Iron Bowl, Notre Dame-FSU & the 30 best games of 2014

Amari Cooper tied career highs -- and his own Alabama records -- for single-game catches and receiving yards in the 2014 Iron Bowl.

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On the eve of the start of bowl season, let’s take a look back at 2014’s top games.

Here are the 30 best, most entertaining, most dramatic and most important Power 5 contests of the year.

30. (9) Notre Dame 17, (14) Stanford 14

It wasn’t pretty but the finish lived up to the rich history between these two cross-country foes. From the 23-yard line, QB Everett Golson found Ben Koyack in the end zone on fourth down trailing 14-10 with just 1:01 left on the clock. The defensive battle finished with three lead changes in the final eight minutes.

29. (14) USC 13, (13) Stanford 10

It wasn’t a well-played game, but it sure was fun to watch. Stanford’s inability to score in the red zone coupled with some big plays from QB Cody Kessler and the USC defense gave the Trojans yet another upset win over Stanford. The game was highlighted by bizarre sideline behavior from Steve Sarkisian and Pat Haden.

28. Virginia Tech 35, (8) Ohio State 21

This was one of the biggest upsets of the year regardless of conference. The Hokies rattled and tormented J.T. Barrett all night in a shocking two-touchdown win in Columbus. It was a memorable night for college football and VT quarterback Michael Brewer.

27. (17) Missouri 21, Arkansas 14

The Hogs played extremely well for three quarters before a road-grading, old-school touchdown drive gave Missouri the SEC East championship. The Tigers ran 12 plays for 85 yards to score the game-winner with just six minutes left. A turnover forced by Markus Golden eventually sealed the win in what should develop into an underrated border rivalry.

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26. Oklahoma State 38, (20) Oklahoma 35

The Bedlam Series has never seen an ending quite like this and it couldn’t make Mike Gundy any happier. A heavy underdog, the Pokes faced certain defeat with just under a minute to play. But Tyreek Hill delivered a 92-yard, game-tying punt return to send the game into overtime.

25. (6) Texas A&M 35, Arkansas 28 (OT)

The Hogs appeared to be poised for their first SEC win under Bret Bielema until Kenny Hill snatched victory away from Arkansas. Trailing by two touchdowns in the final frame, Hill connected on two long touchdown throws and added the game-winner on the first play of overtime to score 21 unanswered points and give Texas A&M the win.

24. (14) Arizona State 19, (17) Utah 16 (OT)

The low-scoring affair featured plenty of special teams action, as two of the best kickers in the game went toe-to-toe. Zane Gonzalez made four field goals, including the game-tying kick from 30 yards out with 5:47 to play and the game-winner in overtime from 36 yards out. Utah’s Andy Phillips also made three FGs during the game, but missed twice from 35 yards out (timeout was called, negating the first attempt) on the first possession of overtime.

23. (14) Kansas State 31, (11) Oklahoma 30

It wasn’t Michael Hunnicutt’s day to say the least. Several miscues and a late missed field goal cost the Sooners the game. That said, Oklahoma couldn’t stop Jake Waters and company all day, as the two offenses went back and forth for 60 minutes. Two old-school Hall of Fame coaches did battle and everyone who watched was a winner.

22. Texas A&M 41, (3) Auburn 38

The thrilling road upset by the Aggies was highlighted by two of the most bizarre fumbles the SEC has ever seen. After a furious second-half rally, Auburn appeared to have the game won or at least tied at two different times in the final moments. But a tangled exchanged at the two-yard line and a bizarre center snap on the 28 cost Auburn the game. Texas A&M was a 23-point underdog in a win that helped christen QB Kyle Allen as the future in College Station.

