Top 10 Moments from 2013 College Football Season

Alex SimsCorrespondent IIIDecember 13, 2013

Top 10 Moments from 2013 College Football Season

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    RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

    The 2013 college football season brought some of the wildest finishes in the history of the sport.

    The past few months featured the rising of stars and the renaissance of several teams that began the season as afterthoughts.

    Drama abounded, as the season perfectly encapsulated all that is great about college football.

    From Tallahassee to Los Angeles and from Ann Arbor to Auburn, there was no shortage of magical moments in 2013.

    Click on to relive 10 of the most phenomenal events of the season.

10. Jameis Winston's Arrival

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    When: Monday, Sept. 2

    Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh

    Jameis Winston wasted no time introducing himself to the world.

    In his first career game, he turned in a masterful performance, finishing 25-of-27 for 356 yards passing with five total touchdowns in a 41-13 dismantling of Pittsburgh.

    As the redshirt freshman ripped Pitt apart, the nation took notice. Twitter buzzed about college football's latest prodigy.

    Quarterback guru George Whitfield, former Seminoles Peter Warrick and EJ Manuel and even NBA superstar Kevin Durant proclaimed their amazement at Winston in his first collegiate appearance.

    This performance thrust him into the Heisman Trophy picture and would set the tone for an incredible season for Florida State.

9. Manziel Fools 'Bama...Again

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    When: Saturday, Sept. 14

    Where: Kyle Field, College Station, Texas

    Johnny Manziel entered 2013 with unimaginable expectations. 

    Texas A&M was expected to compete for national and SEC titles, and Manziel was to win his second Heisman Trophy.

    The Aggies faced a massive test early on in that journey against No. 1 Alabama. After upsetting the Crimson Tide last season, beating them again looked like a massive task.

    For Manziel, he would have to live up to a performance last season that earned him the Heisman. A&M didn't win, but Johnny Football had his moments—specifically one incredible play.

    He dropped back and was nearly sacked for a 20-yard loss but managed to slip away from Alabama's 6'4", 290-pound defensive lineman Jeoffrey Pagan. From there, he scrambled and uncorked a pass downfield that somehow found the hands of receiver Edward Pope for a first down.

    In the most highly anticipated game of the 2013 season, Manziel put on an extraordinary show.

8. 115,000 Strong at the Big House

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    Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Sept. 7

    Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich.

    Looking back, this game ended up being mostly irrelevant, as both Michigan and Notre Dame fell out of the national race.

    But it was a premier tilt at the time. Notre Dame was making its final trip to the Big House for the foreseeable future, and both teams were looking to prove their worth as national title contenders.

    Michigan thwarted a late rally by Notre Dame and notched a 41-30 win behind a massive day from quarterback Devin Gardner.

    However, it was the atmosphere, not the result, that made this game special. 

    An NCAA-record crowd of 115,109 packed the Big House at night, all clad in maize. While it didn't shape the national title picture, the game fully represented the passion that makes college football great.

7. Baylor Makes the Big Time

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    Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Thursday, Nov. 7

    Where: Floyd Casey Stadium, Waco, Texas

    Baylor had been making waves over the first two months of the season with its black-powder offense, but without playing a ranked team, the Bears were still questioned as a national and Big 12 title contender.

    They donned all black uniforms in front of a black-clad crowd and hosted Oklahoma for their first test of the season.

    After a slow start to the contest, Baylor showed up in the second quarter and blasted OU 41-12. The Bears turned in a strong performance on offense and defense and entered the national title picture.

    They would later fall to Oklahoma State, ending those hopes, but BU still ended up winning the conference championship.

    Upon winning its first Big 12 title in school history, it is now set for its first-ever BCS bowl.

6. Connor Shaw, South Carolina Stun Mizzou

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    Peter Aiken/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, Oct. 26

    Where: Faurot Field, Columbia, Mo.

    South Carolina's shot at the SEC title was finished. Missouri held a 17-0 lead in the third quarter at home. A win would essentially lock up the league crown for the Tigers.

    The USC offense was sputtering with Connor Shaw sidelined with a sprained knee. However, the senior came off the bench late in the third quarter and choreographed three unanswered scoring drives to tie the game at 17 at the end of regulation.

    Mizzou started overtime with an effortless touchdown drive, forcing Shaw and Co. to answer. After a sack and two incompletions, the Gamecocks faced 4th-and-goal from the 15. With their SEC title hopes slipping off a cliff, Shaw hit Bruce Ellington in the corner of the end zone to keep hope alive.

    In the second extra period, South Carolina won on a missed field goal by Mizzou. While the Gamecocks didn't end up winning the SEC East, they made for a nerve-wracking final few weeks for Missouri.

    The Tigers had to earn their division title the hard way by winning out against two ranked teams, Ole Miss and Texas A&M, to close the regular season.

5. Georgia Southern Shocks Florida

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Nov. 23

    Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Fla.

