Picking 10 individual performances for the 2013 season was impossible. There were numerous records broken and single-game totals that even make video gamers jealous. With statistics, opponent and relevance all taken into consideration, we present the Top 10 (plus a couple) individual performances from the regular season.
Long before Michigan State was riding Connor Cook and Jeremy Langford to a Big Ten title game win against Ohio State, the Spartans needed some help scoring touchdowns from the defense. Shilique Calhoun scored three touchdowns in the first two games of the season, taking a fumble and an interception back for scores in Michigan State's 21-6 win against USF. The Spartans' defense featured tons of fantastic individual performances throughout the year -- with stars like Darqueze Dennard and Denicos Allen pitching in notable performances that just made the cut for this list -- but the sophomore defensive end gets the nod for pitching in with the scoring until the offense found its rhythm for the Big Ten champs.
Georgia's brutal September schedule, which included Clemson, South Carolina and LSU, finished with a thrilling 44-41 back-and-forth home win against the Tigers. Todd Gurley left the game in the first half with an ankle injury, and the Bulldogs needed every bit of Aaron Murray's 298 yards and five total touchdowns to keep pace with a white-hot Zach Mettenberger. The game was an instant-classic in a year of high-scoring affairs in the SEC, with three fourth quarter lead changes and a game-winning touchdown pass from Murary to Justin Scott-Wesley with less than two minutes remaining. Murray's stats were better against the Gamecocks, but against the Tigers the decorated senior delivered four go-ahead scores in the second half with Gurley on the sideline.
Aaron Donald cleaned up the individual defensive awards thanks to a consistent effort and impressive season totals, but the senior's performance -- even in a losing effort -- against Georgia Tech's option attack stood among the rest. Donald dodged cut blocks and exploded into the backfield, finishing with a six tackles for loss -- the highest single game total this season in FBS play. In total, Donald finished with 11 tackles, one sack and two forced fumbles in the 21-10 loss.
When redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston was finally named the starting quarterback for Florida State, many of us figured that he would have an opportunity to lead the Seminoles back into national title contention. But Winston's near-perfect debut on Labor Day night suggested that the team had much more than a game-managing quarterback under center. Winston completed 25-of-27 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns, adding 25 rushing yards and a score on the ground. The 2013 Heisman Trophy winner rarely stumbled in his first season of college football, but Winston's dominant debut will be remembered as a seminal moment throughout his career.
Tyler Lockett holds two of the top five all-purpose performances of the 2013 season, but his 440 yards against Oklahoma was far and away the most in FBS play -- UAB wide receiver Jamarcus Nelson finished second with 367 all-purpose yards against Troy. Lockett had 12 catches for a school-record 278 yards and three touchdowns, adding 162 yards on five kick returns (32.4 yard average) to set a new school record for all-purpose yards as well. Lockett got loose early, recording 206 of his receiving yards and all three touchdowns before halftime. Unfortunately, the Wildcats were unable to keep up with Oklahoma's 301 rushing yards in the 41-31 loss.
Like Lockett, Michigan wide receiver Gallon finished the year with some padding on his lead for the best single-game receiving performance in FBS play. Gallon totaled 369 yards and two touchdowns on 14 receptions, setting new school and Big Ten single-game records in the 64-47 win. Neither Michigan nor Indiana turned in a particularly impressive defensive performance in the game, but Gallon's 343 yards in first three quarters kept the Wolverines in stride until two fourth quarter interceptions opened the door for Devin Gardner and Fitzgerald Toussaint to ice the game on the ground.
Over the last two seasons, few running backs have been as consistently effective as Ka'Deem Carey. The junior ran for more than 100 yards in every appearance this year, and only failed to do so twice in 2012. The Doak Walker Award finalist was machine-like in Arizona's shocking 42-16 upset win over then-No. 5 Oregon, rushing for 206 yards and four touchdowns on 48 carries -- the highest single-game total in FBS play this season. Carey wore down the Ducks' defensive front throughout the game with his punishing rushing style, and afterwards Rich Rodriguez joked that if given another possession, Carey could have carried the ball seven or eight more times.
Jordan Lynch finished the season with the No. 2 and No. 3 single-game rushing performances, setting a new FBS single-game rushing record for a quarterback in October against Central Michigan then breaking his own record in November against Western Michigan. While the bar has been set at 321 yards, Lynch's first record-breaking performance of the year gets the nod in these rankings. Northern Illinois was actually tied with Central Michigan (who finished the season with a 6-6 record, while Western Michigan finished 1-11) at halftime, then Lynch grained 232 of his 316 rushing yards on 18 second-half carries. By the end of the season, Lynch became only the fifth FBS quarterback to rush for 4,000 yards and pass for 5,000 yards in a career, joining Colin Kaepernick, Denard Robinson, Brad Smith and Pat White.
Consider this honor somewhat shared with Aggies wide receiver Mike Evans, who added 7 catches for 279 yards in a dominant performance against the Tide secondary, but the Aggies would not have pushed Alabama to the brink in this 49-42 shootout loss without Johnny Football under center. Manziel's 562 total yards (career-best 464 passing, 98 rushing) is the second-most in SEC history, and he did it against one of the most well-respected defenses in all of college football. It was a classic Manziel performance, complete with miracle escapes from the Alabama pass rush and Hail Mary-style throws under pressure miraculously landing in receivers' hands.
All season, Mountain West fans and NFL scouts were looking forward to the showdown of Derek Carr and David Fales in the regular season finale between Fresno State and San Jose State. Fales not only notched the victory thanks to 580 yards of total offense (547 passing, 33 rushing) but made the Spartans bowl eligible and knocked Fresno State from BCS buster status. The game started like a tennis match, with both quarterbacks leading six touchdown drives in the first half. However, the Bulldogs offense sputtered in the second half and Fales finished the day completing 35-of-47 passes and recording seven total touchdowns in the 62-52 win.
The nation's best single-game rushing performance came from the nation's leading rusher and Doak Walker Award winner. Andre Williams has been receiving well-deserved recognition, including a trip to New York City as a Heisman Trophy finalist, after totaling 2,102 yards in a historic senior season. Against N.C. State, Williams carried the ball 42 times for 339 yards and two touchdowns in Boston College's 38-21 win. He broke the ACC single-game rushing record as well as Mike Cloud's single-season school record and Thomas Jones' single-season ACC record in the win, but most importantly the Eagles became bowl eligible for the first time in three years.
Ka'Deem Carey's 48 carry workload against Oregon was nearly topped by Tre Mason as Auburn's star running back sliced and diced his way through Missouri's defense and led the Tigers to a SEC Championship and eventual BCS title game bid. Mason carried the ball 46 times for 304 yards (a SEC Championship Game record) and four touchdowns in Auburn's 59-42 win, capping the most impressive turnaround in conference history and earning a trip to New York City as a Heisman Trophy finalist. Auburn ran 85 offensive plays in the historically high-scoring SEC title game, but only attempted 11 passes. With Mason leading the way to 545 team rushing yards, you got the feeling that only the clock could slow the Tigers' ground attack. Then again, Gus Malzahn's hurry-up, no huddle offensive attack even puts the clock at a disadvantage.