Every College Football Team's Best Moment of 2013
A comeback win. An upset victory. A breakout performance. A stellar all-around effort from an unsung hero. Maybe even just a singular play.
For each and every one of the 126 FBS teams that took the field in 2013, there was that one moment that stood out above all others, the one that every diehard fan of University X or ABC State will never forget.
Casual college football fans might not be able to recall such a moment for every team, which is where we come in. After culling through highlights, box scores and recaps of all the games since late August, we've come up with that singular best moment of 2013 for each team.
Air Force Falcons
Anthony LaCoste's big game vs. Army
LaCoste, a senior running back, rushed for 263 yards and three touchdowns in the Air Force Falcons' 42-28 home win over rival Army on Nov. 2. It was the second-most yards for an Air Force back and possibly the only bright spot from a woeful 2-10 season for the Falcons.
Zips end two long losing streaks
It came against a really bad team, Miami (Ohio), which would end up finishing 0-12, but don't tell that to Akron. The team's 24-17 road victory on Oct. 19 snapped two really long losing streaks and marked a real turning point in one of the nation's worst programs.
The win snapped a 30-game road losing streak for the Zips and also marked their first victory against an FBS program after 28 straight losses.
Akron finished the season 5-7, its most wins since 2008.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Avenging the Texas A&M loss
Last season's home defeat to the upstart Aggies was the lone blemish on Alabama's latest national championship, and the rematch in College Station was all anyone could talk about for the first few weeks of the 2013 season.
The Crimson Tide got their revenge, winning 49-42 in a wild game on Sept. 15 that they controlled throughout. Alabama allowed a ton of yards to Johnny Manziel (and seemed to be incapable of covering A&M wide receiver Mike Evans) but still got the job done. It was 'Bama's lone test for the first two months of the season.
Ka'Deem Carey breaks school rushing record in upset of Oregon
Beating the Ducks at home was one thing. Carey becoming the school's all-time rushing leader was another. Put those feats together in one afternoon, and you've got an instant candidate for one of the best moments in program history.
Carey rushed for 206 yards and four touchdowns in the 42-16 blowout on Nov. 23, surpassing Trung Canidate's yardage mark and Art Luppino's record for career touchdowns.
Arizona State Sun Devils
Winning the Pac-12 South title
Arizona State's season didn't end the way the team would have liked, as it dropped two straight after reaching 10 wins. But it still ended up being one of the best seasons the program has put up in the past 15 years.
The Sun Devils won their first division title and first piece of the Pac-12 Conference crown since 1996, clinching those distinctions when they raced out to a 35-13 halftime lead and then held on for a 38-33 win at UCLA on Nov. 23.
Alex Collins makes SEC history
The first few weeks of the Bret Bielema era in Fayetteville seemed full of promise after the Razorbacks opened 3-0, albeit all at home and against very weak competition. But there had to be hope with that start, as well as with the way true freshman running back Alex Collins began his career.
Collins is the only player in SEC history to rush for 100 or more yards in his first three games, logging 418 yards in those first three games. But once Arkansas hit league play, it was a much tougher go for the first-year player. He only topped the century mark in one other game, but finished the season with a solid 1,026 yards.
Arkansas State Red Wolves
Blake Anderson hired as head coach
Arkansas State found itself in the same predicament it'd been in the previous two seasons when Bryan Harsin left the school to take the job at Boise State in early December. Harsin had been there just one year, as had Gus Malzahn (to Auburn) and Hugh Freeze (to Ole Miss).
So when Blake Anderson was tabbed as the latest man to lead the Red Wolves, the school did its best to try and prevent yet another one-and-done situation. Anderson's contract, which is for five years and pays $700,000 annually, includes a $3 million buyout if he were to leave after the first two seasons. It drops to $2 million after the third year, then $1 million after the fourth.
Though there are still plenty of schools that would fork over that money to pluck away a coach, the added effort to hold on to Anderson has to be somewhat comforting for Arkansas State's fans.
Army Black Knights
Terry Baggett rushes for school-record 304 yards
Army's third straight losing season cost Rich Ellerson his job, but the year still produced one major milestone for the Black Knights' program. That came on Oct. 12, when Baggett, a junior, rushed for 304 yards and four touchdowns on 18 carries in a 50-25 win over Eastern Michigan.
Baggett scored on runs of four, 34, 67 and 96 yards in the rout, which was the last game Army would win en route to a 3-9 season.
Chris Davis' 100-yard missed field goal return touchdown vs. Alabama
There have been so many amazing moments during Auburn's storybook season, we could do an entire slideshow just on the Tigers. But above all others, Davis' epic return at the end of the Iron Bowl stands atop the mountain.
Hail Marys, tipped passes and weird turnovers happen more often than we'd care to admit. But a 100-yard return for a touchdown as time expires? Off a missed field goal? That was only able to be attempted after Alabama's Nick Saban lobbied to have a second put back on the clock?
Who's going to forget about that one?
Ball State Cardinals
Keith Wenning's game-winning TD vs. Kent State
Ball State has a chance for its second 11-win season in school history if it can beat Arkansas State in the GoDaddy Bowl on Jan. 5. But the Cardinals would never have had that opportunity if not for the late-game heroics of their senior quarterback in a 27-24 win over Kent State on Oct. 12.
Wenning, who has thrown for 3,933 yards and 34 touchdowns this season and has more than 11,000 yards with 91 TDs for his Cardinals career, tossed a seven-yard TD pass to Willie Snead with 1:29 remaining. Wenning finished that game with 305 yards and four scores.
Thursday night win over Oklahoma
Through each of its overwhelming offensive-themed wins to start the season, Baylor's critics kept speaking of how the Bears hadn't faced a real challenge en route to starting 7-0. Then came the Nov. 7 visit from 10th-ranked Oklahoma, which was supposed to show just how good Baylor really was.
Baylor won that game 41-12, and it wasn't even that close.
The Bears would eventually lose at Oklahoma State after starting 9-0, but after OSU lost at home to end the regular season, the Bears became Big 12 champs for the first time since 1980.
Boise State Broncos
Grant Hedrick's big day at Colorado State
When quarterback Joe Southwick went down with a foot injury midway through the season, Boise State's season looked like it might be lost. But backup Grant Hedrick did his best to avoid that happening, and on Nov. 2, he had his breakout performance.
Hedrick completed 19 of his 27 passes for 305 yards and five touchdowns in a 42-30 win at Colorado State. He also added a rushing score. And for the year, he threw for 1,825 yards and accounted for 22 total TDs.
Boston College Eagles
Andre Williams breaks his own rushing record
Williams was a little-known and little-used running back when Steve Addazio took over at Boston College this season, but by November, he was becoming a serious Heisman contender, especially after setting the school record for yards in a game in back-to-back weeks.
Williams ran for 339 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-21 win over North Carolina State on Nov. 16, a week after initially setting the Eagles' single-game mark with 295 yards in a win at New Mexico State. He finished the year with 2,177 yards, the fifth-most in FBS history.
Bowling Green Falcons
First league title in 21 years
Bowling Green had ridden a strong defensive unit to win the Mid-American Conference's East Division title, but it was an offensive onslaught that paced a 47-27 win over Northern Illinois on Dec. 6 in the MAC championship game in Detroit.
The Falcons got 393 passing yards and five touchdowns from sophomore QB Matt Johnson, who outdueled Heisman finalist Jordan Lynch to earn his school its first MAC title since 1992.
Bulls survive five-overtime thriller
Buffalo played the longest game in school history on Sept. 14, needing five overtimes to win 26-23 over FCS opponent Stony Brook.
