College football is back in full force (hopefully), and so is the College Football Researchers Association Top 25 poll. This will be the 24th season overall that the CFRA will crown a contemporaneous national champion and the 13th consecutive since the re-emergence of the poll in 2009. The history there may not seem overwhelmingly vast but keep in mind that when you include all of the retrospective champions we’ve elected, this season’s champion will be the 151st in poll history which is more than any other multi-voter, NCAA-recognized poll in the country.
Without further ado, here is this year’s preseason poll.
1. Alabama (9)– 273 points
2. Oklahoma (1)– 251 points
3. Clemson (1)– 248 points
4. Ohio State– 244 points
5. Georgia– 239 points
6. Texas A & M- 196 points
7. Oregon– 176 points
8. Iowa State– 170 points
9. Cincinnati- 169 points
10. Florida- 149 points
11. Wisconsin– 147 points
12. North Carolina– 144 points
13. Notre Dame– 141 points
14. LSU– 112 points
15. Miami (FL)– 104 points
16. Penn State– 91 points
17. Southern Cal– 88 points
18. Indiana– 83 points
19. Iowa– 69 points
20. Washington– 63 points
21. Utah– 58 points
22. Coastal Carolina– 42 points
23. Texas– 41 points
24. Oklahoma State– 30 points
25. Ole Miss– 25 points
Others Receiving Votes: Missouri 23, UCF 21, Kentucky 16, Liberty 16, NC State 15, West Virginia 12, Arizona State 12, Boise State 12, TCU 10, Pittsburgh 9, Baylor 9, UL-Lafayette 9, Army 8, Michigan 7, Northwestern 7, Brigham Young 7, Colorado 6, Nebraska 2, Nevada 2, UCLA 1
Teams Ranked Higher in CFRA than AP and Coaches Polls: Oregon (7), Florida (10), Wisconsin (11), Penn State (16), Utah (21).
Teams Ranked Lower in CFRA than AP and Coaches Polls: North Carolina (12), Notre Dame (13), Southern Cal (17), Indiana (18), Iowa (19), Texas (23), Arizona State (NR), UL-Lafayette (NR).
Teams Ranked Exactly the Same in All 3 Major Human Polls (AP, CFRA, and Coaches): Alabama (1), Ohio State (4), Georgia (5), Texas A & M (6).
Last spring, I conducted a first of its kind historical analysis where I objectively selected the greatest game in college football for every regular season and every postseason. This is my first annual update of the second of these two lists where I have added my selection for this year’s postseason game of the year.
This analysis begins much later than the regular season entry as bowl games didn’t start being played annually until 1915. Like my previous list, I try to avoid ties and blowouts in this article, but unfortunately since the Rose Bowl was the only bowl game played most seasons between 1915 and 1934, I had to feature a few games that weren’t close and two games that ended in a tie. Also, you will see that some of the games weren’t officially played in the year they are denoted. That is because regardless of whether a particular bowl game or national title game was played before or after New Year’s, I am classifying each game as being from the year of the regular season. (ex: the 1916 Rose Bowl actually took place on New Year’s 1917, etc)
I took into account several factors when determining which game was truly the best for a particular college football bowl season, including the game’s significance in determining the national champion, the improbability of the final outcome, and the overall excitement of the game. Without further ado, here is my selection for game of the year for every college football postseason season that has been played. The games in bold I have rated as best of the decade, and the ones with asteriks went into overtime. Feel free to comment or debate.
Washington State 14, Brown 0 (Rose)
Cougars claim split championship as a result of winning the only bowl game in existence.
Oregon 14, Penn 0 (Rose)
The Webfoots, as Oregon was known as at the time, claim their first Rose Bowl title with two second half touchdowns. Oregon wouldn’t win another Rose Bowl for 95 years.
Mare Island Marines 19, Camp Lewis Army 7 (Rose)
With most college players involved in World War I, the Rose Bowl decided to match up two military base all-star squads.
Great Lakes Navy 17, Mare Island Marines 0 (Rose)
George Halas, future NFL Hall of Fame coach, had a 77 yard interception return as Great Lakes Navy rolled over the Marines.
Harvard 7, Oregon 6 (Rose)
Crimson win split national championship (sharing with Illinois) thanks to this narrow victory over the Webfoots of Oregon. This game established lasting pattern of matching a team from the east with one from the west.
California 28, Ohio State 0 (Rose)
Only PCC (now Pac-12) Rose Bowl victory over a Big Ten team until the 1952 Rose Bowl. Bears win their first national championship as a result of this victory.
Texas A & M 22, Centre 14 (Dixie Classic)
The Colonels Cinderella season, in which they knocked off Harvard, came to an end in postseason play as A & M upset them in the first of three Dixie Classics played intermittently in the 20’s and 30’s.
Southern Cal 14, Penn State 3 (Rose)
This was the first bowl game for both of these perennial powerhouses. The Nittany Lions scored first but the Trojans dominated the rest of the way.
Washington 14, Navy 14 (Rose)
I hate putting ties on this list but this was the only bowl game for the 1923 season so it unfortunately makes the list.
Notre Dame 27, Stanford 10 (Rose)
Historic game in that it marked the Irish’s first bowl victory and first national championship. Elmer Layden, one of the Four Horsemen, was the hero.
Alabama 20, Washinton 19 (Rose)
The game that put Alabama football on the map as Tide pull off a stunning upset with second half comeback.
Alabama 7, Stanford 7 (Rose)
The Tide claim split championship with a tie in their second consecutive Rose Bowl nail-biter.
Stanford 7, Pittsburgh 6 (Rose)
The Cardinal spoils Pitt’s national title with a third quarter scoop and score. However, the ultimate difference in the game ended up being a blocked Pittsburgh PAT earlier in the 3rd.
Georgia Tech 8, California 7 (Rose)
This game is best known for Cal’s Roy Riegels running 64 yards towards the wrong end zone (pictured above) which led to a game deciding safety.
Southern Cal 47, Pittsburgh 14 (Rose)
Trojans destroy Panthers in Pasasdena, denying them a national championship.
Alabama 24, Washington State 0 (Rose)
Blowout win for the Tide but the game makes the list because it was only bowl game of the season.
Southern Cal 21, Tulane 12 (Rose)
The first-ever # 1 vs. # 2 meeting in a bowl game! Tulane outgained the Trojans by over 150 yards but USC got off to an early lead and held on to win the school’s first national title.
Southern Cal 35, Pittsburgh 0 (Rose)
Trojans win back-to-back national championships with dominant Rose Bowl win over the #3 team in the country.
Columbia 7, Stanford 0 (Rose)
Lions score only touchdown of the game with a 25 yard trick play reverse to pull off the major upset.
Tulane 20, Temple 14 (Sugar)
The first-ever Sugar Bowl featured a 14 point come from behind victory for the hometown Green Wave.
Stanford 7, SMU 0 (Rose)
The Cardinals deny the Mustangs a national championship thanks to a key SMU fumble inside Stanford’s five yard line.
(14) Duquesne 13, Mississippi State 12 (Orange)
Duquesne’s Boyd Brunbaugh throws a 72 yard fourth quarter touchdown pass to squeak by the Maroons (MSU’s mascot at the time).
Fresno State 27, Central Arkansas 26 (Charity)
This one-hit wonder bowl game played in Los Angeles featured a nail-biting shootout by 1930’s standards.
(7) Southern Cal 7, (3) Duke 3 (Rose)
Trojans deny Blue Devils their first bowl victory with a touchdown pass to Al Krueger in the final two minutes of the 4th. Those were the first points scored against Duke all season.
(3) Southern Cal 14, (2) Tennessee 0 (Rose)
Vols give up their first two touchdowns of the entire season in their Pasadena defeat.
(5) Boston College 19, (4) Tennessee 13 (Sugar)
BC wins battle of unbeatens with a 24 yard fourth quarter touchdown run that set up by a fake pass.
(12) Oregon State 20, (2) Duke 16 (Rose)
Beavers pull off huge road upset in the lone Rose Bowl game that was moved to Durham because of fear of an attack from the Japanese (game was played less than a month after Pearl Harbor). Bob Dethman comes up with game-saving interception on the final play of the game.
(11) Texas 14, (5) Georgia Tech 7 (Cotton)
The Longhorns, playing in their first bowl game in school history, hold off Yellow Jacket comeback with late defensive stop inside the Texas five yard line.
(13) Georgia Tech 20, (15) Tulsa 18 (Sugar)
The Yellow Jackets score 13 unanswered in the second half to pull off a come from behind victory in dramatic fashion.
(11) Duke 29, Alabama 26 (Sugar)
Blue Devils hold off Crimson Tide in a tight affair that was decided with a George Clark 20 yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. See epic “squashing Hitler” program cover above.
Miami-FL 13, (16) Holy Cross 6 (Orange)
As wild an ending as you will ever see in a bowl game, as the Hurricanes win first bowl game in school history with 89 yard pick six on the final play of the game.
(3) Georgia 20, (9) North Carolina 10 (Sugar)
Bulldogs overcome seven point halftime deficit to win first Sugar bowl in school history.
(10) Georgia Tech 20, (12) Kansas 14 (Orange)
Jayhawks blow opportunity at comeback victory by fumbling quarterback sneak deep in Yellow Jacket territory with 37 seconds left in the game.
