College Football: The Top 20 SEC Football Games of All Time

Nathan Deal@@NateDawgAUCorrespondent IFebruary 27, 2011

College Football: The Top 20 SEC Football Games of All Time

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    The Gators and Crimson Tide played a classic in the 2008 SEC Championship Game.Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    The SEC is arguably the greatest conference in America when it comes to college football.

    Alabama claims 13 national titles; Tennessee claims six; LSU, Florida and Ole Miss claim three; Auburn and Georgia both claim two.

    The SEC is packed with prestige, but one reason why teams like Auburn and Georgia don't have more championships, quiet frankly, is because the competition is too tough.

    The SEC has always been a very difficult conference to win, and outside of Alabama, no team has done it consistently.  You have to earn every win and not be surprised when you lose.

    That leads us into the purpose of this article: What are the best SEC conference games of all time?

    It was very difficult, but I have compiled this list of the top 20 games in league history.

20. Florida Comes Back to Beat Georgia in 1970

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Score: Florida 24, Georgia 17

    Date: Nov. 7, 1970

    Georgia seemed to be in control of the game.

    With under five and a half minutes to go, Georgia was at the Gators' two-lard line with a 17-10 lead. Any score would leave little doubt that the Dawgs were going back to Athens victorious.

    But Florida's DE Jack Youngblood tackled Georgia's RB short of the goal line, and the ball came out. Youngblood then fell on the ball, and Florida was still alive.

    From there, Florida QB John Reaves took control, throwing two TD passes to WR Carlos Alvarez in the final 5:13.

    Florida stunned the Dawgs in the comeback in one of the greatest editions of the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail..... thing..... ever.

19. "The Drive" Leads Alabama Past Auburn in 2009

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Score: Alabama 26, Auburn 21

    Date: Nov. 27, 2009

    Alabama was living the dream.

    After a 17-year national title drought, the Crimson Tide entered the 2009 Iron Bowl 11-0 knowing they were three wins away from their first BCS National Championship and their eight major poll national title in school history.

    But in the way was a 7-4 Auburn team with one of the SEC's worst defenses. Also in the way was a sold-out Jordan-Hare Stadium, a place where Alabama coach Nick Saban had never won.

    Auburn scared Alabama to death early, owning the clock and out-scheming the Tide to take a 14-0 lead. Alabama would rally to tie it at 14 at halftime, so there was a crisis avoided.

    But a new crisis came up. Auburn WR Darvin Adams caught a long touchdown pass from QB Chris Todd to put the Tigers up 21-14.

    The Tigers led 21-20 with around seven minutes to go when Greg McElroy and the Alabama offense took over.

    Then came "The Drive."

    Alabama QB Greg McElroy was calm, cool and collected, leading a Tide offense down the field that had struggled all game long. On third-and-goal, he found his RB wide open in the end zone to take a 26-21 lead with just one minute left.

    Auburn moved into Hail Mary range, but the prayer was left unanswered, and Alabama had just completed a 12-0 regular season.

    Alabama went on to win the BCS title. Auburn, meanwhile, has not lost since.

18. Peyton Manning Throws Long TD to Beat Auburn in 1997 SEC Championship Game

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    Score: Tennessee 30, Auburn 29

    Date: Dec. 6, 1997

    The No. 3 Volunteers of Tennessee were playing the No. 11 Auburn Tigers in the Georgia Dome with the SEC title on the line.

    This would be Peyton Manning's last SEC game, so he obviously wanted to go out with a bang, and boy, did he ever!

    Trailing the Tigers 20-10 at halftime, Manning rallied the Vols to within 29-23 late in the game.

    Then in the fourth quarter, Manning threw a short pass to his receiver, who then ran down the sideline 70+ yards to give Tennessee a 30-29 lead.

    Auburn had several possessions afterwards, but to no avail. Tennessee won the game and the SEC Championship.

17. Alabama Beats Manning and the Rebels in Primetime in 1969

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    Score: Alabama 33, Ole Miss 32

    Date: Oct. 4, 1969

    What was one of the first nationally televised games was a classic at Legion Field.

