The 50 Most Historically Significant Games in College Football
Cal vs Stanford 1982 "The Play"
There are many things that can make a college football game historically significant. I’m sure when you consider it, several games pop into your mind.
1982s Cal versus Stanford “The Play” surely comes to mind as does the 1984 Boston College – Miami game when Doug Flutie threw the last second Hail Mary pass to win the game.
But what about the very first college football game ever played? Surely, that can be considered historically significant in the annals of college football history.
This collection of 50 games spans a number of categories. There are improbable wins like “The Game” and Flutie’s Hail Mary pass.
There are firsts—like the first homecoming game and the first televised game. And there are games that are memorable for other reasonslike 2005’s USC at Notre Dame game, made famous for the “Bush Push” or the single game attendance record of 113,090 set at the UConn versus Michigan game in Ann Arbor in 2010.
So, let’s take a look at the 50 Most Historically Significant College Football Games.
1. The First College Football Game Ever Played
First College Football Game Ever Played
When: November 6, 1869
Who: Rutgers versus the College of New Jersey (now known as Princeton)
Why: This game is considered to be not only the very first college football game, but the first football game played in America, ever.
Played at Rutgers’ field, it was said to be a mixture of rugby and soccer with the two teams of 25 players attempting to score by kicking the ball into the opposing team’s goal.
Throwing and carrying the ball were both against the rules.
Rutgers won 6-4.
2. The First College Football Game Played under Lights
When: September 28, 1892
Who: Wyoming Seminary vs. Mansfield State Normal
Why: This game, played between Wyoming Seminary, a private college prep school in the Wyoming Valley area of Northeastern Pennsylvania and Mansfield State Normal School, also from Pennsylvania was the first college football game played under lights. During this period in time, it was pretty common for a college to play a high school.
This first game played at night under lights ended at halftime. As it turns out, the lights they used were not bright enough to play a game in the dark.
The game lasted only 20 minutes and ended at halftime with a score of 0-0 after a few players ran into the light poles in the dark.
So, while it was technically the first game under lights, it almost didn’t count since it sounds like the lights were not even sufficient for players to see the light poles. At least the image of it is amusing!
3. First Ohio State-Michigan Game
1897 Michigan Wolverines Football Team
When: October 16, 1897
Who: Ohio State University and the University of Michigan
Why: This first meeting between the two colleges in this storied rivalry took place on Michigan’s home turf in Ann Arbor. Michigan walloped the Buckeyes 34-0.
According to reports (you can find anything on the Internet, people), Ohio State’s team barely made an impression on the Wolverines, so thorough was the butt kicking they received that day.
4. The First Bowl Game: Tournament East-West Game (now known as the Rose Bowl)
When: January 1, 1902
Who: Michigan versus Stanford
Why: This very first bowl game started the long tradition of New Year's Day bowl games.
The inaugural Rose Bowl featured Michigan head coach Fielding H. Yost pitting his Wolverine football team (representing the East) against the team he had coached the previous year - Stanford.
Michigan won the contest 49-0 after Stanford requested the mercy rule be enacted with eight minutes left in the game.
5. Formation of the NCAA
When: December 25, 1905
Who: Washburn versus Fairmount College (now called Wichita State)
Why: This was the second meeting between these two schools in the 1905 season. This game was set up as a test of proposed new rules of play that were aimed at making the game safer. Each team was allowed three downs instead of four.
The experiment was considered a failure but led directly to the formation of what is now called the NCAA. Three days later, 62 schools met in New York City to establish rules and changes to the rules that would make the game safer.
As a result of these meetings, the Intercollegiate Athletic Association was formed and one of the changes made to the rules was making the forward pass legal.
6. First Forward Pass
When: September 5, 1906
Who: Carroll College (Wisconsin) versus St. Louis University
Why: This game is credited with having the first legal forward pass. Bradbury Robinson threw a forward pass, which fell incomplete, and under 1906 rules, was ruled a turnover.
Later in the game, Robinson competed a 20-yard pass completion for a touchdown to Jack Schneider.
7. First Halftime Show with Marching Band
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Who: University of Chicago vs. University of Illinois
Why: These two rivals met on the home field of the Fighting Illini, where Chicago emerged victorious by a margin of 42-6.
