How Ohio State took down the Ducks
2:22 | College Football
How Ohio State took down the Ducks
SI Staff
Thursday January 15th, 2015

The 2014 college football season is officially over, and it featured no shortage of memorable games. From opening weekend to the national championship game, the first year of the playoff era featured some truly indelible moments.

As we bid this campaign farewell, here’s a look at the 25 best games of the year. This season was strange, stunning and spectacular -- and everything in between.

Before we get to the list, here are some honorable mentions that missed the cut:

• Houston 35, Pittsburgh 34 (Jan. 2)
• Wisconsin 34, Auburn 31 (Jan. 1)
• Notre Dame 31, LSU 28 (Dec. 30)
• Arizona State 36, Duke 31 (Dec. 27)
• Florida State 37, Georgia Tech 35 (Dec. 6)
• Louisville 44, Kentucky 40 (Nov. 29)
• Ole Miss 31, Mississippi State 17 (Nov. 29)
• Ohio State 49, Michigan State 37 (Nov. 8)
• TCU 31, West Virginia 30 (Nov. 1)
• Duke 51, Pittsburgh 48 2OT (Nov.1)
• Florida State 42, Louisville 31 (Oct. 30)
• Ohio State 31, Penn State 24 2OT (Oct. 25)
• West Virginia 41, Baylor 27 (Oct. 18)
• USC 28, Arizona 26 (Oct. 11)
• Notre Dame 17, Stanford 14 (Oct. 4)
• Missouri 21, South Carolina 20 (Sept. 27)
• Mississippi State 34, LSU 29 (Sept. 20)
• UCLA 20, Texas 17 (Sept. 13)
• Florida 36, Kentucky 30 3OT (Sept. 13)
• South Carolina 38, Georgia 35 (Sept. 13)
• Boston College 37, USC 31 (Sept. 13)
• Oregon 46, Michigan State 27 (Sept. 6)
• Kansas State 32, Iowa State 28 (Sept. 6)
• LSU 28, Wisconsin 24 (Aug. 30)

25. Oregon 59, Florida State 20 (Jan. 1)

Given the blowout that ensued over the final 22 minutes of this game, it's easy to forget how amazing the first 38 were. The opening two-plus quarters of the Rose Bowl provided an electric slugfest, as both teams traded scores almost at will in a clash between high-powered offenses. That quickly changed as four Florida State fumbles in the third quarter turned this semifinal into a rout. Yet even then, the Rose Bowl still produced a moment of peak schadenfreude. -- Colin Becht

24. UCF 32, East Carolina 30 (Dec. 4)

Not every Hail Mary that swings a game should serve as a referendum on Hail Mary defense, but East Carolina’s secondary really misplayed the 51-yard score that clinched the Knights a share of the American Athletic Conference title. Two Pirates defenders jumped and flailed at the ball, as UCF's Breshad Perriman ran behind them and reeled in quarterback Justin Holman’s pass. -- Chris Johnson

23. Western Kentucky 49, Central Michigan 48 (Dec. 24)

This shall be dubbed The Popeyes Bahamas Bowl That Will Forever Live In Infamy. It felt over at halftime, with the Hilltoppers ahead 42-14 (the score was 49-14 at the end of the third quarter). Then things got crazy. Central Michigan put up 28 straight points, and then ran an unbelievable lateral-lateral-lateral play for a 75-yard score and an opportunity to tie the game on an extra point or win it on a two-point conversion. The Chippewas opted for a not-so-great two-point try, and the Hilltoppers narrowly hung on. -- Martin Rickman

22. Memphis 55, BYU 48 2OT (Dec. 22)

The postgame brawl was both shameful and entertaining, but the four quarters and two overtimes that preceded it were simply spectacular. Neither team led by more than 10 points in a Miami Beach Bowl that weaved back and forth and featured more than 900 yards of offense and nine turnovers. BYU and Memphis combined for 31 points in the first quarter alone. The Tigers seemed to give away the game after surrendering 17 unanswered points in the fourth, but forced overtime with a Paxton Lynch-to-Keiwone Malone touchdown pass with five seconds left. They later sealed the win in double overtime on an interception. -- CB

