The signature moment so far for each top 25 team

What are the season’s biggest moments for each top 25 team? So far, there has been just about everything, from miracle comebacks to a kicker sliding in the grass celebrating a game-winning kick, to great individual performances.

The moment quarterback Jalen Hurts zipped his perfectly timed strike to receiver DeVonta Smith for that beautiful 26-yard touchdown pass against Mississippi State over the weekend, the Crimson Tide’s season was saved. There’s no doubt that with the injuries on defense, Alabama is beatable, but a play like that — and the preceding plays before it on that drive — are staples of what separate Nick Saban-coached teams from the rest of the country. — Alex Scarborough

If there’s a point at which it felt like Clemson had really turned the page from the Deshaun Watson era, it came in the final minute of the first half against Auburn. Clemson trailed 6-0 when quarterback Kelly Bryant ran in for a score from 3 yards out to give his team its first lead — and also its first indication that this offense could be just as resourceful as last season’s. Clemson held on for a 14-6 win, Bryant has continued to emerge as a leader, and once again the Tigers are poised for a playoff berth. — David M. Hale

Without question it is the 41-8 win over Notre Dame this past weekend, a victory so decisive it turned Miami doubters into Miami believers. The Hurricanes had scratched out close victories through October that many hedged on whether they were any good. But the Notre Dame game showed a superiority in athleticism, speed and performance in the trenches. Plus, pulling out the Turnover Chain four times didn’t hurt, either. — Andrea Adelson

Baker Mayfield planting the flag at the Shoe. Though controversial to be sure, it sent a message that the Sooners would be a force in the playoff picture, and that Mayfield would be the same in the Heisman conversation. — Jake Trotter

The Badgers will go as far as their defense can carry them this season. And no showing for coordinator Jim Leonhard’s bunch matched the performance last week against Iowa, as Wisconsin allowed just 66 yards, the lowest total ever gained by a Big Ten opponent against the Badgers. — Mitch Sherman

After entering Week 11 with head coach Gus Malzahn firmly on the hot seat, the Tigers did the unthinkable and totally dismantled No. 1 Georgia 40-17 to throw their names right back into the College Football Playoff picture. Auburn dominated the game in every single area, but most impressive was that the Tigers put 237 rushing yards on the SEC’s top rushing defense, while allowing the top rushing offense to run for just 46 yards. — Scarborough

The Bulldogs’ 24-10 win over South Carolina might not have been the prettiest win of the year, but it certainly was the most important. With that win, all Georgia needed to do was hope Ole Miss would upset Kentucky on the road, officially handing the Bulldogs the SEC Eastern Division. Hours later, Ole Miss shocked the Wildcats 37-34 after taking the lead with just 5 seconds remaining. — Scarborough

The rout of rival USC in Week 8 was nearly complete when running back Josh Adams raced 84 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter. But Adams provided the knockout punch in a 49-14 win with his longest run of the season, going straight through the heart of the Trojans’ defense. — Mitch Sherman

J.T. Barrett‘s three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter of the Buckeyes’ 39-38 Week 9 win over Penn State capped a spectacular comeback, engineered by the senior quarterback. He was 13-for-13 passing and threw for 170 yards in the final 15 minutes to hand the Nittany Lions their first defeat. — Sherman

Look no further than fourth-and-goal from the 7-yard line with one play to stay undefeated and win at Iowa. Quarterback Trace McSorley found receiver Juwan Johnson in the end zone, threading a strike just out of the reach of Hawkeyes defender Amani Hooker to give the Nittany Lions a 21-19 win in Week 4. — Sherman

Very few people were familiar with the name Chase McGrath before Texas visited USC on Sept. 16, but that changed when the true freshman walk-on hit a game-tying field goal as time expired in regulation, and a game winner in the second overtime. — Kyle Bonagura

On third-and-4, running back Darius Anderson popped Oklahoma State for a game-clinching 42-yard touchdown dash, lifting the Horned Frogs to a 44-31 win over the Cowboys while catapulting TCU into the Big 12 title and CFP discussions. — Trotter

The Cowboys won for a fifth consecutive time in Austin, when safety Ramon Richards picked off Texas QB Sam Ehlinger in the end zone in overtime. It wouldn’t be the last time Oklahoma State would win with a pick in the end zone, as cornerback A.J. Green would do the same to seal the Pokes’ victory at Iowa State. — Trotter