Why this game is historically significant (besides the fact that Division III Chicago would never play FBS Illinois, let alone win in today’s system) is because it put on the very first halftime show with a marching band.
8. First Bowl Game Outside of the United States: The Bacardi Bowl
1907 LSU Tigers at the Bacardi Bowl in Havana, Cuba
When: December 25, 1907
Who: LSU versus Havana University
What: Alright, I included this because come on, people, The Bacardi Bowl in Havana, Cuba? How much fun would that be?
This marked the first of seven times this bowl game would be staged in Havana as the climax event in Cuba’s annual National Sports Festival. It usually pitted an American University from the Deep South against a Cuban university or athletic club.
9. First Homecoming Game
1911 Homecoming Game, University of Missouri vs. Kansas
Who: Kansas vs. Missouri
Why: This game, which ended in a 3-3 tie, marked the first time a football game was designated as a homecoming game.
For those of us who annually celebrate the good times at our alma maters, let’s give a moment of thanks to Mizzou for starting this grand tradition.
10. Most Lopsided Victory: 222-0
When: October 7, 1916
Who: Cumberland College vs. Georgia Tech
Why: Tennessee’s Cumberland College had done away with their football program prior to the season, but for one reason or another, was not allowed to cancel its game against GA Tech.
John Heisman (yes, the one the Trophy is named after) was head coach at Georgia Tech at the time, and legend has it, he allowed his team to run up the score on Cumberland to get back at them for a 22-0 crushing of the GA Tech baseball team earlier that year.
Lest you think ill of Heisman, another reason for running up the score had to do with rules regarding ranking of teams in 1916. Teams were ranked based on how many points they scored.
Yeah, no, that didn’t help, Heisman still seems like a jerk.
11. First African American Player To Play in Bowl Game: 1916 Rose Bowl
Fritz Pollard of Brown University
When: January 1, 1916
Who: Washington State vs. Brown
Why: Two reasons, but mainly because Fritz Pollard of Brown became the first African American to play in the Rose Bowl.
Washington State defeated Brown 14-0, which was a better margin of victory than the first lopsided 49-0 Rose Bowl in 1902.
In fact, in the 15 ensuing years since the 1902 blowout win by Michigan over Stanford, the Tournament of Roses ran chariot races, ostrich races and other random events instead of football, just to avoid a repeat of that lopsided victory.
12. First Time Live Radio Broadcast: WVU vs. Pitt
When: October 8, 1921
Who: West Virginia vs. Pittsburgh
Why: This 17th meeting of the Backyard Brawl was the very first college football game to be broadcast on the radio. Pitt won 21-13. The game was broadcast live on KDKA radio.
13. Only Defeats of Notre Dame’s Four Horsemen Defense
When: 1922 and 1923
Who: Notre Dame vs. Nebraska
Why: We are grouping the two together—a pair of losses 14-6 and 14-7 - because the only two losses the legendary Four Horsemen of Notre Dame suffered were at the hands of Nebraska in consecutive seasons.
14. First Game in Notre Dame – University of Southern California Rivalry 1926
When: December 4, 1926
Who: USC vs. Notre Dame
Why: Often called the greatest intersectional rivalry in college football, the series between the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame and the Trojans of the University of Southern California got its start in 1926, allegedly because the wives of Notre Dame head coach Knute Rockne and USC Athletic Director Gwynn Wilson got to talking at a Thanksgiving Day Notre Dame vs. Nebraska game.
Wilson’s wife managed to convince Rockne’s wife that a trip to sunny Southern California every two years would be better than one to cold, snowy, bitter Nebraska. Mrs. Rockne spoke to her husband and on December 4, 1926, USC became an annual fixture on Notre Dame's schedule.
15. First “Game of the Century”
When: November 2, 1935
Who: Ohio State vs. Notre Dame
Why: Though the phrase “Game of the Century” is worn out nowadays, with every season seeming to bring a new “Game of the Century,” this 1935 game was the very first time a game was designated as such.
