For many decades, college football has won the hearts of many Americans. Every season, families, states, sports lovers, and critics always look out for their favorite teams.
Arguments never end between fans about which games are the best. You might pick a game as your favorite because your team won. Another might pick a favorite game because he found “the one” at the game.
Ranking the best games of all time is never easy, but we believe our list includes a good balance of classic games, modern games, shootouts, defensive struggles, nail-biters, comebacks, and unlikely victories.
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the Best College Football Games Of All Time. We took everything into consideration, including regular-season games and national championships.
Make sure you read this post to the end, as it promises to be very exciting and informative.
What Is The Best College Football Team?
Since those records date back to the beginning, teams should be evaluated based on their success in games and titles. National titles are the topic of far more heated discussion than some early game results, which are even disputed between teams. Thankfully, the NCAA’s official list of major-college champions made that decision for us.
The current best college football team is the Crimson Tide of Alabama with a 74.9 rating and 15 national championships. The history of the Crimson Tide is a testament to their tenacity and endurance: Four coaches have captured a national championship, starting with Wallace Wade in 1925 and including Nick Saban five times in the last ten years.
Seven have achieved SEC success. Twelve have at least one season with 10 wins. There, everyone succeeds besides Ears Whitworth (4-24-2, 1955-57). But even Alabama fans adore him. Bear Bryant wouldn’t have heard Mama calling if it weren’t for Ears.
How Is a College Football Schedule Made?
In the NFL, your division finish and the team your division plays that year are the two factors that always determine your schedule. Once those are determined, creating the schedule essentially involves writing down dates for each of the 32 teams and proceeding from there.
Even though college football is played on the same field as other sports, the scheduling game is far more complex. The schedule must be closely scrutinized since there are more moving aspects and variations than most people realize, especially as we approach the playoffs in the coming years where “strength of schedule” will become more important.
You have your conference games to kick off your calendar. The majority of conferences are eight-game leagues with four home games and four away games. Nine conference games are played by the powerful Pac-12; four or five of them are usually at home. Home matches are significant, but keep going; we’ll talk about them later.
The number of conference games you have allows you to see what you need to look for on your own. If your conference has eight games, you’re looking for four games. If you’re in the Pac-12, you have just three opponents to find.
What is the College Football Playoff?
The Football Bowl Subdivision’s title contest is the College Football Playoff. After the season, it is played. The playoff makes sure that the distinctive regular season of college football can maintain its excitement and significance.
The way the playoffs are set up makes a thrilling four-team playoff possible. It preserves the best regular season in all of the sports and upholds American bowl culture.
Top 25 Best College Football Games Of All Time
1. Auburn 34, Alabama 28
In 2013, Auburn’s good fortune nearly knew no bounds, and we don’t mean that negatively. A team can perform well and have everything work out. The Tigers simply took things more seriously.
The Iron Bowl matchup versus Alabama in what is now known as the “Kick-Six” game was the most dramatic moment for Auburn during its drive to the 2013 national championship game. At one point in the second quarter, Auburn was trailing 21-7, but it mounted an incredible comeback and finally traded touchdowns with the Tide to tie the score at 28 with less than a minute to go.
T.J. Yeldon of Alabama ran what appeared to be the final play of regulation out of bounds, but head coach Nick Saban pushed for one extra second to attempt a game-winning field goal. His wish was granted, but not with the desired outcome.
Chris Davis of Auburn caught Adam Griffith’s errant 57-yard field goal as he was waiting in the end zone. Davis miraculously returned the kick more than 100 yards the other way to give Auburn the 34-28 victory. This is one of the best college football games of all time.
2. Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42
The 2007 Fiesta Bowl was a game for college football’s underdogs. Boise State had to win respect from the BCS polls versus Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl if it wanted to remain undefeated.
The Broncos had an 18-point advantage after taking an early lead, but it was lost in the second half. When Boise quarterback Jared Zabransky threw a pick-six with a minute left, giving the Sooners a 35-28 lead, the Cinderella tale appeared to be over.
