70. Georgia 51, Tennessee 44 (September 29). The game that made us realize that a) Georgia's offense might be really, really good and b) Georgia's defense might have some serious issues. A 51-yard run by Todd Gurley gave Georgia a comfortable, 27-10 lead early in the second quarter, but Tennessee scored three times in the final five minutes of the half to take a 30-27 advantage into the break. Georgia surged back out to leads of 43-30 and 51-37 but couldn't put the Vols away until Sanders Commings picked off a deflected Tyler Bray pass at midfield with seven seconds remaining.
69. Las Vegas Bowl: Boise State 28, Washington 26 (December 22). Boise State was forced to almost completely rebuild its starting lineup in 2012 following the departure of an incredible senior class. No worries. They finished 11-2 anyway. But wow, did the Broncos get all they could handle from Washington in Vegas. Boise seemed to take control with a 34-yard trick play touchdown from the arm of receiver Chris Potter to Holden Huff. The score gave BSU an 18-3 lead with 5:25 left in the first half, but Washington running back Bishop Sankey brought the Huskies back. He rushed for 205 yards and caught six passes for 74 yards, and a 38-yard Travis Coons field goal gave Washington a 26-25 lead late in the fourth quarter. But Michael Frisina's 27-yard field goal with 1:16 put Boise State ahead, and then Keith Price threw an ill-advised interception in the closing seconds. (This is not the last game on this list to end with an ill-advised Price interception.)
68. Fiesta Bowl: Oregon 35, Kansas State 17 (January 3).
This really was college football at its best: tactical, skilled, flawed and interesting. It was also, as mentioned in the preview, fleeting. College football always is.
It was also college football that featured this inhuman burst of speed.
67. Florida 37, Florida State 26 (November 24). Unless your team was quarterbacked by Teddy Bridgewater, you just couldn't put Florida away in 2012. Florida State thought it had complete control of this game; after Florida went up by 13 points early on, a third-quarter surge gave the Seminoles a 20-13 lead and momentum heading into the fourth quarter. And then, ho hum, Florida scored 24 straight points to put the game away. It was every Florida comeback of the year magnified. There were takeaways by the defense, a long run by Mike Gillislee, etc., only Florida just kept going this time. It was as impressive a temporary show of strength as we saw in the 2012 season.
66. Baylor 47, UL-Monroe 42 (September 21). You could make the case that Baylor and ULM were the two most fun teams of the 2012 season. So of course they were going to put on a show on a Friday night ESPN game that was tragically missing announcer Joe Tessitore. ULM jumped out to leads of 14-0 and 21-7, and then the craziness began. Baylor took a 24-21 lead at halftime, ULM's Jyruss Edwards broke off a 58-yard run to give the Warhawks a 28-24 lead, and Baylor's Tevin Reese tightroped in from 46 yards out to make it Baylor 31, ULM 28. ULM went back ahead, 35-34, early in the fourth quarter, but Baylor went back ahead, and with six minutes left, Edwards lost a fumble. That was the break. Baylor took a 47-35 lead, recovered an onside kick in the final seconds, and took home the win.
65. Florida State 49, Clemson 37 (September 22). Everything Florida did to Florida State late in November, Florida State did to Clemson late in September. In a wonderfully fun affair, Clemson took a 28-14 lead early in the third quarter, but four FSU touchdowns in 13 minutes suddenly put the game out of reach. FSU gained 380 yards through the air and 287 yards on the ground and looked the part of a national title contender. And, of course, two weeks later they lost to N.C. State.
64. Louisiana Tech 56, Houston 49 (September 8). Shootout! These two teams played exactly the game you would expect. Houston's David Piland, after a miserable first start against Texas State, threw 77 times, and Houston gained 713 yards and scored 22 points in the game's final 10 minutes ... and they still lost because they committed two costly turnovers and Louisiana Tech's Colby Cameron completed 34 passes of his own for 353 yards in building a 49-27 lead early in the final stanza.
63. Sun Bowl: Georgia Tech 21, USC 7 (December 31). At 6-7, Georgia Tech probably didn't deserve to even play in a bowl game, especially considering Middle Tennessee, which had whipped Tech in Atlanta and possessed an 8-4 record, had to stay at home for bowl season. But Paul Johnson's Yellow Jackets made the most of the opportunity, confusing USC quarterback Max Wittek (starting in place of the injured Matt Barkley) all game (the El Paso wind helped) and proving once again that bowls are decided as much by motivation as anything else. USC, the preseason No. 1, had no interest in playing this game once the Trojans realized the Yellow Jackets were putting up a fight, and Johnson and his staff coached circles around Lane Kiffin and company.
Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports
62. Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Michigan State 17, TCU 16 (December 29). There are a lot of outright shootouts on this list, but you don't necessarily need points to have a nip-and-tuck, back-and-forth affair. TCU bolted to a 13-0 lead as State's fantastic defense struggled to get a grasp on TCU's young, dual-threat quarterback, Trevone Boykin. But the Spartans eventually adjusted, and the two teams put on a fun fourth-quarter show. Michigan State took the lead on a short touchdown drive following a muffed punt, but TCU went back ahead on a 53-yard bomb of a field goal by Jaden Oberkrom. But MSU responded; with 1:01 left, Dan Conroy made a 47-yarder to give State a one-point lead, the TCU offense went four-and-out, and State pulled off a nice comeback win to cap a season of tight losses.
61. LSU 24, Texas A&M 19 (October 20). We didn't know it at the time, but this loss cost A&M a spot in the SEC title game and a potential role in the national title race. As with the Florida loss a month before, A&M charged out of the gates, scoring on three straight drives and opening a 12-0 lead midway through the second quarter. But LSU adapted and eventually got rolling on offense. The Tigers took a 17-12 lead with 8:30 left, picked off A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, and built a 12-point lead on a 47-yard touchdown run by Jeremy Hill one play later. A&M responded, but LSU recovered an onside kick with 1:17 left and eventually secured a tight, high-impact victory.
60. Pac-12 Championship: Stanford 27, UCLA 24 (November 30). Ten of Stanford's 14 games were decided by a touchdown or less in 2012. This one sent the Cardinal to just their second Rose Bowl in 40 years. A week after handling UCLA easily in Los Angeles, Stanford struggled to slow down the one-two rushing punch of Brett Hundley and Johnathan Franklin (combined: 32 carries for 288 yards and three scores). But redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan, who still has yet to lose a start for the Cardinal, led two fourth-quarter scoring drives and sent the Cardinal to Pasadena.
59. UConn 23, Louisville 20 (3OT) (November 24).
The Seriously, The Weirdest Game Of The Year Award: Connecticut, 23, Louisville, 20 (3 OT): Teddy Bridgewater blasted his way through defenses all year. Connecticut, on the other hand, was 121st in points, which are vital in most variants of sports. Louisville preceded this game with a loss to Syracuse, but still, this was a weird result. Bridgewater was briefly out after BREAKING HIS LEFT HAND - the word "briefly" here is the 11th reason out of millions I'm not a quarterback on a successful college football team - which prompted a spot cameo from America's sunniest QB, Will Stein, but that's not why the Cardinals lost. They didn't score until the game's last few minutes, forcing overtime on a last-minute touchdown, then couldn't overcome the Huskies. It worked out okay for Louisville, who still got a conference title and a berth in a BCS game, which they won over Florida - yeah, the one that beat Texas A&M, yeah, the one that beat Alabama, the one that, uh, my point is, this paragraph effectively disproves the transitive property. But the end result of this game is that a win over UConn would have prevented the phrase, "four-way tie for the Big East title," from existing, although it turns out that phrase is a really handy way to discourage people you don't like too much from getting into college football. Paul Pasqualoni presumably celebrated the same way he celebrates everything, which is by having his mouth slightly agape so as to appear legitimately confused.
58. Texas 56, Baylor 50 (October 20). Another game almost forgotten because of life's "Every Baylor game is ridiculous and fun" truism (and the fact that it wasn't Baylor's most high-scoring loss of the season), this one certainly had it all. Yards? 1,132 of them. Points? Over 100. Big plays? How about an 84-yard run, an 80-yard pass and a 70-yard kickoff return? Lead changes? Three of them, plus four tying scores. Texas scored 42 points in the first half and still almost found a way to lose.
It was a normal Saturday in the Big 12, in other words.
57. Utah State 27, Utah 20 (September 7).
56. North Texas 30, UL-Lafayette 23 (October 16). The Sun Belt stole some MACtion thunder with some fun mid-week games this year, but not every mid-week Sun Belt game was decided by a 78-yard touchdown catch-and-run with under two minutes remaining.
55. Texas Tech 49, West Virginia 14 (October 13). Tommy Tuberville was in Lubbock for three years, beat a Top 5 team twice, and still basically lost a good portion of the Tech fanbase. That's tough to do. But this was probably the finest performance of one of his Tech teams. We knew West Virginia didn't have much of a defense, but the Mountaineers had charged into the Top 5 because of their ability to win any shootout, anywhere. Until their trip to West Texas. Tech systematically destroyed quarterback Geno Smith and the WVU offense, setting in motion a month-long tailspin.
54. Northwestern 42, Syracuse 41 (September 1). Another "If we knew then..." candidate. Northwestern would finish with 10 wins and a season-ending ranking, while Syracuse was one of the best teams in the country from mid-November onward. But on the season's opening weekend, with almost nobody paying attention, they played a classic. Northwestern took a 35-13 lead midway through the third quarter, Syracuse scored four times in 15 minutes to take a stunning 41-35 lead ... and then Trevor Siemian found Demetrius Fields for the game-winning touchdown with 44 seconds left.
