50 Best College Football Images of 2012

Jonathan McDanal@@jdmcdanalContributor IIIDecember 31, 2012

50 Best College Football Images of 2012

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    The best images of college football's 2012 season are as varied as the stories that drove this season forward every week. From opposite ends of the spectrum of success, Colorado, Notre Dame and a lot of teams in between are all represented in some fashion.

    The pictures themselves were selected based on the following three questions:

    1. Is it funny?

    2. Is it unusual?

    3. Is it powerful?

    If the picture met any or all of those criteria, the story it told played the biggest remaining part in its ranking on the list.

    With those criteria in mind, here are the 50 best images of the 2012 college football season.

50. Mr. Oreo: King of Irony

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    Mr. Oreo showed up at the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl again this season, but this time, he was shaking hands with Senator John McCain.

    Last season, this bowl kicked off with an Oreo flip instead of a coin toss, and the tradition of irony continued in 2012. This time, the Oreo is bigger.

    Nabisco has hundreds of products that it could have chosen to represent the Kraft brand in the bowl. Kraft decided to go through the list and pick out one of its least nutritious items to represent the fight against world hunger.

    Fans of irony, your king is here.

49. Disinterested Michigan State Fan

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    This photo was taken right after Michigan State missed a potential game-tying field goal in the third quarter against Boise State.

    The Spartans had already committed three interceptions and a turnover on downs at the time, and Spartans fans were clearly not interested in seeing how else they would try to hand the Broncos the win.

    Ultimately, Michigan State won the game with a fourth-quarter touchdown around the eight-minute mark, but this guy may have fallen asleep by then.

48. Nick Saban Interning

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    Nick Saban apparently is interning at Publix during the downtime between the Iron Bowl and the 2013 BCS National Championship Game.

    Not really, but this employee would certainly make an Alabama fan do a double-take if they happened upon him in Orlando.

    Anyone who dislikes the Crimson Tide should probably print this out and keep a copy handy for those times when they wish to imagine Alabama without St. Nick. (It's a lot easier to do if you can first see him somewhere else.)

47. Proof That Refs Are Human

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    The Florida vs. Florida State game was decided by 11 points, and there was a controversial interception by Marcus Roberson in Florida territory that slightly assisted the Gators in the win.

    From this picture, you can see that the call was probably incorrect, as his toes are touching the white line. A touchdown still wouldn't have caused the outcome to be different, but it could have affected Florida State for the rest of the game.

    Either way, it's great to have a shot of the refs getting one wrong, and that puts it on the list.

46. Army Flyover

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    The Army-Navy game is one of the great traditions of college football, and so is the flyover. Prior to the 2012 game, two completely different squadrons passed over the stadium. Army brought its squad of helicopters to contrast Navy's choice of bird.

    The helicopters bring a unique noise and a more visually aggressive presence to the field. There is something powerful about the slower, more deliberate flight of the helicopters that inspires trust in the motto "Army Strong."

45. Navy Flyover

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    This is the F-18 squadron performing at the Army-Navy game. The F-18s pop against the clear blue background of the sky, and the resulting image is in the upper tier of examples of this type of event.

    The F-18 is one of the most maneuverable planes in the world, and it's an icon representing our nation's Navy. The F-18 flyover is one of the best you will see at a regular season college football game, and the photographer earned his spot on the list with this shot.

44. Flyover: Duke at Florida State

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    The well-executed flyover is one of the best parts of attending a live college football game. The Duke-Florida State game on Oct. 27 did not disappoint.

    The picture here was chosen because of the multiple subjects and the non-traditional flyover. The band, the cheerleaders and the helicopter all in the same shot sets it apart from the rest.

43. Cheerleaders

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    A big part of college football is the energy supplied by the cheerleaders and the home crowds. The combination of energy from the cheer squad and the fact that the home fans know the cheers leads to electric atmospheres all across the country.

    The Texas Tech girls shown here are actually captured on film for their athletic ability. Not to stereotype, but a lot of the cheerleading pictures out there are not of athletic prowess.