The Bulls led 10-0 entering the fourth quarter, but the visiting Seawolves scored twice in the final 11 minutes to force overtime. Both teams managed field goals in the first OT and touchdowns in the second extra session, but then no scoring occurred in the third and fourth OT.
Stony Brook kicked a field goal to open the fifth OT, but then Buffalo's Anthone Taylor ended the marathon when he scored on a six-yard run.
Cougars get the fire going under Mack Brown's hot seat
As an independent that's trying to become a national brand, BYU played a Notre Dame-like schedule that included games against seven BCS-level programs. The Cougars managed wins over three of them this season, none more significant than their 40-21 home blowout of Texas on Sept. 7.
BYU rushed for 550 yards on Texas' defense, prompting Mack Brown to fire coordinator Manny Diaz not long afterward when the fanbase started calling for his head. BYU QB Taysom Hill rushed for 259 yards and three touchdowns, while Jamaal Williams had 182 yards.
California Golden Bears
Goff breaks school passing record
The first season under new coach Sonny Dykes was by no means a success, with California finishing 1-11 and failing to defeat an FBS program.
But freshman quarterback Jared Goff gave Golden Bears fans some hope for the future with his passing ability, throwing for a school-record 3,508 yards. Goff eclipsed the mark during Cal's 63-13 loss to rival Stanford on Nov. 23, shortly before he left the game with a separated shoulder.
Central Florida Knights
Knights knock off Louisville to start BCS run
Though its Fiesta Bowl win over Baylor is very fresh (and very memorable), Central Florida never would have had that opportunity had it not gone into Louisville on Oct. 18 and pulled off what, to that point, was this season's biggest upset.
The Knights showed no fear playing against the highly regarded Cardinals and their standout QB, Teddy Bridgewater, battling back from a 28-7 deficit to win 38-35. That was the night QB Blake Bortles began to get noticed, after he matched feats with Bridgewater by throwing for 250 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner with 23 seconds left.
Central Michigan Chippewas
Last-second win at Ohio
Central Michigan finished the season 6-6 but was night invited to a bowl game due to an overabundance of eligible teams and not enough slots. But the year wasn't a lost one for the Chippewas, who bounced back from a 1-4 start to reach .500.
That feat was achieved thanks to some late-game heroics midway through the season, such as when Cooper Rush threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Courtney Williams with 22 seconds left to pull out a 26-23 win at Ohio on Oct. 12.
Kay's big day at Rutgers
Cincinnati had a strong first season under Tommy Tuberville, going 9-4 and reaching a bowl game (the Belk, which it lost to North Carolina). There were plenty of notable achievements during the year, with sixth-year senior QB Brendon Kay leading the pack.
Kay, who through injuries and other circumstances finally got to be the starter early in this season, had the best game of his career on Nov. 16, when he threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns in a 52-17 blowout win at Rutgers.
Season-opening win over Georgia
Clemson reached a BCS bowl game for the second time in three years, doing so on the backs of yet another 10-win season. That achievement got off to a great start when the Tigers opened 2013 with a thrilling 38-35 win over Georgia.
Senior QB Tahj Boyd made an early statement that he needed to get Heisman consideration, throwing for three touchdowns and rushing for two in the win.
Both teams entered the year in the Top 10, and combined with Clemson's Chik-Fil-A Bowl win over LSU the previous December, it marked back-to-back victories over highly ranked SEC opponents.
Season-opening win over rival Colorado State
The first game of the Mike MacIntyre era had a lot of anticipation attached to it for Colorado, which had yet to do anything in its first two seasons since moving to the Pac-12 Conference.
Though it wasn't a league game, the Buffaloes' convincing 41-27 win over in-state rival Colorado State in Denver served as the perfect start to what looked to be a promising season. The game also marked the return of WR Paul Richardson, who had missed the previous season with a knee injury but exploded for 208 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Colorado State Rams
Last-minute rally to win New Mexico Bowl
Colorado State's appearance in this bowl game was achievement enough for a program that hadn't had a winning record since 2008. And trailing Washington State 45-30 with only a few minutes left made it seem like getting to the game was going to have to be good enough.
But then the Rams pulled off an amazing comeback, one that was heavily aided by their opponent, to pull out the 48-45 win.
Colorado State capitalized on a pair of late fumbles by the Cougars, converting them into the game's final 10 points, including Jared Roberts' game-winning 41-yard field goal as time expired.
Ending a long losing streak
Connecticut's 2013 season isn't going to get a lot of play in the program's highlight reels, not when you start out 0-9 and fire your coach after the first month.
But the final three weeks showed plenty of fight still existed in the Huskies, who won their last three games to finish 3-9. That run started with a 28-21 road win Nov. 23 at Temple, a game in which UConn trailed 21-0 at halftime.
Casey Cochran tied it at 21 with 6:52 left on a one-yard touchdown run, then Yawin Smallwood brought back an interception 59 yards for a score with 4:20 remaining for the victory.
Duke Blue Devils
Fourth-quarter flurry to beat North Carolina State
The most successful season in Duke's football history didn't end with the greatest results, as the Blue Devils lost to Florida State in the ACC title game and then fell to Texas A&M in a wild Chik-Fil-A Bowl.
But the fact that Duke even had the chance to play in those games was an amazing feat, one achieved thanks to an eight-game win streak that earned it a division title for the first time in school history.
That streak included huge wins over Miami (Fla.) and Virginia Tech, as well as a comeback victory over rival North Carolina. But the game that typified the Blue Devils' never-give-up attitude was the 38-20 home win Nov. 9 over North Carolina State.
Trailing by three late in the fourth quarter, Brandon Connette scored on a three-yard run for a 24-20 lead. Just 10 seconds later, though, DeVon Edwards scored on a 25-yard interception return touchdown to pad the lead.
Edwards then scored on another interception return 16 seconds after that, helping turn what could have been a devastating loss into part of a long win streak.
East Carolina Pirates
First bowl win since 2007
East Carolina had played in bowl games in four of the previous five seasons, but those had all ended in defeat. That skid came to an end on Dec. 23, when the Pirates downed Ohio 37-20 to win the Beef O'Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl.
QB Shane Carden threw for 273 yards and a touchdown, while RB Vintavious Cooper had a career game with 198 rushing yards and two scores.
The win gave ECU 10 victories for the first time since it went 11-1 in 1991 and was a great springboard for moving into the American Athletic Conference in 2014.
Eastern Michigan Eagles
Overtime win over Western Michigan
Eastern Michigan has traditionally been one of the worst FBS programs over the past decade. This season was no different, as the Eagles went 2-10 and fired coach Ron English late in the year.
But English's dismissal proved to be a spark of sorts for EMU, who two days after the termination pulled out a 35-32 overtime win over visiting rival Western Michigan.
Ryan Brumfield, who rushed for 148 yards and two touchdowns, scored the game-winning TD in overtime from four yards out.
Tyler Murphy's home debut in win over Arkansas
2013 had plenty more "worst moments" than ones considered for a best-of montage for Florida, which failed to reach a bowl game for the first time since 1979.
But back in early October, when the year didn't look lost, there was a glimpse of hope and promise in a 30-10 home win over Arkansas. That's when QB Tyler Murphy, starting in place of the injured Jeff Driskell, threw for 240 yards and two touchdowns.
The win pushed Florida to 4-1 and would be the last game it would triumph in.
Florida Atlantic Owls
Blowout win over Tulane following Pelini's dismissal
Florida Atlantic hadn't gotten much attention during the first half of the season, and rightfully so, as the Owls were 2-6 and going nowhere.
But then scandal hit the program when coach Carl Pelini was forced to resign amid allegations of drug use, and suddenly Boca Raton was being spotlighted in the media for all the wrong reasons.
