NCF Nation: games of decade 100120

Pac-10 games of the decade

January, 20, 2010
Lots of extraordinary games to choose from, as well as many ways to ascribe greatness: the size of the stage, the competitiveness of the game and the overall strangeness.

And we made the executive decision not to make this a list of USC upset losses -- other than the biggest one of those.

10. Oregon 56, Arizona State 55 (2 OT), 2000: Many of you are drawing a blank, but the ones who saw this one are jumping out of their chairs and going, "Oh man. That one was nuts." Both teams scored 21 points in the fourth quarter. The teams combined for 1,228 yards, 663 of those for the Sun Devils. Ducks quarterback Joey Harrington threw six -- SIX! -- touchdown passes, including three in the fourth quarter, the last of which tied the score with 27 seconds left after the Sun Devils gave away a critical fumble. Arizona State freshman QB Jeff Krohn threw five TD passes, by the way. ASU lost the game when coach Bruce Snyder decided to fake the extra point and go for the two-point conversion in the second overtime. It failed, leaving fans in Tempe stunned.

9. Washington State 30, USC 27 (OT), 2002: Any of you Cougars fans able to muster the memory of kicker Drew Dunning's slide on his knees at Martin Stadium? Dunning sent the game into overtime with a 35-yard field goal and then made the game-winner from the same distance in a victory that was critical to the Cougars' run to the Rose Bowl. The game featured a brilliant quarterback duel between Carson Palmer and Jason Gesser -- Gesser passed for 315 yards, Palmer for 381 -- and a dominant performance from Cougars defensive tackle Rien Long, who went on to win the Outland Trophy. Between this game and the 2006 Rose Bowl, USC lost just once.

8. Oregon 44, Arizona 41 (2 OT), 2009: If Arizona had won this game, we now know the Wildcats would have played in their first Rose Bowl. The Wildcats led 24-14 early in the fourth quarter, but then the game went crazy. With red-clad Arizona fans encircling the field, Ducks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli tied the game in regulation with six seconds left with a touchdown pass to Ed Dickson. Masoli then won it in the second overtime with a 1-yard run. Masoli ran for three TDs and passed for three more.

7. Stanford 24, USC 23, 2007: Greatest upset in Pac-10 history? Maybe. Stanford was a 41-point underdog playing its backup quarterback at No. 2 USC, which had won 35 in a row at home. But Trojans quarterback John David Booty, who foolishly played -- and was allowed to play -- with an injured throwing hand, threw four interceptions, while Stanford's Tavita Pritchard led a clutch, game-winning drive, throwing a 10-yard touchdown pass to Mark Bradford on fourth-and-goal with 49 seconds remaining.

6. Oregon 37, Oregon State 33, 2009: It was the Civil War for the Roses, with the Ducks earning a berth in the Rose Bowl. While the return of Ducks running back LeGarrette Blount was significant -- he scored a critical touchdown -- the game belonged to redshirt freshman running back LaMichael James, who scored three touchdowns and rushed for 166 yards, and quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who ran over Beavers safety Lance Mitchell to convert a fourth-and-3 play from the Beavers' 33 with 3:41 left, as Oregon ran out the final six minutes with its final drive.

5. California 31, Oregon 24, 2007: Sixth-ranked California, featuring a stellar performance from receiver DeSean Jackson, outlasted No. 11 Oregon in a game between two teams that would at one point rise to No. 2 during the season, though both ultimately crumbled. The game turned on a strange play as the Ducks were on the cusp of tying the score. With 22 seconds to go, Dennis Dixon found Cameron Colvin near the goal line, but Colvin fumbled trying to reach the ball into the end zone when he was hit by Marcus Ezeff. The loose ball went through the end zone and was ruled a touchback and possession for Cal.

