The SEC's 15 best plays in 2008
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
You guys were all pretty much in agreement with the games of the year in the SEC. But ranking the 15 best plays was a much more difficult undertaking. There were so many nominations (and so many good ones), which is a reminder that we all have our own ideas as to what makes a great play. Is it sheer athleticism? Is it coming up clutch in the final seconds? Is it a bone-jarring hit? Is it a circus catch? The label on the SEC this season was that it was all defense and no offense. Fittingly, our top three plays all came on the defensive end. So here goes, and I'll include some honorable mentions at the bottom:
1. Brandon Spikes' hit on Knowshon Moreno: On the second play from scrimmage in Florida's 49-10 rout of Georgia, Spikes set the tone for the game and rest of the season when he shot through the hole and leveled Moreno for no gain. Spikes landed right on top of Moreno and could be seen woofing at him as they lay facemask to facemask. Moreno was held to 65 yards after torching the Gators for 188 yards the year before.
2. Ole Miss' stop of Tim Tebow on fourth-and-short: Nobody stops Tebow on fourth-and-short. It's the surest thing in college football. But Ole Miss tackle Peria Jerry and a host of his teammates would have none of it back in September when they swarmed Tebow under on fourth-and-short from the Ole Miss 32 with just under a minute to play, silencing the crowd at the Swamp and sealing the Rebels' 31-30 upset of the Gators.
3. Eric Berry sending Marquis Maze spiraling: Berry, one of the few bright spots for the Vols this season, shot across the field on a short crossing route and looked like a missile when he launched his body at Maze. The collision sent Maze into a 360-degree spin a couple of yards back in Alabama's 29-9 win over Tennessee.
4. Casey Dick's game-winning touchdown pass to beat LSU: Coming off the bench in his final college game, Dick connected with London Crawford on a 24-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 22 seconds to play, sending Arkansas to a 31-30 win over LSU in Little Rock. The Hogs were out of timeouts, and coach Bobby Petrino decided to gamble with a go route and Dick delivered a strike to Crawford in the corner of the end zone.
5. Rashad Johnson's overtime interception against LSU: It was Johnson's third interception of the game, a textbook play with the senior safety coming over to help on a Jarrett Lee heave into the end zone. Alabama took over on its possession and promptly scored to remain unbeaten in Nick Saban's return to Baton Rouge.
6. Eric Berry's hit on Knowshon Moreno: Berry laid out a few players this season, but not many defensive backs send Moreno airborne the way Berry did in Georgia's 26-14 win over Tennessee. A video of the punishing hit can be found all over the Internet.
7. Jason Barnes holds on: The South Carolina freshman receiver took a wicked hit in the back of the end zone from Ole Miss' Marshay Green, sending Barnes' helmet skidding across the turf. But a woozy Barnes held on for a 20-yard touchdown reception from Chris Smelley to spark the Gamecocks to a 31-24 win on the road.
8. Knowshon Moreno's hurdle: It wasn't a scoring play, and it didn't come at a critical time in the game. But Moreno's hurdle over a Central Michigan defender and 29-yard run is the kind of play that leaves you speechless every time you see it.
9. A.J. Green's catch to beat Kentucky: On third-and-goal from the Kentucky 11 with just under two minutes to play, Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford scrambled right to avoid the pressure and lofted a pass to the corner of the end zone. Green skied over three defenders to bring the pass down and held on despite being drilled, helping the Bulldogs escape 42-38 against the Wildcats.
10. Stephen Garcia tackled by the umpire: In what had to be one of the most bizarre plays of the season, Garcia went down after a forearm shudder from umpire Wilbur Hackett Jr. in the LSU-South Carolina game. It was unintentional on Hackett's part, but sure doesn't look that way when you see a replay of it.
11. Chris Marve's strip to save Vanderbilt: Ole Miss' Dexter McCluster looked like he was going in for the go-ahead touchdown with 2:40 to play, but Marve stripped him of the football just outside the goal line and D.J. Moore recovered in the end zone -- one of six turnovers the Commodores collected in a 23-17 win.
12. Julio Jones' overtime catch to set up Alabama's winning touchdown against LSU: It was one of those 24-yard catches that included a little bit of everything that makes Jones so special. The route was outstanding. He used his strength to get open. He went up and snared the ball with his hands and showed incredible body control to adjust while the ball was in flight. The best part for Alabama fans is that he's only going to get better.
13. Percy Harvin's tipped touchdown catch against LSU: Tim Tebow's second pass of the game was a deep ball to Harvin that was underthrown. LSU's Danny McCray tipped the ball, but it ricocheted right to Harvin, and he outran two defenders to the end zone for a 70-yard touchdown.
14. Brandon James' punt return against Tennessee: Florida coach Urban Meyer called it the best he's seen. James broke at least three tackles in Houdini-like fashion and turned on the jets for a 78-yard touchdown, the fourth punt return for a touchdown of his career.
15. Knowshon Moreno's high-wire act against Arizona State: Once again demonstrating his freakish athletic ability, Moreno vaulted from the 4-yard line and landed 2 yards deep in the end zone for Georgia's first touchdown in its 27-10 win over Arizona State.
BEST OF THE REST
- Ole Miss' Kentrell Lockett blocking Florida's extra point attempt in the Rebels' 31-30 win.
- Ole Miss' fake field goal against LSU, keeping alive an early scoring drive.
- Brandon Spikes' 52-yard interception return for a touchdown against LSU.
- Florida's Chris Rainey breaking free with a spin move on a 75-yard touchdown run against Arkansas.
- Florida's Joe Haden returns an interception 88 yards against Georgia to break open the game.
- John Parker Wilson's picture-perfect 22-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones in the corner of the end zone to end the first half of Alabama's 41-30 win over Georgia.
12:00 PM ET Florida Tennessee 12:00 PM ET 6 Texas A&M 12 Mississippi State 3:30 PM ET 3 Alabama 11 Ole Miss 4:00 PM ET Vanderbilt 13 Georgia 7:00 PM ET 15 LSU 5 Auburn 7:30 PM ET South Carolina Kentucky