Staff Picks: The most rewatchable college football games from the 2019 season

It’s been about a month of self-isolating and it’s felt like a year. As tough as times are at the moment, though, now is a good time to binge all your favorite TV shows and movies. Or, if you’re a college football fan waiting patiently for the start of the 2020 season — whenever that will be — you can go back through the catalog of games from 2019. There were plenty of great ones worth a rewatch. 

Our staff here at CBS Sports is here to give you a head start by picking our personal favorite games from last season to rewatch while you have some extra downtime. From miraculous, damn-near-impossible comebacks to offensive barn burners, let us whet your appetite for all things college football. You’ll appreciate it even more when it does return. 

Tom Fornelli: UCLA 67, Washington State 63

This was a game that had everything I could hope for. First of all, it featured a wild, incredible comeback that nobody saw coming. UCLA came into the game with a record of 0-3, having lost to both Cincinnati and San Diego State as well as Oklahoma. It looked well on its way to 0-4 when Washington State led 49-17 with 20 minutes left to play — but that’s when the fun started.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson suddenly caught fire like he was playing NBA Jam, and thanks to a few Washington State turnovers, the score somehow went from 49-17 to 49-46 in the blink of an eye; seriously, UCLA scored four touchdowns in 4:20 of game time. Wazzu finally answered with another touchdown to extend its lead back to 56-46 before UCLA put together a 70-yard touchdown drive. Then, after forcing Wazzu to punt on the following possession, Kyle Philips took a punt 69 yards to the house to give UCLA its first lead since going up 7-0 back in the first quarter (which felt like three days to this point). Then, since nothing about 2019 UCLA was allowed to come easy, WSU responded with a touchdown to take the lead back. When UCLA turned the ball over on downs on its next possession, all seemed lost until Wazzu fumbled the ball right back. Four plays and 26 yards later, Thompson-Robinson was hitting Demetric Felton for a score to make it 67-63 UCLA. Finally, at around 3 a.m. ET, UCLA’s Keisean Lucier-South stripped Wazzu QB Anthony Gordon of the ball, UCLA recovered and it was game over.

More importantly than all of that, however, was that I took UCLA +18 (again, that’s how bad UCLA had been) as one of my locks on that week’s Locks Episode of The Cover 3 Podcast. My two co-hosts, Chip Patterson and Barton Simmons, tried to talk me out of the pick, telling me I was insane. Well, we were recording our reaction pod, as we do every Saturday night, while the game was going on and the comeback took place. So not only did I watch it happen, but I was able to gloat about being right in real-time to both Chip and Barton.

Finally, I was able to work both 420 and 69 into this blurb. So, again, this game had everything in it that could make it a great game I would want to watch all over again. Especially if I’m watching with Chip and Barton.

Barrett Sallee: LSU 46, Alabama 41

How can the answer be anything other than “The Game of the Century Part 2: LSU’s Coronation?” The Tigers broke their eight-game losing streak to the mighty Crimson Tide 46-41 in the same building as their last win over Nick Saban’s crew: the first “Game of the Century” in November 2011. 

Eventual Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow threw for 393 yards and three touchdowns, solidifying himself as the best player in college football by slicing and dicing the Tide defense. The game included an inexplicable fumble by Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa on what would have been a touchdown run on the first drive of the game, a fumble by Tide punter Ty Perine, a punt return for a touchdown by Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle, an interception by LSU’s Patrick Queen that set up a massive touchdown prior to halftime, a desperation 85-yard touchdown catch by DeVonta Smith to give Alabama late life and multiple massive runs by LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire — one of the most valuable players of LSU’s season. It had everything, including the leader of the free world in attendance. Rarely do games live up to the hype. LSU-Alabama exceeded it.

