NCF Nation: 2012 best moments 011413

SEC's most memorable moments in 2012

January, 14, 2013
1/14/13
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We at the SEC blog carried a makeshift camera with us all season and are pleased to provide you with snapshots of some of the more memorable moments from the 2012 season.

Some were obvious. Some weren’t so obvious.

Either way, it was another banner season for the SEC, which produced its seventh consecutive national championship and became the first conference in history to have five of the top 10 teams -- 1. Alabama, T-5. Georgia, T-5. Texas A&M, 8. South Carolina and 9. Florida -- in the final rankings.

Sit back and enjoy.

Alabama’s repeat: Rebounding from a November home loss to Texas A&M, Alabama became the first team since Nebraska in 1994 and 1995 to repeat as national champions with a 42-14 battering of previously unbeaten Notre Dame in the Discover BCS National Championship. The Crimson Tide mauled the Irish physically and scored touchdowns on each of their first three possessions. The game was over by the time the second quarter began, and Alabama’s historic run had officially become a dynasty. The Crimson Tide won their third outright national title in four years, the first school to accomplish that feat since Notre Dame in the late 1940s.

[+] EnlargeManziel
John David Mercer/US PresswireJohnny Manziel was at his finest in Texas A&M's upset of Alabama.
Manziel’s magic: The upset heard around the country this season was Texas A&M’s 29-24 win over No. 1-ranked Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium. And who can forget Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel’s performance in that game, a showing that paved the way for Manziel to become the first freshman in history to win the Heisman Trophy? The play that will forever stand out from that game is his 10-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Swope. Manziel somehow managed to avoid the rush up the middle, fumbled the ball to himself in midair and then scrambled left and threw back across his body to a wide-open Swope in the end zone. It was Johnny Football at his finest.

Mosley’s tip: Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley got just enough fingers on the football to deflect Aaron Murray’s pass in the final seconds of the SEC championship game. The ball careened into the hands of Georgia receiver Chris Conley, who slipped to the turf at the Alabama 5-yard line as time expired. Alabama survived 32-28 and earned the right to play for another national championship in one of the most exciting SEC championship games in history.

Clowney’s hit: They’re referring to it as simply “The Hit” in South Carolina. The Gamecocks’ all-world sophomore defensive end, Jadeveon Clowney, leveled Michigan running back Vincent Smith, sending both Smith’s helmet and the ball flying. Clowney snatched the ball up with his left hand in one of those plays that becomes even more jaw-dropping every time you see it.

Miles’ outburst: LSU coach Les Miles has been must-see TV for a long time now. But do yourself a favor and go relive his “What a game!” performance during his news conference following LSU’s 41-35 victory over Mississippi. An emotional Miles even dropped an F-bomb and then implored fans to thank the "spectacular group" of LSU players with this memorable line: “You go find them, throw your arms around them and give them a big kiss on the mouth ... if you're a girl."

Screen to Yeldon: With Tiger Stadium roaring in a much-anticipated clash between Alabama and LSU, the Crimson Tide awakened offensively in the final minutes. Quarterback AJ McCarron led the Crimson Tide on a game-winning drive that was capped by a 28-yard screen pass to T.J. Yeldon for a touchdown with 51 seconds to play. McCarron was 1-for-7 for 0 yards in the second half before that final drive, which allowed Alabama to escape, 21-17.

Franklin’s hug: Vanderbilt’s 38-24 win over NC State in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl earned the Commodores their first nine-win season since 1915. Afterward, a Vanderbilt fan made his way into the news conference and thanked second-year coach James Franklin for what he’d done for the program. Franklin stopped the news conference, gave the fan a big hug and told him thanks for sticking with the Commodores. “You’re due for this,” Franklin exclaimed.

Support for Lattimore: No moment was more tear-jerking and yet heartwarming than the injury to South Carolina star tailback Marcus Lattimore this season. Sadly, Lattimore blew out his knee for the second straight season in the 38-35 win over Tennessee. As he lay on the field in pain after going down with the injury, players, coaches and support personnel from both teams surrounded Lattimore on the field in a touching show of support. It's the kind of thing you rarely, if ever, see on a football field and says volumes about the universal respect Lattimore has as a player and as a person.

