Friday Five: Ranking the best college football games of the 2017 season – CBSSports.com


This is a great time of the year to be a sports fan. The NBA and NHL are winding down their regular seasons, which means the playoffs are coming. The Final Four takes place this weekend, and Thursday was MLB’s Opening Day.

If you’re like me, you spent your entire Thursday watching baseball. It was a great way to spend the day, yet even as much as I love baseball and I enjoyed watching it, I couldn’t help but think of those Saturdays in the fall spending 14 hours watching college football.

Those days are great, too.

So I got a bit nostalgic thinking about the past season, which leads to this week’s Friday Five topic. I’m going to rank the five best games from the 2017 season. I don’t have any real parameters to follow; I’m just going to go by feel.

Like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said in the case of Jacobellis v. Ohio, he couldn’t define what pornography is, but “I know it when I see it.”

I’m applying those same rules to 2017’s best games.

5. Sept. 23 – Penn State 21, Iowa 19: If you turned this game off at halftime, nobody would have blamed you, but hoo boy did you miss a second half. Iowa had a 7-5 lead after the first half that was as exciting as the score suggests, and most of the third quarter was a bit stale too as both defenses dominated.

Finally, with just over five minutes left in the third quarter, Penn State’s Saquon Barkley scored a touchdown to cap off a 75-yard drive and give Penn State a 15-7 lead. Iowa would score its first TD of the game early in the fourth, cutting that lead to 15-13 following a failed two-point conversion. Then, an Iowa offense that could barely move the ball all day went 80 yards in three plays and 57 seconds took a 19-15 lead on a 35-yard Akrum Wadley run. Iowa would again fail on the two-point conversion, and it proved fatal.

Penn State responded by going 65 yards in 12 plays and scoring a touchdown on the final play of the game when Trace McSorley found Juwan Johnson for a seven-yard TD.

4. Nov. 24 – UCF 49, South Florida 42: Couldn’t do this list without at least one UCF game, and while some may have preferred the Knights’ 62-55 win over Memphis in the AAC title game, it was a bit too video-gameish for my tastes (I gave it an honorable mention instead).

Now, this game didn’t exactly have much defense either. The two teams combined for 1,182 yards of offense, after all. What puts this over the edge for me is that this is a rivalry game, and it was the first time all season that UCF seemed to be in danger of losing. USF’s Quinton Flowers had a magnificent game, and hit Darnell Salomon for an 83-yard TD pass with 1:41 left to cut UCF’s lead to 42-40. Flowers then completed the two-point conversion to tie the game.

UCF responded by having Mike Hughes return the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. A score that would hold and keep UCF undefeated.

3. Oct. 28 – Ohio State 39, Penn State 38: Ohio State QB JT Barrett had an odd career, at least when it comes to how he was perceived. To many fans, he was the same quarterback who helped lead Ohio State to the College Football Playoff while subbing in for an injured Braxton Miller in as a freshman in 2014. To other fans, he was the QB who never lived up to the promise he showed that freshman season again.

So, depending on who you asked, Barrett was either overrated or underrated with no in between. Personally, I felt he was really good, but not quite elite. He could be spectacular, though, and this game was the best reflection of that.

Penn State’s Saquon Barkley returned the opening kick for a TD, and the Nittany Lions had all the momentum early, taking a 28-10 lead halfway through the second quarter. But Barrett never panicked or got out of his game. Instead, he put on a spectacular performance. Barrett threw for 238 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for another 95 yards. Three of his touchdowns came in the fourth quarter, with two in the final five minutes to complete an epic comeback. One that ultimately led to a Big Ten title for the Buckeyes.

2. Jan. 8 – Alabama 26, Georgia 23 (OT): It’s never a bad thing when the national title game is one of the best games of the season. It’s been a theme for CFP title games, which is a nice change of pace considering how so many BCS title games seemed to go.

What makes this game a little more special is that, halfway through, it definitely didn’t seem like we were on the way to a classic. Georgia had a 13-0 lead at halftime, and both defenses were dominating. Hell, Georgia’s defense had played so well that when Nick Saban decided to remove Jalen Hurts and replace him with freshman Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback (IN THE TITLE GAME), it didn’t even seem like a ridiculous idea.

Though it did when Tagovailoa threw an awful interception halfway through the third quarter with Georgia up 20-7. Alabama’s defense would bail him out with its own interception a few plays later, and Alabama cut the lead to 20-10 and then scored another 10 points to tie it up 20-20 with 3:49 left to play.

Alabama had a chance to finish the comeback not too long afterward, driving 48 yards to set up a 36-yard FG attempt with three seconds left. A field goal that Andy Pappanastos would miss, forcing OT.

The overtime was defined by two QBs taking bad sacks. First, Jake Fromm took a 13-yard loss which put Georgia in the unenviable position of needing to kick a 51-yard field goal to get points on the board. Luckily for Georgia, it had Rodrigo Blankenship, and he drilled that thing.

On Alabama’s possession, it was Tagovailoa taking an even worse sack, losing 16 yards. He made up for it, though. On the next play, Tua launched a 41-yard touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith, giving the Tide a walk-off national title win. Think it’s safe to say that’s a highlight that’s going to live on in college football lore for years to come.

1. Jan. 1 – Georgia 54, Oklahoma 48 (2OT): As awesome as the title game was, the best game of the year was played a week earlier, and it included Georgia as well. Of course, this one had a better outcome for the Dawgs.

The 2018 Rose Bowl was an all-timer. It was a roller coaster of emotions for everyone involved, even those without a rooting interest. Oklahoma controlled the game early, taking a 31-14 lead with six seconds left in the first half. Oklahoma then squib kicked, and it did not work out well. Georgia ran one play to get into field goal position, and the assassin Rodrigo Blankenship struck from 55 yards to make the score 31-17. Even if it was only a field goal, it felt like a momentum shifter, and it proved to be one.

Georgia dominated the second half, scoring the first three touchdowns of the half to take a 38-31 lead early in the fourth. Then, just when it looked like Oklahoma had lost control and was another punch away from going down for the count, the Sooners responded and took the momentum back, scoring two touchdowns in less than two minutes to take a 45-38 lead with 6:52 left.

With time dwindling, Georgia managed a 59-yard TD drive that ended with Nick Chubb scoring from two yards out and just 55 seconds left, tying the game and forcing overtime.

The first OT saw both defenses do something they hadn’t done a lot of during the first 60 minutes: holding their ground. After Oklahoma forced a three-and-out and held Georgia to a FG, the Sooners faced a decision on their possession. Facing a fourth-and-one, the Sooners opted to kick the game-tying field goal rather than go for a first down. They got the field goal, but it was a decision that would haunt them.

Oklahoma was on offense first in the second OT, and its offense didn’t go anywhere. It attempted another field goal, but this one was blocked by Georgia’s Lorenzo Carter. Two plays later Georgia’s Sony Michel went left, found the edge, turned the corner and was gone. His 27-yard TD run sent Georgia to the title game.

Honorable Mention: Sept. 3 – UCLA 45, Texas A&M 44; Sept. 9 – Iowa 44, Iowa State 41; Sept. 16 – Florida 26, Tennessee 20; Oct. 7 – Iowa State 38, Oklahoma 31; Dec. 2 – UCF 62, Memphis 55



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