Power Ranking the Top 20 SEC Games in the BCS Era

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistSeptember 11, 2013

Power Ranking the Top 20 SEC Games in the BCS Era

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    The BCS Era has been dominated by the Southeastern conference, especially in the last almost-decade.

    SEC teams have won the last seven BCS National Championships, becoming not just "a" but "the" main pipeline for producing NFL talent. The league has distanced itself from others and enjoyed a class of its relative own during the last 15 years.

    During that time, as one could imagine, the conference's high profile has fostered an embarrassment of memorable games. The best players on the best teams in the biggest stadiums always seem to have that combined effect.

    Many of those games, like many of the SEC's championships, took place in the last seven or eight years, as the conference's dominance has reached new heights. But even before that, the BCS-era SEC produced a couple of time-tested moments.

20. Alabama at Auburn, 2009

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    Final Score: Alabama 26, Auburn 21

    Needing a win, on the road against arch-rival Auburn to secure a perfect regular season, Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy rose to the occasion. 

    The Tigers took a 14-0 first-quarter lead, and eventual Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram was stifled all game in the backfield. Auburn punted and gave the ball back to Alabama with just over eight minutes on the clock, leading the Tide by a score of 21-20.

    From there, McElroy led his own iteration of "The Drive," taking Alabama 79 yards in 15 plays over seven minutes. His four-yard touchdown pass to Roy Upchurch was his seventh completion on eight passes, most of which went to Julio Jones.

    Alabama went on to win the BCS National Championship.

19. Alabama at LSU, 2012

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    Final Score: Alabama 21, LSU 17

    Other than the game Alabama actually lost last season against Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M, this is the one it had the least business winning.

    LSU kept the Tide's offense in check all game, and much-maligned quarterback Zach Mettenberger had the best outing of his career, consistently beating Alabama's defense with tough throws. But at the end of the day, none of that would prove to be enough.

    AJ McCarron stepped up when his team most needed it, leading Alabama on a late game-winning touchdown drive sealed with a dump-off screen pass to running back T.J. Yeldon.

    The Tide, of course, would use the game as a springboard and win their second consecutive BCS National Championship.

18. LSU at Arkansas, 2010

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    Final Score: Arkansas 31, LSU 23

    In what was, essentially, a play-in game for the Sugar Bowl, Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino proved that Les Miles wasn't the only SEC coach with some cajones.

    Petrino pulled a trick right out of Miles' book, going for it on 4th-and-3 early in the fourth quarter and dialing up a 39-yard touchdown pass—one of Ryan Mallett's three on the afternoon.

    The other two were both 80-plus yard passes to Cobi Hamilton (one on the final play of the first half), giving this game a little bit of everything: high stakes, late drama and big plays.

    What more could an SEC fan ask for?

17. LSU at Alabama, 2011

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    Final Score: LSU 9, Alabama 6

    This one might have set football back a few decades, but it also might be remembered for another few decades to come.

    Sixty minutes of regulation and one session of overtime wasn't enough time for either offense to produce a touchdown. The country's two best defenses dominated from start to finish in a classic war of attrition, but special teams made the difference.

    No. 1 LSU made a field goal in overtime to seal the win, while No. 2 Alabama missed four field goals along the way to help seal its loss.

    But the Tide would get the last laugh by beating LSU in the rematch, which just so happened to be played for the 2011 BCS National Championship.

16. Auburn at LSU, 2007

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    Final Score: LSU 30, Auburn 24

    It may not have been a "safe" call, and maybe not even a smart one, but Les Miles dialed up a last-second vertical route for Demetrius Byrd that helped his Tigers steal a game from Auburn.

    Trailing by one with the clock quickly expiring, LSU found itself on Auburn's 22 yard line. Instead of using one of his timeouts or playing it safe and taking a field goal, Miles ran a deep passing route, and Matt Flynn found Byrd on a fade in the back of the end zone.

    Only one second remained after the catch, so if the play had taken just one second longer and Byrd had not caught the pass, Miles would have watched time expire in a loss. But that's neither here nor there.

15. Tennessee at Alabama, 2009

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    Final Score: Alabama 12, Tennessee 10

    Only one of Alabama's three titles in the past four years has come at the end of a perfect season. But if not for Terrance "Mount" Cody, that number might be zero.

    Rival Tennessee, in the midst of a down season, marched into Tuscaloosa and in many respects outplayed Alabama. Most observers thought the Vols should have come out on top.

    But Cody, a 350-pound nose guard, blocked two Tennessee field goals in the fourth quarter, including one as time expired to end the game.

    The Tide would cruise to a 14-0 record and an easy BCS National Championship win over Texas.