Jones' strip: Great players make great plays, and Jarvis Jones' strip of Florida tight end Jordan Reed was the play that sent Georgia to the SEC championship game for the second straight year and kept Florida at home despite a huge turnaround for the Gators this season. Reed was motoring for the end zone with just over two minutes to play in Jacksonville, but Jones was able to punch the ball loose inside the 5, and the Bulldogs recovered in the end zone. It was one of 2 forced fumbles for Jones, who also had 3 sacks in the 17-9 win.

Ole Miss' resurgence: The Rebels entered the season with a 14-game SEC losing streak. But under the guidance of first-year coach Hugh Freeze, they scrapped their way to a 7-6 season, which included a resounding 41-24 win over rival Mississippi State in the regular-season finale after what was three straight losses to the Bulldogs. The Rebels then followed that up with a 38-17 rout of Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl. Hotty Toddy!

ACC's best moments of 2012

January, 14, 2013
1/14/13
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It was a rough year for the ACC, but in retrospect, there were too many highlights to narrow it down to 10. From Blair Holliday’s return, to the ACC’s impressive performances during bowl season, to individual performances and games, the conference had plenty of memorable moments in 2012.

The following is a list of 10 moments and memories that best captured the 2012 ACC season, according to ESPN.com. ACC fans are bound to have more, and we’d love to hear them. What did we miss? Feel free to drop us a note in the mailbag, and we’ll highlight the best nominations in a separate mailblog. Until then, here are your top 10 moments from 2012, starting with the best:

1. Chandler Catanzaro's game-winning field goal versus LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl: It was the ACC’s biggest win of the season, and the highest-ranked team Clemson has beaten in a bowl game since the 2004 (2003 season) Chick-fil-A Bowl, when the Tigers defeated sixth-ranked Tennessee 27-14. Catanzaro’s 37-yard field goal as time expired gave No. 14 Clemson a wild 25-24 win against No. 8 LSU, and it was the highest-ranked SEC team an ACC team has beaten in the past nine years.

2. Duke becomes bowl eligible for the first time since 1994: Sean Renfree's 5-yard touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder on fourth down with 13 seconds left lifted Duke past North Carolina 33-30 and made the Blue Devils bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. Renfree converted three third-and-longs during the game-winning, 87-yard drive.

[+] EnlargeGiovani Bernard
Bob Donnan/US PresswireGiovani Bernard's 74-yard game-winning punt return to lift UNC past rival NCSU was a play to remember.
3. Giovani Bernard versus NC State: Bernard returned a punt 74 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 13 seconds left, helping North Carolina stun rival NC State 43-35 to end a five-year losing streak in the series. That day, Bernard also ran for 135 yards and two touchdowns, and had eight catches for 95 yards.

4. Karlos Williams' tip and interception in the ACC title game: In what turned out to be the final game for FSU defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, FSU's D came up big against Georgia Tech, and no play was bigger than Williams'. The game wasn't decided until Williams intercepted Tevin Washington with less than a minute remaining. It was FSU's first ACC title since 2005.

5. The ACC posting its first winning bowl record since 2005: With marquee wins over LSU and USC and a victory in the Discover Orange Bowl, the ACC finally came out on the right end of bowl season, and will enter 2013 will some much-needed positive momentum. The Noles took another step toward national relevance with a 31-10 win against No. 15 Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl -- their first BCS bowl win since they beat Virginia Tech in 2000.

6. FSU quarterback EJ Manuel’s performance versus Clemson: It was Manuel’s one true Heisman moment of the season, as he completed 27 of 35 passes for a career-high 380 yards while rushing for another 102 to become the first Seminoles quarterback since Charlie Ward in 1992 to pass for more than 300 yards and run for more than 100 in a game.

7. Clemson QB Tajh Boyd accounts for eight touchdowns: The ACC Player of the Year set school and ACC records when he scored five passing and three rushing touchdowns in a 62-48 win over NC State. The Tigers gained 754 yards and ran 102 plays, the most in school history. Boyd was responsible for every Clemson touchdown. Boyd was 30-for-44 for 426 yards and ran for 105 yards -- the combined 531 yards set another school record.

8. Johnson leads Canes to Coastal title: In the regular-season finale against Duke, Miami freshman Duke Johnson rushed for season highs of 176 yards and three touchdowns. He scored on runs of 18, 6 and 65 yards. He finished his freshman year with 947 yards rushing, easily surpassing Clinton Portis' 13-year-old school freshman rushing record of 838 yards.