But that’s when the magic started. Three of college football’s most iconic plays were called back-to-back by Boise State: The Statue of Liberty in overtime, the halfback option pass, and the hook-and-ladder in the closing seconds of regulation.
To top it all off, running back Ian Johnson of the Denver Broncos proposed to his cheerleader girlfriend right after the victory.
3. Auburn 43, Georgia 38
You occasionally need a miracle. During its 2013 journey to the BCS title game, Auburn acquired a few of those. One of these occurred in mid-November versus Georgia, one game before the incredible “Kick-Six” (more on that later).
With less than a minute left and a 4th-and-18 situation, Auburn quarterback (and former Georgia defensive back) Nick Marshall hit Ricardo Louis with a Hail Mary ball. In reality, the ball was overthrown, which ended up being a blessing in disguise. Louis was waiting when the ball was tipped and fell into his hands. Louis then ran the remaining 73 yards for the touchdown.
Early in the fourth quarter, Auburn had a comfortable lead, but the Bulldogs scored 21 points in a row to win. With one of the season’s most incredible catches, that record was erased.
4. Baylor 61, TCU 58
When it comes to rivalry games, Baylor-TCU has a deep and underappreciated history. However, in recent years, the show has taken a dramatic and nationally significant turn. 2011’s 50-48 shootout in Waco established Bears quarterback Robert Griffin III as a serious Heisman contender.
But what transpired three years later surpassed even that game. With less than 12 minutes remaining and behind 58-37, Baylor scored 21 straight points in nearly seven minutes to tie the game. Chris Callahan, the Bears’ kicker, made a 28-yard field goal as the clock ran out to seal the come-from-behind victory.
Although Baylor and TCU were both proclaimed Big 12 champions, neither team was picked for the opening round of the playoffs.
5. Texas 41, USC 38
In the BCS era, not every national championship game was created equally. The 2005–06 national championship game between Texas and USC is unquestionably one of the best college football games of all time of the BCS era in terms of star power on the field and result.
The Trojans, who were led by Heisman winners Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart, were on a 34-game winning streak. The USC dynasty was at its height at this point.
Longhorns quarterback Vince Young, though, had other ideas. He finished with 467 yards of total offense and added the winning touchdown on 4th-and-5 with only 19 seconds left.
This game is one of those timeless classics that will live on forever, especially given the Rose Bowl setting.
6. USC 34, Notre Dame 31
The “Bush Push” game between Notre Dame and USC, which was played in South Bend, Indiana, was a classic that took place during the Trojans’ march to the 2005 BCS championship game.
In a back-and-forth game against the Irish, USC found itself trailing 31-28 with its 27-game winning run on the line. The final 5:04 of the game saw three touchdowns.
Trojans quarterback Matt Leinart tried to score the game-winning touchdown by running the ball in himself with only a few seconds left. Pete Carroll, the head coach, was able to add seven seconds to the game clock even though he fell short.
Leinart squeezed his way into the end zone on the very next play instead of spiking the ball with a little assistance from Heisman-winning running back Reggie Bush.
On his way to winning the Heisman Trophy, quarterback Roger Staubach led this Navy squad to a final rating of No. 2, just missing out on the championship when top-ranked Texas defeated them in the Cotton Bowl.
The army made a brave effort to come back in the fourth quarter, but time ran out on the Cadets at the Navy 1-yard line when quarterback Rollie Stichweh was unable to call an audible above the boisterous Philadelphia crowd.
Despite how significant the stadium game was, it only told a portion of the tale. The legacy of President Kennedy, whose killing weeks earlier had initially prompted the academies to cancel the game, hung over every play. Only because of the widowed Jacqueline Kennedy was the game postponed.
In addition to all of that, the game marked the debut of instant replay on live television. After Stichweh’s touchdown run in the fourth quarter reduced the Navy advantage to 6, the play was replayed while announcer Lindsey Nelson informed the crowd, “Ladies and gentlemen, Army did not score again.” Making it one of the best college football games of all time.
