The 2017 college football season was loaded with incredible drama, thrilling finishes and unthinkable upsets. Below are the 20 best games of the season:
1. UCLA 45, Texas A&M 44 (Sept. 3)
UCLA capped a 34-point comeback with quarterback Josh Rosen‘s fake-spike, game-winning touchdown pass to receiver Jordan Lasley with 43 seconds remaining. The Bruins’ win, however, didn’t save coach Jim Mora’s job. And all but sealed Kevin Sumlin’s fate at Texas A&M.
UCLA’s Josh Rosen throws a 10-yard touchdown to take the lead with less than a minute remaining, erasing a 34-point deficit to Texas A&M.
2. No. 6 Ohio State 39, No. 2 Penn State 38 (Oct. 28)
Delivering maybe the game of his career, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett connected with tight end Marcus Baugh on a go-ahead, 16-yard TD with 1:48 left. Barrett finished 33-of-39 passing with four touchdowns. However, neither he nor the Buckeyes could keep the momentum rolling, as Ohio State fell to Iowa by 31 points the following week.
3. Western Michigan 71, Buffalo 68 (Oct. 7)
Running back Jarvion Franklin‘s touchdown lifted Western Michigan to victory in a record-tying seven overtime periods with a record-breaking 139 total points. Adding to the wackiness, the sister of Western Michigan tight end Donnie Ernsberger was initially flagged for running onto the field to celebrate her brother’s TD during the first OT period.
4. Iowa State 38, No. 3 Oklahoma 31 (Oct. 7)
In his first career start, walk-on senior quarterback Kyle Kempt passed for 343 yards and three touchdowns, including a jump ball 25-yarder to receiver Allen Lazard that put Iowa State up for good with two minutes to play in the fourth quarter. The victory was just the Cyclones’ second over OU since 1961. They would go on to take down another top-five team later in October with a 14-7 win over TCU.
5. No. 15 UCF 49, USF 42 (Nov. 24)
After a McKenzie Milton TD pass gave UCF an eight-point lead with 2:21 to play, South Florida knotted the game at 42 on quarterback Quinton Flowers‘ 84-yard scoring bomb to receiver Darnell Salomon, followed by a successful two-point try. UCF’s Mike Hughes, however, returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards to give the Knights back the lead, and the UCF defense forced a late fumble to seal the win, sending the Knights to the American Athletic Conference championship game. The victory also gave UCF an 11-0 regular-season record, just two years after the Knights went 0-12.
6. No. 4 Penn State 21, Iowa 19 (Sept. 23)
PSU running back Saquon Barkley kick-started his Heisman campaign with 211 yards rushing and 94 receiving. But quarterback Trace McSorley produced the game-winning play, finding receiver Juwan Johnson for a 7-yard TD on the game’s final snap in a thrilling Big Ten opener.
7. No. 5 Oklahoma 62, No. 11 Oklahoma State 52 (Nov. 4)
In the highest-scoring game in Bedlam history, Oklahoma State had a chance to take a late lead. But quarterback Mason Rudolph‘s fourth-down pass sailed over the head of receiver Tyron Johnson. And with a school-record 598 passing yards, OU’s Baker Mayfield left Stillwater with a 3-0 mark against the rival Pokes.
In a scoring fest, Baker Mayfield led Oklahoma to a crucial victory with a 500-plus-yard performance and six total touchdowns.
8. Army 14, Navy 13 (Dec. 9)
Amid swirling snow, Navy’s Bennett Moehring just missed a 48-yard field goal attempt on the final play, and Army held on 14-13 to capture the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the first time since 1996.
9. No. 16 Washington State 30, No. 5 USC 27 (Sept. 29)
USC QB Sam Darnold converted a long fourth down en route to a tying TD drive in the fourth quarter. But Wazzu countered with a late field goal, then sacked and stripped Darnold to seal its first win over the Trojans in Pullman in 15 years.
10. No. 4 USC 27, Texas 24 (Sept. 16)
In his first career start, true freshman QB Sam Ehlinger engineered a 14-play, 91-yard drive to give Texas a late 17-14 lead. But Darnold got USC in field goal range in just 39 seconds to send the game to overtime, where the Trojans eventually prevailed on an Ehlinger fumble at the goal line.