9. NC State’s game-winning TD in its upset of No. 3-ranked FSU. This isn’t a “best moment” for FSU fans, but it was by far one of the most memorable plays in the ACC and a highlight for the Wolfpack. Quarterback Mike Glennon found Bryan Underwood for a 2-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 16 seconds left, helping the Wolfpack beat the Seminoles 17-16 on Oct. 6.

10. Duke receiver Conner Vernon rewrites the record books: In a 42-17 win against Virginia, Vernon surpassed Clemson's Aaron Kelly as the ACC's all-time leader in career receptions when he made a catch for minus-2 yards in the first quarter. In the 42-24 loss to Georgia Tech, Vernon became the ACC's all-time leader in yards receiving, passing former Florida State star Peter Warrick's record of 3,517 yards.

TOP 3 OFF-FIELD MOMENTS

[+] EnlargeBlair Holliday
Courtesy of Duke Sports InformationBlair Holliday (No. 8) walks with his Duke teammates in his return to the field following a terrible jet ski accident that sidelined the wide receiver.
So as not to trivialize these moments by tossing them in with touchdowns, here are three more memories you won't want to forget:

1. Blair Holliday joins his Duke captains for the coin toss against NC Central: It was a miraculous recovery, and the most inspirational story in the conference. Holliday, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a jet ski accident on July 4 that left him in critical condition, led the team on the Devil Walk in what was an emotional comeback for the entire team.

2. Clemson receiver Daniel Rodriguez leads the Tigers on Military Appreciation Day: The Army veteran led the team down the hill carrying the American flag prior to the Virginia Tech game on Military Appreciation Day at Clemson on Oct. 20.

3. The ACC adds Louisville: The ACC's presidents and chancellors voted to add Louisville to replace Maryland, a move that looked better and better as the Cardinals' football season ended with a win against Florida in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. ACC officials conceded the move was an athletics-first, academics-second decision, but it was one the conference should eventually benefit from.

Pac-12's best moments in 2012

January, 14, 2013
1/14/13
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Here's a collection of great moments/storylines from the 2012 Pac-12 season in no particular order:

