The 150 Greatest Football Games of All Time


SoSH Member
Dec 22, 2003
Rock > SoxJox < Hard Place
In celebration of the 150th season of college football, ESPN released a list of The 150 Greatest Football Games of All Time.

These types of lists never please everyone, but they do offer an opportunity to reminisce and debate.

Below is ESPN's Top 10.

Just outside the Top 10, at #11, is one of my favorites: at Harvard 29, Yale 29 Nov. 23, 1968. I have a very good friend who played DE opposite Tommy Lee Jones in that game, in which Harvard scored 16 points in the final 42 seconds to earn the tie. Am also glad to see my alma mater with 2 games (both wins) in the top 10.

1. No. 1 Nebraska 35, at No. 2 Oklahoma 31
Nov. 25, 1971
The Sooners and Huskers presented Americans with a Thanksgiving feast: 829 yards of total offense, four lead changes, only one penalty and a game billed as the Game of the Century that lived up to the billing. Johnny Rodgers' 72-yard punt return wasn't the game winner that people think: It came after Oklahoma's first possession. Oklahoma scored on five drives of at least 69 yards against a defense that didn't allow more than 17 points to anyone else. The last of Huskers fullback Jeff Kinney's four short touchdown runs -- this one with 1:38 to play -- flipped the scoreboard to the visitors.

2. No. 5 Miami 31, No. 1 Nebraska 30
Orange Bowl, Jan. 2, 1984
The Huskers arrived for a coronation as 11-point favorites, but the hometown Hurricanes, backed by a raucous crowd, left with the Huskers' crown. Nebraska never led, but the Huskers rebounded from deficits of 17 and 14 points. The latter, capped by tailback Jeff Smith's 34-yard run with 48 seconds to play, precipitated one of the gutsiest coaching decisions ever. An extra point would have left Nebraska as the nation's only undefeated team. But Tom Osborne didn't want to finish No. 1 that way. Miami defensive back Ken Calhoun tipped Turner Gill's 2-point pass to Smith, and the Hurricanes dynasty was born.

3. Appalachian State 34, at No. 5 Michigan 32
Sept. 1, 2007
The No. 5 Wolverines would have been prohibitive favorites had Las Vegas bothered to set a line. But the Mountaineers, two-time defending FCS champions, had a magician, Armanti Edwards, at quarterback. Two of the game's four lead changes came in the frantic final five minutes. The Mountaineers drove 69 yards for Julian Rauch's 24-yard field goal to retake the lead with 1:11 to play. The Wolverines responded with a long pass to set up a 37-yard field goal attempt with 6 seconds to play. But Appalachian State's Corey Lynch blocked the kick to send this game directly into the history book.

4. No. 10 Boston College 47 at No. 12 Miami 45
Nov. 23, 1984
When Doug Flutie scrambled to his right, again confounding the exhausted Hurricane defensive front; when he heaved that 48-yard pass into the end zone scrum with zeroes on the clock; when Gerard Phelan, camped just behind the scrum, caught the ball like it were a punt; when Brent Musburger screamed, "I don't believe it!" into CBS's microphone; when the Eagles accepted the Cotton Bowl's invitation; when Flutie won the 1984 Heisman; when in 2008 Boston College erected a statue of Flutie, shoulders angled as if throwing this very pass: Maybe then we grasped the full meaning of this Hail Mary.

5. No. 2 Penn State 14, No. 1 Miami 10
Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 2, 1987
The Nittany Lions wore navy jerseys and white hats, the heroes in the Morality Play in the Desert. The big, bad Hurricanes swaggered into the Valley of the Sun. They stalked out of a steak fry honoring both teams in part because a Penn State player told a racially tinged joke. The Canes' bravado didn't hold up against the Nittany Lion defense, which harassed Heisman winner Vinny Testaverde into throwing five picks, the last on fourth down at the Penn State end zone in the final seconds. Miami outgained Penn State 445-162 but had little to show for it.

