A national champion has yet to be crowned, but the holiday season is a good time to look back at all the fantastic moments the 2017 college football season has provided so far. Here's a compilation of the best plays of the year, in no particular order.
Got a worthy nominee that I missed? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jaleel Scott's one-handed catch
The best catch of the year may have happened by the end of Thursday night of Week 1. New Mexico State, which is going bowling for the first time since 1960, flashed some potential in a 37-31 loss at Arizona State on Aug. 31. The highlight of the night was a 15-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Rogers to Scott in which Scott fought of a defender, leaped in the back of the end zone, extended while twisting his body and came down with a ridiculous one-handed touchdown grab.
Purdue's reverse flea flicker
A little trickery on a Friday night 🏈✨ pic.twitter.com/6hoBoU6YHc- Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 9, 2017
Purdue made a spectacular coaching hire in landing Jeff Brohm, one of the sport's most creative offensive minds, from Western Kentucky. The Boilermakers made a bowl in his debut season, which featured a significant uptick in watchability. The Purdue offense wasn't always great, but it was capable of unleashing a creative play at any moment. You never know when Brohm is going to unveil a trick like this.
Terry Godwin's acrobatic touchdown
WHAT. A. CATCH. 😱 pic.twitter.com/6YNURDDYHX- NBC Sports (@NBCSports) September 10, 2017
Georgia's trip to Notre Dame proved to be one of the most important results of the year back in Week 2. The Bulldogs won by a point, 20-19, in the first career start by true freshman QB Jake Fromm. In the second quarter, on third-and-goal at the five, Fromm lobbed a pass to the right corner of the end zone for Godwin, who made a spectacular one-handed grab and came down inbounds for a pivotal touchdown.
Kenedy Snell's marathon red-zone run
Snell had only 28 touches as a freshman this season. It will be hard for him to ever top his first career college touch. In TCU's opening win over Jackson State, the 5-foot-8, 180-pound Snell channeled Seneca Wallace and scored perhaps the longest 13-yard touchdown in football history, going across the field to one sideline, then reversing course, slaloming through the opposing defense and finally scoring in the other corner of the end zone.
Ross Bowers aims for Olympic gymnastics gold
Bowers is a Cal quarterback and also the son of former Washington gymnastics coach Joanne Bowers. During Cal's 37-3 upset of Washington State on Oct 13, Bowers dropped back to pass from the seven-yard line. With no receiver open, he took off running. Two defenders closed in on him, and from beyond the two-yard line, Bowers decided to leap and flip over the Cougars players and into the end zone, showing off impressive gymnastics skills.
Bolu Olorunfunmi goes surfing
UCLA ran away from Oregon with a 31-14 win, and it pulled away thanks in part to Olorunfunmi. The Bruins led by three points late in the third quarter when Olorunfunmi broke off a 22-yard touchdown run. The first 20 or so yards were easy, but Oregon's Mattrell McGraw stood in the way in front of the goal line. Olorunfunmi leaped, effectively stood on McGraw's shoulders for a moment and fell into the end zone.
Denzel Goolsby's no-look interception
This is the best interception you'll see all weekend. pic.twitter.com/0xemOigS8o- Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) October 21, 2017
Baker Mayfield has thrown only five interceptions in 13 games. In a close win at Kansas State, Mayfield though he hit CeeDee Lamb in the back of the end zone for a contested touchdown. Instead, Goolsby -- who never turned his head -- somehow managed to swipe the ball from Lamb as the receiver tried to corral it. Goolsby both completed the catch himself and landed inbounds for the interception.
Ray-Ray McCloud's punt return
Clemson beat N.C. State 38-31 to give it control of the ACC Atlantic. The Tigers got off to a poor start on offense, but they got on the scoreboard early anyway thanks to the special-teams heroics of McCloud. McCloud field a punt inside the 25-yard line, stepped back, burst forward between defenders, then sliced through seemingly the entire Wolfpack punt coverage team for a 77-yard touchdown.
USC's punt return fake-out
You will never see a return man have an easier time scoring a touchdown than on Michael Pittman's 72-yarder against UCLA. That's because USC pulled off the fake of the year. Ajene Harris drew in the coverage team by faking a routine punt catch toward one side of the field. But Stefan Flintoft's punt actually went down the other sideline. With Flintoft baffled by what his teammates were doing in chasing the decoy return man, Pittman caught the ball and cruised down the sideline for what proved to be an important touchdown in a 28-23 Trojans win.