  • Clutch catches: A couple from Arizona wide receivers come to mind. There was Austin Hill laying out in the season opener against Toledo for a 30-yard touchdown -- quite possibly the best catch in the Pac-12 this season -- and Tyler Slavin's snag in the New Mexico Bowl. Zach Ertz's haul-in against Oregon was as clutch as it gets.
  • [+] EnlargeReggie Dunn
    Russ Isabella/US PresswireUtah's Reggie Dunn was a threat to go the distance every time he touched the ball.
    Dunn and done: It was a record-setting year for Utah's All-American kick returner Reggie Dunn. He set the NCAA single-season record with four 100-yard kickoff returns for touchdowns. He set the NCAA mark for career 100-yard kickoff returns with five, the single-game 100-yard kickoff return record with two and the kick return average in a game at 74.0. He also tied the NCAA record for kick return touchdowns in a game from any distance with two. His performance prompted one of the best quotes of the year from Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "I can't believe they kicked to him," Whittingham said after the Colorado game.
  • Having their moment: Colorado is going to get mentioned a lot in this post -- mostly because of what others did to it. But in a season loaded with disappointments, it was a gritty fourth-quarter performance that stands out as a highlight for the Buffs. Trailing 31-14 in the final frame, Colorado outscored the Washington State Cougars 21-3 in the final 7:06 for their only win of the season, a 35-34 victory in Pullman, Wash.
  • The other side of Colorado: Feeling good after reading that, Buffs fans? Here comes the rub. Pac-12 teams exploded against Colorado this year with several record-setting performances. We've already mentioned Dunn getting one of his kickoff return TDs against the Buffs. But before that, Matt Barkley and Robert Woods had record-setting days against Colorado. Barkley threw six touchdowns and completed 95 percent of his passes (19 of 20), giving him the Pac-12 career touchdown record. Woods caught eight balls to set the USC career receptions record and he became the first USC player to have four touchdown catches in one game. A couple of weeks later, Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey ran for a league-record 366 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 14.6 yards per carry. In conference games, Colorado was outscored, on average, 49-17.
  • Clutch kicks: In what was a very off year for Pac-12 kickers, a few key moments stand out: Ka'imi Fairbairn's 33-yard game winner lifted the Bruins to a 45-43 win at Arizona State; Jordan Williamson's 37-yarder in overtime downed Oregon and changed the entire landscape of college football; and WSU's Andrew Furney was oh-so-money in the Apple Cup, drilling a 45-yarder to tie the game in the closing minutes and then hitting a 27-yarder in overtime.
  • UW shockers: For as shocking as the Apple Cup demise was for the Huskies, they also provided a couple of big shockers of their own, knocking off a pair of top-10 teams. A week after Stanford stunned USC (not as stunning as it was at the time), Washington held the No. 8 Cardinal without an offensive touchdown in a 17-13 home win. A month later -- to the day -- it snapped No. 7 Oregon State's six-game winning streak, also at the Clink.
  • SoCal slugfest: Before the season, we all looked to the Oregon-USC game as the first of two that would determine the conference championship. As it turned out, neither team even reached the title game. But the game itself didn't disappoint. It was a 62-51 thrill ride in which Kenjon Barner rushed for 321 yards and four touchdowns, Barkley threw for 484 yards and five scores and the two schools gained 1,345 yards of total offense between them.
  • Quarterback controversies: Midseason switches and turnover at the position seemed like a constant throughout the Pac-12. Only four schools -- Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA and Washington -- started the same quarterback in every game this season. Injury caused changes at Arizona, Cal, Oregon State, USC and Utah, while competitions/switches happened at Washington State, Stanford, Oregon State and Colorado. In the end, it was a good move for Stanford -- which went on to win the Pac-12 title. At Oregon State, the competition is certainly wide open after the Alamo Bowl collapse. Colorado has some things to figure out with a new coaching staff and we'll see if Connor Halliday can hold on to the job next year.
  • Heisman shutout: The Pac-12 didn't have a finalist for the first time since 2008 -- despite strong seasons from Marqise Lee, Barner, Carey, Johnathan Franklin, etc. Barkley was the preseason favorite, but fizzled as USC imploded. Despite having the nation's top wide receiver and three of the four consensus All-American running backs, the Pac-12 was snubbed out of a trip to New York.
  • Stanford's staying power: Surely, 2012 was the year Stanford would come back to earth. No Andrew Luck, no Coby Fleener, no Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro. But behind a fierce defense, the Cardinal won the league title, Kevin Hogan is 5-0 as a starter at quarterback and the Cardinal won the Rose Bowl. Not bad for a rebuilding year.
  • Coaches are better than ever: Jim Mora, Todd Graham and Rich Rodriguez all took their teams to bowl games in their first seasons. Mike Riley has his team back in the Top 25. David Shaw has won the coach of the year honor twice in two seasons. Chip Kelly is back. Sonny Dykes has an exciting offense. Mike MacIntyre has a history of rebuilding. The Pac-12 might have the hottest crop of coaches in the country. That's a very good thing.
  • 2-0: There are many ways to judge the talent of a conference. BCS bowl games are the biggest litmus test. The Pac-12 went 4-4 in the bowl season, but won both of its BCS games: Stanford beating Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and Oregon thrashing Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl. History judges the best of the best. And there was no doubt those two teams earned everything they got this year.

Big Ten's best moments from 2012

January, 14, 2013
1/14/13
11:00
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The Big Ten had a mostly forgettable season in 2012, and most are anxious to turn the page to 2013. But the fall did provide some memorable moments around the league.

Here are a few …

Miller's mastery: Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller put himself on the Heisman Trophy radar with dazzling moves and long runs, but his most memorable play covered only a yard. Facing third-and-goal, Miller looked like he would be stopped on a zone-read play, but he executed a video game-like juke, scooted past Penn State All-Big Ten linebacker Gerald Hodges and leaped into the end zone for the touchdown. The score gave Ohio State a 21-10 lead, and the Buckeyes went on to win 35-23.

Barry's back: After Bret Bielema surprisingly left Wisconsin for Arkansas three days after winning the Big Ten championship game, the Badgers needed a coach for the Rose Bowl, and the seniors knew where to turn. They asked former coach and current athletic director Barry Alvarez to lead the team, and Alvarez quickly agreed. Alvarez provided several great moments during his month as coach, including a ridiculously entertaining news conference in which he delivered the quote of the year in the Big Ten: "I won't use a search committee. Most search committees use me." The return tour culminated with Alvarez strolling the sideline at the Rose Bowl, just like old times.

