The SEC's 10 best games of the 2014 season
The 2014 SEC season was loaded with classic games and thrilling finishes, captivating fans in the way only college football can.
Here are the 10 best games from the 2014 regular season:
10. South Carolina vs. Auburn
This might not be one of the best games of the year in terms of quality, but it was certainly one of the most fun to watch. The Tigers and Gamecocks traded touchdowns back and forth like two 10 year olds trading baseball cards, resulting in a high-scoring affair in which neither team ever led by more than seven points.
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier eventually forfeited to the idea that his defense was never going to stop Auburn, and he was right. Auburn scored touchdowns on six straight possessions during the action, and Spurrier responded by leaving his offense on the field in five different fourth down situations throughout the game.
The Gamecocks offense eventually ran out of gas in the fourth quarter, falling a touchdown shy of a stunning upset over an Auburn team still pursuing a second straight SEC title at the time. The two offenses combined for more than 1,000 yards in one of the most exciting games of the season. The defensive coordinators form both teams (Ellis Johnson has since been fired at Auburn) are likely still having nightmares.
9. Texas A&M vs. Arkansas
Texas A&M entered this game with a 4-0 record and one of the SEC’s most explosive offenses. Arkansas entered the game in the midst of a 13-game SEC losing skid dating back to 2012. None of it mattered when these two met in this year’s Southwest Classic, played at a neutral site in AT&T Stadium in Dallas.
The Razorbacks physical style wore down Texas A&M for the first three quarters of the game, and the Hogs took a 28-14 lead into the fourth quarter as a result. The Aggies had averaged more than 55 points per game entering their showdown with Arkansas, and upon being held to just 14 points through three quarters it appeared A&M’s tear had come to an end, along with the Hogs’ SEC losing streak.
Instead, A&M scored 14 unanswered points, culminating with Josh Reynolds’ 59-yard catch and run for the game-tying touchdown with just two minutes left in regulation. The Aggies completed their comeback in overtime, scoring a touchdown on their first possession before holding the Razorbacks out of the end zone to steal a victory in Dallas and elevate themselves into the top 10 in the national polls.
8. Arkansas vs. Missouri
The Razorbacks and Tigers might not have been the most exciting teams in the SEC this season, but their game on the final weekend of the season lived up to its hype with plenty at stake on both sides. Arkansas was coming off its first two SEC wins in more than two years, posting shutouts of LSU and Ole Miss in back to back weeks. Missouri had scratched and clawed its way to the top of the SEC East standings, and needed a win to clinch its second straight division title.
Arkansas led 14-6 entering the fourth quarter, keeping Missouri out of the end zone just as it had in its previous two games. The Hogs appeared in control and on their way to a huge win in their season finale, but Missouri recovered and scored back to back touchdowns in the final quarter to take a 21-14 lead late in the game.
However, Arkansas wasn’t ready to concede victory just yet. An obviously wounded Brandon Allen led a gutty final drive, moving Arkansas deep into Missouri territory before eventually throwing a late interception to seal the Hogs fate in Columbia. Mizzou won the game and the East Division crown, and Arkansas’ brief run of excellence was brought to a close.
7. Kentucky vs. Florida
For two teams that posted a combined record of just 11-12 in 2014, the Wildcats and Gators shared in one of the most thrilling games of the season, even if there was little at stake for either side. Kentucky was seeking its first win over Florida since the 1980s, while Florida was hoping to prove it had turned a corner from a 4-8 train wreck in 2013.
The two teams battled in a defensive struggle in the first half, resulting in a 3-3 tie at the intermission. Both offenses took over in the second half, and a late 51-yard field goal by Kentucky freshman Austin MacGinnis tied the game at 20-all, forcing overtime in the Swamp.
The teams traded touchdowns in the first overtime session and field goals in the second, and suddenly a game that was once deadlocked at 3-all was tied at 30-apiece entering a third overtime period. MacGinnis missed a field goal on UK’s possession in the third overtime, and Florida drove for the game winning touchdown on its next drive to steal a victory from the Wildcats.
6. Alabama vs. Ole Miss
Ole Miss remains the only team to defeat Alabama this season, and it did so in stunning fashion, as most teams that beat Alabama tend to do. The Rebels hosted College GameDay for the first time ever on that Saturday in early October, proving a raucous atmosphere for the game in Oxford between two top 15 teams.
Ole Miss took an early 3-0 lead but fell behind 14-3 by halftime as the explosive Alabama offense began to find its rhythm. However, it was the Rebels’ Landshark defense that took over in the second half, limiting the Crimson Tide to just a third quarter field goal the rest of the way.
Nevertheless, Alabama maintained a 17-10 lead with fewer than six minutes remaining in regulation. Ole Miss needed points, and it needed them in a hurry. It got one quick touchdown on a 34-yard pass from Bo Wallace to Vince Sanders, tying the game with 5:29 remaining. The game was tied at 17-all, and Ole Miss held all the momentum as it kicked off following Sanders’ score.
The momentum continued to favor Ole Miss on the ensuing kickoff, as Alabama’s Christion Jones coughed up the football on his return, setting up Ole Miss with great field position and a chance to win the game in regulation. Five plays and 31 yards later Wallace found Jaylen Walton for a 10-yard touchdown to put Ole Miss up six (the Rebels blew the PAT), giving the Landsharks a chance to cement a victory with one final stop.
Ole Miss got that stop with a Senquez Golson interception in the end zone over top of tight end O.J. Howard, and Ole Miss recorded its first signature win of the year with a coming out party in Oxford against the Crimson Tide.
5. Georgia vs. South Carolina
When this game was played in early September, most thought it would decide the SEC East race. Looking back on it now, it represents one of the most stunning upsets of the year, as the victorious Gamecocks fell to 6-6 while the Bulldogs remained ranked in the top 25 for the rest of the season.