6. At No. 4 Notre Dame 31, No. 1 Miami 30
Oct. 15, 1988
Three decades on, Miami coach Jimmy Johnson still believes that if the replay rule existed on that crisp fall day, the controversy around whether Canes running back Cleveland Gary fumbled, was down or scored would have gone Miami's way. The Canes would have won their 37th consecutive regular-season game, not to mention its second consecutive national championship. But the Catholics v. Convicts game lives on in Notre Dame lore for Pat Terrell batting away Steve Walsh's 2-point conversion attempt with 45 seconds left to thwart the Miami comeback. Instead, Miami finished one play away, but which one? The Canes had seven turnovers.

7. No. 2 Texas 41, No. 1 USC 38
Rose Bowl, Jan. 4, 2006
The Trojans' 35th consecutive victory would have delivered a third straight national championship. The stories about USC being the greatest team ever? The Longhorns didn't appreciate that brand of journalism. Quarterback Vince Young carried a grudge because USC back Reggie Bush had won the Heisman. Young threw for 267 yards and rushed for 200, the last eight coming on fourth-and-5 with 19 seconds to play for the winning score. That capped a two-touchdown comeback in the final 6:42. Between those scores, USC head coach Pete Carroll went for fourth-and-2 near midfield. Decades from now, Trojans still will wonder why Bush was on the bench.

8. No. 2 Penn State 27, No. 1 Georgia 23
Sugar Bowl, Jan. 1, 1983
For nearly two decades, Nittany Lion head coach Joe Paterno knocked on the door on the college football elite. For nearly two decades, the elite refused to answer. Penn State went undefeated three times without finishing No. 1. This time, even with an early 21-point loss to Alabama, Penn State kicked down the door. The Nittany Lions never trailed, Curt Warner (117 yards) outgained Heisman winner Herschel Walker (103) and quarterback Todd Blackledge clinched the victory early in the fourth quarter with a 47-yard pass to Gregg Garrity. Georgia lost for only the third time in Walker's three seasons at tailback.

9. At No. 1 LSU 7, No. 3 Ole Miss 3
Oct. 31, 1959
Thanks to the memorable radio call of LSU announcer J.C. Politz, all anyone remembers of this game is Billy Cannon's 89-yard punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Cannon fielded the punt against the wishes of Tigers head coach Paul Dietzel, then broke seven tackles as he raced down the sideline in front of the Rebels' bench. But the Tigers won the game with a goal-line stand. On the last play of the game, fourth-and-goal from the LSU 1, Rebel quarterback Doug Elmore tried to run to his left, where he was stopped by Warren Raab and Cannon.

10. No. 3 Notre Dame 24, No. 1 Alabama 23
Sugar Bowl, Dec. 31, 1973
The first-ever matchup of two historical powers matched its considerable hype: six lead changes, big plays in all phases. The game turned on special teams: the Irish's Al Hunter returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown, and Notre Dame made a 2-point conversion; Tide kicker Bill Davis missed an extra point in the fourth quarter. Bear Bryant tried to pin Notre Dame deep and force a late punt. But on third-and-8 from the Irish 3, quarterback Tom Clements threw a 35-yard pass out of his end zone to backup tight end Robin Weber. It was Weber's second catch of the season.


Silver Supporter
SoSH Member
Sep 27, 2016
Pittsburgh, PA
#2 should probably be #1 unless there's historical context that I'm not aware of.

Also, Boston College vs Notre Dame 1993, with ND making a furious 22-point comeback only to lose on a GW FG as time expired, was one of the few football-related memories from my childhood. I'm surprised it's as low as #76.


SoSH Member
Mar 31, 2013
The first games that immediately came to mind were the 2006 Rose Bowl and the 1987 Fiesta Bowl. In both games the (perhaps unfair) narrative with the working class hero team upset the mighty, celebrity team to win the National Championship.

As far as regular season games go, the 2011 LSU vs Alabama game immediately came to mind. LSU won 9-6, in a defensive slugfest that was, to me at least, an exciting contrast from the spread offense shoot-outs that were taking over the game of college football. Unlike most low-scoring games, this was not necessarily a game of incompetent offenses (well, Alabama's kicking was famously incompetent) but rather just spectacular defensive play. 45 players from the game would be drafted into the NFL, including 14 first-round picks.

