List of historically significant college football games
The following is a list of historically significant college football games. Games included on this list are single college football games that have historical impact to the sport of college football.
Inclusion on this list requires games of significant historical "firsts" and/or otherwise significant impact to the sport itself, such as significant rules changes or initiation of long-standing ceremony. Historically significant games should be prominently discussed in major historical accounts of college football. Games that may be significant only to a particular team's fan base should not be listed here.
Games are listed in chronological order. The name of the winning team is in bold.
|1869 New Jersey vs. Rutgers football game||Rutgers||New Jersey (Princeton)||New Brunswick, New Jersey||6–4||Considered the first American football game ever played.|
|1872 Rutgers vs. Columbia football game||Columbia||Rutgers||New York, New York||0–0||First football game to end with a tie score.|
|1874 Harvard vs. McGill football game||Harvard||McGill||Cambridge, Massachusetts||0–0||First rugby football game in the United States. Harvard played three games against McGill. The first was the first college football game in Massachusetts (but did not use a rugby-style ball, as was used in this game), the second this game, and the third the earliest known in Canada.|
|1875 Tufts vs. Harvard football game||Harvard||Tufts||Cambridge, Massachusetts||0-1||Considered the first modern style American football game ever played in the United States. Significant rule changes made it far more modern than previous games, including each side fielding 11 men at any given time, the ball was advanced by kicking or carrying it, and tackles of the ball carrier stopped play.|
|1879 Michigan vs. Racine football game||Michigan||Racine College||Chicago, Illinois||1–0||Organized football first played in the state of Illinois. The Chicago Daily Tribune called it "the first rugby-football game to be played west of the Alleghenies."|
|1880 Kentucky University vs. Centre football game||Kentucky University||Centre||Stoll Field||13¾–0||Organized football was first played in the state of Kentucky when Kentucky University defeated Centre. The first game in the south.|
|1884 Dartmouth vs. Yale football game||Dartmouth||Yale||Hanover, New Hampshire||113–0||First game where one team scored over 100 points; also the first time one team scored over 100 points and the opposing team was shut out. The next week, Princeton outscored Lafayette by 140 to 0.|
|1887 Virginia vs. Pantops football game||Virginia||Pantops Academy||Virginia||0-0||Organized football was first played in the state of Virginia. Students at UVA were playing pickup games of the kicking-style of football as early as 1870, and some accounts even claim that some industrious ones organized a game against Washington and Lee College in 1871, just two years after Rutgers and Princeton's historic first game in 1869. But no record has been found of the score of this contest.|
|1890 Kansas vs. Baker football game||Baker||Kansas||Baldwin City, Kansas||22–9||Organized football was first played in the state of Kansas.|
|1890 Navy vs. Army football game||Army||Navy||West Point, New York||0-24||First Army–Navy Game|
|1890 Vanderbilt vs. Nashville football game||Vanderbilt||Nashville (Peabody)||Athletic Park||40–0||Organized football was first played in the state of Tennessee.|
|1892 Mercer vs. Georgia football game||Georgia||Mercer||Athens, Georgia||50-0||First football game in the Deep South.|
|1892 Wyoming Seminary vs. Mansfield State Normal football game||Wyoming Seminary (high school)||Mansfield State Normal||Mansfield, Pennsylvania||0–0||First nighttime football game played under lights. Game ended at halftime.|
|1893 Army vs. Navy football game||Navy||Army||Annapolis, Maryland||6–4||First documented use of a football helmet by a player in a game. Midshipman Joseph M. Reeves had a crude leather helmet made by a local shoemaker/blacksmith and wore it in this game after being warned by doctors that he risked death if he continued to play football after suffering a kick to the head in an earlier game.|
|1894 Chicago vs. Stanford football game||Stanford||Chicago||San Francisco, California||4-24||First intersectional contest.|
|1895 Georgia vs. North Carolina football game||Georgia||North Carolina||Atlanta, Georgia||0-6||The first forward pass, though years before the legal forward pass of 1906.|
|1895 Oklahoma City vs. Oklahoma football game||Oklahoma||Oklahoma City||Norman, Oklahoma||0-34||First college football game in Oklahoma Territory.|
|1897 Ohio State vs. Michigan||Ohio State||Michigan||Ann Arbor, Michigan||0–34||First Ohio State-Michigan game.|
|1897 École des Beaux-Arts vs. Académie Julian football game||?||?||Paris, France||?||Considered the first American football game ever played in Europe.|
|1901 Stetson vs. Florida Agricultural College at Lake City||Stetson||Florida Agricultural College||Jacksonville, Florida||6–0||The first intercollegiate game in Florida, played as part of the Jacksonville Fair.|