[+] EnlargeLe'Veon Bell
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesLe'Veon Bell's hurdle was one of the few bright spots in Michigan State's season.
Penn State punctuates season: Few expected much from Penn State after a turbulent summer that brought severe NCAA sanctions and a mini exodus that included star running back Silas Redd. But first-year coach Bill O'Brien and a steadfast senior class kept the team on track. Following an 0-2 start, the Lions won eight of their final 10 games to finish in second place in the Leaders division. The season culminated in an emotion-charged senior day in State College, as Penn State honored the seniors on the stadium facade and the Lions outlasted Wisconsin 24-21 in overtime. Fittingly, kicker Sam Ficken, whose struggles led to Penn State's Week 2 loss at Virginia, hit the game-winning field goal from 37 yards out.

Roundtree to the rescue: Michigan found itself in serious danger of dropping its first home game under coach Brady Hoke as it took possession at its own 38-yard line with no timeouts and 18 seconds left. Needing a field goal to tie Northwestern, quarterback Devin Gardner heaved the ball downfield toward senior receiver Roy Roundtree, who amazingly faced only single coverage. The pass appeared to be too far, but Roundtree battled defensive back Daniel Jones, tipped the ball in the air and then made an amazing catch at the Northwestern 9-yard line. Michigan went on to win in overtime and keep alive its hopes for a Legends division title.

Buckeye backups rise: Ohio State recorded the sixth undefeated, untied season in team history, but it wouldn't have happened without some huge performances from little-used players against Purdue. The Buckeyes were on the ropes, trailing Purdue 22-14 with 47 seconds left, no timeouts and the ball at their own 39-yard line. Quarterback Miller was in the hospital getting his neck examined. Backup quarterback Kenny Guiton led the offense downfield and found a diving Chris Fields for a touchdown with three seconds left. Fields' first touchdown grab set up a 2-point conversion, and Ohio State went on to win in overtime.

Ball becomes touchdown king: Montee Ball's senior season didn't start off well, as the Wisconsin star was the victim of an assault this summer and struggled in September. But Ball provided his typical late-season surge and put up excellent numbers in Big Ten play (1,168 rush yards, 16 TDs). He set several records down the stretch, none more significant than the NCAA's all-time touchdowns record, which he secured on a first-quarter scoring run Nov. 24 at Penn State. Although he didn't make it back to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony, he won the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back.

Osborne leads Nebraska out of tunnel: Tom Osborne announced his retirement as Nebraska's athletic director in September, and the team honored its living legend before its final home game Nov. 17 against Minnesota. Osborne, who coached the Huskers from 1973-97, joined the team for its famous tunnel walk and led the Huskers onto the field before an adoring crowd at Memorial Stadium. Although Osborne certainly isn't going anyway, the emotional tribute allowed Nebraska fans to recognize him one final time.

Northwestern's bowl bonanza: Bowl games are no longer rarities for Northwestern, but the program's inability to win a bowl game since the 1949 Rose Bowl cast a shadow over its recent accomplishments. The Wildcats finally got the bowl monkey off of their backs by thumping Mississippi State 34-20 on Jan. 1, setting off an emotional celebration for Pat Fitzgerald and his players. In a jubilant locker room the team tore apart the stuffed monkey that had symbolized its postseason futility. The victory gave Northwestern just its third 10-win season in team history, and made Fitzgerald the program's all-time winningest coach (50 victories).

Bo knows: After Ohio State humbled his Nebraska team Oct. 6 in Columbus, coach Bo Pelini calmly delivered a statement that would carry the Huskers to a Legends division title. "We need to win out," Pelini said. "We have six weeks. And we need to win the next six football games. Get to Indianapolis." And indeed they did, as Nebraska shook off the blowout loss and became Team Comeback, rallying to beat Northwestern and Michigan State on the road and Penn State at home. The Huskers embraced the urgency of the situation and made it to Indianapolis for the league title game.

Le'Veon's leap: Michigan State didn't have many memorable moments, and neither did the Big Ten during nonleague play, but Spartans star running back Le'Veon Bell provided one in the season opener against Boise State. The 6-foot-2, 237-pound junior hurdled a Boise State defender on Michigan State's third play from scrimmage, delighting the Spartan Stadium crowd. It became somewhat of a signature move for Bell, who racked up 266 yards on a whopping 44 carries against the Broncos in the first of many workhorse-like performances this season. Michigan State won the game 17-13, giving the Big Ten one of few solid nonleague victories.