    This picture is set up so that the background contrasts the uniform colors nicely. If you've ever been to a game, you know how difficult it is to get a shot of the girls without the team colors interfering with everything.

42. Catholics vs. Cousins

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    This T-shirt was another polarizing image from the 2012 college football vault. Ex-Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen tweeted the pic, and the backlash caused him to delete the tweet quickly.

    The hardest part to understand about a T-shirt like this is why it was made. Notre Dame has plenty of substantial evidence to support a "we-are-going-to-beat-you" design; why bring this type of thing into it?

41. Auburn Tattoo Fail I

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    An Auburn Tigers fan was spotted with a lower-back tattoo, via Yardbarker.com. That may not surprise you, but this is a male Auburn fan.

    Generally speaking, these tattoos don't appear on men. The Yardbarker link attests to that. This pic was selected based on its facepalm score. There's only one picture here with a higher "whoops" factor than this one.

40. Auburn Tattoo Fail II

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    Reuben Foster, the 5-star recruit, got a tattoo to commemorate his commitment to Auburn earlier in the season.

    According to that link, via LarryBrownSports.com, Foster will keep his tattoo despite his change of mind about Auburn. For maximum irony, he should seriously consider Alabama.

    Don't make permanent statements on your body before you've used permanent ink on paper, kids.

39. Awkward Introduction

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    It's surprising that pictures like this don't show up more often. With dozens of games happening every week and dozens of plays per game, these coincidences should be much more common.

    The player on the ground under the LSU Tiger's butt is Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel. It's a hilariously awkward introduction to the SEC-style defense that he will face for the rest of his career.

    He's surely thankful that nobody included this in the storyline portion of the Heisman presentation in New York. Welcome to the SEC, Manziel.

38. A. Human Plays for Ohio State

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    There are a ton of ways that players' names can be funny, but this one is unique. It's a simple quirk of the physics of jersey material that allowed A. Human on the field for Ohio State.

    That is correct; there is technically not A. Human on the Ohio State roster. This picture is of senior running back Adam Homan, and it's in the top tier of funny pictures from the 2012 season.

37. USC Flag Kiffin Tribute

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    Lane Kiffin's visor is even more famous than his beanie. That statement is based solely on the size of their Twitter followings.

    Kiffin's visor has gained so much attention that this T-shirt started selling in the USC bookstore. It's a parody of the California state flag.

    It's nice to see the school supporting the new coach as he tries to rebuild a program that's still hurting from its previous sanctions.

36. Antone Exum Jr. and the Impromptu Shopping Spree

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    Virginia Tech's Antone Exum, Jr. decided to hand his $470 Best Buy gift card from the Russell Athletic Bowl over to three kids he met in the store instead of on himself.

    Exum shows a generosity that many people would not have if they were slaving away in a weight room for no financial gain. Football players could easily spend their workouts at on-campus jobs for spending money.

    Exum's decision to give away all the money he made this season is commendable, and it's definitely fitting with the theme of the Christmas season.

35. Johnny Football

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    After Johnny Manziel put his name on the Heisman watch list, this picture surfaced showing Manziel as a toddler with a football.

    It's no wonder that he ended up with the backyard skills he has used all season. He extends plays beyond the time that normal defenses are prepared to cover, and he even executes seemingly miraculous plays with his innate field awareness.

34. Georgia Teased About Suspensions

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    The sign, spotted at the Georgia vs. South Carolina game earlier in the season, is one of the funniest of the year.

    This article from FoxSports.com references Georgia's suspensions of Alec Ogletree, Bacarri Rambo, Sanders Commings and Chase Vasser. Georgia would field all four players for the South Carolina game, but that didn't stop this fan from taking a stab at the Bulldogs.

    "Georgia suspended my other sign" is one of the funniest signs of 2012, and it simply had to be included.