The 1935 game between Ohio State and Notre Dame was played before a then record crowd of 81,018 at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State led 13-0 going into the fourth quarter before Notre Dame rallied with three late touchdowns to pull out the win.
Tickets for the game sold for a then astronomical $50 ($785.82 today, adjusted for inflation), and officials were quoted as saying they could have sold 200,000 tickets if they had the room for the fans.
(Honorable Mention: all the other "Game of the Century" designees)
16. First Televised College Football Game
When: September 30, 1939
Who: Waynesburg vs. Fordham
Why: Fordham was the preseason pick for the national championship and did dominate this game, winning 34-7.
NBC broadcast the game with one camera and one announcer on station W2XBS, and it is estimated that it reached about 1,000 television sets.
A month later, the second televised college football game took place for the Kansas State homecoming game against Nebraska.
17. First College Football Game Between the No. 1 & No. 2 Teams in the AP Poll
When: October 9, 1943
Who: Notre Dame vs. Michigan
Why: This game marked the very first time the teams ranked one and two in the AP Poll met during the regular season. No. 1 ranked Notre Dame beat No. 2 ranked Michigan 35-12.
18. First Nationally Televised Game: 1952 Rose Bowl
When: January 2, 1952
Who: Stanford vs. Illinois
Why: The history of the early days of televising college football involves complicated restrictions put on the networks by the NCAA…wait, that’s just like today.
Anyway, the 1952 Tournament of Roses was the first nationally televised college football game. The Fighting Illini beat the Stanford Cardinal 40-7 on a sunny day in Pasadena.
19. First African American to Play in Bowl Game in Deep South: 1956 Sugar Bowl
When: January 2, 1956
Who: Georgia Tech vs. Pittsburgh
Why: Pittsburgh’s Bobby Grier was the first African-American player to break the color barrier in the Deep South, which was segregated at the time.
For some historical context: it was just one month prior to the Sugar Bowl that Rosa Parks made her famous stand, refusing to give up her seat on the bus.
There was a great deal of brouhaha about whether Grier would be allowed to play due to his skin color as well as whether GA Tech should even show up for the game due to the Georgia governor’s stance against integration.
20. First Game between No. 1 & No. 2 in Both AP & UPI Polls: 1963 Rose Bowl
When: January 1, 1963
Who: USC vs. Wisconsin
Why: The 1963 Rose Bowl marked the first time the two teams designated as the consensus No. 1 and No. 2 teams in both the AP and UPI polls met in a game.
USC beat Wisconsin 42-37 and were crowned national champions.
21. First Instant Replay: Army vs. Navy 1963
Instant Replay play from 1963 Army Navy game
When: December 7, 1963
Who: Army vs. Navy
Why: Tony Verna, director at CBS, invented a system to enable a standard videotape machine to do instant replay and deployed it for the first time during the Army vs. Navy football game in Philadelphia.
Technical difficulties prevented all but one play from being viewed via instant replay, but, nonetheless, the era of instant replay was off and running.
22. 1970 USC @ Alabama: Sam Cunningham & the Trojans vs. Segregation
Sam "Bam" Cunningham for USC
When: September 12, 1970
Who: USC Trojans vs. Alabama Crimson Tide
Why: USC opened their 1970 season with a trip to Birmingham to play Alabama. Legendary USC coach John McKay faced off against legendary ‘Bama coach Bear Bryant.
USC was the very first fully integrated team to play in the state of Alabama.
Bryant was the catalyst in scheduling the contest, which did not turn out well for his team with USC dominating the Crimson Tide 42-21.
All six touchdowns the Trojans scored were by African-American players, with two by QB Sam “Bam” Cunningham, against an all-white Alabama team.
This game set the ball rolling for racial integration of football at Alabama and across the South.
23. First Marshall Game after the Plane Crash
When: September 25, 1971
Who: Marshall vs. Xavier
Why: On November 14, 1970, Marshall University lost 37 players, five coaches, administrators, media, fans and the entire flight crew in the crash of their chartered plane on the way home from a 17-14 loss at East Carolina. The plane crashed into a hillside in Wayne County. Everyone on the plane perished.
Much has been written and movies have been made on what happened next. Suffice it to say the turnaround from what is still the most devastating tragedy in American sports was stunning.