Iowa's Weis-man: Like Michigan State, Iowa fell short of expectations this season and struggled to generate offense. And like the Spartans, the Hawkeyes could hang their hat on a big, bruising ball-carrier, although one few anticipated would do much this season. Fullback Mark Weisman, a walk-on who transferred from Air Force, announced himself with a 113-yard, three-touchdown performance in a Week 3 win against Northern Iowa. Weisman racked up 623 rush yards and eight touchdowns during a brilliant four-week stretch before being slowed by injuries.

The Big 12's best moments of 2012

January, 14, 2013
1/14/13
11:00
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The season is done, and our 2012 wrapup continues. Today, we take a look at the best moments of 2012. Before we do that, let me take a moment to define "the best." It's not necessarily the moments that benefited or hurt the Big 12, but when I look back on the season, these are the moments I'll remember the most. I suspect you'll feel similar.

1. Another year, another disastrous 11th game. Just like Oklahoma State in the second game of back-to-back weeks on the road, in the 11th game of the season against a team under .500, 10-0 Kansas State's BCS title hopes came crashing down. This was no double-overtime thriller, though. Kansas State had rolled through its Big 12 schedule until 4-5 Baylor smited down Kansas State (the same team who ended the Bears' undefeated season a year ago) with great vengeance. That made it official: The Big 12 would be left on the outside looking into the national title game for the third consecutive season.

2. A Bedlam to remember. It was one of the best games of the year and had a huge impact on the Big 12 title race. Oklahoma erased a second-half, double-digit deficit with a fourth-down touchdown by Blake Bell and a dramatic punt return for a score from Jalen Saunders. Brennan Clay's overtime touchdown run clinched a memorable Thanksgiving weekend in the state of Oklahoma. Advantage, Sooners.

3. West Virginia's big debut. The fans in the stadium provided a pretty crazy-looking blue and gold striped stadium, and the first-ever Big 12 game in Morgantown, W.Va. was the most prolific Big 12 game ever. We saw an FBS-record 19 touchdowns and more than 1,500 yards of offense in the matchup of two top 25 teams, but West Virginia emerged with a 70-63 win.

4. TCU's Big 12 debut goes awry. Days before the first-ever Big 12 game in Fort Worth, though, was the biggest loss in a season of many for TCU. A campus drug bust was the first big distraction in January, but injuries piled up and Casey Pachall's DUI before that Iowa State game ended with him going to a treatment facility and leaving the university and his team. The Frogs had to deal with more than any team in the Big 12, but still managed to go 7-6 in a year that some might argue was Gary Patterson's best coaching job.

5. Baylor's big finish. The Bears were the story of the second half of the season, highlighted by the No. 1 moment on our list, but BU also earned the most impressive performance of any team in a bowl game. Lache Seastrunk and a defense with a penchant for turnovers helped Baylor win its final four games of the season and reach 8-5, but the Bears could be rolling into 2013.

6. Kansas State announces its Big 12 title candidacy. I was higher than most on Kansas State, but even I was skeptical that the Wildcats could truly win the Big 12. Then, they walked in as a double-digit underdog and beat Oklahoma, 24-19, with a final score that was a bit deceptive, considering Oklahoma added a late touchdown. Still, Kansas State proved it was the best team in the Big 12 over the rest of the season. This was just the game that got me believing.

7. Oklahoma celebrates its Big 12 "championship." In the same breath, I won't ever forget the Big 12's first-ever split title. Oklahoma beat TCU on the final weekend of the season, and with K-State playing later in the night, Oklahoma didn't bother to wait and see if it would be a split champion or an outright champion. Oklahoma busted out shirts and hats in the locker room, and went back on the field for a team photo. Meanwhile, Bob Stoops talked about how he didn't write the Big 12 rules, despite saying a year earlier that if his team beat Oklahoma State in the season finale, it would be clear who the real champion was.

8. WVU comes back to Earth. The Texas Tech and Kansas State losses made it painfully clear: West Virginia was not ready to compete for a Big 12 title. The Mountaineers reached No. 5 and had the Heisman frontrunner in Geno Smith. The lack of a serviceable defense and consistent running game quickly erased the memories of wins over Baylor and Texas to begin Big 12 play and began the descent for West Virginia that became a five-game losing streak.

