Greatest College Football Game of Every Year- Regular Season Edition

A little over three weeks ago, I published a first of its kind list of the best NCAA basketball tournament game of every season since the tournament’s inception.  I got really get feedback about this post on multiple social media platforms, and more importantly I personally enjoyed the historical knowledge I garnered from said post, so I have decided to do this same analysis in the realm of college football.

This was obviously a more ambitious project as there have been 150 years of college football played, as opposed to just 81 NCAA tournaments.  Furthermore, I actually ended up creating two different lists for college football: one for the best regular season game for every season and another for the best postseason game for every season.  The rationale behind that is that while both bowl games and regular season games have produced a plethora of classic matchups, they are very different in terms of atmosphere, ambience, and ramifications.  The college football regular season is by far the most important regular season on the planet so the games played in it go along way in determining who each year’s champion is.  They also tend to be regional games played between local or conference rivals that are familiar with one another.  Bowl games on the other hand matchup teams who are commonly unfamiliar with one another and are located from various parts of the country.  The first list I have published below are the best regular season college football games for all 150 years in the sport.

Like my NCAA tournament entry, I could not find a list similar to this anywhere on the internet which is why I thought it was important to publish.  Several other online articles either rank the best college games from top to bottom without taking into account the individual seasons and one list did a ranking of the “most significant game” of every season, but not the best.  The latter of these lists featured several ties and blowouts, neither of which you will find on my list below.  For a college football game to be great, the ultimate outcome must be decided in the game’s final quarter and there must be a winner.  Don’t get me wrong, there were many entertaining and memorable college football games that ended in a tie before the NCAA instituted overtime in the mid-90’s, but all great games, and athletic competitions more generally, must have winners which is why this list is devoid of ties.  Aside from these general guidelines, I took into account several factors when determining which game was truly the best for a particular college football season, including the game’s significance in determining the eventual champion, the improbability of the final outcome, and the overall excitement of the game.  Without further ado, here is my selection for game of the year for every college football regular season that has been played.  The games in bold I have rated as best of the decade, and the ones with asteriks went into overtime.  Feel free to comment or debate.

1869 Rutgers 6, Princeton 4 (November 6)

The First Game: Nov. 6, 1869 - Rutgers University Athletics

The first game ever played. Princeton won the rematch 8-0 to claim that year’s national title.

1870 Princeton 6, Rutgers 2 (November 12)

The Tigers became the first ever back national champs with this victory.

1871 N/A (no games played)

The only year where college football wasn’t played.  However, that could change in 2020…

1872 Princeton 4, Rutgers 1 (November 23)

Win clinches CFRA three peat for the Tigers.

1873 Princeton 3, Yale 0 (November 15)

1873 Yale Bulldogs football team - Wikipedia

The first battle between these two early gridiron powerhouses that combined to win the first twenty college football national titles. (Princeton team pictured above)

1874 Yale 6, Stephens 0 (November 8)

The Bulldogs knock off Stephens College in their season opener to set the table for a run to their first national title.

1875 Princeton 6, Columbia 2 (November 13)

1875 Columbia vs. Princeton College Football Championship | Lot ...

The New York Herald wrote the following about this game: “The contest was short, sharp and decisive and attracted a considerable crowd.” (see official scorecard above)

1876 Yale 1, Harvard 0 (November 18)

1876 Yale Bulldogs football team - Wikipedia

The Bulldogs’ (pictured above) first-ever win over the Crimson leads them to their second national championship.

1877 Yale 1, Columbia 0 (December 2)

The closest Bulldog victory in their controversial 1877 championship in which they tied Princeton 0-0 in the season finale.

1878 Princeton 1, Yale 0 (November 28)

Considered by most historians as the most important game in early college football history. A huge battle of unbeatens in which the Tigers regained their spot on the throne of college football.

1879 Princeton 1, Harvard 0 (November 15)

1879 Princeton Tigers football team - Wikipedia

The Tigers’ (pictured above) season finale against Yale was definitely bigger and more significant than this one, but like I said in the intro, I refuse to put any ties on this list.

1880 Yale 1, Harvard 0 (November 25)

Bulldogs and Tigers split the title in ’80 with another 0-0 tie (their third in four seasons). You would think someone would have come up with a tiebreaker wouldn’t you?

1881 Yale 1, Harvard 0 (November 12)

Believe it or not, Princeton and Yale (pictured above) played another scoreless tie this season (fourth time in five years) but Yale was crowned champ for beating Harvard and not tying them like Princeton did.

1882 Yale 1, Harvard 0 (November 25)

1882 Yale Bulldogs football team - Wikipedia

Princeton had a down year in ’82 (two losses) so this year’s Harvard-Yale game was a defacto title game.  The national champion Yale team is pictured above.

1883 Yale 6, Princeton 0 (November 29)

The lone close call for Yale in one of the most dominant seasons in the history of college football. The Bulldogs outscored their opponents 540-2.

1884 Yale 4, Stephens 0 (October 8)

The Bulldogs and Tigers of Princeton did what they often did during these years which was both run the table and tie one another in the finale. This was the only close win for either squad.

1885 Princeton 6, Yale 5 (November 25)

Princeton Tigers football team (1885).png

Tigers beat Bulldogs for first time in seven years with late punt return touchdown to claim national title. This was the only Yale loss between 1879 and 1889.

