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Best 7 College Football Opening Week Games Since 2000

The college football season kicks off in a matter of days. A handful of Week 0 games will be played on August 27. The most notable matchup is Nebraska vs. Northwestern, which takes place in Dublin, Ireland.

Week 1 marks college football’s official opening weekend. We are in for a treat with multiple must-see non-conference clashes, like Notre Dame vs. Ohio State and Oregon vs. Georgia.

Best 7 College Football Opening Week Games Since 2000
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Before the 2022 season starts, let’s take a trip down memory lane. Here are the best 7 college football opening week games since 2000.

  • August 31, 2002: No. 11 Huskies vs No. 13 Wolverines

Washington vs Michigan was an anticipated top 25 matchup to start the 2002 season. It was a QB duel in front of a Wolverine home crowd. Washington’s Cody Pickett finished with 318 passing yards and a 131.8 passer rating, while Michigan’s John Navarre totaled 268 passing yards paired with a 120.6 passer rating.

The game featured a thrilling end and over 800 yards of offense. The Wolverines led 28-23 with 12:40 remaining in the fourth quarter. Washington silenced a ruckus crowd with a rushing touchdown. The Huskies led 29-28 with 8:40 on the clock. Following several defensive stops, Michigan had one final chance. With six seconds remaining, kicker Philip Brabbs was cool and collected, knocking through a game-winning 44-yard field goal. The Wolverines won a thriller, 31-29.

  • September 4, 2004: Beavers vs No. 4 LSU

After winning the 2003 National Championship, LSU entered the 2004 season ranked fourth. The Tigers were loaded with talent, including future first-rounders Marcus Spears and JaMarcus Russell. In Week 1, LSU was heavy favorites against a visiting Pac-12 team, Oregon State. On paper, the Beavers were outmatched in almost every way. Plus, it was an evening game in Death Valley, which is easily one of college football’s most significant home advantages.

However, Oregon State fought until the last seconds. It was a strange game, which worked in the Beavers’ favor. To start, there was a 46-minute weather delay. In addition, LSU’s starting QB Marcus Randall struggled, completing 5 of 15 passing in the first half for 17 yards. Freshman Russell took over in the second half as the Tigers trailed 9-0.

Missed extra points from Oregon State’s kicker, Alexis Serna, gave LSU a chance. This became a major problem when the Tigers trailed 15-7 in the fourth. If Serna converted both extra points, OSU would have led 17-7. Instead, LSU was within one score. You know what happened… Russell led LSU to a dramatic 38-yard touchdown pass followed by a successful two-point conversation. The game was headed to overtime.

LSU got the ball first and scored a touchdown. Oregon State answered with a 19-yard touchdown pass. It appeared second overtime was imminent. Then, the unthinkable happened. Serna missed another extra point. Thanks to the Beavers’ stunning kicking mistakes, LSU won 22-21.

Best 7 College Football Opening Week Games Since 2000
JaMarcus Russell
ROBERT LABERGE / Getty Images North America / Getty Images via AFP
  • September 1, 2007: Mountaineers vs No. 5 Spartans

This matchup was one of college football’s best upsets. Michigan began the 2007 season ranked fifth and was favored by over 30 points against Appalachian State. The first quarter went as expected with the Wolverines leading 14-7. In the second quarter, the Mountaineers put Michigan on notice. Appalachian State closed the first half on a 21-3 run. The Wolverines trailed 28-17.

The second half was a defensive battle with both teams struggling to piece together drives. Going into the fourth, Michigan was down 31-26. Following several stops, the Wolverines’ Mike Hart ripped off a 54-yard rushing touchdown. Michigan led 32-31. We have seen this story many times. A heavy underdog nearly gets it done, but trips in the final minutes. It appeared Appalachian State would fall short after quarterback Armanti Edwards threw an interception on the first play of the following drive.

Michigan had the ball on the Mountaineers’ 43-yard line with 4:31 on the clock. Appalachian State flipped all momentum after blocking Michigan’s 43-yard field goal attempt. The Mountaineers had 1:37 to score. The offense suddenly looked like a well-oiled machine. Appalachian State was on the goal line, attempting a 24-yard field goal. The kick was true, putting the Mountainers up 34-32 with 21 seconds left.

The drama continued. Chad Henne completed a 46-yard pass, putting Michigan in the red zone. With six seconds left, Michigan lined up for a potential game-winning 37-yard field goal. Surely, the heavy home favorite would seal the deal, right? Think again, Appalachian State did the impossible. The Mountaineers blocked the field goal, which was their second within about four minutes. Chaos ensued; the college football world witnessed a legendary upset.

  • September 6, 2010: No. 3 Broncos vs No. 10 Hokies

Boise State and Virginia Tech’s 2010 meeting is the best opening weekend Top 25 game since 2000. The game featured stars, like Kellen Moore, it was high-scoring and the finish had fans on the edge of their seats.

At first, it seemed the game would be a major disappointment. In front of a wild Virginia Tech crowd, Boise State quickly silenced the crowd, taking a 17-0 lead headed into the second. The Hokies answered with a 14-3 run in the second quarter. Boise State led 20-14 at halftime.

