We Simulated A Group of Five College Football Playoff

In our recent simulation, we took a look at the results at an expanded College Football Playoff, which included a Group-of-5 bid, but who is the best small-name program out there? We simulated a CFP – Group-of-5 edition – and pitted the winner against the real CFP field, starting with the semifinal losers and progressing to the champion until they were defeated or triumphed over the field. Teams were selected by the final CFP rankings of that year, and if there were not four teams in those rankings, we went to the AP Poll, utilizing the “Also Receiving Votes” section if necessary. Here were our results:

2014

  1. Boise State
  2. Marshall
  3. Memphis
  4. Colorado State

4. Colorado State def. 1. Boise State 33-31
2. Marshall def. 3. Memphis 28-23

Championship

4. Colorado State def. 2. Marshall 31-23

Against the CFP…
Def. Florida State 34-31 (OT)
LOST to Alabama 44-28\

Summary

Led by the exploits of quarterback Garrett Grayson, Colorado State embarked on a stunning run in our initial year of the Group of 5 simulation. The Rams were 10-2 in 2014 with a bad loss in the Las Vegas Bowl, but in this simulation, they rallied over Boise State with a game-winning field goal at the buzzer, before staving off Marshall in the championship. Grayson tossed seven touchdowns and no picks between the two highly efficient performances. In a stunning effort, the Rams edged out Jameis Winston and the Seminoles, but they fell well short against Alabama, although Grayson threw for another four scores, but the Tide racked up 232 rushing yards between Derrick Henry and TJ Yeldon. Surprising stuff in Year 1, let’s see what 2015 has to offer. 

2015 

  1. Houston
  2. Navy
  3. Temple
  4. Western Kentucky


4. Western Kentucky def. 1. Houston 37-24
3. Temple def. 2. Navy 24-17

Championship

4. Western Kentucky def. 3. Temple 34-20

Against the CFP…

Def. Oklahoma 37-35
LOST to Michigan State 41-33

Summary

Two straight four-seeds? There appears to be very little difference among the top Group of 5 teams, so we’ll see if that trend continues. Western Kentucky bodyslammed both Houston and Temple by two touchdowns to claim the title. The Hilltoppers could score on virtually anyone in 2015, putting up at least 35 points on every defense except Vanderbilt and LSU. Oklahoma’s sieve-like defense posed little challenge, but the Spartans held WKU to enough field goals to edge out the upstart fourth-seed. 

2016

  1. Western Michigan
  2. Temple
  3. Navy
  4. South Florida


4. USF def. 1. Western Michigan 34-31
2. Temple def. 3. Navy 40-20

Championship

2. Temple def. 4. USF 34-30

Against the CFP…

LOST to Washington 42-23

Summary

Finally, someone took down a four-seed in this simulation, as Temple took down Navy in what is quickly developing into a virtual rivalry, and edged out South Florida in the final. However, they had zero luck against Power-5 competition, getting manhandled by fourth-seeded Washington, trailing by 29 points in the fourth quarter. Maybe the quality of play is a little worse, but you can’t deny this Playoff would be highly interesting – six of the nine games played in the Group of 5 portion of the simulation have been decided by one possession. 

2017

  1. UCF
  2. Memphis
  3. Boise State
  4. South Florida
  1. UCF def. 4. USF 45-13
  2. Memphis def. 3. Boise State 37-27

Championship

1. UCF def. 2. Memphis 41-31

Against the CFP…
LOST to Oklahoma 42-37
Summary

This simulation has produced some wild results, so to see chalk in Year 4 was actually pretty shocking. 2017 UCF can definitely stake a claim to being the best Group of 5 team in recent history, and they dominated the Playoff simulation here, taking the title in convincing fashion. However, a very strong Playoff field made it tough to advance further, as Baker Mayfield and the Sooners edged the Knights. McKenzie Milton was a joy to watch on the gridiron, so here’s to hoping he makes it back soon – college football is better when guys like him are playing. 