33. The Notorious T-M-7

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    This image makes the cut due to sheer appropriate clothing choices by the "Honey Badger." TM7, or Tyrann Mathieu, was kicked out of the LSU Tigers program during the offseason, but he showed up at the LSU vs. Washington game.

    He is notorious for squandering an opportunity at one of the best programs in the SEC, and his shirt fits the situation perfectly.

    Maybe we will see a new nickname: "The Notorious T.M.7."

32. Todd Gurley Fans Are Hardcore

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    Some of the older Saturday Night Live skits just won't completely die, and this sign stands as a hilarious testament to that.

    "I'm a Gurly man" is a reference to Georgia's freshman standout, Todd Gurley. He's the team's leading scorer with 16 touchdowns. That's more than half of Georgia's 31 rushing touchdowns as a team.

    If you have seen the skit, there's no way you can read that sign in a normal voice.

31. NC State Fan

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    NC State did not have a season worthy of this kind of celebration, but the Florida State match certainly justified a little shirt-twirling.

    NC State hosted the Seminoles and upset them, 17-16, after trailing 16-0 at halftime. At the time, Florida State was ranked No. 3 in the AP Poll. The Wolfpack had every reason to celebrate as if they had won a national championship.

    Even beating Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl would not top this victory.

30. Aaron Murray Has a 'Whoa!' Moment

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    Alabama's Quinton Dial delivered the "hit heard 'round the world" just milliseconds after this photo was taken. Murray had just thrown an interception, and he was trotting over toward the returner with his eyes on the ball when Dial came from his left to deliver a monster hit.

    The hit created quite the stir, as the 375 comments on this article will attest to. We won't take the time to weigh in on that discussion here, but the look on Murray's face is certainly memorable.

    Hilarious to some and highly disturbing to others, this pic is the most polarizing of the season.

29. Sun Lifeless Stadium

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    This is a shot of the Miami Hurricanes' stadium just 18 minutes before kickoff of the Bethune-Cookman game.

    Miami had a decent year, and it would have appeared in the ACC title game if not for a self-imposed postseason ban that kept it out of it.

    While nobody expects a sellout crowd for a game like that, this was just sad. The articles floating around the Internet even hit a nerve with some Miami fans.

    This was the most depressing stadium shot of the season, and it makes the list as such.

28. Grown Man Football

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    After Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson took a verbal shot across the bow of the Georgia program, the Bulldogs were riled up for the match.

    Richardson used the term "old-man football" instead of "grown-man football" in order to convey that he wasn't scared of the defending SEC East division champions.

    He inadvertently motivated the Bulldogs to hand Missouri a 41-20 loss in its own backyard. Georgia outlasted Missouri and scored 32 of its 41 points in the second half.

    The response from the Georgia sideline was this white board with "GROWN MAN FOOTBALL" written on it. Missouri, you just got served.

27. Ohio State Wookie

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    College football fans are crazy, but this one takes the cake. This Ohio State fan looks a lot like the Stanford tree if it were given a Star Wars or Call of Duty makeover.

    This is definitely a mix of a ghillie suit, a wookie and an Ohio State-themed Christmas tree. If you're looking for a unique take on how to dress for a Buckeyes game, you've just found it.

26. Arizona State Pyro Display

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    This image is from the battle between Oregon and Arizona State. This is one of the most eye-catching stadium shots of the season.

    The fireworks, the pitchfork formation on the field and the sunset outlining the stadium earned this pic a spot on the list.

    If Arizona State played as well as its stadium looks, the Sun Devils would be Pac-12 contenders.

25. Action Shot of ULM's Upset over Arkansas

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    Louisiana-Monroe scored the greatest upset in the history of the school against then-No. 8 Arkansas. As a result of the loss, Arkansas dropped all the way out of the AP Poll the next day.

    The shot of the helpless Arkansas defender being flown over by a Warhawk is a snapshot of the entire second half of the game.

    This type of action shot is rare, almost as rare as a win this big. The drop from No. 8 to not ranked was the second-biggest drop in AP Poll history.