The two East rivals traded scores back and forth for most of the game, and when Georgia regained possession at South Carolina’s 3 yard line down 38-35 with 5:24 remaining it appeared the Dawgs were in good shape to salvage a victory and take hold of the East standings.
But instead of turning to Heisman-caliber tailback Todd Gurley to punch in the game-tying score, Georgia elected to go to the passing game, putting the ball in the hands of first-time starter Hutson Mason. The senior was flagged for intentional grounding on first down, moving UGA outside the South Carolina 10 yard line with a loss of down. The Dawgs were never able to get into the end zone, and Marshall Morgan blew a chipshot field goal in a failed attempt to tie the game.
South Carolina never gave possession back to Georgia, holding on to what turned out to be its best win of the season.
4. Auburn vs. Ole Miss
Most fans knew the game between the No. 4 Tigers and the No. 3 Rebels would be an SEC West showdown to remember, and the game lived up to the hype before culminating with one of the most heartbreaking finishes of the season.
The two teams traded scores for most of the game, as Ole Miss took a 24-14 lead in the third quarter only to allow Auburn to reclaim a 28-24 lead in just nine minutes of game time. Ole Miss then went ahead 31-28, but Auburn struck back and took a 35-31 lead in the middle of the fourth quarter in Oxford.
The Rebels had time for one final game-winning drive, and they came within inches of completing the comeback. Wallace found star wideout Laquon Treadwell in Auburn territory, and Treadwell blew past most of the Auburn defense on his way to the end zone. He appeared destined for the go-ahead touchdown with fewer than two minutes remaining, but was pulled down from behind on what turned out to be the play that killed Ole Miss’ title hopes.
Treadwell went down awkwardly when he was grabbed from behind, breaking his leg and fumbling the ball inside the 1 yard line. Auburn recovered the fumble and ran out the clock, stealing a victory and handing Ole Miss its second loss of the season. Treadwell missed the rest of the season after suffering the leg injury, and Ole Miss fans will forever wonder what might have been had he gained six more inches before being hit.
3. Ole Miss vs. LSU
One week prior to their loss to Auburn, the Rebels put their 7-0 record on the line in a tough road game against the LSU Tigers. Both defenses feasted in this heavyweight showdown, while both offenses looked as inept as they had all year to that point.
Ole Miss scored a touchdown late in the first quarter to go ahead 7-0, and it maintained a 7-3 lead midway through the fourth quarter when the LSU offense finally awoke. The Tigers drove 95 yards on 13 plays to score the go-ahead touchdown with just five minutes left in regulation. LSU ran the ball on all 13 plays, wearing down an Ole Miss defense that spent most of the game on the field covering for a hopeless Rebels offense.
Ole Miss moved the ball from its own 25 yard line to the LSU 30 with nine seconds left on the clock. Rather than try a long field goal, Rebels coach Hugh Freeze elected to throw one more pass to set up an easier kick for his place kicker, Gary Wunderlich.
Wallace had a receiver open along the sideline for what would have been a 10-yard gain, but for whatever reason he chose to throw the ball to the end zone, where it was intercepted by the Tigers defense to put a victory on ice. The loss cost Ole Miss a perfect season and set LSU up for a strong finish to the season.
2. Alabama vs. LSU
The Tide and the Tigers have produced some epic games in recent history, but none were quite as epic as this year’s showdown in Death Valley. LSU led 7-0 through one quarter, but Alabama chipped away at that lead and eventually took a 10-7 advantage into the half.
The Tigers tied the game at 10-apiece in the third quarter, then went ahead 13-10 on a Colby Delahoussaye field goal with just 50 seconds left in regulation. It was assumed at the time that Delahoussaye’s field goal had won the game for the Bayou Bengals, but that assumption was as wrong as 1+1=3.
LSU’s ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, setting Alabama up with possession at its own 35 yard line without taking a second off the clock. Blake Sims completed 4 of 7 passes for 50 yards and added a five yard run to move Alabama into field goal range, and Adam Griffith tied the game in the final seconds of regulation to force an unexpected overtime in Baton Rouge.
Alabama possessed the ball first in overtime and marched right into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown. LSU threw four straight incompletions on its ensuing possession, and the Tide stole a victory to keep its national title hopes alive against one of its biggest rivals in the 21st century.
1. Auburn vs. Alabama
There should be no debate over what the best game in the SEC was this season. It was the Iron Bowl, and by a wide margin. This game had everything you could want in a football game: 99 total points, more than 1,000 yards of total offense, national and conference title implications, superstars galore and the atmosphere only a rivalry like the Iron Bowl can provide.
Oh, and did we mention how the 2013 Iron Bowl ended and what kind of stage that set for this year’s rematch? Seriously, this game was the perfect storm of awesome, and we are all better for it.
Auburn led 26-21 at halftime and extended its lead to 33-21 early in the third quarter. The Tigers already had three losses on the year and had little to play for, but spoiling Alabama’s run to a national title for a second year in a row was plenty of motivation for AU and its fan base. At the time, SEC fans hoping to land a team in the College Football Playoff began to sweat as Alabama faced its demise. The one man who was never sweating? Nick Saban.
Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin began airing the ball out like a commercial airline, and suddenly the Tide’s offense couldn’t be stopped. Alabama out-scored Auburn 34-3 throughout the next 23 minutes, and a late Tigers touchdown proved futile as Alabama held on to a 55-44 victory in the highest-scoring Iron Bowl ever.
The finish wasn’t nearly as magical as last year’s game, but this year’s Iron Bowl was once again the best game in the SEC at the end of the year.