled a turnover, but Robinson later in the game he did throw a 20-yard touchdown strike to Jack Schneider.
November 19, 1966
This "Game of the Century" remains as one of the greatest to ever be played. The game ended in a tie, but many will never forget how the Irish and Ara Parseghian settled for a 10-10 despite having the ball late in the game.
"Tie one for the Gipper" is something Sports Illustrated talked about after the game, but the Irish did manage to win the national championship by both the AP and Coaches (MSU was NFF champions)
January 8, 2007
Ohio State came in as seven point favorites and many were expecting one hell of a BCS National Championship since it was classic SEC against Big Ten matchup.
Would Ohio State’s Heisman Trophy winner in Troy Smith get the time to dissect and torch the secondary of Florida?
Well, the Buckeyes were given a royal beating by Urban Meyer and the boys as Florida would shut out Ohio State in the second half to route Jim Tressel’s squad 41-14.
People talk about the domination of the SEC and while some may be annoyed by it all, this is the game where everything started. For now, the number of consecutive BCS titles is at six and it is still going.
November 20, 1982
"Oh, the band is out on the field!!"
Stanford against Cal is a solid rivalry, but “The Play” will always be one of the most bizarre, yet thrilling finishes in the history of sports.
Stanford had kicked what looked like was the game-winning touchdown, but on the final kick-off after seemingly a hundred laterals (actually just five) the Stanford band rushed on the field before Cal ultimately took it in for the game-winning score.
On the way towards the end zone, Kevin Moen ran over Gary Tyrell, a Stanford band trombonist.
Many will argue that Mariet Ford’s lateral to Kevin Moen was illegal, but the magical ending will always live on.
November 30, 1974
Notre Dame led by as many as 24 points and the Irish looked like a lock to win the game as the first half wore down, but USC mounted one hell of a comeback as they would end up winning in a route.
It was 24-0 before USC’s Anthony Davis had a quick scamper for six. After the defeat, the Irish announced their resignation of legendary Ara Parseghian.
The era of Ara as it was known as was kind to the Irish since they did manage to win two national championships (’66, ‘73).
September 25, 1971
Marshall took on Xavier as it was the very first game since their tragic plane crash in which they lost 37 players, five coaches and several administrators, media and fans (Flight 932).
The Herd won the game 15-13, but the emotions that ran through that day was a special date that college football should never forget (team was made up mostly of freshman and sophomores, few varsity).
January 2, 1952
The Cardinal and Fighting Illini gave us a memorable first, in which this was the first ever televised college football game.
Illinois beat up Stanford 40-7 in Pasadena and this game helped television evolve into what it is today.
November 2, 1935
This was the first ever game between top ranked teams in the AP Poll, and of course it was between Notre Dame and Ohio State.
The Buckeyes had at the time a record of 81,018 and the billing of "The Game of the Century" had officially started.
Ohio State did grab a quick lead of 13-0, but the Irish scored three touchdowns to rally behind for the victory, 21-13.
January 2, 1984
During the 1984 Orange Bowl, we saw legendary coach Tom Osborne reach deep into his bag of tricks as he pulled off the “Fumblerooski” against the top ranked Miami Hurricanes.
All-American offensives guard Dean Steinkuhler took the ball off the ground from Turner Gill and rumbled, stumbled his way to paydirt for a 19-yard touchdown.
The ending of the game was the vital part that many will never forget. Instead of opting for the tie, Osborne went for the two-point conversion and the victory.
Instead, Turner Gill’s pass was deflected by Ken Calhoun and the Canes were victorious as they claimed their first national championship.
September 30, 1939
This was technically the first game ever televised, but it was not on national television. The Rams of Fordham were favored in this one and they did not disappoint as they hammered Waynesburg University 34-7.
The game was broadcasted on NBC, and one week later Kansas State’s homecoming game against Nebraska was televised.
November 1, 2008
This game cost the Longhorns a bid for the BCS National Championship as it was their hated rivals in the Oklahoma Sooners that won the three-way tiebreaker to play Florida for the BCS National Championship.