21. Texas A&M 35, Arkansas 28 OT (Sept. 27)

Arkansas looked poised to capture coach Bret Bielema’s first SEC win when it led Texas A&M 28-14 entering the fourth quarter. But that’s when Aggies quarterback Kenny Hill, then amid the height of Kenny Trill mania, sprung to life. Hill passed for more than 200 yards and the game’s final three touchdowns during the fourth and overtime to help Texas A&M escape in AT&T Stadium. The then-No. 6 Aggies improved to 5-0 for the first time since 2001. -- Zac Ellis


Joe Robbins/Getty Images

20. Western Kentucky 67, Marshall 66 OT (Nov. 28)

Although Boise State was slotted ahead of the Thundering Herd in the College Football Playoff rankings entering this game, there was an outside chance for Marshall to land the Group of Five’s automatic bid to a New Year’s Six bowl and continue its undefeated season. Instead, Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty threw eight touchdown passes, dashing the Herd’s hopes on a two-point conversion to Willie McNeal. After a few close calls, Marshall finally fell. -- MR

19. Alabama 20, LSU 13 OT (Nov. 8)

The Crimson Tide were dead, and suddenly they weren’t. Star tailback T.J. Yeldon fumbled the ball deep in Alabama territory with the score tied at 10 and less than two minutes remaining, setting the stage for an LSU upset that would’ve prompted pandemonium in Baton Rouge. But the Tigers were forced to settle for a field goal, and Alabama found a way. Quarterback Blake Sims hit O.J. Howard. Then he hit Howard again, and then Christion Jones, and then DeAndrew White. Adam Griffith drilled a 27-yard field goal to force overtime, and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin dialed up his finest play yet: a 24-yard pass to 304-pounder Brandon Greene that led to the game-winning touchdown. Alabama was pushed to the brink in Death Valley, but emerged very much alive. -- Ben Glicksman

18. Nebraska 31, McNeese State 24 (Sept. 6)

The most unlikely game on this list, the clash between the Cornhuskers and the Cowboys produced one of the most remarkable finishes of the season. The teams were tied at 24 in the waning seconds of regulation, when Nebraska lined up for a third-and-six at its own 42-yard line. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. found back Ameer Abdullah for a short gain, and Abdullah did the rest. He broke roughly 467 tackles on his way to the end zone. -- BG

17. LSU 10, Ole Miss 7 (Oct. 25)

An SEC title shot hung in the balance for Ole Miss when it trailed LSU 10-7 in late October. With nine seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Rebels coach Hugh Freeze opted against a game-tying field goal attempt, instead putting the contest squarely in the hands of quarterback Bo Wallace. But Wallace's last-ditch throw was picked off by LSU safety Ronald Martin at the goal line. The Tigers stole a game in which Ole Miss led for 55 of the 60 minutes. -- ZE

16. Cal 60, Washington State 59 (Oct. 4)

Depending on your point of view, this game represents everything that is right or wrong about modern-day college football. Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday went 49-of-70 for an NCAA-record 734 passing yards with six touchdowns and zero interceptions. Unfortunately for the Cougars, Cal ripped off three fourth-quarter touchdowns -- and Washington State missed a last-second chip-shot field goal -- to leave Pullman with a one-point win. -- CJ

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

15. Texas A&M 41, Auburn 38 (Nov. 8)

Freshman quarterback Kyle Allen burst out of the gate by throwing four first-half touchdown passes against Auburn to stake Texas A&M to a 35-17 lead. The Tigers climbed back to within 38-31 early in the fourth quarter, but consecutive fumbles on their final two possessions gift-wrapped an Aggies’ upset. Texas A&M squashed Auburn’s playoff hopes while handing the program its first home loss of the coach Gus Malzahn era. -- ZE

14. TCU 37, Oklahoma 33 (Oct. 4)

This victory announced TCU’s presence as a legitimate Big 12 contender. Horned Frogs quarterback Trevone Boykin delivered his first big game against a marquee foe, accounting for 395 yards (318 passing, 77 rushing) with two touchdowns, and TCU intercepted Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight twice, including one that was returned by linebacker Paul Dawson for a score. At the time, this seemed to jeopardize then-No. 4 Oklahoma’s chances of reaching the College Football Playoff. Little did we know it would be TCU, not the Sooners, vying for one of the top four spots come the end of the year. -- CJ