(7) Northwestern 20, (4) California 14 (Rose)
Wildcats use Statute of Liberty trick play in fourth quarter scoring drive to win their only bowl game until 2013 and deny Cal a shot at a national title.
(6) Ohio State 17, (3) California 14 (Rose)
Bears fall victim to a second consecutive Rose Bowl upset with game winning 18 yard field goal by the Buckeyes’ Jimmy Hague in the fourth quarter.
(7) Kentucky 13, (1) Oklahoma 7 (Sugar)
Bear Bryant’s Kentucky squad pulls massive upset to end Oklahoma’s 31-game win streak and deny the Sooners the national title.
(5) Georgia Tech 17, (9) Baylor 14 (Orange)
Jackets cap off a come from behind victory with 22 yard game winning field goal by Pepper Rodger late in the fourth quarter, despite being outgained by over 60 yards.
(15) Florida 14, (12) Tulsa 13 (Gator)
Golden Hurricane lose heartbreaker thanks to missed fourth quarter extra point. This was the University of Florida’s first ever bowl appearance.
(4) Oklahoma 7, (1) Maryland 0 (Orange)
Sooners knock off the AP/Coaches national champ to claim retroactive national title. The key to the game was a Larry Grigg interception in the end zone with four minutes left in the fourth quarter that enabled Oklahoma to hold on.
(13) Georgia Tech 14, (8) Arkansas 6 (Cotton)
Bobby Dodd’s Yellow Jackets overcome six point halftime deficit to win their ninth bowl game in what was the only relatively close game of the ’54 bowl season.
Turnovers doom Orange despite three touchdowns by Syracuse star running back Jim Brown (pictured above)
(2) Ohio State 10, Oregon 7 (Rose)
Buckeyes make 34 yard field goal in 4th quarter to take lead and then hold on with a late interception and fourth down stop.
(1) LSU 7, (12) Clemson 0 (Sugar)
Ironically, this was a forecast of last year’s national championship as this game involved the same teams at exact same location as this year’s past champioship. Bayou Bengals won both games to claim two of their four national championships.
(12) Penn State 7, (10) Alabama 0 (Liberty)
In a foreshadowing of their epic Sugar Bowl battles in the 1970’s, the Nittany Lions win this defensive struggle with a 17 yard touchdown pass.
(16) Florida 13, (12) Baylor 12 (Gator)
The Bears frantic fourth quarter comeback comes up just short as Baylor elects to go for two and the win the final seconds just to have running back Ronnie Goodwin drop the winning pass in the end zone.
(16) Syracuse 15, (19) Miami-FL 14 (Liberty)
Ernie Davis leads Syracuse to victory with 140 yards rushing. Orange convert game winning touchdown in the fourth quarter following a Miami fumble.
(1) Southern Cal 42, (2) Wisconsin 37 (Rose)
Badgers’ epic 4th quarter comeback comes up just short. The two teams broke 11 Rose Bowl records with this offensive shootout.
Oregon 21, SMU 14 (Sun)
The Mustangs’ frantic fourth quarter comeback comes to an end when SMU’s onside kick goes out of bounds in final minutes. This is Oregon’s only bowl win between 1917 and 1989.
(5) Texas 21, (1) Alabama 17 (Orange)
Joe Namath gets stuffed at the goal line late in the fourth quarter (pictured above) robbing the Tide of a national championship.
(5) UCLA 14, (1) Michigan State 12 (Rose)
The Bruins spoil Michigan State’s national title hopes with consecutive denials of fourth quarter two point conversion attempts.
(6) Purdue 14, (18) Southern Cal 13 (Rose)
Trojan coach John McKay elects to go for two down one point with less than two minutes to play. The two point pass is intercepted in the end zone and the Boilermaker hold on for their first, and only, Rose Bowl victory in school history.
(3) Oklahoma 26, (2) Tennessee 24 (Orange)
An epic battle between two of the top three teams in the country decided by a 43 yard missed Volunteer field goal on the final play of the game.
(3) Penn State 15, (6) Kansas 14 (Orange)
Nittany Lions win this thriller with a two point conversion in the final 15 seconds of the fourth quarter. Penn State actually failed to convert on their first two point attempt but a 12 man on the field penalty on Kansas gave the Nittany Lions another shot at it.
(1) Texas 21, (9) Notre Dame 17 (Cotton)
The Horns had to rebound from game of the century win over Arkansas to clinch national title a month later with win over # 9 Notre Dame.
(3) Nebraska 17, (5) LSU 12 (Orange)
The Cornhusker football dynasty begins with this fourth quarter come from behind victory that gave the program its first national championship.
(16) Stanford 13, (4) Michigan 12 (Rose)
The Indians of Stanford, who changed their name to the Cardinals after this game, win this one with a field goal (pictured above) in the final 16 seconds of the 4th quarter. It would be Stanford’s last Rose Bowl win until 2012.
(14) North Carolina 32, Texas Tech 28 (Sun)
Bill Dooley’s Tar Heels win back and forth shootout against the Red Raiders with a touchdown pass in the final minute of the fourth quarter.
(3) Notre Dame 24, (1) Alabama 23 (Sugar)
This was the first time these historic programs ever played. Irish squeak out a back and forth classic thanks to Tom Clements’ 35 yard touchdown pass.
(9) Notre Dame 13, (2) Alabama 11 (Orange)
Irish rob Tide of national title for second consecutive season with Reggie Barnett interception in final two minutes.
West Virginia 13, NC State 10 (Peach)
Mountaineers win their fourth bowl game with a fourth quarter “immaculate reception” that deflected off two NC State defenders before being caught by receiver Scott MacDanoald for the game-winning touchdown.
McNeese State 20, Tulsa 16 (Independence)
The Cowboys of McNeese score a fourth quarter touchdown to pull off upset bowl win despite having sixteen players ruled ineligible prior to kickoff.
(13) Washington 27, (4) Michigan 20 (Rose)
Warren Moon’s Huskies deny Wolverines a shot at the national title with two fourth quarter interceptions of Michigan’s Rick Leach deep in Huskies territory.
(2) Alabama 14, (1) Penn State 7 (Sugar)
The most famous goal line stand (see above) in college football history gives Bear Bryant his sixth national championship.
(3) Southern Cal 17, (1) Ohio State 16 (Rose)
Running back Charles White (see above) leads Trojans on game winning 83 yard touchdown drive in final 3 minutes to deny the Buckeyes a national championship.
(14) Brigham Young 46, (19) SMU 45 (Holiday)
Cougars mount incredible twenty point comeback in final four minutes of the fourth quarter to pull out victory.
(8) Pittsburgh 24, (2) Georgia 20 (Sugar)
One of the great bowl upsets of all-time as Dan Marino leads the Panthers to victory with 33 yard touchdown pass in game’s final 35 seconds.
(2) Penn State 27, (1) Georgia 23 (Sugar)
Joe Paterno finally wins a national title thanks to Todd Blackledge’s 47 yard fourth quarter TD pass.
(5) Miami-FL 31, (1) Nebraska 30 (Orange)
Osborne’s failed two point conversion lives in sports folklore as no one wants to win a national title with a tie.
(1) Brigham Young 24, Michigan 17 (Holiday)
Cougars overcome six turnovers and seven point fourth quarter deficit to pull out historic victory with a Robbie Bosco touchdown pass in final 90 seconds of the game. This was the last non-power 5 national title in the sport.
(12) Arkansas 18, Arizona State 17 (Holiday)
Razorbacks win back and forth thriller with Kendall Trainor 37 yard field goal with 23 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
(2) Penn State 14, (1) Miami-FL 10 (Fiesta)
Nittany Lions pull off upset despite getting outgained by nearly 300 yards.
(3) Florida State 31, (5) Nebraska 28 (Fiesta)
Trailing by three, the Noles force a fourth quarter Nebraska fumble on their own goal line and then proceed to march the length of the field for the winning score.
(4) Florida State 13, (7) Auburn 7 (Sugar)
Noles hold on for the victory with a controversial no call on a clear defensive pass interference in the end zone on Auburn’s final drive.
(12) Southern Cal 17, (3) Michigan 10 (Rose)
Tied in the fourth quarter, a controversial holding call negates a brilliant fake punt converted by the Wolverines on their own 46 yard line. Trojans respond by marching length of field for winning touchdown with just over a minute to play in what ended up being Bo Schembechler’s last game as Michigan head coach.
(1) Colorado 10, (5) Notre Dame 9 (Orange)
The Buffaloes win national title thanks to controversial clipping call on Rocket Ismail punt return in final minute.
Georgia Tech 18, (17) Stanford 17 (Aloha)
Following a 63 yard punt return, Bobby Ross’ Yellow Jackets convert a touchdown and subsequent two point conversion with 14 seconds left in the fourth to pull out thrilling victory.
(7) Michigan 38, (9) Washington 31 (Rose)
A back and forth classic that featured six lead changes was won by the Wolverines with a fourth quarter touchdown catch by Elvis Grbac.
(1) Florida State 18, (2) Nebraska 16 (Orange)
The Noles win their first national championship thanks to a Huskers missed field goal in the final seconds of the game (pictured above).