4. Washington 33, Oregon State 30, 2000: It was the greatest game no one saw because of the late, West Coast kickoff at Husky Stadium. And at the time, its magnitude wasn't clear. The critical play of the back-and-forth affair happened when Washington defensive tackle Larry Tripplett caught Ken Simonton for a three-yard loss on second-and-1 from the Huskies 26-yard line with 42 seconds left. The Beavers panicked and mistakenly spiked the ball -- they had a timeout left -- and then Ryan Cesca missed a 46-yard field goal to tie. It was the Beavers' only loss of the season; they crushed Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. They would have played Oklahoma for the national title if they had prevailed. And the win helped the Huskies win the Rose Bowl tiebreaker.

3. USC 23, California 17, 2004: No. 7 California had a first-and-goal on top-ranked USC's 9-yard line with under two minutes left. At that point, Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers had completed 29 of 31 passes for 267 yards and a touchdown. But the Bears couldn't punch it in, with USC registering a sack and forcing three incompletions. It was the closest call of the season for the best team of the USC dynasty.

2. USC 34, Notre Dame 31, 2005: The infamous "Bush Push" game. No. 9 Notre Dame was about to knock off top-ranked rival USC and make Irish coach Charlie Weis a national sensation, but Matt Leinart led a drive for the ages in the waning moments as the Trojans prevailed, scoring the winning points when Leinart got a little extra help from Bush on his second effort on a quarterback sneak.

1. Texas 41, USC 38, 2006 Rose Bowl: Perhaps the great game in college football history, particularly considering that the stakes were a national title for two unbeaten teams and the field was packed with talent and future high draft choices. Vince Young almost single-handedly willed his team to the victory -- he ran for 200 yards and passed for 267 more -- and denied the Trojans a third consecutive national title. USC walked away with a laundry list of "what ifs," but the ultimate result was a 34-game winning streak coming to an end.

SEC games of the decade

January, 20, 2010
What makes a great game? What makes a memorable game?

Most of the time, that depends on where you sit.

Again, though, picking just 10 games that stick out in the SEC over the last decade is a thankless task.

My question: Can I pick 10 over the last two seasons?

While realizing some memorable contests are going to be left out, here’s our stab at the 10 best games the decade had to offer in the SEC:

1. Florida 31, Alabama 20, 2008 SEC championship game: The No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country went toe-to-toe for three classic quarters in a game that lived up to every bit of its hype. But in those final 15 minutes, Tim Tebow took over with one clutch play after another, and the Gators -- playing without injured star Percy Harvin -- turned in a flawless quarter to earn a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.

2. Arkansas 50, LSU 48 (3 OT), 2007: Easily one of the more shocking games of the decade. Darren McFadden rushed for 206 yards and three touchdowns and threw for another score, as unranked Arkansas knocked off No. 1 LSU at home on the final weekend of the regular season. Arkansas’ Matterral Richardson intercepted Matt Flynn’s two-point conversion pass in the end zone to clinch the win for the Hogs. It was Houston Nutt’s final game at Arkansas, and LSU limped away thinking it had blown its chance to play for a national title. But the right teams lost, and the Tigers climbed back into position in the final BCS standings and whipped Ohio State for their second national title of the decade.

3. Florida 17, South Carolina 16, 2006: Talk about a surreal setting. Steve Spurrier was back at the Swamp ... but wearing different colors and standing on the opposing sideline. His Gamecocks outplayed the No. 6 Gators most of the day. South Carolina had a chance to win it at the end, but Jarvis Moss blocked Ryan Succop’s 48-yard field goal attempt as time expired to save the Gators. It was his second blocked kick of the game and the third by Florida. The Gators would go on to win their first of two national titles under Urban Meyer.

4. Tennessee 34, Florida 32, 2001: The game was pushed back to the end of the season because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Florida was No. 2 and Tennessee No. 5. The Vols, who hadn’t won in the Swamp since the 1970s, got a career-high 226 yards rushing from Travis Stephens and survived a two-point conversion pass attempt in the end zone at the end of the game to put themselves in prime position to play for the national championship. They couldn’t make it stand up, though, and were upset the next week by LSU in the SEC championship game.

