Nothing says the New Year quite like a good end of the year list.
For this college football countdown to end 2013, we look back at the best individual performances from the calendar year — from the New Year’s Day bowl games to today.
We’ve taken a handful of factors into account: Statistical and clutch production, importance of the game and quality of opponent. The year saw many record-breaking performances, but not all will be included here. And, yes, football’s a team game and so on, but these individual single-game performances wowed everyone.
Year in Review: The best single-game performances of 2013
1. Tre Mason vs. Missouri in the SEC Championship Game (Dec. 7)
This single game turned Auburn’s Tre Mason into a Heisman Trophy finalist with good reason. Mason shattered the SEC title game rushing record with 304 yards and four touchdowns on 46 carries in a 59-42 win over Missouri to seal Auburn’s trip to the national title game. Of the six 300-yard rushing performances this season, none was against a defense as highly regarded as Missouri’s (ranked second in the SEC in rush defense).
2. Eddie Lacy vs. Notre Dame in the BCS Championship Game (Jan. 7)
Alabama extended the SEC’s national title streak to seven with an overwhelming performance against the stout Notre Dame defense. Heisman runner up Manti Te’o would never look as out of place on the field as he did against Alabama’s Eddie Lacy. The running back rushed for 140 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries while adding a TD catch in the 42-14 win.
3. Jameis Winston vs. Clemson (Oct. 19)
Pinpointing the signature performance for Florida State’s Heisman winner could be tough — he was 25 of 27 in his debut against Pittsburgh and threw five touchdown passes against Maryland. In the end, it’s tough to argue with his season-high 444 passing yards in the 51-14 rout of Clemson on the road. His 22-of-32 performance with three touchdown passes and a rushing score secured Florida State as a national title contender and Winston as a Heisman frontrunner.
4. Johnny Manziel vs. Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl (Jan. 4)
Heisman winners have had a checkered history in bowl games, but not the one for Texas A&M in a 41-13 rout of Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. Manziel demolished former conference foe Oklahoma by completing 22 of 34 passes for 287 yards with two touchdowns and an interception to go with 229 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. His pair of TDs allowed him to join the 20 rushing and 20 passing touchdown club with Auburn’s Cam Newton, Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick and Florida’s Tim Tebow.
5. Myles Jack vs. Washington (Nov. 15)
Two-way players continue to be a rarity, but with UCLA’s Myles Jack only a freshman, the possibilities for his future are boundless. Jack emerged in the middle of November by rushing for 59 yards and four touchdowns in 13 carries against Washington in the same game in which he contributed five tackles and a pass breakup from his linebacker spot in the 41-31 win.
6. Jadeveon Clowney vs. Michigan in the Outback Bowl (Jan. 1)
The game for South Carolina defensive end will be remembered largely for the single play, a thundering tackle behind the line that knocked the helmet from Vincent Smith’s head and the ball from his hands. The turnover was a game-turning play in a 33-28 win over Michigan that set a tone Clowney couldn’t possibly live up to during what is presumably his final season in college. He finished the game with four tackles and two tackles for a loss.
7. Clint Chelf vs. Baylor (Nov. 23)
The Oklahoma State quarterback who began the season as a starter, lost the job after six passes and regained it midseason, stunned Baylor with a flawless performance in a 49-17 win. Chelf completed 19 of 25 passes for 370 yards with three touchdown passes and a rushing TD. Chelf completed 12 of 13 passes in the first half alone.
8. Jordan Lynch vs. Ball State (Nov. 13)
Lynch twice rushed for 300 yards in a game this season on the way to becoming the all-time leading rusher for quarterbacks, but both games came against two of the worst teams in the MAC. Instead, the 48-27 win over Ball State is more representative of why Lynch became a Heisman finalist. Lynch completed 26 of 32 passes for 345 yards with two touchdowns and rushed for 123 yards and two scores on 20 carries against the Cardinals.
9. AJ McCarron vs. Texas A&M (Sept. 14)
The Alabama quarterback continued to prove he was up to the task of competing in a shootout by completing 20 of 29 passes for 334 yards with four touchdowns in the 49-42 win in College Station.
10. Mike Evans vs. Alabama (Sept. 14)
In one of the Texas A&M receiver’s two 200-yard games this season, Evans caught seven passes for 279 yards with a touchdown. Johnny Manziel found him early and often in the game, but his 95-yard TD catch in the fourth quarter narrowed A&M’s deficit to a touchdown in the 49-42 loss.
11. Ka’Deem Carey vs. Oregon (Nov. 23)
If an argument can be made that the wrong two running backs went to New York for the Heisman ceremony, this game by Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey may be it. He stunned Oregon for 206 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 48 carries in a 42-16 win over the Ducks. A loss in a rout and a loss to an unranked team shocked the Ducks, but Carey was nothing if not automatic: He rushed for at least 119 yards in every game he played this season.
