The 2022 college football season was good. Really good. It gave us shocking early upsets and wild Hail Mary passes at the start and the best pair of CFP semifinals we've seen to date at the end. The in-between: also pretty good. Don't believe me? Check out the list below.As always, let's commemorate the season with a look back at the 100 best games of the season.
Jump to: Games 50-1
100. Pitt 38, West Virginia 31 (Sept. 1)
99. Pitt 37, UCLA 35 (Dec. 30)
Pat Narduzzi's 9-4 season at Pitt began and ended with wild wins. In the opener, the Panthers' first Backyard Brawl against West Virginia since 2011 saw seven lead changes and a pair of 14-0 runs in the fourth quarter. The visiting Mountaineers went from down 24-17 to up 31-24 late, but Israel Abanikanda's 24-yard touchdown with 3:41 left tied the score, and M.J. Devonshire's 56-yard pick-six 43 seconds later gave the Panthers the eventual win.
Picks played a heavy role in the season-ending Sun Bowl too. UCLA used a 52-yard pick-six to go up 28-14 in the third quarter, but Pitt picked off Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson three times and scored 16 points in the fourth quarter. UCLA took a 35-34 lead with just 34 seconds left, but two big pass completions by Nick Patti got the Panthers into field goal range, and Ben Sauls banged in a 47-yarder with four seconds left.
98. James Madison 32, Appalachian State 28 (Sept. 24)From the very start of the season, FBS newcomer James Madison signaled that it was ready for the jump. The Dukes won their first two games of the season by a combined 107-14, and in Week 4 they spotted host App State a 28-3 lead and somehow won anyway. JMU scored the final 29 points of the game, clamping down on the Mountaineers' defense, scoring twice in 52 seconds early in the fourth quarter and seeing out a message win.
97. Penn State 35, Purdue 31 (Sept. 1)
One of the first awesome games of the season. Penn State would eventually go 11-2 with a top-10 finish in 2022, but the Nittany Lions could have easily started 0-1. Purdue took the lead twice in the final 17 minutes, but Sean Clifford threw fourth-quarter touchdown passes to Keandre Lambert-Smith and Keyvone Lee -- sandwiching a long Chris Jefferson pick-six -- and PSU shut out the Boilermakers in four fourth-quarter drives.
96. Rice 42, Louisiana Tech 41 (Oct. 22)
Rice's first bowl bid in eight years was driven in part by this thriller. The Owls used a pair of fourth-quarter scores to take a 35-27 lead, but Louisiana Tech came back to send the game to overtime with a beautiful touchdown catch and maybe even more beautiful 2-point conversion.
Landry Lyddy threw another touchdown in OT, and with the hot hand the Bulldogs went for two and the win. This one didn't work out. Rice survived.
95. East Carolina 47, Memphis 45 (Oct. 15)This game began innocuously enough, with Memphis building a 17-0 lead. But East Carolina responded with a 23-3 run and scored what seemed to be the winning touchdown with less than two minutes remaining. Too much time: Memphis tied it up with 19 seconds left, and the game went to a fourth overtime possession before the Tigers failed on their 2-point attempt and ECU prevailed.
94. Eastern Kentucky 59, Bowling Green 57 (Sept. 10)
The afternoon of Sept. 10 gave us a run of overtime games; this wasn't the best of the bunch, but it sure was the longest. Bowling Green used a late 21-0 run to take the lead, but Eastern Kentucky forced overtime with a touchdown on the last play of regulation. In the seventh overtime possession, Braedon Sloan took a short pass and dove for the pylon to give EKU its first win over an FBS team in eight years.
93. Florida 29, Utah 26 (Sept. 3)
Utah began the season with sleeper national title aspirations, but those hopes were put on ice when Florida's Anthony Richardson went off and a late Utes comeback hit a bump. Richardson threw and rushed for 274 combined yards and scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:25 remaining, but a huge run from Cam Rising set Utah up with not only a chance to tie but maybe win outright.
Amari Burney stopped that from happening.
92. Georgia Tech 21, North Carolina 17 (Nov. 19)
No one could be blamed for turning this one off. North Carolina was heavily favored and went up 17-0 in the second quarter. But the Tar Heels would go scoreless on their final six drives, and Hassan Hall's 6-yard score with 11:08 left gave the Yellow Jackets a shocking 21-17 lead. A late UNC turnover on downs sealed a stunning turnaround.
91. Boise State 35, North Texas 32 (Dec. 17)
90. BYU 24, SMU 23 (Dec. 17)
89. Ohio 30, Wyoming 27 (Dec. 30)
Bowl season was an absolute delight this year, and it didn't wait long to get rolling. This trio of Group of 5 matchups -- two of which happened on the first bowl Saturday -- were all thrill rides. First, BYU used a midgame 17-0 run to seize control in the New Mexico Bowl before SMU charged back late. Jordan Kerley brought the Mustangs within one with eight seconds remaining, but Tanner Mordecai's 2-point rush attempt came up well short. Later that evening, the Frisco Bowl gave us five third-quarter lead changes before Boise State took control and a late North Texas comeback attempt fell short.
Two weeks later in Arizona, the final G5-versus-G5 bowl of the year also delivered the goods. Ohio controlled most of the action in the Arizona Bowl but kept settling for field goals, and Jordan Vaughn gave Wyoming a 24-21 lead with 2:04 left. Ohio's Nathaniel Vakos nailed a 46-yarder in the closing seconds of regulation, however, and CJ Harris found Tyler Foster for a 10-yard score and the win in overtime.
88. Arizona 38, Arizona State 35 (Nov. 26)
The plot twists were constant in the Territorial Cup, which produced runs of 10-0, 14-0, 21-7 and 14-0. ASU took the lead early in the fourth quarter, but the Wildcats took the advantage right back with a short DJ Williams touchdown, then held on to force a pair of turnovers on downs and seal the rivalry win.
87. Michigan State 34, Wisconsin 28 (Oct. 15)
In a battle to give away the game, Wisconsin finally succeeded. The Badgers allowed a blocked field goal on their attempted game winner at the end of regulation, but the Spartans offered a lifeline when neither of two defenders could hold on to a surefire interception from Graham Mertz. Braelon Allen lost a fumble in the second OT, however, and it made the difference: Jayden Reed's touchdown catch gave the Spartans the win.
