Guerry Clegg commentary: The best college football game of the 2013 season was …

June 24, 2014 

Gotta hand it to the folks at ESPN. They get it. They understand that college football fans are second to none when it comes to passion. The good folks at ESPN recognize that college football fans are going through that critical stage of offseason recovery known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome.

So as the countdown to kickoff draws tantalizingly close, ESPN has produced a promo to help the sand sift through the hour glass just a tad quicker. The network has developed a list of the top 25 games from last season.

ESPN will begin rerunning those games July 21. Games 25 through 6 have been determined in order. The top five games have been selected, but the order will be determined by online voting. Here's a list of those five games (with apologies for evoking bad memories) in the order of the current vote totals:

5) Auburn 43, Georgia 38 -- Granted, it wouldn't have made Top 10, let alone Top Five, if not for the second-most memorable play of the entire college football season -- The Prayer at Jordan-Hare. Until then, the game would have been remembered for Aaron Murray's heroics. But when Ricardo Louis plucked Nick Marshall's deflected pass out of the air -- shades of Franco Harris and the Immaculate Reception -- it became evident then that maybe this Auburn team really was blessed.

4) Texas A&M 52, Duke 48 -- Great game because of A&M's furious comeback and Johnny Manziel ending his career reminding everyone why he's arguably the most exciting and entertaining college football player ever. Duke's early dominance in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl bordered on boring. Except this was Duke hammering an SEC team. Instead, that merely set the stage for one last Johnny Football miracle.

3) Ohio State 42, Michigan 41 -- Perhaps the greatest finish ever in one of the greatest rivalries in sports. Michigan coach Brady Hoke's gutsy call to go for two points and the win rather than kick a game-tying PAT and play for overtime. The win preserved the Buckeyes' perfect record. Hours later, they found themselves in the driver's seat for the national championship game after Auburn stunned Alabama.

2) Florida State 34, Auburn 31 -- This would have made the list regardless of the stakes with FSU outscoring Auburn 21-10 in the fourth quarter, with three lead changes in the final 4:31 and the game-winning touchdown coming with 13 seconds left. The fact that it was the national championship game made it even more epic. So what could top the perhaps the greatest national championship game ever?

1) Auburn 34, Alabama 28 -- Only the greatest college football game ever. The stage. The participants. The drama. The improbable finish. The shock value. The 2013 Iron Bowl had it all.

Like any list involving opinion, it's far from scientific and it's entirely arguable. My vote was a little different. Admittedly, it's a little skewed because I covered two of the games -- Georgia-Auburn and Alabama-Auburn -- and got to catch only glimpses of Ohio State-Michigan on the press box monitors:

5) A&M-Duke -- Again, a great game. But the lack of national championship ramifications is the separating factor for me.

4) Ohio State-Michigan -- Although Ohio State was undefeated, nearly losing to a mediocre Michigan team exposed the Buckeyes as merely a pretty good team buoyed by a soft schedule.

3) Georgia-Auburn -- Finally somewhat healthy again, the Bulldogs showed how good they could have been if not for all of their injuries. But the Tigers proved they had something special going on.

2) Florida State-Auburn -- This belongs in the conversation for the top 25 games of all time.

1) Alabama-Auburn -- My regional bias notwithstanding, it was the greatest college football game of all time.

You probably noticed that four of the five games involved SEC teams. In fact, 10 of the 25 games involved SEC teams: Alabama-Texas A&M, Georgia-LSU, Auburn-Texas A&M, South Carolina-Missouri, Ole Miss-Vanderbilt and Georgia-Tennessee were the others. That didn't include some worthy honorable mentions -- Tennessee's upset of South Carolina, Georgia's comeback against Georgia Tech, A&M's thriller over Ole Miss.

Just 65 days before new drama is created.

-- Guerry Clegg is an independent correspondent. You can write to him at sports@ledger-enquirer.com

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