Before I get to the ten best games of the 2013 season I want to make it clear how incredibly hard it was to actually pick these games. I started out with a list of nearly 30 games and began whittling it down from there.
Some choices were obvious, but after that there were just so many great games to choose from, and for every game I chose, another great game was going to be left out. So, you know, just think about that before getting mad at me for leaving out that one game you thought was awesome.
Having too many great games to choose from is a fantastic problem to have after all.
Also, you'll notice a distinct SEC flavor to this list, but rest assured that this is not because I'm an SEC homer like you'll no doubt assume me to be. There are a lot of SEC games on this list because the SEC finally learned what the end zone was in 2013 and just produced a lot of exciting games.
Though the first game on our list comes from the Mountain West.
This was long before Fresno State became an actual threat to go to a BCS bowl game in 2013, but it was also the night that gave birth to the possibility. Both the Bulldogs and Broncos 1,083 yards of offense and 10 touchdowns, but it wasn't just offense in this game, it was drama too.
Fresno State's Colin McGuire kicked a field goal with 58 seconds left in the third quarter to give the Bulldogs a 34-19 lead, but the Boise State would score 21 unanswered points in the next eight minutes to take a 40-34 lead, finished off with one-yard touchdown run from Joe Southwick. However, Fresno State would go on a 13-play, 87-yard drive that took 4:50 off the clock before Josh Quezada would make his way into the end zone from a yard out with 2:14 left to play. Fresno's defense would then hold off one last Boise drive to win the game.
It wasn't a high-scoring affair in the Coliseum, but it was well-played and close. And it was also incredibly important. This game came the week after Stanford knocked off Oregon to take control of the Pac-12 North, but USC would throw the division in disarray again as Andre Heidari's 47-yard field goal sailed through the uprights with 19 seconds left in the game.
It would also make the Pac-12 South race a lot more interesting, as the Trojans stayed alive, but there was one other thing this game had that the others just didn't. And that was interim coach Ed Orgeron standing on a platform in front of the USC marching band holding a sword over his head.
This is not the last time Auburn will appear on this list. And though this may be one of Auburn's most important games of the season, it doesn't rank as highly as the rest because as fun as the first three quarters of this game was, the outcome had basically been decided when Auburn took a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
Still, the first 50 minutes or so were pretty damn awesome. Both of these teams basically buried the "SEC Defense" narrative as they combined for 1,211 yards of offense, 101 points and 13 touchdowns. The only thing more unbelievable than Tre Mason's 304 yard, four touchdown rushing performance was that these teams also somehow managed to punt eight times.
No. 7 - South Carolina 27 Missouri 24, 2OT, Oct. 26
A lot of college football fans had been waiting for Missouri to suffer its first loss of the season, but it didn't come until after the second overtime of the eighth game of the season. And Missouri fans won't consider much about this game to be great.
Missouri actually blew a 17-0 lead after three quarters to allow the game to get to overtime, and in the second overtime Missouri kicker Andrew Baggett's 24-yard field goal attempt hit the left upright instead of sailing through to force a third overtime. However, as painful a loss as it was for the Tigers, they'd get the last laugh when they won out to win the SEC East before losing to Auburn in the SEC Championship.
No. 6 - Alabama 49 Texas A&M 42, Sept. 14
Think of how often a game fails to live up to the hype that proceeds it. Then think of this game, which basically had a year's worth of hype after the Aggies beat the Tide in Tuscaloosa in 2012. And in spite of all the hype and build-up, this game lived up to everything fans could have hoped for.
While it wasn't as close as other games on this list, it was still exciting and high-scoring. And it also featured a late Texas A&M rally to make a fourth quarter that seemed a foregone conclusion a lot more interesting. By the time the dust settled the Tide and Aggies had combined for 1,196 yards of offense, 91 points and 13 touchdowns that accounted for every single point in the game. Johnny Manziel finished with 464 yards and five touchdowns, and if anybody in the country didn't know who Mike Evans was before the game, they knew him following his seven catches for 279 yards. And they both did all that for the losing team. That's just the kind of game it was.
I feel like this game was forgotten a bit as the year went on and more great games -- particularly in the SEC -- came our way, but this game was fantastic and deserves this ranking. While it was a back-and-forth affair for the first three quarters it was the fourth quarter that truly stole the show.