5. LSU 28, Florida 24, 2007: The black-and-blue game of the decade, for sure. The Tigers and Gators went at it in one of the hardest-hitting, most physical games you’ll ever see. Three different times, Tim Tebow led the Gators to 10-point leads over the No. 1-ranked Tigers. But LSU coach Les Miles kept gambling on fourth down, and the Tigers -- namely Jacob Hester -- kept converting. Hester had two fourth-down conversions on the game-winning drive and scored the go-ahead touchdown on a third-and-goal play.

6. Arkansas 71, Kentucky 63 (7 OT), 2003: It was the longest game in NCAA history, taking nearly five hours to play. The Hogs prevailed in the seventh overtime when DeCori Birmingham scored on a 25-yard touchdown run. They then stopped the Wildcats on fourth down.

7. Ole Miss 31, Florida 30, 2008: It’s the game that led to “The Promise” from Tim Tebow, and it’s also the last game the Gators lost before reeling off 22 straight victories. The Rebels shocked the No. 4 Gators in the Swamp. Jevan Snead passed for two touchdowns and ran for another, and Kentrell Lockett blocked an extra point attempt late in the fourth quarter. But the clincher came with 40 seconds to play when the Rebels stopped Tebow on fourth down and less than a yard from the Ole Miss 32. Tebow was hit in the backfield and never made it back to the line of scrimmage.

8. Georgia 24, Auburn 21, 2002: Auburn and Georgia have specialized in playing thrilling games over the years, but the 2002 contest was one of the best. The Bulldogs won it with 1:25 left to play when David Greene hit a leaping Michael Johnson with a 19-yard touchdown pass on a fourth-and-15 play to clinch the Eastern Division title. The Bulldogs went on to win their first SEC title in 20 years.

9. Kentucky 43, LSU 37 (3 OT), 2007: In one of the biggest wins in Kentucky history, the Wildcats took down the No. 1 Tigers in Lexington, settling off a wild celebration in the Bluegrass. Quarterback Andre Woodson threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Steve Johnson in the third overtime, and LSU couldn’t answer on its possession. Charles Scott was stopped on fourth-and-2 by Kentucky’s Braxton Kelley, sealing the Wildcats’ first victory over a No. 1 team since 1964.

10. Alabama 12, Tennessee 10, 2009: Terrence Cody made more than a few big plays during his two seasons at Alabama, but nothing compares to his blocked field goal as time expired to save the Crimson Tide against the Vols. It was Cody’s second blocked field goal of the day, and he ripped off his helmet and went racing across the field in celebration afterward. Alabama seemingly had the game under control, but Tennessee drove for a late touchdown and then recovered an onsides kick to move into position. The Crimson Tide prevailed without scoring a touchdown. Leigh Tiffin kicked four field goals, including a 50-yarder and 49-yarder.

Big 12 games of the decade

January, 20, 2010
Every football fan has a different definition of what makes a game great. Some fans might prefer defensive struggles. Other enjoy torrents of points.

The Big 12 has provided a few of latter -- and more -- over the last decade with some of the most entertaining games in recent college football history.

Here are my favorite 10 games of the past decade. There are 10 to 15 other games that legitimately could have been included on this list.

1. Texas 41, USC 38 (Jan. 1, 2006): The Longhorns claimed the 2005 national title with a dramatic comeback capped by Vince Young’s game-winning 8-yard TD run with 19 seconds left. Michael Huff’s critical fourth-down stop of LenDale White set the stage on the preceding drive. And many observers still think that Pete Carroll could have gone for a game-tying field goal attempt on the final play of the game if he hadn't squandered a timeout before a two-point try after Young's TD run.

