Wednesday, January 20, 2010
SEC games of the decade
By ESPN.com staff
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.