86. Army 20, Navy 17 (Dec. 10)
We witnessed something about as rare as a Halley's Comet sighting on Dec. 10: An Army-Navy game hit the over! It was the first time in 17 years that such a thing occurred, and it required overtime. Jabril Williams' 31-yard blocked punt return gave Army a halftime advantage that was wiped out by Anton Hall's 77-yard run in the third quarter. That was pretty much all the excitement until overtime, but both teams scored touchdowns on their first OT plays.
Unfortunately for Navy, Hall fumbled while churning for the end zone in the second OT, and Quinn Maretzki's 39-yard field goal meant the Black Knights sang second for the fifth time in seven years.
85. Houston 37, UTSA 35 (Sept. 3)
84. UTSA 41, Army 38 (Sept. 10)
83. Texas Tech 33, Houston 30 (Sept. 10)
82. Tulane 27, Houston 24 (Oct. 1)
81. UTSA 31, North Texas 27 (Oct. 22)If drama per game was a stat, Houston and UTSA might have led the country in it. The teams began the season with a wild game against each other -- Houston went on a 17-0 run to take a sudden lead in the fourth quarter, UTSA forced overtime with a late field goal, Houston won in the third OT -- then kept right on cranking out the mayhem.
In Week 2, Houston overcame a 17-3 deficit to take a late lead before a Texas Tech field goal forced more OT, where the Red Raiders' Donovan Smith completed a fourth-and-20 pass in the first possession and won the game in the second. UTSA, meanwhile, went on a 21-0 run in the second half against Army, but gave up a 42-yard touchdown pass with 1:03 left and went to OT too. De'Corian Clark's 7-yard score saved the Roadrunners from an 0-2 start.
It kept going from there! Houston scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to take the lead on eventual AAC champion Tulane in October, but yet another late score -- Kai Horton to Tyrick James with 39 seconds left -- forced yet another overtime, and Houston fell short because of a Tyjae Spears touchdown for the Green Wave. And near the end of the month, UTSA and North Texas traded the lead five times in the fourth quarter, including three times in the final 2:36, before Frank Harris and De'Corian Clark combined for the game winner with 15 seconds left.I stopped at five games here, but there were more that could have been included: UTSA beat Western Kentucky by 3 in October and UAB in double overtime in November and, well, Houston has three more appearances further up the list.
80. Alabama 24, Texas A&M 20 (Oct. 8)
With an injured Bryce Young on the sideline, Alabama once again found itself flustered by Jimbo Fisher's Aggies. The Crimson Tide turned the ball over four times and watched a 24-14 lead slowly dissipate. A&M kicked a pair of second-half field goals, then drove 69 yards in the final 1:45 with a chance to win. Unfortunately, they needed 71 yards. From the Bama 2 on the final play, Haynes King misfired and Bama held on.
79. Purdue 31, Maryland 29 (Oct. 8)
This one waited until the final eight minutes to get wild, and two Maryland miscues made the difference. The Terps scored on an 11-yard Taulia Tagovailoa-to-Roman Hemby touchdown pass to take a 23-17 lead, but Cam Allen (who may have been offside) blocked the PAT. Purdue scored twice in two minutes to build a 31-23 advantage before Tagovailoa found Corey Dyches from 18 yards out with 35 seconds left to cut the lead to 2. Maryland's 2-point conversion was good ... but the Terps were flagged for an ineligible man downfield. The second attempt failed, and Purdue prevailed.
78. Oregon State 35, Fresno State 32 (Sept. 10)
77. Oregon State 28, Stanford 27 (Oct. 8)
Before Jonathan Smith and OSU could win 10 games and finish the season with marquee wins over Oregon and Florida, the Beavers had to survive a couple of upset attempts. Against Fresno State in Week 2, the Beavers trailed by 9 with 20 minutes left and by 3 in the closing seconds. Instead of forcing overtime with a field goal, the Beavers went for the win and got it with Jack Colletto's touchdown on the final play of the game.
A month later, the Beavers one-upped themselves in the drama department when Tre'Shaun Harrison did this with 13 seconds left to save them against Stanford.
76. Tennessee 34, Pitt 27 (Sept. 10)
75. Tennessee 38, Florida 33 (Sept. 24)
Like Oregon State, Josh Heupel's Volunteers had to survive some September wackiness before scaling to great heights in 2022. First, in a dead-even game at Acrisure Stadium (total yards: Vols 416, Pitt 415), Tennessee went to overtime with the host Panthers, negating an early 10-0 deficit with a 17-0 run but allowing a late Jared Wayne touchdown to tie it. In OT, Hendon Hooker hit Cedric Tillman for a 28-yard score, and a huge Trevon Flowers sack set up the game-winning turnover on downs.
Two weeks later against Florida, the Vols went on a 28-7 run that gave them a 17-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. But Montrell Johnson Jr. scored to make it 38-27, then Ricky Pearsall made it 38-33 with 17 seconds left. All Tennessee had to do was recover an onside kick to survive ... but Florida snared it and moved into Tennessee territory before Kamal Hadden sealed the win with a pick.
74. Kent State 31, Ohio 24 (Oct. 1)
73. Ball State 44, NIU 38 (Oct. 1)
72. Holy Cross 37, Buffalo 31 (Sept. 10)
71. Ohio 59, Fordham 52 (Sept. 24)
MACtion didn't wait until November to kick in. The Mid-American Conference produced a number of ridiculous finishes in the first five weeks of the season. Oct. 1 gave us a pair of overtime classics: Kent State overcame a pair of 7-point deficits in the fourth quarter to force overtime against Ohio, then won with a Marquez Cooper touchdown and a turnover on downs. Down the road in Muncie, Ball State scored 24 points in the final 16 minutes to overcome a 17-point deficit, and after both teams missed field goals in the first overtime, the Cardinals prevailed with a Carson Steele touchdown and another turnover on downs.
