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10 Best Pac-12 College Football Games of 2015

Luke Falk

Luke Falk

The Pac-12 may not be participating in this season's College Football Playoff, but the 2015 season had plenty to offer fans along the way. Few conferences rival the Pac-12 when it comes to thrillers and close calls from start to finish. Yes, the Pac-12 had plenty of drama to observe, even if it meant having to stay up late for some good old fashioned Pac-12 After Dark. The conference delivered.

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Honorable Mentions

Here are a few games that just missed the cut:

Washington State 37, Rutgers 34:Washington State quarterback Luke Falk passed for 478 yards and four touchdowns, including an eight-yard pass to River Cracraft with just13 seconds remaining in the game for a road win in New Jersey.

Washington State 45, Arizona 42: Falk went off again with six touchdown passes and 514 yards and held on for a tight win against the Wildcats in another road thriller for the Cougars.

Utah 62, Oregon 20: Notable not for the competitiveness, but for affirming Utah as a Pac-12 and potential Playoff contender at the time as Oregon went into a midseason slump. This was the worst home loss in Oregon history.

USC 42, Arizona State 14: USC built a 35-0 lead going to halftime as Cody Kessler tossed four first-half touchdowns and Chris Hawkins returned a fumble 94 yards for a score.

Utah 30, California 24: An early-season battle of Pac-12 unbeaten teams was not quite a Pac-12 championship game preview, as it included nine combined turnovers. Utah picked off Cal's Jared Goff five times.

Washington 17, USC 12: What turned out to be the final game for USC head coach Steve Sarkisian was won on the strength of Washington's defense, which forced three turnovers.

Oregon 26, Washington 20: Washington could not follow up the USC win with another, as Oregon started to rebound from a midseason lull with a 26-20 victory on the road. Royce Freeman rushed for 138 yards for the Ducks.

California 48, Arizona State 46: Jared Goff tossed five touchdowns and Cal hit a game-winning field goal as time expired to clinch a winning season.

10. California 45, Texas 44 – Sept. 20

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California routed Texas last season, and it looked as though the Golden Bears were going to do it again in Austin. Cal's dynamic offense took a commanding 45-24 lead on the Longhorns heading into the fourth quarter with Jared Goff tossing three touchdowns and Khalfani Muhammad adding a 74-yard touchdown run to cap a quick two-play, 92-yard scoring drive. The Bears had to hang on though, and did not claim victory until Texas missed an extra point attempt with 1:11 to play. Texas scored 20 unanswered points, falling just one point shy of forcing overtime against Cal. The two teams combined for 1,198 yards of offense and 54 first downs.

9. Washington State 45, Oregon 38 (2OT) – Oct. 11

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Washington State quarterback Luke Falk put up more huge numbers on the road against Oregon, and the Cougars needed it to pull a double-overtime stunner in Eugene. The entire game was a roller coaster for both sides, as Oregon took a 17-7 lead in the first half, only to trade blows with the Cougars for much the rest of the game. Washington State and Oregon exchanged the lead twice in the second half, but the Cougars managed to force overtime when Falk hit Dom Williams for an eight-yard touchdown pass with one tick left on the clock. Falk then forced a second overtime with a goal-line touchdown run and won the game with a short touchdown pass, his fifth of the game, to Robert Lewis in the second overtime.

8. Utah 24, Michigan 17 – Sept. 3

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A game that seemed to be all about the new Michigan head coach, Jim Harbaugh, heading into the season opener turned out to be a bit of a statement game for the Utes. Utah running back Devontae Booker put together 124 all-purpose yards against what would later be confirmed to be a solid Michigan defense. Utah always managed to keep the Wolverines at arm's length for the majority of the night by building a 17-3 lead in the third quarter and keeping the Wolverines down by double digits until the final minute when the Wolverines reached the end zone for the final time. This was a win that saw its value rise as the season unfolded.

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7. UCLA 24, BYU 23 – Sept. 19

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The BYU Cougars were off to quite a fun 2-0 start with a wild win against Nebraska and a solid victory against Boise State under its belt as they made their way to Los Angeles to take on UCLA. This was not one short on drama for BYU and UCLA as the Bruins scored a late touchdown in the fourth quarter to clip the Cougars by one point. UCLA running back Paul Perkins rushed for 219 yards and a touchdown against BYU, but it was a short touchdown run by Nate Starks with 3:25 remaining that gave UCLA its first lead of the game, following the PAT from Ka'imi Fairbairn.

6. Stanford 30, Washington State 28 – Oct. 31

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By this point in the season Stanford had asserted itself as the clear top team in the Pac-12, but Washington State gave the Cardinal a good scare in conference play on Halloween night. Washington State built a hard-earned 15-3 lead while being held to field goal after field goal by the Cardinal defense, and the Cougars' defense could not tie down Stanford's offense in the second half. Quarterback Kevin Hogan ran for two touchdowns, including a six-yard score in the fourth quarter to put Stanford in front for the first time since leading 3-0 and Conrad Ukropina kicked a 19-yard field goal with 1:54 remaining to grab a 30-28 lead. Christian McCaffrey rushed for 107 yards and was not a factor on special teams or in the passing game.

