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Top 100 college football games of 2012 countdown: 100 through 71

The rest of the Top 100 countdown: 70 through 41 | 40 through 11 | The Top 10

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

100. Arizona State 41, Arizona 34 (November 23). The first Territorial Cup battle for both Arizona State's Todd Graham and Arizona's Rich Rodriguez sees multiple momentum swings. Arizona State scores two quick touchdowns in the second quarter and eventually takes a 17-9 lead, but Arizona responds with 18 points in five minutes to take a 27-17 lead. Then it's ASU's turn: three touchdowns in five minutes give the Sun Devils a 41-27 lead they won't relinquish, and they recover an onside kick with 1:54 remaining to secure the win.

99. Stanford 20, San Jose State 17 (August 31). In one of the ultimate, "If we knew then what we know now..." games, a Stanford team that is clearly going to struggle in 2012, gains just 280 yards versus a clearly mediocre San Jose State squad and needs a fourth-quarter field goal to come out on top. (The teams then combine to go 22-3 the rest of the way.)

98. Pizza Bowl: Central Michigan 24, Western Kentucky 21 (December 26). Zero damns given.

97. Baylor 52, Texas Tech 45 (2OT) (November 24). This one was almost penalized because of all the other crazy Big 12 shootouts in 2012 (and every year), but it was still a doozy, one that featured 1,241 yards, six lead changes, two overtimes and a steady comeback from Baylor, which trailed 14-0, 21-7, 24-14, and 31-21. With bowl eligibility still in question, the Bears eventually figure out how to sneak ahead and take the game in overtime.

96. Northern Illinois 31, Toledo 24 (November 14). The sequel is never quite as good. After 2011's positively insane 63-60 NIU win in Toledo, this one almost felt disappointing, but it still makes the list because of NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch: 25-for-36 passing for 407 yards, three touchdowns and a pick ... and 30 carries for 162 yards. After a third-quarter NIU surge, Toledo fought back to within seven points, but Lynch almost single-handedly ate up the final 5:57 of the game on the ground.

95. Virginia 41, Miami 40 (November 10). This one didn't waste much time: The first 10 minutes of the game featured three touchdown passes and a 95-yard kickoff return by Miami's Duke Johnson. From there, it just got crazier. Virginia led, 28-24, at halftime, but Miami charged ahead with two touchdowns. Virginia cut the lead to 38-35, and Miami built some space by forcing a safety with 4:19 remaining, setting the table for Virginia's Michael Rocco. The Hoos' quarterback engineered a 16-play, 87-yard drive in just 2:32 and floated the game-winning touchdown to Jake McGee with just six seconds remaining.

94. Rice 49, Tulane 47 (November 3). Rice finished the 2012 season with a five-game winning streak that carried the Owls from 2-6 to 7-6, but that streak almost never got off the ground. In the second of the five wins, they somehow overcame a 28-point third quarter from a Tulane team that was pretty salty when quarterback Ryan Griffin was healthy. This game featured a 57-yard field goal, interception returns of 55 and 73 yards, touchdown passes of 33, 42, 35 and 62 yards, a 28-7 Rice lead, a 28-3 Tulane run and, eventually, a Rice win. Whew.

93. Conference USA Championship: Tulsa 33, UCF 27 (OT) (December 1). Conference USA wasn't very good this year, but it featured two great TU-UCF matchups. The first saw Tulsa pull out a 23-21 win at home. The second required overtime. Tulsa's Trey Watts returned a punt 54 yards for a score with 5:06 to tie the game, Cory Dorris blocked a UCF field goal attempt in overtime, and Alex Singleton plunged in from a yard out to give Tulsa its first C-USA title since 2005.

92. UL-Monroe 43, Western Kentucky 42 (OT) (October 20). This one started a steady WKU slide. The 5-1 Hilltoppers built a 28-7 lead midway through the second quarter and looked to be coasting to not only a win, but a Sun Belt title. But UL-Monroe certainly had a feel for the moment in 2012, didn't they? The Warhawks scored on a 30-yard touchdown pass as the clock expired in the first half tied the game early in the fourth-quarter, then tied the game again on a 12-yard pass from Kolton Browning to Rashon Caesar with 31 seconds remaining. WKU scored first in overtime, when ULM scored in response, head coach Todd Barry didn't hesitate: ULM went for two points and the win, and another pass from Browning to Caesar did the deed. Just 31 seconds from a 6-1 record, WKU would lose four of six to finish the season.

91. Florida 20, Texas A&M 17 (September 8). In another "If we knew then..." game, Florida absorbs an early assault from a fired up A&M offense that is led by some freshman named Manziel, holds the Aggies scoreless for the final 2.5 quarters, and gets a 12-yard touchdown run from Mike Gillislee with 13 minutes left to pull ahead in College Station. It's ANOTHER AGGIE CHOKE, LOL (remember that meme?). A&M will then go 11-1 the rest of the way.

