Yesterday’s Rose Bowl between Georgia and Oklahoma was epic. Where does it rank among the other legendary college football games of the decade in terms of excitement and significance?
#10 2015: Michigan State 27, Michigan 23 — “The Botched Punt Game”
I don’t really remember much from this game outside of the final ten seconds, but I do remember where I was when Michigan State pulled off one of the most miraculous victories of all-time by recovering a botched snap and taking it to the house with no time left. One of the wildest and most memorable endings of all-time, without a doubt.
#9 2012 SEC Championship: Alabama 32, Georgia 28
Notable for how Georgia infamously ran out of time while inside the five-yard line and needing a touchdown to win. But this terrific game also featured a) a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown, b) an 11-point second half comeback from Alabama, and c) a late touchdown pass from A.J. McCarron to Amari Cooper for the eventual game-winning score.
#8 2015 Sugar Bowl: Ohio State 42, Alabama 35
The first classic playoff game in the College Football Playoff era. Alabama was heavily favored to beat the fourth-seeded Buckeyes, who were playing with their third-string quarterback in Cardale Jones. But despite falling behind 21-6, Ohio State put together one of the more impressive victories against Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide. The exclamation point came with Ezekiel Elliott’s 85-yard touchdown run late in the fourth to put Urban Meyer’s squad up for good.
#7 2016: Ohio State 30, Michigan 27
It was the biggest Ohio State/Michigan game in ten years, with the winner essentially securing a spot in the College Football Playoff. Jim Harbaugh and company got out to an early lead before Michigan imploded offensively, allowing Ohio State to come back and send the game into overtime. Michigan fans certainly don’t want to talk about the officiating in that overtime, let alone Curtis Samuel’s walk-off touchdown.
#6 2017 Rose Bowl: USC 52, Penn State 49
Back and fourth, back and fourth. USC jumped out to an early 20-7 lead before Penn State eventually rallied for a 28-0 run behind Saquon Barkley’s 194 rushing yards. A 14-point lead wasn’t enough for the Nittany Lions, though, as Sam Darnold’s fifth touchdown pass (a Rose Bowl record) tied the game with a minute ago before a third Trace McSorley interception put USC in range for a game-winning 46-yard field goal. Back and fourth, indeed.
#5 2016 National Championship: Alabama 45, Clemson 40
Chapter one of the Alabama/Clemson trilogy was one of the more entertaining shootouts in recent memory. The fourth quarter was particularly exciting, as the two sides combined for 37 points in a stretch that included a long touchdown reception by Alabama’s O.J. Howard, a gutsy — and successful — onside kick call by Nick Saban, and a kickoff return from Kenyan Drake that effectively sealed the Crimson Tide’s fourth title in the Saban era.
#4 2014 BCS National Championship: Florida State 34, Auburn 31
Speaking of terrific fourth quarter’s, the 2014 national title game between Florida State and Auburn featured three lead changes in the final five minutes! An 100-yard kickoff return by FSU’s Kermit Whitfield gave the Seminoles their second lead of the game after falling behind 21-3. And after Auburn wrestled control of the lead once again, Jameis Winston led one of the more famous game-winning drives in college football history, finding Kelvin Benjamin for a touchdown with thirteen seconds left.
#3 2013 Iron Bowl: Auburn 34, Alabama 28 — “The Kick Six”
There arguably had never been an Iron Bowl with more on the line than this one. Both teams entered the game ranked in the top five of the AP poll; and since this was the final year of the BCS system, the loser could essentially kiss its national championship hopes goodbye. Nonetheless, Alabama was still favored by ten points and looked to be coasting along before Auburn rebounded from a 21-7 deficit to tie the game in the fourth. A 99-yard touchdown pass from A.J. McCarron to Amari Cooper put the Tide back in front, only for the Tigers to counter once more with a touchdown to tie the game with 32 seconds to play.
Of course, we all know how this game eventually ended…
#2 2018 Rose Bowl: Georgia 54, Oklahoma 48 (2 OT)
Clearly yesterday’s game was an instant classic. For starters, the stakes were obviously high, seeing as this was a CFP semifinal. And it was clear from the get-go that points would come in bunches, as Heisman trophy winner Baker Mayfield and the Sooners jumped out to a commanding 31-14 lead before Georgia roared back in the third quarter to take a 38-31 lead.
Things were just getting started. Oklahoma’s scoop-and-score following a Sony Michel fumble with a six minutes to go provided the game’s biggest momentum change, putting the Sooners back in front with six minutes to play. But freshman quarterback Jake Fromm calmly responded with a signature game-tying drive to send the game to overtime, which culminated in the second OT with what they’re now calling “the Rose block,” followed by Michel’s fourth and final TD run, to give Georgia the victory.
#1 2017 National Championship: Clemson 35, Alabama 31
High stakes? Check. Clemson vs Alabama, Part II was the first national title rematch in college football history. Excitement? Definitely. ‘Bama was in control through three quarters thanks to two Bo Scarbrough touchdown runs and another long touchdown reception by tight end O.J. Howard. But Deshaun Watson, one of college football’s best players in recent memory, kept the Tigers in the game until they eventually took the lead with under five minutes remaining.
Not to be outdone, freshman Jalen Hurts put together a drive that would have registered as one of the most memorable in championship history to put the Crimson Tide back in front 31-28….if not, of course, for Watson’s legendary heroics in the final drive, the culmination of which — a game-winning touchdown pass from Watson to Hunter Renfrow with only one second to play — puts the title game rematch between Clemson and Alabama at number one on this list of greatest college football games of the most recent decade.