(1) Nebraska 24, (3) Miami-FL 17 (Orange)
Tom Osborne wins first national championship by getting revenge against the Canes for heartbreaking ’83 Orange Bowl loss.
(18) Virginia 34, Georgia 27 (Peach)
Cavs win game with 83 yard kickoff return touchdown (pictured above) in the final minute despite being outgained by nearly 300 yards.
(4) Ohio State 20, (2) Arizona State 17 (Rose)
One of the first true college football heartbreakers I can remember, as Buckeyes steal game and deny Sun Devils a national title with two controversial pass interference calls on final drive.
(1) Michigan 21, (8) Washington State 16 (Rose)
Wolverines hold off upset-minded Cougars in controversial fashion as Wazzu is denied a final play from Michigan’s 26 yard line because referees said Ryan Leaf spiked the ball after time had expired. This victory gave the Wolverines their most recent national championship.
(19) Georgia 35, (13) Virginia 33 (Peach)
In rematch of their ’95 contest, Dawgs hold off hard-charging Cavs as Virginia almost pulls off epic comeback. Trailing by eight in the final two minutes, the Cavs score a touchdown, recover an onside kick, and then barely miss a game winning field goal.
(8) Michigan 35, (4) Alabama 34* (Orange)
Bama loses heartbreaker when kicker Ryan Pflunger misses extra point that would have sent the game to double overtime.
Mississippi State 43, Texas A & M 41* (Independence)
A wild overtime shootout played in a rare Louisiana snowstorm.
Marshall 64, East Carolina 61** (Mobile)
The highest scoring bowl game ever played was won with a Byron Leftwich eight yard touchdown pass in the second overtime.
(2) Ohio State 31, (1) MIami-FL 24** (Fiesta)
Believe it or not, this was a shocking upset at the time as the Canes were considered unbeatable. Controversial, late pass interference call (pictured above) still irks Miami fans.
Georgia 34, Purdue 27* (Capital One/Citrus)
Dawgs win overtime thriller after choking away game in regulation with midfield fumble that set up game tying field goal.
(6) Texas 38, (13) Michigan 37 (Rose)
The first of two consecutive classic Rose Bowl victories for Vince Young (pictured above) and his Longhorns.
(2) Texas 41, (1) Southern Cal 38 (Rose)
I believe this game is immensely overrated in the annals of college football history, but I still have to call it the best game of that particular bowl season.
(9) Boise State 43, (7) Oklahoma 42* (Fiesta)
In my opinion, this game is the greatest game in the history of college football given how it changed the landscape of the sport for “the little guy”.
Texas Tech 31, (20) Virginia 28 (Gator)
Mike Leach’s Red Raiders score 17 unanswered points in the final 4 minutes of the game to pull off remarkable comeback.
(3) Texas 24, (10) Ohio State 21 (Fiesta)
Longhorns win back and forth thriller with 26 yard Colt McCoy touchdown pass in game’s final 20 seconds.
Auburn 38, Northwestern 35* (Outback)
One of the wildest overtime periods you will ever see with Auburn mistakenly believing they won the game on two different occasions and Northwestern running a fumblerooski on the final play of the game just to come up two yards short of the goal line.
(1) Auburn 22, (2) Oregon 19 (BCS Title Game)
Cam Newton’s Tigers win national title with chip shot field goal as time expired that was setup by a flukish 37 yard Michael Dyer run (pictured above).
(3) Oklahoma State 41, (4) Stanford 38* (Fiesta)
The Pokes overcame their BCS Title Game snub to win this overtime thriller thanks to two late field goal misses by Cardinal kicker Jordan Williamson.
(10) South Carolina 33, (18) Michigan 28 (Outback)
An epic college football game that featured one of the greatest defensive players in the history of the sport in Clowney’s fourth quarter hit and forced fumble (pictured above).
(1) Florida State 34, (2) Auburn 31 (BCS Title Game)
Jameis Winston’s touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds left ends the SEC’s seven year stranglehold on the college football national championship.
Western Kentucky 49, Central Michigan 48 (Bahamas)
The Chippewas pulled off one of the great 4th quarter comebacks of all-time culminating in one of the greatest hail mary touchdowns ever (pictured above), albeit in a losing effort.
(2) Alabama 45, (1) Clemson 40 (National Title Game)
This was a back and forth tussle that you don’t often see Saban teams engage in. The Tide’s surprise onside kick early in the second half changed the momentum of the game.
(2) Clemson 35, (1) Alabama 31 (National Title Game)
A controversial touchdown reception (most people would agree an offensive pass interference should have been called) in the final seconds (pictured above) give the Tigers the national title in a game featuring three lead changes in the final five minutes.
(4) Alabama 26, (3) Georgia 23* (National Title Game)
Tua’s overtime bomb (pictured above) gives the Tide a shocking comeback overtime victory in the Georgia Dome.
Wake Forest 37, Memphis 34 (Birmingham)
A back and forth classic decided by a missed Memphis field goal on the final play of the game.
(3) Clemson 29, (2) Ohio State 23 (Fiesta)
The Tigers deny the Buckeyes the winning score with a critical interception in game’s final seconds. Clemson benefitted from several controversial calls throughout including a questionable ejection for targeting and an overturned Buckeye scoop and score.
Liberty 37, (12) Coastal Carolina 34* (Cure)
The Flames deny the Chants an undefeated season with an overtime thriller featuring a stunning Liberty final minute fumble when Coastal was trying to let the Flames score.
Below you will find a breakdown of which bowls have had the most games of the year. Not surprisingly, the Rose Bowl is the run away winner based on the fact that they not only have hosted numerous classic football games but also because they had almost a twenty year head start on the rest of the bowl games.
Games of the Year by Bowl
Note: Italacized games are now defunct
Games of Decade by Bowl
In addition, I performed a team-by-team analysis similar to the regular season edition which I published last month. Kudos to Georgia Tech (7-1), Texas (6-0), and Florida State (4-0) for winning a multitude of classic bowl games. On the other hand, you will see that Tennessee (0-3), SMU (0-3), Pittsburgh (1-4), and Michigan (3-6) have struggled in such games. See full chart below:
Bowl Team Participants
Texas A & M
Mare Island Marines
Great Lakes Navy
Camp Lewis Army
Now that I have selected the games of the year for both the regular season and postseason, it is time to combine these two analyses to see how each team has performed in all of these classic college football games. The Crimson Tide have been the most frequent game of the year participant with 28 appearances; however, Bama is only 12-16 in such games. Here is the full chart:
Last spring, I conducted a first of its kind historical analysis where I objectively selected the greatest game in college football for every regular season and every postseason. This is my first annual update of these two lists where I have added my selections for this year’s regular season and postseason games of the year. I separated these two analyses into two different entries because while both bowl games and regular season games have produced a plethora of classic matchups, they are very different in terms of atmosphere, ambience, and ramifications. The college football regular season is by far the most important regular season on the planet so the games played in it go along way in determining who each year’s champion is. They also tend to be regional games played between local or conference rivals that are familiar with one another. Bowl games on the other hand matchup teams who are commonly unfamiliar with one another and are located from various parts of the country.
Several other online articles either rank the best college games from top to bottom without taking into account the individual seasons and one list did a ranking of the “most significant game” of every season, but not the best. The latter of these lists featured several ties and blowouts, neither of which you will find on my list below. For a college football game to be great, the ultimate outcome must be decided in the game’s final quarter and there must be a winner. Don’t get me wrong, there were many entertaining and memorable college football games that ended in a tie before the NCAA instituted overtime in the mid-90’s, but all great games, and athletic competitions more generally, must have winners which is why this list is devoid of ties. Aside from these general guidelines, I took into account several factors when determining which game was truly the best for a particular college football season, including the game’s significance in determining the eventual champion, the improbability of the final outcome, and the overall excitement of the game. Without further ado, here is my selection for game of the year for every college football regular season that has been played. The games in bold I have rated as best of the decade, and the ones with asteriks went into overtime. Feel free to comment or debate.
Rutgers 6, Princeton 4 (November 6)
The first game ever played. Princeton won the rematch 8-0 to claim that year’s national title.
Princeton 6, Rutgers 2 (November 12)
The Tigers became the first ever back national champs with this victory.
N/A (no games played)
The only year where college football wasn’t played. However, that could change in 2020…
Princeton 4, Rutgers 1 (November 23)
Win clinches CFRA three peat for the Tigers.
Princeton 3, Yale 0 (November 15)
The first battle between these two early gridiron powerhouses that combined to win the first twenty college football national titles. (Princeton team pictured above)
Yale 6, Stephens 0 (November 8)
The Bulldogs knock off Stephens College in their season opener to set the table for a run to their first national title.
Princeton 6, Columbia 2 (November 13)
The New York Herald wrote the following about this game: “The contest was short, sharp and decisive and attracted a considerable crowd.” (see official scorecard above)
Yale 1, Harvard 0 (November 18)
The Bulldogs’ (pictured above) first-ever win over the Crimson leads them to their second national championship.
Yale 1, Columbia 0 (December 2)
The closest Bulldog victory in their controversial 1877 championship in which they tied Princeton 0-0 in the season finale.
Princeton 1, Yale 0 (November 28)
Considered by most historians as the most important game in early college football history. A huge battle of unbeatens in which the Tigers regained their spot on the throne of college football.