13. Alabama 55, Auburn 44 (Nov. 29)

Forgive the Iron Bowl for not living up to last season’s classic, but Alabama and Auburn certainly didn't disappoint. They produced a wild shootout complete with an offensive explosion from Auburn (the Tigers' 383 first-half yards were the most allowed by Alabama in a half under Nick Saban), the death and rebirth of Tide quarterback Sims (after tossing three picks on his first 15 attempts, he bounced back to throw four touchdowns) and an otherworldly performance by Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper (he set an Iron Bowl record with 224 receiving yards). All in all, it wasn’t a bad encore. -- CB

12. Ohio State 42, Oregon 20 (Jan. 12)

This was the end to the season no one saw coming, and the national title game was every bit as satisfying as fans might have hoped. (Well, unless you’re an Oregon or Michigan fan.) The Ducks marched down the field and scored on their opening drive. Cardale Jones, who cemented his place in Ohio State lore with this performance, made a few third-and-impossible conversions to help the Buckeyes respond. Ezekiel Elliott transformed into a Mack Truck in a rolled-up jersey, and a tight affair -- featuring another ghost fumble! -- resulted in an Ohio State title.

Jones capped his rise and the Buckeyes’ storybook season with a tweet. -- BG

11. Arizona 49, Cal 45 (Sept. 20)

This was one of many pieces of evidence suggesting the best football on a given Saturday happens after most people fall asleep. Facing an 18-point deficit through three quarters, Arizona rung up 36 in the final frame -- including a 47-yard Hail Mary as time expired -- to beat the Bears and remain unbeaten. -- CJ


Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

10. Florida State 23, Clemson 17 OT (Sept. 20)

This is when Florida State’s zombie-like tendencies first became apparent. The Seminoles, playing without Jameis Winston, who was suspended for screaming obscenities on campus earlier in the week, were on the brink of defeat when Jadar Johnson intercepted backup quarterback Sean Maguire’s pass and returned it to the Florida State 26-yard line with less than three minutes remaining. But then the improbable happened. Two plays later defensive tackle Eddie Goldman stripped Clemson tailback C.J. Davidson and recovered the fumble, sending the game to overtime and eliciting one of the best reactions of the season.

Karlos Williams’ later sealed the ‘Noles win on a 12-yard touchdown run. -- BG

9. Ole Miss 23, Alabama 17 (Oct. 4)

If the Rebels’ 4-0 start this season was in need of some validation, they got plenty against previously unbeaten Alabama. The Crimson Tide weren’t intimidated early as they built a 14-3 halftime lead. But Ole Miss stormed back behind two fourth-quarter touchdowns from sometimes brilliant, sometimes befuddling quarterback Wallace. Cornerback Senquez Golson sealed the program’s first 5-0 start since 1962 with an interception in the end zone. Then chaos ensued. -- ZE

Jason Parkhurst/SI

8. Arizona 31, Oregon 24 (Oct. 2)

Take your pick of plays from Arizona’s enormous upset of Oregon in early October, but the excessive celebration penalty given to Ducks linebacker Tony Washington with the Wildcats driving (which led to a touchdown) still stands out. This result, which featured breakout performances from quarterback Anu Solomon, linebacker Scooby Wright III and tailback Terris Jones-Grigsby, showed the Wildcats were officially ahead of schedule. Coach Rich Rodriguez’s team ended up winning 10 games, playing for the Pac-12 title and earning a trip to the Fiesta Bowl. It will be fun to see what they do in 2015. -- MR

7. Arizona State 38, USC 34 (Oct. 4)

This game should have been over when tailback Javorius Allen raced 53 yards to paydirt to put USC up 34-25 with 3:02 left in the fourth quarter. It should have been over when the Trojans recovered an onside kick after allowing a 73-yard score. Well, #Pac12AfterDark doesn't care about should haves. Arizona State stunned USC when backup quarterback Mike Bercovici, making just his second start, completed a 46-yard Hail Mary to Jaelen Strong on the final play. -- CB