Ale Xander

Lacks black ink
SoSH Member
Oct 31, 2013
In the games that didn't matter category:

2003 Arkansas over Kentucky in 7 OT


SoSH Member
Feb 12, 2003
where I was last at
I wondered where '68 Harvard-Yale would rank in what I expected was mostly going to be big-time college game list.

I was pleasantly surprised to see it come in at #11

Saw it with my dad H'40.

It was an awesome game, mostly for the last 2 minutes.

Tangled Up In Red

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Nov 8, 2004
How is the 2007 Fiesta Bowl (Boise State over Oklahoma) not top 10?!

Oklahoma was the designated home team and was favored by 7½ points, but Boise State won by a score of 43–42 in overtime. The game featured a series of "fantastic finishes" – Oklahoma scoring 25 unanswered points to take its first lead with just over one minute remaining in the game, the teams scoring 22 points in the final 1:26 of regulation and 15 points in overtime, culminating with Boise State completing three do-or-die trick plays (the first of which was called with 18 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter on 4th and 18 to take the game to overtime).

Philip Jeff Frye

SoSH Member
Oct 23, 2001
Hmmm... 150 years of football but only one game in the top ten from the first two thirds of that period, and that one in 1959, leaving 90 years of apparently boring football. Makes you wonder how college football managed to become popular in the first place.

If I've counted right, the first 100 years of college football games account for 50 of the games on the list.

Seems like lists like this always suffer a lot from recency bias.
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Saints Rest

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I was a bit surprised that the Coconut Grove game, where unranked Holy Cross upset #1 and undefeated Boston College 55-12 didn’t make the cut. Especially considering that the loss meant that the Eagles team decided against celebrating that night as planned at Coconut Grove, the night that ended up being a fire that killed 492 guests.

PC Drunken Friar

SoSH Member
Sep 12, 2003
South Boston
I was a bit surprised that the Coconut Grove game, where unranked Holy Cross upset #1 and undefeated Boston College 55-12 didn’t make the cut. Especially considering that the loss meant that the Eagles team decided against celebrating that night as planned at Coconut Grove, the night that ended up being a fire that killed 492 guests.
Yup. My grandfather and his future wife (obviously my grandmother) were too despondent to go. He had a couple tables reserved and did lose more than a couple friends in the fire. I guess I should thank BC for sucking?

I'll never forget watching the 2013 Iron Bowl (#18). Ranked about right, I think.

Was (Not Wasdin)

family crest has godzilla
SoSH Member
Jul 26, 2007
The Short Bus
I was a bit surprised that the Coconut Grove game, where unranked Holy Cross upset #1 and undefeated Boston College 55-12 didn’t make the cut. Especially considering that the loss meant that the Eagles team decided against celebrating that night as planned at Coconut Grove, the night that ended up being a fire that killed 492 guests.
I was surprised that wasn't as well. It was a massive upset, and the real world implications were huge.

Also surprised no USC-Alabama from the early 70's when Sam Cunningham ran wild.
30. No. 10 Notre Dame 35, No. 9 Houston 34
Cotton Bowl, Jan. 1, 1979
Irish quarterback Joe Montana battled hypothermia and the flu while playing in icy conditions with wind chills of minus-6 degrees at the Cotton Bowl. Trainers covered Montana in blankets and fed him chicken soup at halftime. When Montana returned in the fourth quarter, he rallied the Irish back from a 22-point deficit and threw an 8-yard TD to Kris Haines to tie the game as time expired. Joe Unis' extra point won it.
I just went to YouTube to watch the end of this game, and hilariously, late in the fourth quarter they showed a graphic which said that Montana had completed 10 of 30 passes for 131 yards.


SoSH Member
Dec 8, 2005
Like several others here I went to #11. I am not old enough to have gone to 1938 Rutgers-Princeton, with Rutgers opening their new stadium and beating their in-state rivals for the first time since...1869....but I am old enough to remember that that was regarded as a famously great game at one point in time. Not on the list unless I scrolled past.