Monday, December 28, 2015

Top 5 SEC College Football Games of the 2015 Season

2015 was another exciting college football season down in the SEC. Between the upsets, comebacks, and flat out miracles, SEC fans were usually guaranteed something memorable every Saturday. Without further adieu, here are my Top 5 SEC games of the 2015 college season!

5) Tennessee vs #19 Florida (FLA 28-27)

In the annual rivalry game between Florida and Tennessee, the Gators were absolutely dreadful for three and a half quarters. They could not tackle Vols QB Joshua Dobbs to save their lives and it looked that after a decade of futility, Tennessee would finally defeat the mighty Florida Gators.

Then Will Grier happened. With less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter and the score 27-14, the redshirt freshman quarterback harnessed the power of Gatorade and converted three fourth downs with his arm in a feverous comeback attempt.

With less than two minutes left in the game and Gators facing 4th and 14, Grier hit true freshman Antonio Callaway for a 63-yard touchdown to go ahead 28-27 with 1:26 left in the game. Trailing for just the second time all game, Tennessee rallied and was able to get to Florida's 37-yard line with three seconds left in the game. The Third Saturday in September now lied in the hands of Vols' kicker Aaron Medley.

Medley's kick went horribly wide right and the game was over... but wait! Right before Medley kicked the ball, Gator head coach Jim McElwain called timeout after seeing that Florida had too many men on the field. So with a second chance, Medley lined up and drilled it... but again it went right by the slimmest of margins! The game was over and Florida had extended its win streak against Tennessee to 11 games.

The home victory against Tennessee helped jumpstart Florida's run to an SEC East title, and was also one of a couple shining moments in Will Grier's short lived Gator career. As for Tennessee, the loss from this game carried over as Arkansas defeated them at home the next week.

4) Tennessee vs #19 Georgia (TENN 38-31)

Two weeks after their gut-wrenching loss to Florida, Tennessee played host to a Georgia team who had just gotten manhandled by #13 Alabama at home. In the first half, it was all Georgia as the Dawgs led the game 24-3 at one point. Then, Tennessee came storming back.

Behind four total touchdowns from QB Joshua Dobbs (three via the air and one on the ground), the Vols took a 31-24 lead before Georgia tied it at 31 all in the beginning of the fourth quarter. After a punt by each team, Tennessee drove the ball down the field and Dobbs capped the eight play drive with his second rushing touchdown of the game.

With under six minutes to go, Georgia had a total of two drives to tie it up. The first drive resulted in a punt, and the second one ended with a batted down ball in front of the end zone on the last play of the game. The Bulldogs had blown what had been a 21-point lead and lost to the Vols for the first time since 2009. This defeat would drop them out of the rankings and put to bed any national title hopes among the Georgia faithful.

For Tennessee, it had to feel like karma of sorts, considering the Florida debacle just two games prior. They would go on to drop another heartbreaker to #8 Alabama the following week.

3) Auburn vs Arkansas (ARK 54-46 in 4 OT)

One of two high scoring affairs for the Razorbacks this year, the action in this one starts at the end of the fourth quarter. In the waning seconds, Auburn kicker Daniel Carlson nailed a 41-yarder to tie the game and force overtime. Actually, it would be four overtimes.

In the first overtime, Arkansas QB Brandon Allen hooked up with receiver Drew Morgan to score a touchdown on fourth down and goal to tie the game. Then in triple overtime, the Razorbacks faced an eight-point deficit and another fourth down. This time, it was running back Kody Walker who caught a pitch in the backfield and scampered into the end zone to set up the do-or-die two-point conversion play.

With the game on the line yet again, Allen rolled out in the pocket and somehow found tight end Jeremy Sprinkle to knot it up at 46 a piece and continue this marathon of a game. In quadruple overtime, Allen again found Morgan on the first play from scrimmage for a touchdown. Arkansas converted the two-point conversion and now the game was in the defense's hands.

The Arkansas defense held and broke up Auburn's pass attempt on fourth down and nine. This huge home win would kick off a four-game winning streak for the Razorbacks, while Auburn's SEC West hopes were officially dashed.

2) #15 Ole Miss vs #2 Alabama (MISS 43-37)

An upset I did not see coming, Ole Miss led this game at one point 30-10 late in the third quarter. It was the Chad Kelly show as the Ole Miss QB completed 18 of 33 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns. His most memorable touchdown pass of the game was also one of the craziest plays of this college football season!