5. Oregon 61, Arizona State 55 (3OT) – Oct. 29

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A week after getting back on track against Washington, Oregon rediscovered its offense on the road against Arizona State. A 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Charles Nelson and a 62-yard touchdown run by Kani Benoit in the third quarter gave the Ducks a lead heading into the fourth quarter of a wild game that epitomized "Pac-12 After Dark." Then down by seven with time running out, Vernon Adams scrambled back to the 25-yard line and threw up a prayer on fourth-and-goal from the nine-yard line and Dwayne Stanford somehow came down with the ball to lead to overtime. Oregon wasted no time getting on the board in the first overtime when Adams connected with Stanford on the first play for 25 yards and the go-ahead touchdown, which was answered by Arizona State. Sun Devils quarterback Mike Bercovici gave the home team a lead in the second overtime with an 18-yard run, but Oregon answered with a short touchdown run by Royce Freeman. In the third overtime, Adams completed a 20-yard pass to Bralon Addison for a touchdown, one that looked on video review to actually be an incomplete pass with Addison's left toe appearing to be out of bounds. The score was upheld following a review due to inconclusive evidence to overturn the play, and Oregon picked off Bercovici on second-and-goal in the end zone for the win.

4. Arizona 37, Utah 30 (2OT) – Nov. 14

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Utah officially lost control of the Pac-12 South when the Utes went to Tucson. The Wildcats jumped on the Utes early with a 17-7 first quarter, but Utah battled back to take a lead in the second half. Down 27-20, Arizona's Anu Solomon quickly put his team in good position following a 50-yard completion to Cayleb Jones and a 16-yard strike to Johnny Jackson. One first-and-goal from the six-yard line, Solomon took matters into his own hands by taking off for a touchdown run to tie things up at 27-27. Both defenses forced a turnover after that to assure this game would have to be settled in overtime. After exchanging field goals in the first overtime, Nate Phillips caught a 25-yard pass on the first play of the second overtime from Arizona's backup quarterback Jerrad Randall, who replaced an injured Solomon. Utah was unable to convert on a 4th-and-16 on its possession, sending the Utes home with a loss.

3. Washington State 31, UCLA 27 – Nov. 14

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The Washington State Cougars were full of drama this season, and their mid-November trip to Los Angeles to play UCLA was no exception. Washington State held a 24-16 lead in the fourth quarter before Josh Rosen led a UCLA rally. Rosen's 37-yard touchdown run through the Cougars' defense gave the Bruins a late 27-24 lead with 1:09 to play, but that was more than enough time for Mike Leach to have quarterback Luke Falk lead a final drive to get into field goal range. Falk did more than that though. A 30-yard pass to Dom Williams put the ball on the UCLA 21-yard line with 18 seconds to play. A 21-yard pass to Gabe Marks for the touchdown with just three seconds left gave the Cougars one more wild win in the 2015 season.

2. Oregon 38, Stanford 36 – Nov. 14

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What has generally been one of the top Pac-12 games of the year the past few seasons once again delivered. Stanford's firm grip on the Pac-12 North was loosened slightly by a resurgent Oregon in dramatic fashion. Oregon trailed Stanford 23-21 at halftime but took control in the second half with a Royce Freeman 19-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter and a Vernon Adams 49-yard touchdown pass to Taj Griffin to take a 35-23 lead. Stanford's Christian McCaffrey rushed for a game-high 147 yards and a touchdown and added 42 receiving yards and 60 kick return yards. This was one of Adams' most efficient games for the Ducks, completing 10-of-12 pass attempts for 205 yards and two scores as Oregon was selective about its passing decisions against the Cardinal. The Oregon win pushed Stanford's Pac-12 clincher back a week and helped Oregon climb the division standings in a strong second half of the season.

1. Stanford 38, Notre Dame 36 – Nov. 28

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Already with a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game locked up the previous week, the Cardinal looked to make one final Playoff statement in the regular season against a battle-tested Notre Dame in Palo Alto. Notre Dame and Stanford exchanged the lead nine times, with Stanford kicker Conrad Ukropina kicking a 45-yard field goal as time expired to lift Stanford to a thrilling victory against the Fighting Irish. Stanford's Kevin Hogan had one of his finest games with 17 completed passes out of 21 attempts for 269 yards and four touchdowns. McCaffrey rushed for 94 yards and added 109 kick return yards. Notre Dame got big rushing performances from Josh Adams (168 yards and a touchdown) and quarterback DeShone Kizer (128 yards and a touchdown), but Stanford had just a little bit more magic left in the bottle to pick up the big win in the final week of the regular season.

— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also writes for CollegeFootballTalk.com and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.