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The top 100 games of the 2017-18 college football season

We move closer to the top, this time counting down 40-11.

We did it. After 834 regular season games, 40 bowl games, 4,376 Nick Saban scowls, and one hell of a national championship game, the college football season is over. To remember and honor the season that was, I (along with a little help from the rest of the SB Nation college football crew) am going to count down the best 100 games of the season. We’ll unveil 30 games at a time on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, then count down the top 10 on Friday.

Let’s get to the list:

40. Oct. 21: Oklahoma 42, Kansas State 35

After 41 combined points in the first three quarters of Kansas State’s homecoming battle with Oklahoma, the teams scored 36 in the fourth alone. On three occasions, OU took a touchdown lead, but the Sooners had to time the last one — a 22-yard Rodney Anderson run with seven seconds left — to make sure KSU didn’t have a chance to respond.

39. Sept. 29: Washington State 30, USC 27

USC nearly survived the regular season with national title hopes intact, except for a Friday night trip.

Ronald Jones’ 86-yard run helped the Trojans stake a 17-10 lead, but Washington State took a 27-20 lead on Jamal Morrow’s 23-yard reception in the final period. USC tied, but Morrow’s 35-yarder — WSU’s longest run of the entire season — set up Erik Powell’s field goal.

Dreams die in Pullman.

38. Oct. 28: Nebraska 25, Purdue 24

This was a good season for Purdue, with the Boilermakers rising to a bowl win in a single season under Jeff Brohm.

And this was a bad one for Nebraska, as the Huskers finished with four wins for the first time since 1962, the final year before Bob Devaney showed up to resurrect the program.

On the final Saturday in October, roles reversed. Bad-year Nebraska, facing a 24-12 deficit in the fourth quarter, surged by good-year Purdue.

37. Sept. 3: Virginia Tech 31, West Virginia 24

by Alex Kirshner:

This was so good that it overcame being played in one of the worst stadiums in a league neither of these teams plays in. Thousands of fans had to skip tailgates or cram them in just before kickoff.

But once they were inside, Appalachian football’s biggest reunion of the season turned out to be a great one. West Virginia’s Will Grier aired the ball out all night, and Virginia Tech redshirt freshman Josh Jackson announced himself. Grier almost threw a touchdown in the final seconds to tie, but Tech held on with a fourth-down stop.

Virginia Tech took a lot of pride in hoisting the rivalry’s Black Diamond Trophy at midfield, with ex-coach Frank Beamer in the celebration at the start of a season that would end with his selection to the College Football Hall of Fame.

But nobody saw it, because they left to try and beat traffic.

36. Sept. 4: Tennessee 42, Georgia Tech 41

by Steven Godfrey:

This was as functional, effective, and entertaining as Tennessee would be in 2017. The Volunteers gave up 41 points and 655 yards to a team that would limp to 5-6, and the only reason the Vols escaped is because Tech made a bad read on a two-point conversion in OT. This game was the high-water mark.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 04 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game - Tennessee v Georgia Tech Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

35. Sept. 9: New Mexico State 30, New Mexico 28
34. Dec. 2: New Mexico State 22, South Alabama 17
33. Dec. 29: New Mexico State 26, Utah State 20

If you’re a loyal Podcast Ain’t Played Nobody listener (and if you aren’t, why not?), you know that I announced my pet cause as rooting for New Mexico State to reach a bowl and end a 57-year drought.

It began with a wild catch and a rivalry win in Albuquerque ...

... and ended with back-to-back field stormings. First, NMSU took down South Alabama to reach six wins and qualify for the Arizona Bowl.

Then, the Aggies beat Utah State in overtime.

If you watch this and still want to tell me there are too many bowls, then forgive me for the snide words. New Mexico State’s run was the best thing about college football in 2017.

32. Nov. 4: Wyoming 16, Colorado State 13

Glorious.

31. Oct. 13: Syracuse 27, Clemson 24
30. Nov. 4: Clemson 38, NC State 31

On Oct. 13, Dabo Swinney’s retooled squad headed to upstate New York with a banged-up quarterback. Kelly Bryant struggled, then got hurt again in the second quarter; backup Zerrick Cooper did no better.

Syracuse dictated the terms, but Tanner Muse’s 63-yard fumble return kept the champs close, and Travis Etienne’s 52-yard run tied the game heading into the fourth quarter. Syracuse’s Eric Dungey (278 yards, three touchdowns) engineered a final field goal drive. Storm the field.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Three weeks later, NC State led at halftime in Raleigh, until the Tigers seemed to put the game away with a 21-7 run keyed by Tavien Feaster’s 89-yard score. But State cut the lead to 38-31 with under two minutes left and forced a three-and-out.

Ryan Finley completed three passes to work the ball inside the Tiger 30, then hit this fourth-down pass.