The Owls' players didn't let that phase them, though, heading out and crushing Tulane 34-17 at home on Nov. 2 to start what would be a four-game win streak to end the season.
FAU didn't make a bowl game, but it did get itself a new coach in Arkansas assistant Charlie Partridge.
Florida International Golden Panthers
Golden Panthers avoid winless season with victory at Southern Miss
Florida International was among the worst teams in FBS this season, finishing 1-11 and possessing an anemic offense that averaged fewer than 10 points per game.
The lone bright spot for the Golden Panthers came on Oct. 5 when, in a battle of 0-4 teams, they came out on top of Southern Miss to the tune of a 24-23 road victory.
Austin Taylor's 27-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter proved to be the difference and prevented FIU from its first winless season since 2006.
Florida State Seminoles
Blowout win at Clemson
Florida State got a chance to play for its first national title since 1999 behind an epic season that included the emergence of superstar QB (and Heisman Trophy winner) Jameis Winston as well as a ball-hawking defense that never let up.
The Seminoles really became a legitimate title contender on Oct. 19, when they went into Death Valley and had no trouble dispatching host (and fellow unbeaten) Clemson, 51-14.
The win wasn't so much a surprise as was the way FSU went about getting it, absolutely dominating a Clemson team that had looked unstoppable before that. Winston threw for 444 yards and three touchdowns, while Clemson QB Tahj Boyd was held to just 156 yards and was picked off twice.
Fresno State Bulldogs
Milestone win over Boise State
With one of the nation's most prolific quarterbacks and a stable of talented receivers, Fresno State entered 2013 with high expectations. But it wasn't until its 41-40 home win over Boise State on Sept. 20 that the nation started to notice the Bulldogs as a possible BCS buster from an outside league.
The victory, fueled by Derek Carr's 460 passing yards and four touchdowns, was especially significant for a Fresno State program that hadn't beaten Boise State since 2005.
Fresno went on to start the year 10-0 before falling to San Jose State in its regular season finale, thus knocking the Bulldogs out of BCS consideration.
Double-overtime win over Georgia Tech
Georgia's season was one of many ups and downs, mostly due to injuries but also a defense that struggled to hold leads. It included early-season wins over Top 10 teams LSU and South Carolina, but it also featured some tough losses on the scoreboard and to star players.
The Bulldogs managed to put forth their most spirited effort in the season finale at Georgia Tech, the in-state rival, by coming from a 10-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter to force overtime. Georgia then won it 41-34 in double overtime when Todd Gurley scored on a 25-yard TD and the defense stopped Tech on fourth down.
Georgia State Panthers
Blowout loss at Alabama
It's hard to convince anyone that a 42-point loss could serve as the "best" moment for a team, but considering Georgia State went 0-12 in the first year of its transition to FBS, there are few choices to pick from.
The significance of that game was that it came against defending national champion Alabama, which rocked the Panthers 45-3 on Oct. 5. The outcome itself wasn't as big as the experience for the young Georgia State team, which got a chance to see the best so that it could try and replicate those efforts in the future.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Shutout victory over Syracuse
Georgia Tech started the season 3-0 and looked to be on the way to a great 2013, but then a three-game losing streak changed everything and had the Yellow Jackets doubting that their option offense was going to lead the way.
Then came a confidence-boosting 56-0 home win over Syracuse on Oct. 19, and suddenly things were looking up again.
The Yellow Jackets rushed for 394 yards and held the Orange to just 208 yards of total offense, with Zach Laskey scoring three of their seven rushing touchdowns.
Win over Army to avoid winless season
Hawaii had played a season full of near-misses and just-came-up-short results, playing six games decided by fewer than 10 points and dropping its previous two contests in overtime heading into the Nov. 30 finale against visiting Army.
Finally, though, the Rainbow Warriors were able to break through, winning 49-42 thanks to a balanced offense that was as much the team's traditional pass-heavy approach as it was a two-headed power running game that managed 285 rushing yards.
Shutout win over rival SMU
Houston began the 2013 season 5-0 and was 7-1 before a late-season slide coincided with facing the top teams in the new American Athletic Conference.
But the Cougars ended the year on a high note, pounding rival SMU 34-0 at home on Nov. 29 to finish with eight wins and earn a berth into the BBVA Compass Bowl against Vanderbilt.
Houston stifled SMU's passing attack, intercepting QB Neal Burcham three times in the victory.
Beating Temple to avoid winless season
Idaho was forced into a year of independent play after the Western Athletic Conference dropped football, which meant the Vandals had to play whoever and whomever they could. That meant trips (and losses) to the South on three occasions, falling at Arkansas State, Florida State and Ole Miss.
But it also meant convincing Temple to come all the way up to Moscow for a late-September game, which the Vandals were able to turn into a 26-24 victory for their only win of the season.
QB Chad Chalich was the star for Idaho, tallying 416 yards of total offense.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Win over Purdue to snap long Big Ten skid
Illinois had gone more than two years without winning a Big Ten Conference game when it visited Purdue on Nov. 23. That long losing streak finally came to an end, though, when the Fighting Illini pulled out a 20-16 win over the Boilermakers.
Steve Hull caught a pair of touchdown passes from Nathan Scheelhaase, while Taylor Zalewski kicked two fourth-quarter field goals that proved to be the difference.
Home rout of Penn State
Indiana's offense was one of the most explosive in the country in 2013, though its defense wasn't able to provide enough stops to make that be enough. But on Oct. 5, the Hoosiers had that rare blend of star play from both sides of the ball to pace a 44-24 win over Penn State.
Nate Sudfeld threw for two touchdown passes and Tre Roberson added two on the ground, while the defense kept Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg from making too many big plays, and the result was the end of a 16-game losing streak to the Nittany Lions.
Season-ending win at Nebraska
Iowa's 2013 campaign was a nice bounce back from the year before, which saw the Hawkeyes fail to reach a bowl game for the first time since 2000.
But the season took an even bigger turn toward the positive when it ended with a sound 38-17 road win over Nebraska.
Though the offensive numbers weren't that stellar, the three turnovers were, and the victory helped get Iowa into a New Year's Day bowl game for the first time since 2010.
Iowa State Cyclones
Triple-overtime win at West Virginia
Iowa State's 3-9 record in 2013 masked the fact the Cyclones had numerous changes to pull out victories during the year but mostly came up short.
That wasn't the case in the season finale at West Virginia, where ISU rallied from deficits of 31-7 and 38-17 to force overtime and eventually win 52-44 in three OTs. Grant Rohach's 25-yard TD pass to Justin Coleman in the third OT was the game-winner, and it gave ISU a two-game win streak heading into 2014.
Win over West Virginia to end Big 12 skid
Kansas failed to make a bowl game again this year, but the season did have some positives that can be built on. Namely, the end of some infamous losing streaks.
The Jayhawks beat an FBS opponent for the first time in two years when it downed Louisiana Tech in September. And then on Nov. 16, they recorded a 31-19 victory over visiting West Virginia to snap a 27-game skid in Big 12 play.
Kansas still has a pesky road losing streak that dates back to September 2009, though.
Kansas State Wildcats
Win over Michigan to end bowl skid
Kansas State reached a bowl game for the fourth consecutive season when it earned a bid to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. But it wasn't until after the Wildcats recorded a 31-14 victory over Michigan in that game that it ended a long losing streak in postseason contests.
K-State's last bowl win had come in 2002, but against Michigan, it was a decisive victory fueled by Tyler Lockett's three touchdown receptions.