    Alabama topped Ole Miss, but don't blame Archie Manning for it. The Rebels' QB went 33-52 for 436 yards and the offense as a whole gained over 600 on the Crimson Tide defense.

    However, Alabama was lifted to victory by a 140yard D strike from QB Scott Hunter to WR George Ranager with 3:42 to go.

    Hunter himself had a good day, going 22-29 for 300 yards on the dot.

    It was an all-time classic at Legion Field and the nationwide audience was given a real treat by the two evenly matched teams.

    But only the Crimson Tide could prevail.

16. Arkansas Fumble Launches Tennessee to Miracle Win in 1998

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    Score: Tennessee 28, Arkansas 24

    Date: Nov. 14, 1998

    No. 1 Tennessee was hosting No. 10 Arkansas at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville.

    Arkansas jumped out 21-3 early and stunned the orange-clad crowd.

    However, Tennessee climbed back in it thanks to 197 rushing yards by RB Travis Henry. After three quarters, Arkansas still led 24-22.

    Then the fourth quarter came. Nursing the small lead late in the game, and with a Vol win looking very doubtful, the Hogs were looking to chew the clock out.

    However, a Tennessee defensive lineman was able to burst through the offensive line while the clock was continuing to wind down. The Razorback QB fumbled the ball, and it was recovered by Tennessee.

    The crowd was stunned (and happy) about the major gaffe Arkansas had just committed.

    Henry then ran it in for a Tennessee touchdown with just seconds left to lift the Vols to a stunning 28-24 win.

    UT would go on to win the BCS National Championship.

15. LSU Scores With One Second Left to Beat Auburn In 2007

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    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    Score: LSU 30, Auburn 24

    Date: Oct. 20, 2007

    43-37.

    That was the score of LSU's previous game against Kentucky. They were the one with 37.

    The No. 4 Tigers looked to rebound at home, but this wasn't Tulane. This was No. 17 Auburn, a team that was always a challenge for LSU to beat.

    LSU struggled in the first half, falling behind Auburn 17-7.

    However, they would rebound, taking a 23-17 lead in the fourth quarter.

    But Auburn wouldn't die in Baton Rouge. QB Brandon Cox threw a short TD pass with just over four minutes left to give the orange and blue Tigers a 24-23 lead over LSU.

    But then the Mad Hatter earned his nickname.

    With LSU in field goal range at the 22-yard line and the clock winding under 15 seconds, LSU could have run the ball and kicked a field goal with no time left.

    But not with Les Miles. LSU QB Matt Flynn dropped back and perfectly landed the ball in WR Demetrius Byrd's hands.

    There was one second to go. Chaos in Death Valley on a Saturday night!

    LSU would win, pretty obviously, and go on to win the BCS title.

     

14. Auburn Blocks Two Alabama Punts, Returns Both for Touchdowns for 1972 Win

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    Score: Auburn 17, Alabama 16

    Date: Dec. 2, 1972

    Bear Bryant was at it again.

    Alabama was in position for a national title, and Auburn was regulated to spoiler.

    Alabama jumped out to a 16-0 lead with 10 minutes left in the game. The Crimson Tide was on cruise control, right?

    Not exactly. After Auburn kicked a field goal to make it 16-3 with six minutes left, two of the most defining moments in college football history occurred.

    Twice, Alabama was forced to punt. Twice, Auburn's Bill Newton blocked the punt. Twice, Auburn's David Langner picked up the ball and ran it in to the end zone.

    Auburn shocked Alabama with one of the best comebacks in Iron Bowl history, 17-16, in a game that became known as "Punt 'Bama Punt."

13. Auburn Knocks off No. 1 Florida at the Swamp in 1994

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    Score: Auburn 36, Florida 33

    Date: Oct. 15, 1994

    What was hyped up as a huge game was also one of 1994's biggest upsets.

    No. 6 Auburn, winner of 17 straight, traveled to No. 1 Florida to take on the Gators in front of a record crowd at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

    Despite the hype surrounding the game, Auburn was a 16-point underdog on the road against the nation's top team.

