1. Georgia 44, LSU 41 – I may suffer from recency bias here, but this game had everything. Seven ties, never more than a touchdown separation and the lead changed hands twice in the fourth quarter. Two fifth-year senior quarterbacks throwing and handing off to an array of future pros combined to complete 43-of-71 passes for 670 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception.
2. Alabama 49, Texas A&M 42 – About as far away as you can get from Alabama’s last “Game of the Century” that needed overtime to get to 15 points, the Crimson Tide survived the best individual performance of the season and perhaps the best ever against a Nick Saban-coached defense. Johnny Manziel connected on 28-of-39 throws for 464 yards and five touchdowns, while rushing 14 times for 98 yards, but his two interceptions were what ultimately turned the game. Rallying from a 14-0 hole, Cyrus Jones picked Manziel off in the end zone and Vinnie Sunseri took another interception back 71 yards for a touchdown that gave Alabama a 35-14 lead that Texas A&M couldn’t overcome.
3. Clemson 38, Georgia 35 – Could there possibly be a better opening night game than two old rivals, that meet very often anymore that both happen to be ranked in the top 10? This game was 14-14 through one quarter, 21-21 at the half, 31-28 through three and 38-35 at the final horn. It was also a night where the best players played to their talent level: Aaron Murray threw for 323 yards, Todd Gurley ran 12 times for 154 yards and a touchdown, Sammy Watkins caught six passes for 127 yards and a touchdown, and Tajh Boyd threw for three scores and ran for a pair. But if not for a dropped field goal snap, we could be talking about Georgia rode three top 10 wins to a No. 1 ranking.
4. Ole Miss 39, Vanderbilt 35 – I hope it’s dawned on everyone by now that this isn’t your father’s SEC anymore. Vanderbilt drove 80 yards in seven plays to take a 35-32 lead with 1:30 remaining, only to see Ole Miss snatch it back two plays later when Jeff Scott raced in from 75 yards out. The Commodores mounted yet another threat, but Austyn Carta-Samuels was intercepted at the Ole Miss 27-yard line to seal the game.
5. Fresno State 41, Boise State 40 – Fresno State took control of the Mountain West Conference – for this season, at least – in as big of a mid-September conference win as this program could possibly have. Trailing 34-19, Boise State found pay dirt on three consecutive possessions behind an offense that threw for 361 yards and ran for 200 more, but Derek Carr (460 passing yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions) guided the Bulldogs on a 13-play, 87-yard drive that gave Fresno State a one-point lead with 2:14 remaining. Boise State came within a couple first downs of lining up for a potential game-winning field goal (something that’s always problematic for this program) but turned the ball over on downs at the Fresno 49-yard line.
6. Arizona State 32, Wisconsin 30 – Forget about the ending, which was a debacle for all involved. The first 59:50 of this game was pretty good, too. Wisconsin took a 14-3 lead only to see the Sun Devils rip off a 29-10 run to take a 32-24 lead midway through the fourth quarter. Wisconsin raced 75 yards in 11 plays to pull within two, but saw Joel Stave’s game-tying conversion attempt fall incomplete. The Wisconsin defense forced a punt, and the Badgers pulled well within range of a game-winning field goal, only until they watched the clock expire before their eyes while an official stood over the ball.
7. North Dakota State 24, Kansas State 21 – All was seemingly right in the home of the defending Big 12 champions after Daniel Sams raced in from 17 yards to give Kansas State a 17-7 lead at the 9:58 mark the third quarter. Then, as they have been known to do, Chris Klieman’s defense closed the door and threw away the key. North Dakota State’s next three drives – 11 plays, 75 yards, touchdown; four plays, 74 yards field goal; 18 plays, 80 yards, touchdown – produced 17 points, while Kansas State could only muster 51 yards, two punts and an interception over the game’s final 25 minutes. In the end, North Dakota State’s FBS winning streak extended to four games – and found by far its biggest fish yet.
8. Michigan 28, Akron 24 – Hoo boy. For as uneven as Michigan played 90 percent of this game, it was fascinating theater watching Akron take a 24-21 lead, then Michigan reclaim the lead four plays later, then mount a goal line stand that saw Akron throwing into the end zone from four yards out as time expired, to save Michigan’s unblemished record – if not their national reputation.
9. Oregon State 51, Utah 48 (overtime) – Oregon State led by 10 after one quarter, and two, and three, and still led by a touchdown until Travis Wilson’s nine-yard touchdown run with 21 seconds left sent the game into overtime. Despite allowing 21 points in the fourth quarter, the Oregon State defense stiffened in overtime, allowing only one yard on Utah’s three opening plays before a 41-yard field goal put the Utes briefly on top. The game was over three plays later, as Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks (nine catches, 210 yards) hooked up for their third touchdown of the day. Mannion, who stands today as the nation’s leading passer, threw for 443 yards and five touchdowns in the win.
10. Buffalo 26, Stony Brook 23 (quintuple-overtime) – You can’t go farther off the FBS-radar than Stony Brook at Buffalo, especially considering this game was head-to-head with No. 2 on our list, but this game was every thing it was supposed to be. Buffalo led 10-0 through three quarters, but Stony Brook stormed back to tie the game, capped by a Sea Wolves touchdown with 24 seconds to play. In overtime the teams traded field goals, then touchdowns, then interceptions, then Buffalo threw another interception and Stony Brook missed a field goal. Finally, in the fifth frame, Stony Brook nailed a 25-yard field goal and then Buffalo ended the madness two plays later with a six-yard scoring dash from Anthone Taylor.