Kent State Golden Flashes
Nate Terhune's fake punt leap against Ohio
Kent State had a significant dropback from its 2012 season, which included a berth in the Mid-American Conference title game and a bowl appearance. But while the Golden Flashes only managed a 4-8 record in 2013, they did get themselves a highlight that will live on YouTube for years.
It came in the season-ending 44-13 win at Ohio, when defensive lineman Nate Terhune scored a 61-yard touchdown on a fake punt. Terhune, who was the up man on the punt, took the direct snap and later hurdled an Ohio defender on his way to the end zone.
Fourth-quarter surge in loss to South Carolina
The first season of the Mark Stoops era in Kentucky wasn't a successful one, producing just a 2-10 record and no victories in SEC play.
But there was still plenty of effort on the part of the young Wildcats, especially in a near-comeback to upset South Carolina at home on Oct. 5.
Trailing 27-7 entering the fourth quarter, Kentucky scored twice in less than two minutes to pull within six points. South Carolina added another TD to get back to a 35-21 lead, but Kentucky scored again to keep the game in doubt before the visiting Gamecocks ran out the final four minutes of clock.
Blowout of Miami (Fla.) in Russell Athletic Bowl
Louisville's season was considered a "disappointment" because it wasn't playing in a BCS bowl, the result of losing just once but also from being part of a poorly regarded American Athletic Conference.
That just meant the Cardinals had to show off everything great about them in a pre-New Year's Day bowl game, which they did in spades in a 36-9 win over Miami (Fla.) in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
QB Teddy Bridgewater threw for 447 yards and three touchdowns in his final college game, while the Louisville defense held Miami to 174 yards and a lone TD in fourth-quarter garbage time.
Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns
Third straight New Orleans Bowl victory
The Sun Belt is regarded as the worst conference in FBS, and as a result, its champion gets the distinction of earning a bid to a bowl game that's traditionally one of the first played.
That's no bother to Louisiana-Lafayette, which for the third year in a row was invited to the New Orleans Bowl and for the third straight time came out victorious to finish a 9-4 season.
The Ragin' Cajuns beat Tulane 24-21 in this year's New Orleans Bowl, doing so in front of a massive crowd of fans watching a battle between two of Louisiana's less-appreciated programs.
Road win at Wake Forest
Louisiana-Monroe is one of those lower-level FBS programs that still has to play most of its nonconference games on the road to help fund the football season. That meant the WarHawks had to play at Oklahoma and Baylor early in the year, both games that went badly.
But ULM also picked up its first-ever victory over an ACC team when it won 21-19 at Wake Forest on Sept. 14. The win was fueled by QB Kolton Browning, who was 43-of-68 for 315 yards and three touchdowns.
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
Offense returns in road win over UTEP
Louisiana Tech led FBS in scoring in 2012, but the departure of coach Sonny Dykes to California also took the Bulldogs' offensive punch. Tech averaged just 19 points per game and went 4-8 for the year.
But the offense made a brief return in a 38-35 road win over UTEP on Oct. 5, as the Bulldogs rushed for 353 yards and scored more points than in any two of their previous five games.
Bowl victory over Iowa
LSU's season wasn't as successful as what is normally expected in Baton Rouge, with the Tigers falling to Alabama, Georgia and Ole Miss on the road to keep them out of the SEC championship race.
But LSU's 21-14 win over Iowa in the Outback Bowl did provide a nice end to the year, especially with how well LSU's defense fared. After a season in which that unit struggled at times, the defense held the Hawkeyes to 233 yards. And on offense, RB Jeremy Hill had a career game with 216 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Marshall Thundering Herd
Blowout win over East Carolina
Marshall had a good season, one it knew would include a bowl bid, but it wasn't until the 59-28 crushing of East Carolina in the regular-season finale that the Thundering Herd could start considering 2013 a great season.
The win, paced by 539 yards of offense and three takeaways, earned Marshall the Conference USA East Division title and a berth in the league championship game. The Herd lost that game to Rice, but it then went on to defeat Maryland in the Military Bowl for its first 10-win season since 2002.
Overtime win at Virginia Tech
Maryland's injury issues kept 2013 from being a much better season, though the Terrapins did get to seven victories and earn a bowl bid.
Despite the injuries, Maryland was able to pull off a bit of a stunner when it went into Blacksburg on Nov. 16 and pulled out a 27-24 overtime win over Virginia Tech.
QB C.J. Brown, who missed several games with injuries, scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime. He accounted for 257 of Maryland's 319 yards of total offense and was involved in all three offensive scores.
Lone 2013 victory over Miami (Ohio)
Massachusetts hasn't made much progress in its two seasons of FBS participation, going 1-11 in each campaign. That meant any big achievements this past year were few and far between.
The 17-10 win over Miami (Ohio) at home on Oct. 12 served as the top bright spot for the Minutemen, as it prevented a winless season.
Road win over South Florida
Memphis went just 3-9 in its first season in the American Athletic Conference, picking up its lone league victory on Nov. 16 when it pulled out a 23-10 win at South Florida.
The Tigers, who struggled on offense all season, once again relied on their defense to lead the charge. Memphis forced five turnovers, with Bobby McCain returning an interception 36 yards for a touchdown.
Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes
Comeback win at North Carolina
Despite being 5-0 and ranked 10th in the country, Miami (Fla.) wasn't getting much credit for its start because of the schedule it had faced. That criticism mounted as the Hurricanes found themselves down 23-13 on the road against a 1-4 North Carolina team on Oct. 17.
But Miami didn't panic, sticking with its potent run game to score two touchdowns in the final minutes, including a three-yard TD run by Dallas Crawford with 16 seconds left to secure the 27-23 victory.
Miami (Ohio) RedHawks
Holding Cincinnati to 14 points in loss
There wasn't much of anything for Miami (Ohio) to be proud of during a winless 2013 season, but early in the year a much-closer-than-expected loss to Cincinnati provided a glimmer of hope.
Though the RedHawks failed to score in a 14-0 home loss, the fact that they held a Bearcats team that had averaged 41.7 points per game to just 14 points was a bit of an achievement.
Revenge victory over Notre Dame
Michigan had a disappointment-filled season, fueled by numerous breakdowns on defense and inconsistency when it had the ball on offense. But most of those issues didn't manifest until after a 5-0 start to the year, which included a solid 41-30 home win over Notre Dame on Sept. 7.
Devin Gardner was masterful, tallying 376 yards of total offense and accounting for five touchdowns, while the Wolverines picked off Notre Dame QB Tommy Rees twice to aid the victory.
The win avenged a 13-6 setback to the Fighting Irish in 2012.
Michigan State Spartans
Big Ten Championship game win over Ohio State
The 2013 season was easily one of the best in program history for Michigan State, and that was even before its first Rose Bowl victory in 26 years.
The Spartans put together one of the greatest defensive units in recent memory and also knocked Ohio State out of the national title picture with their inspired 34-24 win on Dec. 7 in Indianapolis. MSU led 17-0, and after falling behind 24-17, it rallied to score the game's final 17 points.
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
Last-second win over Marshall
Middle Tennessee's first season in Conference USA was a resounding success, with the Blue Raiders winning eight games to get into a bowl game for just the fourth time in program history.
MTSU started the year 3-4, but it then went on a five-game win streak to end the season. That streak began with some late heroics on Oct. 24, when Logan Kilgore tossed a nine-yard touchdown pass to Tavarres Jefferson as time expired to notch a 51-49 victory over eventual C-USA East Division champ Marshall.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Home win over Nebraska
Minnesota played inspired football in 2013, often without head coach Jerry Kill, who took time away to manage his epilepsy.