Of course, the wildest endings came even earlier in the season. Ohio needed 537 passing yards from Kurtis Rourke to overcome Fordham's prolific attack. The Rams scored 49 points in the second and third quarters and led by 11 before an Ohio burst; Rourke hit Jacoby Jones for a touchdown to give the Bobcats a 53-52 lead, then Bryce Houston returned a fumble 42 yards for another score on the final play.The final play of Buffalo-Holy Cross? Even better.
HOLY CROSS HAIL MARY FTW! 🚨 — SportsCenter (@SportsCenter)(Funny enough, Holy Cross and Fordham also played a classic further down this list.)
The best of the lower levels
70. Shepherd 42, Kutztown 35 (Sept. 24)One of the best games of the Division II season came early on, when Shepherd used an early pick-six and kick-return touchdown to stay close, then took the lead on a 70-yard touchdown pass from Tyson Bagent to Marlon Cook with 1:41 left. There were three late lead changes, but Kutztown came up short of a fourth.
69. Columbia 21, Harvard 20 (Nov. 5)
What's better than beating a conference rival on the road for the first time in 27 years? Doing so with three blocked field goals! The last of the trio caused Harvard's go-ahead 42-yard attempt to doink off the upright with 1:17 left.
68. Southern Utah 17, Western Illinois 10 (Sept. 10)
It was a frustrating, winless season for Western Illinois, and this loss might have been the most frustrating of the bunch. The Leathernecks overcame a 10-0 deficit and tied the score with 54 seconds left, only to watch Justin Miller and Isaiah Wooden connect for a 73-yard game winner 21 seconds later.
oh MYYYY | Birds for 7 🙌— Southern Utah Football (@SUUFB_)
67. Sacramento State 38, Richmond 31 (Dec. 3)
Sacramento State rode dramatics to an unbeaten regular season at the FCS level, and the drama continued in the playoffs. On a rainy night in Sacramento in the round of 16, the Hornets watched Richmond bolt to a 21-7 lead before charging back. Pierre Williams' 51-yard touchdown reception finally gave the hosts the lead, and a Cameron Broussard interception with 1:19 left finished off the win.
66. Sacramento State 31, Montana 24 (Oct. 22)
Sac State's unbeaten record was in serious danger against a stellar Montana team at Hornet Stadium as Troy Taylor's Hornets trailed 24-14 with six minutes left but scored twice in two minutes to force overtime. Quarterback Asher O'Hara's second rushing touchdown gave them the lead to start extra time, then the Hornets defense forced a four-and-out to clinch the win.
65. Lindsey Wilson 23, Reinhardt 22 (Nov. 19)
Lindsey Wilson, the 2021 spring NAIA champion, had this playoff game in the bag. The Blue Raiders led 23-0 with seven minutes left after a 95-yard pick-six, but Reinhardt nearly pulled off a miracle. The Eagles scored quickly, made the 2-point conversion, recovered an onside kick, scored quickly again, converted another 2-pointer and forced a punt. The Eagles scored a third time with 18 seconds left ... but missed on a third 2-point conversion attempt and fell a point short.
64. Ferris State 33, Saginaw Valley 28 (Oct. 8)
63. Ferris State 17, Pittsburg State 14 (Nov. 26)When you're the defending champ, you're going to face a lot of eager opponents attempting serious haymakers. Ferris State certainly knows that well by now; the 2021 Division II kings would eventually win their second straight title this fall, but it wasn't a cakewalk to the final. First, in a GLIAC rivalry game with solid playoff implications, the Bulldogs raced to a 20-7 lead over Saginaw Valley before the Cardinals scored three touchdowns in seven minutes to go ahead. Carson Gulker saved Ferris' bacon with a touchdown with 1:11 remaining.Later, in the playoffs' round of 16, a game Pittsburg State squad nearly forced overtime. Ferris again took the early lead (14-0 in the first quarter) but couldn't quite close the deal. The lead was just 17-14 with Pittsburg State at the Bulldogs' 17 in the final minute. But a holding penalty knocked the Gorillas back, and Gentry Cole missed a 44-yard field goal try wide right. Survive and advance.
62. Delaware Valley 39, Randolph-Macon 32 (Nov. 26)Small-school playoffs always deliver. In the Division III round of 16, Duke Greco's DelVal Aggies found themselves in a 32-18 fourth-quarter hole until a pair of Louie Barrios IV touchdown runs tied the score. With the clock under 30 seconds, Barrios then completed the surge, finding Jahaire Johnson for a 10-yard touchdown, a seven-point win and a date with Mount Union in the quarterfinals.
61. Southeastern Louisiana 45, Idaho 42 (Nov. 26)
60. Samford 48, Southeastern Louisiana 42 (Dec. 3)
Southeastern Louisiana is one of FCS' more reliable popcorn teams, and the Lions coaxed the maximum amount of drama from their pair of playoff games. First, against Idaho at home, they went on runs of 21-0 and 14-0 but gave up a 14-0 run as well and couldn't advance until Idaho's Ricardo Chavez slipped while attempting a 39-yard field goal and missed it at the buzzer.
A week later in Birmingham, SELA's season came to an end in similarly dramatic fashion. The game featured four 14-0 runs and a 21-0 Samford run, and SELA sent it to overtime with a Jessie Britt touchdown with 37 seconds left. But Cephus Johnson III lost a fumble at the Samford 2 in OT, and Quincy Crittendon bolted 10 yards for the Bulldogs' winning touchdown.
59. Holy Cross 53, Fordham 52 (Oct. 29)
As with Sac State, Holy Cross' unbeaten regular-season run required a couple of miracles. Fordham went on a 28-7 run in this one, and Holy Cross had to come from behind on three separate occasions in the fourth quarter. The Crusaders forced overtime, and Fordham scored first, but Matthew Sluka's touchdown run and Ayir Asante's 2-point conversion gave Holy Cross the win in one of the wildest track meets of the year.
