Top ten teams have squared off on a Thursday night twice in the history of college football. That number will double tonight. To herald the arrival of No. 10 Oklahoma at No. 6 Baylor (7:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1) and No. 3 Oregon at No. 5 Stanford (9 p.m. ET, ESPN), we’re taking a look at the 10 best games in the recent history of Thursday night football.
1. No. 24 Virginia 33, No. 2 Florida State 28 (Nov. 2, 1995) – The game that birthed all others on this list, Florida State lost its first game as a member of the ACC after joining the league in 1992. Tiki Barber accounted for 238 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns to lead the Cavaliers, while Seminoles quarterback Danny Kannel responded with 454 yards and three scores of his own. Trouble at the Virginia goal line doomed Florida State – Kannel threw one of his two interceptions as the Cavaliers’ two-yard line, and Warrick Dunn lost the ball inside the one-yard line on the game’s final play.
2. No. 15 Rutgers 28, No. 3 Louisville 25 (Nov. 9, 2006) – Fresh off a win in the first Thursday night Top 10 showdown, Louisville built a 25-7 lead in a game dubbed the biggest in the history at the birth place of football. After scoring on three of its first four possessions (plus a kickoff returned for a touchdown), Louisville totaled 67 yards on its next 32 plays, punting on all seven possessions. Meanwhile, Ray Rice played his role as the energizer bunny that powered the Rutgers offense, churning out 131 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, to pull the Scarlet Knights into a tie with the steady Jeremy Ito trotting on the field for a potential game-winning field goal with 21 seconds to play. Only, he missed it. But Louisville was called for an offsides penalty, and Ito’s second game-winning try was good.
— Chris Fowler (@cbfowler) November 7, 2013
3. No. 2 Boston College 14, No. 8 Virginia Tech 10 (Oct. 25, 2007) – The second Thursday night Top 10 game appeared to be headed down the same path as the first – an upset. Boston College’s first dozen possessions totaled 136 yards on 55 plays, and ended with nine punts, two interceptions, and one turnover on downs. But Matt Ryan ignited over the game’s final 4:16, leading the Eagles on a nine-play, 92-yard scoring drive and a seven-play, 66-yard scoring drive. Both possessions ended with Ryan touchdown tosses, the second coming with 11 seconds showing on the clock as he found Andre Callender all alone in the corner of the Lane Stadium end zone.
4. Oregon State 27, No. 1 USC 21 (Sept. 25, 2008) – This was the night the diminutive Rodgers brothers took down the nation’s No. 1 team all by themselves. James Rodgers caught an eight-yard touchdown pass, Jacquizz Rodgers (37 carries, 186 yards) added a two-yard scoring run in the second quarter and James Rodgers snagged his second score of the day just four seconds before halftime to give Oregon State a 21-0 lead at the break. Mark Sanchez threw two touchdown passes in the third quarter, but Jacquizz Rodgers noted the clinching score with 2:39 remaining in the game. Oregon State’s second win over a top-ranked team also served as USC’s only loss of the season, keeping the Trojans from an appearance in the national championship game.
5. No. 8 Utah 13, No. 12 TCU 10 (Nov. 6, 2008) – The second-largest crowd in Rice-Eccles Stadium showed up only to see visiting TCU take a 10-0 on the undefeated Utes nine minutes into the game. Led by quarterback (and now co-offensive coordinator) Brian Johnson, the Utes spent the next 51 minutes chipping away at the lead. Utah knocked in a late first quarter field goal, another on the last play of the first half, and then a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that provided the winning score with just 48 seconds to play. TCU blew two chances to push the game into overtime or win it outright, doinking a 35-yard field goal off the left upright with 2:53 to play, followed by an Andy Dalton interception at the Utah 15 with 11 seconds to play. The win propelled Utah to an undefeated season, capped by a 31-17 win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
6. No. 25 Texas 27, Texas A&M 25 (Nov. 24, 2011) – In the 118th and final (for the foreseeable future) edition of the rivalry, Texas battled back from a 13-0 deficit at a historically raucous Kyle Field despite an offense that produced just 237 total yards on the night. The Longhorns’ scored on a wide receiver pass, a 58-yard interception return, and used two more interceptions that set up short scoring drives to help Texas take a 24-16 lead through three quarters. Ryan Tannehill hit Jeff Fuller on a 16-yard scoring strike to give Texas A&M a 25-24 lead with 1:48 to play, but Case McCoy scrambled (and I do mean scramble) 25 yards to set Justin Tucker with the ultimate silencer, a game-winning 40-yard field goal as time expired.
7. No. 4 Miami 41, No. 20 Louisville 38 (Oct. 14, 2004) – The Bobby Petrino-led upstart Louisville Cardinals walked into the Orange Bowl and claimed a 31-14 lead deep into the third quarter, winners of 30 of their last 31 games at their old home, refused to go quietly into the South Beach night. A Brock Berlin touchdown pass and two field goals pulled the Hurricanes to within 31-27, and a Devin Hester 78-yard punt return gave Miami the lead with 8:11 to play. Louisville rebounded with a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive of its own to reclaim the lead with 4:30 to play, but Berlin pushed Miami 56 yards in 10 plays, capped by a one-yard Frank Gore scoring plunge, to give the Hurricanes the lead for good with 49 seconds remaining.
— MikeTirico (@miketirico) November 7, 2013
8. Mississippi State 23, Ole Miss 20 (Nov. 25, 1999) – On a cold Thanksgiving night in Starkville, the Bulldogs scored 10 points in the final 27 seconds of the game to steal the Egg Bowl away from Ole Miss. The night looked bleak for Mississippi State after fumbling a punt on its own 36-yard line deep in the fourth quarter, but Mississippi State got the ball back at its own 12 with 2:10 to play. With the clock ticking and the ball at the Ole Miss 38, Wayne Madkin found C.J. Sirmones wide open at the 15 for a catch-and-run touchdown. Instead of playing for overtime, David Cutcliffe called for a pass on the Rebels’ first play from scrimmage, which deflected off the foot of Bulldogs defender Robert Bean into the arms of teammate Eugene Clinton. Scott Westerfield, who had missed an extra point earlier in the game, hit a 44-yard field goal with three seconds to play to give Mississippi State the win.
9. Ole Miss 39, Vanderbilt 35 (Aug. 29, 2013) – The capper to this season’s opening night extravaganza could not have been more wild. Ole Miss built a 10-0 lead after one, only to see Vanderbilt take a 21-10 lead into halftime. A back-and-forth second half saw Ole Miss claim a 32-28 edge with 9:05 to play, then Vanderbilt reclaim a 35-32 lead with Austyn Carta-Samuels found Steven Scheu for a 34-yard score with 90 seconds remaining. But on the very next snap, Jeff Scott weaved through the Commodore defense for a 75-yard touchdown sprint to give Ole Miss a 39-35 advantage with 1:07 to play. Vanderbilt geared up for one last turn on the seesaw, taking over at midfield after an Ole Miss penalty, but Carta-Samuels’ pass was intercepted at the Rebels’ 27-yard line.
10. No. 7 Oregon 37, No. 16 Oregon State 33 (Dec. 3, 2009) – In the first ever winner-takes-the-Rose Bowl Civil War game, Oregon won its first trip to Pasadena since 1995. In a game that saw the lead change hands five times, Oregon led 14-10 after one but trailed 30-21 midway through the third quarter. In the end, LaMichael James’ (25 carries, 166 yards) third touchdown run allowed Oregon to out-duel the Rodgers brothers – who combined to produce 93 yards on 21 carries, 17 catches for 212 yards and two total touchdowns) and take the lead, and the Pac-10 title, for good.