As we turn our calendars from 2013 to 2014 and wrap up the bowl season, it is a good time to look back on the year that was in college football. Here are the top five games, top five surprises and top five disappointments from the 2013 college football season. Feel free to add your own thoughts with a comment below.
1. Iron Bowl Kick Six – There may have been no college football game played this season that had quite the impact on the entire landscape of the sport than the miraculous ending in the Iron Bowl. Auburn’s Kick Six, a 109-yard return by Chris Davis off a long missed field goal by Alabama freshman kicker Adam Griffith as time expired gave Auburn an upset of the top-ranked team in the country, clinched the SEC West and moved the Tigers one game away from a shot at a BCS championship (perhaps with a little help from Michigan State). The magnitude of that moment can not be overstated, but keep in mind Auburn had to tie the game just over 30 seconds earlier and keep Alabama out of realistic field goal range to make it all a possibility.
2. Prayer at Jordan Hare – The events that unfolded in the Iron Bowl would have carried a tremendous amount of importance on the BCS championship picture regardless of what happened the previous week in Auburn’s home game against Georgia, but the set-up for the importance of that sequence was set-up the previous week with a Prayer at Jordan Hare. After Georgia battled back with 21 fourth-quarter points to take a 38-37 lead with 1:49 to play. Georgia’s defense then appeared to have done their job by forcing Auburn in to a 4th and 18 from the Auburn’s 27-yard line. Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall unloaded a desperation pass down the middle of the field, seemingly overthrowing his intended receiver, Ricardo Louis. Two Georgia defenders were there to break up the pass and Georgia’s Josh Harvey-Clemons deflected the pass but did not bat it down. The ball tipped in to the hands of Louis, who ran the rest of the way for what would turn out to be the game-winning touchdown with just 25 seconds to play. The play kept Auburn’s SEC and BCS title dreams alive with Alabama coming to town the following week.
3. Bedlam – Oklahoma State looked to have everything taken care of in the Big 12 championship hunt, but a late defensive collapse against the rival Sooners cost the Cowboys the Big 12 title, which would be decided hours later as Baylor finished off Texas. Oklahoma State opened the game’s scoring with a 99-yard touchdown drive but struggled mightily in the second half to gain any momentum. The Cowboys took a late 24-20 lead with 1:46 to play, traveling 89 yards on just seven plays to take the lead and get Stillwater rocking with an early Big 12 championship celebration. Oklahoma had other plans though, coming up with a 66-yard touchdown drive led by quarterback Blake Bell, who found Jalen Saunders in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. Oklahoma State could not pull off any Auburn-esque miracles, and the Big 12 championship slipped their hands as well. As a result, Oklahoma State was left out of the BCS line-up, Oklahoma got a trip to the Sugar Bowl and Baylor was crowned Big 12 champion with a trip to the Fiesta Bowl.
4. Ohio State escapes Ann Arbor – One of college football’s top rivalries went down to the wire with BCS Championship dreams on the line for the Buckeyes. Michigan had been a disappointment for much of the season, but it seemed for one afternoon they were nearly unstoppable for the Buckeyes. Michigan rallied with a furious fourth quarter assault, scoring three touchdowns to pull within one point of the N. 2 Buckeyes with 32 seconds to play. Rather than kick an extra point and gamble in overtime, which Michigan had enough of in 2013, Brady Hoke decided to go for two points and the possible win. Devin Gardner had been solid all day but his lone mistake on the day ended up in the hands of Tyvis Powell to seal the victory for Ohio State and keep the BCS title dream alive for one more week.
5. Alabama vs. Texas A&M – One of the most hyped games of the year came early but did not disappoint. Johnny Manziel went off on Alabama with a strong case for a repeat Heisman Trophy worthy season. Of course the Aggies also were unable to slow down Alabama and let an early lead slip away. AJ McCarron picked up the win as the Crimson Tide rolled to a much more comfortable win than the final score may have indicated.
Most Surprising Teams, in a Good Way
1. Auburn – Nobody could have predicted the turnaround the Tigers had this season. Gus Malzahn earned numerous coach of the year awards and led one of the worst teams in the SEC in 2012 to the BCS Championship Game in and an SEC title in 2013.
2. Duke – The Blue Devils were a feel good story in 2012, but they proved in 2013 Duke proved they may be making a habit of this winning thing. The Blue Devils earned a trip to the ACC Championship Game but ran in to a mountain of a Florida State program.
3. Missouri – The turnaround for Missouri may not have been quite as dramatic as the one seen at Auburn, but Missouri’s path to the SEC Championship Game was still a bit of a surprise. Considering they lost quarterback James Franklin for a few weeks and continued to stay on top of the SEC East, much credit must be given for a successful year two in the SEC.
4. Minnesota – The Golden Gophers played inspired football this season, proving they could rally behind their head coach, Jerry Kill. Kill’s physical status was once again a concern for may around the program, but the Gophers battled their way to one of the many Big Ten bowl tie-ins. They let a lead slip away in the bowl game but showed glimpses f young talent developing and becoming a team to watch out for in the Big Ten.
5. Rice – After making a rare bowl trip in 2012, the Owls of Rice stormed back to win the Conference USA championship this season. Rice handled Marshall in the conference championship game at home for their first conference championship in decades.
Most Disappointing Teams
1. Florida – Injuries derailed the Gators early and often this season, but the low point for Will Muschamp’s squad came late in the year with a home loss to Georgia Southern.
2. Michigan – The Wolverines nearly lost back-to-back games against Akron and Connecticut, but managed to pull out of each with wins. Michigan let a game at Penn State slip away and the heart-breaking loss to Ohio State will haunt Michigan for some time.
3. Texas A&M – The Aggies had plenty of firepower on offense with Manziel and Mike Evans, but the defense could not stop anyone this season. A team that was hyped to be an SEC or BCS title contender suffered four losses along the way, including three in division play to Alabama, Auburn and LSU.
4. Oregon – Oregon was in position to make a run for the BCS Championship game until they ran in to their nemesis from Stanford. The Ducks also took a hit against Arizona as if they did not even belong on the same field as the Wildcats. While two losses is certainly not bad, the expectations were higher for Oregon despite losing Chip Kelly to the NFL.
5. Texas – The Longhorns will enter a new era in 2014 with a new head coach after Mack Brown was given the early exit by new AD Steve Patterson. While Texas did knock off Oklahoma and come within a win of a Big 12 title, it is difficult to forget the low points of the Texas season, starting with the blowout at BYU.