Seemingly every autumn, college football collectively sets the bar higher than it had in previous years. The 2015 campaign featured an abundance of breath-taking moments across all levels, in the process setting a new standard of excellence in the sport.
The following 18 individual efforts were the pinnacle of the season. These were performances that will leave us talking for years — or, at least until next fall, when a new gold standard is set.
Why 18? In the immortal words of John "Bluto" Blutarsky: Why not?
- Clemson QB Deshaun Watson at Syracuse, Nov. 14: 368 yards on 26-of-38 passing, two touchdowns; 105 yards on 14 carries, one touchdown
- Notre Dame RB C.J. Prosise vs. Georgia Tech, Sept. 19: 198 yards on 22 carries, three touchdowns
- Alabama CB Cyrus Jones vs. Charleston Southern, Nov. 21: Two punts returned for touchdowns
- Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey vs. UCLA, Oct. 15: 243 yards on 25 carries, four touchdowns
The 18 Best Individual Performances of 2015
18. Southern WR Willie Quinn - Sept. 10 at Mississippi Valley State
89 yards on 1-of-1 passing, one TD; 113 yards on two kick returns, one TD 39 yards on one punt return, one TD
The rest of the countdown is reserved for the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), in part to avoid having a 500-entry list. But Willie Quinn's Week 2 performance in a win over Mississippi Valley State was just too spectacular to spurn.
Quinn scored one of the more unusual touchdown hat tricks in football, returning both a kick and a punt, and throwing a pass. Quinn's contribution to the Jaguar win is basically one, extended SportsCenter package.
17. North Carolina QB Marquise Williams – Oct. 3 at Georgia Tech
134 yards on 13-of-24 passing; 148 yards on 15 carries, two TDs; 37 yards on one reception, TD
Williams was one of two quarterbacks this season to lead his team in yards passing, rushing and receiving in the same game. Tennessee's Joshua Dobbs was the other, but Williams gets the nod because North Carolina won the contest in which he accomplished the feat.
16. Iowa CB Desmond King – Oct. 3 at Wisconsin
Nine tackles, two INTs, two passes broken up
Iowa's appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game and berth in next month's Rose Bowl Game would not have been had the Hawkeyes not survived a defensive struggle with rival Wisconsin.
Fittingly, Iowa's best defensive player put forth his best effort of the season in the 10-6 win, turning Camp Randall Stadium into a no-fly zone for the home-standing Badgers.
Be forewarned, Badgers fans: This isn't Wisconsin's first appearance on the wrong side of the countdown.
15. San Jose State RB Tyler Ervin – Sept. 26 vs. Fresno State
300 yards on 42 carries, three TDs; 45 yards on four receptions
The Bay Area had room for more than one all-purpose playmaker in the 2015 season. San Jose State's Ervin ranked among the nation's leaders in all-purpose yards throughout the campaign, and his showing against Mountain West Conference rival Fresno State was his apex.
14. Louisiana Tech RB Kenneth Dixon – Nov. 7 vs. North Texas
195 yards rushing on 19 carries, six TDs
College football's new career touchdown leader (pending Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds' bowl game) made up for time lost to an ankle injury with a six-touchdown performance against overwhelmed North Texas.
13. Baylor WR Corey Coleman – Nov. 5 at Kansas State
216 yards on 11 receptions, two TDs
Coleman continuously upped the ante throughout the season's first two months, working well in tandem with quarterback Bryce Petty. Ironically, his best individual game came after Petty was sidelined with a neck injury.
Coleman's 11-reception, 216-yard outing against Kansas State made Jarrett Stidham look like a million bucks in the freshman's first career start.
12. Alabama RB Derrick Henry – Sept. 5 vs. Wisconsin (in Arlington, Texas)
147 yards on 13 carries, three TDs
Henry's 2015 season featured one outstanding, individual performance after another. However, the Heisman Trophy winner began his run to New York City Week 1 in perhaps his most dominant, individual effort of the campaign.
A Badgers defense that was stout much of the season was left helpless trying to defend the human battering ram that is Henry.
11. Western Kentucky WR Taywan Taylor – Dec. 5 - Conference USA Chamionship Game vs. Southern Miss
165 yards on eight receptions, two TDs
Quarterback Brandon Doughty's eye-popping numbers garner much of the attention as far as Western Kentucky's pass-happy offense is concerned, but Taylor helped the Hilltoppers' aerial assault click all season.
