Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Poll: Best regular-season game of 2012?
By Kevin Gemmell
For last week's Take 2, Ted and I shared our favorite games that we covered in person during the 2012 season. Of course, just because it was the best game in-person doesn't necessarily mean it was the best game. As I pointed out in my Take 2, the Stanford-Washington game wasn't exactly great football. Rather, it was the environment and energy in the stadium that made it my favorite of 2012.
Naturally, this prompts the next question: What was the best game of the 2012 season?
There are lots of ways that people value what makes the best game -- so narrowing the list down to five was tough (and ESPN mandate only allows five options -- so great matchups like the Territorial Cup and Oregon State-UCLA just missed the cut). Some people prefer a good offensive shootout. Others like a hard-nosed, defensive grind. Others just like an upset for the sake of an upset, so I tried to get a dusting of all of the above when picking the options for your Tuesday poll question.
So, what was the best regular season Pac-12 game of 2012?
Your options, in no particular order:
Oregon at USC: While this Nov. 3 showdown didn't live up to the buildup in terms of team expectations (at least for USC), the game itself was a classic. The Ducks won 62-51 behind 321 rushing yards and five touchdowns from Kenjon Barner and four touchdown passes from Marcus Mariota. Matt Barkley threw for 321 yards and five touchdowns and Marqise Lee caught 12 balls for 157 yards and two scores. It kept fans glued to the TV and defensive purists reaching for sick bags.
Washington at Washington State: Ah, the Apple Cup. Say what you want Washington fans, this was still a great game to watch. The Cougars overcame an 18-point, fourth-quarter deficit (the largest fourth-quarter comeback in the storied history of the rivalry) and Andrew Furney came through with one of the more clutch kicking performances of the season. He drilled a 45-yarder with less than 2 minutes left in the game to tie it at 28-28, and then he popped a 27-yarder in overtime for the win. Perhaps even more shocking? Washington State had three, count 'em, three rushing touchdowns!
Arizona at Stanford: Josh Nunes took a lot of guff from Stanford fans this year. They should be grateful for his performance in the Cardinal's thrilling 54-48 win over Arizona in overtime. He accounted for five touchdowns -- three on the ground and two in the air -- while throwing for 360 yards and no interceptions. He carried the vaunted Stanford defense against an Arizona team that lit them up -- including 132 yards and three touchdowns from Ka'Deem Carey and 491 passing yards and three touchdowns from Matt Scott. The teams matched for 617 total yards of offense and the Cardinal showed they could win even when their defense gets scorched. And yes, Arizona, Scott, Carey and Austin Hill absolutely scorched Stanford's 'D.'
Stanford at Oregon: This one is for the defensive purists. The only thing better than Stanford's defensive gameplan was the way the Cardinal executed it. The Cardinal kept the Ducks' explosive offense to 405 total yards (198 on the ground) and Oregon was just 4 of 17 on third downs and 0 for 2 on fourth down. Shockingly, it was Kevin Hogan's first road start and just the second of his career -- but he wasn't fazed by the Autzen environment. And there was plenty of high drama as Zach Ertz caught the controversial game-tying touchdown and Jordan Williamson drilled a 37-yarder in overtime for the victory. Not to mention Oregon was No. 1 at the time and this game reshaped the entire college football landscape.
UCLA at Arizona State: Anyone watching this game got some outstanding insight into the future of quarterbacking in the league. After ASU jumped ahead 14-0, the Bruins battled back, setting up a fantastic fourth quarter that saw Taylor Kelly drive his team to a late touchdown drive to go ahead 43-42 with 1:33 left in the game. On the ensuing drive, Brett Hundley brought his team down, which set up a 33-yard Ka'imi Fairbairn game-winner as time expired on the 45-43 UCLA win. The outcome helped UCLA lock up the South and was one of the most thrilling games of the year.