Sorting through the best games in a year can be quite difficult. Should outstanding performances be singled out? Should it be the best endings?
Ultimately, the results on this list are a mix of everything. There’s incredible individual performances, like Nick Fitzgerald against Ole Miss. Multiple SEC quarterbacks also had coming-out parties against top competition.
Some of the games certainly look different in hindsight, especially nonconference matchups against UCLA and TCU. However, these games still deserve to be remembered for what they were at the time: Great SEC football games.
Here are the top 10 SEC football games of the 2016 regular season.
10. No. 1 Alabama 48, No. 19 Ole Miss 43
Date: Sept. 17
Key player: Tide DE Jonathan Allen
Alabama doesn’t often struggle, but Hugh Freeze is the one coach who seems to have the Crimson Tide’s number. The Rebels were extremely close to making it three in a row after tying the game at 27-27 late in the third quarter. However, Alabama went to work. The Crimson Tide had a pair of touchdown runs, and added a 75-yard fumble recovery from Allen to push the lead to 18 points. Chad Kelly threw a pair of touchdown passes late to make things interesting, but Alabama hung on.
9. Mississippi State 55, Ole Miss 20
Date: Nov. 26
Key player: Bulldogs QB Nick Fitzgerald
These weren’t the Egg Bowl stakes that Bulldogs and Rebels fans hoped for before the season, but Mississippi State and Ole Miss both desperately needed wins to become bowl eligible. Ole Miss, the nation’s “best six-loss team,” was a heavy favorite. However, Dan Mullen reminded everyone why he should be mentioned among the best coaches in college football. The Bulldogs discovered early on that Ole Miss had no answer for their quarterback run game — and it was over from there. Fitzgerald rushed for 258 yards and added 5 total touchdowns. Aeris Williams added 191 yards and 2 rushing scores of his own, as the Bulldogs scored at least 13 in every quarter.
8. No. 16 Georgia 28, Missouri 27
Date: Sept. 17
Key player: Bulldogs QB Jacob Eason
This was Eason’s coming-out party. After struggling in his first start against Nicholls State, the blue-chip true freshman rebounded perfectly against Mizzou. After throwing a costly interception that set up a 27-21 Missouri advantage, Eason led Georgia on an 80-yard touchdown drive capped off by a 20-yard dime to Isaiah McKenzie for six. The poise Eason showed in his first road start was impressive.
Georgia's Jacob Eason delivered the winning TD pass vs. Missouri, and what a moment it was for the true freshman. pic.twitter.com/RySitAEsCQ
— Campus Insiders (@CampusInsiders) September 18, 2016
7. Arkansas 41, No. 15 TCU 38, 2 OT
Date: Sept. 10
Key player: Razorbacks QB Austin Allen
We learned later that TCU has significant flaws, but traveling to Fort Worth was no joke for Arkansas. After struggling against Louisiana Tech in the opener, expectations were diminished. Looking at the final box, the fact that TCU QB Kenny Hill accumulated 470 yards and 3 touchdowns almost certainly would seem to correlate with a win. However, Arkansas converted a critical 2-point conversion to force overtime and then set up a rushing TD for Allen that was eerily similar to one his brother had a year earlier.
6. Vanderbilt 45, No. 17 Tennessee 34
Date: Nov. 26
Key player: Commodores QB Kyle Shurmur
There were rumors Derek Mason’s job could be in jeopardy throughout the season. This game ended with Mason running down the sidelines shouting “This is our state!” Tennessee QB Josh Dobbs was nearly perfect (31-34 for 340 yards, 2 TDs), but Vanderbilt’s offense was even better. The Volunteers had a 31-24 lead at the half, but Vandy went on a wild 21-3 run to close the game, including a trio of rushing scores. It was just the fourth Vandy win over Tennessee in the last 34 years.
After Vanderbilt upsets Tennessee, Commodores coach Derek Mason yells, "THIS IS OUR STATE." pic.twitter.com/q1hMvidvxS
— Jesse Re Simonton (@JesseReSimonton) November 27, 2016
5. Texas A&M 31, No. 16 UCLA 24, OT
Date: Sept. 3
Key player: Aggies QB Trevor Knight
No one quite knew what to expect from the Aggies headed into 2016. Texas A&M had a tumultuous offseason, and lost a pair of 5-star quarterbacks. However, it took one game for Knight to change everything. Even though the Aggies gave up a big lead in the fourth quarter, Knight’s overtime heroics immediately ingratiated him with Aggies fans.
4. Kentucky 41, No. 11 Louisville 38
Date: Nov. 26
Key player: Wildcats QB Stephen Johnson
On the list of most unexpected wins of the year, Kentucky’s shocking win against Lamar Jackson and Louisville has to rank near the top. The Wildcats improved tremendously over the course of the season, but Louisville had been a playoff contender for most of the season. Johnson led a 60-yard drive to set up a 47-yard game-winning field goal from Austin MacGinnis. In the end, Johnson finished with 338 yards and three touchdowns, plus 83 yards on the ground.
— Chris Beasmore (@skinnycb) November 26, 2016
3. Ole Miss 29, No. 8 Texas A&M 28
Date: Nov. 12
Key player: Rebels QB Shea Patterson
Consider this to be Patterson’s coming-out party. Expectations were high after Ole Miss burned his redshirt, but Patterson delivered in one of the most thrilling games of the year. Despite being down 21-6 heading into the fourth quarter at raucous Kyle Field, Patterson led three touchdown drives, throwing for touchdowns on two of them as the Rebels finished on a 23-7 run.
2. No. 11 Tennessee 34, No. 25 Georgia 31
Date: Oct. 1
Key player: Vols QB Josh Dobbs
It wasn’t necessarily the most well-played game, but the finish was one for the ages. Down 28-24 with just a minute left to go, true freshman Jacob Eason led Georgia on an 81-yard drive for what appeared to be a game-winning touchdown. But after an excessive celebration penalty, Dobbs threw a Hail Mary 43 yards for a shocking touchdown as time expired. The win moved UT to 5-0.
— Chris Clark (@ChrisClark_) October 1, 2016
1. No. 1 Alabama 10, No. 13 LSU 0
Date: Nov. 5
Key player: Tide QB Jalen Hurts
It wasn’t always the most aesthetically pleasing game, but this was a sheer battle of will. It was well-known that LSU was fighting for Ed Orgeron’s job, and doing it against the most dominant team in the nation. But with the game scoreless heading into the fourth quarter, it looked like the Tigers just might do it. Unfortunately, Hurts broke away for a touchdown to break the deadlock in one of the best chess matches of the year.