    However, late in the game, Auburn found itself down just 33-29. Florida had the ball, but for some reason, Steve Spurrier elected to throw. It wasn't a good idea, as it was intercepted by Auburn, giving the Tigers a chance to win.

    It was Florida's sixth turnover of the game.

    Auburn methodically moved down the field until one of the most famous plays in Tiger history occurred.

    QB Patrick Nix lofted it to the corner of the end zone for WR Frank Sanders, who leaped in the air and made the catch over a Florida defender with 30 seconds left.

    Auburn beat Florida, 36-33.

    As of today, this is the last time the No. 1 team in the country found itself a loser at home against another ranked team.

12. Georgia Scores on Long Play to Beat Florida in 1980

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    Score: Georgia 26, Florida 21

    Date: Nov. 8, 1980

    Georgia entered this 1980 rivalry game with an unblemished record and a No. 2 ranking.

    However, Georgia's afternoon didn't go as planned. Florida led 21-20 with under a minute to go and Georgia backed up to their own eight-yard line.

    It looked like Georgia's national title hopes would be crushed by an unranked Gators squad.

    But the Dawgs' QB threw a short pass over the middle to WR Lindsay Scott, and what happened next?

    Well, I'll let the legendary voice of UGA Football, Larry Munson, tell you:

    "Complete to the 25. To the 30, Lindsay Scott. 35, 40. Lindsay Scott, 45, 50, 45, 40...Run, Lindsay! 25, 20, 15, 10, Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott!"

    Scott scored with just seconds left, and Georgia would go on to win the national title.

11. LSU Miraculously Wins over Tennessee on Last Play in 2010

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    Score: LSU 16, Tennessee 14

    Date: Oct. 2, 2010

    Almost nothing about this game made sense.

    LSU's offense came in struggling, but they were unbeaten. Tennessee was rapidly falling apart, so a victory in Baton Rouge was unlikely.

    LSU QB Jordan Jefferson scored on the first play of the game with a long touchdown run, but LSU wouldn't score a touchdown again until after there were zero seconds left in the game.

    Yes, you read that correctly. The game was that weird.

    Tennessee and LSU were tied 7-7 after three quarters. LSU settled for a field goal early in the fourth to take a 10-7 lead.

    Tennessee then responded with a touchdown on a short run by Matt Simms, the eventually-benched Vols' QB.

    After some defensive stands by both teams, LSU got the ball back with not much time left.

    They drove down the field trailing 14-10, led by QB Jarrett Lee (LSU couldn't decide on a QB). They faced fourth-and-14 in Volunteers' territory, and Lee had to make a perfect throw to his receiver to get the first down.

    He did.

    With the clock ticking under a minute, what transpired is almost too crazy to type, but I'll try.

    Miles put in Jefferson again after the whole drive had been led by Lee. They got down to the goal line, where Jefferson was tackled short of the end zone with 30 seconds left. No problem, they have a couple more plays, and 30 seconds is a lot of time to get set and run a play without any timeouts.

    But you must hurry.

    Miles instead tried to put in substitutions with the clock winding down, and Tennessee decided to as well. In confusion and chaos, and with the crowd starting to boo, Jefferson realized the clock was running out, so he called for a quick snap with almost no time left. He fumbled. The ball was recovered by Tennessee.

    Game over. Tennessee had pulled a huge upset; or so we thought.

    Instead, it turns out Tennessee had 13 players on the field when Jefferson fumbled. That's a penalty, so LSU was given an untimed play to try to win the game.

    The pitch went to Ridley, the running back, and he powered his way into the end zone.

    LSU wins.

10. Auburn Intercepts LSU Countless Times to Come Back in 1994

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    Score: Auburn 30, LSU 26

    Date: Sept. 17, 1994

    Auburn was on a roll.

    The No. 11 Tigers had won 14 straight games since Terry Bowden was named head coach.

    The Tigers played host to unranked LSU in a game that would go down in history.

    LSU outworked Auburn on both sides of the ball. After three quarters LSU led Auburn 23-9, and it looked like Auburn's winning streak was going to fall.

    But then came the fourth quarter.

