Comebacks, last-second finishes and upsets spotlight the season's best-to-date.
The first half of the 2015 college football season has provided enough drama and thrills to last several campaigns.
With the season at its midway point, college football appears headed for a turbulent and unpredictable finish, perhaps rivaling the incredible 2007 campaign. Many of the fall's best games to date have helped set the table for chaos in pursuit of the College Football Playoff.
Not every contest appearing below will impact the championship hunt, or even the bowl picture. However, all have contributed to a thrilling, dramatic and altogether memorable college football season.
A few games considered but ultimately omitted from the top 10:
• Ohio State 34, Indiana 27: Ezekiel Elliott's historic performance powered the Buckeyes past upset-minded Indiana.
• UCLA 24, BYU 23: Star linebacker Myles Jack ended his college career with a game-saving interception, preserving UCLA's come-from-behind victory over the Cardiac Cougars.
• Washington State 45, Oregon 38 (2OT): Washington State scored its first win over Oregon in nine years thanks to six touchdowns from quarterback Luke Falk and a 10-point, fourth-quarter rally.
10. Old Dominion 38, Eastern Michigan 34 – Sept. 5
Fledgling program Old Dominion and perennial Mid-American Conference cellar-dweller Eastern Michigan are not typically on the national radar.
You probably missed their Week 1 contest, which featured just about everything one could want from a classic game: a big comeback, a game-winning drive in the final minutes and a breakout, star performance.
Old Dominion running back Ray Lawry went 45 yards with less than two minutes remaining, scoring his fourth touchdown to put the Monarchs on top for good. Old Dominion trailed the host Eagles 24-10 at halftime, but rallied with a three-touchdown third quarter to force a tie.
The Monarchs couldn't quite get over the hump and take the lead until Lawry's final end zone scamper for Old Dominion's only advantage of the game.
9. Rutgers 55, Indiana 52 – Oct. 17
Overshadowed by another Big Ten game last week, Rutgers' 28-point rally to beat Indiana deserves recognition. The Scarlet Knights dug a 52-27 hole, the result of Indiana's 28-point third quarter.
The Hoosiers offense, which scored virtually at will for three quarters, was rendered anemic in the fourth.
Living up to the mantra “Keep Chopping,” popularized at Rutgers by former head coach Greg Schiano in its surprise 2006 season, the Scarlet Knights cut at Indiana's lead. Turnovers played a huge part, with Rutgers forcing three straight, including a scoop-and-score by Kemoko Turay.
The 19-point deficit Rutgers erased is the largest fourth-quarter comeback of the season.
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8. Florida 28, Tennessee 27 – Sept. 26
The term “snake-bit” refers to something with a seemingly unceasing string of misfortune. For Tennessee football, the more appropriate phrasing for its 11-game losing streak to Florida is Gator-bit.
The Vols were seemingly exorcizing more than a decade of frustration when it built a two-score lead over rival Florida. Tennessee's offense sputtered at times, sure, but Florida could not mount enough offense to erase the deficit.
At least, not until the final two possessions, when it went 86 and 59 yards for unanswered scores.
The Gators were a perfect 5-of-5 on fourth-down conversions, including three on the last two possessions. Antonio Calloway's game-winning touchdown reception came on a fourth-and-14 conversion with just 1:26 left in regulation.
Florida's rally and extension of the streak garnered much of the attention, but had Tennessee not won, quarterback Joshua Dobbs' remarkable afternoon would have been the headline. He led the Volunteers in yards passing, rushing and receiving, a feat not accomplished in college football in a decade prior.
7. Oklahoma 31, Tennessee 24 (2OT) – Sept. 12
All apologies to Tennessee fans; I don't mean to twist the knife. However, Florida's win was simply a retread of another Vol result just two weeks earlier, then a 14-point lead coughed up to Oklahoma.
Much like the Florida game, Tennessee's defense was virtually impenetrable for three quarters. However, Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield erupted for all four of Oklahoma's touchdowns through the final quarter and overtimes.
Mayfield's performance down the stretch and in extra frames might be the most impressive, condensed showing any individual player has had this season. The win scored Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops further bragging rights over the SEC, and helped spoil Tennessee's plans of returning to the big stage nationally.
6. Tennessee 38, Georgia 31 – Oct. 10
The first half of the season wasn't all bad, Vols faithful. After coughing up two different 14-point leads in the season's first month, Tennessee finally landed on the other side of the equation in its comeback defeat of Georgia.
The Bulldogs went ahead 24-3 in the late second quarter, cranking up the heat on Tennessee head coach Butch Jones significantly.