24. Lee Corso at the Zoo

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    Lee Corso is one of the most entertaining people in the college football nation. Without him, ESPN's GameDay would not draw nearly as many fans as it does.

    While he can sometimes come off as the loony old man from the house on the corner, his character is lighthearted and fun every single week. When he broke out the baby albino alligator, he took his role to a whole new level.

    It was one of the most memorable moments of Corso's career, not just this season.

23. Lee Corso at the Zoo, Round II

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    Lee Corso hits the list with a live animal for a second time. It doesn't matter how famous you get, you're going to pet a dog.

    Seeing the human side of celebrities is always fun. That's why we like it when they do something stupid and it gets caught on camera. It shows us that they really aren't that different from us.

    It also shows his intelligence as a picker, as Texas A&M was a safe bet in all but two of its games.

22. Notre Dame vs. the SEC Champion

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    In the vein of "grown man football," this cartoon made the rounds between the Notre Dame/USC game and the SEC Championship Game.

    Notre Dame has won every game it has played, but that doesn't mean that it is ready to go 60 minutes with an SEC squad. The Irish will once again be underdogs in a major game this season, and they have rewritten that story multiple times this year.

    Regardless of whether you believe the comic is true, it's definitely funny.

21. Somebody Misspelled 'Divorced'

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    This sign would make more sense if it read, "Behind every great man is a divorced woman that steals his SEC ticket and leaves him home alone."

    If this sign is completely honest, you have to admire her for her courage and forethought. She couldn't have made the sign at home, or he would have seen it and secured his SEC ticket somewhere she couldn't find it.

    A little imagination gets you another possible explanation: She found the ticket he was hiding from her, and this was his punishment.

    Either way, this sign deserves to be on the list.

20. Anthony Amos' One-Handed Catch

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    Middle Tennessee took on Georgia Tech back in Week 5, and the Blue Raiders came away with the play of the game. (Possibly the play of the week.)

    That was when Anthony Amos came down with his amazing one-handed catch in the end zone to tie the game at seven.

    This picture was selected because it highlighted his awareness and concentration after the initial contact with the ball. You can see the .gif version here.

19. The Buffalo Run

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    Colorado may have had one of the worst seasons in college football, but it has one of the biggest mascots in the nation.

    The live buffalo running across the field is one of those bucket-list experiences in the college football world. This picture shows the size and speed of the event, and it's not duplicated anywhere else in FBS football.

18. William Gholston's Potential Injury

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    Michigan State DE William Gholston was part of a gang-tackle against Ohio State's Braxton Miller in Week 5, and he lay motionless on the field for a brief period before walking off.

    As you can see from this YouTube video, the seconds did not pass quickly between the hit and the time he first moved.

    This picture made the list because it was one of the scariest moments of the season.

17. Best Fan-Interference Event of the Decade

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    The BYU vs. Utah game had the wildest finish of the season by a long shot. With 1:11 to go in the game, BYU got the ball trailing by three points.

    On a 2nd-and-10 from the Utah 34, the Cougars missed on a pass attempt. Utah fans rushed the field when the ball hit the ground, but the play was under review. Security had to get the fans back off the field after one second was placed back on the clock.

    The next play was a 51-yard field-goal attempt that Utah blocked, but the fans had again rushed the field before the ball was dead. This time, it cost Utah 15 yards.

    The final play of the game was a 36-yard field-goal attempt that bounced off the upright. The fans got it right that time, and Utah won by three points after its fans tried to throw the game into overtime.

    Fans rushed the field a total of three times at the end of the game, and it was the craziest moment of the season.

16. Baylor Upsets Kansas State

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    There were many games that decided which two teams would battle for the national championship, but only one scoreboard shot that makes this list.

    It's a simple shot that can be taken at any game, so it's not the uniqueness of the picture itself that earned it the spot. Heading into this game, Baylor was unranked and Kansas State was No. 1.