    LSU quarterback Jamie Howard threw FIVE interceptions in the fourth quarter. After Auburn returned two picks for touchdowns to tie it at 23, LSU made a field goal to go up 26-23.

    Once again the Auburn offense, which ended with 165 total yards, failed to move the ball. LSU got it back. Smart thing to do would be to run out the clock, right?

    Not for LSU.

    Howard threw the ball, Auburn once again intercepted it and for the third time in the quarter, returned it for a touchdown.

    LSU had one final drive to try and win the game, but Howard was intercepted. Again.

    Auburn won the game that became known as the "Interception Game."

9. Mississippi State Shellshocks Alabama, Bear Bryant in 1980

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    Score: Mississippi State 6, Alabama 3

    Date: Nov. 1, 1980

    The Tide was rolling.

    No. 1 in the land. Coached by the living legend Paul "Bear" Bryant. Winners of 28 consecutive games and two consecutive National Championships.

    Surely, poor little Mississippi State wasn't going to be the one to bring it all to an end, especially since the Tide had won 22 straight against the Bulldogs, and Bear Bryant had never lost to them as Alabama head coach.

    But what happened in Jackson that day lives in Bulldog lore and Crimson Tide infamy.

    Mississippi State actually led 6-3 late in the game. Alabama drove down the field, so you just knew they were going to find a way to beat the Bulldogs yet again.

    But it didn't happen.

    Instead, Alabama had clock issues. With the clock winding under 10 seconds close to the goal line, the Tide didn't have time to rush the field goal unit out for a tie, which would be devastating in itself. The offense stayed on the field, and Mississippi State defender Tyrone Keys made the game-ending sack on Alabama's QB.

    Game over. The Mississippi State Bulldogs beat top-ranked Alabama and finally beat Bear Bryant.

    One can still remember Jack Cristil, the longtime voice of the Bulldogs (who retired this week after 50+ years), emotionally celebrating the Bulldogs' biggest win ever.

8. LSU Converts Five Fourth Downs Against Florida in 2007 Win

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    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    Score: LSU 28, Florida 24

    Date: Oct. 6, 2007

    Around Baton Rouge, this game is referred to as the "Greatest Game Ever Played."

    LSU actually played from behind all game long.

    In the second quarter, No. 2 LSU fell behind No. 9 Florida 10-0. After a short TD run by LSU's Ryan Perrilloux, Florida's Tim Tebow responded with a short touchdown run of his own.

    Florida led 17-7 at halftime.

    In the third, the Tigers and Gators traded touchdowns, as Florida led 24-14 with 15 minutes to go in Baton Rouge.

    In the fourth quarter, QB Matt Flynn found WR Demetrius Byrd to bring LSU within three with 10 minutes left.

    When LSU got the ball back with 9:20 left to go, a magical drive began.

    LSU went 60 yards in 15 plays, including going a perfect 5-for-5 on fourth downs (largely thanks to the powerful running of FB Jacob Hester), and Hester scored a short touchdown with just over a minute left.

    The eight-minute drive sent LSU to a 28-24 win over Florida. LSU would go on to win the BCS title.

7. Georgia Beats Auburn in First Overtime Game in SEC History in 1996

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    Score: Georgia 56, Auburn 49

    Date: Nov. 16, 1996

    It looked like it would be all Auburn.

    In the first quarter, after Auburn WR Robert Baker scored a touchdown, UGA's mascot Uga jumped up and tried to bite the Auburn receiver.

    Auburn would take a 28-7 lead at halftime.

    But the second half belonged to the Bulldogs, as they outscored Auburn 21-0 to force the first overtime game in SEC history.

    After the teams traded touchdowns in every OT period, Georgia finally won the game in the fourth OT, 56-49.

    At the time, it was the longest game in college football history.

6. Arkansas Outguns Kentucky in 7-OT Thriller in 2003

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    Score: Arkansas 71, Kentucky 63

    Date: Nov. 1, 2003

    The highest-scoring game in modern college football history was won in 2003 by the Razorbacks of Arkansas.