Virginia Tech kept the momentum rolling. Going into the fourth, the Hokies led 27-26. With about eight minutes left, Boise State was in big trouble. The offense was sputtering due to an impressive Virginia Tech defense.

It was now or never. Boise State took over on its own 44-yard line with 1:47 remaining. Superstar QB Moore showed why he was one of CFB’s best. The Broncos’ quarterback went 4 of 5 against a ferocious Hokie defense. With 1:09 on the clock, Moore found Austin Pettis for a 13-yard touchdown. Leading 33-30, Boise State needed one more defensive stand. The Broncos’ defense delivered with a quick four-play stop. Virginia Tech’s 17-point comeback fell short; Boise State escaped with a 33-30 win.

Best 7 College Football Opening Week Games Since 2000
Austin Pettis | Donald Miralle/Getty Images/AFP

For seven years, college football opening week games disappointed. Finally, Tennessee and Georgia Tech delivered a nail-biter in 2017.

Tennessee was ranked No. 25, hoping for a double-digit win season. Georgia Tech figured to be at the bottom of the ACC. No one expected much from Tennesse vs. Georgia Tech. However, the two went score-for-score from start to finish. They weren’t powerhouses, but it didn’t matter. This was a game to remember.

Georgia Tech put up ridiculous numbers: 655 yards and 535 rushing yards. The Yellow Jackets’ quarterback TaQuon Marshall had 44 carries for 249 rushing yards. The triple-option was so effective that Georgia Tech attempted 10 passes total. Tennessee’s running back John Kelly Jr. rushed for 128 yards and four touchdowns.

The fourth quarter was when things really took off. The Volunteers trailed 28-14 with 13:08 on the clock. Tennessee cut the lead to 28-21 at 11:49 in the fourth. Georgia Tech made a costly mistake in the final minutes. J.J. Green rumbled down the field for 36 yards, but he fumbled on Tennessee’s 7-yard line. The Volunteers recovered with 4:50 remaining. Kelly capped a 93-yard drive with a rushing touchdown. Tennessee knotted the game at 28, forcing overtime.

The two exchanged touchdowns, leading to a second overtime. Kelly scored another touchdown in the second overtime, giving the Volunteers a 42-35 lead. Following a Georgia Tech touchdown, Head Coach Paul Johnson decided to go for the win with a two-point try. Tennessee’s defense held strong, stuffing Marshall on the goal line. The Volunteers won the back-and-forth affair, 42-41.

  • September 1, 2018: Mountaineers vs No. 10 Nittany Lions

For Week 1 of 2018, No. 10 Penn State was favored by over 20 points against Appalachian State. Many believed the spread was too low, so they hammered a Nittany Lions cover. Once again, Appalachian State had an upset on its mind.

Penn State was on its way to covering, leading 24-10 going into the fourth. The Mountaineers’ offense stumbled through three quarters against a tough Nittany Lion defense. Quarterback Zac Thomas got it rolling in the final quarter. All of a sudden, Appalachian State was unstoppable.

The Mountaineers led 38-31 following a 28-7 run. Penn State had about 1:40 to score. Trace McSorley led the offense with poise, finishing a 48-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown strike to K.J. Hamler. After Appalachian State missed a 56-yard field goal, the game went to overtime.

Penn State rode its lead back, Miles Sanders, for four consecutive plays, leading to a four-yard touchdown run. Following a first down, Appalachian State had a 1st and 10 on Penn State’s 15-yard line. Thomas dropped back and threw into double-coverage. Defensive back Amani Oruwariye ended the game with an interception. The Nittany Lions avoided a catastrophic upset.

Best 7 College Football Opening Week Games Since 2000
Trace McSorley | Joe Sargent/Getty Images/AFP
  • September 5, 2021: No. 9 Fighting Irish vs Seminoles

Night games at Raymond James Stadium are special. The “war chant” echoes through the stadium, creating a daunting atmosphere. Florida State fans were revved up for a season-opening Sunday night clash with No. 9 Notre Dame.

In the first half, neither team could pull away. Notre Dame led 17-14 at halftime. Following a 21-6 third-quarter run, the Fighting Irish led 38-20 going into the fourth. Suddenly, you could hear a pin drop. The once ruckus crowd was silent. Florida State needed a huge final quarter to come back. That’s exactly what happened.

The Seminoles outscored Notre Dame 18-0 in the fourth. Florida State finished a 46-yard drive with a 43-yard field goal. The game was tied at 38 with 40 seconds left. The Fighting Irish threw an interception on the next possession, sending the game to overtime.

Notre Dame’s defense stepped up to the plate in overtime. Florida State was forced to kick a 37-yard field goal on a 4th & 4. Kicker Ryan Fitzgerald was off left. The Fighting Irish needed a field goal to end the game. The Seminoles gave up two yards on three plays. Notre Dame’s kicker Jonathan Doerer attempted a 41-yard field goal on a 4th and 8. The kick sliced through the uprights, giving the Fighting Irish a 41-38 win.

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