|1902 Georgetown vs. Navy football game||Navy||Georgetown||Annapolis, Maryland||0-4||Claimed by Georgetown authorities as the game with the first ever "roving center" or linebacker when Percy Given stood up, in contrast to the usual tale of Germany Schulz.|
|1902 Tournament East-West football game||Stanford||Michigan||Pasadena, California||0–49||First bowl game The name of the game was changed to the Rose Bowl Game starting with the 1923 Rose Bowl when it moved to the newly constructed Rose Bowl Stadium.|
|1905 Michigan vs. Chicago football game||Chicago||Michigan||Chicago, Illinois||2-0||Dubbed "The First Greatest Game of the Century," broke Michigan's 56-game unbeaten streak and marked the end of the "Point-a-Minute" years.|
|1905 Washburn vs. Fairmount football game||Fairmount||Washburn||Wichita, Kansas||0–0||Game using several "experimental rules" that were tested before implementing major nationwide rules changes and the formation of the NCAA. This game had the first "legal" forward pass for a college team, but only because of the new experimental rules created just for this game.|
|1906 Saint Louis vs. Carroll football game||Carroll (Wisconsin)||Saint Louis||Waukesha, Wisconsin||0-22||First regular season game with the first legal forward pass.|
|1906 Carlisle vs. Vanderbilt football game||Vanderbilt||Carlisle||Nashville, Tennessee||4-0||The south's first great intersectional triumph; by a single drop kick.|
|1907 Chicago vs. Illinois football game||Illinois||Chicago||Champaign, Illinois||6-42||First game to have a halftime show featuring a marching band.|
|1910 Vanderbilt vs. Yale football game||Yale||Vanderbilt||New Haven, Connecticut||0–0||Vanderbilt battles defending national champion Yale to a scoreless tie. The south's first triumph against one of the 'big four' Eastern powers.|
|1911 Kansas vs. Missouri football game||Missouri||Kansas||Columbia, Missouri||3–3||First homecoming football game. The game was "broadcast" play-by-play over telegraph to at least 1,000 fans in Lawrence, Kansas.|
|1916 Cumberland vs. Georgia Tech football game||Georgia Tech||Cumberland||Atlanta, Georgia||222–0||Most lopsided victory in college football history.|
|1921 West Virginia vs. Pittsburgh football game||Pittsburgh||West Virginia||Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania||21–13||First live radio broadcast of a college football game when Harold W. Arlin announced that year's Backyard Brawl played at Forbes Field on KDKA on October 8, 1921.|
|1921 Centre vs. Harvard football game||Harvard||Centre||Boston, Massachusetts||0–6||Widely considered one of the greatest upsets in college football history.|
|1922 Michigan vs. Vanderbilt football game||Vanderbilt||Michigan||Nashville, Tennessee||0–0||Michigan coach Fielding Yost and Vanderbilt coach Dan McGugin were brothers-in-law, and the latter the protege of the former. The inaugural game at Dudley Field featured the season's two best defenses. Michigan was a heavy favorite to win but Vandy managed a goal line stand to preserve a tie. The game's result was "a great surprise to the sporting world." It features prominently in Vanderbilt's history. Commodore fans celebrated by throwing some 3,000 seat cushions onto the field.|
|1922 Princeton vs. Chicago football game||Chicago||Princeton||Chicago, Illinois||18-21||First game to be nationally broadcast on radio and considered a hotly contested game. Had Princeton dubbed the "Team of Destiny."|
|1922 Alabama vs. Penn football game||Penn||Alabama||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania||7-9||Alabama, a southern school, upset an Eastern power, one of the 'big four', in Penn.|
|1926 Rose Bowl||Washington||Alabama||Pasadena, California||19-20||The game is commonly referred to as "the game that changed the south." Many historians recognize it as the most important game in southern football history.|
|1939 Waynesburg vs. Fordham football game||Fordham||Waynesburg||New York, New York||34–7||First televised football game.|
|1940 Cornell–Dartmouth football game||Dartmouth||Cornell||Hanover, New Hampshire||3–0 (3–7)||Game is known for an officiating error that resulted in a rare postgame reversal of the outcome. Cornell threw an incomplete pass on 4th and goal in the game's final seconds, seemingly ensuring a 3-0 shutout victory by Dartmouth. However, the referees inadvertently allowed Cornell to attempt a "fifth down" play on which Cornell scored an apparent game-winning touchdown. After the error was discovered during postgame film review, Cornell offered to forfeit the game. Dartmouth accepted, marking the only time that the outcome of a college football game was decided off the field.|
|1941 Oklahoma City vs. Youngstown football game||Youngstown State||Oklahoma City||Youngstown, Ohio||48–7||First use of the penalty flag by game officials.|
|1943 Notre Dame vs. Michigan football game||Michigan||Notre Dame||Ann Arbor, Michigan||12–35||First college football game between the #1 (Notre Dame) and #2 (Michigan) teams in the nation, as determined by the AP Poll (since its inception in 1936).|
|1952 Rose Bowl||Stanford||Illinois||Pasadena, California||7-40||The first nationally televised college football game.|