8. Fiesta Bowl: Penn State 14, Miami 7
The 1980s were characterized by the rise of the Miami juggernaut. Hurricanes coach Jimmy Johnson’s team inspired equal amounts of admiration and contempt for their conceit/arrogance. Their infamous entrance from the team jet in military fatigues into Arizona for this game fueled the flames even further.
Meanwhile, Penn State, with its inconspicuous uniforms and modest coach, Joe Paterno, stood in stark contrast.
Miami’s nimble defense was dominant. On the other hand, the Canes’ explosive attack, which was led by Heisman-winning quarterback Vinny Testaverde and wide receiver Michael Irvin, amassed 445 total yards but frequently turned the ball over in response to the Nittany Lions’ varying defensive strategies.
With eight minutes left, Shane Conlan set up the game-winning score by returning his second interception of the contest to the Miami 5-yard line. Testaverde then threw his fifth pick of the day to Pete Giftopolous with seven seconds left to attempt a 4th-and-goal, and Penn State held on to win the championship.
Technically, this bowl game—the Sunkist Fiesta Bowl—was sponsored by a company for the first time.
9. LSU 9, Alabama 6
On a November night in Tuscaloosa, the “Game of the Century” once again featured LSU and Alabama. This game wasn’t for football fans who like to play offensively.
In a defensive battle, the teams exchanged field goals, with Drew Alleman’s 30-yarder tying the score for the Tigers at 6-6 early in the fourth.
After the Crimson Tide missed their fourth field goal in the game in overtime, LSU celebrated a 9-6 triumph as Alleman scored from 25 yards out.
But Alabama would have the last laugh that year, as the smothering Tide D restricted the Tigers to just 92 yards of offense in a 21-0 thrashing in the rematch of the BCS national title. That’s why we count it as one of the best college football games of all time.
10. Notre Dame at Michigan State
Notre Dame went above and beyond with its late-game management in only the 10th meeting between the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the AP Poll.
The Irish recovered possession of the ball 70 yards from the end zone with 1:10 remaining in the fourth quarter, when the score was knotted at 10.
Notre Dame ran out the clock and settled for a tie rather than attempting to score, maintaining its top spot. The plan worked, as the Irish defeated USC the next week and won the national championship in both important polls.
11. Sugar Bowl: Penn State 27, Georgia 23
Head coach of the Nittany Lions Joe Paterno pounded on the doors of the top college football players for almost 20 years. The elite remained silent for nearly 20 years. Three times, Penn State was unbeaten without ever taking first place.
This time, Penn State knocked on the door despite an early 21-point deficit to Alabama. The Nittany Lions never trailed, Herschel Walker, the Heisman Trophy winner, gained more yards (117) than Curt Warner (103), and Todd Blackledge, the quarterback, sealed the victory early in the fourth quarter with a 47-yard pass to Gregg Garrity.
Only the third time in Walker’s three seasons as tailback did Georgia lose.
12. LSU 7, Ole Miss 3
Billy Cannon’s 89-yard punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter is all anyone remembers of this game because of LSU announcer J.C. Politz’s iconic radio call.
In defiance of Tigers head coach Paul Dietzel, Cannon took the punt and sprinted down the sideline in front of the Rebels’ bench while breaking seven tackles.
However, a goal-line stand allowed the Tigers to win the game. Doug Elmore, the quarterback for the Rebels, attempted to run to his left on the final play of the game, but Warren Raab and Cannon stopped him. It was the fourth-and-goal from LSU.
13. Illinois 39, Michigan 14
The Michigan Wolverines had not suffered a defeat before their matchup with the Illini in 1924. They had surrendered 12 points during the entire 1923 campaign. But Red Grange existed in Illinois
The Galloping Ghost scored four touchdowns against Michigan in the first quarter, partly thanks to his performance in this game, earning him the nickname.