Nowhere was this effort seen than in the Golden Gophers' 34-23 win over Nebraska on Oct. 26, which marked the team's first victory over the Cornhuskers since 1960.
Minnesota bounced back from an early 10-0 hole to control the game via its ground attack, and a pair of Nebraska turnovers helped seal the milestone win.
Home upset of LSU
Ole Miss played a very odd schedule in terms of game locations, with four of the first five on the road, followed by a massive six-game homestand.
That home stretch included several chances for the Rebels to make a splash in the SEC, though they fell short by losing in the closing minutes to Texas A&M. But then came the Oct. 19 visit from No. 6 LSU, which Ole Miss wouldn't let out of Oxford victorious.
Ole Miss squandered a 10-point fourth-quarter lead, but after the game was tied, it marched down the field and won 27-24 thanks to a 41-yard field goal from Andrew Ritter with two seconds remaining.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Egg Bowl victory over Ole Miss
Mississippi State was in danger of missing out on a bowl game when it entered the final two contests of the season with a 4-6 record. It needed overtime to get past a bad Arkansas team on the road, which then just left the annual Thanksgiving Egg Bowl game against rival Ole Miss at home.
Things didn't look good for much of the night, but once injured QB Dak Prescott pulled himself off the bench, the magic started happening. Prescott first led the Bulldogs downfield for an overtime-forcing field goal. Then, in the extra period, he scored on a three-yard run for the winning points and bowl eligibility.
MSU followed that up with a convincing 44-7 win over Rice in the Liberty Bowl.
Road upset of Georgia
Missouri made a huge leap from its first year in the SEC to the second, winning the East Division and playing Auburn in the conference title game.
The road to that improvement overcame one of its biggest hurdles on Oct. 12, when the Tigers went into Athens and romped to a 41-26 win over Georgia.
The Tigers used a solid offense and four turnovers (including a fumble return touchdown by Michael Sam) to move to 6-0 and earn their first road victory over a Top 10 team since 1981.
Reynolds sets FBS record in triple-OT victory
Navy QB Keenan Reynolds put up one of the best seasons for a running quarterback in college football history, rushing for 31 touchdowns as part of Navy's superb option attack.
His biggest game came on a cold Friday night in San Jose, Calif., in late November, when he set an FBS record for touchdown runs by a quarterback in a 58-52 victory in three overtimes over San Jose State.
Reynolds rushed for seven TDs, including the game-winner, and finished with 240 yards on 36 carries.
Redemptive Gator Bowl victory over Georgia
Nebraska's 8-4 regular season was one of the most panned and criticized of any major college football team. This was mostly because of defensive breakdowns and quarterback inconsistency, but also because of the polarizing nature of its coach, Bo Pelini.
But much of that was forgotten in the end after the Cornhuskers downed Georgia 24-19 in the Gator Bowl on New Year's Day. A win over an SEC opponent, fueled by a breakout performance from WR Quincy Enunwa and great red-zone defense, suddenly turned what seemed like a failed season into a successful one.
Nevada Wolf Pack
Late rally to beat Air Force
Nevada failed to play in a bowl game for the first time since 2004, finishing the season with a disappointing 4-8 record. But the Wolf Pack still had some fight in them, as shown by a late-season upset of San Jose State as well as a fourth-quarter comeback to down Air Force 45-42 on Sept. 28.
Trailing 42-30 with six minutes left, Nevada QB orchestrated a pair of late touchdown drives, capping the comeback with a two-yard TD run with 1:45 remaining.
New Mexico Lobos
Lobos complete sweep of rivals with rout of New Mexico State
New Mexico won just three games this season, but when it came to its rivalries with New Mexico State and UTEP, the Lobos reigned surpreme.
UNM's first win of the season came via a 42-35 win over UTEP, and it completed the sweep with a 66-17 pounding of visiting New Mexico State on Oct. 5. The Lobos rushed for 541 yards in that victory, showing off the running attack that would end the season ranked fifth in FBS with an average of 308.8 yards per game.
New Mexico State Aggies
Season-finale win over Idaho ends long FBS skid
It had been more than two years since New Mexico State beat an FBS opponent, having only topped Sacramento State to open the 2012 season and transitioning FCS foe Abilene Christian earlier this year.
But the Aggies' 24-16 victory over Idaho ended all that on Nov. 30. It also ended NMSU's long, nomadic season that saw the team play an independent schedule after the Western Athletic Conference did away with football.
North Carolina Tar Heels
Becoming bowl-eligible in record fashion
Getting to a bowl game looked very unlikely for North Carolina after it started the season 1-5, but once the Tar Heels hit a lighter portion of their schedule, it coincided with the offense finding its groove. Suddenly, UNC was a game away from being eligible for the postseason.
The sixth win came in a Nov. 23 visit from transitioning FBS program Old Dominion. After a back-and-forth first quarter, the Heels turned on the offensive jets to race to an 80-20 win.
UNC set school records for points and yards in a game, doing so even before agreeing with Old Dominion to shorten the fourth quarter. QB Marquise Williams had 469 yards of total offense and threw for five touchdowns.
North Carolina State Wolfpack
Near-upset of Duke
North Carolina State began the season 3-1, but once ACC play began, it was all downhill for the Wolfpack. None of its non-conference victories were of any significance, and when the conference schedule began, it was a matter of trying to find little things to build off of for the future.
One of those came on Nov. 9, when North Carolina State found itself leading eventual ACC title game participant Duke 20-17 midway through the fourth quarter. NC State ultimately lost the game 38-20, allowing interception returns for touchdowns on back-to-back plays, but for a while it looked like the 'Pack might pull out a win.
North Texas Mean Green
Win over Conference USA champ Rice
North Texas' move from the Sun Belt couldn't have gone much better, with the Mean Green winning nine games and earning a postseason win in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. UNT has several memorable moments during the season, most notably its Halloween night win over eventual league champ Rice.
The Mean Green showcased their balanced offense, stout defense and great special teams in the victory, getting a score from all three units to win 28-16.
Northern Illinois Huskies
Lynch breaks own rushing record
Northern Illinois' potential storybook season had a sour ending with losses to Bowling Green in the Mid-American Conference title game and then to Utah State in the Poinsettia Bowl. But the ride-along with Jordan Lynch and his explosive running was still fun to see.
Lynch had the distinction of setting an FBS record and then breaking his own record in the same season when he ran for 321 yards in the regular-season finale, a 33-14 win over Western Michigan on Nov. 26. Playing on a weeknight for ESPN's sake, Lynch topped his own mark, set in an October win over Central Michigan.
Skid-ending win over Illinois
A 4-0 start had many thinking Northwestern was headed for big things this season, and that sentiment remained after a near-upset of Ohio State. But with each subsequent Big Ten loss seeming to be more and more painful and unorthodox, the Wildcats' season fell apart and quickly became a lost one.
Northwestern did manage to end things on a high note, though, topping rival Illinois 37-34 in Champaign thanks to 414 passing yards and four touchdowns from Trevor Siemian.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Streak-ending win over USC
Notre Dame's many rivalries as an independent have included many memorable games against the likes of Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford and USC, with the teams often trading wins and losses over the years.
But the Fighting Irish had somehow dropped five straight home games to USC, one of the worst streaks the team has ever had against a single opponent. But that skid came to an end on Oct. 19, as Notre Dame pulled out an injury-muddled, defensive-minded 14-10 win.
Early-season wins over North Texas and Marshall
Ohio finished the season with a 4-4 mark in the Mid-American Conference, but had it been in Conference USA, the Bobcats might have contended for a league title.