Princeton 1, Harvard 0 (November 15)
The Tigers’ (pictured above) season finale against Yale was definitely bigger and more significant than this one, but like I said in the intro, I refuse to put any ties on this list.
Yale 1, Harvard 0 (November 25)
Bulldogs and Tigers split the title in ’80 with another 0-0 tie (their third in four seasons). You would think someone would have come up with a tiebreaker wouldn’t you?
Yale 1, Harvard 0 (November 12)
Believe it or not, Princeton and Yale (pictured above) played another scoreless tie this season (fourth time in five years) but Yale was crowned champ for beating Harvard and not tying them like Princeton did.
Yale 1, Harvard 0 (November 25)
Princeton had a down year in ’82 (two losses) so this year’s Harvard-Yale game was a defacto title game. The national champion Yale team is pictured above.
Yale 6, Princeton 0 (November 29)
The lone close call for Yale in one of the most dominant seasons in the history of college football. The Bulldogs outscored their opponents 540-2.
Yale 4, Stephens 0 (October 8)
The Bulldogs and Tigers of Princeton did what they often did during these years which was both run the table and tie one another in the finale. This was the only close win for either squad.
Princeton 6, Yale 5 (November 25)
Tigers beat Bulldogs for first time in seven years with late punt return touchdown to claim national title. This was the only Yale loss between 1879 and 1889.
Yale 4, Princeton 0 (November 25)
This game was technically declared a tie because it was called for darkness, but Yale (pictured above) was ahead 4-0 at the time the game was called and was later given the retroactive national title over Princeton for that reason.
Michigan 8, Notre Dame 0 (November 23)
Yale won the 1887 title without playing a close game so the pick here is the first-ever game in the Michigan/Notre Dame rivalry. The Wolverine squad from that year is pictured above.
Yale 10, Princeton 0 (November 24)
Yale (pictured above) once again dominated all opposition but fellow unbeaten Princeton at least hung around for a while in the season finale.
Princeton 10, Yale 0 (November 28)
The Tigers (pictured above) deny Yale’s run at a four-peat with an upset victory in the neutral site rivalry game played in New York City.
Harvard 12, Yale 6 (November 22)
The Crimson (pictured above) break the Yale/Princeton football stranglehold on the sport with a season-ending win over their arch rival en route to a national title.
Yale 10, Harvard 0 (November 21)
Bulldogs (pictured above) avenge 1890 loss to the Crimson en route to an unbeaten national championship season where they outscored their opposition 488-0.
Yale 6, Harvard 0 (November 9)
The Crimson gave the Bulldogs (pictured above) their only test of the season as Yale dominated its way to a second consecutive national title.
Navy 6, Army 4 (December 2)
The first close Army-Navy game was also the first game in which a player (the Midshipmen’s Joseph Reeves) wore a football helmet. The Navy squad from that season is pictured above.
Yale 12, Army 5 (October 27)
Another dominant year for Yale as the Cadets of Army becomes the first non-Ivy League team to challenge the Bulldogs in almost a decade.
Penn 17, Harvard 14 (November 23)
The Quakers (pictured above) win the first non Harvard/Yale/Princeton title ever by winning a squeaker over the Crimson.
Lafayette 6, Penn 4 (October 24)
Even though the College Football Researches Association acknowledges Princeton as this year’s champ, Lafayette (pictured above) has a legitimate claim for a split thanks to their tie with the Tigers and this nail-biting win over the defending champs.
Penn 4, Cornell 0 (November 25)
The Quakers had their best season in school history by going 15-0. They dominated most everyone but barely beat the Big Red in the season finale.
Harvard 10, Penn 0 (November 5)
The Crimson ended Penn’s 31 game winning streak with this upset en route to their first national title in 8 years. The promotional poster for the game is pictured above.
Princeton 11, Yale 10 (November 25)
The Tigers win controversial split championship with nail-biting victory over Yale in season finale.
Yale 12, Columbia 5 (October 27)
The Lions gave the Bulldogs a surprisingly close game in their late October battle in New York, but Yale survived en route to the first national title of the 20th century.
Harvard 6, Army 0 (October 19)
The Crimson (pictured above) won another national title in 1901 by surviving this scare in West Point.
Michigan 6, Wisconsin 0 (November 1)
The Wolverines became the first modern FBS team to win a national title thanks to this narrow victory (pictured above) over Wisky in Chicago.
Princeton 11, Yale 6 (November 14)
Both teams entered this season finale unbeaten, and the it was the Tigers who won the national title after prevailing in New Haven with a game-winning field goal (worth 5 points at that time).
Penn 6, Penn State 0 (September 24)
The Quakers won their 3rd national title in ’04 and their toughest battle was actually their season opener against their intrastate arch rival. And believe it or not, Joe Paterno actually had not started coaching the Nittany Lions at this point in time.
Chicago 2, Michigan 0 (November 30)
The original “Game of the Century” (pictured above) was won by Alonzo Stagg’s Maroons with a fourth quarter safety.
Princeton 5, Navy 0 (October 13)
Princeton and Yale ended up splitting this title with a tie in their season finale and this was the closest victory either team had.
Carlisle 23, Harvard 15 (November 9)
Jim Thorpe’s Indians (pictured above) used a multitude of trick plays to knock off the perennial powerhouse Crimson.
Harvard 4, Yale 0 (November 21)
Late season battle of the unbeatens played in sold out stadium and won with a late 25 yard field goal (pictured above).
Lafayette 6, Princeton 0 (October 23)
Stunning upset of unbeaten Tigers occurs when the Leopards’ Frank Irmscher blocks a field goal with six seconds in the fourth quarter and returns it for a touchdown. The New York Times calls it “probably the most sensational finish that has ever been seen in a football game.”
Harvard 6, Army 0 (October 29)
The Crimson (pictured practicing above) win their fourth national championship by narrowly defeating the Cadets in West Point and then tying rival Yale in the season finale.
Carlisle 18, Harvard 15 (November 11)
Jim Thorpe gives legendary performance including four made field goals to lead Indians (starters pictured above) to another victory over the Crimson.
Harvard 9, Vanderbilt 3 (November 9)
The “best in the east” beats the the “best in the south” in this rare cross regional matchup of unbeatens. Crimson go to win national title.
Harvard 3, Princeton 0 (November 8)
Crimson survive this road scare in a battle between the previous two national champions. Harvard ends the season unbeaten to repeat as champion. The winning field goal is pictured above.
Army 13, Springfield 6 (November 21)
The Cadets (pictured above) win their first national championship ’14 as they destroyed everyone in their path except for this close tussle with James Naismith’s school.
Cornell 10, Harvard 0 (October 23)
The Big Red win a huge road game against Harvard giving Crimson their first loss since Jim Thorpe’s Carlisle team beat them four years earlier and paving the way for the Big Red’s only national title.
Pittsburgh 20, Navy 19 (October 14)
Panthers survive major road scare in game that was delayed because the team’s train didn’t make it Annapolis in time. Panthers would win this one, despite several turnovers, and go on to win the first of five national championships that season. Pop Warner was team’s head coach (pictured above with center Robert Peck).
Pittsburgh 14, West Virginia 9 (September 29)
Pop Warner’s Panthers appeared to still be celebrating their previous year’s championship as the Mountaineers nearly upset them in the season opening Backyard Brawl. Pitt would run the table again but John Heisman’s Georgia Tech team would win the title.
Panthers win national championship despite dropping their first game in four years, albeit in controversial fashion. A scoreboard error led to time being kept on the field and officials allegedly gave Cleveland Naval additional time to kick game winning field goal.
Illinois 9, Ohio State 7 (November 22)
The Illini (pictured above) earn split championship (shared with Harvard) thanks to this narrow road victory in their season finale.
Georgia 21, Alabama 14 (November 20)
This matchup certainly looks familiar as these were the two best teams in the south 100 years ago, just as they are now. The Dawgs (pictured above) win with a blocked fourth quarter drop kick that was returned 87 yards for a touchdown.
Centre 6, Harvard 0 (October 29)
One of the greatest early college football upsets. The Praying Colonels snapped the Crimson’s 25 game unbeaten streak.
Princeton 21, Chicago 18 (October 28)
First college football game nationally broadcast over the radio. The Tigers win with this one with 4th quarter goal line stand en route to their last national title.
Illinois 7, Chicago 0 (November 3)
An intrastate battle of the unbeatens that paved the way for the Illini’s second national championship later that season.
Notre Dame 13, Army 7 (October 18)
The game where the “Four Horsemen” were named.
Northwestern 3, Michigan 2 (November 7)
The Wildcasts spoil the Wolverines’ (pictured above) perfect season with a low scoring slugfest victory in game played in steady downpour and 40 mile and hour winds.
Stanford 13, Southern Cal 12 (October 30)
The Indians as they were called at the time win the first “real-time” national champion (not retroactive) in ’27 thanks to this narrow road victory over the Trojans.
Notre Dame 7, Southern Cal 6 (November 26)
The Irish (pictured above) survive controversial scare as an apparent interception that gets fumbled out of the end zone is ruled incomplete.
Notre Dame 12, Army 6 (November 10)
The “win one for the Gipper” game.