58. Incarnate Word 41, Furman 38 (Dec. 3)
Incarnate Word was the story of the FCS playoffs. The prolific Cardinals nearly made the semifinals ... after nearly losing in the round of 16. UIW quarterback (and Walter Payton Award winner) Lindsey Scott Jr. threw one pick-six and nearly threw another, but he also threw for 394 yards, rushed for 124 and threw the game-winning touchdown pass to teammate Kole Wilson with 1:54 left.
57. Grand Valley State 22, Ferris State 21 (Oct. 15)
56. Ferris State 24, Grand Valley State 21 (Dec. 3)The Anchor-Bone Classic might be Division II's most celebrated rivalry, and it brought the goods twice this season. First, Grand Valley State knocked off the defending champs on the road, erasing a 21-10 fourth-quarter deficit with a pair of touchdowns and a pair of late stops. That earned the Lakers the right to host the Bulldogs when the two met in the Division II quarterfinals, but Ferris got road revenge. Eddie Jewett kicked a go-ahead field goal with just more than one minute left, and Cyntell Williams picked off a pass at the goal line on the final play. Ferris State won another national title two games later.
55. West Florida 38, Delta State 27 (Nov. 26)
It was wacky in the Delta for this Division II round-of-16 battle. West Florida, the 2019 national champ, trailed 24-10 heading into the fourth quarter and 27-24 in the final minute before C.J. Wilson put the Argonauts ahead with 30 seconds left and Anthony Johnson iced the game with a pick-six 10 seconds later. A 28-point fourth quarter for the win!
54. Keiser 29, Morningside 28 (Nov. 26)
Morningside is basically the NAIA's Georgia Bulldogs, but the Mustangs fell in the NAIA quarterfinals this year when Keiser unleashed a late burst, scoring two fourth-quarter touchdowns, forcing two turnovers and turning a 28-16 deficit into a shocking 29-28 win. It wasn't a flash in the pan either: After beating the top team, Keiser also beat No. 2 Grand View and led No. 3 Northwestern late in the third quarter of the title game before fading and falling.
53. Mount Union 34, Wartburg 31 (Dec. 10)
52. Mount Union 23, Baldwin Wallace 21 (Nov. 12)Mount Union advanced to its first Division III title game since 2018 but required a couple of miracles to get there. First, in the regular-season finale, the Purple Raiders watched a 17-0 lead disappear and fell behind 21-17 with 22 seconds remaining. But Wayne Ruby Jr. reeled in a Hail Mary attempt off of a defender's helmet to secure a vital win.
A month later, against surprise semifinalist Wartburg, the Raiders were just about toast. Wartburg took the lead on a 59-yard touchdown pass with 3:06 left, and Mount Union faced a fourth-and-7. Enter Ruby once more: The senior and 1,700-yard receiver caught a 36-yard bomb to setup Tyler Echeverry's 3-yard game-winning run with 31 seconds left.
One for the history books! What a way to clinch your 33rd OAC Title outright, 31st undefeated regular season, and 33rd NCAA Playoff appearance!— Mount Union Purple Raiders (@purpleraiders)
(📹Image Video's Dean Marini)
51. Montana State 43, Weber State 38 (Oct. 22)
This was easily the most bizarre college football game of 2022. Weber State scored on a 100-yard kickoff return and a 91-yard punt return in the first quarter on the way to a 24-9 lead, but with help from 273 rushing yards from quarterback Tommy Mellott and four safeties (!!!!!), all from bad snaps, the Bobcats charged back to take a 43-24 lead. Game over? Nope! WSU scored twice and drove inside the MSU 30 in the final minute before turning the ball over on downs. Exhausting and delightful.
50. Bowling Green 42, Toledo 35 (Nov. 15)Sloppy weather? Check. Huge plot twists? Check. (BGSU went up 21-0 early before Toledo reeled the Falcons in and took a late 35-34 lead.) Inexplicable ending? CHECK.
Bowling Green stuns Toledo retaking the lead with 0:09 remaining 🚨 — ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB)This game was everything we have come to expect from midweek November MACtion.
49. Arizona 34, UCLA 28 (Nov. 12)
48. USC 48, UCLA 45 (Nov. 19)
UCLA was 8-1 before this pair of maddening home defeats. In the former, Arizona scored the first 14 and last 10 points of the game and held on for dear life as the Bruins drove inside the Wildcats' 30 in the closing seconds. But four Dorian Thompson-Robinson passes all fell incomplete, and the Wildcats held on.In the latter, USC and UCLA combined to gain 1,162 yards and scored on 15 of 26 total possessions. But the Bruins turned the ball over four times. After charging back from 10 points down to get within three points, they looked all but certain to tie or take a late lead, but Thompson-Robinson was picked off for the third time with 1:26 left, and USC kneeled out the win.
47. Ole Miss 22, Kentucky 19 (Oct. 1)These teams would lose 10 of 16 games afterward, but Oct. 1 offered two 4-0 teams ranked in the AP top 11, and the rhythm was weird and enthralling. Ole Miss used two touchdown runs, a safety and a 53-yard field goal to build a 19-6 lead midway through the second quarter, but it turned into a Kentucky rock fight from there. The Wildcats clawed back, but Ole Miss forced a pair of red zone fumbles in the final three minutes, recovered both and remained unbeaten for a couple of more weeks.
46. UConn 36, Liberty 33 (Nov. 12)It was a season rife with unexpected bowl runs, and UConn's ranked near the top of the list. Jim Mora's Huskies ended up clinching a postseason bid with this unlikely win. Liberty outgained them by more than 150 yards, but UConn pulled off a pair of fourth-down stops and a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to clinch a bowl.
45. Houston 23, Louisiana 16 (Dec. 23)
After a moribund start, Houston's dramatic tendencies took over. Louisiana dominated the first half but settled for field goals and a mere 16-6 lead, which became 16-16 in the fourth quarter. The Cajuns lost a fumble at the Houston 4 with 8:32 remaining, and the Cougars eventually moved into scoring position late. Instead of setting up for a field goal, Clayton Tune found Nathaniel Dell for a winning 12-yard pass with 20 seconds left.