(Grange would be responsible for all six TDs for Illinois on the day.) Grange would go on to become one of the first truly legendary national athletes. When he joined the Chicago Bears in 1925, his celebrity assisted in legitimizing the infant NFL.
14. Ohio State 42, Michigan 39
Ohio State and Michigan’s fight for a position in the national championship suddenly seems like such a distant memory.
It was even argued that despite Ohio State’s victory, the two best teams in the nation would face off in a rematch in the national title game. (Of course, this wasn’t the case. In the national championship game, Florida would humiliate Ohio State, and Michigan would lose to USC in the Rose Bowl.)
The game also held significant stakes. For the first time in the history of the rivalry, the top-ranked and second-ranked clubs were opposites. The Buckeyes quickly took the lead and kept Michigan at bay for the remainder of the game.
15. Nebraska 35, Oklahoma 31
Fans of offensive football considered this clash to be the “game of the century” since it featured top-ranked, defending champion Nebraska against their second-ranked in-state rivals in Norman. All of their prior opponents had been defeated by an average of roughly 30 points for both teams.
The Sooners’ defense ultimately had to falter because something had to give. With 1:38 remaining, Cornhuskers quarterback Jerry Tagge orchestrated a 12-play, 74-yard drive that was finished by Jeff Kinney’s two-yard touchdown run. The run-heavy Oklahoma offense was unable to respond in time, giving Nebraska a 35-31 victory.
But Johnny Rodgers, widely regarded as the greatest player in Nebraska history and one of the finest in college football history, will always be remembered for slicing through the Sooner coverage unit for a 72-yard touchdown to start the game.
16. CFP National Championship: Clemson 35, Alabama 31
Deshaun Watson did not back down as he sought retribution for losing the previous year’s national championship against the Tide.
In the final four minutes of the game, there were three lead changes, which made for an exciting conclusion. With 2:07 remaining, Clemson received the ball and had a chance to make history following Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts’ shocking 30-yard touchdown.
With one second left, Watson connected with Hunter Renfrow from two yards out to give Clemson a 35-31 victory and its first national championship since 1981. Watson completed six plays on the final 68-yard drive.
17. SEC Championship Game: Alabama 32, Florida 13
Florida, which had won two of the previous three national championships, came into the contest ranked No. 1 and was led by QB Tim Tebow, the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner. With Heisman contender Mark Ingram and a quarterback, Greg McElroy, who had never lost as a starter since high school, second-ranked Alabama responded.
The Gators defeated an undefeated Alabama team in this game the season before to go to the national title. This time, neither team entered the match with a loss. Florida would depart with a persuasive one.
With Ingram rushing for 113 yards and three touchdowns and Alabama controlling the ball for 40 minutes, the Tide attack overwhelmed Florida. McElroy won the game’s MVP award because of his 239 throwing yards.
Tebow would be content with two championships in his four seasons wearing a Gator uniform, while Alabama would go on to win the national championship.
18. Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State 31, Miami 24 (2OT)
Miami came into this game with a talent-filled roster and a historic 34-game winning streak. 10 players from this Miami roster would be selected in the first round in each of the following two NFL drafts. However, Ohio State showed up ready to compete, and at the end of regulation, the score remained tied at 17.
Miami scored a touchdown during their possession in the first overtime, prompting Ohio State to respond in kind. Craig Krenzel, the Buckeyes’ quarterback, attempted to find Chris Gamble in the end zone on a 4th-and-3 situation, but Gamble was unable to hold on. The Buckeyes were saved, though, by a very late (and hotly contested) pass interference call on Glenn Sharpe.
Ohio State was able to score on a Krenzel scoring run with four more downs to force a second overtime period. Following that, Miami attempted to respond, but Ken Dorsey’s pass on fourth-and-goal failed to connect, giving Ohio State the victory and the national championship.
19. Orange Bowl: Miami 31, Nebraska 30
Miami claimed the right to its first national title by upsetting top-ranked, previously unbeaten Nebraska. The Huskers, who had not seen opposition all season, fell behind early by a score of 17-0 before mounting a valiant comeback.