2018

  1. UCF
  2. Fresno State
  3. Boise State
  4. Utah State

    4. Utah State def. 1. UCF 35-23
    2. Fresno State def. 3. Boise State 35-21

Championship

4. Utah State def. 2. Fresno State 37-34 (OT)

Against the CFP…

LOST to Oklahoma 52-33

Summary

Top-seeded UCF had to play without McKenzie Milton and fell victim to Jordan Love’s rocket arm. Meanwhile, Boise State falls to 0-3 in three separate appearances, and the Aggies triumph in an overtime classic over Fresno State, tying the game on a late field goal and winning on Love’s 26-yard TD toss. Utah State clashed with Heisman winner Kyler Murray and simply did not have the firepower to stay with the Sooners. Love had a pair of TDs, but Oklahoma grabbed a 10-point halftime lead and cruised to victory. 

2019

  1. Memphis
  2. Boise State
  3. Appalachian State
  4. Cincinnati 

    1. Memphis def. 4. Cincinnati 41-28

2. Boise State def. 3. Appalachian State 37-14

Championship

2. Boise State def. 1. Memphis 35-30

Against the CFP…

LOST to Oklahoma 34-28
Summary

Boise State breaks through! I’m really glad, because I would have had to deal with a throng of rabid Broncos’ fans if they didn’t even get a win in the Group of 5 CFP. The Broncos manhandled Appalachian State in one of the biggest blowouts of our 6-year simulation before edging out a very good Memphis squad. However, their magic ran out against the Sooners – no ‘Statue of Liberty’ stunner in this one, as the Broncos dropped a 6-point contest to Jalen Hurts, CeeDee Lamb and Co. 

Final Thoughts

A Group-of-5 playoff will never happen, because it will require the NCAA to admit that their current system excludes half the teams in the nation from even competing for a Playoff spot. However, I am still enthralled by the idea; exciting small-name programs can be exciting to watch, and this system pits some of the best teams in the nation against each other, largely producing thrilling results. Four-seeds combined for an insane 7-3 record, as upsets raged throughout the years, while teams like UCF proved their utter dominance with convincing victories. 

Ultimately, Boise State led with four Playoff appearances, although it took them until that fourth try to snatch a win. Memphis went 2-3 in three appearances, and nobody else had more than two Playoff berths. Against CFP teams, our Group-of-5 champions went 2-6, but no victories were seen in the final four years. 

Ultimately, I think four appearances in six years is a decent statement as to Boise State’s consistency, regardless of their schedule, but the three tournament victories by fourth-seeds also showed that there is plenty of parity between the best Group-of-5 teams. Again, this won’t happen, but imagine if this event was a precursor to the CFP, making it four straight weekends of premier college football. One can dream.

College Football Relevancy Rankings: Top 15

What makes a college football team relevant? Is it wins? That would be unfairly biased towards Group of 5 programs with the ability to rack up wins against horrific teams while unfairly punishing teams out of the SEC, Big 10, and other Power-5 conferences that load their schedules with premier competition each year. No offense to Boise State (or maybe a little bit), but the Broncos are not the best team in the country by really any other measure. And beating up on San Jose State, New Mexico, and UNLV does not qualify one for college football supremacy. However, to strictly take playoff berths and national championships seems flawed as well, as that essentially completely discounts UCF, Boise State, and other great but smaller-name programs. What about elite recruiting? Or draft picks and successful NFL careers?

We did our best to combine the variety of factors, weighing the success of college alums in the NFL, draft position, bowl appearances – with an emphasis on New Year’s 6 bowls – and CFP appearances. Of course, extra points were awarded for national championships – Group of 5 teams can cry all they want about how biased the CFP committee is, but the reality is they don’t have the ability to consistently defeat high-level programs. In a recent simulation we ran, we expanded the CFP to include the top Group of 5 team from each season, the non Power-5 squads went 1-6 with only 2017 UCF picking up a win. Relevancy or dominance can also not be claimed from one amazing season (LSU fans would have you believe they’re the greatest program in history because Joe Burrow dropped about a million points on everyone), nor can it be claimed by a 1988 national championship (looking at myself and fellow Irish fans on that one). 

So, taking all these factors into consideration, here are the rankings of the top 15 most relevant football programs heading into the 2020 season. For the keyboard warriors, rage type all your angry thoughts to collegetalking@gmail.com, where you can contact any of our writers.