90. East Carolina 65, Marshall 59 (2OT) (November 23). Their quarterbacks combined to complete 81 of 102 passes for 858 yards and nine touchdowns. ECU built a 28-7 lead early in the second quarter, Marshall tied the game early in the third. ECU led, 42-35. Marshall led, 45-42. Marshall took a 52-45 lead with 1:55 left ... and then ECU tied the game with four seconds remaining. Eventually, Marshall blinked. The Thundering Herd lost a fumble on their second overtime possession, and Shane Carden sneaked in from a yard out to give ECU a fun, and exhausting, win.

89. Tennessee 55, Troy 48 (November 3). Oh sure, it had alarm bells ringing throughout Knoxville. But this one was all sorts of fun. Tennessee ended a four-game losing streak (the Vols had the misfortune an October that featured trips to Georgia, Mississippi State and South Carolina and a home game versus Alabama) with a seven-point win, but it took 530 passing yards from Tyler Bray and a go-ahead touchdown run by Marlin Lane with 1:25 left to get the job done. Troy passed for 496 yards, rushed for 225 and somehow lost.

88. Texas 21, Kansas 17 (October 27). Texas head coach Mack Brown lost a good portion of the fanbase in 2012; his Longhorns improved from 8-5 to 9-4 on the season, but there were still quite a few setbacks along the way. This was not one of them ... though it was awfully close to the biggest one. Trailing 1-6 Kansas by three points in the final seconds, Colt McCoy finds D.J. Grant for a one-yard touchdown with 12 seconds left to avoid complete disaster in Lawrence.



87. San Diego State 39, Nevada 38 (OT) (October 20). San Diego State head coach Rocky Long made news in the preseason by announcing that he really didn't want to punt very much in 2012, choosing instead to go for it on fourth down more frequently. Well, in the end, SDSU only attempted 24 fourth-down conversions (33rd in the country), but Long did take one particularly notable gamble. After his Aztecs forced overtime in Reno with a field goal as time expired, Long chose to go for two points and the win in the game's first OT period. Adam Dingwell found Adam Roberts in the end zone, and the gamble paid off.

86. Missouri 24, Arizona State 20 (September 15). Backup quarterback Corbin Berkstresser, with help from some turnovers, leads Missouri to some early scores and a 17-0 lead in the second quarter, but behind a patchwork offensive line, he quickly runs out of time to make plays. Arizona State trails 24-7 heading into the fourth quarter but quickly scores twice and gets two more opportunities to take the lead in the final minutes. But a goal line stand, and then another red zone interception, save the day for the Tigers.

85. Miami 42, Georgia Tech 36 (OT) (September 22). Miami wasn't necessarily good in 2012, but they were certainly fun. The Hurricanes played in five games in which both teams scored at least 30 points and went 4-1 in such games. This one, which saw Stephen Morris complete 31 passes for 436 yards (16 for 291 to Phillip Dorsett and Davon Johnson) and Miami overcome a 17-point deficit in the game's final 4:25, might have been the most ridiculous/entertaining. It also included two improbable, crucial points for Miami on a Georgia Tech kick return:


84. South Alabama 37, Florida Atlantic 34 (2OT) (October 20). From my Week 8 Numerical:

3. Field goals made by South Alabama kicker Michael Chapuseaux in the Jaguars' 37-34 overtime win over Florida Atlantic. It was the Jaguars' first official Sun Belt conference win, and it continued a great couple of weeks for "Chappy," who also kicked three field goals in a tighter-than-expected loss to Arkansas State a week earlier. I mention this because Chappy was the hero, and also because he is (literally) the brother of the boyfriend of the sister of a friend of mine. It's like we're related.

83. Washington 20, Oregon State 17 (October 27). Oregon State was 6-0 and had designs on its first Rose Bowl trip in almost 50 years. Washington had other ideas. Oregon State overcame deficits of 10-0 and 17-10, but Washington's Travis Coons booted a 30-yard field goal with 1:20 left, and Oregon State's final drive stalled at the Washington 47 in the final seconds. Washington had a rather disappointing 2012 season, but it could have been much worse without this upset win and another one that comes up later in the countdown.

82. South Carolina 38, Tennessee 35 (October 27). This game, with Tyler Bray and Tennessee continuously chasing South Carolina like a zombie, only to stall twice in South Carolina territory in the final two minutes, would have been a Top 50 candidate ... if not for this.

81. Georgia 41, Missouri 20 (September 8). The Jarvis Jonesening. "He's been running past him like a turnstile all night long."