1886 Yale 4, Princeton 0 (November 25)

File:Yale Bulldogs (1886 team picture).jpg

This game was technically declared a tie because it was called for darkness, but Yale (pictured above) was ahead 4-0 at the time the game was called and was later given the retroactive national title over Princeton for that reason.

1887 Michigan 8, Notre Dame 0 (November 23)

1887 Michigan Wolverines football team - Wikipedia

Yale won the 1887 title without playing a close game so the pick here is the first-ever game in the Michigan/Notre Dame rivalry.  The Wolverine squad from that year is pictured above.

1888 Yale 10, Princeton 0 (November 24)

Yale1888.jpg

Yale (pictured above) once again dominated all opposition but fellow unbeaten Princeton at least hung around for a while in the season finale.

1889 Princeton 10, Yale 0 (November 28)

Princeton Tigers football team (1889).png

The Tigers (pictured above) deny Yale’s run at a four-peat with an upset victory in the neutral site rivalry game played in New York City.

1890 Harvard 12, Yale 6 (November 22)

1890 Harvard Crimson football team - Wikipedia

The Crimson (pictured above) break the Yale/Princeton football stranglehold on the sport with a season-ending win over their arch rival en route to a national title.

1891 Yale 10, Harvard 0 (November 21)

File:1891 Yale football team.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Bulldogs (pictured above) avenge 1890 loss to the Crimson en route to an unbeaten national championship season where they outscored their opposition 488-0.

1892 Yale 6, Harvard 0 (November 9)

The Crimson gave the Bulldogs (pictured above) their only test of the season as Yale dominated its way to a second consecutive national title.

1893 Navy 6, Army 4 (December 2)

1893 USNA football team

The first close Army-Navy game was also the first game in which a player (the Midshipmen’s Joseph Reeves) wore a football helmet.  The Navy squad from that season is pictured above.

1894 Yale 12, Army 5 (October 27)

Another dominant year for Yale as the Cadets of Army becomes the first non-Ivy League team to challenge the Bulldogs in almost a decade.

1895 Penn 17, Harvard 14 (November 23)

1895 Penn Quakers football team - Wikipedia

The Quakers (pictured above) win the first non Harvard/Yale/Princeton title ever by winning a squeaker over the Crimson.

1896 Lafayette 6, Penn 4 (October 24)

Lafayette1896FootballTeamPhoto.jpg

Even though the College Football Researches Association acknowledges Princeton as this year’s champ, Lafayette (pictured above) has a legitimate claim for a split thanks to their tie with the Tigers and this nail-biting win over the defending champs.

1897 Penn 4, Cornell 0 (November 25)

15-0: The 1897 Penn football team | Penn Today

The Quakers had their best season in school history by going 15-0. They dominated most everyone but barely beat the Big Red in the season finale.

1898 Harvard 10, Penn 0 (November 5)

1898 Harvard Crimson vs Penn Quakers 36x48 Canvas Historic ...

The Crimson ended Penn’s 31 game winning streak with this upset en route to their first national title in 8 years.  The promotional poster for the game is pictured above.

1899 Princeton 11, Yale 10 (November 25)

The Tigers win controversial split championship with nail-biting victory over Yale in season finale.

1900 Yale 12, Columbia 5 (October 27)

1900 Yale Bulldogs football team - Wikipedia

The Lions gave the Bulldogs a surprisingly close game in their late October battle in New York, but Yale survived en route to the first national title of the 20th century.

1901 Harvard 6, Army 0 (October 19)

1901 College Football National Championship

The Crimson (pictured above) won another national title in 1901 by surviving this scare in West Point.

1902 Michigan 6, Wisconsin 0 (November 1)

Michigan vs. Wisconsin in Chicago in 1902

The Wolverines became the first modern FBS team to win a national title thanks to this narrow victory (pictured above) over Wisky in Chicago.

1903 Princeton 11, Yale 6 (November 14)

John DeWitt's touchdown return of a blocked kick for Princeton against Yale in 1903

Both teams entered this season finale unbeaten, and the it was the Tigers who won the national title after prevailing in New Haven with a game-winning field goal (worth 5 points at that time).

1904 Penn 6, Penn State 0 (September 24)

The Quakers won their 3rd national title in ’04 and their toughest battle was actually their season opener against their intrastate arch rival. And believe it or not, Joe Paterno actually had not started coaching the Nittany Lions at this point in time.

1905 Chicago 2, Michigan 0 (November 30)

1905 Chicago-Michigan football game

The original “Game of the Century” (pictured above) was won by Alonzo Stagg’s Maroons with a fourth quarter safety.

1906 Princeton 5, Navy 0 (October 13)

Princeton and Yale ended up splitting this title with a tie in their season finale and this was the closest victory either team had.

1907 Carlisle 23, Harvard 15 (November 9)

1907 Carlisle football team

Jim Thorpe’s Indians (pictured above) used a multitude of trick plays to knock off the perennial powerhouse Crimson.

1908 Harvard 4, Yale 0 (November 21)

Harvard game winning field goal against Yale in 1908

Late season battle of the unbeatens played in sold out stadium and won with a late 25 yard field goal (pictured above).

1909 Lafayette 6, Princeton 0 (October 23)

Stunning upset of unbeaten Tigers occurs when the Leopards’ Frank Irmscher blocks a field goal with six seconds in the fourth quarter and returns it for a touchdown. The New York Times calls it “probably the most sensational finish that has ever been seen in a football game.”