On back-to-back weekends in September, Ohio downed C-USA upper-tier teams North Texas and Marshall, both at home. The 34-31 win over Marshall was particularly strong, as the Bobcats managed to force four turnovers (including a fumble recovery in the end zone) and got great efforts from quarterback Tyler Tettleton and running back Beau Blankenship.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Road win over Northwestern
Ohio State went 12-0 in 2012, but as a program banned from the postseason, that perfect record was discounted. The same thing happened to start to this season, with critics waiting for the Buckeyes to face a real challenge following a 4-0 start.
Those came early in Big Ten play, with Ohio State holding off Wisconsin at home and then hitting on the road to face unbeaten Northwestern.
Despite the adversity, the Buckeyes took down Northwestern 40-30 on Oct. 5, part of a second straight perfect regular season.
Bedlam win at Oklahoma State
Rivalry games often bring out the best in teams, and that looked to be the case for Oklahoma. The Sooners had played inconsistently all season, yet when it came to the Dec. 7 trip to Stillwater to face rival Oklahoma State, suddenly their A-game surfaced.
Oklahoma pulled out the 33-24 win over the Cowboys thanks to great special teams play and late passing prowess from maligned quarterback Blake Bell, keeping Oklahoma State from clinching the Big 12 title and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl. Instead, Oklahoma got to go to the Sugar Bowl, where it once again rose to the challenge and beat Alabama.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Blowout win over Baylor
Oklahoma State had a surprising loss at West Virginia early in the season that put it in the "forgotten" pile in terms of national exposure. All that changed, though, when the Cowboys hosted unbeaten Baylor on Nov. 23.
That was when OSU used its underrated defense and improving offense to knock off the Bears 49-17, thus taking over control of the Big 12 with two weeks left in the regular season.
Clint Chelf threw for 440 yards, while the Cowboys forced three turnovers and held Baylor 40 points and more than 200 yards below its season average.
Old Dominion Monarchs
First-ever win over an FBS program
Old Dominion took the slow track to transitioning from FCS into the FBS ranks, choosing to spend 2013 playing only five games against FBS opponents and filling out the schedule with teams from the lower level.
While the Monarchs went 7-0 against the FCS foes, they struggled in most meetings with the big boys, except when they headed west to face Idaho on Nov. 9. That's where the Monarchs picked up their first-ever win over an FBS opponent, cruising to a 59-38 victory over the Vandals thanks to 533 passing yards and four touchdowns by Taylor Heinicke.
Civil War victory over Oregon State
Oregon fell out of the national championship picture when it lost to Stanford, and it fell further when it was blown out by Arizona. But rather than throw in the towel and stop efforting down the stretch, the Ducks fought to the final gun when it came time to face bitter rival Oregon State.
The annual Civil War game on Nov. 29 in Eugene was as intense as ever, and Oregon head into the bowl season on a high note by pulling out a 36-35 victory. The win wasn't clinched until the final minute, when Josh Huff caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Marcus Mariota.
Oregon State Beavers
Hawaii Bowl win over Boise State
Oregon State was 6-1 and looking like a dark-horse Pac-12 title contender, but then the schedule got tougher and the losses started piling up. Before the Beavers knew it, they were 6-6 and in jeopardy of being left out of the bowl party.
But OSU not only got a bowl invite, it ended up spending Christmas in Hawaii to face Boise State. And it made the most of that trip, earning a 38-23 victory over the Broncos.
OSU also did it in uncharacteristic fashion, running the ball better than it had all year and using a pair of fumble return touchdowns from Rashaad Reynolds to pace the victory.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Marathon win over Michigan
Penn State's postseason ban put a limit on what the team had to play for in 2013, but you couldn't tell that from the way it fought in every game. That was most evident in a four-overtime thriller against Michigan on Oct. 12.
The Nittany Lions first needed to rally to score 10 points in the final seven minutes of regulation, and then they had to withstand four overtimes worth of peaks, valleys and plenty of missed field goals before Bill Belton scored on a two-yard run for the 43-40 victory in the fourth OT.
Win over Notre Dame
Pittsburgh's first season in the ACC had mixed results, with the Panthers going just 3-5 in conference play.
It was actually in the non-league portion of the schedule that Pitt made its biggest splash.
A Nov. 9 visit from Notre Dame provided Pitt's biggest moment of 2013, as the Panthers used three Fighting Irish turnovers to fuel a 28-21 victory that helped avenge an overtime loss from the year before.
Breakout performance from freshman QB
Purdue's 2013 season was not one full of superlatives, with just a 1-11 mark that included no Big Ten victories or wins against FBS opponents.
But even in defeat, the Boilermakers were able to find some hope for the future, when freshman quarterback Danny Etling threw for 485 yards and four touchdowns in the season-ending 56-36 loss to Indiana.
Conference USA title win over Marshall
Rice put together one of its best seasons in school history in 2013, with only its second 10-win campaign ever. It also marked the first time since 1957 that the Owls won a league title, taking the Conference USA championship with a 41-24 victory over Marshall.
Rice was dominant on offense and defense, rushing for 248 yards and keeping Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato from putting up his usual numbers.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Triple-overtime win at SMU
Rutgers struggled at many times during this season, and it needed a win on the final night of the regular season to qualify for a bowl game. Games in the American Athletic Conference were among the Scarlet Knights' worst, though they did find a way to pull out a big road win at SMU on Oct. 5.
Rutgers won 55-52 in three overtimes over the Mustangs, pulling out the win in a game the Mustangs led 21-0 and 35-14 before blowing both leads.
San Diego State Aztecs
Overtime victory over Boise State
San Diego State's season got off to a very rough start. The team began the season 0-3 before discovering a wellspring of late-game magic that led to numerous victories and another bowl berth.
SDSU ended up playing four overtime games this season, winning three of them, with the most significant of those being a 34-31 OT win on Nov. 23 against Boise State. It was the second straight year the Aztecs beat the Broncos, and the win helped ensure a bowl bid.
San Jose State Spartans
Shootout victory over Fresno State
It's hard to say a win that cost its league millions in bowl revenue could be a team's best moment of the season, but from San Jose State's standpoint, being able to top unbeaten Fresno State to become bowl eligible was that moment.
The Spartans and quarterback David Fales outgunned Fresno State and Derek Carr, with Fales throwing for 547 yards and six touchdowns in a 62-52 victory.
While SJSU was able to get to 6-6 with the win, it didn't get a bowl invite. That was mostly due to the Spartans' victory keeping Fresno State out of the BCS, which reduced the number of bowl bids the Mountain West Conference secured.
Garrett Gilbert's big day vs. Temple
SMU failed to earn a bowl bid for the first time in five years as it moved from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference, but the year wasn't a total disappointment. The Mustangs had a big season from quarterback Garrett Gilbert, a Texas transfer who threw for more than 3,500 yards in 10 games before getting injured.
Gilbert's best performance came in SMU's 59-49 win over Temple on Oct. 26, when he threw for 538 yards and four touchdowns.
South Alabama Jaguars
Season-ending win over Sun Belt champions
South Alabama's second year of FBS play showed much improvement, with the Jaguars going from two victories to six. Though they didn't get an opportunity to play in a bowl game, it felt like that kind of scenario when they hosted Sun Belt champion Louisiana-Lafayette in the season finale.
South Alabama rose to the challenge, downing the Ragin' Cajuns 30-8 to finish 6-6.
South Carolina Gamecocks
Comeback win at Missouri
Two early losses appeared to knock South Carolina out of the BCS picture because of the abundance of strong SEC teams, including upstart Missouri, which was surprisingly unbeaten when the teams met in Columbia on Oct. 26.