It only took the Vols 37 seconds of game clock to lower the temperature on their head coach's seat, however. Tennessee scored twice in that span just before halftime, turning a three-score deficit into just one by intermission.
By the end of the third period, Georgia's lead became a deficit.
Though the loss of running back Nick Chubb to a knee injury may have contributed to Georgia's blown lead, backup Sony Michel rumbled for 145 yards rushing and another 26 receiving. The Bulldogs' problems went beyond the loss of just one player.
5. Clemson 24, Notre Dame 22 – Oct. 3
A tropical storm provided the backdrop for this slog through the mud. That's meant in the most complimentary way possible.
Notre Dame and Clemson engaged in an old-school, physical slugfest. Passing in the inclement weather was almost impossible, so Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson took it upon himself to power the Tigers' offense with 93 yards on the ground and a touchdown.
And, despite the conditions, Watson also managed two passing scores.
Behind their quarterback, the Tigers built a 21-3 lead. Insurmountable given the conditions, right?
Of course not; this is college football. Notre Dame chipped away despite fumbling woes, scoring a touchdown with just seven seconds left and a chance to tie. Brian Kelly's call to run freshman DeShone Kizer on a designed quarterback draw is the subject of controversy. Had it been successful, one of the season's best games and a possible Playoff determiner would have gone to overtime.
4. BYU 33, Nebraska 28 – Sept. 5
BYU's Week 1 win over Nebraska is college football's answer to an M. Night Shyamalan film. A twist ending compensated for an otherwise unremarkable story prior to the conclusion.
Nebraska had taken a 28-24 lead on Trey Foster's touchdown reception from Tommy Armstrong Jr., but a field goal in the fourth quarter and some solid defense gave BYU the ball with a chance to win.
Starting quarterback Taysom Hill sustained a season-ending injury midway through this one, leaving true freshman Tanner Mangum under the spotlight. And boy, did he ever deliver.
Mangum's 42-yard Hail Mary to Mitch Mathews as time expired scored BYU the win, and ended Nebraska's 30-year streak of home-opening victories.
3. Ole Miss 43, Alabama 37 – Sept. 19
A series of funky bounces and unusual plays helped Ole Miss build a three-touchdown lead over Alabama. Forget the Blood Moon, that may be the most unusual occurrence of the fall.
Despite the gap, Alabama fought back with a pair of touchdowns in just over two minutes.
Ole Miss held on by the fingertips — specifically, Tony Bridges'. His interception of Jake Coker didn't seal the win, as Alabama got another possession with 25 seconds remaining, but Bridges' pick helped Ole Miss score its first back-to-back triumphs over the Crimson Tide in program history.
2. TCU 55, Texas Tech 52 – Sept. 26
Give a hand to TCU running back Aaron Green, whose hands kept the Horned Frogs alive in the College Football Playoff race.
On fourth-and-goal from the Texas Tech 4-yard line, Green dove in the back of the end zone to catch a deflected ball just before it hit the turf. It was Green's third touchdown of the game, as he scored two more on the ground to balance Trevone Boykin's four passing scores.
Should TCU win the Big 12 championship and earn a spot in the Playoff, Green's reception will be looked back upon as one of the season's defining moments.
1. Michigan State 27, Michigan 23 – Oct. 17
When the hours and days immediately following a game are dedicated to discussing its place in college football lore, you know it's a classic.
Where does the ending of the Michigan-Michigan State game rank in college football history? http://t.co/wcQbRJs5O4— Outside The Lines (@OTLonESPN) October 19, 2015
Michigan-Michigan State closed with a play that rivals such iconic moments as Chris Davis' “Kick Six” to beat Alabama in 2013, or Kordell Stewart's Hail Mary heave in the Big House 21 years ago.
Michigan State had no timeouts remaining when Michigan lined up for a punt that would have pinned the Spartans deep in their own territory. Were it not for a cruel twist of football fate, punter Blake O'Neill would have been a hero for the Wolverines.
Before the final play, O'Neill had delivered several big kicks that pushed Michigan State back behind its own 20-yard line. His 80-yarder was a game-defining play.
However, his fumble of the last snap overshadowed everything else, even the tremendous blocking Jalen Watts-Jackson received from his Michigan State teammates on the ensuing run-back for the win.
While the ending generated the buzz, this was simply a classic rivalry contest between two hard-hitting football teams. Michigan and Michigan State both play a defensive style that could win a national championship. The Spartans have the better chance to do so now, but the Wolverines looked every bit their equal for 60 minutes in Ann Arbor.
(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)