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College Football Recap: #10 and #9 of the Top 10 Countdown

Michael Maynard, Staff Writer

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Another college football season, another National Championship for Alabama. The Tide winning titles under Head Coach Nick Saban is a pattern of dominance resembling the New England Patriots. After sneaking into the College Football Playoff, Saban captured his fifth title at Alabama in a narrow defeat of SEC foe Georgia.

While a National Championship is the ultimate prize, it doesn’t define every team’s season. It will show Georgia came up just short, but it won’t show how former Saban assistant Kirby Smart built the Bulldogs back to national prominence within 2 years. It won’t tell the turnaround of Michigan State, from 3-9 to 10-3. And it won’t show how UCF was not given the chance to play for a National Championship despite posting the first undefeated season in the playoff era.

When you spend 14 weeks plus 40 bowl games of watching college football like I did, a lot of memorable moments occur. While I could write an entire book about every impactful moment of the season, I’d rather use the top 10 games of the year to do so.

Brace up,  there’s no college football for eight months, so savor the memories while they’re still fresh and relive this season one final time, one game at a time. Up first this week is…

#10: Oklahoma 31, Ohio State 16
A year after being throttled by the Buckeyes on their home field, Oklahoma went into Columbus and reversed the result. The game announced the Sooners as a national contender, and showed there would be no drop off in 34 year old Head Coach Lincoln Riley’s first year at OU.

In the decisive win, Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield (above, #6) once again established himself as a polarizing yet must-watch player. Mayfield’s story has been an intriguing one to follow. After starting at Texas Tech, he transferred to Oklahoma and walked on. Mayfield took the job in 2015, and led the Sooners to the playoff, where they lost to Clemson. Mayfield had another strong 2016, leading Oklahoma to an 11-2 record and Sugar Bowl win over Auburn.

However, it’s not always been positive for Mayfield. He’s become one of the most polarizing athletes, from both his stellar play and pattern of immature actions. He was arrested this prior offseason stemming from a public intoxication situation. After winning the Ohio State game, he ran out to midfield with the Oklahoma flag, and planted it on the Ohio State logo. In a late season matchup, he made an explicit gesture towards the Kansas bench that resulted in him being benched for part of the next game.

Nonetheless, there is no doubting Mayfield’s status as one of the biggest competitors of the generation. His underdog story has fueled his drive to becoming one of the best college athletes in recent memory. Aside from a Week 6 home loss to Iowa State, Mayfield led the Sooners to an unblemished record, with key wins at Oklahoma State and twice against TCU, en route to their third consecutive Big 12 title and a playoff spot. More on that later.

#9: Georgia 20, Notre Dame 19

This matchup made headlines for being the first matchup between the two blue blood programs since the 1981 Sugar Bowl. The present day matchup matched up two of the most uncertain teams in the country.

Notre Dame was desperate for momentum following a disastrous 4-8 2016. Following that season, Head Coach Brian Kelly watched QB Deshone Kizer leave for the draft, hired two new coordinators, and geared up for a season with dwindling patience from the fan base.

After going 8-5 in Smart’s first year, Georgia returned Senior RBs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in addition to former 5-star QB Jacob Eason. However, Eason injured his knee in an opening week win versus Appalachian State,throwing true Freshman Jake Fromm (#11 above) into the fire. The Notre Dame game was his first start, and his first test as a college QB.

The game was a slugfest, with the teams trading field goals in the 4th quarter, and Georgia forced a late fumble to secure a road win against South Bend. While a heartbreaking loss for Notre Dame, their season was a big step forward from 2016. They beat up on rivals Michigan State and USC, but late season losses to Miami and Stanford halted their playoff aspirations.

Meanwhile, Georgia kept winning, so Fromm kept starting. The Dawgs breezed through the SEC, aside from a road loss to Auburn that was later avenged in the Conference Championship game. With a Saban oriented approach, Smart led Georgia to their first playoff spot.

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College Football Recap: #10 and #9 of the Top 10 Countdown