SEC Football: Best Comeback Games in Conference History

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterJune 29, 2015

SEC Football: Best Comeback Games in Conference History

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    Comebacks come in all shapes and sizes.

    There are the miraculous comebacks in the final seconds of big games that go down in SEC history, as well as those games where teams get off the mat to come back to stun a team that had a game in cruise control.

    Which comeback games involving SEC teams are the best in the conference's history? Our picks, based on improbability, importance and drama, are in this slideshow.

10. Ole Miss at LSU, 1972

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    Up 16-10 and in need of a field goal with 3:02 to play, it looked like Ole Miss was on the brink of upsetting No. 6 LSU in Death Valley as Steve Lavinghouse lined up to kick a 27-yard field goal. 

    The ghosts of Death Valley had other ideas.

    Lavinghouse's attempt failed, and LSU took over with a chance to drive down the field and preserve their undefeated season. Tigers quarterback Bert Jones drove the Tigers down the field and converted two fourth downs to get on the Rebels' doorstep. But his first shot at the end zone was knocked away with one second to play.

    On the game's final play from scrimmage, Jones hit Brad Davis for a 10-yard touchdown at the gun to tie it up. LSU's extra point was good, and the Tigers grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat against bitter rival Ole Miss.

9. Alabama at Auburn, 2013

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    The 2013 Iron Bowl will go down as one of the most amazing finishes in college football history, but the comeback orchestrated by Auburn was pretty impressive as well.

    Up 7-0 thanks to a touchdown late in the first quarter, Auburn quickly found itself in a two-touchdown hole against one of the best defenses in the country thanks to a three-touchdown surge by the Crimson Tide in the second quarter.

    Auburn battled back with a score late in the second and early in the third, and that set up one of the most improbable fourth quarters in college football history.

    Alabama scored on a 99-yard touchdown from AJ McCarron to Amari Cooper, but kicker Cade Foster missed one field goal, running back TJ Yeldon was stopped on fourth down and Foster had another field goal blocked. Had just one of those plays not happened, the 2013 Iron Bowl would likely have gone to the Crimson Tide. 

    The Tigers scored two touchdowns in the final 32 seconds of the game—a 39-yard pass from Nick Marshall to Sammie Coates to tie it and then Chris Davis' 109-yard missed field goal return for a touchdown as time expired—to complete the 34-28 win and tie a bow on one of the best games in college football history.

8. Florida at LSU, 2007

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    The 2007 matchup between No. 1 LSU and No. 9 Florida in 2007 in Baton Rouge will go down as the game that built the legend of the Mad Hatter.

    It's not often that LSU struggles at home, but head coach Les Miles' crew found itself down 24-14 entering the fourth quarter with its place atop the college football world on the line.

    Aided by five—yes, five—fourth-down conversions, three of which came in the fourth quarter, LSU got off the deck and stunned Urban Meyer's Gators. 

    With 10:15 to go in the fourth, Matt Flynn hit Demetrius Byrd on a four-yard touchdown on 4th-and-3 to pull the Tigers to within three. On the game-clinching drive, Jacob Hester converted twice on 4th-and-1 to get LSU to the doorstep, and then cashed in with a one-yard plunge for the game-winning score with 1:09 to play.

    LSU would go on to win the 2007 national title.

7. Florida vs. Georgia, 1970

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    John Sommers II/Getty Images

    The 1970 edition of the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party will go down as one of the rivalry's best.

    Trailing 17-10 late in the fourth, Florida defensive end Jack Youngblood forced and recovered a fumble on the 2-yard line to give the Gators hope.

    Quarterback John Reaves drove the Gators down the field and hit Carlos Alvarez for the game-tying touchdown and then hit Alvarez again for the game-winning score. The two touchdowns in the final five minutes in a game that was in hand was devastating for the Bulldogs, and it will go down as one of the most improbable wins in Florida history.

6. Auburn vs. Alabama, 1972

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    Alabama came into its rivalry showdown with 8-1 Auburn ranked No. 2 and in line for the national title. 

    Auburn had ideas of spoiling Alabama's party.

    Down 16-3 midway through the fourth quarter, Bill Newton blocked a punt, and David Langner scooped it up and strolled into the end zone for an Auburn touchdown to give the Tigers new life. 

    Late in the fourth, history repeated itself.

    From virtually the same spot on the field in what looked like a replay of Auburn's previous score, Newton blocked another one and Langner capped off one of the most improbable finishes in a rivalry that's defined by improbable finishes.

5. Purdue vs. Georgia, 2000

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    The Georgia Bulldogs got the new millennium started off with a bang by orchestrating one of the most improbable comebacks in college football history.

    The 2000 Outback Bowl appeared to be a snooze-fest midway through the second quarter, as Drew Brees and the Purdue Boilermakers jumped out to a 25-0 lead and appeared to be cruising for the win.