12. Carlos Hyde vs. Michigan (Nov. 30)
Ohio State needed Carlos Hyde’s power running to lead the way on several occasions this season but he may have been most critical in the 42-41 win over Michigan on the road. Hyde capped a 12-0 regular season with 226 rushing yards and a touchdown on 27 carries in the win.
13. Khalil Mack vs. Ohio State (Aug. 31)
Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack was a one-man wrecking crew in a 40-20 loss to Ohio State that nevertheless put a scare into the Buckeyes as late as the third quarter. Mack, an NFL prospect, finished with nine tackles, 2.5 sacks and 45-yard interception for a touchdown.
14. Taysom Hill vs. Texas (Sept. 7)
In the game that likely sealed the end of the Mack Brown era at Texas, BYU quarterback Taysom Hill led the most overwhelming rushing performance against the Texas defense in Longhorns history. Hill rushed for 259 of BYU’s 550 yards on the ground in the 40-21 win.
15. Jeremy Gallon vs. Indiana (Oct. 19)
Indiana’s defense was a mess this season, but Michigan needed every single one of Jeremy Gallon’s 369 receiving yards and two touchdowns to beat the Hoosiers 63-47. Gallon’s mark was second in FBS history and only 36 behind the record set by Louisiana Tech’s Troy Edwards in 1998.
16. Aaron Murray vs. South Carolina (Sept. 7)
Before an overwhelming rash of injuries, Georgia looked like the class of the SEC East in September. Murray rebounded from the loss to Clemson with clutch performance in the 41-30 win over South Carolina the following week. Murray was 17 of 23 for 309 yards with four touchdown passes in the win.
17. Tajh Boyd vs. Georgia (Aug. 31)
Back in September, Clemson had the profile of a national title contender, largely due to the performance of quarterback Tajh Boyd against Georgia. The Tigers quarterback completed 18 of 30 passes for 270 yards with three touchdowns to go with 42 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground in the 38-35 win.
18. Aaron Donald vs. Syracuse (Nov. 23)
In the game that clinched the Outland, Nagurski, Bednarik and Lombardi awards for Aaron Donald, the Pittsburgh defensive tackle had nine tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss and a blocked extra point ... in a one-point win over Syracuse.
19. Andre Williams vs. Maryland (Nov. 23)
Boston College’s Andre Williams had rushed for 339 yards a week earlier against NC State, but rushing for 263 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries in a road game against Maryland sealed him as a Heisman finalist.
20. Tyler Lockett vs. Oklahoma (Nov. 23)
Kansas State’s receiver cracked the 200-yard receiving mark in the first half alone, thanks to TD catches of 48, 30 and 90 yards in the second quarter. Lockett finished with 278 yards and three touchdowns on 12 catches in the 41-31 loss. He averaged 32.4 yards per kickoff return to finish with 440 all-purpose yards.
21. Ty Montgomery vs. Washington (Oct. 5)
Ty Montgomery’s all-purpose ability saved Stanford on multiple occasions this season, none more than against Washington. Montgomery returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown and caught 39-yard TD pass in the second quarter to beat the Huskies 31-28. Montgomery finished with 290 all-purpose yards.
22. Jameis Winston vs. Boston College (Sept. 28)
Florida State’s 48-34 win at Boston College remains the Seminoles’ closest game of the season. Winston turned in highlight reel plays as he was 17 of 27 for 330 yards with four touchdowns. He also rushed for season highs of 14 carries and 67 yards in this game.
23. Derek Carr vs. Boise State (Sept. 20)
The Fresno State quarterback would have other more prolific games this season (500-yard passing efforts against New Mexico and San Jose State), but none was more important to Fresno State’s season as the 41-40 win over Boise State in September. Carr completed 39 of 60 passes for 460 yards and four touchdowns in Fresno State’s first win over Boise State since 2005.
24. David Fales vs. Fresno State (Nov. 29)
Derek Carr finally met his match at quarterback in San Jose State’s David Fales. The Spartans spoiled Fresno State’s bid for a BCS game thanks to Fales completing 37 of 45 passes for 547 yards and six touchdowns, plus a rushing touchdown, in a wild 62-52 win.
25. Trent Murphy vs. Oregon State (Oct. 26)
Stanford linebacker Trent Murphy may have been the most underrated defensive player in the country, but not for Oregon State. Murphy disrupted the Oregon State passing game with eight tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3.5 tackles for a loss and a blocked extra point in the 20-12 win.
Nothing says the New Year quite like a good end of the year list.