44. Oregon 20, Utah 17 (Nov. 19)
It wasn't quite what we expected in a game with two marquee quarterbacks -- Oregon's (injured) Bo Nix and Utah's Cam Rising -- but defense controlled a game with huge Pac-12 title implications. Oregon burst out to a 17-3 halftime lead, but it was 20-17 when Utah created multiple chances to take the lead. A couple of dropped fourth-down passes and a Bennett Williams interception allowed the Ducks to somehow hold on.
43. UCF 25, Cincinnati 21 (Oct. 29)
42. UCF 46, USF 39 (Nov. 26)UCF ended the year with a pair of meek losses -- to Tulane in the AAC championship and to Duke in the Military Bowl by a combined 34 points -- but we'll just say it's because the nine-win Knights were exhausted from this pair of victories.
First, in their Bounce House backyard, they survived a tight and physical battle with Cincinnati when RJ Harvey spun and bounced his way into the end zone from 17 yards out in the final minute. And in the last edition of the War on I-4 for a little while (UCF is moving to the Big 12), the Knights raced to a 28-0 lead as heavy favorites before, with help from a number of turnovers, USF unleashed a 39-10 run over about 24 minutes. With one last chance to save itself from collapse, UCF rallied, driving 82 yards in eight plays and taking the lead on an Alec Holler touchdown catch with 20 seconds left.OK, it wasn't just a catch. It was a dang miracle.
Orlando, this is for you!!!!!!! — Alec Holler (@AlecHoller)
41. Clemson 34, Florida State 28 (Oct. 15)
40. North Carolina 38, Duke 35 (Oct. 15)
39. Clemson 51, Wake Forest 45 (Sept. 24)
38. NC State 30, North Carolina 27 (Nov. 26)Was the ACC particularly good in 2022? Not really. Were its teams close enough in stature and capability to produce loads of thrilling games? Absolutely! Here are four of them.
For a moment in September, it looked as if all of Clemson's 2021 offensive problems had been rectified. The Tigers couldn't stop Wake Forest's unique and maddening offense, but that was all right because they had D.J. Uiagalelei, who threw for 371 yards and five touchdowns, including a pair of 21-yarders to eventually eke out a double-OT win in Winston-Salem.
In October's middle Saturday, Clemson pulled out another fun win as Uiagalelei threw three touchdown passes and the Tigers used a 17-0 run in the middle eight -- the last four minutes of the first half and the first four of the second half -- to build a sizable lead on FSU, and it just held up despite a late Seminoles comeback. Meanwhile in Durham, UNC used a 21-0 run to take an 11-point lead on host Duke before the Blue Devils scored twice early in the fourth quarter to take the lead right back. The Tar Heels drove 74 yards in nine plays and scored the game winner when Antoine Green caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from Drake Maye with 16 seconds remaining.
North Carolina couldn't pull one out against an even fiercer rival, however. NC State's backup quarterback, Ben Finley, outdueled Maye but still watched him throw another touchdown pass to Green as time expired to send the game to OT. The teams traded field goals until the last kick of the second OT -- Noah Burnette misfired on a 35-yarder, and the Wolfpack won bragging rights.
37. Georgia 26, Missouri 22 (Oct. 1)
Georgia's only stiff, 60-minute test in the regular season came in a surprising place: Columbia, Missouri. Eliah Drinkwitz's Tigers took the fight to the champs, who didn't respond particularly well and found themselves trailing 22-12 early in the fourth quarter thanks to some field goal bombs from Mizzou's Harrison Mevis. The Tigers needed one more break to secure the upset, but it never came. Georgia was nearly perfect over the final 14 minutes, and touchdowns from Kendall Milton and Daijun Edwards gave the Dawgs the victory.
36. Michigan 19, Illinois 17 (Nov. 19)
Michigan almost messed up its CFP bona fides a week before its big trip to Ohio State. The Wolverines controlled the first half but led just 10-3, and a pair of Chase Brown touchdown runs gave Illinois the lead heading into the fourth quarter. Michigan kept threatening to score and falling short, settling for field goals that made it 17-16 into the final minute. A key pass interference penalty moved the Wolverines into field goal range one last time, and Jake Moody's fourth three-pointer of the day, from 35 yards out, won the game.
35. Notre Dame 45, South Carolina 38 (Dec. 30)
34. South Carolina 31, Clemson 30 (Nov. 26)
The Gamecocks were 6-4 and most of the way through a forgettable season when they suddenly turned up the entertainment value. First, they demolished Tennessee 63-38 thereby ending the Volunteers' CFP hopes. Then, they beat rival Clemson for the first time in nine years, falling behind by nine points at halftime but using a 72-yard Antwane Wells Jr. touchdown catch and a pair of field goals to take a 31-30 lead. The punter took it from there. Kai Kroeger pinned Clemson inside its 5 on two late kicks, and the Tigers couldn't mount a viable comeback attempt.
This late surge led the Gamecocks to a wacky Gator Bowl loaded with fake punts and return scores. South Carolina used an early pick-six to build a 14-point lead and, with Notre Dame driving to put the game out of reach, scored on another one (this one 100 yards from O'Donnell Fortune) to tie the game. Alas, the defense couldn't hold up. Notre Dame's Tyler Buchner threw his third touchdown pass of the day, and the Fighting Irish prevailed in chaotic fashion.
33. Kansas State 41, Oklahoma 34 (Sept. 24)
32. Texas 34, Kansas State 27 (Nov. 5)
31. Oklahoma State 41, Texas 34 (Oct. 22)
30. TCU 38, Kansas 31 (Oct. 8)
29. Texas Tech 37, Texas 34 (Sept. 24)I have been writing these Top 100 Games lists for approaching a decade now, and every single year has featured a batch of ridiculous Big 12 track meets. Why would this year be any different?
You had the customary K-State upset of Oklahoma (the third in four years): The Wildcats overcame a couple of long touchdown passes by grinding the Sooners' defense into paste. Adrian Martinez rushed for 148 yards and four touchdowns and threw for 234 and a fifth score, and OU gained 550 yards but could never fully close the gap.
You had the sadly customary Late Martinez Turnover Game as well: With K-State having closed a 21-point halftime deficit to just seven late against Texas, Martinez fumbled, and Jaylan Ford recovered with 24 seconds left.