Marshall was able to field a team made up of freshmen, sophomores and the few varsity players who were not on the plane. When they took the field for the first time after the crash, they emerged victorious, beating Xavier 15-13.
24. Most Notable Comeback: USC-Notre Dame 1974 “The Comeback”
When: November 30, 1974
Who: USC vs. Notre Dame
Why: This game has long been considered one of the greatest comebacks in college football history. Notably, the game featured current USC Athletic Director and Associate Athletic Director Pat Haden and JK McKay, who were college roommates.
The Trojans were down 24-0 with ten seconds remaining before halftime. Anthony Davis reeled in a seven yard pass from QB Haden for the touchdown, setting up the rally.
When the second half started, Davis took the opening kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown. USC went on to score 35 points in the third quarter.
When all was said and done, USC had scored 55 points in 17 minutes. USC went on to be the 1974 national champions.
25. “The Play”
When: November 20, 1982
Who: University of California vs. Stanford
Why: This annual battle of the Bay saw its most ridiculous and incredible moment in 1982.
The game is very well known for its final play—and for nearly three decades has been known by that simple moniker—“The Play.”
This kickoff return by California turned into a series of laterals to score the game-winning touchdown right as time expired. The clock ran out, but as “The Play” was still in motion, the game was not over.
Assuming that the game was over simply because the clock ran out, Stanford’s marching band (famous for their ridiculousness in their own right) came out onto the field before the play ended.
The picture that was taken of Cal’s Kevin Moen spiking the ball on the head of a clueless trombone player from Stanford is one of the most recognizable images in college football.
A trip to the Bay Area will reveal that the results of “The Play” are still a highly contentious subject for fans of each school.
26. “The Hack”
When: November 20, 1982
Who: Harvard vs. Yale
Why: This 99th meeting of the Ivy League schools will forever be known as the game that MIT usurped.
Never mind that Harvard had managed to score a touchdown for the first time in three years versus Yale.
Part way through the second quarter a giant balloon began to mystically grow out of the ground near mid-field, stopping play and capturing headlines across the country.
The field was repaired and Harvard won 45-7, but how had the prank been pulled off?
Well, it turns out a group of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity brothers came up with the plan in 1978 and buried plastic tubing that would ooze yellow paint spelling MIT onto Harvard’s field. Groundskeepers discovered the tubing and got rid of it, but this did not deter the pranksters.
The balloon plan was hatched and designed over 1978 and 1979. In 1982, new Dekes happened upon the plan and decided to make it happen. Multiple pre-dawn trips to Harvard Stadium were needed to install it, and the rest is legend.
When: January 2, 1984
Who: Nebraska vs. University of Miami
Why: Nebraska coach Tom Osborne had to find a way to reignite the No. 1 ranked Cornhuskers when they trailed 17-0 in the Orange Bowl at the end of the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, he called for the play—invented by John Heisman, involving the quarterback purposely placing the ball on the ground, “fumbling” it technically. The running backs run to the right, and the right guard picks up the ball and runs to the left.
Nebraska QB Turner Gill “fumbled” the snap and set it on the turf. All-American offensive guard Dean Steinkuhler picked it up and ran it 19 yards for a touchdown.
Nebraska went on to lose the game anyway, 31-30, but the lore of the fumblerooski lives on.
28. Hail Flutie
When: November 23, 1984
Who: Boston College vs. University of Miami
Why: This famous Hail Mary pass from QB Doug Flutie to wide receiver Gerard Phelan is one of college football’s most famous plays.
With 28 seconds left in the game, BC trailed the ‘Canes 45-41. Three quick plays put BC at the Hurricane’s 48-yard line. Flutie called the “55 Flood Trip” play, where the receivers would run straight routes to the end zone, where they would then tip the football to another receiver.
Flutie, narrowly avoiding a sack, threw the football from his own 37-yard line. Consider Flutie’s height—just 5’9”—and the wind that day—30mph. He threw into the wind, after already throwing 45 times that game and delivered a 63-yard pass into the hands of Phelan for the game-winning touchdown.
Flutie won the Heisman trophy that year.