It looked like the Gamecocks were headed for a third loss after falling behind 17-0 in the third quarter, but then began one of the best comebacks of the season. South Carolina scored 17 points in the final 12 minutes of regulation, including a touchdown with 42 seconds remaining. And in the second overtime, it emerged triumphant after Missouri missed a potential tying field goal.
The victory helped push South Carolina to a third straight New Year's Day bowl and, following a win over Wisconsin, its third consecutive 11-win season.
South Florida Bulls
First win over Cincinnati
South Florida's 0-4 start was surprising in its own right, with the woeful amount of scoring it put up even more perturbing. But those troubles went away briefly on Oct. 5 when the Bulls hosted Cincinnati in each team's first-ever American Athletic Conference game.
Suddenly, a USF team that had averaged just 14.5 points was about to tally nearly double that in a 26-20 win, though that total was misleading. The Bulls got four field goals and a pair of non-offensive touchdowns, a trend that would continue throughout the 2-10 season.
Southern Miss Golden Eagles
Eagles end long losing streak in dominant fashion
Southern Miss went 0-12 in 2012, and somehow the Golden Eagles were looking worse in 2013. They were 0-11 heading into the season finale at UAB, an equally struggling team but still one that had managed to win a few times this year.
But none of that mattered on this final Saturday, as Southern Miss erupted offensively to win 62-27 over the Blazers. To put that into perspective, in the Eagles' first 11 games they'd averaged 13 points.
Second straight win over Oregon
The Stanford-Oregon rivalry had emerged as one of the top such grudge matches in the west, with each team seeming to have success on each others' fields. Add in the fact both teams were high in the BCS rankings, and this Nov. 7 game had huge national implications.
The Cardinal showed no fear of the high-flying Ducks, racing out to a 26-0 lead before buckling down and holding on for a 26-20 victory that put them in control of the Pac-12's North Division.
Bowl-clinching win over Boston College
It had been a very uneven season for Syracuse in its first year as a member of the ACC. The Orange struggled to ever put together a streak of consistent play, with an offense that failed to put up points most games fighting with a mostly solid defense to be the team's driving force.
The offense finally came alive in the season finale, though, as Syracuse pulled out a 34-31 win over Boston College that put it at six wins, thus securing a bowl opportunity. The Orange was invited to the Texas Bowl, where they beat Minnesota, 21-17.
TCU Horned Frogs
Late TD to win at Iowa State
TCU had one of the most disappointing seasons for the program in the past 15 years, finishing 4-8 and out of the bowl picture for the first time since 2004.
The Horned Frogs were in most of their games but found a way to lose most of them. That trend was reversed, though, during a Nov. 9 trip to Iowa State, when Trevone Boykin scored on a one-yard touchdown run with 38 seconds left for a 21-17 victory.
Season-ending win over Memphis
Temple went 2-10 in 2013, a rough season that has continued the program on a downward trend since Al Golden left for Miami (Fla.). But the Owls at least ended things on a high note, wrapping up the year with a solid 41-21 win at Memphis.
PJ Walker tossed four touchdown passes and threw for 328 yards, while receiver Robby Anderson caught three of those TDs.
Upset win over South Carolina
Tennessee didn't make a bowl game in Butch Jones' first season, but it did manage to record a pair of program-building victories.
While the early-season win over Western Kentucky wasn't that significant, it did come against a bowl team from the year before. But it was the Oct. 19 victory over No. 11 South Carolina that really stood out.
The Volunteers took an early 17-7 lead, then, after falling behind 21-17, patiently drove the field twice in the fourth quarter to notch field goals. The last, a 19-yarder as time expired, cinched the upset and put Tennessee temporarily back on the college football map.
Red River Shootout win over Oklahoma
A 1-2 start had many following the Texas program calling for Mack Brown's head, either after the season or in its midst if things didn't turn around. The Longhorns turned it up once Big 12 play began, with their most notable win coming against their most significant rival.
Texas steamrolled Oklahoma 36-20 in the annual Red River Shootout at the Texas State Fair in Dallas on Oct. 12, getting 100-yard rushing performances from both Malcolm Brown and Jonathan Gray as well as standout defensive play.
Texas A&M Aggies
Chik-Fil-A Bowl comeback over Duke
What was being billed as the final game of the brief Johnny Manziel era for Texas A&M—though the redshirt sophomore quarterback has yet to declare his intentions for next season—also turned out to be the Aggies' most spirited performance.
Texas A&M entered the Dec. 31 Chik-Fil-A Bowl as heavy favorites over Duke, but at halftime it trailed 38-17. The Aggies couldn't slow Duke down, and their offense somehow couldn't keep up.
But in the second half Manziel put his team on his shoulders, executing an amazing comeback to get his team within three at 48-45 with 5:44 left. That's when the Aggies' maligned defense finally made a play, as Toney Hurd Jr. intercepted a pass and returned it 55 yards for the game-winning score and a 52-48 win.
Texas State Bobcats
Home win over Wyoming
Texas State had a solid second season of FBS play, finishing 6-6 to become eligible for its first-ever bowl game. An invite didn't materialize, though, with the Sun Belt's lack of bowl affiliations getting in the way.
The Bobcats struggled down the stretch, but earlier in the season they picked up a key nonconference win when they steamrolled a hot Wyoming team, 42-21. The game, which was played around a three-hour weather delay, gave coach Dennis Franchione his 200th career win.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Redemptive Holiday Bowl win over Arizona State
Texas Tech had the infamous distinction of going from one of the season's biggest surprises (thanks to a 7-0 start under first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury) to one of its biggest disappointments after the Red Raiders ended on a five-game losing streak.
The team that began hot finally reemerged when the Holiday Bowl came around, though, as the Red Raiders jumped all over Arizona State en route to a 37-23 upset of the Pac-12 South Division champs.
True freshman quarterback Davis Webb shined in the game, throwing for 405 yards and four touchdowns.
Road win over Bowling Green
Toledo somehow missed out on a bowl game despite winning seven games, likely the result of the Rockets dropping their final two contests after a 7-3 start.
Its best result came midway through the season when Toledo went to Bowling Green and handed the eventual Mid-American Conference champions their only league loss of the season, a 28-25 setback. The Rockets led 21-0, only to see the Falcons go up 25-21 with 5:59 remaining.
But Terrance Owens hit Alonzo Russell for an 11-yard touchdown pass with 1:22 left to seal the impressive road victory.
Robinson moves up career passing ranks
Troy quarterback Corey Robinson was a four-year starter for the Trojans, and as a result put up some pretty impressive numbers over his career. During the 2013 season he became the fourth quarterback in NCAA history to pass for 3,000 yards in four different seasons.
He wrapped up his Troy career with 133 yards and a touchdown in the Trojans' season-ending 42-28 win over Texas State, which gave him 13,477 yards for his career. That puts him ninth on the FBS career passing list.
Tulane Green Wave
Triple-overtime win over East Carolina
Tulane put together its first bowl-eligible season since 2002, logging seven victories that earned it a bid to the New Orleans Bowl in its own stadium.
The Green Wave struggled down the stretch with their offense, but on Oct. 12 they were playing their best football as high-powered East Carolina came into the Superdome. The teams traded blows and points all game, requiring three overtimes before Cairo Santos booted his fifth field goal to give the Green Wave a 36-33 victory.
Tulsa Golden Hurricane
Trey Watts climbs school rushing charts
It was a rough season for Tulsa, which went 3-9 for its worst season in 11 years. The Golden Hurricane didn't have much consistency on offense, other than from senior running back Trey Watts, who somehow managed to gain more than 1,300 yards despite his team's struggles.
Watts ended the season very close to becoming Tulsa's all-time rushing leader, instead finishing second behind Tarrion Adams (3,651) with 3,515 career yards.