15. Wisconsin 

Wisconsin just exudes hard and tough vibes, and that’s exactly the type of product the Badgers put out on the gridiron year in and year out. Their biggest strengths lie in their backfield and in the trenches. Recent alum of the program and 2017 first-round pick Ryan Ramczyk has already posted 47 starts and garnered All-Pro honors, while 2019 picks Michael Deiter and David Edwards have already combined for 25 starts. Behind their grind-it-out, ground-and-pound style, Wisconsin has won four of six West Division titles since the Big 10 split into East/West divisions. They’ve posted three top-15 finishes in that time period, rising into the top-6 at various points in each of the past four years, along with a 5-1 record in Bowl Games, including an Orange Bowl victory in 2017. However, an 0-4 record in Big 10 championships and struggles on the recruiting class (not in the Top 25 over the past five seasons), keep the Badgers from rising too far up this list. 

14. Washington

The Huskies edged out Wisconsin on the strength of three NY6 bowl appearances, and a spectacular stretch from 2016-2018 that was highlighted by a College Football Playoff berth in 2017. Playoff berths were certainly valued highly in the compilation of these rankings, as were conference championships, both areas where Washington beat out the Badgers, as the Huskies have won a pair of Pac-12 titles. They’ve had success in developing professional prospects in the secondary and at tight end, and they had no losing records in the past decade. However, they were really only elite for a 3-year stretch and went 2-3 in their last five bowl appearances, so Washington stays at #14 here. 

13. Boise State

As much as I like to give grief to the Broncos, they do at least belong on this list. Spoiler Alert: They’re the only Group-of-5 team that cracked the top 15. Boise State has not been the best Group-of-5 squad in recent years, having not been to a New Year’s 6 bowl since 2014, but their remarkable consistency earns them a place here – the Broncos have won at least 8 games in every season since 1998, posting 17 ten-win campaigns in that 21-year stretch. Their easy strength of schedule (not a single above-average SOS in program history) will always present an asterisk to their name that anyone will throw in their face, but Boise State gets Ws, and they have for 25 years, and they’ve been superb since joining the FBS in 2011, cracking the top 25 in every season. Their winning percentage over the last decade ranks fifth in the country at .805, and the Broncos sit fourth with 107 wins during that time. Now, I will throw in this statistic, so whether you’re a Boise State fan ready to brag about breaking the top 15 or insulted that you are put that low ( I truly don’t know what to expect out of that rabid and slightly delusional fanbase) – Since 2012, Boise State is just 1-4 against ranked Power-5 teams, and they don’t have a top-10 win since 2010. So they’re not a top-10 program, but they do deserve recognition for their consistency and sheer quantity of wins. 

12. Florida 

Florida would be a lot higher on this list if we were putting greater emphasis on history. Long gone are the days of Urban Meyer, Tim Tebow,  and the 2008 national championship, and even further gone is the era of Steve Spurrier, accompanied by four consecutive SEC championships and a couple more national titles. However, the Gators haven’t won the SEC title since that ‘08 run, and they haven’t appeared in the championship game since 2016. They’ve continued to recruit well, with their recruiting classes ranked #14 over the past five seasons, and they still pump out solid NFL talent, particularly on the offensive line and at defensive back – the boys in Gainesville are one of many teams to claim DBU. Florida has a pair of losing seasons in the past decades, but they’ve rebounded nicely in the past couple seasons, ending their previous two campaigns with major bowl victories (Peach and Orange Bowls), keeping them in the top 15. 

11. Notre Dame

Yes they’ve struggled in big games recently, and the Irish are still sitting on zero championships in the BCS/CFP era, but Notre Dame’s ability to bring in top level talent and turn that talent into NFL prospects keeps the Irish highly relevant, but I couldn’t justify bringing them into the top 10 without major recent accomplishments. However, the Irish produce some elite professional players, particularly on their offensive line in recent years (Quentin Nelson, Mike McGlinchey, Zack Martin). They have a .713 winning percentage in the past decade, and they’re 4-2 in their past six bowl game appearances, highlighted by a pair of thrilling victories over LSU. They’ve been ranked in the top 12 in four of the past five seasons, and combined with a Playoff appearance, it was enough to put Notre Dame at #11 on the list. 

10. Florida State

One of the most dominant teams in college football in the first half of the decade, Florida State has faded from relevancy, posting just an 18-20 record in their prior three seasons. However, the Seminoles’ 59-9 record in the five years prior was more than enough to earn FSU some consideration for making this list. Ultimately, their BCS national championship and CFP appearance was enough to just barely crack the top 10. The Seminoles have continued to recruit at a high level, despite their recent struggles, as they’ve boasted the 6th-best recruiting classes over the past five years. They’ve had a pair of quarterbacks drafted in the first round, and clearly on-field talent isn’t the issue – if Florida State can sort out some off-field issues, the Seminoles should return to their elite ways. If not? They’ll slip very quickly off this list. 

