10 Best SEC Football Plays of the Year
The 2012 season was a banner year in the SEC. Six teams from the nation's top football conference landed in the Top 10 of the final BCS standings, and the conference will play for its seventh straight BCS National Championship when No. 2 Alabama squares off with No. 1 Notre Dame at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. on Jan. 7.
Along the way, there were some highlight-reel plays made from stars around the conference.
Which plays were the best?
Our top 10 plays of the SEC in 2012 are in this slideshow.
10. Texas A&M WR Thomas Johnson's One-Handed Catch vs. Florida
Quarterback Johnny Manziel stole most of the highlights for the Texas A&M Aggies en route to becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. But wide receiver Thomas Johnson got the highlights going in A&M's season-opener versus Florida.
Late in the first quarter, Manziel rolled to his right and lofted a little floater to Johnson, who made a ridiculous one-handed catch on the sideline for a first down.
The catch kept A&M's drive alive and led to the team's first touchdown of the year. Ultimately, the Aggies would fall to the Gators 20-17 in College Station; but the highlights kept on coming all season long in Aggieland.
9. Georgia LB Jarvis Jones' Interception and Return vs. Missouri
Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones missed two games, but still managed to put up video-game numbers in 2012. The junior outside linebacker finished the season with 77 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and one interception.
That one interception makes our top 10 plays of 2012, as it was the culmination of a dominating half of play at Missouri that helped Georgia secure a win in Missouri's first SEC game.
With 7:45 to play and the Tigers down seven, Missouri quarterback James Franklin dropped back and was picked off by Jones, who returned the ball all the way to the 1-yard line, setting up a touchdown that put the game out of reach.
Georgia would go on to win 41-20 and ultimately play for the SEC title in early December.
8. Ole Miss RB Jeff Scott's 56-Yard Touchdown Catch vs. Auburn
When Auburn travelled to Oxford on October 13 to take on the Ole Miss Rebels, it was in search of its first SEC win of the season.
Down seven with just over five minutes to play, the Tigers forced the Rebels into a 3rd-and-16 situation from their own 44-yard line. A stop meant that the Tigers could get the ball back with a chance to tie.
Instead, Ole Miss running back Jeff Scott went all Michael Dyer on the Tigers, catching a pass over the middle, rolling over a defender without touching the ground and taking it all the way in for the touchdown.
The play put the game out of reach, kick-started Ole Miss' bowl run and sent Auburn's season spiraling even more out of control.
7. Georgia LB Jarvis Jones' Strip of Florida's Jordan Reed
The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party turned out to be the de facto SEC East Championship Game in 2012—and it was Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones that preserved the win for the Bulldogs.
With Florida down eight points with just over two minutes to play, Gator quarterback Jeff Driskel hit tight end Jordan Reed over the middle. Reed broke a tackle and took off toward the end zone. He leaped at the 5-yard line to avoid two defenders, and Jones punched the ball out from behind.
Georgia recovered the fumble in the end zone, preserving the lead, which gave the Bulldogs the tiebreaker over the Gators and earned them a ticket to the SEC Championship Game.
6. Florida's Blocked Field Goal to Beat Louisiana-Lafayette
Sure, Florida was woefully unprepared for Louisiana-Lafayette, and it nearly cost the team the game. Sleepwalking aside, anytime you get a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown in the closing seconds to win a game, it deserves to be in the top 10.
With the game tied at 20 with 13 seconds left, Florida's Loucheiz Purifoy came in untouched and blocked the Ragin Cajuns' punt, which was caught on the fly by linebacker Jelani Jenkins at the 35-yard line and returned for the touchdown with five seconds showing on the clock.
It's true that the Gators shouldn't have been in that situation to begin with, and they were probably playing down to their competition. But had it not been for that play, the Gators wouldn't be playing in a BCS bowl this holiday season.