2. Texas Tech 39, Texas 33 (Nov. 1, 2008): Michael Crabtree’s 28-yard touchdown reception from Graham Harrell with one second remaining capped the wildest victory in Tech history -- made even more improbable after Blake Gideon dropped an interception on the play before Crabtree’s game-winning touchdown.

3. Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42 (Jan. 1, 2007): The Broncos won the 2007 Fiesta Bowl by fooling Bob Stoops’ team with three gadget plays: a game-tying hook and ladder play in regulation, an option pass from wide receiver Vinny Perretta to Derek Schouman in overtime to pull within one point and a game-winning two-point conversion by Ian Johnson on a Statue of Liberty play. Johnson proposed to his girlfriend, Chrissy Popadics, on the field after the play. After all the excitement, of course, she accepted.

4. Oklahoma State 49, Texas Tech 45 (Sept. 22, 2007): This classic offensive battle produced 62 first downs and 1,328 yards and wasn’t settled until Michael Crabtree dropped a potential game-winning touchdown pass in the end zone in the final minute of play. And we all still remember it more for the fireworks in the press conferences with Mike Leach and Mike Gundy than for what happened on the field, don’t we?

5. Oklahoma 35, Texas A&M 31 (Nov. 11, 2000): Torrance Marshall’s game-winning 41-yard interception return with 7:42 left enabled the Sooners to continue their charge to the 2000 national championship. Oklahoma overcame an 11-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter and a 10-point hole with less than 9 minutes remaining. Marshall’s heroics gave the Sooners the lead and the Oklahoma defense did the rest, turning away the Aggies twice deep in Oklahoma territory late in the game.

6. Kansas 40, Missouri 37 (Nov. 29, 2008): Four lead changes in the final 6:52 made this game memorable, even though Missouri had already clinched the North title coming into the game. Todd Reesing and Kerry Meier hooked up five times on the game-winning drive, capped by a 26-yard touchdown pass with 27 seconds left. Missouri had one last hope, but Jeff Wolfert’s 54-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the game was partially blocked by Phillip Strozier.

7. Texas 13, Nebraska 12 (Dec. 5, 2009) : In a conference that made its national reputation with wild offensive battles, it was refreshing to see a defensive struggle in the 2009 Big 12 title game. Nebraska, keyed by a ferocious defense that forced three interceptions and sacked Colt McCoy nine times, appeared to have taken control on a 42-yard field goal by Alex Henery with 1:44 left. Ndamukong Suh sacked McCoy a championship-game record 4.5 times. But McCoy withstood the rush and drove the Longhorns for the game-winning field goal after a controversial officiating decision put extra time back on the clock after it appeared the Longhorns had squandered their chance to win. Hunter Lawrence’s 46-yard field goal as time expired gave Texas the victory.

8. Texas 56, Oklahoma State 35 (Nov. 6, 2004): The Longhorns were in a 35-7 hole late in the second quarter before Vince Young hooked up on a 4-yard TD pass to Bo Scaife shortly before halftime. That opened the floodgates, as the Longhorns scored touchdowns on six straight drives. Cedric Benson rushed for 141 yards and five touchdowns and Vince Young rushed for 123 yards and completed 12 straight passes at one point en route to a then career-high 278 passing yards. The Longhorns piled up 600 yards of total offense in the wild comeback, outgaining the Cowboys 266-to-minus-5 in the third quarter of the comeback.

9. Nebraska 40, Colorado 31 (Nov. 28, 2008): Alex Henery’s school-record 57-yard field goal with 1:43 left gave the Cornhuskers the lead for good in this classic that Colorado needed to win to qualify for a bowl game. And Ndamukong Suh foreshadowed his monster season to come by icing the victory with a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown with 55 seconds left.

10. Baylor 35, Texas A&M 34 (Oct. 30, 2004): The Bears had been waiting for a long time for a chance to beat Texas A&M -- particularly after losing 73-10 to the Aggies in College Station the previous season. So it was understandable that Guy Morriss didn’t hesitate to go for the win after pulling within one point in overtime on Shawn Bell’s pass to Dominique Ziegler. Bell and Ziegler then hooked up again for the two-point conversion, snapping an 18-game winless streak to the Aggies.