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21. (2) Florida State 42, (25) Louisville 31

Florida State stumbled out of the gate in primetime on a Thursday night in Papa John’s Stadium. Michael Dyer led a surging Cardinals squad to a 21-0 second-quarter lead before a fortunate bounce helped FSU get into the end zone with just 33 seconds left before halftime. The second half was the James Winston and Dalvin Cook show, as the QB-RB duo combined for five touchdowns — all of which came from at least 35 yards away. The Noles finished on a 42-10 run over the final 31 minutes of play.

20. (13) Ohio State 31, Penn St 24 (2OT)

J.T. Barrett played one of the worst games of his season while Penn State played arguably its best as a team, coming from 17 points back to force overtime. Yet, despite two extra frames and four turnovers, Penn State’s offensive line woes eventually cost the Lions the game. Joey Bosa capped a remarkable evening with a game-ending sack on fourth down in double OT.

19. (24) South Carolina 38, (6) Georgia 35

This SEC East rivalry has become one of the most important and entertaining in the league and this year’s version didn’t disappoint. UGA RB Todd Gurley and Gamecocks QB Dylan Thompson went back and forth all game while special teams and a goal-line stand played critical roles in the second half.

18. (14) Ohio State 49, (8) Michigan State 37

There wasn’t a Hail Mary or last-second field goal, but this was easily the most important Big Ten game of the year. Ohio State went on the road and matched the Spartans punch for punch. In the end, J.T. Barrett and Ezekiel Elliott were too much for the defending champs. The Buckeyes went on to earn the division crown, the league title and a playoff berth.

17. Arizona 49, Cal 45

It didn’t feature a ranked team at the time and no one realized how important it would become in the Pac-12 South Division race. Arizona’s successful Hail Mary on the game’s final play capped a 36-point fourth quarter. The record-setting comeback would help propel the Wildcats into the Pac-12 title game and put signal-caller Anu Solomon on the national radar.

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16. Utah 30, (8) UCLA 28

The Bruins lived on the edge for most of the first month and it finally caught up with them at home against the underdog Utes. After UCLA allowed the eighth, ninth and tenth sacks of the game on Brett Hundley, Kendal Thompson led the game-winning drive to give Utah a win on the road over a top-10 foe. Andy Phillips nailed a 29-yard field goal with 34 seconds left to give Utah the lead. UCLA then missed not one, but two 50-plus-yard field goal attempts as time expired.

15. (3) Florida State 30, Miami 26

(Stop me when you’ve heard this before?) FSU started out slowly, trailing both 16-0 and 23-7 in the second quarter. But Jameis Winston and tailback Dalvin Cook flipped a switch in the second half, as Florida State went on a 23-3 run. Cook sprinted 26 yards with 3:05 left in the game to give the Noles their 26th straight win and fifth in a row over the archrival Hurricanes.

14. (19) Utah 24, (20) USC 21

It was arguably the biggest win for Utah since moving to the Pac-12 and it happened because Travis Wilson threw a game-winning touchdown pass with eight seconds left. The final drive may be the finest of Wilson’s career, moving the Utes 73 yards on 11 plays with just 2:08 to play. The score was the game’s fifth lead change.

13. (1) Florida State 23, (22) Clemson 17 (OT)

The day before the big Atlantic Division showdown, Jimbo Fisher suspended Jameis Winston for the entire game. Clemson, buoyed by a confident defense and the emergence of true freshman DeShaun Watson at quarterback, played mostly excellent football for 58 minutes. But a gut-wrenching fumble deep in Florida State territory with two minutes to play and a questionable fourth-down decision in overtime left the Tigers dumbstruck when the final whistle blew.

12. Arizona State 38, (16) USC 34

It was the wildest weekend of the season: Four of the top 10 games of the year took place in Week 6. The wildest of finishes happened in Los Angeles when backup quarterback Mike Bercovici connected with Jaelen Strong on the final play of the game from 46 yards out. Arizona State and USC combined for 34 points in the final quarter.