5. Alabama RB T.J. Yeldon's Game-Winning Reception vs. LSU
I know...a screen pass isn't exactly the most exciting play in college football.
But this particular one is one of the primary reasons why Alabama will be playing for its third crystal football in four seasons on Jan. 7 at Sun Life Stadium.
After LSU kicker Drew Alleman missed a field goal with 1:34 to play that would have put the Tigers up six, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron led the Crimson Tide on one of the most remarkable drives in recent Alabama history.
He hit wide receiver Kevin Norwood three straight times before an incomplete pass gave the Tide a 2nd-and-10 from the LSU 28-yard line. Instead of sitting back, LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis called a blitz, which allowed Tide running back T.J. Yeldon plenty of room to take the screen pass, make a man miss and scamper 28 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
The play kept Alabama's unbeaten season alive for one more week.
4. South Carolina WR Ace Sanders' Punt Return vs. Missouri
You could choose several of Ace Sanders' punt returns from 2012 for the top 10, but the one early in the second quarter vs. Missouri was especially stunning.
With the game knotted at zero and the Tigers pinned deep, Sanders fielded a punt at his own 47-yard line, took off up the middle, bounced off his own man, broke several Missouri tackles, juked a Tiger out of his shoes and carried it all the way to the 4-yard line.
The return set up a Marcus Lattimore touchdown run from two yards out, giving the Gamecocks a 7-0 lead and kick-starting the Gamecocks en route to the 31-10 beatdown of the Tigers.
Sanders made the highlight reel with his punt returns early and often in 2012, and this one against Missouri was his best.
3. LSU WR Jarvis Landry's Sick One-Handed Catch vs. Arkansas
As is often the case, the LSU vs. Arkansas game went a little crazy, as the Tigers held on to topple the Razorbacks 20-13 in Fayetteville.
They have wide receiver Jarvis Landry to thank for it.
Landry made a ridiculous one-handed catch in the back of the end zone on a pass that was behind him late in the second quarter to give the Tigers a 10-0 lead on the Hogs.
It was one of those catches that make you say, "There's no way he caught that." That is, of course, until you watch the replay three or four times and then sit back, laugh and say "wow."
2. Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel's Bobble, Recovery and TD Pass vs. Alabama
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel made the highlight reels all season long, but his biggest highlight came in his biggest game of the season—Texas A&M's 29-24 win over then-No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
The Aggies jumped out to a 20-0 first-quarter lead on the Crimson Tide, and the highlight of the scoring barrage was Manziel's 10-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Swope for the second score of the game.
On 3rd-and-goal from the 10-yard line, Manziel rolled right, was stopped, fumbled the ball up in the air, recovered rolled left and found a wide-open Swope in the back of the end zone.
It was Manziel's "Heisman moment" in his "Heisman Game," and it will ultimately go down in Aggie history as one of the most memorable plays in program history.
1. Alabama LB C.J. Mosley Tipping the Final Pass of the SEC Championship Game
The 2012 SEC Championship Game will go down as one of the most exciting games in SEC history. After a back-and-forth battle, Georgia found itself down four points with 1:08 to play and 85 yards away from the end zone.
Quarterback Aaron Murray led the Bulldogs on a feverish drive down to the Alabama 8-yard line with 15 seconds on the clock.
Instead of spiking the football, head coach Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo chose to try to catch the Tide off-guard by calling a back-shoulder fade. That pass was tipped by Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley, and it fell in the arms of Bulldog wide receiver Chris Conley in bounds as time ran dry.
Lost in the debate on whether or not Georgia should have spiked the ball is the fact that Mosley made a tremendous play getting upfield fast enough and having the presence of mind to get up in the air to tip the pass.
It wasn't the most amazing play this season in college football, but it was the most important. Had it not been for Mosley, Georgia could be playing for the crystal football on Jan. 7 instead of his Crimson Tide. At the very least, the Bulldogs would have had one more shot at finding the end zone.
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