29. Last SMU Game Before Death Penalty
When: November 20, 1986
Who: SMU vs. Arkansas
Why: Though they might not have known it at the time, the high-flying SMU Mustangs of the Pony Express years were about to become infamous for all time, becoming the first school to be handed the NCAA’s Death Penalty for excessive violations.
The impact of this would be far reaching—decimating the once mighty (think SEC level and more) Southwestern Conference and detonating a nuclear bomb in the SMU football program whose effects are still being felt today.
Even this 1986 team, sanctioned by the NCAA to the point of being banned from television, could not have predicted that this game would be the last the Mustangs would play for several seasons.
In fact, this game was to mark the last of the sanctions brought down upon the program by the testimony of Sean Stopperich—a two-year bowl ban and 1986 television ban.
Until, in June 1986, when more scandal was uncovered and the NCAA made the decision to cancel the entire 1987 season.
Incidentally, the Mustangs lost this game 41-0.
30. Catholics vs. Convicts
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
When: October 15, 1988
Who: Notre Dame vs. University of Miami
Why: Heading into this game at Notre Dame stadium, the two teams were undefeated. Miami was the current defending national champion and held the No. 1 ranking. Notre Dame was ranked No. 4.
The game was preceded by a fight between the two teams in the stadium’s entrance tunnel and has often been named to lists of the greatest college football games of the period.
The game was close, and Miami scored a touchdown with 45 seconds left in the game to bring the score to 31-30 in favor of Notre Dame.
Miami coach Jimmy Johnson did not want to tie (at the time, college football games ended in ties, there was no OT yet), he wanted to win, so he eschewed the PAT in favor of a two-point conversion.
The pass was knocked down, and Notre Dame snapped Miami’s 36-game winning streak.
Notre Dame would go on to beat No 2. USC and No. 3 West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl to win the 1989 national title. Miami went on to win out and finish No. 2 behind Notre Dame.
31. “The Fifth Down”
When: October 6, 1990
Who: Colorado vs. Missouri
Why: This game is well known for an officiating error that allowed Colorado to have a “fifth down”—during which the Buffaloes scored the game winning touchdown as time expired.
Due in part to this officiating error and the resulting controversial victory, Colorado racked up a 10-win season and was awarded the AP National Championship, which it shares with Georgia Tech.
It has been called one of the top memorable moments and blunders in college football history and one has to think, without that error, Colorado would have lost the game and therefore not been the national champion for 1990.
32. “ Wide Right 1”
Note: Image is from Wide Right II
When: November 16, 1991
Who: Florida State vs. Miami
Why: Florida State and Miami went into the game ranked No.1 and No. 2, respectively.
With 29 seconds left in the game, FSU kicker Gerry Thomas missed a 34-yard game winning field goal—wide right. Miami won 17-16 and dashed the national title hopes of the Seminolesnot for the first, nor the last, time.
33. “Wide Right 2”
When: October 3, 1992
Who: Miami vs. Florida State
Why: A sense of Déjà vu prevailed at the end of this game, when defending national champions Miami faced off against national title contenders Florida State once again.
Miami and FSU were tied 19-16 with 1:35 left in the game.
FSU QB Charlie Ward drove his Seminoles 59 yards to get into field goal range at the Miami 22 with mere seconds left on the clock.
Kicker Dan Mowrey came in to kick the game-tying field goal, and with Florida State’s national championship hopes riding on his kicking foot, Mowrey missed the field goal wide right.
The video above details Wide Right/Left I -IV.
34. 1992 First Conference Championship Game SEC
When: December 5, 1992
Who: Alabama vs. Florida
Why: This inaugural conference championship game saw the Crimson Tide defeat the Gators 28-21 and go on to win the national championship for 1992.
The SEC Championship game paved the way for the large conferences of the BCS era later in the decade and into the 2000s.
35. “The Miracle at Michigan”
When: September 24, 1994
Who: Colorado vs. Michigan
Why: Colorado scored on a QB Kordell Stewart 64-yard Hail Mary pass to Michael Westbook—the team’s second touchdown in the last 2:16 of the game.
