<
>

Biggest play of 2012?

If we ask what was the biggest play of the Pac-12's 2012 season, the one thing we know before we start to debate is it will involve Stanford.

Stanford not only won the Pac-12 because it came out on the better end of many of those big plays, it also was involved in plays that decided the national championship.

Consider:

  • If Stanford beats Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish don't play Alabama for the national title.

  • If Stanford loses at Oregon, the Ducks probably would have played Alabama for the national title.

  • Stanford first exposed USC as a national title pretender.

  • And the Cardinal have plenty of their own "what ifs" in losses to the Irish and Washington.

But what was the biggest individual play of the Pac-12 season?

We see four choices.

  • With the score tied at 14-14 in the fourth quarter against USC, the Cardinal faced a 3rd-and-10 at midfield. Then starting Stanford quarterback Josh Nunes dropped back, but couldn't find anyone and was under pressure. Yet the not terribly mobile Nunes scampered 12 yards for a first down. Two plays later, he connects with tight end Zach Ertz for a 37-yard go-ahead touchdown.

  • Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor is stopped -- well, sort of -- just inches short of Notre Dame's goal line in overtime, giving the Irish a 20-13 victory, the signature win of their season. Of course, Cardinal fans will tell you that Taylor scored, not once but twice, on the final set of downs.

  • In the first quarter of their 17-14 victory at Oregon, backup safety Devon Carrington caught Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota from behind, preventing him from getting the final 15 yards of what looked like a sure 92-yard touchdown run. The Cardinal defense then held when the Ducks were stopped on fourth-and-2 on the 7-yard line four plays later.

  • Facing a 3rd-and-15 early in the fourth quarter of the Pac-12 title game against UCLA, Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan, under intense pressure, connects with Drew Terrell for a 26-yard, game-tying touchdown. Without that play, Stanford might not have played in its first Rose Bowl since the 1999 season.

Or is there another play that was bigger this past season?