|1956 Sugar Bowl||Georgia Tech||Pittsburgh||New Orleans, Louisiana||7–0||First African American player, Pitt's Bobby Grier, to break the color barrier in the segregated Deep South.|
|1962 Rose Bowl||UCLA||Minnesota||Pasadena, California||3-21||First nationally televised college football game in color.|
|1963 Rose Bowl||USC||Wisconsin||Pasadena, California||42–37||First college football bowl game between the #1 (USC) and #2 (Wisconsin) teams in the nation, as determined by the AP and UPI polls.|
|1963 Army vs. Navy football game||Army||Navy||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania||21-15||First time any sports broadcast used instant replay.|
|1967 UCLA vs. USC football game||USC||UCLA||Los Angeles, California||21-20||National live network color television broadcast of a conference championship for a Rose Bowl appearance, the two top candidates for the Heisman trophy facing each other in a conference rivalry game, which also was the de facto college national championship.|
|1968 Alabama vs. Miami (FL) football game||Miami (FL)||Alabama||Miami, Florida||6-14||First regular-season college football game nationally televised in prime time.|
|1968 Yale vs. Harvard football game||Harvard||Yale||Allston, Massachusetts||29–29||Both teams entered their season-ending rivalry game undefeated and untied, with the Ivy League championship on the line. Down 22–0 in the first half, Harvard made an improbable comeback and tied the game — including 16 unaswered points in the final minute. The game is the subject of the documentary film Harvard Beats Yale 29-29, a reference to the Harvard Crimson headline.|
|1970 USC vs. Alabama football game||Alabama||USC||Birmingham, Alabama||21-42||USC opened the season visiting the University of Alabama under legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant and became the first fully integrated team to play in the state of Alabama. The game, scheduled by Bryant, resulted in a domineering 42–21 win by the Trojans. More importantly, all six touchdowns scored by USC team were by African-American players, two by USC running back Sam "Bam" Cunningham, against an all-white Crimson Tide team. The game hastened the racial integration of football at Alabama and in the South.|
|1971 TCU vs. Baylor football game||Baylor||TCU||Waco, Texas||27-34||On October 30, 1971 TCU coach Jim Pittman collapsed on the sideline in Waco shortly after the annual game between the Horned Frogs and Bears began. The game was continued after Coach Pittman was taken by private car to the hospital as the ambulance had already taken a dizzy school official to the hospital and had not yet returned. Coach Pittman was pronounced dead shortly after arrival. The TCU and Baylor players were informed at halftime, and it was decided to honor Coach Pittman's memory by finishing the game, which TCU rallied to win 34-27. This remains the first, and to date only, time in college football history that a coach died on the field during a game.|
|1975 Ohio State vs. Minnesota||Ohio State||Minnesota||Columbus, Ohio||38-6||In a game that saw the Ohio State Buckeyes win 38-6 against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, eventual two-time Heisman trophy winner Archie Griffin rushes for 124 yards, setting the current NCAA record for Most Consecutive Games Gaining 100 Yards or More in a Career|
|1982 California–Stanford football game||California||Stanford||Berkeley, California||25–20||Game is well known for its final play, known simply as "The Play" - a kickoff return in which California used a series of laterals to score the game-winning touchdown as time expired. Thinking that the game was over, Stanford's marching band had come out onto the field before the play had concluded. The picture of California's Kevin Moen plowing into oblivious Stanford trombone player Gary Tyrrell upon scoring the game-winning touchdown remains one of the most iconic images in college football. "The Play" is recognized as one of the most memorable plays in college football history. In addition, it denied Stanford quarterback John Elway and the rest of the team a chance to play in a bowl game. Stanford and California fans continue to dispute the results.|
|1987 Fiesta Bowl||Penn State||Miami (FL)||Tempe, Arizona||14–10||Game is known for changing the landscape of college football bowl games. Due to the bidding war that began, and both Penn State and Miami being independent, the Fiesta Bowl won out and then became a high-profile bowl. It is also the highest rated championship game in history, recording a 24.9 Nielson rating. This game was billed as the classic good versus evil matchup. Highlighted by Penn State's defense intercepting Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde five times including one with 18 seconds left near the end zone.|
|1990 Colorado–Missouri football game||Missouri||Colorado||Columbia, Missouri||31–33||Game is known for an officiating error that had far-reaching implications. On the game's final drive, the referees inadvertently allowed Colorado to attempt a "fifth down" play on which the Buffaloes scored the game-winning touchdown as time expired. Aided in part by the controversial victory, Colorado completed a 10-win season and was awarded the AP National Championship.|