9. Oregon
Recent first-round pick Justin Herbert has completed the Ducks’ turnaround, after Oregon spent nearly a decade as one of the best teams in the country. From 2008-2014, the Ducks went 80-15, with that stretch of dominance sandwiched by a pair of 9-4 seasons. They also were a consistent presence in major bowl games, winning the Rose Bowl twice, the Fiesta Bowl once, and appearing in two national championship games and the Playoff. Oregon bottomed out in 2016 with a 4-8 record, but they’ve surged once more, with a 21-6 record over the past two years, punctuated by another thrilling Rose Bowl victory in 2020. The Ducks continue one of the premier teams on the West Coast, but they need to break through to get a national title to stay in the top 10. 

8. Auburn

The Tigers started the decade off with the brilliance of Cam Newton and a national championship, so it was certainly tough to match that, but Auburn certainly continues to a premier team in college football. Playing in the SEC, the Tigers constantly face one of the most brutal schedules in the country, and I think they could be trending upwards, with another two seasons of Bo Nix coming and some victories on the recruiting trail. Their record (62-31) over the past seven seasons may not be as flashy as others on this list, but don’t forget that winning two of three in the SEC is far more impressive than winning three of four in most other conferences, and seven straight winning seasons while playing in the toughest division in the toughest conference in college football is worthy of a top-10 appearance. A CFP appearance is needed soon, but that BCS national championship and consistent SEC relevancy slots Auburn at #8. 

7. USC

Look, I get it. This seems way to high for a team that hasn’t won a championship since 2003-2004, and I’m not particularly happy about slotting the Trojans here – I’m a diehard Irish fan and Notre Dame student, and one of my favorite memories of my freshman year was watching the boys in blue and gold dust USC at Notre Dame Stadium. But before a recent slump, USC had posted winning records in every season from 2002 to 2017, including seven straight years of at least 11 wins. Despise some recent struggles, the Trojans have been ranked in the AP Poll at some point for each of the past 19 seasons, including a #3 finish in 2016. In recruiting talent and NFL talent they bring in and pump out, USC deserves to be in the top 10. Notre Dame may lead the series in this rivalry, but USC has been better in big games. This will likely be the most controversial ranking on the list, but I’ll stick with it. USC is such a national brand that with the premier talent they bring in year in and year out, they will always be a story, and if they can get a relatively hapless Clay Helton off the sideline, the Trojans can return to national glory. 

6. Georgia

Another great team that has just been completely unable to break through on the national level, as Georgia has returned to national relevance, but they can’t quite get that big win. After finishing every season from 1997-2008 ranked inside the Top 25, the Bulldogs faded slightly, but they stayed near the top of the rankings, appearing in the top 10 in every season since 2012. Under Kirby Smart, Georgia has surged once more, finishing no lower than seventh in the past three seasons, with an SEC Championship, three SEC title game appearances, a CFP and national championship appearance, as well as wins in the Rose and Sugar Bowls. Talent wise, Georgia has absolutely dominated their in-state rivalry, allowing them to dominate the in-state recruiting battles. As such, Georgia has dominated on the recruiting front, and they produce some elite NFL prospects, particularly in the backfield, pushing the Bulldogs to 6th in our 2020 relevancy rankings. 

5. Oklahoma

Since 2000, Oklahoma has consistently been one of the top teams in college football – cracking the top ten in every season in that stretch with appearances in the top 5 in 17 of those 20 seasons. They’ve qualified for four consecutive Playoffs, and while they’ve struggled on that stage, Oklahoma has dominated their conference, been a mainstay in the rankings, featured top-10 talent, had two Heisman winners, and produced highly sought after draft prospects for the NFL. By every standard except Playoff success, Oklahoma is one of the best programs in the country, so don’t let their struggles in the spotlight cloud your judgement of the Sooners. 

