Unless this weekend's conference championship games have some big-time surprises in store, the 2018 College Football Playoff field won't look all that different from what many pundits expected in the preseason. A side effect of that predictable end result was a regular season short on dramatic twists and turns on the field, which made it more difficult than usual to amass a list of memorably compelling games from the first three months of season.
Still, it wouldn't be college football if every Saturday didn't bring at least some flash of high drama. There were plenty of stunning comebacks, eye-popping point totals and controversial end-of-game coaching decisions to spotlight the 10 best games of the 2018 regular season.
You won’t be seeing any games on this list involving Alabama, which rolled through its regular season schedule unchallenged, or UConn, which lost its last nine games and finished with one of the worst defenses in the history of college football. But you will find some of the most important teams, coaches and characters of the year.
10. Oklahoma 28, Army 21, OT, Sept. 22
A mismatch on paper was anything but on the field, as Army deployed its triple-option offense to perfection, holding the ball for almost 45 minutes and running for 371 yards while relegating quarterback Kyler Murray and the powerful Sooners offense to frustrated sideline observers for most of the night. This was as surreal a viewing experience as it was a final score: Word that Army was on the verge of a potential upset sent fans scrambling to find the nearest television or live stream. But the game was only shown on pay-per-view, sending the masses to social media to get updates on the game. Oklahoma scored quickly in overtime and Army’s fourth-down attempt fell short, but the result set the stage for the Sooners’ year-long defensive issues.
9. Miami 28, Florida State 27, Oct. 6
If this was the late 1980s or early ’90s, a higher ranking would be warranted on brand value alone. Instead, fans were treated to two middle of the pack ACC teams that tried to revive the hate of yesteryear after two scuffles, one during pregame and another in the second quarter, broke out. After spotting Florida State a 20–point lead, Miami stormed back as N’Kosi Perry threw three second half touchdown passes, including two in a span of 42 seconds, to help complete the largest comeback for the Canes in the history of the rivalry.
8. Ohio State 52, Maryland 51 (OT)—Nov. 17
The Ohio State team that most people saw destroy Michigan was nowhere to be found seven days earlier against Maryland. The Buckeyes had almost 700 yards of offense in College Park, but it was the defense that was a problem, exposed by running back Anthony McFarland, who ran for 298 yards on the day and ripped off an 81-yard touchdown two plays into the game. Ohio State rallied twice from two-touchdown deficits to send the game to overtime. After the teams traded touchdowns in the extra session, Maryland interim coach Matt Canada decided to go for two and the win, but Tyrrell Pigrome’s pass to a wide-open Jeshaun Jones in the end zone missed badly, allowing the eventual Big Ten East champs to escape.
7. Clemson 28, Texas A&M 26—Sept. 8
An intriguing early season matchup featured a dominant Clemson defensive line against a Texas A&M team playing its second game under new coach Jimbo Fisher. But quarterback Kellen Mond was excellent, with a career-high 430 yards and three touchdowns to rally the Aggies from a 15-point deficit with a big assist from Rogers, who got Texas A&M within two points with 46 seconds left on a spectacular tip-drill catch. On the ensuing two-point try, Mond was flushed out right by a heavy pass rush and picked off in the end zone, ending the comeback attempt.
6. LSU 22, Auburn 21—Sept. 15
LSU scuffled through most of the game, but grad transfer quarterback Joe Burrow found a couple of big plays late to beat an SEC West rival and prove to the fans in purple and gold that he could handle big moments. Trailing 21–13, Joe Burrow found Derrick Dillon for a 71–yard touchdown pass, but the potential game-tying two-point conversion failed. After an Auburn three-and-out, the Tigers put together a 14-play, 52-yard drive that drained the last five plus minutes of the game, including two third-down and one fourth-down conversion. That set up kicker Cole Tracy, who had transferred from Division II Assumption College for moments just like this, to end the festivities with a walk-off 42-yard field goal.
5. Washington State 41, Stanford 38—Oct. 27
The only Pac–12 entry on this list featured four different ties once the scoring began and proved to be a coming-out party for the league's biggest offensive star. Stanford, with a gimpy Bryce Love, had a two-touchdown lead before halftime, after which Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew found his rhythm. The graduate transfer at one point completed 19 straight passes in the second half and ended up with 438 yards. Blake Mazza's 42-yard field goal with 19 seconds left set the Cougars on a path to a possible playoff berth before their Apple Cup disappointment.
4. West Virginia 42, Texas 41—Nov. 3
At one point in this game, seven straight possessions ended in touchdowns. West Virginia set the tone early when receiver David Sills V flashed the “Horns Down” symbol during a touchdown celebration, which drew a penalty and ratcheted up the emotions in a game that already carried significant weight in the Big 12 standings. Trailing by a touchdown in the final minute, Mountaineers quarterback Will Grier found Gary Jennings in the back of the end zone for a 33-yard score with 16 seconds left, at which point West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen rolled the dice and went for two and the win in regulation. The Mountaineers ran their two-point conversion to perfection twice—one was negated by a last-second Tom Herman timeout, but the other sprang Grier free on a keeper to the corner.
3. Ohio State 27, Penn State 26—Sept. 29
For the better part of three quarters, Penn State held the Buckeyes at bay in a game that seemed destined to determine the Big Ten East race. Then Dwayne Haskins connected on two fourth-quarter touchdown passes, erasing a 13-point deficit. Nittany Lions QB Trace McSorley put up 461 total yards in front of a Beaver Stadium–record crowd, but it was a play on which he handed the ball off that everyone in Happy Valley was talking about for weeks after the final whistle. Facing a do-or-die fourth-and-five, Penn State dialed up a zone-read run play that was blown up by Buckeyes defenders before it got back to the line of scrimmage, a frustrating anticlimax to a thrilling game.
2. Texas 48, Oklahoma 45—Oct. 6
Half of the Oklahoma faithful had already headed for the exits at the Cotton Bowl when Texas took a 21-point lead late in the third quarter. But after the Longhorns punted the ball back to the Sooners with eight minutes left, it took Murray and his teammates all of 10 plays to tie the score. That only set the stage for Texas QB Sam Ehlinger, who put freshman kicker Cameron Dicker in position to drill a game-winning 40-yard field goal with nine seconds to go. Texas may not get the last laugh in the Big 12 title game, but the Golden Hat will stay in Austin until next fall.
1. Texas A&M 74, LSU 72 (7OT)—Nov. 24
This game had a little bit of everything: a premature Gatorade bath for Tigers coach Ed Orgeron, a combined 84 points scored in the extra sessions, multiple questionable officiating decisions and a postgame fight between staffers of both teams that should stoke the flames of this budding SEC West rivalry all offseason. The highest scoring game in FBS history ended nearly five hours after it started when Kellen Mond found Kendrick Rogers for the game-ending two-point conversion, setting off a wild celebration at Kyle Field. After 1,017 total yards and 197 plays, the last SEC regular season game to go final gave fans their money's worth.