Notre Dame 13, Southern Cal 12 (November 16)
Neutral site affair played in Chicago in front of second largest college football attendance ever (112, 912). Knute Rockne pulled a Huge Freeze and coached his team to victory (en route to national title) while laying on a cot on the sideline due to a leg infection.
Notre Dame 7, Army 6 (November 29)
In Knute Rockne’s final season, the Irish (pictured above) claim split national championship with this narrow escape in front of 100,000 fans at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
Southern Cal 16, Notre Dame 14 (November 21)
Trojans come back from 14 point deficit to pull out road victory en route to program’s first national championship.
Michigan 14, Princeton 7 (October 29)
The Wolverines (pictured above) earn split national championship thanks to this narrow home escape of a tough Tiger team. Princeton was going in for the tying score late in the 4th but then threw an interception with a minute left.
Michigan 7, Illinois 6 (November 4)
Wolverines win a second consensus national championship in ’33 thanks to a missed Illinois field goal in the final 10 seconds of this one.
Minnesota 13, Pittsburgh 7 (October 20)
Gophers score two fourth quarter touchdowns for the come from behind victory en route to the school’s first national title.
Notre Dame 18, Ohio State 13 (November 2)
The first meeting between these two powerhouses, referred by Grantland Rice as “The Game of the Century”, featured a 13 point Irish fourth quarter comeback.
(1) Minnesota 7, (15) Nebraska 0 (October 10)
Gophers score only points of the game on a punt return lateral with 1:08 left in the fourth quarter.
(4) Alabama 9, (12) Vanderbilt 7 (November 25)
The Tide (pictured above) win SEC championship with Haywood Sanford 27 yard field goal late in the fourth quarter.
TCU 21, Arkansas 14 (Ocotober 1)
Quarterback Davey O’Brien (pictured above) leads Horned Frogs to split national championship thanks to this narrow victory over conference rival Hogs that featured an impressive four total touchdown passes.
(2) Texas A & M 6, (13) SMU 2 (November 11)
The Aggies win their first, and believe it or not, their only consensus national championship thanks to an SMU drop in the end zone on the final play of the game.
Dartmouth 3, (2) Cornell 0 (November 16)
The original “Fifth down” play, except this time Cornell forfeited the game after realizing they had scored the winning touchdown using an extra down. Talk about controversy.
(1) Minnesota 7, (3) Michigan 0 (October 25)
The Gophers win second consecutive national title by virtue of this clutch road victory in which Bill Garnaas intercepted the Wolverines twice in Minnesota territory in the fourth quarter.
Iowa 6, (2) Wisconsin 0 (November 7)
Badgers miss out on their best chance at a national title by losing this trap game in Iowa City a week after huge win over # 1 Ohio State. Hawkeyes win controversially as Badgers scored a tying touchdown that was overturned and marked short of the goal line after fourth down play.
De facto national title game is won the with 6 yard fourth quarter touchdown run by Creighton Miller.
(3) Ohio State 18, (6) Michigan 14 (November 25)
Buckeyes earn split national championship with epic victory over arch rival in a game featuring five lead changes.
(11) Oklahoma A & M 12, (19) Tulsa 6 (November 10)
The Cowboys of Oklahoma A & M (pictured above), now Oklahoma State, were given the only retroactive coaches poll national championship in 2016 by virtue of their undefeated 9-0 season where they survived this scare from an intrastate rival.
(1) Army 21, Navy 18 (November 30)
This shocking scare by the 1-7 Midshipmen cost Army a national title.
Columbia 21, (6) Army 20 (October 25)
Lions end Army’s 32 game win streak with epic passing game from quarterback Gene Rossides.
Michigan 13, Michigan State 7 (September 25)
Bennie Oosterbaan wins national title in his first year as Michigan head coach thanks to this narrow season opening win over their intrastate rival. Spartans had a chance to win in final seconds as Michigan State drove the ball to the Michigan 2 yard line before throwing an interception in the end zone.
Auburn 14, Alabama 13 (December 3)
Tigers shock a Crimson Tide team (pictured above) coached by Red Drew (my wife’s great grandfather) to win their first Iron Bowl in 45 years thanks to a missed Bama PAT in final 80 seconds.
Navy 14, (2) Army 2 (December 2)
This was a stunning upset as 2-6 Midshipmen ended Army’s 28-game unbeaten streak in front of President Harry Truman (pictured above).
(7) Maryland 14, North Carolina 7 (October 20)
The Terps (pictured above) win Cinderella national championship by virtue of this close victory over the Tar Heels in which Joe Peturzzo broke up a game-tying pass in the end zone late in the fourth quarter.
(1) Michigan State 17, Oregon State 14 (October 4)
Sparty wins national title after surviving this catastrophic scare to the 2-7 Beavers in Portland. Michigan State kicker Gene Lekenta actually missed game winning kick with 7 seconds left but Oregon State offsides penalty gave Lekenta a second chance with he converted (pictured above).
(16) Oklahoma 19, (15) Texas 14 (October 10)
Boomer Sooner wins controversial retroactive national championship thanks to this Red River Shootout victory that began Oklahoma’s record 47-game winning streak.
(4) Ohio State 20, (13) Iowa (October 16)
Buckeyes claim their second national championship by virtue of this thrilling victory over the Hawkeyes. Iowa has two potential fourth quarter game-winning drives snuffed out by a dropped pass in the end zone and then a 4th and inches stop.
(3) Oklahoma 13, North Carolina 6 (September 24)
Sooners play their only close game of the season in their opener in Chapel Hill en route to another national title and continuing their record 47 game-winning streak.
(20) Iowa 14, Oregon State 13 (October 6)
The Hawkeyes (see above) survive home scare against the Beavers in which they overcome a 13-0 fourth quarter deficit en route to national championship.
Notre Dame 7, (2) Oklahoma 0 (November 16)
First loss for the Sooners since the 1953 season opener. Notre Dame wins with short fourth quarter touchdown.
(16) Texas 15, (2) Oklahoma 14 (October 11)
Horn win game with late 4th quarter 74 yard touchdown drive capped off by Bobby Lackey touchdown pass.
(1) LSU 7, (3) Ole Miss 3 (October 31)
Tigers win game thanks to Billy Cannon’s 89 yard punt return for a touchdown (pictured above) and subsequent goal line stand.
(2) Ole Miss 10, (11) Arkansas 7 (October 22)
The Rebels (pictured above) win one of most controversial SEC games of all-time en route to team’s only split national title. Ole Miss kicks 39 yard field goal on the last play of the game, and officials ruled it good even though many in attendance say it missed left.
TCU 6, (1) Texas 0 (November 18)
The Frogs stun top ranked Horns as 24-point underdogs. Sonny Gibbs 50 yard touchdown pass was the only score of the game.
Georgia Tech 7, (1) Alabama 6 (November 17)
Joe Namath’s four interceptions and Bama’s missed two point conversion in the fourth cost the Tide the game and a shot at the national title. Got to give the Bear credit for going for two though and playing for the win instead of the tie.
(2) Navy 21, Army 15 (December 7)
The first-ever use of instant replay on television in college football. The Black Knights comeback effort comes up just short.
Southern Cal 20, (1) Notre Dame 17 (November 28)
The Trojans comeback from a 17 point deficit to win on a Craig Fertig touchdown pass (pictured above) in the final two minutes.
Alabama 17, Ole Miss 16 (October 2)
Tide overcome 16-7 fourth quarter deficit to win on a 9 yard Steve Sloan touchdown witih 1:19 left in the game. Bama goes on to win their fifth national title later in the season.
(7) Florida 30, Auburn 27 (October 19)
Gator quarterback Steve Spurrier, who also served as team’s distance kicker, booted a 40 yard game winning field goal.
(4) Southern Cal 21, (1) UCLA 20 (November 18)
OJ Simpson slices through the Trojan defense (pun intended) for a 64 yard game winning touchdown run (pictured above) in the 4th en route to a USC national title.
(2) Ohio State 31, Illinois 24 (October 26)
Almost one of the great comebacks/upsets of all-time as the 0-5 Illini who went on to finish the season 1-9 overcome a 24 point halftime deficit to tie the # 1 team in the country with under 5 minutes to go in the 4th.
(1) Texas 15, (2) Arkansas 14 (December 6)
The Horns comeback from a 14-0 deficit to win the game that came to be known as “the game of the century”.
(2) Texas 20, (13) UCLA 17 (October 3)
The Longhorns earn split national championship thanks to wild victory over the Bruins. Texas wins game with a hail mary caught between two defenders and run into the end zone for a touchdown with 12 seconds left.
(1) Nebraska 35, (2) Oklahoma 31 (November 25)
Jeff Kinney’s four touchdowns give Nebraska victory in Thanksgiving classic.
(9) Auburn 17, (2) Alabama 16 (December 2)
The “Punt, Bama, Punt” game as the Tigers block two punts in the final six minutes to pull off upset.
(8) Notre Dame 14, Michigan State 10 (October 6)
The Irish save their national championship season with a Mike Townsend interception late in the fourth quarter, deep in Irish territory.
Michigan State 16, (1) Ohio State 13 (November 9)
Spartans win with wild, controversial final play. The Buckeyes first down run was spotted just short of goal line, and their second down sneak was initially ruled a touchdown by the linesmen but then the officials decided the snap came after time expired.