1910 Harvard 6, Army 0 (October 29)

Harvard football practice 1910

The Crimson (pictured practicing above) win their fourth national championship by narrowly defeating the Cadets in West Point and then tying rival Yale in the season finale.

1911 Carlisle 18, Harvard 15 (November 11)

1911 Carlisle football team

Jim Thorpe gives legendary performance including four made field goals to lead Indians (starters pictured above) to another victory over the Crimson.

1912 Harvard 9, Vanderbilt 3 (November 9)

The “best in the east” beats the the “best in the south” in this rare cross regional matchup of unbeatens. Crimson go to win national title.

1913 Harvard 3, Princeton 0 (November 8)

1913 Harvard's field goal to beat Princeton 3-0

Crimson survive this road scare in a battle between the previous two national champions. Harvard ends the season unbeaten to repeat as champion.  The winning field goal is pictured above.

1914 Army 13, Springfield 6 (November 21)

1914 Football Season | For What They Gave on Saturday Afternoon

The Cadets (pictured above) win their first national championship ’14 as they destroyed everyone in their path except for this close tussle with James Naismith’s school.

1915 Cornell 10, Harvard 0 (October 23)

The Big Red win a huge road game against Harvard giving Crimson their first loss since Jim Thorpe’s Carlisle team beat them four years earlier and paving the way for the Big Red’s only national title.

1916 Pittsburgh 20, Navy 19 (October 14)

Pittsburgh center Bob Peck and head coach Pop Warner

Panthers survive major road scare in game that was delayed because the team’s train didn’t make it Annapolis in time. Panthers would win this one, despite several turnovers, and go on to win the first of five national championships that season. Pop Warner was team’s head coach (pictured above with center Robert Peck).

1917 Pittsburgh 14, West Virginia 9 (September 29)

Pop Warner’s Panthers appeared to still be celebrating their previous year’s championship as the Mountaineers nearly upset them in the season opening Backyard Brawl. Pitt would run the table again but John Heisman’s Georgia Tech team would win the title.

1918 Cleveland Naval Reserve 10, Pittsburgh 9 (November 30)

1918 Cleveland Naval Reserve football team - Wikipedia

Panthers win national championship despite dropping their first game in four years, albeit in controversial fashion. A scoreboard error led to time being kept on the field and officials allegedly gave Cleveland Naval (pictured above) additional time to kick game winning field goal.

1919 Illinois 9, Ohio State 7 (November 22)

1919 Illinois Fighting Illini football team - Wikipedia

The Illini (pictured above) earn split championship (shared with Harvard) thanks to this narrow road victory in their season finale.

1920 Georgia 21, Alabama 14 (November 20)

1920 Georgia Bulldogs football team - Wikipedia

This matchup certainly looks familiar as these were the two best teams in the south 100 years ago, just as they are now. The Dawgs (pictured above) win with a blocked fourth quarter drop kick that was returned 87 yards for a touchdown.

1921 Centre 6, Harvard 0 (October 29)

1921 college football season - Wikipedia

One of the greatest early college football upsets. The Praying Colonels snapped the Crimson’s 25 game unbeaten streak.

1922 Princeton 21, Chicago 18 (October 28)

1922 Princeton-Chicago football gameFirst college football game nationally broadcast over the radio. The Tigers win with this one with 4th quarter goal line stand en route to their last national title.

1923 Illinois 7, Chicago 0 (November 3)

1923 Illinois-Chicago football game

An intrastate battle of the unbeatens that paved the way for the Illini’s second national championship later that season.

1924 Notre Dame 13, Army 7 (October 18)

The Four Horsemen of Notre Dame

The game where the “Four Horsemen” were named.

1925 Northwestern 3, Michigan 2 (November 7)

1925 Michigan Wolverines football team - Wikipedia

The Wildcasts spoil the Wolverines’ (pictured above) perfect season with a low scoring slugfest victory in game played in steady downpour and 40 mile and hour winds.

1926 Stanford 13, Southern Cal 12 (October 30)

The Indians as they were called at the time win the first “real-time” national champion (not retroactive) in ’27 thanks to this narrow road victory over the Trojans.

1927 Notre Dame 7, Southern Cal 6 (November 26)

1927 NOTRE DAME NATIONAL CHAMPS 8X10 TEAM PHOTO FOOTBALL INDIANA ...

The Irish (pictured above) survive controversial scare as an apparent interception that gets fumbled out of the end zone is ruled incomplete.

1928 Notre Dame 12, Army 6 (November 10)

This Day In History: Win One For The Gipper // Moments // 125 ...

The “win one for the Gipper” game.

1929 Notre Dame 13, Southern Cal 12 (November 16)

1929 National Championship Season // Moments // 125 Football ...

Neutral site affair played in Chicago in front of second largest college football attendance ever (112, 912). Knute Rockne pulled a Huge Freeze and coached his team to victory (en route to national title) while laying on a cot on the sideline due to a leg infection.

1930 Notre Dame 7, Army 6 (November 29)

1930 team

In Knute Rockne’s final season, the Irish (pictured above) claim split national championship with this narrow escape in front of 100,000 fans at Chicago’s Soldier Field.

1931 Southern Cal 16, Notre Dame 14 (November 21)

Southern Cal football game at Notre Dame, 1931

Trojans come back from 14 point deficit to pull out road victory en route to program’s first national championship.

