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Top 10 Moments from New Year's Day Games

David LutherFeatured ColumnistJanuary 1, 2013

Top 10 Moments from New Year's Day Games

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    In the world of college football, there are few days bigger than New Year's Day.

    Not only do we have some of the biggest bowl games of the season played on January 1, but those games are always filled with some of the greatest moments of the entire season as top teams battle it out in blockbuster matchups.

    This year was no different than previous seasons. In a day filled with thrilling finishes, epic hits and historic victories, we've compiled a list of the 10 best moments from across the college football world on New Year's Day, 2013.

When It Rains, It Pours

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    Purdue entered the 2013 Heart of Dallas Bowl as the biggest underdog of the entire bowl season. As it turned out, the 17½-point spread was generous, as Oklahoma State had no trouble handing the Boilermakers their worst bowl defeat in program history.

    There were so many Oklahoma State highlights in this game, but we selected a play that epitomizes the kind of day the Boilers had.

    O.J. Ross caught a pass from Robert Marve on the Boilers' first drive of the second half for what initially appeared to be a solid gain early in the third. Already down 28-0, Purdue needed a scoring play badly. This play was it—except it was Oklahoma State scoring the points.

    After Ross hauled in the pass, Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert stripped the ball, which flew directly into the hands of Daytawion Lowe, who proceeded to return the “fumble” 37 yards for a touchdown to put the Pokes on top, 35-0.

    Believe it or not, it only got worse from there.

History in the Making

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    The last time Northwestern hoisted a bowl championship trophy, Harry Truman was in the White House and Senator Joseph McCarthy was beginning to see Reds everywhere.

    In the 1949 Rose Bowl Game, Northwestern defeated Cal, 20-14.

    Despite making nine bowl games since that 1948 season, the Wildcats have not been able to come away with another victory.

    Until 2013, that is.

    As if to carry the banner for the Big Ten, the Wildcats marched into the Gator Bowl with a swagger not ordinarily seen in Evanston. It was also sweet for the Purple Cats given the comments by Mississippi State's Corey Broomfield.

    When a guy's fast in the Big Ten, he stands out. If he's in the SEC, he'd be [just] another player. That's a big differnce.

    As well-spoken as Broomfield was before the game, we wonder how difficult it is to talk with his cleats in his mouth. He was on the sideline watching Northwestern defensive end Quentin Williams snag an errant Tyler Russel pass and take it back to the house for six.

    That helped propel Northwestern to a 34-20 drubbing of Mississippi State in the 2013 Gator Bowl.

Trick Plays That Aren't Tricky Can Still Work

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    The 2013 Rose Bowl Game was the 99th installment of the “Grandaddy of Them All,” and it got off to a quick start for the Stanford Cardinal.

    A reverse pass from the Wildcat set up the first touchdown of the day for the Cardinal as Drew Terrell found Jamal-Rashad Patterson for 34 yards over the middle.

    But what makes this so unusual is the incredibly slow way in which the play developed. The Wisconsin defense was given adequate time to adjust, but Patterson made a spectacular play on the ball for a big gain on the opening drive of the game.

    One play later, Stanford's Kelsey Young ran 16 yards untouched for a touchdown.

Not Giving Up

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    The play-action pass can be a game-changer, especially against weaker opponents. Florida State's E.J. Manuel found that out against Northern Illinois in the first quarter of the Orange Bowl.

    But Manuel's amazingly effective fake isn't what earns this play a spot on our list.

    Northern Illinois—along with almost everyone watching the play—completely bought the hand off as Manuel slyly hid the ball behind his back while calmly watching NIU defenders tackle a ball-less running back. Manuel then slid the ball out to Nick O'Leary who started up field.

    That's when NIU's Rashaan Melvin put a ball-jarring hit on O'Leary and Demetrius Stone scooped up the bounding pigskin.

    This is an impressive highlight not only for the turnover, but because the Huskies' defenders didn't give up on a play that seemed certain to result in a big gain for the Seminoles.

Good Hands, Bad Hands

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    Here's the un-highlight highlight.

    We absolutely love special teams plays, especially that momentum-instilling blocked punt.  Even better, we love blocked punts that result in a safety.

    SEC-East champs Georgia started its march to victory over Big Ten-Legends champs Nebraska with the first two points of the Capital One Bowl.  So why is this the un-highlight highlight?  Because it should have been seven points instead of just two.

    Not that Bulldogs fans are complaining.  Points are points.

A Little Breathing Room

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    The SEC got off to a rousing start on New Year's Day as the SEC-East champion Georgia Bulldogs fought tooth-and-nail through three quarters to a 31-31 tie with Nebraska.

    The fourth quarter, however, was all Georgia.

    Easily the biggest play of the day for the Bulldogs came via Aaron Murray's arm. From the Georgia 13 yard line, Murray found Chris Conley on an underneath crossing route. Conley took one step up the middle of the field, and everyone watching instantly knew it was going to result in a touchdown.

    The 87-yard score put Georgia up 45-31 for good.

Picking Roses

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    Wisconsin was the first unranked team to play in the Rose Bowl Game since Brown in 1916. But anyone who believed Wisconsin didn't belong in the game may have been having seconds thoughts after watching the Badgers go punch-for-punch with Pac-12 champion Stanford.

    In a game many of us believed would come down to defense, it was in fact a defensive play that sealed the victory for the Cardinal. Leading by six with two minutes to go, Wisconsin quarterback Curt Phillips had his pass deflected at the line by Josh Mauro. The ball was deflected right into the hands of Usua Amanam, who walked off the field with a football that may have well been a bouquet of roses.

Michigan's Fake Punt for A... First Down? Yes? No? Never Mind.

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    In the fourth quarter, up by one, Michigan opts for a fake punt.

    Despite coming up short, even on the resulting measurement, the referee signals a first down. The spot was challenged by a very animated Head Ball Coach, but the play stood as called on the field: first down, Michigan.

    This play is important not only because the Big East officials completely botched the call—as the measurement clearly showed Michigan short of the line to gain—but because it set up what was perhaps the biggest game-changing play of the entire day.

Clowney's Revenge

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    On the very next snap, Jadeveon Clowney busted through the Michigan line and blew up Vincent Smith with one of the hardest hits of the entire 2012 season. In a fluid motion, Cowney picked up the resulting fumble and turned the tide of the game.

    Again, on the very next snap, Connor Shaw found Ace Sanders in the end zone for a South Carolina touchdown. After all the dust settled, the Gamecocks had taken the lead, 27-22.

Third Highlight's the Charm

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    We'll stick with the thrilling Outback Bowl for another highlight.

    With Michigan leading, 28-27 and time running out, the Wolverines knocked both Connor Shaw and Ace Sanders out of the game with huge hits. South Carolina backup quarterback Dylan Thompson came in to find Bruce Ellington over the middle for 32 yards, a touchdown, and a five-point lead with only 11 seconds remaining in the game.

    What better way to finish a highlight-laden game than with the highlight to end all highlights?

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