The Cougars’ upset of then-No. 6 USC on Sept. 29 wasn’t complete until redshirt freshman linebacker Jahad Woods sacked quarterback Sam Darnold and forced a fumble with under two minutes to play to get the ball back. Two kneel-downs later, Wazzu had one of its biggest wins in program history. — Bonagura

When the first quarter came to a close, Memphis led UCF 7-6. The next time the Tigers scored, UCF was simply running out the clock on a 40-13 win that clearly cast the Knights as a team to reckon with in the American. The dominant win over one of the perceived favorites in the conference served notice that UCF was for real, and now, two months later, the Knights are still undefeated and knocking on the door of a conference title. — Hale

The biggest moment of the year for the Bulldogs came near the front end of the season, when Mississippi State routed then-No. 12 LSU 37-7 in Starkville. The Bulldogs nearly hit the 500-yard mark by pounding out 285 rushing yards on the Tigers. Soon after, we wondered if this just showed that LSU wasn’t as good as expected, but the Tigers now sit at 7-3, winning four of their past five. — Scarborough

Matt Coghlin‘s 34-yard field goal secured a 27-24 win for the Spartans over Penn State as time expired in Week 10. Coghlin slid on his stomach across the field in celebration to close an exhausting day that included a 3½-hour weather delay and stamped the Spartans as a Big Ten contender. — Sherman

In the same week his father, the third-base coach of the Houston Astros, celebrated a World Series title, Dante Pettis made history for the Huskies. His 64-yard punt return for a touchdown broke the NCAA record in a 38-3 win against Oregon. — Bonagura

The context provided by the next two months would undercut some of the win’s impressiveness, but when NC State knocked off Florida State in Week 4, it certainly felt like a program-defining victory. After all, this was a Wolfpack team beset by near misses for the past few seasons, and a win in Tallahassee marked a turning point — a game when the veteran talent at NC State finally bested one of the ACC Atlantic’s elite. And while FSU hasn’t proven to be a good team this year, the significance of the moment hasn’t diminished in the eyes of a Wolfpack program that desperately needed something to build upon. — Hale

A week after surviving a scare in the Swamp against the Gators, LSU roared back from a 20-0 deficit against No. 10 Auburn to pull a major upset. The 27-23 win helped jump-start the Tigers from the brink of disaster after losing in embarrassing fashion to Troy two weeks earlier. The victory was part of a four-game winning streak for the Tigers. — Scarborough

The Tigers have made it a habit recently to beat ranked teams, so it should not have come as a huge shock when they upset then-No. 25 UCLA 48-45 in Week 2. Quarterback Riley Ferguson threw for 398 yards and six touchdowns, while the defense held off a frantic rally from Josh Rosen and the Bruins with a late fourth-down pass breakup. — Adelson

Running back Bryce Love has been the story of the season for the Cardinal, and he came through in the biggest of moments. Love ran for 166 yards and three touchdowns against the nation’s No. 1-ranked defense, Washington, to stay in the Heisman Trophy race and keep Stanford alive in the Pac-12 North. — Bonagura

Pick an overtime. Any overtime of the five that the Wildcats played in consecutive wins over Iowa, Michigan State and Nebraska. The middle game, a 39-31 thriller over Michigan State in Week 9, featured three OTs, punctuated by linebacker Nate Hall‘s interception of MSU QB Brian Lewerke. — Sherman

Running back Karan Higdon ran untouched through the Minnesota defense for a 77-yard TD, the Wolverines’ longest rush since 2012, as Michigan stampeded the Golden Gophers to the tune of 371 yards on the ground in a 33-10 Week 10 win. In Brandon Peters‘ first start at QB, he needed only to hand off to Higdon and Chris Evans for the win in the kind of offensive performance that could lead to more signature moments with Wisconsin and Ohio State still remaining on the schedule. — Sherman

Winning convincingly at then-No. 19 San Diego State was obviously huge for the Broncos, but Boise isn’t even in these rankings without that fantastic comeback win over Colorado State this past weekend. Colorado State was up 28-3 and 35-10, yet, the Broncos rushed back to win 59-52 in overtime, thanks to four Brett Rypien touchdown passes, including two in the final 1:41 of regulation. — Edward Aschoff

Leave a Response