This game was an instant classic in which Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell hit Michael Crabtree for the game-winning 28 yard-touchdown.
Crabtree tight roped the sidelines (1 second remained) and pulled off a 39-33 miracle victory for the Red Raiders that many Texas fans will unfortunately never forget.
November 2, 1935
Ohio State and Notre Dame gave us the very first "Game of the Century" and the Irish managed to escape 21-13.
Where in the world would we be without these type of heavyweight matchups between the top two teams on the planet?
December 4, 1926
Notre Dame defeated USC 13-12 in 1926, as it was the start of arguably one of the most important rivalries in college football.
There was the second most fans attended in that ball game (112,912), and with the victory for the Irish they also lead the all-time series at 43-34-5.
November 23, 1887
The first meeting between the Irish and the Maize and Blue was way back in 1887, where Michigan won 8-0.
They have met 38 times since, and Michigan leads the series 23-15-1.
November 30, 1922 (11/10/1923)
The Four Horseman were legendary for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish because they were unbeatable. It was like trying to lose with Bo Jackson and the L.A. Raiders in Super Tecmo Bowl: it just wasn't going to happen very often.
The record of 28-2 is not too shabby, but the two losses came by the hands of the same team. It was the 1922 and 1923 Nebraska squads that were able to hang with the legends that live on still to this day.
November 25, 1911
It was in 1911 where the very first homecoming game was played between Missouri and Kansas.
Kansas was only 4-2-1 at the time compared to Missouri, who was 2-4-1. In case you were wondering the game actually ended up in a tie at 3 a piece.
However, despite only 1,000 fans appearing in the game we shall all remember this very first Homecoming was what started the tradition.
It was in 1907 when the University of Chicago took on their rivals, University of Illinois.
Chicago won the game on the field 42-6, but this game is clearly historical because this game featured the first time both schools had their bands perform at halftime.
October 17, 1897
The Buckeyes of Ohio State and Michigan's meeting for the very first time was certainly memorable (at least for Wolverine fans).
The game was in Ann Arbor and the Maize and Blue gave the Buckeyes a beatdown by a final score of 34-0.
This by most experts is considered the best rivalry in all of collegiate sports (UNC-Duke basketball can disagree), but Michigan does lead the all-time series with a record of 58-43-6.
September 28, 1892
Yes the very first football game played under the lights was between Wyoming Seminary and Mansfield State Normal.
If you asked me down the road to remember those team names, please forgive if I do forget. However, I will remember that this matchup featured a college team (Wyoming Seminary) and a high school team (Mansfield State Normal).
The sad and most relevant part is that this game was an epic failure since the game only last 20 minutes due to the lights not helping one bit.
A few players ran into some light poles in the dark and they called it as the score was tied at 0-0 at halftime.
January 1, 2005
Urban Meyer's Utah Utes were the very first team to break the BCS buster barrier as the first non-AQ squad to appear in such of the four (now five) BCS Bowls.
The Utes capped off an improbable perfect season as Alex Smith led the way as the starting quarterback, but they had so many underrated players all over the field.
Utah has led the way for the likes of Boise State and TCU, but this 35-7 obliteration by the Utes was the start of everything.
January 4, 1999
The 1999 Fiesta Bowl was the first ever BCS National Championship game and it featured the two top ranked teams in the country between Tennessee and Florida State (amazing how college football is the only true sport that guarantees you the two best).
The Seminoles have had their fair share of disappointments and struggles in the BCS (1-5), and they lost to the Vols 23-16.
Tennessee's Tee Martin and Peerless Price stole the show and the victory for Tennessee was their sixth national championship.
September 10, 2011
This one was a historic game as it featured the largest attended game in the history of college football.
The attendance was 114,804 and it was also the very first night game at the "Big House".
Lastly, this game just happened to be one of the most entertaining games in terms of finishes that we may have ever seen.
It may not have been the most entertaining game ever, but the dramatic ending to this game on top of the throwback jersey's (and all the records broken) only made this game one of the most significant and memorable games in the history of college football.