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25 classic college football games to rewatch

With live sports on hold while we all endure the coronavirus pandemic, ESPN is reaching into its vaults to air some classic college football games.

That started on Thursday when the network aired the epic USC vs. Texas BCS title game from 2006. Next up this Thursday will be the Ohio State vs. Michigan thriller from 2016.

This got us thinking about what other college football games we’d love to rewatch. We came up with 25 games and limited our selections to the last 20 years to help narrow things down.

Our picks are based on sheer entertainment value and listed in chronological order.

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence runs for a touchdown against Ohio State during the first half of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence runs for a touchdown against Ohio State during the first half of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

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It’s only been three months since the Fiesta Bowl but it’s worth watching again. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Ohio State 31, Miami 24 (2OT) – Jan. 3, 2003 (BCS National Championship)

This game is most remembered for the controversial pass interference penalty that ripped a national title out of Miami’s hands. The game went into overtime tied at 17-17. Miami, with a 34-game winning streak at stake, quickly took a 24-17 lead and appeared to have the national championship wrapped up when a fourth-down Craig Krenzel pass to Chris Gamble fell incomplete. But field judge Terry Porter threw a late pass interference flag on Miami’s Glenn Sharpe, allowing OSU to force a second overtime. From there, OSU freshman RB Maurice Clarett would put OSU ahead before the defense stopped Miami to seal the program’s first national title since 1970.

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Arkansas 71, Kentucky 63 (7OT) – Nov. 1, 2003

Arkansas entered the game at 4-3 and Kentucky came in at 4-4. This game didn’t look like it was going to be all that special. But it was. Especially in overtime. Kentucky sent the game to OT at 24-24 when Jared Lorenzen hit Chris Bernard for a 13-yard TD. After that, the teams scored a whopping combined 86 points over seven overtimes. The game finally ended when DeCori Birmingham scored from 25 yards out.

USC 34, Notre Dame 31 – Oct. 15, 2005

Ah, the famous “Bush Push.” No. 1 USC, trailing the ninth-ranked Irish 31-28 late in the fourth, were faced with fourth-and-9 from their own 26 with 1:32 to play when Matt Leinart found Dwayne Jarrett down the left sideline for a huge gain to the Notre Dame 13. A few plays later, Leinart attempted to run the ball in but was stopped short. The time on the in-stadium scoreboard ran out and Notre Dame’s students rushed the field. But there was a problem: Leinart fumbled the ball out of bounds, causing the clock to stop. After the field was cleared, Leinart tried to sneak it in. He was initially stonewalled, but running back Reggie Bush ran up behind his teammate and pushed him into the end zone for the game-winning — and controversial — score.

Ohio State 42, Michigan 39 – Nov. 18, 2006

This game, played a day after the death of legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler, marked the first time “The Game” was a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup. Both teams were undefeated with the Buckeyes ranked atop the polls and the Wolverines at No. 2. Ohio State, with Heisman winner Troy Smith at quarterback, led much of the way, including 28-14 at halftime. But the inspired Wolverines never gave up, cutting the deficit to four at the 14:41 mark and three at the 2:16 mark. In the end, Michigan’s defense could not get the stop it needed and Ohio State ran out the clock to clinch a spot in the BCS title game.

Texas Tech 44, Minnesota 41 – Dec. 29, 2006 (Insight Bowl)

On paper, this seems like a rather uninteresting bowl game between two average teams. But it actually featured the largest comeback in FBS bowl history. Minnesota had a lead as large as 38-7 with 7:47 remaining in the third quarter, but still lost to Mike Leach’s Texas Tech Red Raiders. Behind Graham Harrell at quarterback, TTU scored 24 fourth-quarter points and sent the game to overtime on a 52-yard Alex Trlica field goal as time in regulation expired. The Red Raiders then capped off the remarkable comeback with a three-yard Shannon Woods TD run in overtime.

Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42 (OT) – Jan. 1, 2007 (Fiesta Bowl)

Boise State was anxious to prove it belonged on the same stage as the blue bloods. The Broncos entered the Fiesta Bowl undefeated out of the WAC while Oklahoma was fresh off a Big 12 championship. Boise would jump out to a 28-10 lead, only to see Oklahoma climb all the way back to tie the game with 1:26 to play and take a 35-28 lead on a pick-six with 1:02 remaining.

That’s when things got wacky. Boise State forced overtime with a miraculous 50-yard touchdown via a hook-and-lateral play on fourth-and-18. Adrian Peterson put Oklahoma back in front to open OT. On the next possession, Boise scored on another trick play, this time with a receiver throwing a TD pass to a tight end. Instead of kicking the extra point and going to a second overtime, head coach Chris Petersen dialed up the ol’ Statue of Liberty play for the win.

Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32 – Sept. 1, 2007

No. 5 Michigan thought it had a typical Week 1 cupcake coming to town when Appalachian State entered the Big House. But the Mountaineers, then the two-time defending FCS national champions, came to play. App State shocked the Ann Arbor faithful by taking a 28-17 lead into halftime. Michigan would battle back and take a 32-31 lead on a Mike Hart TD run with 4:36 to play. From there, Edwards led the App State offense on a 69-yard drive to set up a go-ahead chip shot field goal with 1:11 to play. Michigan would have the chance to avoid disaster with a 37-yard field goal try with six seconds to go, but App State’s Corey Lynch swooped in and blocked the kick to seal the historic upset.

Texas Tech 39, Texas 33 – Nov. 1, 2008

Both teams entered the game 8-0 as the battle for Big 12 South and state of Texas supremacy was on the line. The Red Raiders jumped out to a 19-0 lead before Texas got a field goal but the Longhorns slowly chipped away at Tech’s lead over the second half before a run by Vondrell McGee with 89 seconds remaining put Texas up 33-32. From there, the play titled Four Verticals got famous as Graham Harrell hit Michael Crabtree on a back shoulder throw for a 28-yard TD with one second left.

Texas A&M 29, Alabama 24 – Nov. 10, 2012

The game that introduced Johnny Manziel to the world. The Aggies jumped out to a 20-0 first quarter lead before Alabama closed the gap to three. But the Aggies held on in the second half as Manziel rushed for 92 yards and threw for 253 with two touchdowns on his way to the Heisman Trophy.

Auburn 43, Georgia 38 – Nov. 16, 2013

Facing Georgia with significant SEC title implications at stake, No. 7 Auburn led 34-17 after three quarters, but Georgia stormed back with 21 unanswered points to take a 38-37 lead with 1:49 to play. When Auburn regained possession, it faced a desperation 4th and 18 from its own 27. That’s when The Prayer at Jordan-Hare was born. Nick Marshall went deep for Ricardo Louis, but the ball deflected off the hands of Georgia safety Josh Harvey-Clemons and right to Louis for an improbable 73-yard score with 25 seconds remaining.

Auburn 34, Alabama 28 – Nov. 30, 2013

You know this game as “Kick Six.” And you know why we want to re-watch this game. There’s no explanation necessary here. While we won’t go through the obvious reasons, it’s worth reminding you that Alabama scored 21-straight points in the second quarter to go up 21-7 on the Tigers in this game. But Auburn didn’t go away.

Florida State 34, Auburn 31 – Jan. 6, 2014 (BCS National Championship)

The final BCS title game was a doozy. Florida State, led by Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston, squared off against an Auburn team under first-year head coach Gus Malzahn. The Tigers went 3-9 the previous season but went lost just once in the SEC and had the aforementioned miracle victories over Georgia and Alabama. Against FSU, Auburn was a big underdog but jumped out to a 21-3 lead. Winston would lead his team back, setting up a wild final five minutes that included 24 combined points. Eventually, Winston would hit Kelvin Benjamin for the game-winning TD with 13 seconds remaining.

Baylor 61, TCU 58 – Oct. 11, 2014

Let’s get nuts. The first year of the College Football Playoff was a weird one and this crazy game was our foreshadowing of just how weird things were going to be. Baylor and TCU each scored at least twice in every quarter as the Bears came back twice from 14-point deficits in the second half to win on a field goal with no time left. Both teams finished the regular season with one loss and both got left out of the playoff field because of Ohio State’s Big Ten title game win.

Michigan State 27, Michigan 23 – Oct. 17, 2015

Punt to lose. You can skip ahead to the second quarter in this one after the in-state rivals had a scoreless first. Michigan State cut Michigan’s lead to two at 23-21 with less than nine minutes to go and the Wolverines looked like they were going to hang on. But Jim Harbaugh decided to punt from the Michigan State 47 with 10 seconds left and, well, you know what happened after that as Jalen Watts-Jackson scored a touchdown with no time left. Watts-Jackson also suffered a dislocated and fractured hip on the play.

TCU 47, Oregon 41 (3OT) – Jan. 2, 2016 (Alamo Bowl)

This game looked quite over when Oregon had a 31-0 lead at halftime and TCU didn’t have suspended star QB Trevone Boykin. Spoiler alert, it was not over. Oregon QB Vernon Adams suffered a thumb injury and TCU completely flipped the game in the second half, outscoring the Ducks 31-0 in the final 30 minutes to send the game to overtime. The teams traded touchdowns and field goals in the first two overtimes before a run by the immortal Bram Kohlhausen gave TCU the win in the third OT.