Nebraska closed the gap to one after Jeff Smith’s 24-yard score, but quarterback Turner Gill’s ball to Smith on a two-point attempt was intercepted.
Nebraska most likely would have won the national title if it had kicked the extra point and gone for a draw. For that elusive title, Tom Osborne would have to wait another ten years.
20. Colorado 33, Missouri 31
Many of the games on this list are praised for the stakes involved. Typically, winning big bowl games or national titles were on the line. However, the 1990 game between Colorado and Missouri ends up on this list due to a mistake by the officials. Thus, “The Fifth Down Game” came into being.
In the last minute of the game, Colorado was trailing Missouri 31-27 and faced a 1st-and-goal situation. The Buffs called their final timeout after spiking the ball and a botched rush attempt.
However, the chain team did not alter the down, and the officials were unaware of it. Colorado accomplished a quarterback sneak for a touchdown after another unsuccessful run and a second spike that should have resulted in a turnover on downs.
Even the question of whether or not he crossed the goal line was debatable. In any event, the Buffs gained an additional down and were given the touchdown, winning 33-31. Making it one of the best college football games of all time.
21. Sugar Bowl: Florida 52, Florida State 20
In college football, it’s uncommon enough for any two teams to face one another twice in a season. This is one of the most spectacular matches in the history of the sport since the rematch was played with a national title on the line.
In the regular season of 1996, No. 2 Florida State defeated No. 1 Florida in Tallahassee thanks to a frightening pass rush that recorded six sacks and two penalties for roughing the passer. The Seminoles were ranked No. 1 and the Gators were ranked third when they rematched in the Sugar Bowl.
However, the previous evening, No. 2 Arizona State made it possible for either team to capture the national championship with a victory in the Sugar Bowl.
Coach Steve Spurrier of the Florida Gators developed a shotgun-heavy game plan for the bowl game to give his Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, Danny Wuerffel, more time to throw the ball. In response, Wuerffel scored three touchdowns (plus one on the ground) and the Gators sailed to their first national championship in program history.
22. Michigan 31, Ohio State 3
This chapter of their long-running rivalry was not the most competitive. A fourth-ranked Michigan team that had only suffered a loss to Florida State at the time was playing host to 17th-ranked Ohio State on the road.
The generally strong Buckeye defense was unable to stop Elvis Grbac and the Wolverine attack, and by the end of the first half, Michigan enjoyed a 17-3 advantage. Then Timothy Williams prepared to punt a second ball. Favorite for the Heisman Trophy Desmond Howard was waiting at his 10-yard line.
The kick would force Howard to his 7-yard line, where he would run a Michigan record 93 yards for the touchdown. In the end zone, Howard mimicked the Heisman Trophy’s iconic posture in a pantomime celebration that he believed now belonged to him.
Howard’s arrogance was warranted because he would win the championship at the end of the season. In the years since countless Heisman contenders have celebrated similarly.
23. Hail Flutie: Boston College 47, Miami 45
Boston College brought Doug Flutie, a Heisman candidate, to town on a soggy night in South Florida. The sides scored a total of 30 points in the fourth quarter, with the final one coming on the game’s final play, a 48-yard heave that Flutie dubbed the “55 Flood Tip.”
Gerard Phelan, a wide receiver who somehow escaped the notice of the Hurricane defenders, received the final 472 yards thrown by the quarterback and gave a 47-45 victory.
Many people overlook the fact that the Hurricanes’ previous game was the largest comeback in NCAA history, a 42-40 loss to Maryland after blowing a 31-0 halftime lead.
24. Miami at Notre Dame: “Catholics vs. Convicts”
The pregame speech by Lou Holtz said it all. “You have a lifetime of memories to make and an afternoon to play. However, there is one thing I ask of you: please save Jimmy Johnson’s behind for me!” Miami entered South Bend having won its previous 36 regular-season contests, but the Hurricanes struggled that day and committed seven turnovers.