Taylor's best came on the biggest stage, as he averaged better than 20 yards per catch and got in the end zone to lift Western Kentucky to its first C-USA championship.
10. Washington State QB Luke Falk – Oct. 24 at Arizona
514 yards on 47-of-62 passing, five TDs
From walk-on to All-Pac-12 performer, Falk flourished in head coach Mike Leach's air-raid offense. His crowning achievement in an outstanding sophomore campaign came in the desert, where Falk was seemingly flawless against Arizona.
9. Temple LB Tyler Matakevich – Sept. 5 vs. Penn State
Seven tackles, three sacks
The 2015 Chuck Bednarik Award winner began his march to college football's national defensive player of the year award by teeing off on Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
Matakevich was an unblockable monster that afternoon, setting the tone in Temple's first win over Penn State in seven decades.
8. Oregon QB Vernon Adams – Nov. 21 vs. USC
407 yards on 20-of-25 passing, six TDs
Intriguing FCS transfer Adams showed the full capacity of play-making ability in the regular season's final month, and never more so than against USC.
Adams punished the USC secondary with a combination of rifle arm and feathery touch, going to the house six times on the Trojans.
7. TCU QB Trevone Boykin - Oct. 10 at Kansas State
301 yards on 20-of-30 passing, two TDs; 124 yards on 11 carries, two TDs
A late-season injury stymied what may have otherwise been a push for the Heisman from Boykin. Though the dynamic, dual-threat playmaker didn't go to New York, some of college football's most impressive moments defined his senior season. His game against Kansas State was the best of his best.
Boykin's two-way deluge on the K-State defense was so impressive, it prompted Wildcats head coach Bill Snyder to pen the quarterback a letter of appreciation.
6. Bowling Green QB Matt Johnson – Sept. 12 at Maryland
491 yards on 36-of-55, six TDs
Perhaps the most impressive part of Johnson's six-touchdown performance in Bowling Green's defeat of Maryland is that the senior quarterback scored all but one after intermission.
5. Florida State RB Dalvin Cook – Oct. 10 vs. Miami
222 yards rushing on 22 carries, two TDs
Cook's performance against rival Miami is about as close to one player single-handedly winning a football game as anyone is likely to see.
Cook set the tone with a long touchdown run early, then delivered big play after big play down the stretch to preserve the Seminole victory.
4. Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott – Oct. 3 at Indiana
274 yards on 23 carries, three TDs
In most seasons, a running back carrying an offense to victory almost by himself would be remarkable. In 2015, Henry, Cook, Leonard Fournette and Elliott made it routine.
Elliott was the bedrock of the Ohio State offense in a surprisingly trying year for the Buckeyes on that side of the ball. Against Indiana, he performed with all the valor of Atlas, holding the Buckeyes on his shoulders while he ran for scores of 55, 65 and 75 yards.
3. TCU WR Josh Doctson – Sept. 26 at Texas Tech
267 yards on 18 receptions, three TDs
Recent encounters between TCU and Texas Tech have turned into Wild West shootouts. In this year's installment, Doctson was your huckleberry.
2. LSU RB Leonard Fournette – Sept. 19 vs. Auburn
228 yards rushing on 19 carries, three TDs
Fournette spent the first two months of the season as the presumptive Heisman Trophy front-runner, and his effort against Auburn was his launching pad.
Fournette put the Auburn defense on the receiving end of several viral clips in this one.
1. Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey - Dec. 5 - Pac-12 Championship Game vs. USC
207 yards on 32 carries, one TD; 105 yards on four receptions, one TD; 11 yards on 1-of-1 passing, one TD; two punt returns for 29 yards
No. 1 is a no-brainer. McCaffrey's Pac-12 Championship Game performance was a showing for the ages. McCaffrey wrecked USC to the tune of 461 all-purpose yards -- and that doesn't include the 11 he gained on a touchdown pass to quarterback Kevin Hogan.
McCaffrey scored via the pass, on a reception and on the run, and very nearly broke a punt return to go to the house.
Allow me to defer to former Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, who had to scheme for players like Reggie Bush and Toby Gerhart in his time as a coach.