Alabama 45, Clemson 40 – Jan. 11, 2016 (National Championship Game)

Clemson 35, Alabama 31 – Jan. 9, 2017 (National Championship Game)

Let’s play two. We couldn’t pick between either of these College Football Playoff classics so we might as well watch them back-to-back, right? The 2016 game was wild as Nick Saban’s decision to go for an onside kick spurred the Crimson Tide in the second half and we all remember Watson to Renfrow to win in 2017.

USC 52, Penn State 49 – Jan. 2, 2017 (Rose Bowl)

Is this game the most fun non-playoff New Year’s Six game of the CFP era? It had everything you could want. Star players made fantastic plays as Penn State’s Saquon Barkley rushed for 194 yards including a fantastic 79-yard TD run. USC QB Sam Darnold threw five touchdowns and the fifth tied the game at 49-49 with 1:20 left. DB Leon McQuay picked off Penn State QB Trace McSorley three plays into PSU’s ensuing possession and USC K Matt Boermeester hit a 46-yard field goal for the win as time expired.

UCLA 45, Texas A&M 44 – Sep. 3, 2017

The downfall of the Kevin Sumlin era started in earnest in Week 1 of the 2017 season. The Aggies jumped out to a 38-10 lead at halftime and went up 44-10 with 4:08 to go in the third after a pair of field goals. Things got crazy after that for UCLA and Josh Rosen. He threw four touchdown passes in the fourth quarter as A&M folded like a cheap tent.

Georgia 54, Oklahoma 48 (2OT) – Jan. 1, 2018 (Rose Bowl)

Oklahoma’s offense was unstoppable in the first half. Georgia had no answers for Heisman winner Baker Mayfield and his teammates as the Sooners scored 31 points in the first 30 minutes. A key halftime defensive adjustment for the Bulldogs paid dividends in the second half as Georgia was able to take the lead early in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma came back before Georgia tied the game with less than a minute to go in the fourth before Sony Michel’s game-winning run in the second overtime.

Alabama 26, Georgia 23 (OT) – Jan. 8, 2018 (CFP National Championship)

This is where the legend of Tua Tagovailoa was born. Georgia dominated the first half and took a 13-0 lead into the break. That’s when Nick Saban benched star quarterback Jalen Hurts in favor of Tagovailoa, a freshman. Tagovailoa gave Alabama’s offense an added dimension and his dazzling play helped the Tide push the game to overtime tied at 20-20. Georgia opened overtime with a field goal and looked to be in position to win the game when Tagovailoa was sacked for a huge loss. However, on the very next play, Tagovailoa hit a streaking Devonta Smith for a 41-yard touchdown, giving Alabama a dramatic walk-off win.

Texas A&M 74, LSU 72 (7OT) – Nov. 24, 2018

Not only did this game tie for the longest in FBS history by going seven overtimes, it’s also the last time an FBS game will go to seven overtimes in this fashion. College football officials changed the overtime rules ahead of the 2019 season in an attempt to prevent games from ever going this long.

A&M sent this game to overtime when Kellen Mond hit Quartney Davis for a 19-yard TD pass as time expired in the fourth. LSU and A&M scored a combined 14 times after that as Davis’ TD catch from Mond tied the game in the seventh OT and a Kendrick Rogers catch for 2 won the game.

TCU 10, California 7 (OT) – Dec. 26, 2018 (Cheez-It Bowl)

The first-ever Cheez-It Bowl wasn’t exactly the finest showcase of talent, but it sure was entertaining. TCU edged Cal by a final score of 10-7 in overtime. If that doesn’t sound entertaining, allow us to refresh your memory. The teams combined for nine interceptions, including four in a four-minute span. One of TCU’s quarterbacks actually had a negative quarterback rating at one point. And when TCU finally emerged with a win thanks to a 27-yard overtime field goal, the team celebrated by guzzling Cheez-Its. Because of course.

UCLA 67, Washington State 63 – Sep. 21, 2019

Yep, another UCLA comeback makes the list. This was the wildest game of the 2019 season, especially when you consider that UCLA entered as a hapless 0-3 and Washington State was 3-0. The Cougars were up 49-17 with 6:52 to go in the third quarter after Anthony Gordon threw a TD pass to Dezmon Patmon. UCLA somehow got the deficit to 11 by the end of the third quarter and pulled ahead halfway through the fourth. The second half featured 11 — 11! — touchdowns.

Clemson 29, Ohio State 23 – Dec. 29, 2019 (CFP semifinal)

In one of the best semifinal games of the College Football Playoff era, Clemson would storm back from a 16-0 deficit to shock Ohio State and move onto another national title game. Ohio State dominated play early, but let the Tigers hang around with a series of miscues and red zone shortcomings. A controversial targeting call on OSU’s Shaun Wade would Clemson life late in the first half, as would a 67-yard touchdown scamper by star QB Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence would later connect with running backs Travis Etienne on two second-half touchdowns, including the game-winner from 34 yards out with 1:19 to play.

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