14. Texas A&M at Alabama, 2012

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    Final Score: Texas A&M 29, Alabama 24

    You'll see plenty of highlights of this one all week, so no need to belabor the point. Just know that there's a reason Manziel vs. Alabama II is so eagerly anticipated.

    Johnny Football was born long before last year's game in Tuscaloosa, but the Aggies' upset win over the Crimson was the day he burst into the spotlight. It was the case that made his name.

    From the fumbled-snap touchdown pass to the perfect strikes to Ryan Swope to the slipperiness he showed in building an early lead, Manziel dominated the Tide in a way college football fans were unaccustomed to seeing.

    A goal-line stand helped A&M cap off the win, but it wasn't enough to derail Alabama's season. Will the Aggies be able to accomplish both in 2013?

13. Tennessee at LSU, 2005

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    Final Score: Tennessee 30, LSU 27

    In hindsight, it doesn't seem all that absurd for a guy named Rick Clausen to outplay JaMarcus Russell and lead his team to victory. But at the time, it was tough to believe.

    Clausen, an LSU transfer, took the reins for Tennessee and helped the Vols erase a 21-0 halftime deficit in Baton Rouge. He lead three scoring drives in less than 10 minutes during the fourth quarter, helping push the game into overtime.

    After holding LSU to a field goal on its first possession and gaining a quick 24 yards, Tennessee gave to Gerald Riggs on the goal line, who plunged forward for the game-winning score. 

12. Georgia vs. Alabama, 2012 (SEC Championship)

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    Final Score: Alabama 32, Georgia 28

    Was last year's SEC Championship the best of all time? A lot of people would say yes.

    Amari Cooper burned Damian Swann in the fourth quarter to give Alabama a late four-point lead. Georgia's Aaron Murray led his team back down the field and eventually had a shot to win it with a 1st-and-goal at the 8-yard line as time expired.

    He dumped it off to Chris Conley, but Alabama sealed its auspicious fate by tackling Conley at the five. The Tide would go on to win the BCS National Championship, and the 'Dawgs would go home, per usual, the bridesmaid and not the bride.

T- 11. Arkansas at Kentucky, 2003

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    Final Score: Arkansas 71, Kentucky 63

    No need to bore you with details or context, because none of it is needed. All you're required to know is this: The game went into not three, not four, not five, not six but seven overtimes.

    In the longest game in NCAA history, the Razorbacks eventually outlasted the Wildcats 71-63, finally ending after a 25-yard touchdown in the first half of the seventh OT, and a fourth-down stop in the second half.

    For breaking a notable NCAA record, this is obviously an important football game. But for breaking an NCAA record with Matt Jones at Jared Lorenzen at quarterback, this game is truly a national treasure. 

T-11. Arkansas at Ole Miss, 2001

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    Final Score: Arkansas 58, Ole Miss 56

    Arkansas wasn't a stranger to overtime when it beat Kentucky in 2003. Just two years earlier, it played a similarly wild game against Ole Miss.

    Just 17-17 heading into overtime, what once looked like a defensive struggle turned into a college overtime classic, breaking records for both points scored (80) and plays run (198) in the extra session.

    As it did two years later, Arkansas came out on top. But even though fans in Oxford would disagree, everyone who watched this game was a winner for doing so.

9. LSU at Alabama, 2007

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    Final Score: LSU 41, Alabama 34

    "The Saban Bowl," Nick Saban's first game against his former school in his first season at Alabama, was just as good as advertised. At least if you're a Tigers fan.

    Trailing by seven with less than three minutes remaining, Matt Flynn found Early Doucet for a 32-yard touchdown that evened the score. Then, on the ensuing possession, safety Chad Jones burst through the line and sacked Alabama's J.P Wilson, who fumbled and gave the ball right back.

    LSU punched it in on a 1-yard run by Jacob Hester, putting itself on top for good by the score of 41-34. New(ish) coach Les Miles continued his run of late-game miracles against an old friend of the Tigers. 

8. Ole Miss at Mississippi State, 1999

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    Final Score: Mississippi State 23, Mississippi 20

    The 1999 Egg Bowl featured one of the most bizarre late-game collapses in modern football history.

    Leading by seven with under a minute left, Ole Miss had the Bulldogs pinned around midfield. MSU quickly stormed down and scored the game-tying touchdown, which was brutal enough, but at least seemed to portend overtime.

    But Ole Miss threw an inexplicable interception on its next offensive drive, which MSU returned back into relative field goal range. It would hit the subsequent kick and seal a painful comeback victory for Rebels fans.

7. Auburn at Alabama, 2010

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    Final Score: Auburn 28, Alabama 27

    Two years before Johnny Football cemented his Heisman with a win over Alabama, another first-year starter who could move on his legs did the same.

    After Alabama raced out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead, Cam Newton took charge of the offense and led his Auburn Tigers to a monumental victory.

