Saturday, December 24, 2016

Top 5 SEC College Football Games of the 2016 Season

2016 was another great year for the SEC. There were Hail Marys, overtimes, upsets, and comebacks that all culminated in another flop of an SEC Championship. Although the two schools in the conference championship (Florida and Alabama) were the same as last year, this past season was very different. So come on down with me to memory lane, as I present my Top 5 SEC games of the 2016 college football season!

Honorable Mention: No. 19 Ole Miss vs No. 1 Alabama (ALA 48-43), Ole Miss vs No. 8 Texas A&M (MISS 29-28), Vanderbilt vs Georgia (VANDY 17-16), No. 17 Auburn vs Georgia (UGA 13-7), No. 18 Tennessee vs South Carolina (SCAR 24-21)

5) No. 1 Alabama vs No. 13 LSU (ALA 10-0)

This game was hyped up as LSU began to show signs of resurgence under interim coach Ed Orgeron. With just one conference loss to Auburn, the Tigers had ripped off a three-game winning streak and were very much alive in the race for the SEC West. In the midst of those three games, the Tigers had scored a whopping 125 points after scoring 81 total points in the first four games of the season.

On the other side, Alabama came in as the best team in the country while boasting a six-game winning streak against LSU. The last time Nick Saban and company had lost in Death Valley was in 2010, a 24-21 affair. This game was a throwback to classic SEC football. It was all defense.

LSU kept it close throughout, as the game remained deadlock at 0-0 entering the fourth quarter. Then, Alabama showed why they are in a class by themselves. Early in the fourth, freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts broke off a 21-yard run on third down and three to break the tie.

The impenetrable Alabama defense would continue to stymie LSU, and an Adam Griffith 25-yard field goal with 2:41 remaining put this game on ice for the Tide.

Despite turning the ball over twice, Alabama accounted for 325 total yards of offense. LSU, on the other hand, only mustered 125 offensive yards. This loss would eliminate them from SEC West contention, but did not carry over. In the following week, the Tigers throttled Arkansas by a score of 38-10.

As for Alabama, they rediscovered their offense the next week as they whipped Mississippi State in Tuscaloosa by a score of 51-3.

4) No. 9 Tennessee vs No. 8 Texas A&M (TAMU 45-38)

In their first meeting since 2005 -and third overall- the No. 9 Tennessee Volunteers and No. 8 Texas A&M Aggies gave fans a game for the ages. Both teams were undefeated and the Aggies had never defeated Tennessee in the sport of football. The media was riding Tennessee as it was supposed to be "their year", but many were also shocked how Texas A&M fielded a competitive football team.

This was a game that featured another one of those miraculous Tennessee fourth quarter comebacks that the nation was getting used to. Down 28-14 in the fourth quarter, Vols running back John Kelly found the end zone with 7:06 to go in the game.

After a punt from both sides, Texas A&M gained some breathing room as quarterback Trevor Knight took off for 62 yards on third down and two for a touchdown. Down 35-21 with 3:22 to go, Tennessee would need a miracle... and boy did they get one.

On the ensuing drive, Alvin Kamara scored with 2:07 left in the game, putting it in the hands of Tennessee's defense to get a stop. After a two-yard rush from Aggie running back Trayveon Williams, the Vols called their final timeout of the game. What happened next nearly ruined what ended up being a fantastic 22nd birthday party of mine.

Williams took the handoff and broke two tackles to gain what potentially was the game-sealing first down, but he wasn't done. The true freshman sprinted down the left sideline and appeared to have the touchdown that would end all the Tennessee hype for good. But then, tragedy struck.

As Williams approached the three-yard line, Vols cornerback Malik Foreman flagged him down and the punched the ball loose for a touchback. The game-ending touchdown run had just turned into a Vols possession.

Of course, Tennessee worked their magic following this absurd change of events. In six plays, quarterback Josh Dobbs took the Vols 75 yards and found Alvin Kamara for the game-tying touchdown with 41 seconds left in regulation.

Although the momentum had changed in the blink of an eye, Texas A&M did get in field goal range for the potential game winner. However, kicker Daniel LaCamera horribly shanked a 38-yarder to the left to keep Tennessee's hope of winning this game alive.

In the first overtime, both kickers came up clutch. Tennessee's Aaron Medley nailed a 34-yarder for the lead while LaCamera put his miss behind him and also drilled a 34-yarder to knot it up at 38.