    Unranked Baylor crushed the top-ranked Wildcats by 28 points, and the scoreboard shot was priceless. The SEC had knocked itself out of the national championship in the previous week with Alabama's loss to Texas A&M, and the national championship streak was guaranteed to come to an end if the top three teams could just win out.

    This game put the SEC champion back in the hunt for the crystal football.

15. Stanford Wishes Alabama a Merry Christmas

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    Baylor knocked off Kansas State, and the Alabama and Georgia fanbases paid attention to the Stanford-Oregon game to see if Santa Claus was handing out early Christmas presents.

    As it turns out, he was. Stanford held Oregon to 14 points in regulation, and the Cardinal scored the game-tying touchdown with under two minutes to play.

    In overtime, Oregon missed its field goal, and Stanford hit its three-pointer. Just one week after Alabama wrecked the SEC's shot at the national championship, Baylor and Stanford handed the opportunity back to the SEC champion. (Assuming that everyone won their final few games, of course.)

    This picture was selected for its generous helping of sheer excitement on the faces of the Cardinal players, including Kevin Hogan, who is currently filling the shoes of Andrew Luck.

    This is the game that put Stanford in position to win the Pac-12.

14. Thank You

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    Alabama fans knew that the Tide would need help to get back into the title game. No amount of winning was going to allow a one-loss SEC champ to jump over the undefeated champs from either the Pac-12 or Big 12.

    While the Tide still needed to win out to get in the title game, it was Stanford and Baylor that made that possible.

    Since those two teams played such a huge part in Alabama's second chance, this fan made a sign to thank them on the national stage. This is what college football is supposed to be about.

13. Urban Meyer Coaching Ohio State

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    Urban Meyer, an Ohio State alum, just finished his first season at his alma mater with a perfect 12-0 record. Unfortunately for him, his team is serving a postseason ban due to the actions of his predecessor's regime, Jim Tressel.

    There is something that just feels right about Meyer making the "O" surrounded by Ohio State uniforms. Meyer has always had an "out" built into his contracts that would let him leave for either Notre Dame or Ohio State at any time.

    Now, he has his dream job, and Ohio State has a coach that can put it into the national championship picture. It's a match made in heaven.

12. Penn State Loses Second Straight Game

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    Penn State lost to the Ohio Bobcats and the Virginia Cavaliers in the first two weeks of the season, and the look on this fan's face captures the emotions of the Penn State fanbase.

    After two disappointing losses, the Nittany Lions were facing the hard reality that a winning season may not come until the end of the four-year sanctioning period.

    With a loss to Virginia, the possibility of a zero-win season now existed.

11. Penn State Hosts Navy

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    The Navy Midshipmen came to Penn State in Week 3, and the Nittany Lions showed up smiling, unified and ready to play football.

    This picture shows that coach Bill O'Brien has a singular talent for motivating a team in the most dire of circumstances. Penn State took the field against Navy with everything to prove and a program to resuscitate.

    The Lions beat Navy, 34-7, and they went on to a solid 8-4 season despite losing players like star RB Silas Redd in the wake of the NCAA sanctions.

10. Pittsburgh Hands Notre Dame the Game

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    Notre Dame had a few scares through the 2012 season, and Pittsburgh was one of its biggest. This is a shot of the missed field goal that allowed Notre Dame to preserve its undefeated season.

    This photo captures the dismay that comes with watching a game slip right through your fingers.

9. Montee Ball's Senior Season Isn't That Disappointing

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    The Wisconsin Badgers took advantage of sanctions against both Ohio State and Penn State to earn a trip to the Big Ten title game against Nebraska.

    Wisconsin demolished Nebraska, 70-31, and the Badgers earned a trip to the Rose Bowl for the third year in a row. The Wisconsin Badgers took a more difficult, five-loss route to the match than Nebraska, but the joy on the Badgers' faces says it all.

    Montee Ball is one senior who likely does not regret his decision to return to school for his final year. You can almost feel his relief by looking at this picture. That's a powerful image.