|1992 SEC Championship Game||Florida||Alabama||Birmingham, Alabama||21–28||The SEC had expanded to 12 schools and hosted a conference championship game for the first time in college football history.|
|1995 Las Vegas Bowl||Nevada||Toledo||Whitney, Nevada||37-40||First overtime game in NCAA Division I-A.|
|1997 Linfield vs. Willamette football game||Willamette||Linfield||Salem, Oregon||27–0||Kicker Liz Heaston becomes the first woman to play and score points in a college football game|
|1998 Bethune-Cookman vs. Virginia State football game||Bethune-Cookman||Virginia State||Daytona Beach, FL||63–57||Bethune-Cookman finally defeats Virginia State after 8 overtimes, the longest college football game ever.|
|1998 Southern vs. Prairie View A&M football game||Prairie View A&M||Southern (LA)||Beaumont, Texas||7-37||This was the final loss of the worst losing streak in college football (80 games). However, it also gained infamy from a brawl between the two schools' marching bands during the halftime show that resulted in the suspension of both bands by the conference for two games.|
|2001 Cumberland vs. Jacksonville State football game||Jacksonville State||Cumberland||Jacksonville, Alabama||72–10||Ashley Martin becomes the first woman to play and score in a NCAA football game and the second woman to play and score in a college game in any division.|
|2003 Stillman vs. West Alabama football game||West Alabama||Stillman||Livingston, Alabama||24–17||Tonya Butler becomes the first woman to kick a field goal in a NCAA football game.|
|2005 Fiesta Bowl||Pittsburgh||Utah||Tempe, Arizona||7-35||Utah becomes the first non-BCS Conference team to appear in and win a BCS Bowl game by blowing out Big East champion Pittsburgh 35-7. The performance of Utah QB Alex Smith propelled him to becoming the #1 overall draft pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. Utah would eventually become a member of the Pac-12 Conference in 2011.|
|2006 Michigan State vs. Northwestern football game||Michigan State||Northwestern||Evanston, Illinois||41-38||The 2006 Michigan State vs. Northwestern football game featured the biggest comeback in NCAA Division I FBS history. The Spartans rallied to score 38 unanswered points to beat the Wildcats 41–38 after falling behind 38–3 with 9:54 left in the 3rd quarter. This is the largest comeback in any game in the history of all of Division I football.|
|2007 Appalachian State vs. Michigan football game||Michigan||Appalachian State||Ann Arbor, Michigan||32–34||First ever win for a NCAA Division I-AA/FCS team over a ranked Division I-A/FBS opponent. As a result of the loss, #5 ranked Michigan dropped out of the Top 25 AP poll, marking the first time a team had dropped from the top five to out of the poll in one week. In the aftermath of the game, the Associated Press amended their polling policy to make FCS teams eligible for the AP Poll, which had previously been limited to FBS teams.|
|2007 Stanford vs. USC football game||USC||Stanford||Los Angeles, California||23–24||In a remarkable upset, the visiting Stanford Cardinal won 24–23. USC was favored by 41 points over Stanford, making the game the largest point spread upset in college football history.|
|2007 Trinity vs. Millsaps football game||Millsaps||Trinity||Jackson, Mississippi||24–28||Commonly called "Lateralpalooza" - Trinity threw 15 laterals and scored a 60-yard touchdown to win a game against the Millsaps Majors as time expired in the game, producing "the longest play in college football history."|
|2010 Fiesta Bowl||Boise State||TCU||Glendale, Arizona||17-10||First BCS Bowl game played between two non-BCS, or non-AQ, teams, as well as the first BCS bowl game where both teams were undefeated heading into the game. Boise State won the game when Doug Martin got a two-yard touchdown with 7:21 left in the fourth quarter to make it 17-10.|
|2011 Kilimanjaro Bowl||Drake||Mexico all stars||Moshi, Tanzania||17–7||First college football game played on the African continent|
|2016 Pilot Flying J Battle at Bristol||Tennessee||Virginia Tech||Bristol, Tennessee||45–24||Largest single-game attendance in American football history, with 156,990 at Bristol Motor Speedway.|
|2016 Pittsburgh vs. Syracuse football game||Pittsburgh||Syracuse||Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania||76-61||Most points scored in a game involving D-IA/FBS opponents during the regulation four quarters of play since the NCAA began keeping records in 1937.|
- History of American football
- Category:American football incidents
- Category:College football games
- Game of the Century (college football)
- AP Poll#No. 1 vs. No. 2
- List of NCAA college football rivalry games
- List of college bowl games
- College football on television
- College Football Hall of Fame
- List of NCAA football records
- Bowl Championship Series
- List of NCAA conferences
- List of college athletic conferences in the United States
- List of the first college football game in each US state
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Take another look at the coyly, cleverly enigmatic title, borrowed from the famous headline in The Harvard Crimson.
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