Even so, Miami had a chance to win after closing the gap to one point with 45 seconds remaining, making it one of the best college football games of all time.
However, Pat Terrell intercepted the ‘Canes’ two-point pass attempt, giving the Irish a 31-30 victory. The Fighting Irish went on to capture their eighth national title.
25. Sugar Bowl: Florida State 46, Virginia Tech 29
The issue going into this game was whether the Hokies’ electric quarterback, Michael Vick, was talented enough to outperform a deeper and top-ranked Seminoles team in a classic individual vs. team contest. Vick led all rushers with 97 yards while throwing for 225 yards and a touchdown. It was far from sufficient.
With six catches for 163 yards, two scores, and a game-changing 59-yard punt return for a third touchdown, FSU WR Peter Warrick was named MVP.
Chris Weinke, the quarterback, finished with 329 passing yards and four touchdowns. Virginia Tech simply couldn’t manage the number of weapons the Seminoles possessed.
With the victory, Florida State made history by becoming the first team to ever begin the season ranked first and maintain that position to the national championship.
Read Also: 7 Best Football Scholarships in USA
What Constitutes Major College Football?
The Football Bowl Subdivision(FBS) is the only level of college football in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) that matters. Division II and Division III are the other three divisions if you’re scoring at home. The Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) is the fourth level.
The FBS has 124 teams and is split up into 11 conferences; the only four institutions in the FBS that are not a part of a conference are Notre Dame, Brigham Young University, Army, and Navy.
The Southeastern Conference, the Big XII, the Big 10, the Pac-12, the Big East, and the Atlantic Coast Conference are six of those 11 conferences that are regarded as prominent.
Public colleges and universities from the old Confederacy make up most of the Southeastern Conference or SEC. Having a member institution win the national championship for each of the previous six seasons has established a reputation as the top football conference in the nation.
How And Why Are Teams Ranked Before The Season Even Begins?
Before the season, surveys are conducted among a select group of FBS coaches and sports journalists, asking them to rank the teams they think will be the best in the nation during the next season.
These hypothetical rankings are mostly determined by how a team fared the previous year, the caliber of returning personnel, and the caliber of new players.
Throughout the season, pollsters have been tasked with re-ranking the teams in order based on the previous week’s results. When a team with a higher ranking wins, it often keeps its ranking or rises as a result of the loss of a lower-ranked team.
The lists are not based on science. Instead, they are based on the pollsters’ assessments. The two human surveys do not consider the computer method used to help choose which two teams compete for the national championship.
This indicates that even though Alabama is now placed first in both the media and coaches’ polls, it is more of an opinion than a fact that they are the greatest team in the nation.
When it comes to picking the best college football games of all time, everyone has a different opinion based on several reasons. Come to think of it, we all appreciate sports in our way.
In our opinion, we have listed the Top 25 Best College Football Games Of All Time. We hope you found this post as interesting as promised.
Kindly let us know what you think.
Eight or nine of the 12 regular season games that most FBS schools play yearly are against teams from their conference.
A college football game consists of four quarters, with a halftime interval between the second and third quarters. The NFL, which likewise has a 60-minute game broken into four 15-minute quarters with halftime in between, has many characteristics of college football.
NFL games are 16 minutes longer on average than college games due to TV and passing. Football games at the collegiate level are the longest and longest-lasting college team sports, and they continue to get longer.
Halftime in the NFL is typically 12 minutes long, though it may be significantly longer for big games like the Super Bowl to accommodate additional activities like musical performances.
The typical NFL game is said to last 3 hours and 12 minutes, though claims on this depend on the sample size. On the other hand, a college football game lasts 3 hours, 24 minutes on average.
The NCAA allows Hawaii and teams that play there to play one extra game during the regular season to make up for their extremely high travel expenses to and from the mainland.
- bleacherreport.com – How Is a College Football Schedule Made
- theguardian.com – College football explained
- bleacherreport.com – 25 Greatest Games in History of College Football
- bleacherreport.com – 25 Most Important Games in College Football History