College football’s top games, surprises and disappotments of 2013

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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.

Top Games

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.

NCAA denies ex-Alabama assistant’s appeal of two-year show-cause

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Recruiting restrictions will remain in place for one former member of Nick Saban’s coaching staff.

The NCAA announced Thursday that former Alabama and current UT-San Antonio assistant coach Bo Davis must serve a two-year show-cause order instituted earlier this year.  Davis had appealed to the NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee to have the sanction removed.

The NCAA announced in April of this year that Davis was found by the Committee on Infractions to have “acted unethically when he provided false or misleading information about impermissible recruiting contacts” and was slapped with the order as a result.

In late April of last year, reports surfaced that Davis was expected to resign or be fired as Alabama’s defensive line coach after the school opened an inquiry into possible NCAA violations on the recruiting trail.  A day later, the Tide announced that Davis had, ahem, “submitted his letter of resignation.”

The show-cause order runs from April 14, 2017, through April 13, 2019; Davis had argued in his appeal that the clock on the order should’ve started on the day he resigned from his job at Alabama.  From the NCAA’s decision:

However, the appellate committee noted that neither NCAA rules nor past cases consider timing other than the announcement of penalties as the start date. The committee also noted the infractions panel provided substantial leniency to the former assistant coach given that he was subject to a show cause order ranging from a minimum of five years to a maximum of 10 years with a prohibition on all athletically related duties. The infractions panel noted in its decision that this shorter show-cause penalty was due to the nature of the underlying recruiting violations and the university’s swift action once the violations came to its attention.

As part of the NCAA-mandated sanctions, Davis is barred from all off-campus recruiting activities until the order runs out in April of 2019.  Davis was hired by UT-San Antonio in February of this year as defensive line coach, and, at least for now, is still serving in that same capacity.

Georgia LB Natrez Patrick sees pot charge dropped; status for playoffs still uncertain

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Finally, there is some positive news off the field for the Georgia football program, even as some clarity on one player’s status moving forward is still needed.

According to ESPN.com‘s Mark Schlabach, the Barrow County district attorney’s office has decided to drop a marijuana possession charge against UGA linebacker Natrez Patrick. Earlier this month, Patrick was arrested for misdemeanor possession of marijuana.  That was the junior’s third marijuana-related arrest and fourth pot-related incident in a little over two years.

Patrick was arrested in early October of this year on a charge of possessing less than an ounce of marijuana and ultimately served a four-game suspension.  In November of 2015, Patrick was arrested on a charge of misdemeanor marijuana possession and suspended for one game per university policy.  A year later, Patrick and a teammate, Roquan Smith, were investigated by police for alleged pot use although no charges were ever filed.

In this latest incident, Patrick was a passenger in a vehicle driven by teammate Jayson Stanley that was pulled over for speeding shortly after the Bulldogs won the SEC championship.

“When you get into someone’s car, you’re not going to search it to see if there’s marijuana in the car,” Patrick’s attorney, William Healan III, told Schlabach. “My client didn’t know the marijuana was there. If you’re sitting on a little piece of marijuana that you didn’t know was there, you’re not knowingly in possession of it.”

As for Stanley, he saw a driving under the influence charge dropped.  In exchange, the little-used wide receiver pleaded guilty misdemeanor possession of marijuana and speeding.

Despite the fact that the linebacker’s charge was dropped, Schlabach writes that “[i]t wasn’t immediately known whether Patrick would be available when the No. 3 Bulldogs take on No. 2 Oklahoma in a College Football Playoff semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game… on New Year’s Day.” The Macon Telegraph, meanwhile, writes that when “[a]sked if this decision meant Patrick would not be considered a third-time offender under the UGA student-athlete handbook, athletics director Greg McGarity declined to comment.” Three drug-related offenses are grounds for dismissal according to university policy.

Patrick started seven of the nine games in which he played at inside linebacker this season.  Even as he missed nearly one-third of the regular season, Patrick is still sixth on the Bulldogs in tackles with 35.

Rice makes hiring of Michigan assistant Brian Smith as DC official

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Rice’s new head coach has officially plucked an assistant from Jim Harbaugh‘s Michigan coaching staff to fill a key position on his first with the Owls.

The Conference USA football program confirmed Wednesday night that Brian Smith has been named by Mike Bloomgren as his first defensive coordinator. Smith spent the past two seasons as the Wolverines’ defensive backs coach.

The stint in Ann Arbor was Smith’s first coaching job at a Power Five program. His first coaching job at the FBS level came at his alma mater UMass, where he was linebackers coach in 2004 and wide receivers coach in 2005.

In between those two collegiate stints, Smith spent eight seasons (2007-14) with the NFL’s New York Jets, beginning as a quality control/offensive coach before moving up to help with the secondary his last couple of seasons with the organization.

In addition to Smith, Bloomgren, who came to Rice earlier this month after serving as offensive coordinator at Stanford, also announced the hiring of North Carolina Central University head coach Jerry Mack as his coordinator on that side of the ball. Mack had previously coached at this level as wide receivers coach at Memphis (2011) and South Alabama (2012-13).

In his four years heading the FCS program, Mack guided the Eagles to a 31-15 record and three Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championships.

Two-time winner Dabo Swinney one of seven finalists for Bear Bryant coach award

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Not surprisingly, yet another coaching award has a decidedly familiar feel to it.

Wednesday, a group of seven finalists were announced for the 2017 Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year Award, one of the nation’s top award for college football coaches. Named in honor of the Alabama legend, those seven finalists are:

  • Paul Chryst — Wisconsin
  • Clay Helton — USC
  • Scott Frost — Nebraska, for his work at UCF
  • Gus Malzahn — Auburn
  • Jeff Monken — Army
  • Kirby Smart — Georgia
  • Dabo Swinney — Clemson

Swinney is looking to become the first coach in the 32-year history of the award to win it three consecutive years, after becoming the first to win it in back-to-back years. In January of 2017, Swinney joined Boise State’s Chris Petersen (2006, 2009) as the only two-time winners.

In addition to Swinney, one other College Football Playoff semifinalist, Smart, is up for the honor.

Smart, Swinney, Helton and Frost all led their respective teams to conference championships, while Chryst and Malzahn made it to their league title game. Monken guided the service academy to its best season in over two decades and has the chance to, with a bowl win, become just the second Black Knights coach (Bob Sutton, 1996) to reach 10 wins in a single season.