8. A.J. McCarron Crying

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    LSU had just ripped Alabama's potential national championship away from A.J. McCarron when he was presented with a unique opportunity.

    McCarron had 1:34 left in the game with zero timeouts, and the Tide were starting on their own 28. McCarron dug deep and completed the 72-yard drive in five plays, ending with a 28-yard screen pass to tailback T.J. Yeldon.

    McCarron ripped the victory from LSU in front of the Tigers' own home crowd, handing LSU its second loss in the past 38 home games.

7. Georgia's Reaction to the Worst Completion Ever

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    Georgia's Arthur Lynch reacts to the loss to Alabama in the SEC title game. After QB Aaron Murray led the team within yards of a national championship opportunity, his final pass of the game was tipped at the line of scrimmage and landed in the waiting arms of Chris Conley.

    Conley did what any receiver would do—he caught the ball. Unfortunately for Georgia, he slipped as he turned and lunged for the end zone, and Alabama tackled him to secure the win.

    This photo gets you as close to that feeling as you can get without actually being on the field.

6. Gene Chizik Bewildered

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    Gene Chizik won a national championship at Auburn in 2010, and things seemed bright for the Tigers. Chizik failed to produce success in 2011, and he failed more miserably in 2012.

    This image is a perfect reflection of what Chizik was to the Auburn fanbase. He was outclassed, out-coached and simply out of his league in the SEC. He scratched his head all the way to an 0-8 finish in conference play in 2012.

5. Marcus Lattimore Is Injured

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    Marcus Lattimore came back from a knee injury that he suffered in 2011, and he was having a great year that would propel him into the NFL as a likely first-round pick.

    Lattimore amassed 662 rushing yards on 143 carries before suffering a second season-ending knee injury against Tennessee in October.

    The hit he took was gruesome, and the scene after the injury was heart-wrenching. This picture was shot as he was carted off the field, and it brings a flood of emotions with every view.

4. Midfield Rally for Lattimore

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    Immediately after Lattimore's injury, his support group began forming on the football field. The instant contrast provided the nation with one of the most powerful picture combos in history.

    This image reminds us that the human connections we make from day to day can instantly become far more important than our accomplishments.

    No amount of rushing yards and no number of touchdowns can earn you this kind of respect. Lattimore's previous return from injury showed grit, determination and honor. Those traits were acknowledged by the field full of supporters shown in this image.

3. Johnny Manziel Wins the Heisman

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    Johnny Manziel expertly navigated the SEC schedule in Texas A&M's first season in the conference. After falling in two close matches to Florida and LSU, a victory over Alabama in Tuscaloosa seemed unlikely.

    Manziel obliterated the Alabama defense in the first quarter and got his team out to a 20-0 lead, and the Tide never recovered. A&M went on to win that battle, 29-24, and Manziel went on to kiss the Heisman in early December.

    Manziel is the first freshman to win the coveted prize, and he will be heavily scrutinized over the next couple years as a result of his early success.

2. Manti Te'o Leads Notre Dame's Goal-Line Stand Against Stanford

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    There were a number of plays that preserved Notre Dame's undefeated season, but none were as photogenic as this goal-line stand against the Stanford Cardinal.

    The play was controversial, and you can watch this video to see why. The ruling on the field stood as called, and that was the right call for the replay booth, at least. The original call will likely be debated for a full generation.

    Whether Notre Dame wins a national championship this season or not, this image will live in Irish lore for decades to come.

1. Manti Teo Wearing a Lei the Game After His Girlfriend Died

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    Manti Te'o had one of the most tragic weeks possible leading up to the Michigan State bout. He lost his grandmother and his girlfriend in fewer than 24 hours.

    While many people would have taken that opportunity to sit on the sidelines and provide moral support to their team, Te'o did not. He suited up and played on a defense that held Michigan State to fewer than 40 rushing yards.

    This image captures his emotional state and his strong connection with his culture simultaneously. It was one of the most moving photos in recent memory.