ACC's top 10 games of the decade

January, 20, 2010
You don’t have look back too far to find some of the ACC’s greatest games of the decade. They don’t have to be championship games or even monumental upsets -- just good, entertaining, don’t-turn-the-channel football. Of course, some of the best rivalries have produced some of the wackiest, wildest games. Florida State and Miami have played instant classics over the past few years, despite their declines among the nation’s elite. And Georgia Tech and Florida State in the past two seasons have provided two of the most memorable games. There are only 10 spots, though, for 10 years of ACC thrillers.

After several drafts, here are the ACC’s top 10 games of the past decade:

1. Boston College 14, No. 8 Virginia Tech 10, Oct. 25, 2007: BC quarterback Matt Ryan threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Andre Callender with 11 seconds left and the Eagles knocked off No. 8 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Ryan threw two touchdown passes in the final 2:11 and BC improved to 8-0 for the first time since 1942. The Hokies led 10-0 until late in the fourth quarter when Ryan led a 91-yard scoring drive capped by a 16-yard pass to Rich Gunnell with 2:11 remaining. Then the momentum changed.

2. Clemson 40, No. 10 Miami 37 (OT), Oct. 24, 2009: There were 12 lead changes and two ties in this game. That’s tough to beat. C.J. Spiller racked up 81 yards rushing, 104 yards receiving, including a 56-yard touchdown, and a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Kyle Parker threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Ford to seal the win in overtime, giving Dabo Swinney his biggest win as a head coach, marking the Tigers' first victory in their last nine tries over ranked teams and their first road win over a top-10 opponent in more than eight years.

3. Georgia Tech 28, No. 20 Clemson 24, Sept. 11, 2004: With less than 30 seconds on the clock, all Clemson had to do was punt to seal the win, but a bad snap forced punter Cole Chason to fall on the ball at the Tigers’ 11-yard line. Freshman receiver Calvin Johnson ran to the left sideline and jumped over Justin Miller for the 11-yard game-winning touchdown with 11 seconds to play.

4. Clemson 47, No. 9 Georgia Tech 44 (OT), Sept. 29, 2001: Clemson quarterback Woody Dantzler fumbled on the first play, but not the last. His 11-yard touchdown run in overtime finally settled a game that featured seven lead changes after halftime. Dantzler contributed to 418 of his team’s 502 yards.

5. Miami 37, Florida State 29, Oct. 20, 2007: It took two touchdowns in a span of 11 seconds for Miami to win this one. With 5:29 left in the game, Miami trailed 29-24. With 1:15 remaining, Kirby Freeman threw a 13-yard pass to Dedrick Epps for the 30-29 lead. The two-point conversion failed. Eleven seconds later, Colin McCarthy returned a fumble 27 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

6. Georgia Tech 31, No. 16 FSU 28, Nov. 1, 2008: It could have been one of Florida State’s biggest comebacks, but Marcus Sims fumbled in the end zone and Georgia Tech recovered the ball with 45 seconds remaining. Cooper Taylor's helmet-to-football hit knocked the ball loose on Sims' second-down run from the 3. Rashaad Reid recovered it, and Georgia Tech snapped a 12-game losing streak to FSU. The loss ultimately cost Florida State the Atlantic Division.

7. North Carolina 31, No. 4 Miami 28, Oct. 30, 2004: Both goalposts came down and the field was flooded with fans after Connor Barth booted a 42-yard game-winning field goal as time expired to knock off No. 4 Miami at Kenan Stadium. It was the highest-ranked team Carolina had ever defeated. Miami trailed by seven points with 5:24 remaining, but Brock Berlin drove the Canes 89 yards to tie it.