In the second overtime, Tennessee's luck finally ran out. Trevor Knight plowed in for a one-yard touchdown, and Dobbs was picked off on the first play from scrimmage to secure a 45-38 Aggie victory.

Texas A&M would enjoy this win and their undefeated season going into their bye week, as Alabama stomped them 33-14 in their next game. As for Tennessee, this loss definitely carried over into the following week as the Crimson Tide annihilated them by a score of 49-10 in Knoxville.

3) No. 11 Tennessee vs No. 25 Georgia (TENN 30-28)

This game was all Georgia at one point as their largest lead was 17-0, but of course Tennessee cooked up some fourth quarter mojo. A pair of touchdowns erased a 24-14 Vols deficit and put the pressure on Georgia and true freshman quarterback Jacob Eason.

Down 28-24 with one minute left in the game, Eason had his work cut out for him with the Bulldogs' drive beginning from their own 19-yard line. For the freshman, it was no problem. Showing glimpses of the days of Aaron Murray and Matthew Stafford, Eason methodically marched Georgia down the field.

After three completions put Georgia on their own 46-yard line, the Bulldogs used their final timeout with 19 seconds remaining. After regrouping, Eason came out and threw a 47-yard dart to fellow true freshman Riley Ridley for the go-ahead touchdown with 10 seconds left in the contest.

It was absolute pandemonium in Sanford Stadium! In fact, it got so chaotic that the Bulldogs were assessed a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct because sophomore Rico McGraw took this helmet off in the field of play. This, combined with an offside penalty from senior Quincy Mauger on the ensuing kickoff, would be Georgia's undoing.

When the dust settled, Georgia had to kick from their own-20 yard line due to the first penalty. Kicker Rodrigo Blankenship booted the ball 48 yards and returner Evan Berry took it to the Georgia 48-yard line with four seconds to go. The offside penalty would put the Vols at the Georgia 43-yard line for the game's final play.

Georgia was suspect at covering Hail Marys, as evidenced by their 2013 meeting with Auburn at Jordan O'Hare. Every Bulldog fan had a right to be extremely nervous preceding this play. When it came time for the game's finale, quarterback Josh Dobbs took the snap and waited for about three seconds for his receivers to get down field. Then, he let it loose from about two yards behind midfield.

The ball was skied into the air and awaiting its descent into the end zone were six red jerseys as opposed to three white. Yet somehow, the 6'3 Jauan Jennings found a way to come down with the ball and the game winning touchdown. The Hail Mary had worked. Tennessee had beaten Georgia for the second consecutive year.

This win fueled the fire for the "Tennessee is going to win the SEC East" narrative and left Georgia in utter shock. This would be the final miraculous victory of the Vols season, as Texas A&M beat them in double overtime the following week.

As for Georgia, their following road game against South Carolina was postponed to Sunday due to Hurricane Matthew. They won the contest 28-14.

2) No. 18 LSU vs Auburn (AUB 18-13)

There was no sign of offensive life at all between these two schools as they met in this early season conference bout. Besides a Danny Etling touchdown pass in the first quarter, all the scoring done in this game came via a field goal. Here's a fun fact: There were EIGHT field goals in this game. SIX of them came from Auburn kicker Daniel Carlson.

This game isn't this high on the list because of Carlson's Herculean effort, though. It's here for its ending.

After Carlson's sixth field goal put the Tigers up 18-13 (this man literally was their offense for the entire game), LSU had 2:56 to get down the field and score a touchdown. A field goal was mathematically not an option.

Starting on their own 25-yard line, LSU slowly worked their way down the field. Soon enough, they were in striking distance with less than 30 seconds inside the Auburn red zone. On first down and 10 from the 14-yard line, Etling threw an incomplete pass. On second down, he took a sack and forced LSU to use their final timeout. Keep that in mind.

On third and sixteen, he hit receiver Malachi Dupre at the 10-yard line. Dupre was unable to get out of bounds, so the clock was an immediate factor. As Etling hurried his guys to the line, he hiked the ball with everyone not completely set. Hearing no whistles, the junior fired a bullet to Travin Dural at the Auburn two-yard line to keep the game alive.

However, the play was negated. LSU was called for an illegal shift, but the game was not over. Instead of the game-ending with a ten second runoff, it would be a five-yard penalty resulting in fourth and five with the ball to be snapped on the head referee's signal.