Jarvis Jones single-handedly turns a 27-20 lead into a 41-20 laugher with a fourth quarter for the ages, and Missouri fans openly wonder, "Wait, does every SEC team have one of these?"

80. UCLA 36, Nebraska 30 (September 8). Another "If we knew then..." candidate. It felt like an upset when UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns, Johnathan Franklin rushed for 217 yards and UCLA pulled out a late, six-point win. But then the Bruins went and almost won the Pac-12.

79. UTEP 34, Southern Miss 33 (November 17). UTEP head coach Mike Price's final season in El Paso was not particularly memorable, but his final win was. With 6:36 remaining, Southern Miss tied the game at 27-27 with an 81-yard touchdown pass from Arsenio Favor to Quentin Pierce, but UTEP's Autrey Golden immediately responded with a 98-yard kickoff return for a score. Southern Miss came right back to score on a two-yard sneak by Favor with 2:48 left, but freshman Demarcus Kizzie intercepted a two-point pass attempt, and Price got one last win.

78. UCLA 45, Arizona State 43 (October 27). Here's where UCLA's Pac-12 South title bid really picked up steam. The Bruins had lost to Oregon State and California and looked mediocre in creeping past Utah on October 13. But after a bye week, the offense found its footing. UCLA gained 486 yards and took a 42-33 lead early in the fourth quarter, blew that lead -- ASU quarterback found D.J. Foster for a seven-yard touchdown with 1:33 left to give the Sun Devils a 43-42 advantage -- then won the game anyway with a 33-yard field goal by Ka'i Fairbairn as time expired.

77. LSU 23, South Carolina 21 (October 13). South Carolina was undefeated and ranked third in the country, but LSU sent the Gamecocks into the loss column with a particularly LSU win. Freshman running back Jeremy Hill rushed for 124 yards, and LSU pounded out 37 minutes of possession completely kinked up South Carolina's offense. Marcus Lattimore rushed for 34 yards in 25 carries, and quarterback Connor Shaw was picked off twice in an exhausting, brutally physical battle.

76. Louisville 34, Cincinnati 31 (OT) (October 26). Weather reared its head throughout Louisville's 2012 season, and while this game didn't see the outright monsoon that Louisville and Southern Miss had to battle on September 29, it still created an entertaining backdrop (who doesn't like camera shots of miserable, wet fans?) for a fun Friday night battle. Cincinnati built a 24-14 lead early in the third quarter, but Louisville charged back to to tie the game at 24-24. And then things got crazy.

Cincinnati immediately responded, scoring on a 26-yard pass from Munchie Legaux to Damon Julian just 53 seconds later, but Legaux was picked off in overtime, and Louisville came away with what turned out to be a win that decided the Big East title.

75. SMU 72, Houston 42 (October 18). Sometimes there is greatness in absurdity. Houston gained 560 yards, scored 42 points and ran 98 plays to SMU's 64. But the Cougars lost by 30 because they not only committed four turnovers that were returned for touchdowns, but they committed five other turnovers, four of which set SMU up inside Houston's 30. As defined here, Houston's nine turnovers cost them 57.1 equivalent points. That's ... well, that's absurdity.

74. Florida 14, LSU 6 (October 6). The quintessential 2012 Florida win: stay close with your physical defense, then get just enough from Mike Gillislee to win the game. Florida gained just 237 yards on the day, but 137 of those yards came on two long scoring drives in the second half. Gillislee scored two 12-yard touchdown runs, and that was that. Despite the iffy offense (to put it kindly) and a general lack of aesthetics (ditto), this was the game that made us realize that we had to take Florida seriously in 2012.

73. Sugar Bowl: Louisville 33, Florida 23 (January 2). And this was the game that made us realize that Florida still had some work to do. Louisville managed to score on the first play from scrimmage in both halves, and when Florida realized that the Cardinals were going to keep getting up after taking some big shots early, the Gators seemingly packed it in. This game makes the list because of one guy: Teddy Bridgewater. The sophomore quarterback, facing one of the best pass defenses in the country, completed 20 of 32 passes and converted third downs at an almost alarmingly high rate, and Louisville built a 33-10 lead early in the fourth quarter before Florida responded in vain.

72. Capital One Bowl: Georgia 45, Nebraska 31 (January 1). You like big pass plays, right? Georgia's Aaron Murray threw touchdown passes of 75 yards to Tavarres King and 49 and 87 yards to Chris Conley, and he completed 11 of 14 third-down passes for 246 yards and two scores as the Bulldogs overcame some early-game silliness to pull away from the Huskers.

71. Baylor 41, Oklahoma State 34 (December 1). This is not Lache Seastrunk's only video contribution in this countdown, but it is the only one in which he scores a touchdown on one leg.

The rest of the Top 100 countdown: 70 through 41 | 40 through 11 | The Top 10

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