You had another second-half collapse that Texas couldn't recover from: The Horns scored 31 points in the first half and three in the second as Oklahoma State finished a wild comeback with a 24-3 run and a 41-yard game winner from Spencer Sanders to Bryson Green.
You had the first of many close calls in conference play for CFP-bound TCU: With starting QB Jalon Daniels hurt, Kansas refused to let the Horned Frogs pull away. Backup Jason Bean threw four touchdowns, all of which tied the game or gave the Jayhawks the lead. But Quentin Johnston scored with 1:36 left, and KU finally couldn't respond.
Finally, you had the Fourth Down Game: In what might have been Texas' last trip to Lubbock as a conference rival, Tech went 6-for-8 on fourth downs and went on a 17-0 run to take a late lead. Texas' Bert Auburn tied the game at the buzzer, but Bijan Robinson lost a fumble in OT, and Trey Wolff nailed a chip-shot FG to give the Red Raiders the win.
This conference is exhausting.
28. Syracuse 32, Purdue 29 (Sept. 17)
The first 42 minutes of this game produced 12 points. The last 18 produced 49. Syracuse turned a 15-10 deficit into a sudden 10-point lead with a touchdown pass and pick-six, but Purdue responded with a pair of Aidan O'Connell touchdown passes. Down four in the final minute, Syracuse got a big kick return from Courtney Jackson, and Oronde Gadsden II completed his star turn with his second huge touchdown catch of the final nine minutes.
27. Florida State 45, Florida 38 (Nov. 26)
26. Florida State 35, Oklahoma 32 (Dec. 29)
25. Florida State 24, LSU 23 (Sept. 4)
Like Pitt and others, FSU deployed its most memorable work at the start and end of the season. Mike Norvell's Seminoles led Brian Kelly's Tigers 24-10 with five minutes left before two Jayden Daniels-to-Jaray Jenkins touchdowns, one on the final play of regulation, brought the Tigers back. Kelly played for the PAT and overtime ... and it backfired when FSU blocked its second kick of the game to win.
After a series of ups and downs -- four wins, three losses, four more wins -- the Noles finished the year in style. Against rival Florida, they watched a 38-24 lead disappear in three minutes, took it back, then held on for dear life until a late fourth-down stop gave them the win. A month later in the Cheez-It Bowl, a young and fiery Oklahoma team led 14-3 early and 25-18 late, but the Noles scored 17 points in the final 11:05 and won when Ryan Fitzgerald's 32-yard field goal went through the uprights with 55 seconds left.
24. Clemson 27, Syracuse 21 (Oct. 22)
Few have been more of a pain in the butt to Dabo Swinney's Clemson than Dino Babers' Syracuse, who beat the Tigers in 2017 and nearly did so in 2018, 2021 and now 2022 as well. The Orange forced three D.J. Uiagalelei turnovers and chased him from the game while building a 21-7 lead, but they needed one more score they could never find. Will Shipley's 50-yard touchdown run put Clemson ahead, and the Tigers made a late stop when R.J. Mickens picked off Garrett Shrader at the Clemson 15 with 15 seconds left.
23. Oregon 28, North Carolina 27 (Dec. 28)
The first San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl in three years proved worth the wait. After a back-and-forth first half, UNC took a 10-point lead with nine minutes left, only to watch Oregon respond immediately. The score was 27-21 Heels when Oregon drove 79 yards in eight plays and Chase Cota scored with 19 seconds left. Camden Lewis made the winning PAT ... barely. It doinked in. But it counted, and Oregon won its 10th game of the season.
22. Houston 33, Memphis 32 (Oct. 7)
We saw a batch of Houston games in part one of this list, but this one was too good -- it had to be included in the top 25. Houston trailed 26-7 early in the fourth quarter, but Jayce Rogers returned a kickoff for a touchdown, and Clayton Tune threw three touchdown passes in the final 13 minutes. The last two went to KeSean Carter in the final 77 seconds -- with an onside kick recovery in between -- to give Houston a shocking win.
21. San Jose State 35, Nevada 28 (Oct. 29)
This one was rough. In SJSU's first game after Camdan McWright was killed in a scooter accident, the Spartans honored their fallen teammate before the game, then rallied for him late. Trailing 21-7 in the third quarter, they scored four touchdowns from there. Kairee Robinson found the end zone twice in the last seven minutes, and Alii Matau's midfield interception with 33 seconds left clinched the emotional victory.
this wins for #6 | — San José State Football (@SanJoseStateFB)
20. Mississippi State 24, Ole Miss 22 (Nov. 26)
This one was fun in the present tense and heart-rending in retrospect: It was Mike Leach's last win. Ole Miss dominated for most of the first half but settled for field goals and a mere 16-7 lead, which disappeared after a 17-0 run from Leach's Bulldogs. Dayton Wade caught a 23-yard touchdown from Jaxson Dart with 85 seconds left to get the Rebels to within two, but one last goal-line failure from Ole Miss -- an incomplete 2-point conversion attempt -- gave Leach's Bulldogs the Egg Bowl win.
— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin)
19. TCU 43, Oklahoma State 40 (Oct. 15)
Both teams were unbeaten heading into this one. OSU took a 24-7 lead 20 minutes into the game and still led by 14 heading into the fourth quarter, but Max Duggan hit Jared Wiley for a 10-yard score to tie the game, then found Quentin Johnston from 25 yards on the first play of OT. OSU responded by converting a fourth-and-9 and forcing a second OT, then nailing a 52-yard field goal to go up 40-37, but the Cowboys' defense was toast. Six straight rushes, the last a 2-yard score by Kendre Miller, gave the Frogs the win.
18. Oregon State 38, Oregon 34 (Nov. 26)
17. Washington 37, Oregon 34 (Nov. 12)
More and more college football coaches are following the math and going for it more appropriately on fourth down. There are plenty of rewards to doing so -- see game No. 29 above -- but that doesn't mean it always works out. Oregon suffered a pair of gripping losses in part because its ultra-efficient offense couldn't gain a yard in key moments.