1932 Michigan 14, Princeton 7 (October 29)

1932 Michigan Wolverines football team (large).jpg

The Wolverines (pictured above) earn split national championship thanks to this narrow home escape of a tough Tiger team. Princeton was going in for the tying score late in the 4th but then threw an interception with a minute left.

1933 Michigan 7, Illinois 6 (November 4)

1933 Michigan Wolverines football team - Wikipedia

Wolverines win a second consensus national championship in ’33 thanks to a missed Illinois field goal in the final 10 seconds of this one.

1934 Minnesota 13, Pittsburgh 7 (October 20)

Minnesota halfback Pug Lund carrying against Pittsburgh in 1934

Gophers score two fourth quarter touchdowns for the come from behind victory en route to the school’s first national title.

1935 Notre Dame 18, Ohio State 13 (November 2)

Notre Dame, Ohio State, and 1935

The first meeting between these two powerhouses, referred by Grantland Rice as “The Game of the Century”, featured a 13 point Irish fourth quarter comeback.

1936 (1) Minnesota 7, (15) Nebraska 0 (October 10)

1936 Minnesota football team

Gophers score only points of the game on a punt return lateral with 1:08 left in the fourth quarter.

1937 (4) Alabama 9, (12) Vanderbilt 7 (November 25)

1937 Football Archives - University of Alabama Athletics

The Tide (pictured above) win SEC championship with Haywood Sanford 27 yard field goal late in the fourth quarter.

1938 TCU 21, Arkansas 14 (Ocotober 1)

Davey Day set for Saturday at TCU – Davey O'Brien Foundation

Quarterback Davey O’Brien (pictured above) leads Horned Frogs to split national championship thanks to this narrow victory over conference rival Hogs that featured an impressive four total touchdown passes.

1939 (2) Texas A & M 6, (13) SMU 2 (November 11)

The Aggies win their first, and believe it or not, their only consensus national championship thanks to an SMU drop in the end zone on the final play of the game.

1940 Dartmouth 3, (2) Cornell 0 (November 16)

The Infamous 5th Down Game, Dartmouth vs. Cornell, 1940

The original “Fifth down” play, except this time Cornell forfeited the game after realizing they had scored the winning touchdown using an extra down. Talk about controversy.

1941 (1) Minnesota 7, (3) Michigan 0 (October 25)

Minnesota's touchdown to beat Michigan 7-0 in 1941

The Gophers win second consecutive national title by virtue of this clutch road victory in which Bill Garnaas intercepted the Wolverines twice in Minnesota territory in the fourth quarter.

1942 Iowa 6, (2) Wisconsin 0 (November 7)

Badgers miss out on their best chance at a national title by losing this trap game in Iowa City a week after huge win over # 1 Ohio State. Hawkeyes win controversially as Badgers scored a tying touchdown that was overturned and marked short of the goal line after fourth down play.

1943 (1) Notre Dame 14, (2) Iowa Pre-Flight 13 (November 20)

1943_iowapf_path_fp_1943_iowapf_copy

De facto national title game is won the with 6 yard fourth quarter touchdown run by Creighton Miller.

1944 (3) Ohio State 18, (6) Michigan 14 (November 25)

1944 Ohio State - Michigan football game

Buckeyes earn split national championship with epic victory over arch rival in a game featuring five lead changes.

1945 (11) Oklahoma A & M 12, (19) Tulsa 6 (November 10)

OSU football: The last remaining 1945 Oklahoma A&M football ...

The Cowboys of Oklahoma A & M (pictured above), now Oklahoma State, were given the only retroactive coaches poll national championship in 2016 by virtue of their undefeated 9-0 season where they survived this scare from an intrastate rival.

1946 (1) Army 21, Navy 18 (November 30)

Item Detail - Doc Blanchard 52 yard TD run Army vs. Navy 1946 Wide ...This shocking scare by the 1-7 Midshipmen cost Army a national title.

1947 Columbia 21, (6) Army 20 (October 25)

Lions end Army’s 32 game win streak with epic passing game from quarterback Gene Rossides.

1948 Michigan 13, Michigan State 7 (September 25)

Amazon.com: 1948 Michigan State Spartans vs. Michigan Wolverines ...

Bennie Oosterbaan wins national title in his first year as Michigan head coach thanks to this narrow season opening win over their intrastate rival. Spartans had a chance to win in final seconds as Michigan State drove the ball to the Michigan 2 yard line before throwing an interception in the end zone.

1949 Auburn 14, Alabama 13 (December 3)

Tigers shock a Crimson Tide team (pictured above) coached by Red Drew (my wife’s great grandfather) to win their first Iron Bowl in 45 years thanks to a missed Bama PAT in final 80 seconds.

1950 Navy 14, (2) Army 2 (December 2)

President Truman at the 1950 Army Navy Game (With images) | Navy ...

This was a stunning upset as 2-6 Midshipmen ended Army’s 28-game unbeaten streak in front of President Harry Truman (pictured above).

1951 (7) Maryland 14, North Carolina 7 (October 20)

Maryland football team 1951

The Terps (pictured above) win Cinderella national championship by virtue of this close victory over the Tar Heels in which Joe Peturzzo broke up a game-tying pass in the end zone late in the fourth quarter.