Only ... that’s an illegal shift at the bottom. On a fourth-down do-over, Clemson ended the game with a pick.

29. Nov. 25: SMU 41, Tulane 38

Literally as close to bowl eligibility as possible.

SMU Football Video

28. Oct. 28: Northwestern 39, Michigan State 31

Northwestern won three consecutive overtime games on its way to an eight-game winning streak. It took three OT periods for the Wildcats to put away a Michigan State ranked 16th at the time. It also took a play in which State’s Brian Lewerke both fumbled and threw an interception.

27. Dec. 28: TCU 39, Stanford 37
26. Dec. 29: Wake Forest 55, Texas A&M 52

Alamo Bowl Second Half TCU is one of the greatest teams ever. Two years after completing a 31-point Alamo comeback against Oregon (the second-best game of 2015), the Horned Frogs turned a 12-point deficit into a win against Stanford. Jalen Reagor’s 93-yard catch and run made it 31-29, then Desmon White’s 76-yard punt return gave the Frogs the lead. Stanford went ahead again, but Cole Bunce’s 33-yard field goal sealed the deal. And there’s always a shirt change involved when TCU’s unleashing a comeback.

The next day in Charlotte, Wake and A&M had a track meet. Despite a 31-0 mid-game run, Wake trailed in the fourth. But the final two drives of quarterback John Wolford’s career were touchdowns. The Demon Deacons needed both. After A&M responded, the Deacs went 69 yards and won on Matt Colburn’s short score.

25. Oct. 7: Miami 24, Florida State 20

Six seconds left, seven-game Florida State winning streak against Miami on the line, Malik Rosier to Darrell Langham.

24. Oct. 7: Navy 48, Air Force 45

Nuts from the get-go.

  • Navy scored on runs of 91 and 75 yards.
  • Air Force scored on passes of 51 and 59.
  • Navy went up 28-7, then Air Force scored four touchdowns in 18 minutes to take a 45-41 lead with under two minutes left.
  • Too much time on the clock.

23. Nov. 11: Alabama 31, Mississippi State 24

Alabama nearly fell victim to the SEC’s Bulldogs, blowing a chance to finish a comeback with a field goal but scoring a huge touchdown by little-used freshman DeVonta Smith.

I’m not talking about the national title game. I’m talking about two months earlier in Starkville.

Mississippi State played brilliant ball control, held Bama to 56 snaps, and led most of the way. But the Tide tied in the fourth and survived when, on that 56th snap, Jalen Hurts hit Smith for a 26-yard catch and run. MSU couldn’t complete a Hail Mary.

Smith had seven catches all year. Two were game-winners.

22. Oct. 14: Boston College 45, Louisville 42

Between mid-November 2014 and mid-October 2017, Boston College scored more than 30 on an FBS opponent just twice. Over the final six games of the 2017 regular season, the Eagles did it five times. And their hot streak began with a perfect foil: Lamar Jackson.

Louisville led 21-7 in the first half, and BC had punted on four of its first six possessions. But freshman AJ Dillon scored with 51 seconds left in the second quarter, then twice in the second half. His 75-yard run gave BC a stunning 42-28 lead with 12 minutes left, but Jackson’s 41-yard score tied the game back up.

The Cardinals were driving with under two left when Kamrin Moore recovered a fumble. Seven Dillon rushes — he had 39 for 272 yards — set up a kick at the buzzer.

21. Oct. 7: Michigan State 14, Michigan 10
20. Nov. 4: Michigan State 27, Penn State 24

By Jason Kirk:

TCU in the second half of an Alamo Bowl. Michael Jordan with a dubious illness. Lil Wayne in the late aughts. Mark Dantonio in disgusting weather.

Knowing of the MSU coach’s powers made the Michigan game ominous. The Wolverines surely knew they’d need a comfortable lead — in this series: roughly five points — before the forecasted rain arrived. But the Spartans gained a 14-3 lead and docked the tugboat, then pointed and laughed as Michigan kept passing in a downpour.

One month later, the Nittany Lions were doomed once lightning forced a delay. Their fate dimmed as the delay reached three hours, with players sustained by emergency pizza and Chick-fil-A. Seven hours after the first kick, Matt Coghlin hit the last one and splashed across wet turf.

19. Dec. 9: Army 14, Navy 13

by Steven Godfrey:

In 2016, Army broke Navy’s 14-game winning streak in the series, but this season was Jeff Monken’s true proof of concept win over the Midshipmen. Navy wasn’t down to a third string QB this time, and for the first time in decades (literally, decades!) the two service academies looked like equals.

18. Nov. 4: Oklahoma 62, Oklahoma State 52
17. Nov. 18: Kansas State 45, Oklahoma State 40

The two most exhausting shootouts in Big 12 play took place in Stillwater.