(6) Oklahoma 28, (18) Missouri 27 (November 15)
Sooners win back and forth classic en route to national title with 71 yard Joe Washington touchdown run and subsequent two point conversion late in 4th quarter. Missouri misses deep game winning field goal on final play of the game.
Purdue 16, (1) Michigan 14 (November 6)
The Spoilermakers as they were dubbed pull off this epic upset over the nation’s top ranked team with chip shot field goal in final four minutes of regulation. Michigan’s subsequent 37 yard field goal in game’s final seconds sailed wide left.
(3) Oklahoma 29, (4) Ohio State 28 (September 24)
The Sooners recover onside kick with 1:29 left and then make a 41 yard field goal to win first meeting between schools.
(11) Georgia 29, Georgia Tech 28 (December 2)
Bulldogs overcome 20 point deficit to win thriller over arch rival with a David Archer interception in the final minute and a half of the fourth.
(1) Southern Cal 17, (20) LSU 12 (September 29)
The Trojans end up pulling out a victory in one of the most legendary games in Death Valley history en route to a national title. On their final drive, USC benefited from controversial face mask penalty on third and long to setup a game winning 8 yard touchdown pass with 32 seconds to go.
(2) Georgia 26, (20) Florida 21 (November 8)
Bulldogs win rivalry game with a 93 yard touchdown (pictured above) in the final minute and a half.
Georgia Tech 24, (2) Alabama 21 (September 12)
The Yellow Jackets shock the Tide as 24 point underdogs when Bama’s Peter Kim misses game-tying field goal on final play of the game. This was the only game the Yellow Jackets won the entire ’81 season.
California 25, Stanford 20 (November 20)
The crazies/most iconic play in college football history robs John Elway of a bowl game. “The band is on the field!”
(6) Miami-FL 17, Florida State 16 (November 12)
Bernie Kosar leads Canes on drive in final two minutes of this regular season finale to setup a game winning 19 yard field goal on the final play of the game. This victory set the table for Miami’s game of the century matchup against Nebraska a few weeks later in the Orange Bowl.
(10) Boston College 47, (12) Miami-FL 45 (November 23)
Flutie’s Hail Mary has become such an iconic sports moment people forget how good the entire game was.
Alabama 25, (7) Auburn 23 (November 30)
Tide pulls off upset over Bo Jackson’s Tigers with 52 yard field goal (pictured above) as time expires.
(3) Oklahoma 20, (5) Nebraska 17 (November 22)
Sooners shockingly score ten points in the final 1:22 of the fourth quarter to knock off their arch rival en route to split national title.
(3) Miami-FL 26, (4) Florida State 25 (October 3)
The Noles pulled a Tom Osborne and unsuccessfully went for two down a point with 42 seconds left.
(4) Notre Dame 31, (1) Miami-FL 30 (October 15)
The Catholics vs Convicts Game!
(11) Auburn 30, (2) Alabama 20 (December 2)
Tigers stun unbeaten Tide in first Iron Bowl ever played at Auburn.
(12) Colorado 33, Missouri 31 (October 6)
The legendary “Fifth Down Game” that many feel puts an asterik next to the Buffs 1990 national title.
(2) Miami-FL 17, (1) Florida State 16 (November 16)
The first of the “Wide Right” games for Florida State.
(2) Alabama 28, (12) Florida 21 (December 5)
The first-ever conference championship game was won by a late pick six by the Crimson Tide.
(2) Notre Dame 31, (1) Florida State 24 (November 13)
The first time ESPN’s College Gameday went on location for a telecast. Noles miss touchdown opportunity in the final seconds but still win national title thanks to Notre Dame’s subsequent loss to BC.
(7) Colorado 27, (4) Michigan 26 (September 24)
Kordell Stewart’s hail mary stuns Wolverines in Ann Arbor.
(24) Virginia 33, (2) Florida State 28 (November 2)
The Cavs give Florida State its first loss in the ACC with goal line stop of Warrick Dunn on the final play of the game.
(4) Arizona State 48, Southern Cal 35** (October 19)
Jake the Snake’s Sun Devils win double overtime thriller to prolong their Cinderella season that almost (and probably should have) ended with a national title.
(1) Nebraska 45, Missouri 38* (November 8)
The Huskers survive road scare en route to split national title with miraculous catch off teammate’s foot as time expires.
(1) Tennessee 28, (10) Arkansas 24 (November 14)
Clint Stoerner’s “Hand of God” fumble in the final two minutes of the fourth preserves Vols national championship run.
(24) Texas A & M 20, (7) Texas 16 (November 26)
A & M pulls off exciting upset in honor of fallen classmates who died a week before in Aggie bonefire collapse.
(7) Miami-FL 27, (1) Florida State 24 (October 7)
“Wide Right III” game. The contest is also remembered for Santana Moss’ “big players” quote in postgame interview.
(9) Colorado 39, (3) Texas 37 (December 1)
Gary Barnett’s Buffs deny Texas a national title chance by holding off late Longhorn rally.
(16) LSU 33, Kentucky 30 (November 9)
“The Bluegrass Miracle” robs the Cats of historic victory as LSU converts 74 yard touchdown on final play of the game.
California 34, (3) Southern Cal 31*** (September 27)
Aaron Rodgers lead Bears to historic triple overtime upset which ended up denying the Trojans a shot at the BCS Championship game that season.
(1) Southern Cal 31, Stanford 28 (September 25)
Trojans survive major scare as they comeback from an 11 point halftime deficit to pull out victory en route to a national title (that would later be forfeited).
(1) Southern Cal 34, (9) Notre Dame 31 (October 15)
The “Bush Push” gives Trojans controversial victory over upset-minded Irish.
Michigan State 41, Northwestern 38 (October 21)
Spartans pull off biggest comeback in college football history after trailing 38-3 in 3rd quarter.
Stanford 24, (2) Southern Cal 23 (October 6)
The Cardinal pull off the biggest upset in college football FBS history as a 41 point underdog with Mark Bradford’s game winning catch (pictured above).This game set the table for Harbaugh’s coaching success and Stanford’s rise to prominence in the sport.
(7) Texas Tech 39, (1) Texas 33 (November 2)
An all-time epic college football game won by Mike Leach’s Red Raiders on Crabtree back shoulder catch with 1 second left.
(3) Texas 13, (22) Nebraska 12 (December 6)
Longhorns survive scare from Huskers with game winning field goal as time expires. Ndamukong Suh dominates game.
(19) Nevada 34, (3) Boise State 31* (November 26)
One of the most heartbreaking losses of my life but still an incredible college football game. Boise loses shot at the BCS Championship Game with two missed chipped shot field goals.
Iowa State 37, (2) Oklahoma State 31** (November 18)
Heartbreaking double overtime defeat costs Oklahoma State a berth in the National Championship Game.
(2) Alabama 32, (3) Georgia 28 (December 1)
Tide win SEC Championship and earn BCS title game bid with thrilling stop inside their own 10 as time expired.
(4) Auburn 34, (1) Alabama 28 (November 30)
The “Kick Six” is the greatest college football play of my lifetime but the game was incredible from start to finish.
(11) Ole Miss 23, (2) Alabama 17 (October 4)
The legendary Katy Perry game that announced Ole Miss’ return, albeit brief and marred with controversy, to college football prominence.
(7) Michigan State 27, (12) Michigan 23 (October 17)
Spartans pull off shocking win as Michigan punter drops the snap, and subsequent fumble is returned for a Michigan State touchdown as time expires.
(2) Ohio State 30, (3) Michigan 27** (November 26)
Buckeyes get benefit of the doubt on controversial fourth down measurement to pull off double overtime victory.
(15) Central Florida 49, South Florida 42 (November 24)
Knights win back and forth shootout with 95 yard kickoff touchdown en route to their undefeated “national championship”. These two teams combined for 1,182 yard of offense in this one.
(1) Alabama 35, (4) Georgia 28 (December 1)
Backup quarterback Jalen Hurts’ two late touchdowns deny Bulldogs a second consecutive playoff berth.
(15) Auburn 48, (5) Alabama 45 (November 30)
Bama’s playoff hopes go down the drain thanks to a missed chip shot field goal in game’s final two minutes (pictured above). Another wild Iron Bowl filled with flukish stuff like two pick sixes and a controversial illegal participation penalty to end the game.
(14) Coastal Carolina 22, (8) BYU 17 (December 5)
A game that was scheduled just two days before it was played due to a covid cancellation by Liberty came down to a tackle at the one yard line on the final play of the game in the first battle of unbeatens in December in the playoff era.
I also did some additional analysis where I calculated the months in which the most games of the year and decade were played. Furthermore, I also broke down which teams have played the most games of the year and what their record was in each.
Regarding the monthly analysis, these results weren’t surprising as November had the majority of games of the year and the overwhelming majority of the games of the decade.
Games of Year by Month
Games of Decade by Month
The team by team analysis yielded more interesting results as you will see below. Because of the late 1800’s data, Yale, Harvard, and Princeton have played the most games of the year followed by the traditional powerhouses of modern times: Notre Dame, Alabama, and Michigan. One shocking statistic is that even though Penn State has been an elite program for over a century, they have only played in one game that I classified as the regular season game of the year, which was a 1904 loss to Penn. You will see in the next article that the Nittany Lions have played in a number of epic bowl games but for whatever reason, they haven’t had many classic regular season contests. Likewise, Florida State has a shocking 0-6 record in college football regular season games of the year mainly due to struggles against their struggles the Hurricanes of Miami. You will see in the next article that they have played much better in their classic postseason matchups. See full chart below:
Regular Season Game of Year Participants
Texas A & M
Stay tuned for my annual analysis of the postseason games of the year coming soon!
