College football elicits emotion unlike any other sport. The passion and devotion of the fans are most apparent during rivalry weekends, in which their teams face off with their most hated annual opponent, competing for regional and/or historical bragging rights. In many cases, these intraconference and intrastate clashes have been instrumental in determining conference and national champions, especially those including teams such as Alabama, Auburn, Michigan, and Ohio State. The following dramatic rivalry game moments double as college football's most dramatic moments due to their overall meaningfulness. Regardless of whether you're a fan of Cal, Miami, or some directional school not included on the list, you undoubtedly experienced goose bumps the first time you saw these pieces of college football history unfold.
- The recent drama in the LSU-Ole Miss rivalry was nothing compared to the drama that transpired during the '50s and '60s, when both teams were national powers. Ranked No. 1, the Tigers' most difficult test of the 1959 season came on Halloween night in Tiger Stadium. Down 3-0, the ball fell into the hands of the Tigers' playmaker, Billy Cannon, during a punt return. Seven broken tackles later, he found the end zone, scoring the game's only touchdown. The clutch play helped him claim the Heisman Trophy. But the defending national champs failed to repeat, as they dropped one to Tennessee late in the season, and the Rebels exacted revenge in the Sugar Bowl.
- Great players make big plays in big games, and no stage was bigger than 1967's edition of the "Game of the Century." The No. 1 Bruins featured Heisman frontrunner Gary Beban and the No. 2 Trojans featured Walter Camp Award frontrunner OJ Simpson — both were determined to lead their teams to "the championship of Los Angeles," an AAWU conference championship, a Rose Bowl berth and a national championship. Beban made the first clutch play in the fourth, tossing a touchdown pass to give the Bruins a 20-14 lead, but it was followed with a missed extra point. The door was left open for the Trojans to claim the lead, and Simpson responded with a game-winning 64-yard touchdown run in which he weaved through and burned numerous Bruins defenders. The Trojans finished the season as the national champions.
- The result of the 2010 Iron Bowl — in which the Cam Newton-led Tigers overcame a 24-point deficit to keep their national championship hopes alive — evoked memories of another comeback that occurred 38 years earlier. The favored No. 2 Tide, attempting to secure yet another national championship, had a 16-point lead with 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. A Tigers field goal reduced the margin ever so slightly, but provided little encouragement to the Auburn faithful. On the ensuing Tide possession, the Tigers' Bill Newton blocked Greg Gantt's punt, enabling David Langner to scoop up the ball and carry it 25 yards into the end zone. The Tide got the ball back, and it happened again — Newton blocked the punt and Langer ran it back, giving the Tigers a 17-16 lead, the eventual final score. Fittingly, the series of events inspired cries of "Punt Bama Punt" from Tigers fans.
- Entrenched inside their own 10-yard line with the clock ticking on their perfect season, the No. 2 Bulldogs needed to convert on a third-and-long to keep hope alive. Not only did they make it happen, but Buck Belue's 25-yard pass to Lindsay Nelson quickly turned into an improbable 93-yard touchdown pass, as the receiver sprinted past the Florida defense. Georgia fans will forever remember radio play-by-play man Larry Munson's famous call: "Run Lindsay, 25, 20, 15, 10, Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott." Led by freshman phenom Herschel Walker, the Dawgs went on to win the national championship.
- John Elway's final game as a Cardinal foreshadowed some of the early career heartbreaks he would endure in the NFL. Late in the fourth quarter, with his team trailing 19-17, he converted on a 4th-and-17 on his own 13-yard line and drove downfield, setting up a go-ahead field goal for Mark Harmon. Elway called timeout with eight seconds remaining before the kick, and four seconds remained after it occurred. A celebration penalty bumped Stanford's ensuing kickoff to the 25-yard line, giving the Bears enough room to execute a chaotic flurry of laterals. At some point near the 45-yard line, Mariet Ford received the ball, avoided a tackle and sprinted into the Stanford band, which had prematurely taken the field. As three Stanford players descended upon him, he tossed the ball to Kevin Moen, who ran into the end zone, memorably running into a trombone player. Today, debate still persists about whether or not a couple of the laterals were legal.