On third down and one in the early stages of the third quarter, the ball was hiked high and bounced off of Kelly's hands. Tracking the ball in the air, Kelly leaped up and caught the ball in the air as the Alabama defense came crashing down on him. A nanosecond after catching the ball, Kelly set his feet in an impromptu manner and chucked the ball up as he was plowed in the backfield.

Kelly's star receiver, Laquon Treadwell, lept for the duck that his quarterback had thrown and was nailed by Alabama's Minkah Fitzpatrick in the process. The ball deflected either off of Treadwell's hands or Fitzpatrick's helmet and went straight to wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo, who caught it in stride and took it 66 yards for a touchdown. It was an incredibly fortunate play for the Rebels and would prove huge as they regained a 14-point lead on the Tide.

Of course, one does not simply walk into Bryant-Denny Stadium and just crush the Alabama Crimson Tide. The #2 team in the nation responded and ripped off 20 points in the fourth quarter. The Tide even had a chance in the last minute of the game to actually win! But alas, the efforts of Alabama and head coach Nick Saban would fall just short as Ole Miss held and forced a turnover on downs with eight seconds left in the game. The Rebel defense was making plays all night as they picked off Alabama three times in the contest.

Ole Miss's upset victory in Tuscaloosa marked the first time in school history that the Rebels had defeated the Tide in consecutive meetings. It also gave Ole Miss fans a sense of hope that their team was going to run the table in the SEC West and even compete for a National Championship this year. Unfortunately for the Ole Miss faithful, the Rebel's title shots would quickly disappear after a 28-point blowout loss to the Florida Gators in The Swamp two weeks later.

As for Alabama, this was the exact situation they were in last year. An early loss to Ole Miss yet again helped the Crimson Tide refocus and go on to win the SEC for the second straight year. They currently lie one victory away from playing for their fourth national championship in seven years.

1) Arkansas vs #18 Ole Miss (ARK 53-52 in OT)

Coming in at the top spot is a game that made me jump up from my dinner table and sprint around my apartment in pure shock at what I had just seen. After an early loss to #25 Florida in Week 5, Ole Miss returned to Oxford in Week 10 still very much alive for the SEC West title. Arkansas was already out of the hunt, but had cooked up a nice two-game winning streak that began with their four-overtime victory over Auburn.

Arkansas had a chance to win this one at the end of regulation, but their field goal attempt was blocked. So once again, the Razorbacks would press their luck in overtime. Ole Miss scored in four plays, so the pressure was on from the get-go. Arkansas was discombobulated on offense as a penalty and a sack set up 4th and 25 from the Ole Miss 40-yard line. Quarterback Brandon Allen took the snap and threw it from midfield to his tight end Hunter Henry, who was still 11 yards away from the first down line.

Knowing he could not make it to the first down mark, Henry just chucked the ball up over his head and prayed for a miracle. His prayer would be answered. The ball traveled 10 yards back and bounced right in front of Arkansas running back Alex Collins, who picked it up and ran 31 yards for the first down! Collins fumbled at the end of the play, but fortune struck again as teammate Dominique Reed recovered it.

Rejuvenated with life, Arkansas scored two plays later when Allen found receiver Drew Morgan streaking across the end zone for his sixth passing touchdown of the game. Down a point, Arkansas knew that fate was on its side. So they decided to go for two. This would backfire as Allen was sacked on a rollout play. The game was over and the lateral was all for not. Or was it? As Ole Miss celebrated its one-point victory, a flag laid on the ground. The penalty was on Ole Miss's Marquis Haynes, who grabbed Brandon Allen's face mask as he sacked him.

With the ball on the one-yard line, Arkansas again decided to go for two. Out of the shotgun yet again, Allen faked a handoff to Morgan running across the field and barreled his way into the end zone for the game-winning two-point conversion! It was an absolutely stunning victory for the Razorbacks that knocked Ole Miss out of the SEC West hunt for good. Arkansas would ride this momentum to then defeat LSU on the road the very next week and extend its winning streak to four games.

For Ole Miss, they would end the season with victories over LSU and rival Mississippi State. Heck, they are even playing in the Sugar Bowl despite losing three games! Yet, the fact that they let this one slip away on such a crazy fourth down play may haunt the Rebels for the rest of 2015, especially if they do not win the Sugar Bowl.

Honorable Mention:
#3 Ole Miss vs #25 Florida (FLA 38-10), Tennessee vs #2 Alabama (ALA 19-14), #14 LSU vs #25 Mississippi State (LSU 21-19)

I hope you enjoyed this Top 5 article! Stay tuned later this week as I release my December recap for the Gator basketball team!

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