    When a program like Florida suffers its worst loss in history, it doesn't go unnoticed.

    The Gators had never lost to an FCS school but were dropped 26-20 by Georgia Southern, adding insult to an injury-riddled and forgettable season.

    UF lost that game, despite the Eagles not completing a single pass. Georgia Southern quarterback Kevin Ellison finished 0-of-3 passing but ran 15 times for 118 yards and two touchdowns.

    Afterward, head coach Will Muschamp expressed his extreme disappointment in the loss, per the Associated Press via ESPN:

    "Very disappointed for our program, an embarrassment (to be) in this situation," Muschamp said. "It's all disappointing. It's hard to measure it at this point."

    Florida finished 4-8 on a seven-game losing streak and isn't going to a bowl game for the first time since 1990, all one year after going to the Sugar Bowl.

4. UCF's Philly Phenomenon

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    When: Saturday, Nov. 16

    Where: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia

    Central Florida had taken control of the American Athletic Conference with a win over Louisville early in the season.

    However, it looked like the Knights might squander their chance at a BCS bowl.

    Their defense collapsed against Temple, and they found themselves trailing 36-29 in the final two minutes against a 1-8 Owls squad.

    But then two miraculous plays saved their postseason dreams. Trailing by a touchdown with just over one minute to go, quarterback Blake Bortles rolled out and got hit as he unleashed a long pass to the end zone. Receiver J.J. Worton was there to pull down an incredible one-handed grab to tie the game at 36.

    The UCF defense then came up with a quick stop to give its offense the ball back one last time. With 18 seconds left in the game, Bortles hit Rannell Hall down the seam for a 64-yard gain that set up a game-winning chip-shot field goal.

    That was just one of several close calls for UCF in its charmed season. Seven of the Knights' 11 wins came by seven points or less—and now they are outright AAC champions and are headed to their first-ever BCS bowl.

3. Orgeron, USC Upset Stanford

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Saturday, Nov. 16

    Where: Los Angeles Coliseum

    Ed Orgeron's tenure at USC didn't have a fairytale ending, as he didn't end up receiving the head coaching job he longed for. In fact, he left before the bowl game "outraged" that he was passed up for the job.

    However, that doesn't take away from what he did during his stint as the interim boss in Los Angeles.

    Orgeron inherited a Trojan team that was in shambles after the midseason firing of Lane Kiffin. After a 3-2 start, Orgeron led the Trojans to six wins in seven games—a stretch that climaxed with a 20-17 upset of then-No. 4 Stanford.

    Coach O made a gutsy fourth-down call late in the game, which would eventually set up Andre Heidari's game-winning 47-yard field goal.

    The Trojan faithful, just weeks after leaving the Coliseum mostly empty, stormed the field around Orgeron.

    While the ending wasn't perfect, the story of Orgeron's revival of USC was fantastic.

2. Auburn's Miracle on the Plains

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    When: Saturday, Nov. 16

    Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Ala.

    It was perhaps the wildest game, start to finish, of the entire season.

    Auburn was in control of Georgia through three quarters in Jordan-Hare Stadium, taking a 37-17 lead in the final frame. But behind a fearless performance from quarterback Aaron Murray, the Bulldogs fought back and took a 38-37 lead with less than two minutes to go.

    As the Tigers faced 4th-and-18 in their own territory, it looked like their SEC (and BCS) title hopes were finished—and the epic Iron Bowl would never happen.

    Quarterback Nick Marshall dropped back and launched a long pass downfield right to two UGA defenders. But as both defensive backs converged on the ball, they tipped it up, and it fell right into the hands of AU receiver Ricardo Louis.

    The game-deciding touchdown would've gone down as the greatest play of the season—if it wasn't for what happened two weeks later.

1. Auburn's Second Miracle on the Plains

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    When: Saturday, Nov. 30

    Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Ala.

    Auburn wasn't given much of a chance to beat Alabama. The Tigers weren't even expected to compete for the SEC West title going into the season while the Crimson Tide were the national title favorites all season long.

    For the better part of four quarters, the Iron Bowl played out as expected. The Tigers were giving it their all, but the Crimson Tide simply looked better.

    However, UA failed to put the game away when it had chances. As a result, Auburn stuck in the game and notched a late tie off a 39-yard touchdown pass from Nick Marshall to Sammie Coates.

    With just one second left on the clock, Alabama tried a desperation 57-yard field goal. The game looked destined for overtime, but as Adam Griffith's kick fell short, Auburn's Chris Davis was waiting there to catch it.

    Right when the ball fell into his hands, the Tide were in trouble. Davis streaked down the sideline, clearly faster than the 11 players 'Bama had out in kick protection.

    As he crossed the end zone surrounded by no one but his teammates, Jordan-Hare erupted, and the Tigers won the SEC West. It was the most improbable way to end a football game, but it happened.

    It happened, and no moment in 2013 could top Auburn's far-fetched victory.