Schools: Pennsylvania State College 1892-1895, Western University of Pennsylvania 1896, Bucknell 1899-1906; 1909
Joe Paterno ranks first in all-time wins at Penn State with 409, but George Washington “Doc” Hoskins ranks first in school win percentage at a .760 mark. Hoskins was the first coach of the Penn State football team in 1892, then called Pennsylvania State College. Hoskins’ first three seasons were among the best at school at the time. In his first ever game as head coach, on October 1, 1892, Hoskins brought his team to Philadelphia to square off against the Penn Quakers. Penn State was shut out 20-0 by another first year head coach, George Washinton Woodroof. Hoskins regrouped his team to win the next five games, all shutouts, to finish at 5-1. 1893 proved to be another successful season, at 4-1. Penn State opened with a 6-0 win at the Southern champion, Virginia, who finished at 8-2. The inaugural meeting between Penn State and rival Western University of Pennsylvania (now the University of Pittsburgh) occurred on November 6, 1893. It was the first ever contest played at Beaver Field, with Penn State prevailing, 32-0. 1894 was an unbeaten 6-0-1 campaign that featured wins over in-state foes Bucknell, Lafayette, Gettysburg College, and Washington & Jefferson. Hoskins finished his career at Penn State with a record of 17-4-4. He took the head coaching position at the Western University of Pennsylvania in 1896. The athletic board at the school was lured by his football genius. Hoskins was highly regarded with his educational coaching. After each game, he would gather the players to analyze plays and educate them on strategy. The hopes were high, but the team stumbled to a 2-7 record. Hoskins departed following the season. He resumed coaching at the collegiate ranks in 1899 at Bucknell, where he would spend the next eight years, along with a return stint in 1909. His Bucknell teams never finished better than 6-4 (1901, 1902), and did not contend with other Eastern Independent football powers such as Harvard, Yale, Penn, and Cornell. Hoskins compiled a 39-38-5 record at Bucknell. He finished his collegiate coaching career with a record of 59-48-9.
“First Penn State Grid Coach Is Dead At 93.” The Daily American, 05 February 1958, p. 17.
Position: Halfback, Quarterback
School: Penn State 1917, 1919-1920
Known for his elusive running style and quickness, Charles Ash Way was a superstar halfback on the 1920 Penn State football team. Way teamed with backs Henry “Hinkey” Hines, Joe Lightner, and Glenn Killinger, as part of an extremely talented backfield that helped power the Nittany Lions to an unbeaten 7-0-2 season. The team recorded wins over powerhouses in Dartmouth (14-7), Nebraska (20-0), and the University of Pennsylvania (28-7), largely due to their strong rushing attack, and timely defensive play. After arriving on campus in 1917 slated to play quarterback, at a skimpy 125 pounds, Way was summoned to military service for World War I. Upon his return, he found his groove in the backfield. His quickness and runaway speed earned him a consensus selection on the 1920 All-American team. Way joined teammate Percy Griffiths (guard) and Henry Hines as All-Americans. In 1921, he graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in finance. Way continued his foray in collegiate football and was hired by the Dayton Flyers as head coach. Way coached Dayton to an 0-7-1 mark prior to resigning mid-season. He then played professionally for the NFL’s Canton Bulldogs (1921), Frankford Yellowjackets (1924), and the AFL’s Philadelphia Quakers (1926). Way had an outstanding season in 1924 with the Yellowjackets, who went 11-2-1. He scored four touchdowns, and was voted a first-team all-pro by the Green Bay Press Gazette and Collyers Eye Magazine. Following football, Way worked in finance for a number of years, before passing away in 1988 at the age of 90.
DeAngelo Chondon Williams was an talented, record-setting running back at the University of Memphis during the mid-2000s. Highly recruited from Wynne, Arkansas, where he was named All-State in 2000, Williams set school record after record. He ran for over 1,000 yards as a junior, and racked up 2,204 yards and 34 touchdowns, leading Wynne to the state chamapionship. Arriving at Memphis, Williams led the team in offense as a freshman in 2002, rushing for 684 yards, five touchdowns, on a 6.6 yards per rush average. He saw action in only ten games due to a knee injury, and the Tigers felt the effects, slumping to a 3-9 mark. In 2003, Williams ran for 1,430 yards, setting a school record eight consecutive 100-yard games. He also caught 35 passes for 384 yards, and 13 total touchdowns. His unique pass catching ability out of the backfield made him a distinct threat against any defense. Memphis received a New Orleans Bowl bid, and beat North Texas, 27-17. The Tigers’ nine wins was their most since 1963, when they posted an unbeaten 9-0-1 season. His junior and senior campaigns turned out to be his most productive yet. Williams ran for nearly 2,000 yards each year (1,948 and 1,964 respectively), scoring 22 and 18 touchdowns, respectively. He totaled over 6,000 rushing yards for his career, 6.2 yards per carry, and 55 rushing touchdowns, all school records. Williams’ 34 career 100-yard rushing games and 7,573 all-purpose yards are NCAA records. His exceptional production led him to first-team all-american status in 2005. Drafted 27th overall in 2005, he went on to an eleven year career in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers and Pittsburgh Steelers. Williams twice led the league in rushing touchdowns (2008, 2015), recorded two 1,000 yard rushing campaigns, and was a 2009 Pro Bowl selection. He finished his NFL career with 10,202 yards from scrimmage and 70 total touchdowns.
Known for his rough, hard-hitting tackling, Keith Butler was a strong defensive presence for Memphis during the mid-1970s. Butler was a four year starter at outside linebacker, who seemed to be all over the field. He was always a competitive player, learning it from his father growing up. At the conclusion of his collegiate career, he totaled 384 tackles, 226 solo, and 158 assisted hits. Each of which were most in school history at the time. Butler also picked off seven passes and recovered a fumble. In his four years, Memphis won 27 games, the most in such a time span in over a decade. Butler was defensive captain for his senior season in 1977, leading the team to a 6-5 record, which included wins over Mississippi State, Virginia Tech, and a 42-14 blowout over rival Southern Miss. His success earned him selection as an Associated Press All-American. Upon graduation, Butler embarked on a ten-year NFL career with the Seattle Seahawks. He played in 146 games, recorded four sacks, and eight interceptions. He served as a defensive captain for five seasons. The Seahawks made the playoffs three times (1983, 1984, 1987) and won double-digit games twice (1984, 1986). He returned to Memphis in 1990 as a defensive coach. Butler innovated with the 3-4 defense, earning his first NFL job with the Cleveland Browns in 1999. He joined the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2013 and has served as their defensive coordinator since 2015. Pittsburgh has boasted a top ten defensive unit in three of the past four seasons, largely due to Butler’s schemes and personnel adjustments. In 1989 he was inducted to the M Club Hall-of-Fame at the University of Memphis, and to the Tennessee Sports Hall-of-Fame in 2000.
First of all, I want to thank all of the CFRA voters and followers who make this poll possible. We could not do it without your enthusiasm and support for this great game. As expected, Alabama was unanimously selected as the CFRA national champion for the 2020 season marking the 14th time they have claimed this honor and the 151st overall national champion selected by the College Football Researchers Association. Alabama is approaching uncharted territory as they now stand just four national championships behind Yale and two behind Princeton in the race for the most CFRA national championships all-time. Most college football historians have always believed that those two Ivy League powers always have the most championships because they dominated the sport in the late 1800’s when only a handful of teams across the country played competitive college football. Now, Alabama has both of these schools championship legacies in their sights. See the almanac page on this site for the full year-by-year and team-by-team national championship breakdowns. Without further ado, here is this year’s complete final poll. First-place votes are in parentheses.
1. Alabama (11)– 275 points
2. Ohio State– 256 points
3. Clemson– 233 points
4. Texas A & M– 215 points
5. Cincinnati– 205 points
6. Oklahoma– 204 points
7. Notre Dame– 203 points
8. Georgia– 194 points
9. Coastal Carolina– 170 points
10. Brigham Young– 169 points
11. Northwestern– 158 points
12. Florida– 154 points
13. Iowa State– 141 points
14. Indiana– 124 points
15. UL-Lafayette– 105 points
16. Liberty– 98 points
16. Iowa– 98 points
18. North Carolina– 93 points
19. Southern California– 67 points
20. Ball State– 64 points
21. Texas– 63 points
22. Oklahoma State– 60 points
23. San Jose State– 46 points
24. Miami (FL)– 36 points
25. Buffalo– 31 points
Others Receiving Votes: Washington 15, Kent State 12, Oregon 12, Ohio 11, Tulsa 11, Miami-OH 10, Army 9, Appalachian State 9, Ole Miss 8, Auburn 7, Nevada 3, Utah 2, Colorado 1, TCU 1, Wisconsin 1, Marshall
Dropped Out: Oregon 21, Tulsa 25
Teams Ranked Higher in CFRA than AP and Coaches Polls: Cincinnati (5), Coastal Carolina (9), Brigham Young (10), Liberty (16), Southern California (19), Ball State (20), San Jose State (23), .