1952 (1) Michigan State 17, Oregon State 14 (October 4)

Michigan State field goal that beat Oregon State 17-14 in 1952

Sparty wins national title after surviving this catastrophic scare to the 2-7 Beavers in Portland. Michigan State kicker Gene Lekenta actually missed game winning kick with 7 seconds left but Oregon State offsides penalty gave Lekenta a second chance with he converted (pictured above).

1953 (16) Oklahoma 19, (15) Texas 14 (October 10)

Boomer Sooner wins controversial retroactive national championship thanks to this Red River Shootout victory that began Oklahoma’s record 47-game winning streak.

1954 (4) Ohio State 20, (13) Iowa (October 16)

100 Teams in 100 Days: Ohio State Finishes Perfect Season With its ...

Buckeyes claim their second national championship by virtue of this thrilling victory over the Hawkeyes. Iowa has two potential fourth quarter game-winning drives snuffed out by a dropped pass in the end zone and then a 4th and inches stop.

1955 (3) Oklahoma 13, North Carolina 6 (September 24)

1955 College Football National Championship

Sooners play their only close game of the season in their opener in Chapel Hill en route to another national title and continuing their record 47 game-winning streak.

1956 (20) Iowa 14, Oregon State 13 (October 6)

1956 Iowa football team

The Hawkeyes (see above) survive home scare against the Beavers in which they overcome a 13-0 fourth quarter deficit en route to national championship.

1957 Notre Dame 7, (2) Oklahoma 0 (November 16)

Looking back at 1957 Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma — ending the streak ...

First loss for the Sooners since the 1953 season opener. Notre Dame wins with short fourth quarter touchdown.

1958 (16) Texas 15, (2) Oklahoma 14 (October 11)

Texas-OU History: 1958 -Beginning a Decade of Dominance - Barking ...

Horn win game with late 4th quarter 74 yard touchdown drive capped off by Bobby Lackey touchdown pass.

1959 (1) LSU 7, (3) Ole Miss 3 (October 31)

Billy Cannon's Halloween run - Wikipedia

Tigers win game thanks to Billy Cannon’s 89 yard punt return for a touchdown (pictured above) and subsequent goal line stand.

1960 (2) Ole Miss 10, (11) Arkansas 7 (October 22)

1960 Mississippi football team

The Rebels (pictured above) win one of most controversial SEC games of all-time en route to team’s only split national title. Ole Miss kicks 39 yard field goal on the last play of the game, and officials ruled it good even though many in attendance say it missed left.

1961 TCU 6, (1) Texas 0 (November 18)

TCU at Texas football game - The Portal to Texas History

The Frogs stun top ranked Horns as 24-point underdogs. Sonny Gibbs 50 yard touchdown pass was the only score of the game.

1962 Georgia Tech 7, (1) Alabama 6 (November 17)

The Crimson Tide has a colorful history in Atlanta

Joe Namath’s four interceptions and Bama’s missed two point conversion in the fourth cost the Tide the game and a shot at the national title. Got to give the Bear credit for going for two though and playing for the win instead of the tie.

1963 (2) Navy 21, Army 15 (December 7)

In the Wake of JFK's death, Remembering the Army-Navy Game of 1963

The first-ever use of instant replay on television in college football. The Black Knights comeback effort comes up just short.

1964 Southern Cal 20, (1) Notre Dame 17 (November 28)

Remembering Rod Sherman's touchdown against Notre Dame 50 years ...

The Trojans comeback from a 17 point deficit to win on a Craig Fertig touchdown pass (pictured above) in the final two minutes.

1965 Alabama 17, Ole Miss 16 (October 2)

Alabama vs. Ole Miss - Anything Can Happen

Tide overcome 16-7 fourth quarter deficit to win on a 9 yard Steve Sloan touchdown witih 1:19 left in the game. Bama goes on to win their fifth national title later in the season.

1966 (7) Florida 30, Auburn 27 (October 19)

Gator quarterback Steve Spurrier, who also served as team’s distance kicker, booted a 40 yard game winning field goal.

1967 (4) Southern Cal 21, (1) UCLA 20 (November 18)

Southern Cal running back O. J. Simpson's 64 yard touchdown run to beat UCLA 21-20 in 1967

OJ Simpson slices through the Trojan defense (pun intended) for a 64 yard game winning touchdown run (pictured above) in the 4th en route to a USC national title.

1968 (2) Ohio State 31, Illinois 24 (October 26)

100 Teams in 100 Days: The Super Sophomores Lead the Way For Ohio ...

Almost one of the great comebacks/upsets of all-time as the 0-5 Illini who went on to finish the season 1-9 overcome a 24 point halftime deficit to tie the # 1 team in the country with under 5 minutes to go in the 4th.

1969 (1) Texas 15, (2) Arkansas 14 (December 6)

Legends of the SWC - Texas vs Arkansas football game 1969 - YouTube

The Horns comeback from a 14-0 deficit to win the game that came to be known as “the game of the century”.

1970 (2) Texas 20, (13) UCLA 17 (October 3)

UT Longhorns 1970 Championship Season | Texas Archive of the ...

The Longhorns earn split national championship thanks to wild victory over the Bruins. Texas wins game with a hail mary caught between two defenders and run into the end zone for a touchdown with 12 seconds left.

1971 (1) Nebraska 35, (2) Oklahoma 31 (November 25)

1971 Nebraska @ Oklahoma Football | HuskerMax game page

Jeff Kinney’s four touchdowns give Nebraska victory in Thanksgiving classic.

