College football's greatest existential question: Does it really just mean more?
OK, so with the ongoing debate about player compensation and the general safety of football, college football faces far more pressing questions than determining the validity of the SEC Network's tagline. However, closing out a decade of dominance with both a Heisman Trophy winner and national championship certainly lends credence.
The SEC closed out the 2010s with six national titles, four Heismans and countless memorable moments. The 2019 season added plenty to all three categories.
10 Best SEC Games of 2019
10. Florida 24, Miami 20 — Aug. 23
In-state rivals Florida and Miami don't play nearly enough. Even in a season like this past, when the Gators are relatively up and the Hurricanes are decidedly down, the meeting doesn't lack for fireworks.
The two ushered in the FBS season on Week 0 in a matchup rife with sloppy play and penalties — both teams were flagged for 100-plus yards — and Florida allowed Miami to hang around with four turnovers. Still, with a 50-yard DeeJay Dallas touchdown run to give the Hurricanes a fourth-quarter lead, and Feleipe Franks countering on a goal-line end-zone rush at the end of an 80-yard drive, this provided a fitting introduction to the campaign.
9. LSU 23, Auburn 20 — Oct. 26
In a clash of the best offense in the country against arguably the nation's best defense, defense nearly won the day. LSU racked up yards, but the 23 points marked a significant low for the Tigers in this one. But it still was a game that helped bolster Joe Burrow's Heisman candidacy, as he threw for 321 yards against an elite defense and rushed for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter.
8. LSU 45, Texas 38 — Sept. 7
No. 8 may well be under-selling how wildly entertaining this game was. Blame hindsight; Texas did not quite live up to the preseason hype that had the Longhorns ranked in the top 10 for LSU's visit to Austin.
Nevertheless, the atmosphere at Darrell K. Royal was befitting a top-10 matchup, and the on-field action delivered. The fourth quarter, in particular, cranked up the intensity, with the two teams combining for 39 points. Joe Burrow threw touchdowns of 26 and 61 yards, while Sam Ehlinger connected with Devin Duvernay on strikes of 44 and 15 yards.
Texas' last-ditch effort belies how much more lopsided the final score could have been — LSU led by two touchdowns with less than a minute remaining — but first downs and total yards were close to identical.
7. South Carolina 20, Georgia 17 (OT) — Oct. 12
There arguably isn't a stranger result from the 2019 season than Georgia's sole regular-season loss. The Bulldogs outgained the Gamecocks 468-to-297, recorded nearly twice as many first downs, yet as a result of four turnovers, failed to capitalize on opportunities.
Typically automatic placekicker Rodrigo Blankenship, who hit from 50 yards out earlier in the game, missed the kick that would have sent it to double-overtime.
6. Georgia 23, Notre Dame 17 — Sept. 21
A college football-watching nation rejoiced when a home-and-home series between Georgia and Notre Dame was announced. Hopefully, it's the beginning of a trend — and a trend that follows how the series went.
Both contests in South Bend and Athens were outstanding, with this year's installment seeing Georgia rally from a halftime deficit then have to hold off Notre Dame down the stretch.
Jake Fromm and Ian Book both made big fourth-quarter plays, and Rodrigo Blankenship put the special in special teams with his decisive field-goal kicking.
5. Mississippi State 21, Ole Miss 20 – Nov. 28
Depending on who you ask, the 2019 Egg Bowl is one of the most historically significant games in college football history. There are those who posit the missed PAT sealing Ole Miss' fate, after a remarkable drive to get into the end zone, set off a chain reaction:
- Matt Luke was fired and Lane Kiffin was hired at Ole Miss
- Willie Taggart replaced Kiffin at FAU
- Mississippi State fired Joe Moorhead following the bowl game, leading to the hire of Mike Leach
- Leach's departure from Washington State led to the hire of Nick Rolovich at Washington State
- Hawaii filled its vacancy with Todd Graham
Now, this requires a leap in logic that Ole Miss and Mississippi State brass weren't already committed to moving in new directions before Elijah Moore feigned being a urinating dog. But hey, plenty of college football lore preceding this is rooted in bunk.
4. Auburn 26, Oregon 21 — Aug. 31
It's a phrase uttered virtually every college football Saturday, from missed PATs to dropped pick-sixes and failed red-zone opportunities: That'll come back to haunt 'em.
Such was the case in the Week 1 clash between Oregon and Auburn. After an offseason of rhetoric that this game would make-or-break the Pac-12's College Football Playoff hopes, Oregon came out on fire in Arlington. But the Ducks failed on two red-zone opportunities, which will haunt a team against a defense as good as Auburn's.
The Tigers were fearsome on that side of the ball in the second half, while Bo Nix, in his college debut, engineered a game-winning drive that highlighted a season of growing pains.
3. LSU 42, Clemson 25 — Jan. 13, 2020 (College Football Playoff National Championship)
The 2019 SEC slate had more competitive games, but no contest issued as resounding a statement. A year before the 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship Game, Clemson battered Alabama in a manner unseen since the very early days of the Saban era. LSU's defeat of Clemson was not quite as lopsided, but the Tigers... the Death Valley Tigers... the Baton Rouge Tigers — there we go, that works — dominated in a manner befitting one of the greatest seasons in recent memory.
Joe Burrow going off for five touchdowns, including two to Ja'Marr Chase, who hauled in a whopping 221 yards, underscored the 2019 campaign.
2. LSU 46, Alabama 41 — Nov. 9
Throughout the decade, Alabama has been the gatekeeper of SEC greatness. LSU marched in Tuscaloosa and kicked open the gate with a second-quarter onslaught, scoring 17 consecutive points to lead by three touchdowns at halftime.
But did anyone think it was going to be that easy? Of course not. Not with Najee Harris rolling up 146 yards on the ground and DeVonta Smith accounting for 213 of Tua Tagovailoa's 418 passing yards. The Crimson Tide pulled within six and five points on three occasions in the fourth quarter, but LSU's ability to respond each time showed off this team's championship resolve.
1. Auburn 48, Alabama 45 — Nov. 30
So it wasn't quite the Kick-Six, but Auburn ended another classic Iron Bowl with a special teams miscue.
For Alabama to roll up 45 points on one of, if not the best defense in college football was remarkable. Mac Jones throwing for 335 yards and four touchdowns on that defense, and Najee Harris going off for 146 yards, is astounding. For both of those statistics to not result in an Alabama win is downright mesmerizing.
And all that takes a backseat to the clock stoppage that allowed Gus Malzahn to run out his field goal unit before halftime and tack on three points that ultimately added to the difference. An Alabama miss to end the game provided a symmetrical book-end.
— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.
(Top photo courtesy of @LSUfootball)