53. Ohio State 52, Indiana 49 (October 13). The Hoosiers faded down the stretch, but for a few weeks in October and early November, they were a downright competent squad. They beat Illinois and Iowa and headed into a November 10 battle with Wisconsin with a chance to win the division (thanks to the postseason eligibility of Ohio State and Penn State). But their best performance was probably in a loss. Indiana spotted Ohio State leads of 10-0 and 24-14 in the first half, then sucked the Buckeyes into a track meet. IU gained 481 yards on a pretty good OSU defense, but they allowed 578 and eventually succumbed.
52. Michigan State 16, Wisconsin 13 (OT) (October 27).
51. Ohio State 21, Wisconsin 14 (OT) (November 17).
50. Penn State 24, Wisconsin 21 (OT) (November 24). Wisconsin: the best 8-6 team of all-time. I am confident in saying that. The Badgers were close to much, much more.
49. Stanford 27, Oregon State 23 (November 10). Before Stanford could beat Oregon in Eugene and go on to win the Pac-12 title, the Cardinal had to survive a hell of a back-and-forth battle with Mike Riley's Beavers. Stanford jumped to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, and with the Stanford defense playing so well in 2012, that seemed like it might be enough. But Oregon completely dominated the next two quarters, building a 23-14 lead that could have been much larger (the Beavers settled for three field goals, including a 19-yarder). But Stanford responded with two Kevin Hogan touchdown passes, one to Stepfan Taylor and one to Zach Ertz, and the Cardinal defense dominated down the stretch.
48. Texas 33, Iowa State 7 (November 10). Because of this one play.
47. Ohio State 26, Michigan 21 (November 24). Ohio State certainly knew how to make things interesting in 2012, going 6-0 in one-possession games and capping their season with a comeback win over its chief rival. A shootout in the first half (Michigan led, 21-20 at halftime) turned into a grinder, and four Drew Basil field goals eventually gave the Buckeyes the edge. Urban Meyer: now 1-0 against That School Up North.
46. Utah State 48, Louisiana Tech 41 (OT) (November 17). The WAC went out in a blaze of glorious, tight games between three impressive teams: Utah State, Louisiana Tech and San Jose State. USU won the conference title with a 49-27 win over SJSU and this win, a ridiculous contest that saw the Aggies build a 41-17 lead late in the fourth quarter, completely blow the lead, and then win regardless. Louisiana Tech threw for 396 yards and rushed for 233 against an outstanding Utah State defense and lost anyway.
45. Baylor 52, Kansas State 24 (November 17). Undefeated Kansas State, meet Lache Seastrunk. Lache Seastrunk, meet undefeated Kansas State.
44. Arizona 39, USC 36 (October 27). In late-October, USC was still a one-loss, highly-ranked team, and new Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez was still in search of a signature win following tight losses to good Oregon State and Stanford teams. USC's Marqise Lee caught an absurd 16 passes for 345 yards, but Austin Hill, the nation's most underrated receiver, almost matched him (10 catches for 259 yards), and two Wildcats (Ka'Deem Carey and quarterback Matt Scott) rushed for at least 100 yards, and the Wildcats turned a 28-13 deficit into a 39-36 win.
43. Belk Bowl: Cincinnati 48, Duke 34 (December 27). Oh, Duke. You almost had 'em.
42. Stanford 54, Arizona 48 (OT) (October 6). Stanford was a defense-heavy Baylor (always playing entertaining games) in 2012, but in this one the Cardinal basically turned into a Baylor Baylor. Stanford's Stepfan Tyalor and Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey combined for 275 yards on the ground, Austin Hill and Stanford tight end Levine Toilolo combined for 306 receiving yards, and a game that was just a 14-13 contest at halftime went bananas in the second half. Both teams scored 20 points in the third quarter, and Stanford needed two late touchdowns to send the game to overtime, where Taylor won the game with a 21-yard run. Goodness.
41. Duke 33, North Carolina 30 (October 20). Duke did go bowling in 2012, and that's pretty awesome. But when the Blue Devils took out North Carolina, the win moved them to 6-2 and on the cusp of both the Top 25 and a division title. Duke carried a 23-9 lead into the fourth quarter of this one, allowed three North Carolina touchdowns and fell behind, 30-26, then won the game with a five-yard pass from Sean Renfree to Jamison Crowder with just 13 seconds left. Duke wouldn't win again in 2012, but this one got them to the Belk Bowl.
The rest of the Top 100 countdown: 100 through 71 | 40 through 11 | The Top 10
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