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11. (16) Georgia Tech 30, (9) Georgia 24 (OT)

It didn’t really mean much in the standings or rankings but the 109th edition of Clean, Old Fashioned Hate won’t ever be forgotten by either side. Georgia scored with 18 seconds to go to seemingly win a sixth straight over its in-state rival but somehow Justin Thomas ran his team into field goal range on the ensuing possession. Harrison Butker drilled a 53-yarder to tie the game as time expired and the Jackets’ defense kept the Dawgs out of the end zone in OT for the win.

10. (24) LSU 10, (3) Ole Miss 7

It wasn’t always pretty but it was extremely memorable. The physical units beat each other up for 60 minutes before Ole Miss had a chance to win in the final moments. But a bizarre decision by QB Bo Wallace (and, to some extent, coach Hugh Freeze) in the final moments of the game began a tough final month for the Rebs.

9. (3) Oregon 46, (7) Michigan St 27

Few gave the Spartans a chance to go to Autzen Stadium and win. But through three quarters, everyone in Eugene had respect for Michigan State. The Spartans gave the Ducks all they could handle until a late tipped interception landed in the hands of diving All-American corner Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. The Ducks surged over the final few minutes.

8. (25) TCU 37, (4) Oklahoma 33

Barely ranked, TCU entered the national conversation by outscoring the Sooners at home. QBs Trevone Boykin and Trevor Knight both topped 300 yards in the dramatic affair. The game was tied at the end of the first quarter and was never more than a one-score game after that. Paul Dawson’s 41-yard interception return early in the fourth quarter became the game-winning touchdown.

7. (3) Auburn 35, (4) Ole Miss 31

Literally and figuratively, the Rebels’ home loss to Auburn might be one of the most painful in school or SEC history. No one on either side of the ledger will forget when Laquon Treadwell fumbled and broke his leg with 1:30 to go, as he was falling into the end zone for the game-winning score. The back-and-forth affair never featured a lead of more than seven points.

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6. (5) Alabama 20, (16) LSU 13 (OT)

Always physical and always intense, the heavily-favored Crimson Tide needed a historic drive from Blake Sims to defeat the Tigers. Sims led ‘Bama 55 yards over the final 50 seconds to tie the game before going on to win in overtime.

5. Arizona 31, (2) Oregon 24

The upset heard ’round the world started an unforgettable weekend in the Pac-12. Arizona stunned the Ducks by forcing turnovers, pressuring Marcus Mariota and running the ball. Scooby Wright III became a household name when he stripped Mariota and recovered the fumble to win the game in front of a shocked Autzen Stadium crowd.

4. (1) Alabama 55, (15) Auburn 44

While there was no SEC West or SEC title hanging in the balance, these two hated rivals still delivered the promised intensity. Neither team played much defense in this record-setting Iron Bowl, as Alabama outscored Auburn 34-10 over the following 23 minutes after trailing by 12 in the third quarter. The win kept ‘Bama in the playoff picture.

3. (11) Ole Miss 23, (3) Alabama 17

For about seven minutes, Bo Wallace was downright brilliant and Alabama’s special teams were not. Two Wallace touchdown passes and two ‘Bama turnovers led to a historic and memorable victory over the Tide in "College GameDay’s" first-ever visit to The Grove.

2. (5) Baylor 61, (9) TCU 58

Trailing 58-37 with less than 11 minutes to play, Bryce Petty orchestrated one of the most miraculous comebacks in college football history in one of the league’s highest scoring games. He led Baylor on four scoring drives and 24 points in the final quarter with the final three points coming on a 28-yard field goal as time expired. This game might have cost the Big 12 a spot in the playoff.

1. (2) Florida State 31, (5) Notre Dame 27

An evenly matched bout most of the way, Jameis Winston led the Noles on a game-winning touchdown drive with just under eight minutes to go. Not to be outdone, Everett Golson moved the Irish to the FSU two-yard line before the infamous pick penalty erased the game-winning score and pushed ND back to the 18-yard line on fourth down. Winston was star of the show again, going 15-of-16 in the second half.

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