Georgia scored on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Murray to Michael Bennett with 1:33 left in the third to take a 34-27 lead. LSU would then go on an 11-play 70-yard touchdown drive to tie the game up. Then Georgia would respond with an 11-play drive of its own, though this one only covered 55 yards and ended with a field goal to give the Bulldogs a 37-34 lead. LSU would then respond with another touchdown drive, covering 74 yards in eight plays and being capped off by Jeremy Hill's 8-yard run to give the Tigers a 41-37 lead. It's first lead since late in the first quarter. However, the lead would not last as Georgia then responded with a 75-yard drive that lasted only six plays and ended when Aaron Murray hit Justin Scott-Wesley for a 25-yard touchdown with 1:47 to play. LSU would not be able to answer that one.
Now, you may think this game is too high, but I don't think so. Not only was it exciting, but it proved to be a very important game in the long run. Simply put, without this win UCF isn't getting ready to face Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl right now, and Louisville was far and away the favorite to win the American Athletic before this Friday night in mid-October.
Louisville took a 28-7 lead halfway through the third quarter, but then the Knights would rally with three touchdowns in the final five minutes of the third to tie the game 28-28. Then UCF finally broke through to take the lead on a field goal with 7:36 to play. However, after that Louisville would drive 88 yards in nine plays, capping it off with a 15-yard touchdown run from Dominique Brown to make it 35-31 Cardinals with three minutes left. But UCF wasn't ready to call it a night, and responded with an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that ended in exciting fashion. Former UCF quarterback and since converted receiver Jeff Godfrey would catch a two-yard touchdown pass from current UCF quarterback Blake Bortles with 23 seconds left. A touchdown pass that would not only prove to kill Louisville's BCS dreams, but just about ended Teddy Bridgewater's Heisman hopes -- fairly or not -- as well.
The first of two rivalry games to occur on this day that crack our Top Ten for the season. This was a game that wasn't expected to be all that competitive, but Michigan came out and gave Ohio State all it could have asked for and more. This game had a bit of everything you could ask for from such a historic rivalry. It was close, it was back-and-forth and it also featured fights, ejections and double-birds to add a bit of flavor.
It also featured one coach throwing caution to the wind and deciding to lay it all on the line late.
Michigan would score on its final three possessions of the game, but following Devin Gardner's touchdown pass to Devin Funchess with 32 seconds left, Brady Hoke faced an important decision. Would he kick the extra point and force overtime or go for the win then and there with a two-point conversion? Hoke decided to go for it, but unfortunately for Michigan, Devin Gardner's pass was intercepted and Ohio State would escape Ann Arbor with its 24th consecutive victory.
No. 2 Auburn 43 Georgia 38, Nov. 16
While this game will always be remembered for the final play that decided it, there was plenty of excitement to go around before that tipped prayer landed in the hands of Ricardo Louis. Though it certainly didn't seem like this game would have an exciting finish through most of it.
Auburn had a 27-7 lead late in the first half and then a 37-17 lead with only 12:39 left to play. And that's when Georgia would go to work, scoring three unanswered touchdowns to shock most of Jordan-Hare Stadium when it took a 38-37 lead with 1:49 left to play.
But then, on 4th and 18, with less than a minute to play at its own 27-yard line, Auburn did this.
No. 1 Auburn 34 Alabama 28, Nov. 30
Surely Auburn would never be able to top that win over Georgia! Except, yes, it did. And as hard as putting this entire list together was, there wasn't much doubt in my mind over what the top game would be.
The 2013 Iron Bowl had more riding on it for both teams than any other Iron Bowl that had ever been played, and it was just as entertaining as it was important.
While Auburn had to escape a Georgia comeback in its last game, in the Iron Bowl it was the Tigers battling back from a 21-7 deficit in the first half. After tying the game in the third quarter both teams traded punts for a while before Alabama took the lead yet again on a 99-yard touchdown pass from AJ McCarron to Amari Cooper. It was the kind of play that could deflate a team, and for a while, it seemed to do just that to the Tigers. But then Auburn would summon the strength to go 65 yards in seven plays in the final minutes to tie the game on a 39-yard pass to Sammie Coates and tie the game 28-28.
After that the game seemed destined for overtime before Alabama lined up to try a 57-yard field goal even tough Cade Foster had already missed two field goals earlier in the game.
And that was how the best game of the season would end, sending Auburn on to Atlanta where it would beat Missouri and earn a berth in the BCS Championship Game against Florida State. A game which we now hope will be good enough that it could crack this top ten list.