With the ball now spotted at the 15-yard line, Etling took the snap, rolled out to his right, possibly ran past the line of scrimmage, and hit D.J. Clark for the game-wining touchdown. However, the play never counted. The clock had expired before LSU had snapped the ball, but the refs decided to watch the play for their own enjoyment possibly.

Regardless, the right call was made. After countless minutes of conversing, it was ruled that LSU had not gotten the snap off in time. The game was over. Auburn had won, and Daniel Carlson was the bonafide MVP of the game.

This loss would result in LSU firing head coach Les Miles the very next day. For Auburn, they rode the elation of this victory into next week and crushed UL-Monroe by a score of 58-7.

1) No. 23 Florida vs No. 16 LSU (FLA 16-10)

Coming in at No. 1 is a game that had so many storylines surround it. There was the issue of Florida being "scared" because they did not want to fly to Baton Rouge and play as Hurricane Matthew came through Gainesville. There was fear the game would not be played at all, angering Tennessee fans who thought their mythical SEC East chances would be dashed. Finally, there was the bigger issue of football being valued over the human lives that were affected by this deadly hurricane.

With all this in mind -toppled with a ton of trash talking from LSU's players- Florida headed to Death Valley for the rescheduled game on November 19th. On the line for the Gators was a chance to win their second consecutive SEC East title. All they had to do was beat LSU.

Similar to LSU's game against Auburn earlier, offense was nonexistent in this one. A 98-yard strike from Gator quarterback Austin Appleby to freshman Tyrie Cleveland and a one-yard rush from LSU running back Derrius Guice were the only touchdowns of the day.

Florida's defense was given a handful in this game. They made multiple red zone stops and snuffed out what I still can't figure out was either a fake field goal or botched snap. Once Florida seized a 13-10 lead with 4:37 remaining in the game, it was all about finding a way to stave off LSU and get out of Baton Rouge with the win. 

Right after the go-ahead kick, LSU fumbled on the ensuing kickoff. Immediately, the Gator Faithful had renewed hope that this game would be put out of reach. Going with the tone of this year, however, Florida ended up with a field goal. Now up 16-10 with 3:24 to go, Florida's defense was asked to make one final stop.

Starting at their own 25-yard line, Danny Etling and company were back at it again. LSU moved down the field and converted a crucial fourth down as they entered the Florida red zone. After two more plays, it would be first and goal from the seven-yard line with 35 seconds to go.

In four downs or less, Florida's SEC East fate would be decided. On first and goal, Guice was stopped after a two-yard run. After the play, Florida head coach Jim McElwain decided to burn his first timeout with 30 seconds left. On second and goal, Guice again carried the ball and made it to the one-yard line. LSU now called timeout with 24 seconds to go. The stakes began to rise.

On third down and goal from the one, LSU went with a handoff to fullback J.D. Moore. Florida would have none of it. They stuffed Moore to bring up fourth down and ballgame. With three seconds left, Ed Orgeron called timeout. This was it.

On fourth down and goal, both units dug in. After a month of trash talking and controversy, one yard was about to put an end to it all. LSU hiked the ball and it was Guice again on the carry. He tried to leap for the end zone, but was met by the trio of CeCe Jefferson, Taven Bryan, and Marcell Harris. Guice fumbled the ball as he was stuffed, and the game was over since he did not recover his own fumble on fourth down.

As the signal of no touchdown was made, the Florida bench cleared in celebration. For the second straight year, the Gators were champions of the SEC East! Amid all the chaos and controversy, they prevailed and won their first game in Death Valley since 2009.

Unfortunately, this momentum did not at all carry over into the annual meeting with Florida State. The Seminoles smoked the Gators in Tallahassee by a score of 31-13, marking Florida's fourth straight loss to their in-state rival.

As for LSU, this loss made them choke on their words and was some ironic form of justice. Unlike Florida though, they showed up over Thanksgiving Weekend and defeated Texas A&M by a score of 54-39 in College Station.

Final Thoughts
Well there's my Top 5 SEC games of 2016! I hope you enjoyed them! I want to wish a Merry Christmas to everybody and a Happy Holidays as well! Stay tuned for my upcoming articles for the remainder of this month as well as for all of 2017!

*All stats accredited to
**Photos courtesy of (in order):,,,, &



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