4. LSU

Yes LSU is great. No they are not the best team in the nation. The Tigers returned to true national relevance in Joe Burrow’s first season, finishing sixth in the AP Poll – their first top ten finish since 2011. Then, of course, there was last year: one of the greatest seasons and quarterbacking efforts of all-time en route to a 15-0 season. That CFP appearance and national championship bumps the Tigers into the top 5. LSU recruits at a top-five level in most seasons, and they probably have the most legitimate claim to DBU with four All-Pro alums and 2017 first-round pick Jamal Adams on his way to becoming the best safety in the NFL. LSU is always relevant, and they’ve turned the corner after spending much of the decade as an afterthought in the national championship race – now they need to succeed in the post-Burrow era to validate this ranking. 

3. Ohio State

Seemingly always a powerhouse, but rarely on top. The Alabama-Clemson dual-dynasties may have dominated the second half of the decade, but Ohio State was always right in the mix, but, sans the first ever College Football Playoff, the Buckeyes have not been able to break through. Ohio State has been ranked second in the AP Poll in each of the past four years, but they haven’t sat atop the rankings since 2015. However, outside a blip in 2011 when the Buckeyes went 6-7, Ohio State has been one of the most consistent teams in the country, with extended stretches of dominance – you have to go back to 1967 to find the last season that OSU didn’t make an appearance in the AP Poll. However, Ohio State has not been able to punctuate their dynasty with more than the occasional title, meaning their spot at #3 is anything but secure, with LSU’s recent surge and Oklahoma a CFP win or two from being considered a premier program. 

2. Clemson

These rankings were always going to come down to Bama-Clemson at 1 and 2, it was just a matter of who ranked where. Ultimately, while it’s brutally difficult to decide in just the last few years, Alabama’s dynasty has simply been longer (more on that later), so Clemson ranks second. They’ve been incredibly dominant for five seasons now, and their dynasty doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon. I believe the Tigers have the biggest claim to WRU, where they’ve produced DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, and Mike Williams, and their 6-3 record in the CFP  and two national titles are wildly impressive. Had I wrote this article in 2015, I’m not sure Clemson would even be on this list, so it’s safe to say it’s a truly special period of dominance that saw the Tigers skyrocket to the top so fast.

1. Alabama

2007. That was the last time that a season went by and Alabama wasn’t ranked #1 at some point during the season. Toss in five national championships in that era, and the top ranking on this list simply couldn’t go to anyone but the Tide. Last year, they finished eighth in the AP Poll, their first time outside the top 5 since 2013 and their lowest ranking since 2010. As for the other qualifications for this list? Alabama dominates the recruiting landscape virtually every season, and they pump out NFL talent at almost every position. Although I stick with my pick of Clemson, Alabama stake a claim for WRU, and defensively, nobody can top the Tide who boast defensive line and linebacker talent like no other program. Their running backs tear up the NFL (see Derrick Henry and Mark Ingram), and the Tide have been the standard in the best conference in America for over a decade. It’s really not a question who is #1 here. 

2020 NFL Draft Rankings and Ratings, 24-17: Should Detroit have gone for a quarterback?

The NFL Draft has come and gone, and while there will still be flurries of signings of undrafted free agents, it’s time to hand out the grades for who nailed the draft, and who is left with more questions than answers. Here are my official draft rankings and ratings, from worst to first. Here are teams 17-24 in our rankings:

24. Tennessee Titans (43 out of 100)
Best Pick: Isaiah Wilson, OT, Georgia (Round 1, Pick 29)

Worst Pick: Darrynton Evans, RB, Appalachian State (Round 3, Pick 29)

1-Sentence Analysis: Evans is really a casualty here as he’s a decent fit in Tennessee, but it seems to me that the Titans could have done better in addressing major needs at outside linebacker, or adding a weapon at tight end for Ryan Tannehill to utilize – not a bad draft, I’m just left with some questions about Mike Vrabel’s plans. 

23. Seattle Seahawks (47 out of 100)
Best Pick: Darrell Taylor, DE, Tennessee (Round 2, Pick 16)
Worst Pick: Jordyn Brooks, OLB, Texas Tech (Round 1, Pick 27)
1-Sentence Analysis: Maybe the Seahawks know something we don’t, but it seems like they could’ve gotten Brooks in the third round and definitely in the second, but at least their trade up in the second round netted them Taylor, addressing a big-time need at defensive end. 