Best Big East moments of 2012

January, 14, 2013
1/14/13
11:00
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The calendar reads 2013, but it is time to take a quick look back at the best moments of the 2012 season.

Best moment, period: Louisville 33, Florida 23, Allstate Sugar Bowl. OK this game was technically played in 2013, but it still counts as the best moment the Big East had. Louisville may be headed out the door, but the Big East should own this moment, considering the constant beating it has taken over the past two seasons. Louisville is proof that the Big East can survive without its big-name programs. Remember, Louisville was only added to the Big East after the first raid took Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College. Since joining in 2005, the Cardinals have gone to two BCS games and have an up-and-coming football program. It stings that they are leaving, but the program has taken off under the Big East umbrella.

Best Big East game: Louisville 34, Cincinnati 31, overtime. I thought this was the most thrilling game of the season, and had folks talking Big East football on a Friday night in October. Cincinnati had 10-point leads in the first and second half before the Cardinals came back twice under Teddy Bridgewater. After Bridgewater threw the go-ahead 64-yard touchdown pass to DeVante Parker with 1:56 to go, Cincinnati did not cave. Munchie Legaux answered with a 26-yard, game-tying touchdown pass of his own to Damon Julian with 1:03 to go to send the game into overtime. One of the moments everybody will remember is the "Butch Jones shrug," after botching the ice-the-kicker timeout. Jones called timeout just before Louisville kicker John Wallace attempted a 30-yard field goal in overtime. The snap was high and the kick sailed wide. Wallace nailed the try that counted, and the Cardinals escaped with the win.

[+] EnlargeTyler Matakevich
Cal Sport Media/APTemple's defense got a boost after freshman LB Tyler Matakevich cracked the starting lineup.
Best performance by a freshman: Tyler Matakevich, LB, Temple. Matakevich was an unheard-of prospect when the season began, but that all changed at the end of 2012. Matakevich won Big East Freshman of the Year honors after he completely dominated when he got his opportunity in the starting lineup. He ended up with double-digit tackles in seven of the eight games he started.

Best performance by a sophomore: Bridgewater. There is no doubt Bridgewater was the best player in the Big East this season, as he ended up throwing for 3,718 yards, 27 touchdowns and eight interceptions while completing 68.5 percent of his passes. His emergence gives the Big East a legitimate Heisman contender in 2013.

Best performance by a junior: Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers. Ryan had another outstanding season as one of the premier shutdown cornerbacks in the country, finishing as an All-Big East first-team selection. He was second on the team with 94 tackles and was the only player in the nation with at least 90 tackles, four interceptions and 18 passes defended.

Best performance by a senior: Khaseem Greene, LB, Rutgers. There were plenty of outstanding senior performances this season, but Greene was the best of them, repeating as Big East Defensive Player of the Year. Greene ended the season with 136 tackles, six sacks and six forced fumbles.

Best comeback performance: Syracuse. When the Orange started the year 2-4, how many of you predicted Doug Marrone would become the next coach of the Buffalo Bills? Syracuse ended the season as one of the league's hottest teams with wins in six of its last seven games. Last year was the exact reverse -- Syracuse started 5-2 and could not win another game. Interesting how that all worked out, isn't it?

Best "firsts": Syracuse and Pitt both hit offensive firsts this season. Syracuse had a 3,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard receiver and 1,000-yard rusher for the first time in school history. Ryan Nassib finished with 3,749 yards passing; Jerome Smith had 1,171 yards rushing; and Alec Lemon had 1,070 yards receiving. Meanwhile, the Panthers had a 3,000-yard passer and 1,000-yard rusher in the same season for the first time in school history. Tino Sunseri finished the season with 3,288 yards, while Ray Graham had 1,042.

Best record: Big East 4-1 vs. SEC. Now this is truly something the Big East can brag about. The lone blemish belongs to Pitt, which lost to Ole Miss in the BBVA Compass Bowl. While it may be true that three of those four wins came against teams with losing records, you can't deny how important it was for Louisville to beat Kentucky and Florida; for Syracuse to go on the road and beat Missouri in November to clinch bowl eligibility; and for Rutgers to go on the road and beat an Arkansas team that was ranked in the preseason. Before the year began, many opined about the tough games for the Orange and Scarlet Knights on the road, particularly since they were late additions to the schedule. Neither opponent may have been as good as advertised in the preseason, but there's still no denying the enormity of the wins.

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