Saquon Barkley's Iowa leap
Unreal. pic.twitter.com/XFCkqcsiIZ- ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) September 24, 2017
Nobody in college football created more jaw-dropping highlights this year than Barkley. In fact, he had more highlights in the dramatic win at Iowa -- in which he had 358 all-purpose yards -- than most have in a career. Many of Barkley's highlights are created as a result of his otherworldly cutting ability. However, he also has a penchant for leaping over defenders. On this play, he took a backward pass from Trace McSorley well behind the line of scrimmage on third-and-six. An Iowa defender lunged for him around the line of scrimmage. Barkley went airborne, took a hit in midair before he landed and casually ran with ease for the first down.
Trace McSorley to Juwan Johnson beats Iowa
Barkley played perhaps the individual game of the year at Iowa, and yet Penn State still found itself trailing 19-15 after an Akrum Wadley touchdown with 1:42 left. McSorley proceeded to lead the Nittany Lions on the drive of the year, with one big fourth-down conversion and a couple key plays by Barkley before they faced fourth-and-goal at the seven-yard line with four seconds left. McSorley dropped back, got a blitz pick-up from Barkley and fired a perfect touchdown strike just over the outstretched hand of a defender into a tight window to Johnson at the back of the end zone.
Feleipe Franks stuns Tennessee
ARE YOU SERIOUS!????!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/CI6OdeYqgI- CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 16, 2017
Florida and Tennessee finished with a combined record of 8-15, but they were actually both ranked in the AP top 25 when they met in their Sept. 16 rivalry game. An ugly first three quarters turned into a fantastic finish, as 37 points were scored in the final quarter after the score was 6-3 heading into the fourth. Tennessee tied the game on a field goal with 50 seconds left, and the game appeared to be heading to overtime. But on the last play of regulation, Franks avoided a defender, stepped up and rolled to the right, then let loose a bomb to Tyrie Cleveland, who slipped behind the defense for a 63-yard game-winning touchdown.
A.J. Dillon throws off a defender
Boston College saw an unexpected scoring surge in the second half of the season, and it was sparked by the running of Dillon, a freshman. His breakout game featured 272 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-42 win over Louisville. The highlight was a 75-yard touchdown run in which he broke a tackle, then was seemingly wrapped up just beyond the line of scrimmage. But he threw the defender off of him, broke free and burst down the sideline for six.
Rosen completes a history-making comeback
"THE LEGEND OF JOSH ROSEN." https://t.co/0erAMXrOUz- FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 4, 2017
UCLA trailed Texas A&M on the Sunday before Labor Day 44-10 late in third quarter. It proceeded to go on five straight long touchdown drives to complete the second-biggest comeback in college football history, with Rosen throwing for 292 yards in the fourth quarter alone. The game-winning score came when Rosen faked a spike and threw to the corner of the end zone for Jordan Lasley, who spun around and made the catch with 43 seconds left.
Lamar Jackson makes football look easy
Maybe Jackson didn't create quite as many highlights as last year, but he was a Heisman finalist again because he put together a historically great statistical season again. In an early-season win over North Carolina, Jackson had 525 yards of total offense. Seventy-five of those yards came when he avoided a free rusher, stepped up as if he were going to run, stopped, set his feet and launched a perfect deep ball in stride to Jaylen Smith for a touchdown.
Khalil Tate burns UCLA
Despite starting only seven games, Tate became one of the season's biggest breakout players as Arizona's quarterback. He emerged with 327 rushing yards against Colorado, then had 230 against UCLA. The game against the Bruins included a 71-yard touchdown run in which most other quarterbacks would have been sacked twice. Instead, he avoided two defenders, then burst through the Bruins defense for a big play.
Darrell Langham's clutch catches
Langham played a huge role in Miami's midseason run to prominence. A week after this play, he set up the game-winning field goal with a spectacular fourth-down catch against Georgia Tech. In the rivalry game against Florida State, Miami trailed 20-17 with 11 seconds left. Malik Rosier dropped back and threw down the sideline for Langham at the four-yard line, and Langham hauled it in with a defender in his face, then dragged the defender into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.