- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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How can a football season be reduce to top 10 moments? It certainly isn't easy.
You might have your own ideas. There certainly are a few that were difficult to leave out.
We tried for diversity here: Games, performances, teams and plays. We came up with a list of 18 and then whittled things down.
Feel free to disagree.
1. Dyer circumstances: Was Michael Dyer down? Oregon fans say yes, but the game -- and replay -- officials said no in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game. The end result was a 37-yard run for the Auburn running back to Oregon's 23-yard line late in the fourth quarter, which set up the Tigers game-winning field goal in a 22-19 Ducks defeat.
2. The tying drive: What was the biggest moment that led to Oregon tying the national title game at 19-19? First came Ducks linebacker Casey Matthews forcing a fumble from Auburn quarterback Cam Newton on a first-down run. Then came a 29-yard pass from Darron Thomas to D.J. Davis on a fourth-and-5 play. Or maybe it was the third-down shovel pass to LaMichael James that gave the Ducks a 2-yard TD. And don't forget Jeff Maehl's leaping catch for the 2-point conversion. It was a magnificent moment of almost.
3. Pleasant fumble return: Oregon safety Eddie Pleasant's 51-yard fumble return against Stanford was the turning point of the Ducks' Pac-10 game of the year win over Stanford. It was tied 31-31 in the third quarter, but Stanford was driving into Oregon territory after an Andrew Luck pass to Chris Owusu converted a third down. But Owusu fumbled on a hit from Javes Lewis and Pleasant rumbled to the Cardinal 3-yard line. A James run later and the Ducks took control.
4. It's better to be Luck than merely good: Luck was masterful in the Discover Orange Bowl, completing 18 of 23 passes for 287 yards with four touchdowns in a 40-12 win over Virginia Tech. So that's what all those NFL scouts were talking about.
5. Polk's plunge: You don't get much more basic than this: Fourth-and-goal from the 1 with just two seconds left, the game -- and bowl eligibility -- on the line. When Washington running back Chris Polk scored a TD as time expired to give the Huskies a 16-13 win at California, it became the centerpiece of a late-season surge that got Washington to its first bowl game since 2002. And it knocked the Bears out of the postseason.
6. Locker hurts Nebraska: Washington quarterback Jake Locker's 25-yard TD run against Nebraska on the first possession of the third quarter of the Bridgepoint Education Holiday, which came immediately after he completed a 26-yard passing to wide receiver D'Andre Goodwin on third-and-8, gave the Huskies a 17-7 lead. It was the moment when everyone went, "Wow, the Huskies might beat a team that stomped them 56-21 on Sept. 18."
7. UCLA pounds Texas: While it ended up not meaning a thing -- Texas wasn't that good; UCLA finished 4-8 -- don't forget how shocking UCLA's dominant 34-12 win at Texas was. No one -- no one! -- saw it coming.
8. For the defense: Stanford's defense held Locker and Washington to just 107 total yards in a 41-0 shutout win in Husky Stadium, the Huskies' first shutout home loss since 1976. It was one of three shutouts for the Cardinal, whose transformation on defense was (almost) as big a story this year as Luck.
9. Five at the half: USC quarterback Matt Barkley passed for a school-record-tying five touchdowns ... in the first half ... in USC's 48-14 blowout win over California. Barkley finished with 352 yards passing, but the Trojans, who led 42-zip at the half, opted not to run the score up.
10. Blowing PATs in the desert: Arizona State beat rival Arizona 30-29 in double-overtime because James Brooks blocked two extra point attempts from Wildcats kicker Alex Zendejas. The first PAT probably would have won the game for Arizona in regulation. The second ended the game in the second OT. While the Sun Devils didn't earn bowl eligibility, the win sent them into the offseason with momentum for what figures to be a promising 2011 campaign. For the Wildcats, it was the fourth of what would become five consecutive defeats to end the season.
How can a football season be reduce to top 10 moments? It certainly isn't easy.You might have your own ideas. There certainly are a few that were difficult to leave out.