22. Buffalo Bills (49 out of 100)
Best Pick: AJ Epenesa, DE, Iowa (Round 2, Pick 22)
Worst Pick: Gabriel Davis, WR, UCF (Round 4, Pick 22)

1-Sentence Analysis: A lot of people thought Buffalo had a good draft, but I just feel like after two solid value picks in Epenesa and Zach Moss, it was pretty mediocre for the Bills, who added multiple receivers to an already-strong receiving core, added a quarterback they simply don’t need and likely won’t play, and failed to grab any kind of impact player on defense after Epenesa, particularly at OLB. 

21. New York Giants (49 out of 100)
Best Pick: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama (Round 2, Pick 4)
Worst Pick: Matt Peart, OT, UConn (Round 3, Pick 35)
1-Sentence Analysis: The Giants were expected to go after an offensive tackle but to go for two in three rounds, and taking Andrew Thomas over Mekhi Becton, Jedrick Wills, and Tristan Wirfs, seemed unnecessary and questionable given their various holes, especially at the linebacker position. 

20. Chicago Bears (50 out of 100)
Best Pick: Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame (Round 2, Pick 11)
Worst Pick: Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah (Round 2, Pick 18)
1-Sentence Analysis: This isn’t a knock against Johnson, who is a second round talent, but it seems like after a great first pick in Kmet, the Bears would have been better to use their second and final pick of the first two days to address a more prominent need than adding cornerback depth.
19. Detroit Lions (50 out of 100)
Best Pick: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State (Round 1, Pick 3)
Worst Pick: Logan Stenberg, OG, Kentucky (Round 4, Pick 15)
1-Sentence Analysis: I thought Detroit was rolling early with Okudah, Swift, and Okwara, and then after grabbing a guard in Jonah Jackson, I thought Detroit made a significant error with their second fourth round pick, where I believe drafting a quarterback, given their clear issues behind Stafford, should have been done, especially with Jacob Eason still on the board, instead of picking up another guard. 18. Los Angeles Rams(51 out of 100)
Best Pick: Terrell Lewis, OLB, Alabama (Round 3, Pick 20)
Worst Pick: Van Jefferson, WR, Florida (Round 2, Pick 25)
1-Sentence Analysis: After no Day 1 picks, the Rams largely did a good job addressing needs with great value picks on day 2, but I didn’t like spending a second round pick on a wide receiver in general, given their two returning 1000-yard receivers and need for improvements at the guard position.
17. Cleveland Browns (51 out of 100)
Best Pick: Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama (Round 1, Pick 10)
Worst Pick: Harrison Bryant, TE, Florida Atlantic (Round 4, Pick 9)
1-Sentence Analysis: I think Cleveland did a great job getting value with each pick, but I also think they could have done better to address bigger needs, as I think going best available only goes so far when you have playoff aspirations, which the Browns undoubtedly do.

NFL Draft Rankings and Ratings, 32-25: Saints bring up the rear in 2020 NFL Draft

The NFL Draft has come and gone, and while there will still be flurries of signings of undrafted free agents, it’s time to hand out the grades for who nailed the draft, and who is left with more questions than answers. Note: The worst pick noted by each team is very rarely an indication of the player, but rather the time of the draft, alternatives available at the time of the pick, or fit with the team that picked them.
Here are my official draft rankings and ratings, from worst to first. Here are teams 32-25 in the rankings:

32. New Orlean Saints (17 out of 100)
Best Pick: Adam Trautman, TE, Dayton (Round 3, Pick 41) 
Worst Move: Losing almost all Day 3 draft capital
1-sentence analysis: With a defense that needed some help, the Saints put three out of four picks into their offense, trading away virtually every remaining pick to jump up and grab Trautman, who, while good, will not assist New Orleans’ patchy secondary. 

31. San Francisco 49ers (20 out of 100)
Best Pick: Colton McKivitz, OT, West Virginia (Round 5, Pick 9)
Worst Pick: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina (Round 1, 14)
1-sentence analysis: Kinlaw is a beast, but so was DeForest Buckner who they traded to get the pick, leading the 49ers to replace a sure thing with a less sure thing, all while missing out on their pick of any of the three elite

30. Washington Redskins (34 out of 100)
Best Pick: Chase Young, DE, Ohio State (Round 1, Pick 2)
Worst Pick: Antonio Gibson, WR, Memphis (Round 3, Pick 2)
1-sentence analysis: The Redskins came in needing to address their defense, and although they got an elite talent in Young, they drafted only one other defensive player prior to Round 7, leaving their fans to question what needs the ‘Skins really filled this weekend. 