1972 (9) Auburn 17, (2) Alabama 16 (December 2)

Iron Bowl 1972

The “Punt, Bama, Punt” game as the Tigers block two punts in the final six minutes to pull off upset.

1973 (8) Notre Dame 14, Michigan State 10 (October 6)

Vintage Notre Dame vs Michigan State Football Game Prog

The Irish save their national championship season with a Mike Townsend interception late in the fourth quarter, deep in Irish territory.

1974 Michigan State 16, (1) Ohio State 13 (November 9)

Graves sheds new light on Michigan State 1974 goal line

Spartans win with wild, controversial final play (pictured above).  The Buckeyes first down run was spotted just short of goal line, and their second down sneak was initially ruled a touchdown by the linesmen but then the officials decided the snap came after time expired.

1975 (6) Oklahoma 28, (18) Missouri 27 (November 15)

Joe Washington in action against Missouri, 1975. Sooner win, 28-27 ...

Sooners win back and forth classic en route to national title with 71 yard Joe Washington touchdown run and subsequent two point conversion late in 4th quarter. Missouri misses deep game winning field goal on final play of the game.

1976 Purdue 16, (1) Michigan 14 (November 6)

The Spoilermakers as they were dubbed pull off this epic upset over the nation’s top ranked team with chip shot field goal in final four minutes of regulation. Michigan’s subsequent 37 yard field goal in game’s final seconds sailed wide left.

1977 (3) Oklahoma 29, (4) Ohio State 28 (September 24)

Oral history: How OU beat Ohio State with The Kick... and almost ...

The Sooners recover onside kick with 1:29 left and then make a 41 yard field goal to win first meeting between schools.

1978 (11) Georgia 29, Georgia Tech 28 (December 2)

Bulldogs overcome 20 point deficit to win thriller over arch rival with a David Archer interception in the final minute and a half of the fourth.

1979 (1) Southern Cal 17, (20) LSU 12 (September 29)

LSU had USC on the ropes 40 years ago this weekend

The Trojans end up pulling out a victory in one of the most legendary games in Death Valley history en route to a national title. On their final drive, USC benefited from controversial face mask penalty on third and long to setup a game winning 8 yard touchdown pass with 32 seconds to go.

1980 (2) Georgia 26, (20) Florida 21 (November 8)

Bulldogs win rivalry game with a 93 yard touchdown  (pictured above) in the final minute and a half.

1981 Georgia Tech 24, (2) Alabama 21 (September 12)

The Yellow Jackets shock the Tide as 24 point underdogs when Bama’s Peter Kim misses game-tying field goal on final play of the game. This was the only game the Yellow Jackets won the entire ’81 season.

1982 California 25, Stanford 20 (November 20)

Cal vs. Stanford: The Big Game often comes with a little ...

The crazies/most iconic play in college football history robs John Elway of a bowl game. “The band is on the field!”

1983 (6) Miami-FL 17, Florida State 16 (November 12)

1983 Miami vs Florida State Part 1 - YouTube

Bernie Kosar leads Canes on drive in final two minutes of this regular season finale to setup a game winning 19 yard field goal on the final play of the game.  This victory set the table for Miami’s game of the century matchup against Nebraska a few weeks later in the Orange Bowl.

1984 (10) Boston College 47, (12) Miami-FL 45 (November 23)

The legend of Miracle in Miami Hail Flutie pass 35 years later ...

Flutie’s Hail Mary has become such an iconic sports moment people forget how good the entire game was.

1985 Alabama 25, (7) Auburn 23 (November 30)

Classic SEC Football: Alabama Tops Auburn in 1985 in 'the Kick ...

Tide pulls off upset over Bo Jackson’s Tigers with 52 yard field goal (pictured above) as time expires.

1986 (3) Oklahoma 20, (5) Nebraska 17 (November 22)

3 Oklahoma at #5 Nebraska - 1986 - Football - Part 1 - YouTube

Sooners shockingly score ten points in the final 1:22 of the fourth quarter to knock off their arch rival en route to split national title.

1987 (3) Miami-FL 26, (4) Florida State 25 (October 3)

Michael Irvin runs for a 72-yard TD to seal a win for Miami in '87.

The Noles pulled a Tom Osborne and unsuccessfully went for two down a point with 42 seconds left.

1988 (4) Notre Dame 31, (1) Miami-FL 30 (October 15)

15 Oct 1988:  General view of a game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Miami Hurricanes at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.  Notre Dame won the game, 31-30. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel  /Allsport

The Catholics vs Convicts Game!

1989 (11) Auburn 30, (2) Alabama 20 (December 2)

There will never be another Iron Bowl like 1989 (Kevin Scarbinsky ...

Tigers stun unbeaten Tide in first Iron Bowl ever played at Auburn.

1990 (12) Colorado 33, Missouri 31 (October 6)

OTL: Fifth-and-goal - ESPN

The legendary “Fifth Down Game” that many feel puts an asterik next to the Buffs 1990 national title.

1991 (2) Miami-FL 17, (1) Florida State 16 (November 16)

Wide Right and So Wrong

The first of the “Wide Right” games for Florida State.

1992 (2) Alabama 28, (12) Florida 21 (December 5)

Antonio Langham and the game that changed college football - al.com

The first-ever conference championship game was won by a late pick six by the Crimson Tide.