Teams Ranked Lower in CFRA than AP and Coaches Polls: Notre Dame (7), Georgia (8), Northwestern (11), Iowa State (13), Indiana (14), Texas (21), Oklahoma State (22), Miami-FL (24).
Teams Ranked Exactly the Same in All 3 Major Human Polls (AP, CFRA, and Coaches): Alabama (1), Ohio State (2), Clemson (3), Texas A & M (4), Oklahoma (6), Buffalo (25).
Footnote: All three major polls (AP, CFRA, and Coaches) included the exact same 25 teams in each of their polls!
The college football regular season finished up yesterday, despite a multitude of delays, postponements, and cancellations caused by Covid-19. In the end, our organization ended up with the same top three teams as the playoff committee and major human polls, but we have a big shakeup at # 4. That is where the Cincinnati Bearcats are found with a considerable six point advantage over the last playoff participant, Notre Dame. If Cincy can win impressively over Georgia in the Peach Bowl, you wonder if they could possibly stay on top of the Irish for the # 1 spot if Notre Dame somehow won the playoff. Only time will tell with that. Without further ado, here is this year’s CFRA Midseason Poll. First-place votes are in parentheses next to each team.
1. Alabama (9)– 248 points
2. Clemson– 233 points
3. Ohio State– 218 points
4. Cincinnati– 211 points
5. Notre Dame– 205 points
6. Texas A & M– 203 points
7. Coastal Carolina (1)– 183 points
8. Oklahoma– 168 points
9. Florida– 159 points
10. Indiana– 155 points
11. Georgia– 141 points
12. Brigham Young– 123 points
13. Iowa State– 116 points
14. San Jose State– 103 points
14. Northwestern– 103 points
16. North Carolina– 100 points
17. UL-Lafayette– 96 points
18. Iowa– 65points
19. Miami-FL– 64 points
20. Liberty– 52 points
21. Oregon– 45 points
22. Southern California– 42 points
23. Oklahoma State– 38 points
24. Texas– 34 points
25. Tulsa– 27 points
Others Receiving Votes: Ball State 23, NC State 20, Buffalo 16, Washington 14, Colorado 9, Kent State 8, Ohio 7, Army 7, Miami-OH 6, Wisconsin 4, SMU 2, UAB 1, Marshall 1
Dropped Out(since Midseason Poll): Wisconsin 11, Michigan 14, Marshall 15, Kansas State 16, Penn State 18, Boise State 20, SMU 22, Army 24, Rutgers 25
Teams Ranked Higher in CFRA than CFP, AP and Coaches Polls: Cincinnati (4), Coastal Carolina (7), Brigham Young (12), San Jose State (14), Liberty (20), Oregon (21).
Teams Ranked Lower in CFRA than CFP, AP and Coaches Polls: Notre Dame (5), Texas A & M (6), Iowa State (13), North Carolina (16), Iowa (18), Miami-FL (19), Southern California (22), NC State (NR).
Teams Ranked Exactly the Same in All 4 Major Human Polls (CFP, AP, CFRA, and Coaches): Alabama (1), Clemson (2), Ohio State (3).
For the ninth consecutive season, the College Football Researchers Association has bestowed a Player of the Year award to the best overall player in college football, and this season DeVonta Smith from Alabama has taken the title by a narrow margin. Smith edged out his teammate Mac Jones by one first-place vote and four total points to win this year’s title. In all, five different players garnered first-place CFRA player of the year votes in what clearly was a wide open competition. Six of the previous eight winners of this award went on to win the Heisman Trophy, with Deshaun Watson (2016) and Tua Tagovailoa (2018) being the two exceptions. The full breakdown of votes is below with the number of first-place votes each player received in parentheses:
Now that we are halfway through the college football regular season, it is time to release the CFRA Midseason Poll in this weird and wacky Covid-19 season. First of all, only teams who have played at least one college football game so far this season are included in this poll so you will not see any schools from the Pac-12 or MAC included. You will also see CFRA pollsters seemed to have penalized the Big Ten for its late start, as Ohio State finished multiple spots lower in this poll than in the AP and Coaches Poll. Without further ado, here is this year’s CFRA Midseason Poll. First-place votes are in parentheses next to each team.
1. Clemson (7)– 247 points
2. Alabama(3)– 243 points
3. Notre Dame– 217 points
4. Oklahoma State– 209 points
5. Ohio State– 197 points
6. Georgia– 187 points
7. Cincinnati– 180 points
8. Florida– 152 points
9. Brigham Young– 150 points
10. Texas A & M– 148 points
11. Wisconsin– 131 points
12. Miami-FL– 129 points
13. North Carolina– 115 points
14. Michigan– 110 points
15. Marshall– 102 points
16. Kansas State– 97 points
17. Coastal Carolina– 90 points
18. Penn State– 72 points
19. Indiana– 71 points
20. Iowa State– 49 points
20. Boise State– 49 points
22. SMU– 46 points
23. Liberty– 37 points
24. Army– 31 points
25. Rutgers– 23 points
Others Receiving Votes: Oklahoma 19, Wake Forest 18, Northwestern 17, Purdue 16, Memphis 16, UL-Lafayette 12, San Diego State 11, Virginia Tech 9, Minnesota 8, San Jose State 8, Nevada 7, NC State 6, Arkansas 6, Hawaii 5, LSU 3, Tulsa 3, Auburn 2, Appalachian State 2
Teams Ranked Higher in CFRA than AP and Coaches Polls: Notre Dame (3), Oklahoma State (4), Florida (8), BYU (9), Marshall (15), Coastal Carolina (17), Iowa State (20), Boise State (20), Liberty (23), Army (24), Rutgers (25).
Teams Ranked Lower in CFRA than AP and Coaches Polls: Ohio State (5), Georgia (6), Texas A & M (10), Oklahoma (NR).
Teams Ranked Exactly the Same in All 3 Major Human Polls (AP, CFRA, and Coaches): Clemson (1), Alabama (2), Cincinnati (7), Miami-FL (12), Kansas State (16).
College football is back (hopefully), and so is the College Football Researchers Association Top 25 poll. This will be the 23rd season overall that the CFRA will crown a contemporaneous national champion (again hopefully) and the 12th consecutive since the re-emergence of the poll in 2009. The history there may not seem overwhelmingly vast but keep in mind that when you include all of the retrospective champions we’ve elected, this season’s champion will be the 151st in poll history which is more than any other multi-voter, NCAA-recognized poll in the country.
Obviously, Covid-19 is causing unprecedented havoc on the college football landscape for this season, and the CFRA poll is no different. Voters were given the option in this preseason poll to either consider all 130 FBS teams or only rank the teams they thought would be playing games this season. As a result, voters’ ballots differed drastically between one another to point that a record 71 different teams received top 25 votes. That is over half of the total FBS schools in the nation! Clearly, the Pac-12 and Big Ten schools were hit the hardest in this preseason poll, as several pollsters excluded all or most of these teams due to their covid- 19 cancellations. One other interesting facet of this poll is the fact that several pairs of teams that either tied one another or were ranked next to each other have unique connections between them. For instance, arch rivals Florida and Georgia ended up being ranked sequentially at # 5 and 6 as did Texas and Texas A & M at #’s 8 and 9. The two schools Justin Fuente coached at (Memphis and Virginia Tech) tied at # 19. And most interestingly, the last two teams in this top 25 poll are App State and Michigan who will be forever linked to one another by App’s 2007 upset in the Big House.
Without further ado, here is this year’s preseason poll.
1. Clemson (6)– 267 points
2. Alabama (2)– 258 points
3. LSU (3)– 233 points
4. Oklahoma– 224 points
5. Georgia– 209 points
6. Florida– 202 points
7. Notre Dame– 172 points
8. Texas– 166 points
9. Texas A & M– 158 points
10. Auburn– 155 points
11. Ohio State (1)– 121 points
12. Oklahoma State– 115 points
13. UCF– 94 points
14. Oregon– 83 points
15.North Carolina– 81 points
16. Penn State– 76 points
17. Cincinnati– 74 points
18. Wisconsin– 73 points
19. Memphis– 62 points
19. Virginia Tech– 62 points
21. Minnesota– 58 points
21. Tennessee– 58 points
23. Iowa State– 53 points
24. Appalachian State– 48 points
25. Michigan– 45 points
Others Receiving Votes: Louisville 40, Utah 38, Southern California 34, Iowa 33, Baylor 31, Miami-FL 30, Kentucky 29, Navy 26, Florida State 26, Houston 24, Northwestern 23, Rutgers 22, Washington State 21, California 20, Illinois 19, Indiana 18, Arizona State 18, Purdue 17, Washington 16, Arizona 15, UAB 15, Louisiana Tech 15, Maryland 14, SMU 14, TCU 14, South Carolina 14, Colorado 13, UL-Lafayette 13, UCLA 11, Wake Forest 11, NC State 11, Mississippi State 10, Michigan State 9, Kansas State 9, Virginia 9, Stanford 8, Nebraska 8, Duke 8, Pittsburgh 6, Florida Atlantic 5, Southern Miss 4, Boise State 4, Syracuse 4, Brigham Young 2, Ole Miss 2