However with just six seconds remaining on the clock, Colorado was still down 26-21 when quarterback Kordell Stewart lobbed a more than 70-yard pass to Michael Westbrook in the end zone to clinch the win.
This game has been described as one of the wildest finishes in Michigan football history.
36. First Overtime in College Football
When: December 15, 1995
Who: University of Nevada vs. Toledo
Why: The NCAA had decided that college football would adopt the overtime rule for the first time with the 1995 bowl season.
Toledo came into the 1995 Las Vegas bowl game undefeated at 10-0-1. Nevada tied the game at the end of regulation at 34-34 sending the very first college football game into overtime, where Toledo prevailed 40-37.
37. First BCS Championship Game
Vincent Laforet/Getty Images
When: January 4, 1999
Who: Florida State vs. Tennessee
Why: 1999 was the first year the national champion would be decided by the new BCS system. Tennessee beat Florida State 23-16 to win the inaugural BCS National Championship.
38. First Wire-to-Wire AP No. 1
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
When: January 4, 2000
Who: Florida State
Why: There had not previously been a wire-to-wire AP No. 1 since preseason rankings began in 1950.
When the 1999 season started, Florida State was named the preseason No. 1. With their victory in the Sugar Bowl, clinching the BCS National Championship, the Seminoles became the very first wire-to-wire No. 1.
39. “Bluegrass Miracle”
When: November 9, 2002
Who: Kentucky vs. LSU
Why: One of the most totally improbable finishes in college football came when LSU played Kentucky at Commonwealth Stadium during the 2002 season.
Kentucky was ahead, and the fans were already celebrating the upset of the defending SEC champions LSU Tigers when on the final play of the game, LSU QB Marcus Russell threw the ball from his own 18-yard line as far as he could downfield.
Nearly as soon as the ball was released by Randall, Kentucky’s fans stormed the field, as the pass was short of the end zone by about 25 yards.
What the fans did not know was the ball was still in motion, having been deflected off the hands of LSU WR Michael Clayton around the Kentucky 27-yard line and into the hands of LSU WR Devery Henderson just shy of the 15-yard line.
Henderson was able to break the tackle of the very last Kentucky defender to run into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
40. Double Overtime BCS Championship Game
When: January 3, 2003
Who: Ohio State vs. Miami
Why: This thrilling end to the 2002 football season was as exciting as it was never ending. (Seriously, I was leaving for Cabo that night, and the bf and I were glued to the TV and as the game ticked from regulation into overtime, into double overtime, I worried that we’d miss our flight…)
The Miami Hurricanes faced off against the underdog Ohio State Buckeyes in Tempe Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl.
Considered by many to be the greatest college football game ever played, it was the first national championship to go into overtime, and the back-and-forth battle of the game lasted from nearly the opening kickoff to the very last play of double overtime on the 1-yard line.
41. “The Bush Push”
When: October 15, 2005
Who: USC vs. Notre Dame
Why: Defending national champion and No. 1 ranked USC went into South Bend with a 27 game winning streak, including three consecutive wins over Notre Dame by 31 points each. Notre Dame came into the game ranked No. 9.
Pundits dubbed this game the latest “Game of the Century” and ESPN’s College Game Day paid a visit.
Charlie Weis (remember him?) was still the Fighting Irish’s great white hope, and he employed strategy to try and get the win.
What was that strategy?
He grew the grass on the field at Notre Dame Stadium long to slow down USC’s quick defense and broke out the lucky green jerseys. Solid planning there dude. (Full disclosure: I am an alumna of USC).
You all know what happened next, as it is one of the most famous and controversial plays and outcomes in recent memory.
With just over two minutes left in the game, the Irish were up 31-28. On USC’s next drive, Matt Leinart threw an incomplete pass and was sacked for a loss of 10 yards. Fast forward to a Leinart to Dwayne Jarrett pass at the Irish 13.
Two rushes by Reggie Bush brought USC to the 2-yard line, and Leinart scrambled to the sideline, fumbling the ball out of bounds.
Time was stopped with seven seconds on the clock, however, the scoreboard clock kept running, and the Notre Dame fans began to rush the crowd, thinking they’d toppled their most hated rival. The field was cleared, and seven seconds was restored to the clock.
