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Wednesday, January 20, 2010
USC, UT play decade's best game

By Pat Forde
ESPN.com

So many memorable games, so few places to put them on a list of 10. How do you leave off Texas over Ohio State in 2005? Matt Leinart and No. 1 USC holding off Aaron Rodgers and No. 7 California in an '04 classic? Arkansas' seven-overtime victories over Mississippi in 2001 and Kentucky in '03, or the Razorbacks' three-OT upset of No. 1 LSU in '07? The Louisville-Rutgers Thursday night thriller in '06?

How can you do that? You can do it because there actually were 10 better. The list:

1. Texas 41, USC 38, 2006 Rose Bowl. Two of the best teams of the decade combined to play the best game of the decade, highlighted by Vince Young's galloping through the Trojans in the final five minutes for a thrilling comeback victory.

Ian Johnson
Ian Johnson took the Statue of Liberty handoff and ran the Broncos past OU and into history.

2. Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42 (OT), 2007 Fiesta Bowl. No game -- ever -- was won on a guttier succession of daredevil plays than this one. The Broncos had their Cinderella moment thanks to the Triple Crown of gadgetry: hook-and-ladder followed by halfback pass followed by Statue of Liberty -- followed by the star running back proposing to his cheerleader girlfriend on the field. Absurd.

3. Ohio State 31, Miami 24 (2OT), 2003 Fiesta Bowl. The last night of the Hurricanes dynasty. The Buckeyes pulled one of the bigger title-deciding upsets of modern times, thanks in no small part to freshman star/future pariah Maurice Clarett. It was also memorable for the game-turning interference call in the end zone and the ghastly injury to Willis McGahee's knee.

4. Texas Tech 39, Texas 33, 2008. The Longhorns' gritty rally looked like it would end in victory. Instead, Graham Harrell hit Michael Crabtree, who broke a tackle and scored with a single second left to win. The Red Raiders' win kept Texas out of the national title game and marked the greatest moment of the now-historical Mike Leach era in Lubbock.

5. Florida 31, Alabama 20, 2008 SEC championship game. Unrelentingly intense from opening kick to final gun. Hits galore. And a Tim Tebow-led comeback in which the Gators played something close to a perfect fourth quarter.

6. USC 34, Notre Dame 31, 2005. Green jerseys. Defending national champions. A daring goal-line decision to play for the win and not the tie. The game might have been settled with a Reggie Bush push -- but it was the Trojans' 61-yard pass play on fourth-and-9 that turned Charlie Weis' biggest victory into a defeat. Turns out it was still Weis' finest hour as coach of the Fighting Irish.

Mike Hart
Mike Hart, doing battle with Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins in 2006, found his desire to play was waning but his desire to coach was burning.

7. Ohio State 42, Michigan 39, 2006. The first No. 1 versus No. 2 matchup in series history lived up to an insane level of hype, with the top-ranked Buckeyes holding on to earn a berth in the national title game. Legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler died the day before, then the two teams combined for the second-most points in series annals.

8. LSU 28, Florida 24, 2007. Les Miles gambled his way to glory, scoring two touchdowns on fourth down and using a fake field goal to set up a third score. The Tigers converted two fourth downs on the winning drive, coming from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to win on their way to the national title.

9. Marshall 64, East Carolina 61 (2OT), 2001 GMAC Bowl. The Thundering Herd trailed 38-8 at halftime before rallying to tie at 51 in the final seconds -- then missed an extra point that could have won it. But Byron Leftwich (576 passing yards) got it done in double overtime. Those who saw it will not forget it.

10. Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32, 2007. Massive shocker in the Big House on opening weekend of '07 set the tone for an entire season of unbelievable upsets. Michigan football hasn't been the same since.

Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.