1993 (2) Notre Dame 31, (1) Florida State 24 (November 13)

FSU's 1993 National Title Team's Silver Anniversary — Part VII ...

The first time ESPN’s College Gameday went on location for a telecast. Noles miss touchdown opportunity in the final seconds but still win national title thanks to Notre Dame’s subsequent loss to BC.

1994 (7) Colorado 27, (4) Michigan 26 (September 24)

Remembering the 'Miracle at Michigan' | NCAA.com

Kordell Stewart’s hail mary stuns Wolverines in Ann Arbor.

1995 (24) Virginia 33, (2) Florida State 28 (November 2)

1995 Florida State vs Virginia second half - YouTube

The Cavs give Florida State its first loss in the ACC with goal line stop of Warrick Dunn on the final play of the game.

1996 (4) Arizona State 48, Southern Cal 35** (October 19)

ASU football: Memorable moments in ASU-USC football series

Jake the Snake’s Sun Devils win double overtime thriller to prolong their Cinderella season that almost (and probably should have) ended with a national title.

1997 (1) Nebraska 45, Missouri 38* (November 8)

BLAST FROM THE PAST – WR MATT DAVISON, 1997 AMAZING CATCH ...

The Huskers survive road scare en route to split national title with miraculous catch off teammate’s foot as time expires.

1998 (1) Tennessee 28, (10) Arkansas 24 (November 14)

1998 Tennessee Volunteers vs. Arkansas Razorbacks | Tennessee Vols ...

Clint Stoerner’s “Hand of God” fumble in the final two minutes of the fourth preserves Vols national championship run.

1999 (24) Texas A & M 20, (7) Texas 16 (November 26)

1999 Bonfire Football Game | Texas A&M vs. UT - YouTube

A & M pulls off exciting upset in honor of fallen classmates who died a week before in Aggie bonefire collapse.

2000 (7) Miami-FL 27, (1) Florida State 24 (October 7)

Just when Noles fans thought it was safe to bring a tee out on the field, enter Matt Munyon.

“Wide Right III” game. The contest is also remembered for Santana Moss’ “big players” quote in postgame interview.

2001 (9) Colorado 39, (3) Texas 37 (December 1)

2001 BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP College Football Program TEXAS LONGHORNS ...

Gary Barnett’s Buffs deny Texas a national title chance by holding off late Longhorn rally.

2002 (16) LSU 33, Kentucky 30 (November 9)

Classic SEC Football: LSU Tops Kentucky in 'The Bluegrass Miracle ...

“The Bluegrass Miracle” robs the Cats of historic victory as LSU converts 74 yard touchdown on final play of the game.

2003 California 34, (3) Southern Cal 31*** (September 27)

Cal Football: USC 2003 - YouTube

Aaron Rodgers lead Bears to historic triple overtime upset which ended up denying the Trojans a shot at the BCS Championship game that season.

2004 (1) Southern Cal 31, Stanford 28 (September 25)

USC vs. Stanford: Trojans' BCS Dreams Not over After Cardinal ...

Trojans survive major scare as they comeback from an 11 point halftime deficit to pull out victory en route to a national title (that would later be forfeited).

2005 (1) Southern Cal 34, (9) Notre Dame 31 (October 15)

12 years later, '05 loss to USC still haunts Notre Dame. | Sports ...

The “Bush Push” gives Trojans controversial victory over upset-minded Irish.

2006 Michigan State 41, Northwestern 38 (October 21)

UCLA-Texas A&M joins list of biggest CFB comebacks. | Sports on Earth

Spartans pull off biggest comeback in college football history after trailing 38-3 in 3rd quarter.

2007 Stanford 24, (2) Southern Cal 23 (October 6)

USC seeks to snap recent Stanford run | Daily Trojan

The Cardinal pull off the biggest upset in college football FBS history as a 41 point underdog with Mark Bradford’s game winning catch (pictured above).This game set the table for Harbaugh’s coaching success and Stanford’s rise to prominence in the sport.

2008 (7) Texas Tech 39, (1) Texas 33 (November 2)

Texas Tech Texas Longhorns 2008 game Michael Crabtree catch

An all-time epic college football game won by Mike Leach’s Red Raiders on Crabtree back shoulder catch with 1 second left.

2009 (3) Texas 13, (22) Nebraska 12 (December 6)

31 Games in 31 Days: Texas vs. Nebraska — Big 12 Championship Game ...

Longhorns survive scare from Huskers with game winning field goal as time expires. Ndamukong Suh dominates game.

2010 (19) Nevada 34, (3) Boise State 31* (November 26)

Boise State’s Kyle Brotzman missed a 29-yard field goal attempt in overtime against Nevada on Nov. 26, his second miss of the game. The missed kicks cost Boise State a likely spot in the Rose Bowl.

One of the most heartbreaking losses of my life but still an incredible college football game. Boise loses shot at the BCS Championship Game with two missed chipped shot field goals.

2011 Iowa State 37, (2) Oklahoma State 31** (November 18)

Oklahoma State vs. Iowa State: The 2011 TD that killed the BCS ...

Heartbreaking double overtime defeat costs Oklahoma State a berth in the National Championship Game.

2012 (2) Alabama 32, (3) Georgia 28 (December 1)

2012 SEC Championship Alabama vs Georgia Highlights - YouTube

Tide win SEC Championship and earn BCS title game bid with thrilling stop inside their own 10 as time expired.