First, against rival Washington in a game that featured touchdowns of 46, 29, 76, 67 and 62 yards, Noah Whittington slipped on fourth-and-1 at the Ducks' 34, setting up a go-ahead field goal for the Huskies. Oregon nearly drove within range of a field goal but came up just short.
Two weeks later, in an even bigger rivalry game against Oregon State, the Ducks eased to a 31-10 lead late in the third quarter. But the Beavers unleashed a 28-3 run in just nine minutes with help from a botched punt (which set up a 2-yard touchdown drive) and another fourth-down failure. Now down four, Oregon drove to the OSU 3 with under three minutes left but failed again on fourth down (this time a fourth-and-3) and Oregon State ran out the clock.
16. SMU 77, Houston 63 (Nov. 5)
This was just the most ridiculous popcorn game you'll ever see. The teams combined for 1,352 offensive yards, 65 first downs and 20 offensive touchdowns. SMU led 56-35 at halftime after scoring TDs on all eight first-half possessions, and it actually somehow felt disappointing that (a) the Mustangs didn't top 100 points and (b) Houston couldn't ever figure out how to claw back and force endless overtime.
15. North Dakota State 35, Incarnate Word 32 (Dec. 16)
14. Incarnate Word 66, Sacramento State 63 (Dec. 9)
We revisit the smaller-school ranks for these two games because they were just too good not to make the top 20. UIW's Lindsey Scott Jr. won the Walter Payton Award after producing one of the wilder stat lines you'll ever see: 4,686 passing yards, 712 rushing yards and 71 combined touchdowns. His Cardinals were a must-watch in the FCS playoffs.
After surviving Furman 41-38 in the round of 16, UIW faced unbeaten SSU in Sacramento. It took more than 1,300 yards and four hours to decide a winner. Scott started a 57-point fourth quarter with a 64-yard touchdown run and finished it with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Taylor Grimes with 27 seconds left. The Cardinals had taken down the No. 2 seed.
They nearly took down the No. 3 seed in the semis, too, bolting to a quick 16-0 lead against FCS' royalty in the Fargodome. NDSU responded with a 24-0 run, but just as it looked like the Bison were taking control, two Scott touchdowns and a field goal gave UIW a 32-27 advantage ... that lasted about 90 seconds. Kobe Johnson's 31-yard score gave NDSU the lead, and it held up when UIW failed on fourth down from the NDSU 22, then threw a pick at the NDSU 18.
13. Alabama 20, Texas 19 (Sept. 10)
Neither team ended up living up to hope or expectations in 2022, but this Week 2 matchup was an event of the highest order. In front of 105,213 in Austin, Texas gave up an early 81-yard touchdown to Jase McClellan and lost a red-hot Quinn Ewers to injury but still took a 16-10 lead early in the fourth quarter.
When Jahmyr Gibbs got the lead back for the Tide, Texas' Bert Auburn nailed a 49-yard field goal with 1:29 left to make it 19-17. Bama was out of sorts ... but still had Bryce Young, who completed five passes, escaped pressure multiple times and ripped off a 20-yard run to set up Will Reichard's 33-yard game winner.
WOW 😱 takes back the lead with 10 seconds remaining 🔥 — FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX)
12. Kansas State 31, TCU 28 (Dec. 3)
It didn't impact TCU's CFP candidacy, but it was still a classic. K-State led by 11 with 11:27 left after Deuce Vaughn's nasty 44-yard touchdown, but Max Duggan converted a fourth down and a second-and-20 with his feet, scored to get the Horned Frogs within two and threw the tying 2-point conversion to Jared Wiley.
In overtime, it sure looked like officials missed a pair of spots that were detrimental to TCU, but K-State stuffed Kendre Miller on fourth-and-goal, Ty Zentner nailed a 31-yard field goal, and the Wildcats had their first Big 12 title in a decade.
11. Appalachian State 17, Texas A&M 14 (Sept. 10)
10. Appalachian State 32, Troy 28 (Sept. 17)
9. North Carolina 63, Appalachian State 61 (Sept. 3)The 2022 season featured one of the more thrilling Septembers in memory, and Appalachian State played a huge role in that -- all four of the Mountaineers' September games made this list.
First, App State and UNC combined for 1,231 yards and 124 points, and App somehow managed to score 40 points in the fourth quarter and lose. It charged back from 20 points down but failed on a go-ahead 2-point conversion with 31 seconds left and trailed 56-55. UNC's Bryson Nesbit returned an onside kick 43 yards for a score, but that gave App one last chance -- Chase Brice found Kaedin Robinson for a 26-yard touchdown with nine seconds left ... and the Mountaineers failed again on a 2-pointer and lost.
How do you respond to such a gut-wrenching defeat? By going from track meet to rock fight and beating a top-10 team on the road! The Mountaineers played keepaway by dominating third and fourth downs, took a three-point lead midway through the fourth quarter (despite a couple of touchdown explosions from Devon Achane) and saw the game out after A&M missed a 47-yarder.How do you top these two games? By hosting "GameDay" and winning via Hail Mary, of course!
It wasn't just a Hail Mary, either: It was a Hail Mary catch-and-run. The best kind.
APP STATE WON ON A HAIL MARY ON THE FINAL PLAY‼️ — ESPN (@espn)The Mountaineers finished just 6-6 this season. Can you blame them for running out of gas after all that?
8. Utah 43, USC 42 (Oct. 15)
For all of their defensive deficiencies, Lincoln Riley's USC Trojans were still unbeaten in mid-October when they visited Salt Lake City. Caleb Williams and the gorgeous USC offense scored touchdowns on each of their first three drives, but Utah scored TDs on five of its final six, and Cam Rising's touchdown and 2-point combo rushes put the Utes ahead for the first time with 48 seconds remaining. What helps in winning a close game? Winning every fourth down: Utah went 3-for-3, USC went 0-for-2, and Utah won by one.
7. TCU 29, Baylor 28 (Nov. 19)
This was a top-100 game before the last 30 seconds -- the teams had already traded scores for three quarters before a quick one-two punch gave Baylor a 28-20 lead and TCU responded with an Emari Demercado touchdown but missed the 2-point conversion.The last 30 seconds, however, and the fire-drill field goal that ended them, made this one of the most memorable games of the season.
