Few college football seasons are as purely satisfying as 2013’s was for me personally and professionally.
- Personal: Mizzou, my alma mater and team of choice, did really well. Like, really well. Get-within-a-quarter-of-the-BCS-title-game well. The Tigers did it in their second season in the SEC, spurred by apparently amazing chemistry and one of the most amazing comeback stories you’ll ever see. Henry Josey’s SEC East-clinching touchdown run against Texas A&M was one of the most amazing personal fan moments I’ve experienced.
- Professional: The season was absolutely nutty, right from the very start. We had huge early games like Michigan-Notre Dame (the last of the rivalry in Ann Arbor ... for a while, anyway) and Alabama-Texas A&M, wild coaching stories like Lane Kiffin getting fired in the bowels of LAX or on the tarmac or whatever, and a season with wild comebacks and Hail Marys ... and that was all before we handed the late-season baton to Auburn to get really, really weird.
- Professional again: Statistical affirmation! S&P+ loooooooved Florida State from very early on in the season and remained steadfast through a sea of “ain’t played nobody!” complaints. They played seven teams with winning records and beat them by an average of 39 points. Only one team stayed within 26 points of the Noles in the regular season. And then, despite a woeful first half (yes, I know, FSU fans ... Dameyune Craig stealing signals and whatnot), the Noles overcame Auburn’s strange late-season magic to win the national title as well.
So yeah. Good season. My top 100 games list from this year might be my favorite that I’ve done. Lots of amazingness to go around.
Let’s relive 2013.
Aug. 29: Ole Miss 39, Vanderbilt 35
On the first night of the season, we had a back-and-forth statistical tossup decided by a 75-yard touchdown run with one minute left. Good start.
Aug. 30: NDSU 24, Kansas State 21
On the second night of the season, an FCS heavyweight beat the defending Big 12 champion with a drive for the ages.
Aug. 31: No. 8 Clemson 38, No. 5 Georgia 35
On the third night of the season, two top-10 teams put on an immaculate game, and Clemson added to its list of recent scalps.
Sept. 2: No. 10 Florida State 41, Pitt 13
On the fifth night of the season, Jameis Winston made his debut. I remember a little bit of Pitt upset buzz here — first ACC game, FSU starting a freshman at QB, etc. That buzz did not last particularly long.
Sept. 7: No. 11 Georgia 41, No. 6 South Carolina 30
At the end of this game, I was convinced that Justin Scott-Wesley was going to be an All-American, all-pro, etc. That SC defender had the angle on his long TD catch-and-run, and it didn’t matter in the slightest. Knee injuries are big jerks.
Sept. 7: No. 17 Michigan 41, No. 14 Notre Dame 30
The buzz for this game was palpable, and it ended up being the ultimate Devin Gardner game: massive potential (8.4 yards per pass attempt) and athleticism (90 yards in 12 non-sack rushes) combined with bone-chilling decision-making mistakes. I do love the No. 98 jersey here, though.
Sept. 7: BYU 40, No. 15 Texas 21
If Texas never played BYU, Manny Diaz maybe doesn’t get fired as defensive coordinator. Two games against Taysom Hill and company did more damage than basically anything else.
Sept. 7: Washington State 10, No. 25 USC 7
So. Much. Advanced box score blood. Amusing highlight package, though.
Sept. 14: No. 1 Alabama 49, No. 6 Texas A&M 42
There was even more hype for this one than Michigan-ND. And it lived up to it. Mike Evans posting 279 yards in nine targets against Alafreakingbama remains maybe one of the best receiver performance I’ve ever seen. And I love that both teams had bad field position throughout ... and then continued to drive the length of the field anyway.
Sept. 28: No. 9 Georgia 44, No. 6 LSU 41
By the end of September, Georgia had already played three top-10 teams (beating two) and suffered like 17 receiver knee injuries. Scott-Wesley made the deciding late score in this one, too.
Oct. 5: Rutgers 55, SMU 52
Rutgers used to be fun! (This game had one of my favorite two-point conversions ever.)
Oct. 5: No. 5 Stanford 31, No. 15 Washington 28
Washington looked good in September and nearly took down a top-five team on the road here, too. But the Huskies couldn’t recover from the loss — they got trounced by Oregon and Arizona State afterward.
Oct. 12: No. 25 Missouri 41, No. 7 Georgia 26
Mizzou had also looked really good and was coming off of a road blowout of Vanderbilt, but it was hard to get a good read for the Tigers ceiling. It was easier after this one — they lost star corner E.J. Gaines and quarterback James Franklin to injury and then won a statistical tossup against a not-yet-completely-depleted UGA team. It’s still maybe Mizzou’s biggest SEC road win.
Oct. 12: No. 2 Oregon 45, No. 16 Washington 24
Like I said. Trounced.
Oct. 12: Utah 27, No. 5 Stanford 21
This was the height of the Stanford Effect — Washington followed a loss with two duds, then Utah followed this upset with with a five-game losing streak.
Oct. 18: UCF 38, No. 8 Louisville 35
Louisville was pretty easily the best team in the inaugural AAC (that Rutgers-SMU game above? A conference battle). The Cardinals ranked ninth in S&P+, and at No. 33 UCF was the only other top-50 team. UL was up 28-7 in this one and then completely fell asleep. It cost the Cards another BCS bowl bid.
Oct. 19: No. 24 Auburn 45, No. 7 Texas A&M 41
Auburn had already won three one-possession games in this magical season, but this win was the start of the “Wait, Auburn really might have something” buzz. We all just assumed Johnny Manziel would pull a late rabbit out of his hat here, but Auburn had other ideas.