Overtime loss to Rice
UAB struggled to a 2-10 season that was filled with many disappointments. One of those disappointments actually provided the Blazers' best moment of the year, though, as it showed their tenacity and unwillingness to give up.
UAB lost 37-34 in overtime to eventual Conference USA champ Rice on Nov. 21, a game in which the Blazers rallied from 10-point deficits on two different occasions. One of those was over the final four minutes of regulation to force overtime.
Season-ending win over USC
UCLA lost out on a chance to play in the Pac-12 Championship Game when it fell at home to Arizona State in late November, but the Bruins still had something big to play for the following week: Los Angeles-area bragging rights.
UCLA played up to the challenge, cruising to a 35-14 victory for its second straight win over the Trojans.
UNLV Runnin' Rebels
Taking the Fremont Cannon back
UNLV earned its first bowl bid since 2000 this season, shaking off an 0-2 start to reach seven victories. The Runnin' Rebels had several key wins to get to that point, most notably the 27-22 win at rival Nevada on Oct. 26.
Caleb Herring threw for 335 yards while Tim Cornett added 122 rushing yards for the Rebels, who beat the Wolf Pack for the first time in nine years. As a result, UNLV got to take possession of the ritzy Fremont Cannon rivalry trophy.
November win over conference-leading Stanford
USC had a season full of ups and downs, starting with a shaky 2-3 start that saw Lane Kiffin get fired, then constant injuries that impeded the Trojans' offensive production at times.
But USC held its own and finished the year with 10 wins, the most significant of which was a 20-17 home upset of Stanford that put the Trojans back on the map.
Home upset of Stanford
Utah's late-season skid kept it from getting into a bowl game, but earlier in the year the Utes looked like a pretty dangerous opponent, especially after they pulled off one of the biggest upsets in school history.
The Oct. 12 visit from No. 5 Stanford was highly anticipated by fans and players, and the Utes put together their best performance of the season to win 27-21. The victory was sealed by a late goal-line stand, after which the crowd stormed the field in celebration.
Utah State Aggies
Poinsettia Bowl victory over Northern Illinois
Overall, the 2013 season was a very successful one for Utah State, with nine victories and an appearance in the Mountain West title game. But the Aggies failed to knock off any of their rivals or down a top opponent until they faced Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl.
It was there that USU's great defense shined brighter than ever, shutting down NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch and pacing the Aggies to a 21-14 victory.
Blowout win over Florida International
UTEP's 2-10 season was not one full of great memories, but the Miners did manage to put everything together for a solid late-year victory when Florida International came to town on Nov. 16.
Behind 327 rushing yards and a defense that held the Golden Panthers to just 200 yards of total offense, the Miners ended a seven-game losing streak with a 33-10 victory.
Road upset of North Texas
UTSA's second year of FBS play was a rousing success, with the Roadrunners winning seven games and putting themselves in position to be a serious contender in Conference USA for years to come.
UTSA ended the year on a five-game win streak, and though it didn't get to play in a bowl game, it knocked off some top C-USA opponents down that stretch. That included a Nov. 23 victory at North Texas, a team that would go on to win nine games and play on New Year's Day.
End of skid to Florida
Vanderbilt qualified for a bowl game for the third straight season in 2013, the first time that's happened in program history. It was one of many superlatives this year for the Commodores, who managed their first-ever upset of a Top 25 team under James Franklin when they beat Georgia in mid-October.
But Vandy's most notable achievement this season came on Nov. 9 when it went to Florida and blew out the Gators 34-17. The victory ended a 22-game losing streak to Florida, and marked the team's first win in Gainesville since 1945.
Season-opening win over BYU
Virginia got the 2013 season off to the best possible start when it registered a solid 19-16 victory over BYU, a team that would go on to win eight games. The Cavaliers won the game on a Kevin Parks touchdown run with 2:36 left in the fourth quarter, and it looked like the sky was the limit for the season.
Unfortunately for Virginia, it was mostly downhill from there. The Cavaliers finished the year 2-10 and went winless in the ACC.
Virginia Tech Hokies
Road win over Georgia Tech
Virginia Tech was all but forgotten after it opened the season losing 35-10 to defending champ Alabama, but seemingly out of nowhere the Hokies were 6-1 and looking like a legitimate ACC contender to challenge Clemson and Florida State.
This was most evident in a 17-10 win at 3-0 Georgia Tech on Oct. 26, a game that saw the Hokies' stout defensive front stifle Georgia Tech's option run game.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Midseason win over Maryland
Wake Forest ended the year on a five-game losing streak, and shortly after the season saw longtime coach Jim Grobe announce his retirement.
The Demon Deacons' best effort came in their final victory of 2013, when they whitewashed ACC rival Maryland 34-10 on Oct. 19. The game featured quarterback Tanner Price throwing a touchdown pass while also rushing for a score and catching a TD.
Offensive explosion at Oregon State
Washington began the year 4-0, then hit a midseason stretch that put the Huskies on a downward path until they got to the final few weeks of the schedule. That's when Washington's offense began to get back on track, particularly in a eye-catching 69-27 win at Oregon State on Nov. 23.
In that game, the Huskies managed 692 yards of total offense, including 530 on the ground. Three different Washington players rushed for more than 100 yards.
Washington State Cougars
Early-season win at USC
Washington State played in a bowl game for the first time in 10 years this season, the result of the program becoming more in tune with Mike Leach's pass-happy attack.
But the Cougars' biggest wins during the season were those in which their defense stepped up, particularly in a Sept. 7 win at USC. Washington State won 10-7, holding the Trojans to just 193 yards to pull off the season's biggest shocker to that point.
West Virginia Mountaineers
Home upset of Oklahoma State
It didn't seem that significant at the time, but as the year went on and Oklahoma State continued to win, West Virginia's 30-21 upset of the Cowboys in late September turned out to be quite an achievement for a team that went 4-8 on the year.
Clint Trickett threw for 309 yards in his first start for West Virginia, providing the fans with one of the few bright spots from an otherwise disappointing season.
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
Season-opening win over Kentucky
Western Kentucky is headed for Conference USA next season, part of the school's push to become a more relevant football power. That process started last season when it made a bowl game, then continued with the hiring of Bobby Petrino as coach.
The Hilltoppers also picked up one of their most significant wins when they opened 2013 with a 35-26 win over Kentucky. It was WKU's second straight win over the Wildcats, putting it firmly in second place in the state's football hierarchy behind Louisville.
Western Michigan Broncos
Last-second stand against Massachusetts
Western Michigan won just one game in 2013, but at least it was a thrilling victory.
The Broncos led 31-30 with 22 seconds left after host Massachusetts scored a potential game-tying touchdown. But the Minutemen elected to go for the win instead of forcing overtime, and Western Michigan thwarted the two-point pass attempt to give coach P.J. Fleck his first victory.
Late-season win over BYU
Wisconsin's two early losses (to Arizona State and Ohio State) seemed to put the Badgers on the outside of the BCS picture, but as the victories continued to mount up they started to look like a team with a shot to get into one of the big bowls.
A key to the late push was a rare late-season nonconference game against BYU that the Badgers won 27-17. The victory was fueled by the Badgers' usual run-heavy approach, with James White and Melvin Gordon combining for 233 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Road win over Air Force
A year after the Cowboys lost at home to Air Force and coach Dave Christensen was fined for comments made about Air Force's coach, Wyoming rectified the situation by avenging that defeat with a 56-23 road victory.
Quarterback Brett Smith was at his very best in the game, tallying 511 yards of total offense and accounting for five touchdowns.