    In Lexington, the Hogs and the Wildcats were both out of their division races, so they were just playing for pride.

    Man, I guess they really wanted that pride.

    The Hogs won 71-63 over Kentucky in a game that lasted four hours and 56 minutes.

    At the end of regulation, the score was tied at 24, but in OT, Arkansas scored the final 16 points spanning over the sixth and seventh overtimes to win the game.

    71-63 is a basketball score, making it ironic that the game involved Kentucky.

5. Terrence Cody Blocks Rocky Top in 2009

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    Score: Alabama 12, Tennessee 10

    Date: Oct. 24, 2009

    No. 2 Alabama was playing host to Lane Kiffin's unranked Tennessee Vols.

    The game was a field goal fest, as Alabama led 9-3 at the break.

    In the fourth quarter, the Vols moved into field goal range, but big man Terrence Cody of Alabama blocked the field goal to keep the score at 9-3.

    After a lengthy drive, Alabama kicker Leigh Tiffin nailed a short field goal to give the Crimson Tide a 12-3 lead.

    Surely, Tennessee couldn't come back.

    Their offense stalled again, and Alabama got the ball back with little time remaining.

    We all knew what was going to happen. Alabama would run out the clock, win 12-3, be disappointed by their offensive production and failure to cross the goal-line, but a win is a win.

    Then, all hades broke loose.

    Alabama RB Mark Ingram, who NEVER fumbled, fumbled the ball back to Tennessee. It was Ingram's first fumble in college.

    Tennessee then drove 43 yards, resulting in an 11-yard TD pass from Vols QB Jonathan Crompton to WR Gerald Jones.

    Tennessee was within 12-10, and the game only got weirder.

    Tennessee recovered the onside kick and drove into Alabama territory as time was running out.

    On the last play of the game, Tennessee's Daniel Lincoln lined up for his biggest FG ever. Make it, and Alabama goes down in T-Town.

    Instead, for the second time in the quarter, Terrence Cody blocked the field goal with no time left. Alabama won, 12-10.

     

     

4. LSU's Hail Mary Is Answered Against Kentucky in 2002

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    Score: LSU 33, Kentucky 30

    Date: Nov. 9, 2002

    No. 14 LSU was prepared to just walk into Lexington and smack the Wildcats around.

    What almost happened was a gigantic upset.

    The Wildcats had a 30-27 lead with seconds left in the game. LSU had the ball, but scoring a touchdown was just about out of the question. Hail Mary finishes are so few and far between.

    As the clock hit :00, LSU QB Marcus Randall dropped back at the 26-yard line and just threw a desperate pass down the field intended for any player in a gold helmet who could possibly catch it.

    Kentucky was in perfect position to break it up. As the ball hit the cornerback's hands, the fireworks went off, Kentucky's coach received a Gatorade bath and fans began to rush the field.

    But the ball bounced off the Cats' defender's hands. Then it bounced off some other defenders who wanted to get an interception rather than batting it down. The ball skipped through all the 'Cats in coverage and to the last guy running.

    He was Michael Clayton. Oh, and he's on scholarship at Louisiana State.

    He caught the ball, ran it in the end zone and the Tigers had somehow won the football game.

    Kentucky fans, who had already been celebrating the win, were shocked and sorrowed they let that happen.

    In fact, I'm not sure if they've gotten over it yet.

3. Billy Cannon's Punt Return Leads LSU over Ole Miss in 1959

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    Score: LSU 7, Ole Miss 3

    Date: Oct. 31, 1959

    Death Valley on a Saturday Night.

    No. 1 LSU, the defending national champion, is playing host to the No. 3 Ole Miss Rebels.

    It was a defensive slugfest for most of the game, as the Rebels led 3-0 late in the game.

    However, this game is known for one thing and one thing only: Billy Cannon's run.

    Well, technically, it was a punt return.

    Cannon returned a punt 89 yards, breaking seven tackles along the way, for a touchdown to give LSU a 7-3 lead.

    Ole Miss would then drive down the field as the clock was becoming a major factor. On the final play of the game, The Rebels' ball-carrier was stopped at the one-yard line. The clock hit zero, and the Tigers were victorious.