6. Michigan State 42, Baylor 41 (Jan. 1)

The lasting memory from this Cotton Bowl will unquestionably be 390-pound offensive lineman LaQuan McGowan breaking free for an 18-yard score, but that neglects the incredible comeback made by Michigan State. The Bears led 41-21 early in the fourth quarter, but the Spartans clawed all the way back, blocking a field goal attempt -- and then obliterating the kicker on a block -- with just over a minute to play. Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook led a drive to remember, culminating in a 10-yard pass to Keith Mumphery with 17 seconds left. -- MR

5. Georgia Tech 30, Georgia 24 OT (Nov. 29)

If #collegekickers is one of college football’s most popular memes, Harrison Butker made everyone forget about it for at least a few minutes. Georgia Tech’s sophomore drilled a 53-yard field goal as time expired to send this to overtime, where the Yellow Jackets scored a two-yard rushing touchdown and intercepted a Hutson Mason pass on second-and-goal to clinch their first win over Georgia since 2008. It was fitting ending to a game that also included a 99-yard fumble return for a score, a pair of blocked field goals, a successful fake field goal attempt and a pooch kickoff that functioned as an onside kick. -- CJ

4. Ohio State 42, Alabama 35 (Jan. 1)

Of all the games in the inaugural College Football Playoff, this showed exactly what the new postseason model brought to the sport. Alabama was the Sugar Bowl favorite, the top-ranked team in the nation that had won three national titles since 2009. Ohio State was the underdog, the traditional powerhouse with a third-string quarterback looking to win its first championship since ’02. The matchup didn’t disappoint. Bama surged to a 21-6 lead. Ohio State roared back thanks to an Evan Spencer-to-Michael Thomas pass just before halftime. Then the Buckeyes pulled away behind a series of memorable plays: a 47-yard bomb to Devin Smith, a 41-yard Steve Miller pick-six and an 85-yard Elliott touchdown sprint, the latter of which seemed to leave a near-decade of recent SEC dominance in its wake. Ohio State moved on, and in the most thrilling way imaginable. -- BG

3. Florida State 31, Notre Dame 27 (Oct. 18)

It seemed like a clash for the ages, with Notre Dame ranked No. 5 when it visited unbeaten defending champion Florida State. Quarterbacks Everett Golson and Winston engaged in one heck of a duel, with Winston completing all but one of his second-half pass attempts and Golson engineering a dramatic last-gasp drive that featured a ridiculous fourth-and-18 conversion. However, officials called offensive pass interference on a pick play that produced the would-be game-winning score. Golson’s subsequent try fell incomplete, and the Seminoles survived another of their many scares on the road to the playoff. -- MR

2. Auburn 35, Ole Miss 31 (Nov. 1)

Auburn got the best of Ole Miss' highly touted defense, snapping its streak of 10 consecutive games allowing 20 points or fewer. But Rebels quarterback Wallace was in Good Bo form, racking up 395 total yards with three touchdowns to match Auburn score for score. After a phenomenal showdown, the ending was equal parts tragic and exceptional: With 1:39 left and Ole Miss down by four, receiver Laquon Treadwell's leg gruesomely buckled beneath Auburn linebacker Kris Frost, causing Treadwell to fumble inches short of the goal line. The play turned stomachs and deflated Ole Miss, which lost two of its final four. -- CB

1. Baylor 61, TCU 58 (Oct. 11)

The eventual Big 12 co-champions combined for 119 points and 1,267 yards of total offense in a high-flying shootout for the ages. The Horned Frogs did the majority of their damage through three quarters, climbing to a 58-37 lead with 11:38 to play after linebacker Marcus Mallet picked off Bears quarterback Bryce Petty and returned the ball 49 yards for a score. But Baylor rattled off the game’s final 24 points to stun counterpart Boykin and TCU. Petty finished with 510 passing yards and six touchdowns, leading his offense to 14 first downs and 227 yards in the final 11 minutes-plus. The head-to-head result eventually became a key point in the Big 12’s controversial playoff argument -- or lack thereof. -- ZE

Cooper Neill/Getty Images

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