    But Quincy Carter had other ideas.

    Carter completed 20 of 33 passes for 243 yards on the afternoon. After a couple of missed Purdue field goals kept Georgia alive, Carter connected with Randy McMichael for an eight-yard, game-tying score with just over a minute to play. 

    Hap Hines would then hit the game-winning field goal in overtime to give Georgia a 28-25 victory and cap off one of the biggest bowl comebacks in history.

4. Tennessee at Notre Dame, 1991

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    Tennessee traveled to South Bend, Indiana, to take on Lou Holtz's Notre Dame Fighting Irish in November 1991 looking to play spoiler and ruin Holtz's title hopes.

    It didn't look promising early.

    The Vols dug themselves into a 24-point hole late in the second quarter as Craig Hentrich lined up for a field goal that would have extended the Notre Dame lead to 27. His kick was blocked, Hentrich was injured and the loose ball was returned 85 yards by Floyd Miley with 14 seconds to go in the quarter to give Tennessee much-needed momentum heading into halftime.

    They'd come all the way back to take a late lead on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Andy Kelly to Aaron Hayden with just over four minutes to play in the game. The Vols would block the first-ever field-goal attempt by Rob Leonard—a 27-yarder on the game's final play—to stun the Irish 35-34.

    "I've been in this game a long time," said Holtz, according to the New York Times. "That was as difficult a loss as I've been associated with, ever. Ever."

3. Auburn at Alabama, 2010

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    The 2010 meeting between Auburn and Alabama in Tuscaloosa had pretty much everything.

    Alabama, the defending SEC and national champs, jumped out to a 24-0 lead on undefeated and second-ranked Auburn, which looked like its own national-title hopes were disappearing on a dreary Friday afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

    Led by quarterback Cam Newton, who was mired in a month-long NCAA controversy, the Tigers roared back. Newton hit Emory Blake for a touchdown late in the first half, hit Terrell Zachery on a 70-yarder early in the third, plowed in on his own late in the third and then hit Philip Lutzenkirchen early in the fourth to give Auburn a 28-27 lead.

    Auburn's T'Sharvan Bell sacked Greg McElroy on the Auburn 40-yard line with just over five minutes to play to end Alabama's potential game-winning drive. 

    Newton would go on to win the Heisman Trophy, and Auburn would claim the 2010 SEC and BCS National Championship.

2. Arkansas at Tennessee, 1998

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    The 1998 Arkansas/Tennessee game in mid-November in Knoxville will go down as the game that saved Tennessee's national title but also as the one that ruined Arkansas'.

    Both teams entered undefeated, and the Razorbacks appeared to be on their way to a big road win after jumping up to a 24-10 lead early in the third quarter. Tee Martin scored from four yards out, and the Vols kicked a field goal to get to 24-20 by the end of the third, but that's when things got weird.

    With 2:56 to play, Arkansas was forced to punt after trying to ice the game away, but the snap sailed over punter Chris Akin, and Akin kicked it through the back of the end zone for a safety.

    Arkansas' defense held strong and forced a Tennessee punt. When all seemed lost, Razorbacks quarterback Clint Stoerner took the snap, stumbled, fumbled and gave Tennessee the ball with 1:43 to play. Travis Henry ran five straight times and scored the game-winner with 28 seconds left to stun Arkansas and keep the Vols' title hopes alive.

1. LSU at Auburn, 1994

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    When it comes to improbable, amazing and enormous comebacks, nothing tops the 1994 Auburn/LSU game.

    After Auburn went 11-0 in head coach Terry Bowden's first season, LSU appeared to be on the verge of handing him his first loss on the Plains on Sept. 17, 1994.

    LSU led 23-9 going into the fourth quarter, but with 12:14 to play, quarterback Jamie Howard was picked off over the middle by Ken Alvis, who trucked over Howard en route to the pick-six.

    It was the start of a trend.

    Howard was picked off by Fred Smith on the next drive, who returned it 32 yards for a score to bring Auburn even with the Bengal Tigers at 23.

    A field goal and a three-and-out gave LSU the ball with 3:42 to play looking to ice the game away, but with 1:55 to play, Howard's pass was tipped and intercepted by Auburn's Brian Robinson, who returned it 40 yards for the go-ahead score.

    It wasn't over.

    LSU drove to the Auburn 35-yard line with under a minute to play, but Howard was again picked off by Robinson, who had his eyes set on the end zone again. He was blindsided by an LSU receiver, fumbled and LSU recovered on the Auburn 47-yard line. 

    Howard got LSU to the 32-yard line, but his final pass was intercepted in the end zone by Chris Shelling. 

    This game featured five interceptions thrown by Howard in the fourth quarter and four defensive scores (Auburn also scored on fumble recovery in the second quarter), and Auburn extended its winning streak to 15 games.

    Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.

    Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

    Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.