8. Florida State 27, No. 5 Virginia Tech 22, Dec. 4, 2005: Florida State entered the inaugural ACC championship game on a rare three-game losing streak and the Hokies were heavily favored. A 3-3 halftime tie quickly changed after Virginia Tech allowed 24 points in the third quarter. Marcus Vick led the Hokies to three touchdowns in the fourth quarter that cut the Seminoles' lead to 27-22, but it wasn’t enough.

9. Virginia 26, No. 19 Clemson 24, Sept. 22, 2001: With one second remaining, junior receiver Billy McMullen beat a Clemson cornerback on a fade route and caught the game-winning touchdown pass from quarterback Bryson Spinner, who faked a spike of the ball to stop the clock. Three plays earlier, McMullen hauled in a 17-yard halfback pass from tailback Tyree Foreman that moved the Cavs to the Clemson 4. The Cavs went 44 yards in 1:43 with no timeouts to win.

10. Maryland 23, NC State 19, Nov. 17, 2001: Shaun Hill's 8-yard touchdown pass to Guilian Gary with 41 seconds left assured Maryland its first ACC title in 16 years. Coach Ralph Friedgen seemingly transformed the Terps from a 5-6 team to 10-2 champs overnight. NC State took a 19-16 lead with 3:59 left as Philip Rivers completed 8 of 9 passes on an 80-yard drive. Maryland fumbled at the Wolfpack 1-yard line with 2:51 left, but recovered the ball with 2:18 left to play.

Big East games of the decade

January, 20, 2010
There are some college football games that stick with you until Monday and some that you talk about for years. Here are the best Big East games of the past decade:

1. Ohio State 31, Miami 24, 2003 Fiesta Bowl: This was high drama on the biggest stage. A national title was on the line in a game that went to overtime. Miami celebrated when it thought it made a fourth-down stop in OT, only to see a late flag come in and keep the Buckeyes alive.

2. West Virginia 38, Georgia 35, 2006 Sugar Bowl: It was a great game -- West Virginia led 21-0 after the first quarter and had to stave off a furious Georgia comeback, sealing the win with a fake punt on fourth-and-6 with less than two minutes remaining. But even more than that, the victory helped restore the entire league's reputation.

3. Cincinnati 45, Pittsburgh 44, Dec. 5, 2009: Another climactic finish -- Tony Pike's touchdown pass to Armon Binns with 33 seconds left capped the Bearcats' comeback from 21 points down. And the Big East title was on the line.

4. Pittsburgh 13, West Virginia 9, Dec. 1, 2007: It was a defensive slugfest with many questionable calls that might not have been pretty to watch. But the stunning upset kept West Virginia out of the national title game and reversed the course of Pitt's program.

5. Rutgers 28, Louisville 25, Nov. 9, 2006: Louisville came in ranked No. 3 and undefeated after toppling West Virginia a week earlier. But this Thursday night was the Scarlet Knights' spotlight, as they blitzed Brian Brohm into utter confusion while storming back from a 25-7 first half deficit. After Jeremy Ito drilled the game-winning field goal, Rutgers fans spilled onto the field to celebrate the biggest win in school history -- and this from a program that played the very first college football game.

6. West Virginia 46, Louisville 44, October 15, 2005: The Cardinals had a seemingly cushy 24-7 lead going into the fourth quarter at Morgantown. But the Mountaineers -- behind a newly inserted freshman quarterback named Pat White -- roared back to force overtime. Brohm was stopped trying to run for a two-point conversion in the third overtime, and a new rivalry and a new star was born.

7. West Virginia 41, Rutgers 39, Dec. 2, 2006: Rutgers had to beat West Virginia to win its first Big East title and make a BCS game. White didn't play because of injury. But his backup, Jarrett Brown, filled in admirably, while the Mountaineers batted down a two-point conversion try in the third overtime. The West Virginia win sent Louisville to the Orange Bowl and dropped Rutgers all the way down to the Texas Bowl.

