College football rankings: the 12 best games of the season to date

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Michigan and the State of Michigan engaged on Saturday in an instant classic at Spartan Stadium, worthy of the top ten it received. The game had it all: big plays, big-time performances, swings in momentum, a frenzied crowd, questionable calls and a result that went to the limit.

Here at Sporting News we were wondering if it was the best game of the season. The elements that go into a “best” match – pre-match hype, atmosphere, drama on the pitch, landscape-altering result – are weighed to determine which games were best in the 2021 season.

MOREOVER: OU gets a bad spot in the first CFP ranking | Projections of the bowl | Heisman race

Here is our list:

1 – n. 6 Oklahoma 55, No. 21 Texas 48 (October 9)

This match will be remembered as the dawn of the Caleb Williams era, as freshman Oklahoma QB came off the bench to pick up the Sooners from a 28-7 deficit in a packed Cotton Bowl. His 52-yard pass in the fourth quarter to Marvin Mims to equalize the 41-41 game was the stuff of legend, and Kennedy Brooks’ winning 33-yard touchdown with three seconds left was a jaw-dropping finish for perhaps the best red surrender. of the river accounts of all time.

2 – n. 8 State of Michigan 37, No. 6 Michigan 33 (October 30)

We wanted a Big Ten slugfest, and that’s exactly what we got. As the weather got worse, the game got better. The teams fought under a cool gray sky, then fog, then rain and they needed all four neighborhoods to resolve this neighborhood feud. Kenneth Walker III made his Heisman case with 197 yards and five TDs, Michigan brilliantly got in position to get over his big bad luck, until he did, and the green team danced with a statue of Paul Bunyan is still an unbeaten record.

BENDER: Heat returns to Harbaugh after the crash against MSU

3 – Texas A&M 41, no. 1 Alabama 38 (October 10)

It is usually time to stop the press when Alabama still loses a game, but this was particularly exciting and ended with the last play. Texas A&M was down 38-31 with five minutes to go, so it took over in front of its wild 106,815 fans. Zach Calzada held a 65-yard drive with a 35-yard touchdown pass for Ainias Smith. And then, after a three-and-out from Bama, the Aggies backed down the field for a walk-off field goal, making Jimbo Fisher’s summer bragging to boosters that he beat Nick Saban a reality.

4 – n. 1 Alabama 31, No. 11 Florida 29 (September 18)

After falling 21-3 behind in the first quarter, the Gators didn’t stop against the nation’s top team. Behind quarterback Emory Jones and a ferocious running attack, Florida didn’t stop coming and eventually got a chance to equalize the game with a two-point conversion to 3:10 to play. The defense of Alabama filled Malik Davis to preserve victory, and the tide left a depleted swamp knowing it had been pushed to the limit.

MOREOVER: The picks of week 10 against the spread

5 – No. 12 Oregon 35, No. 3 State of Ohio 28 (September 11)

Another stop-the-presss moment is when Ohio State loses at home, which is exactly what happened when one of the most talked about games of the summer kept its promise in week 2. Oregon, two critical defensive pieces in DE Kayvon Thibodeaux and LB Justin Flowe, concluded the Buckeyes’ 24-game home win streak. CJ Verdell ran for 161 yards and three touchdowns and Oregon knocked out QB freshman CJ Stroud to seal the win at the end of the fourth quarter.

MOREOVER: Long time upset Oregon coming for Pac-12

6 – n. 17 Ole Miss 52, n. 13 Arkansas 51 (October 9)

There were 1,271 yards and 14 touchdowns in this one, the last of which came in the last play when Arkansas QB KJ Jefferson hit Warren Thompson from nine yards. Rather than going overtime, Arkansas manager Sam Pittman went for the win. Jefferson was put under pressure and the two-point play never had a chance. Ole Miss had three touchdowns from over 50 yards in the game against an Arkansas defense that had given up just 19 points per game so far.

7 – Fresno state road 40, n. 13 UCLA 37 (September 18)

Let’s not forget our friends on the west coast. UCLA got into this fresh of an LSU turmoil and had a bit of a buzz, but the Bulldogs turned out to be too much. There were four lead changes in the final 7:27 at the Rose Bowl. UCLA took a 37-33 lead with 54 seconds left. But limping Fresno QB Jake Haener led the Bulldogs for 75 yards and threw a winning touchdown from 13 yards with 14 seconds left to steal the win.

8 – State NC 27, n. 9 Clemson 21 (2 OT) (September 25)

We didn’t know Clemson wasn’t Clemson yet, as the Tigers were still playing a six-year series of ACC championships. NC State was able to end an eight-game losing streak to Clemson in regulation, but Christopher Dunn missed a 39-yard field goal in the last play. After a touchdown exchange in the first half overtime, Devin Leary hit Devin Carter for a 22-yard touchdown. When DJ Uiagalelei’s fourth-down pass hit the turf in the second overtime, Wolfpack fans stormed the pitch.

9 – Stanford 31, no. 3 Oregon 24 (OT) (October 2)

Oregon seemed to want to move on to 5-0 with a slow win at Stanford, but the Cardinal drove 87 yards in the final 1:52 to send the match into overtime. The rules have been extended by a timeless play due to a defensive call in the end zone with no time left. Stanford QB Tanner McKee hit Elijiah Higgins in a fade to force the OT, then hit John Humphreys in extra time for another touchdown. When Oregon’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete on his possession, Stanford students rushed into the field to celebrate the 15.5-point surprise.

10 – No. 3 Iowa 23, No. 4 Penn State 20 (October 9)

Yes, these two fell through tough times since that game in Iowa City, but that 60 minutes was for the two undefeated teams. Iowa, the team that thrives on defense and turnovers, pulled out four interceptions and had enough offense to wipe out a 17-3 deficit. Penn State QB Sean Clifford was injured with the Nittany Lions leading 17-10, and the PSU have only gained 48 yards in their last 11 possessions with Ta’Quan Roberson at the helm. A 44-yard touchdown pass from Spencer Petras to Nico Ragaini with 6:26 left was the winner of the game, and a cheery crowd from Iowa cheered on the turf afterward.

11 – n. 9 Notre Dame 41, Florida State 38 (OT) (September 5)

The Irish and the Seminoles had the Sunday night of Labor Day weekend all to themselves, and the nation was treated to a thriller on a thrilling night in Tallahassee. It was the first home game with a full house since 2019 and the first since legend Bobby Bowden passed away on August 8. Notre Dame came out shooting and led a 38-20 lead in the fourth period. But Florida State recovered, largely thanks to a clever play by reserve quarterback McKenzie Milton, whose gruesome leg injury he sustained at UCF kept him off the pitch for nearly three years. A FSU field goal with 40 seconds left imposed overtime, but Notre Dame prevailed with a field goal after the Noles missed a kick on their first extra possession.

MOREOVER: Milton’s good story for FSU is short

12 – No. 16 Wake Forest 70, Army 56 (October 23)

Everyone likes offense, right? There have been 18 touchdowns in this match, meaning more than 10 teams have scored throughout the season. The third quarter alone featured four plays from over 70 yards, including an 83-yard interception return from Wake’s Treveon Redd that confirmed there were indeed defenses on the field. The fourth period saw six more touchdowns and the Deacons left West Point with their undefeated season intact after scoring a dizzying 12.3 yards per game average.

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