Over the last five seasons, the Southeastern Conference has been the epicenter of Power 5 college football. If it was huge, involved a football and happened on a Saturday, the SEC was typically involved.
Alabama won national titles in three of the last five years (2011, 2012 and 2015), and played in the College Football Playoff in 2014. Auburn played for a national title in 2014, but lost to Florida State. As big games go on the biggest stage, the SEC was there.
Closer to home, the SEC West has been in charge of conference play. Often sporting multiple teams ranked in the top 10 nationally, the West has set the pace for stellar play. The East has been shut out at the SEC Championship in each of the last five years and hasn’t won a title since Florida took one home in 2008.
Does the West’s dominance on the field stretch everywhere? SEC Country took a look back over the last five seasons of conference play to find the five best plays in the SEC. Spoiler Alert: The best plays have come from the West too.
Just Short – 2012 SEC Championship Game
While Notre Dame sat like a kid in the corner waiting for a national title game opponent, Georgia and Alabama battled in the SEC championship, and the game was one for the ages.
Not only was Alabama’s 32-28 victory in question until the very end, the second half alone featured four lead changes. Crimson Tide receiver Amari Cooper caught a 45-yard touchdown pass with 3:15 left to play to notch the final lead change of the game, but this classic had a lot left to play out.
On its final drive, Georgia started with no timeouts on its own 15 with 1:08 to play. Quarterback Aaron Murray attempted seven passes – sandwiched around one Todd Gurley 4-yard run – and completed five to drive 77 yards down the field.
It was Murray’s final completion – a four-yard pass to Chris Conley that every UGA fan still wishes hit the floor instead of connecting – that landed at No. 5 on this list.
Johnny Manziel Can’t Be Stopped – Nov. 12, 2012
Manziel led his 15th-ranked Texas A&M Aggies to a three-touchdown head start in the first quarter of this classic SEC battle, a game the Aggies eventually won against the top-ranked Crimson Tide.
Of the three early scores, one lives in college football lore, the team’s second.
Manziel dipped into the pocket, bumped into his own lineman, stumbled and bobbled the football before regaining control, then rolled out of the pocket to find a wide open Ryan Swope for a 10-yard score.
‘Hog and Ladder’ – Nov. 7, 2015
After a penalty and a sack in overtime, Arkansas faced a must-have fourth-and-25 play from the Rebels’ 40-yard line to stay alive. Ole Miss had already scored a touchdown on its first overtime possession.
Arkansas receivers cleared out on the right side and tight end Hunter Henry caught a Brandon Allen pass on the 26-yard line. As he was being tackled, Henry heaved a desperation lateral back toward the line of scrimmage. One lineman deflected the ball before running back Alex Collins picked it up, well short of the first-down marker.
JUST how we drew it up ? pic.twitter.com/NYWi0J8QJF
— Razorback Football (@RazorbackFB) November 8, 2015
The Razorbacks had blockers in place, but Collins still had to stutter-step and wait for more blocking at the 18-yard line to make it past the 15-yard line for a first down.
Arkansas tied the game two plays later.
‘The Immaculate Deflection’ – Nov. 16, 2013
With 36 seconds to play and nestled just inside its own 27-yard line, Auburn needed 18 yards for a first down and had just one play to get it. Instead of looking for a medium-range option, the Tigers opted for a fourth-down miracle.
Nick Marshall chucked the football 50 yards down the middle of the field into triple coverage (two defenders blanketed the receiver with one trailing) and Ricardo Louis watched both defensive backs leap for the ball. The ball bounded off Georgia’s Josh Harvey-Clemons’ hand when he collided with Tray Matthews and bounced forward five yards where Louis grabbed the offering with his left hand – over-the-shoulder-style – to score an unreal 73-yard touchdown.
Seventh-ranked Auburn stole the victory from No. 25 Georgia, 43-38.
‘Kick Six’ – Nov. 30, 2013
Stop anyone in the state of Alabama and ask them where they were when Chris Davis pulled down Cade Foster’s missed field-goal attempt at the back of the end zone in the 2013 Iron Bowl and they’ll tell you exactly where they were. (I was in the press box, but not in my seat. I had stepped away to grab coffee, but luckily had stepped out right before Foster started his kick.)
Gus Malzahn’s decision to place Davis in the back of the end zone was genius. His idea to set up blockers in case Davis actually caught the ball and got a head of steam under him was pure mad scientist.
Davis returned the missed field goal 109 yards and will live forever in Iron Bowl lore. The play was so important, not only did it earn one of the more famous nicknames of all time, but multiple play calls have become famous. First, the Auburn rendition.
CBS commentators Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson shared the moment with the world, and had “Kick Six” not taken hold quickly as the name of the play, “An Answered Prayer” might have caught on.
“Kick Six” will likely live forever.