    He finished the game with 216 passing yards and three touchdowns on just 13 completions, including the game-winning touchdown pass with 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

    Even without any last-second intrigue, the giant comeback and its national upshots make this easily one of the best SEC games ever. Auburn went on the win the BCS National Championship.

6. Ole Miss at Florida, 2008

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    Final Score: Ole Miss 31, Florida 30

    A game that is famous for so many other reasons, Ole Miss' upset in the Swamp was also pretty great in a vacuum.

    The Rebels stormed Gainesville and refused to back down against the No. 1 Gators, especially with their efficient offense. Shea Hodge gave Ole Miss a late fourth-quarter lead with an 85-yard touchdown, but it was quickly countered by Percy Harvin touchdown by Florida.

    The extra point to that kick, however, was blocked, and Florida remained down by a point. The Gators got the ball back but were forced into a fourth down, and after Tim Tebow was stuffed up the middle, their fate was determined.

    Tebow vowed that his team would not lose again, and he was proven correct after Florida went on to win the BCS National Championship. But for one afternoon in Gainesville, the Gators were second-best.

5. LSU at Kentucky, 2002

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    Final Score: LSU 33, Kentucky 30

    A play that will forever live in national—not just conference—infamy.

    Kentucky counted its chickens before they hatched against LSU, dumping Gatorade over coach Guy Morriss in celebration of its supposed upset victory. The Tigers would have to march 90-plus yards in nine seconds to somehow win the game.

    Seemed safe enough.

    But it wasn't, and when Marcus Randall's desperation heave was deflected and caught by Devery Henderson, who sprinted into the end zone for the game-winning score, one of the all-time craziest moments in college football history was born.

    Just one question: Does this belong in the Top 10 or the Not Top 10?

4. Arkansas at Tennessee, 1998

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    Final Score: Tennessee 28, Arkansas 24

    Arkansas jumped out to a 21-3 lead against the No. 1 Vols, stunning the home crowd in Knoxville. But those worries would be short-lived.

    The Razorbacks still led, 24-22, with under two minutes left, and after stopping a Tennessee fourth down, they got the ball back around midfield. All they had to do was pound the ball forward, chew some clock and essentially salt out the upset.

    Tennessee players were already weeping on the sideline, but on Arkansas' first play, it fumbled the ball on a botched drop-back (thanks to a good push up front) and Tennessee recovered. It was basically the Miracle at the Meadowlands without the return.

    The Vols would recover, drive down, score and eventually cement the comeback into SEC lore by going on to win the first BCS National Championship.

3. Arkansas at LSU, 2007

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    Final Score: Arkansas 50, LSU 48

    As a general rule of thumb, there are few things more exciting than Les Miles vs. Huston Nutt.

    But Les Miles vs. Houston Nutt in triple overtime is one of those things.

    Arkansas went into Baton Rouge and hung 50 on the No. 1 Tigers, which is an impressive feat, even given the extra time. That holds especially true in context, considering LSU would go on to win the BCS National Championship.

    Darren McFadden ran for over 200 yards and scored three touchdowns (plus one passing), and Peyton Hillis added a couple more on the ground, including the (eventual) game-winning score in triple overtime. LSU responded with a score of its own but couldn't convert the two-point conversion. 

2. Florida vs. Alabama, 2008 (SEC Championship)

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    Final Score: Florida 31, Alabama 20

    Tebow-mania was in full effect during the 2008 SEC Championship, when the not-yet-embattled quarterback led his Florida Gators to a huge 11-point win over Nick Saban's Crimson Tide.

    Tebow combined for almost 300 yards and three touchdowns against the vaunted Alabama defense and would eventually lead Florida to a BCS National Championship win.

    Trailing when they entered the fourth quarter, he helped orchestrate two touchdown drives that clinched the game. His highlight reel was profound and helped build the legend that the NFL would soon tear down.

    It would go down as one of the greatest moments in Tebow's football career—and after recent developments at the next level, it will probably stay there.

1. Tennessee at LSU, 2010

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    Final Score: LSU 16, Tennessee 14

    All game long, No. 10 LSU made the mistakes of a lesser team, playing sloppy at home against unranked Tennessee. It was a game the Tigers seemed destined to lose. 

    But then, in the game's waning moments, the Vols made a mistake greater than any play the Tigers had bungled.

    Trailing by four with the ball on the goal line and just seconds remaining, LSU botched its clock management, had the wrong personnel on the field and snapped the ball through QB Jordan Jefferson's legs as time expired.

    Tennessee rushed the field in victory and the PA announcer even called the score as final, but the play would eventually be called back.

    The Vols had 13 players on the field.

    LSU got to run an untimed down from the goal line, which running back Stevan Ridley punched in for the game-winning score. Ball game. Agony. Tennessee Football.

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