6. Tulane 46, USC 45 (Jan. 2)
For the first time in 91 years, USC and Tulane faced each other in a major bowl. (The Trojans won the 1932 Rose Bowl 21-12. This time around, it was the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.) They tried their best to make it worth the wait. Caleb Williams threw for 462 yards and five touchdowns, and the Trojans led 45-30 with just 4:30 remaining, but Tyjae Spears scored his fourth touchdown of the day, along with 205 rushing yards, to make it 45-37. The Green Wave got a gift safety after a muffed kick return and run stuff, and down six with three minutes left, they milked the clock for a 12-play drive and capped it with a 6-yard score from Michael Pratt to Alex Bauman with nine seconds left.USC won the first 56 minutes, but Tulane won with a perfect final four.
5. Arkansas 55, Kansas 53 (Dec. 28)With 1:23 remaining in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Kansas was down 15 and faced a second-and-29 from the Arkansas 40. Arkansas' win probability at this moment: 99.9%, per ESPN Analytics. Arkansas had built a 31-7 lead in the second quarter, and Kansas had done all it could to crawl back in. But we had no idea what was coming.
* KU's Jalon Daniels completed passes of 30 yards to Kevin Terry and 10 to Douglas Emilien to not only convert the second-and-29 but also score with 1:05 left.
* The Jayhawks recovered the ensuing onside kick and scored in just four plays, with Luke Grimm scoring on a 21-yard catch and Lawrence Arnold catching a 2-point conversion to tie the game.* Kansas started OT by scoring on fourth-and-2, and Arkansas quickly responded.* In the second overtime, Arkansas again scored quickly and converted the 2-pointer. Kansas responded with a Daniels score and, after a controversial targeting penalty on the first 2-point attempt, converted to send the game to another OT.
* In the third OT possession, KJ Jefferson completed a scoring pass to Rashod Dubinion, but Kansas backup QB Jason Bean overshot an open receiver on a trick play.Arkansas won! Just like the win probability said!
4. LSU 32, Alabama 31 (Nov. 5)
3. Tennessee 52. Alabama 49 (Oct. 15)
It's always news when Nick Saban and Alabama lose. And when they lose games like this, they become game-of-the-year candidates.
In Baton Rouge in early November, LSU and Bama played their most gripping game in a while -- perhaps even more so than LSU's 46-41 win in 2019 -- when a defensive slugfest turned into a track meet late. Bama took a 15-14 lead early in the fourth quarter with a two-yard Roydell Williams run; it was the first of four fourth-quarter lead changes. Mason Taylor caught a seven-yarder from Jayden Daniels to give LSU a 24-21 lead with 1:47 left, but Will Reichard's 46-yard field goal with 1:26 later sent the game to OT. Williams scored again to put Bama ahead, but Daniels exploded for a 25-yard score, then found Taylor for the winning 2-pointer.Somehow this was only the second-most incredible Bama loss of the season.
Three weeks earlier in Knoxville, Tennessee secured its first Third Saturday in October win in 16 years and needed every bit of 60 full minutes to do it. The Vols led 28-10 in the second quarter, but Bama charged back to take the lead twice. Jalin Hyatt's fifth touchdown catch of the day (he had six total catches for 207 yards) tied the game at 49, and Bama responded by setting up a 50-yard field goal attempt for Reichard. He missed with 15 seconds left, Hendon Hooker completed two quick passes, and Chase McGrath narrowly cleared the crossbar with a 40-yard field goal. Down went the goalposts.
TENNESSEE TAKES DOWN ALABAMA AND THE FANS ARE STORMING THE FIELD AT NEYLAND STADIUM.— CBS Sports (@CBSSports)
WHAT A WIN FOR THE VOLS.
2. Georgia 42, Ohio State 41 (Dec. 31)
1. TCU 51, Michigan 45 (Dec. 31)The CFP National Championship was the biggest blowout in bowl history. Consider that the price paid for the greatest day of semifinals we've seen in the CFP era.
The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl between Georgia and Ohio State nearly gave us an incredible redemption arc. After getting blown out by Michigan, Ohio State backed into the last CFP slot, but the Buckeyes very nearly took down the defending champs. They probably should have, honestly. They took an early 21-7 lead thanks to a pair of Marvin Harrison Jr. touchdowns, and when UGA erased the deficit with a 17-0 run, Ohio State went on a matching 17-0 run to go up 38-24 heading into the fourth quarter.
It was 38-27 when Stetson Bennett hit a wide-open Arian Smith for a 76-yard score -- Georgia benefited from both a timely timeout and a huge stretch by tight end Brock Bowers -- and it was 41-35 when Bennett drove Georgia 72 yards in five plays, hitting Adonai Mitchell for the go-ahead score with 54 seconds left.
That was almost too much time. C.J. Stroud guided the Buckeyes to the UGA 32 with three seconds left, but Noah Ruggles' winning 50-yard attempt, which went up at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, sailed well wide. Georgia somehow advanced. And this was somehow the lesser of the two semifinals. Earlier in the day, TCU and Michigan had put on one of the best three-act plays you'll ever see.
Act I: TCU benefits from a pick-six and a couple of scoreless Michigan red zone trips and builds a 21-6 halftime lead.
Act II: The third quarter was the wildest quarter in CFP history, as the teams combined for 420 yards and 44 points. Michigan cut the lead to 21-16, then watched it balloon back to 34-16 thanks in part to another pick-six. But it was 41-30 when the Wolverines recovered a fumble on the final play of the quarter and 41-38 when they scored 47 seconds later.
Act III: The fourth quarter was inferior only to the third. Quentin Johnston's shake-and-bake 76-yard touchdown and a Griffin Kell field goal expanded TCU's lead back to 51-38, but Michigan scored to make it 51-45 with 3:18 left and got the ball back with 52 seconds remaining. But after allowing 45 points and over 500 yards, the TCU defense got the last laugh, forcing a four-and-out and kneeling out a finals bid.