8. Miami 27, Florida State 24, Oct. 7 2000: Also known as Wide Right III. Miami withstood a late field goal try to snap FSU's 17-game winning streak, though the Seminoles would somehow advance to the national title game ahead of the one-loss Hurricanes that season.

9. Cincinnati 38, South Florida 33, Nov. 3, 2007: One of the wildest, weirdest games you'll ever see. Cincinnati improbably led 31-14 after the first quarter. South Florida had eight turnovers, yet still had a chance to win on the final play, but Matt Grothe's pass to the end zone was incomplete.

10. Connecticut 33, Notre Dame 30, Nov. 21, 2009: Andre Dixon's 4-yard touchdown run in the second overtime finally gave UConn its first win after a string of heartbreakers following Jasper Howard's death. Emotions poured out of Randy Edsall and the Huskies as the victory lifted a weight from their shoulders.

The top non-AQ games of the decade

January, 20, 2010
It’s fun to look back on some of the more memorable games of the past decade and see what certain wins did for certain teams.

For Boise State, its win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl made it nationally known. Navy’s win over Notre Dame in 2007 was one of the greatest in program history. And the Holy War between BYU and Utah has provided many fantastic finishes. It’s hard to pick just 10 classic games from the non-AQ teams, but here are the ones I felt deserving of recognition:

1. The 2006 Fiesta Bowl: Boise State came from behind to defeat Oklahoma 43-42 in overtime. The game was won on a Statue of Liberty play that was used on the two-point conversion. The game is considered one of the greatest in college football history.

2. The Bush push: On one of the most famous plays ever, USC running back Reggie Bush pushed quarterback Matt Leinart into the end zone with seconds remaining to beat Notre Dame 34-31 in 2005. It was part of eight consecutive USC wins over the Irish.

3. The 2008 Sugar Bowl: The Utes jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter against Alabama and never looked back, beating the SEC runner-up 31-17 and giving the non-AQ teams some much needed credibility.

4. Carrying the team: Against Akron is 2002, Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich suffered a broken shin and had to be carried by linemen to the line of scrimmage after long passes. Leftwich rallied his team to a 17-point comeback, but the Thundering Herd still fell short.

5. Smooth sailing: In 2007, Navy defeated Notre Dame 48-45 in triple overtime to notch its first win over the Irish since 1963. The Midshipmen won at Notre Dame again in 2009.

6. BCS bowl bound: In 2007, with a BCS bowl berth on the line, Hawaii trailed Washington 28-7 in the second quarter and rallied with 28 consecutive points to win 35-28 and earn Hawaii’s first-ever BCS bowl berth.

7. Miracle in Murfreesboro: Troy trailed 20-7 with less than 3 minutes to play and rallied to win 21-20. The win cost Middle Tennessee the Sun Belt title and gave Troy the first of what would be four consecutive Sun Belt crowns.

8. Handling the situation: Toledo quarterback Bruce Gradkowski broke his throwing hand in the first half of the MAC championship game against Miami in 2004, and came back to throw three second-half touchdown passes to lead the Rockets to a 35-27 win.

9. The Holy War: John Beck threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jonny Harline with no time remaining to give BYU a 33-31 win over rival Utah in 2006. The Cougars won on similar late-game heroics in 2007. Both games gave BYU the Mountain West title.

10. Troy’s first upset: Offensive lineman Junior Louissaint scored on a 63-yard fumble recovery to help Troy to a 24-14 win over No. 25 Missouri in 2004. Troy, then a fourth-year FBS program, declared it the biggest win in program history.

Big Ten games of the decade

January, 20, 2010
The decade recap marches on as it's time to examine the top 10 games involving Big Ten teams from 2000-09. As with all of these categories, the games list easily could include 25-30 items, so getting it down to 10 wasn't easy. Especially with games. I could probably identify 10 great ones just from my two years of Big Ten blogging.