- Michigan was clearly the better team in 1991, as evidenced by the manner in which they controlled the first half. The final touchdown of the second quarter would become the most memorable in the game, perhaps the rivalry, and one of the most memorable in college football history. Heisman favorite Desmond Howard fielded a Buckeyes' punt at the Wolverines' seven-yard line, weaved through OSU defenders, rocketed down the sideline and completed a 93-yard touchdown return. The play was capped off by his Heisman pose, which came right on cue with play-by-play man Keith Jackson's call: "Goodbye, Hello Heisman!" Michigan won the game 31-3, and Howard accepted the Heisman Trophy two weeks later.
- A missed field goal from this rivalry could occupy several spots on this list, but we opted to avoid the overkill and go with the original. The Noles were undefeated and ranked No. 1, with a marquee win over Howard's Michigan squad, and the Canes were undefeated and ranked No. 2. As expected, it was a hard-fought affair with neither team maintaining a comfortable lead for an extended period of time. Down 16-10 in the fourth, Gino Torretta led the Canes down the field, setting up a Larry Jones one-yard touchdown run. The Noles ensuing drive was assisted by a pass interference call on the Canes' Ryan McNeil, which put the Noles on the Canes' 18-yard line. Confident in his kicker — Gerry Thomas was three-for-three on the day — Bobby Bowden elected for the field goal on third down. The 34-yarder sailed wide right, and the Canes stormed the filed in jubilation. Miami finished the season undefeated, splitting the national championship with Washington.
- The Noles' other rival has been the source of many great games, the best of which occurred during a year when both teams were extremely talented, but were late-season national championship long shots. Three touchdown passes and a touchdown run from future Heisman winner Danny Wuerffel gave Florida a commanding 31-3 lead early in the fourth quarter, but it was quickly relinquished. Spurrier uncharacteristically went conservative on offense, taking the wind out of Wuerffel's sails. A five-yard touchdown run from Zack Crockett put the Noles on the board. Danny Kanell led the team downfield during its two subsequent possessions, both of which ended with touchdowns. James Colzie's interception allowed the Noles to conduct a 60-yard touchdown drive to tie the game with 1:45 left. They would get the ball back yet again, but failed to score, and thus the game ended 31-31. It remains tied for the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in college football history.
- Before the Vince Young and Colt McCoy eras, the Longhorns struggled to win big games — the games they needed to win in order to capture a national championship. Their early-2000s affairs with the Sooners are prime examples, as they either lost in embarrassing or close fashion. This one was the latter, as both teams struggled to score points on the stout opposing defenses. Quentin's Griffin's 2-yard touchdown run in the first half gave the Sooners a 7-3 lead, which they held deep into the fourth quarter. Pinned at their own three-yard line with 2:06 remaining, the Horns' comeback drive ended just as it started. Chris Simms' first down pass was deflected by Roy Williams, who flew in over a blocker on the blitz. The ball fluttered into the hands of Teddy Lehman, who strolled into the end zone with the game-sealing touchdown. It was the second of five consecutive losses for the Horns in the Red River Shootout.
- Neither an intraconference nor an intrastate rivalry, the annual USC-Notre Dame matchup is heated because of the sheer mystique carried by both programs. Undefeated and surging toward a national championship repeat, the Trojans were tasked with fending off the upstart Irish, who were led by first-year head coach Charlie Weis. A back-and-forth slugfest, the Irish captured the lead late in the fourth quarter on a five-yard touchdown run by Brady Quinn. With less than two minutes to drive downfield, the Trojans converted on a fourth-and-nine pass from Matt Leinart to Dwayne Jarrett that put the ball on the Irish's 15-yard line. A Leinart scramble toward the end zone was stopped short at the goal line and the ball was knocked out of bounds. Time ticked off the clock, but the officials elected to place seven second back on it. The Trojans won the game on Leinart's plunge into the end zone with the assistance of Bush's Push. Of course, they lost to Texas in a classic national championship game.