On the last play of the game, Leinart tried a QB sneak and was stopped by the Irish—until Bush pushed him into the end zone for the winning touchdown. The “Bush Push” put the Trojans up 34-31.
42. First BCS Bowl “Buster”
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
When: January 1, 2005
Who: Utah vs. Pittsburgh
Why: Utah, of the non-BCS Mountain West Conference became the first non-BCS team to be invited to a BCS bowl. Utah beat Pitt 35-7.
This is especially significant as it happened prior to the 2006 rule change in which eligibility for BCS Bowls became less strictincreasing from four games to five with entry requiring a top 12 finish instead of a top six.
43. Keith Jackson’s Final Game
When: January 4, 2006
Who: USC vs. Texas
Why: Longtime ABC sports college football announcer Keith Jackson called his final game in this 2006 Rose Bowl game which served as the national championship game for the BCS and featured a battle of the unbeatens with two-time defending AP national champions and defending BCS Champions USC versus Texas.
It was notable as well for having two Heisman winners on the field on one team in USC’s Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush. (With Texas’ Vince Young having finished second in the 2005 Heisman ballots.)
Texas prevailed 41-38 in one of the greatest college football games of all time—a true back-and-forth game that had fans on the edges of their seats until the final whistle blew.
(See? Wasn’t that democratic of this Trojan?)
44. 2007 Fiesta Bowl
When: January 1, 2007
Who: Boise State vs. Oklahoma
Why: BCS-Buster Boise State defeated the mighty Oklahoma Sooners 42-43, capping off a 13-0 season by the Broncos. The win was fueled largely by a series of trick plays, including the now famous Statue of Liberty play on the game-winning two-point conversion.
The team with the Smurf turf upset traditional powerhouse Oklahoma, stunning much of the nation.
45. David Defeats Goliath
When: September 1, 2007
Who: Michigan vs. Division I-AA/FCS Appalachian State
Why: This first game of Michigan’s 2007 stunned the nation as the No. 5 ranked Wolverines, a traditional Division 1/FBC power, fell 34-32 to Division I-AA/FCS school Appalachian State.
This was the first win ever by an FCS team over a ranked team in the FBS division, since the NCAA split Division I into two football subdivisions in 1978.
The game was called one of the biggest upsets in sports history. (Until later that fall…see the next painful slide.)
46. Largest Point Spread Upset
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
When: October 6, 2007
Who: USC vs. Stanford
Why: USC was a 41-point favorite and had a 24-game home winning streak when Jim Harbaugh’s Cardinal marched into the Coliseum and stunned the Trojans, winning 24-23.
USC was undefeated and ranked No. 1 in what remains the largest point spread upset in college football history.
At the end of the 2007 season, Sports Illustrated named this game as the second biggest upset of 2007, after Appalachian State’s upset of No. 5 Michigan.
47. End of Longest Losing Streak to an Annual Opponent
When: November 3, 2007
Who: Navy vs. Notre Dame
Why: Navy beat Notre Dame 44-46 in triple overtime, ending the longest losing streak to an annual opponent in the FBS. Navy had not beaten Notre Dame since 1963.
With the win, Navy went on to a 5-4 season, while Notre Dame fell to 1-8, with calls for Charlie Weis’s firing gaining steam.
48. Largest Regular Season Single Game Attendance
When: September 4, 2010
Who: Connecticut vs. Michigan
Why: Connecticut went into the Big House at Michigan and lost 30-10 in front of 113,090 fans—the largest regular season, single-game attendance to date.
49. Joe Paterno’s 400th Victory
Hunter Martin/Getty Images
When: November 6, 2010
Who: Penn State vs. Northwestern
Why: Legendary Penn State head coach Joe Paterno became the first Division I/FBS coach with 400 victories. Penn State came back from a three-touchdown deficit to secure the win for JoePa at 35-21.
50. Total SEC BCS Domination
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
When: January 10, 2011
Who: Auburn vs. Oregon
Why: With the Auburn Tigers victory over the Oregon Ducks in the 2011 BCS National Championship game, the SEC claimed the fifth BCS title in a row.