2013 (4) Auburn 34, (1) Alabama 28 (November 30)

Iron Bowl 2013, Auburn 34, Alabama 28: Tigers win SEC West on ...

The “Kick Six” is the greatest college football play of my lifetime but the game was incredible from start to finish.

2014 (11) Ole Miss 23, (2) Alabama 17 (October 4)

Ole Miss football has beaten Alabama 10 times. It's almost worth ...

The legendary Katy Perry game that announced Ole Miss’ return, albeit brief, to college football prominence.

2015 (7) Michigan State 27, (12) Michigan 23 (October 17)

Michigan State stuns Michigan by returning punter's fumble for TD ...

Spartans pull off shocking win as Michigan punter drops the snap, and subsequent fumble is returned for a Michigan State touchdown as time expires.

2016 (2) Ohio State 30, (3) Michigan 27** (November 26)

Controversial fourth down spot leads to Ohio State beating ...

Buckeyes get benefit of the doubt on controversial fourth down measurement to pull off double overtime victory.

2017 (15) Central Florida 49, South Florida 42 (November 24)

UCF beats USF in college football's best game of 2017 so far ...

Knights win back and forth shootout with 95 yard kickoff touchdown en route to their undefeated “national championship”.  These two teams combined for 1,182 yard of offense in this one.

2018 (1) Alabama 35, (4) Georgia 28 (December 1)

Alabama Vs Georgia Highlights 2018 SEC Championship - YouTube

Backup quarterback Jalen Hurts’ two late touchdowns deny Bulldogs a second consecutive playoff berth.

2019 (15) Auburn 48, (5) Alabama 45 (November 30)

Alabama vs. Auburn: Twitter reacts to Crimson Tide missing late ...

Bama’s playoff hopes go down the drain thanks to a missed chip shot field goal in game’s final two minutes (pictured above). Another wild Iron Bowl filled with flukish stuff like two pick sixes and a controversial illegal participation penalty to end the game.


I also did some additional analysis where I calculated the months in which the most games of the year and decade were played.  Furthermore, I also broke down which teams have played the most games of the year and what their record was in each.

Regarding the monthly analysis, these results weren’t surprising as November had the majority of games of the year and the overwhelming majority of the games of the decade.

Games of Year by Month
September 10
October 43
November 83
December 14
Games of Decade by Month
September 0
October 2
November 10
December 3

The team by team analysis yielded more interesting results as you will see below.  Because of the late 1800’s data, Yale, Harvard, and Princeton have played the most games of the year followed by the traditional powerhouses of modern times: Notre Dame, Alabama, and Michigan.  One shocking statistic is that even though Penn State has been an elite program for over a century, they have only played in one game that I classified as the regular season game of the year, which was a 1904 loss to Penn.  You will see in the next article that the Nittany Lions have played in a number of epic bowl games but for whatever reason, they haven’t had many classic regular season contests.  Likewise, Florida State has a shocking 0-6 record in college football regular season games of the year mainly due to struggles against their struggles the Hurricanes of Miami.  You will see in the next article that they have played much better in their classic postseason matchups.  See full chart below:

Regular Season Game of Year Participants
Yale 22 14-8
Princeton 19 12-7
Harvard 19 7-12
Notre Dame 15 11-4
Alabama 15 6-9
Michigan 13 5-8
Southern Cal 12 6-6
Army 12 2-10
Texas 9 4-5
Oklahoma 8 5-3
Ohio State 8 4-4
Auburn 7 5-2
Miami-FL 6 4-2
Michigan State 6 4-2
Navy 6 3-3
Florida State 6 0-6
Georgia 5 3-2
Penn 5 3-2
Nebraska 5 2-3
Illinois 4 2-2
Pittsburgh 4 2-2
Stanford 4 2-2
Ole Miss 4 2-2
Columbia 4 1-3
Arkansas 4 0-4
Colorado 3 3-0
Minnesota 3 3-0
LSU 3 2-1
Georgia Tech 3 2-1
Iowa 3 2-1
Florida 3 1-2
Rutgers 3 1-2
Cornell 3 1-2
Chicago 3 1-2
Missouri 3 0-3
TCU 2 2-0
California 2 2-0
Texas A & M 2 2-0
Carlisle 2 2-0
Lafayette 2 2-0
Northwestern 2 1-1
Oklahoma State 2 1-1
Wisconsin 2 0-2
UCLA 2 0-2
Vanderbilt 2 0-2
North Carolina 2 0-2
Oregon State 2 0-2
Stephens 2 0-2
Iowa State 1 1-0
Nevada 1 1-0
Tennessee 1 1-0
Arizona State 1 1-0
Virginia 1 1-0
Texas Tech 1 1-0
Boston College 1 1-0
Central Florida 1 1-0
Purdue 1 1-0
Maryland 1 1-0
Centre 1 1-0
Cleveland Naval 1 1-0
Dartmouth 1 1-0
South Floria 1 0-1
Tulsa 1 0-1
SMU 1 0-1
West Virginia 1 0-1
Penn State 1 0-1
Kentucky 1 0-1
Boise State 1 0-1
Springfield 1 0-1
Iowa Pre-Flight 1 0-1

 

Stay tuned for my annual analysis of the postseason games of the year coming soon!

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