What makes a great game? Good teams, good players, lots at stake and lots of drama, particularly in the closing minutes.

I put a special emphasis on games that helped to decide Big Ten championships, bowl championships and national championships.

Without further ado ...

1. Ohio State vs. Miami, 2003 Fiesta Bowl: When the national championship game goes to two overtimes and a Big Ten team wins, it'll be at the top of the list. Ohio State nearly won in regulation, nearly lost in the first overtime and then finally prevailed 31-24 against a talent-stocked Miami team that had won 34 consecutive games.

2. Michigan at Ohio State, 2006: This game had it all: No. 1 vs. No. 2, the sport's top rivalry, national championship implications, unparalleled buildup, the drama of Bo Schembechler's death a day before the game. Ohio State and Michigan combined for 81 points before the Buckeyes prevailed to reach the title game.

3. Michigan at Northwestern, 2000: As regular-season games go, this is about the best you can find. The teams combined for 105 points and 1,189 yards of offense in a contest that saw tons of plot twists. Star running backs Damien Anderson and Anthony Thomas both committed an error in the closing minutes -- dropped touchdown for Anderson, lost fumble for Thomas -- before Northwestern emerged with a 54-51 win. Both teams went on to share the Big Ten title with Purdue.

4. Texas vs. Michigan, 2005 Rose Bowl: It didn't go the Big Ten's way in the end, but Michigan and Texas certainly gave us a game to remember. The Wolverines received great play from quarterback Chad Henne and wide receivers Braylon Edwards and Steve Breaston, but Vince Young proved to be too much as Texas won 38-37 on a field goal as time expired.

5. Iowa at Ohio State, 2009: This game essentially decided the Big Ten championship, as the teams met with a Rose Bowl berth at stake. Iowa came in as a major underdog after losing starting quarterback Ricky Stanzi to injury the previous week against Northwestern. Redshirt freshman James Vandenberg displayed incredible poise in his first career start, but Ohio State eventually prevailed in overtime after a 39-yard field goal from backup kicker Devin Barclay, a 26-year-old former Major League Soccer player.

6. Iowa vs. LSU, 2005 Capital One Bowl: You'll never see a more exciting end to a bowl game, and the first 59 plus minutes weren't bad, either. Iowa built a 24-12 fourth-quarter lead behind quarterback Drew Tate, only to watch it disappear down the stretch. It set the stage for Tate's 56-yard touchdown strike to Warren Halloway as time expired as Iowa won 30-25.

7. Michigan State at Michigan, 2004: Michigan State's losing streak at the Big House appeared over as the Spartans led 27-10 with 8:43 left. But Michigan rallied to tie the game as Braylon Edwards hauled in two touchdowns from Chad Henne. Henne and Edwards hooked up again in the third overtime as Michigan won 45-37 and went on to share the Big Ten title with Iowa.

8. Penn State vs. Florida State, 2006 Orange Bowl: Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden generated tons of buildup before kickoff, and the game itself didn't disappoint. It was hardly a masterpiece on either side, but the game generated plenty of excitement as the teams went to three overtimes before Penn State won 26-23 on a Kevin Kelly field goal.

9. Michigan at Minnesota, 2003: Michigan's Big Ten title in 2003 could be directly linked to the greatest comeback in team history against Minnesota at the Metrodome. The Wolverines trailed 28-7 in the third quarter before rallying to win 38-35 on a Garrett Rivas field goal in the final minute. Minnesota was 6-0 before the loss.

10. Penn State at Iowa, 2008: Penn State came to Iowa City with national title aspirations and jumped ahead of Iowa 23-14 late in the third quarter. But Ricky Stanzi stepped up in the fourth quarter and led a dramatic comeback that ended with Daniel Murray's field goal as time expired. It marked Penn State's only loss, though the Lions still won a Big Ten title and went to the Rose Bowl.