First, you had the most bedlam of all Bedlam matchups. After only one of the first four possessions resulted in points, OU and OSU scored on 11 of the next 12. At halftime, the teams had combined for 76 points and 645 yards.

Marquise Brown’s 77-yard TD made it 55-45 OU, but OSU drove 75 yards to cut the lead again. When Chad Whitener picked off a Baker Mayfield pass in the end zone with three minutes left, OSU had a chance to steal it. But a fourth-and-8 pass from the OU 38 fell incomplete, and Trey Sermon’s 53-yard run put the game away.

Two weeks later, OSU still had its sights on a major bowl when 5-5 Kansas State came to town. The Cowboys led 10-7 when Byron Pringle struck. He had four scores of 47 or more yards, all on seven touches. And with 20 minutes left, KSU had a 45-20 lead.

It almost wasn’t enough. Three OSU touchdowns in five minutes made it 45-40 with four minutes left, and after a KSU three-and-out, the Pokes had the ball with a chance to win.

16. Sept. 9: Georgia 20, Notre Dame 19

Jake Fromm’s first start began what nearly became a national title run. The Dawgs relied on their defense, and it worked, in part because of a late Rodrigo Blankenship field goal and this absurd Terry Godwin catch on a third-and-goal.

15. Nov. 11: Boise State 59, Colorado State 52

After a 2-2 start that featured a confusing blowout loss to Virginia, Boise State caught fire. The Broncos would win nine of 10, but their mid-November trip to Fort Collins nearly went awry. It typically does when you spot a talented home team a 28-3 advantage.

The Broncos needed all 60 minutes to cut Colorado State’s lead to zero. Alex Mattison’s 70-yard run made it 35-24 early in the third, and Sean Modster’s 13-yard reception made it 52-45 with 1:41 remaining. Star receiver Cedrick Wilson recovered an onside kick, and five plays later, the game was tied.

In OT, Mattison gave Boise the advantage, but CSU was in position until Leighton Vander Esch forced a fumble at the Boise 5. Comeback complete.

14. Oct. 7: WMU 71, Buffalo 68

At some point, you go from wishing a game would end to praying it never does. You’d have to ask the 17,048 in attendance at UB Stadium where that line was, but I’m guessing it was somewhere around the fourth overtime.

It looked as if this would be a routine road win for the defending MAC champion. But Buffalo caught back up, and a field goal with 34 seconds left sent the game to OT. And OT, and OT, and OT, and OT, and OT, and OT.

The teams traded TDs in each of the first two overtime periods, then went scoreless in the third. Each scored touchdowns with two-point conversions in the fourth, then each missed NCAA-mandated two-pointers in the fifth and sixth. When Buffalo settled for a field goal in OT No. 7, it opened the door, and Franklin ran through it.

The funniest part: It was over in four hours and 31 minutes, only 15 minutes longer than Oklahoma-Oklahoma State, which didn’t go to OT.

13. Dec. 23: USF 38, Texas Tech 34

Eleven seconds left in the Birmingham Bowl, and USF has trailed for most of the game. Quinton Flowers’ last pass:

College football is going to miss the hell out of Flowers. And no, this isn’t his last appearance on this list.

12. Dec. 23: Army 42, San Diego State 35

by Steven Godfrey:

How good is Army? SDSU, one of the most talented G5 programs in the nation, finished with 10 wins, two wins over Pac-12 teams, a No. 34 ranking in overall S&P+, and losses to only the Mountain West’s division champs and ... Army.

You almost certainly didn’t see this game because it was crammed into a holiday afternoon, but after SDSU’s great Rashaad Penny scored his fourth touchdown to give the Aztecs a 35-28 lead with under six minutes, the Black Knights drove 72 yards like a wood chipper welded to a go cart.

Emotional wins over other services academies are comfort food, but this was different. Army beat a really good team, full stop.

11. Dec. 2: UCF 62, Memphis 55

In September, UCF crushed Memphis, 40-13. That was the third of seven straight double-digit wins to start the Knights’ season.

By the end, Memphis was ready for a rematch. The Tigers won seven in a row to win the AAC West and a conference title shot in Orlando.

UCF built a 17-7 lead, but Memphis responded, going on a 24-7 run. It was 34-31, Memphis, when UCF went on a 17-0 run. But the Tigers again responded, tying with 4:13 left and picking off McKenzie Milton at the end of regulation.

Memphis kicked off OT with a 15-yard strike from Riley Ferguson to star Anthony Miller. UCF responded, then scored first in OT No. 2. After a huge fourth-and-7 catch by Miller, Tre Neal picked off Ferguson at the UCF 4 to clinch a New Year’s bid.

Check back tomorrow as we unveil the top 10 games of the year.

  • 100 - 71
  • 70 - 41
  • 40 - 11
  • 10 - 1 (Fri.)
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