11. No. 13 Miami 24, Florida State 20 (Oct. 7)
In a game rescheduled following a hurricane, Miami receiver Darrell Langham hauled in a 23-yard touchdown pass along the sidelines with six seconds left, giving the Hurricanes the dramatic comeback victory over their stumbling rival.
12. No. 14 UCF 62, No. 20 Memphis 55 (Dec. 2)
On the heels of its shootout win over South Florida, UCF escaped Memphis in double overtime to finish 12-0 and win the AAC title. The two teams combined for the most points in an FBS conference championship game. But a defensive play, UCF’s interception of Memphis QB Riley Ferguson on a second-and-goal, won the game for the Knights.
13. No. 24 Florida 26, No. 23 Tennessee 20 (Sept. 16)
An otherwise unwatchable matchup delivered an incredible finish, as Gators QB Feleipe Franks unleashed a 63-yard TD over the top of the Tennessee defense as time expired. The sloppy play on both sides was a harbinger, as Vols coach Butch Jones and Florida’s Jim McElwain would be fired before the end of the season.
14. No. 12 Oklahoma 29, Texas 24 (Oct. 14)
Ehlinger had the Sooners on their heels after OU had blown a 20-0 lead. But Mayfield calmed the waters with a go-ahead, 59-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mark Andrews in the fourth quarter, and OU’s defense finally got the key late stop.
15. Arizona 45, Colorado 42 (Oct. 7)
Backup Arizona QB Khalil Tate came out of nowhere to rush for 327 yards, an FBS record for a quarterback. He also accounted for five TDs and threw for 154 yards. Despite sitting the first four games, Tate unbelievably would play his way into becoming a legitimate candidate for the Heisman.
16. No. 15 Georgia 20, No. 24 Notre Dame 19 (Sept. 9)
In its farthest trip north in more than five decades, Georgia knocked off the Irish behind two stops in the final four minutes from its defense. Rodrigo Blankenship, who had just received a scholarship that week, kicked a 30-yard field goal to give the Bulldogs the one-point lead for good.
17. No. 25 Tennessee 42, Georgia Tech 41 (Sept. 4)
Otherwise known as Tennessee’s “trash can” game, the Vols came up with a late turnover, blocked a field goal attempt on the final play of regulation, then stuffed Georgia Tech’s two-point conversion try, as the Yellow Jackets went for the win instead of settling for an extra point that would’ve forced a third overtime. Afterward, the Vols celebrated with a trash can that one staffer held up for much of the game. Turned out, the trash can was there for Tennessee players to dunk footballs in after turnovers. It was an appropriate omen, as the Vols would go winless in SEC play.
18. Northwestern 39, No. 16 Michigan State 31 (Oct. 28)
Despite having 30 stitches on his hand, Northwestern linebacker Nate Hall came down with an interception to give the Wildcats a triple-overtime victory. Michigan State had scored a touchdown with 25 seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime. But Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson‘s 22-yard touchdown pass on third down in the third overtime period proved to be the winning score.
19. No. 2 Alabama 31, No. 16 Mississippi State 24 (Nov. 11)
In the final 31 seconds, Alabama QB Jalen Hurts connected with receiver Calvin Ridley on third-and-15 for a 31-yard first down. Then, Hurts hooked up with DeVonta Smith for a 26-yard TD on the next play, propelling the Crimson Tide to victory in Starkville.
QB Jalen Hurts hits DeVonta Smith for a 26-yard touchdown pass with 25 seconds remaining as the Tide survive an upset attempt from the Bulldogs 31-24.
20. No. 21 Virginia Tech 31, No. 22 West Virginia 24 (Sept. 3)
In his West Virginia debut, QB Will Grier drove the Mountaineers to the Virginia Tech 15 in the closing seconds. But his pass in the end zone was a little low for receiver David Sills V, who couldn’t corral the throw, and the Hokies held on for the season-opening win. Virginia Tech QB Josh Jackson was equally as electric in his first start, passing for 235 yards while running for another 101.