Oct. 19: No. 5 Florida State 51, No. 3 Clemson 14
Clemson was No. 3! A top-10 team in S&P+! Playing FSU at home! And lost by 37! This killed at least some of the “FSU ain’t played nobody” buzz.
Oct. 19: Tennessee 23, No. 11 South Carolina 21
As a Mizzou fan, I thank Tennessee, and the turnovers fairy, for this Vols upset. Mizzou doesn’t win the SEC East without it.
Oct. 26: No. 21 South Carolina 27, No. 5 Missouri 24
Mizzou was up 17-0 in the fourth quarter of this one, but the lead never felt particularly safe, and you can sort of see why here. The Tigers were living by big plays instead of efficiency, and it caught up to them. (I still remember the “BONNGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG” sound that overtime field goal attempt made when it hit the upright. It was so surreal that I actually laughed out loud a bit.)
Nov. 2: Nebraska 27, Northwestern 24
Hey, what does a Hail Mary look like on paper?
Hmm. Not as much fun as the real thing:
Nov. 7: No. 6 Stanford 26, No. 2 Oregon 20
From late-2011 until the 2014 national title game, Oregon went 39-4 — two losses to Stanford, two to Arizona, and none to anyone else. Nobody rendered Oregon inefficient like Stanford. (Still can’t really explain the Arizona thing...)
Nov. 7: No. 5 Baylor 41, No. 12 Oklahoma 12
This was the worst Oklahoma team in a while, but it was still jarring watching Baylor pull away like this.
Nov. 16: No. 17 UCF 39, Temple 36
I had almost forgotten about this J.J. Worton catch.
Without that, Louisville still wins the AAC.
Nov. 16: USC 20, No. 4 Stanford 17
Stanford battled its way back into the top five after the Utah loss, then fell to the scariest four words in the English language: “Interim coach Ed Orgeron.”
Nov. 16: No. 7 Auburn 43, No. 25 Georgia 38
It will forever blow my mind that this was the second-best Auburn finish of the year. This game was amazing from start to finish. Huge Georgia comeback, testicular Aaron Murray touchdown run to put the Dawgs ahead, and then ... this.
Nov. 23: No. 11 Oklahoma State 49, No. 3 Baylor 17
For a brief period of time in November, Oklahoma State was suddenly the best team in the country. After mucking through the opening few games, the Pokes won six games (three against ranked teams) by an average of 26 points, capping the run with this demolition of a Baylor team with national title hopes.
(OSU then lost to OU and Mizzou to end the season.)
Nov. 30: No. 24 Duke 27, North Carolina 25
Duke — DUKE! — wins the ACC Coastal in what we’ll call statistically unlikely fashion. (Had to dig around on YouTube to find highlights of this instead of the 2013 Duke-UNC hoops games.)
Nov. 30: No. 3 Ohio State 42, Michigan 41
Ohio State picks off a two-point conversion pass in the final minute to win. Now all the Buckeyes need is an Auburn upset of Alabama, and they’re in the BCS top two!
That’s a lot to ask, though.
Nov. 30: No. 4 Auburn 34, No. 1 Alabama 28
I was tailgating at the Mizzou-A&M game, and in the time it took for us to walk from the tailgate into the stadium, Auburn had gone from down 7 in the final minute to winning in regulation. It was the ultimate game of Telephone trying to figure out what the hell had happened until they showed it on the jumbotron.
Nov. 30: No. 5 Missouri 28, No. 19 Texas A&M 21
Henry Damn Josey.
Dec. 7: No. 3 Auburn 59, No. 5 Missouri 42
I wrote one of my favorite SB Nation pieces after this game. It’s easy to forget that Auburn still needed some help from Sparty to reach the national title game. Sparty obliged, though.
Dec. 7: No. 10 Michigan State 34, No. 2 Ohio State 24
I had forgotten all about Rich Homie Quan being Mark Dantonio’s secret weapon.
Dec. 21: Colorado State 48, Washington State 45
Colorado State was down 15 with three minutes remaining. And won in regulation.
Dec. 31: No. 21 Texas A&M 52, No. 24 Duke 48
Few games have ever made me laugh out loud as much as this one did. What a perfectly nonsensical way for Johnny Manziel’s A&M career to end.
Jan. 1: No. 4 Michigan State 24, No. 5 Stanford 20
All the good and bad of the Connor Cook era in college football’s most idyllic locale.
Jan. 1: No. 15 UCF 52, No. 6 Baylor 42
On paper, Baylor was at least eight or so points better than UCF. But one team fully showed up in the Fiesta Bowl, and it wasn’t the Bears.
Jan. 2: No. 11 Oklahoma 45, No. 3 Alabama 31
Auburn’s post-game win expectancy for its upset of Alabama: 15%.
Oklahoma’s in the Sugar Bowl: 11%.
I had a hard time convincing OU fans that they probably weren’t deserving of their 2014 preseason hype, which was driven in large part by this unlikely win. (The Sooners went 8-5 in 2014.)
Still, beating Bama is fun, likely or unlikely as it may be.
Jan. 3: No. 12 Clemson 40, No. 7 Ohio State 35
LSU in 2012, Georgia and Ohio State in 2013 ... Clemson wasn’t good enough to hang with the best FSU team of the century, but the Tigers were checking off hurdles to clear. After a 2014 QB transition, they were ready for big-time things in 2015.
Jan. 3: No. 8 Missouri 41, No. 13 Oklahoma State 31
Kinda figured this was a statistically unlikely win for Mizzou. Didn’t care in the least.
Jan. 6: No. 1 Florida State 34, No. 2 Auburn 31
A wonderful season ends with a wonderful statistical tossup decided by a fourth-quarter kick return score and two late go-ahead touchdowns from stars. Perfect.