Ben Kercheval: Memphis 54, SMU 48

Sweet Mary, this game was drugs. After a somewhat pedestrian first quarter in which the two teams exited with a 7-7 tie, the next three quarters averaged nearly 30 combined points. While Memphis took its lead in the second quarter and never relinquished it, SMU also never went away. In fact, the Mustangs scored 24 points in the fourth quarter because of three successful two-point conversions. Four touchdowns between the two teams in the fourth quarter came on drives of three plays or less. Only when Memphis recovered SMU’s onside kick with two minutes remaining could the Tigers breathe a sigh of relief. 

The penalties are the only knock against this game — 27 combined for 242 yards (gross) — but otherwise this was as good of a display of offense as any game last season. There were more than 1,000 yards of combined offense and zero turnovers. Both teams were good at keeping drives alive on third and fourth down as well. Memphis wideout Antonio Gibson had 386 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns — one receiving, one rushing and one on a kickoff return to start the second half. What makes this game special over your run-of-the-mill, meaningless shootout, though, was the high stakes involved. “College GameDay” was in town and the AAC West lead was on the line. 

In the grand picture, SMU-Memphis may not have been the most high-profile college game of 2019, but it was a thrill ride with elite offensive talent and fun play-calling. I’d rewatch it in a heartbeat. 

Chip Patterson: Baylor 29, TCU 23 (3OT)

Sometimes, the big game of the weekend will overshadow other action and we don’t get a chance to truly appreciate the way that we’ve reached our result by the end of a Saturday. The hype around LSU-Alabama dominated everything about the college football world on Nov. 9, 2019, but the day was loaded with notable results, beginning with Minnesota taking down No. 4 Penn State to improve to 9-0 in the noon slate and ending with Oklahoma holding off Iowa State 42-41 in the nightcap. The game of that day I want to watch back, however, is the one that made the least amount of sense on a fast-paced Saturday: Baylor’s 29-23 triple overtime win against TCU in Fort Worth. It was the story of Matt Rhule preserving an in-road to the Big 12 Championship Game, and featured one of the worst beats of the college football season for those poor bettors who took the under. 

Baylor was a strong under team in 2019, thanks to its experienced defense and the high totals the team received as a squad with a lot of team speed playing in the Big 12. But the secret was that while Rhule wanted his team to be explosive, the Bears were also methodical with the way they went about their offense. The same could be said for TCU, which had limits under the direction of freshman quarterback Max Duggan. 

Neither quarterback topped 200 passing yards or 5 yards per attempt. The winning play was the fourth interception of the game, and prior to the overtimes, neither team scored a touchdown. Watching Baylor “storm” back from a daunting 9-0 halftime deficit was wildly more intriguing than it sounds, if only because every drive that could have quickly cut the deficit or given the Bears a lead ended with a field goal to extend the drama. 

So say you are that under bettor, staring down the 49-point total and a halftime score of 9-0. You’re probably starting to count your chickens already. When Baylor’s drives keep ending in field goals, things look even better. Some may have started to sweat when the game went to overtime, but at 9-9, you’ve still got 31 points of wiggle room. Then, all of the sudden, no one could come up with a red-zone stop. Charlie Brewer ran in a touchdown on the first possession of overtime, then Max Duggan answered with a 24-yard touchdown pass on 4th and 9. The under sweats start. 

TCU didn’t even put the ball in the air for the second overtime, using five straight run plays to punch it in and take a 23-16 lead. Still, 10 points of wiggle room and all that under bettor needs is a stop. The Frogs defense appears to have a stand, the game is on the line at 4th and 5 from the 20 and Brewer connects with Denzel Mims for a touchdown. The score is 23-23, and if you had the under while watching it slip away, you are thankful that Brewer made it easy to tear up that ticket with a touchdown in two plays to take a 29-23 lead. 

There were no less than four or five times that this game seemed over, including two or three that appeared to be the end of Baylor’s undefeated start to the season. The Bears would go on to lose 34-31 to Oklahoma the following week, and then fall to the Sooners again in overtime in the Big 12 Championship Game. But the stakes of those two memorable showdowns would never have been set if not for a bananas result against TCU on a day where it seemed like everyone’s attention was elsewhere. That’s why I want to relive every bit of it. 

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