    Sure, Ole Miss would respond later and slap LSU 21-0 in the Sugar Bowl this same season, but this was a very memorable game.

2. Auburn Comes Back to Stun Alabama in 2010

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Score: Auburn 28, Alabama 27

    Date: Nov. 26, 2010

    What has been referred to by some as the "greatest comeback in CFB history" and "a comeback that rivals the Bills' comeback over the Oilers," is the second-greatest game in SEC history.

    In the first quarter, everything that could go wrong for Auburn did, while everything that could go right for Alabama did.

    Alabama had big plays, wide open receivers, huge sacks and the swagger of a champion in the first quarter. Even when Auburn would have something go right, the yellow flag would come out to keep the Tide rolling.

    At the end of the first quarter, No. 2 Auburn (11-0) trailed the 11th-ranked Crimson Tide (9-2) 21-0.

    But Alabama would proceed to shoot itself in the foot in the second quarter, scoring three points in three red zone trips. Meanwhile, Auburn's offense finally scored on a big pass from Cam Newton to Emory Blake to get within 24-7.

    Alabama led 24-7 at the break, which Tide fans were happy about, but if Alabama hadn't shot itself in the foot so many times, they could have led 42-7.

    Auburn then cranked it up on both sides in the second half, and after three quarters, what was once a 24-0 lead for Alabama, was just a 27-21 lead.

    Alabama's biggest fear came to fruition in the fourth quarter, when Cam Newton found Philip Lutzenkirchen for a touchdown with just over 10 minutes to go.

    Alabama couldn't move offensively, and the Tigers prevailed.

    Auburn went from not belonging on the same field as the Tide to winning the game in heroic fashion.

    The Tigers went on to win the BCS title with a 14-0 record.

1. Florida Ends Alabama's Perfect Season In The 2008 SEC Championship Game

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Score: Florida 31, Alabama 20

    Date: Dec. 6, 2008

    The Georgia Dome. SEC Championship Game. No. 1 Alabama, SEC West champion with a 12-0 record, taking on No. 2 Florida, SEC East champion with an 11-1 record.

    Tim Tebow vs. the Alabama defense. Nick Saban vs. Urban Meyer. Winner goes to Miami for the BCS National Championship game, loser settles for Sugar and no crystal ball.

    It was the perfect setting, and it would be a near-perfect game.

    These teams had very contrasting styles. While both played great defense, Alabama had a power-attack offense led by RBs Glenn Coffee and Mark Ingram, while Florida had a spread offense that was powered by QB Tim Tebow. Florida could strike at any time, while Alabama would move down the field methodically on you.

    But early on, the scripts were flipped.

    Florida scored on their first drive, a lengthy drive that ate up nearly six minutes.

    Alabama then responded with a long bomb to Julio Jones, followed by an 18-yard TD run by Ingram. The Crimson Tide's drive took 54 seconds.

    After a back-and-forth first half, Florida held a 17-10 lead at the break. The third quarter was owned completely by Alabama, as they held the ball most of the time and moved the ball effectively.

    A short Ingram run tied the game at 17. With eight seconds left in the quarter, legendary kicker Leigh Tiffin made a short field goal to give Alabama a 20-17 lead after three.

    But in this defacto National Championship game, Florida turned into a dominant team in the fourth quarter. They had battled back all year since an early loss to Ole Miss, and they weren't going to watch it end that day.

    Florida owned the ball in the fourth quarter. Jeff Demps ran it in from a yard out to give the Gators a 24-20 lead over the Crimson Tide. Later in the game, a big pass play from Tebow led to a short TD pass from Tebow to Riley Cooper.

    Florida had a BCS title game appearance in sight with a 31-20 lead, but Alabama was a dangerous team who could come back.

    The Gators made sure that didn't happen though. They picked off Alabama's John Parker Wilson on their next possession, and the game was over.

    After this game, it was obvious to anyone watching: This was the national title game. Florida's win over Oklahoma was just a bonus. Florida and Alabama looked like the two best teams in the nation at the Dome, but Florida was the best.