29. Kansas City Chiefs (38 out of 100)
Best Pick: Lucas Niang, OT, TCU (Round 3, Pick 32)
Worst Pick: Willie Gay Jr, ILB, Mississippi State (Round 2, Pick 31)
1-Sentence Analysis: Gay is a great player, but I more question the fit in Kansas City, and whether they could have gotten him later, as the Chiefs neglected to address a pressing situation in their secondary until Day 3, but at least they got a strong running back and a tackle with big-time upside to protect Mahomes. 

28. Atlanta Falcons (39 out of 100)
Best Pick: Marlon Davidson, DT, Auburn (Round 2, Pick 15)
Worst Pick: Jaylinn Hawks, S, California (Round 4, Pick 28)
1-Sentence Analysis: The Falcons were reaching all weekend long, taking guys way before they were expected to fill holes, while leaving better players on the board and failing to add help at defensive end or outside linebacker, two needy positions in Atlanta.

27. New England Patriots (41 out of 100)
Best Pick: Devin Asiasi, TE, UCLA ( Round 3, Pick 27)
Worst Pick: Dalton Keene, TE, Virginia Tech (Round 3, Pick 37)
1-Sentence Analysis: Asiasi was a great pick, but to leave Trautman on the board in favor of Keene is a travesty, and overall, the Patriots just didn’t do much exciting, trading out of the first round and taking a lot of late-round guys unlikely to make an immediate impact. 

26. Indianapolis Colts (42 out of 100)
Best Pick: Michael Pittman, WR, USC (Round 2, Pick 2)
Worst Pick: Julian Blackmon, S, Utah (Round 3, Pick 21)
1-Sentence Analysis: The Colts got some great value early in Pittman and Jonathan Taylor, but in spending four of their first five picks on offense, Indy failed to do much about their defense, which could be in rough shape in 2020.

25. Green Bay Packers (43 out of 100)
Best Pick: Josiah Deguara, TE, Cincinnati (Round 3, pick 30)
Worst Move: Not getting a wide receiver
1-Sentence Analysis: Green Bay would have nailed this draft if they were rebuilding, but they are coming off a 13-3 season so getting a lot of high-ceiling guys that don’t fit positional needs, while failing to address a gaping need at wide receiver leads to a poor grade.

NCAA FOOTBALL TOP MOMENTS – #1: Vince Young becomes a Texas legend, beats USC in epic Rose Bowl

Coming up with a list of the top 7 moments to feature this week in college football was brutally difficult. Some of these are a series of games, others a specific national championship, and others are an unlikely or inspirational run to a national title. For the most part, I refined this list to postseason moments, or games that decided a national championship, simply because with such an overwhelming list of possible options to feature, I decided that the ones with the biggest impact would be the ones that had championship implications. 

If you’ve been on our website, you had to know this was coming. The #1 moment in our NCAA football moments countdown is the 2006 Rose Bowl, an absolute thriller played between the Texas Longhorns and USC Trojans for the national championship –  a game whose defining moment was captured in one of the most iconic football photos ever. From the storylines leading into the game, the star performances and epic duel between two football powerhouses, this was an easy choice for the #1 moment on our countdown. 

The 2005 USC Trojans entered the year looking to repeat, or three-peat if you ask them, as national champions, a feat never accomplished in the AP Poll Era. Their rise to the top of college football had come suddenly, as from 1996-2001, the Trojans compiled a 37-35 record, never finishing with more than 8 wins and never finishing a season ranked. Then in 2002, under second-year head coach Pete Carroll, USC went 11-2 with an Orange Bowl win. They improved on that in each of the following years, finishing ‘03 and ‘04 with 12-1 and 13-0 records, respectively. They won the 2003 AP National Championship, although LSU was named the BCS champion, leading to a split title. They won the sole championship in 2004. They were led into battle in 2005 by 2004 Heisman winner and quarterback Matt Leinart, along with the eventual 2005 Heisman winner, running back Reggie Bush. 

The Trojans were an absolute force in 2005, as not a single team could contain their offense. USC put up 63, 70, and 45 points in their first three games. #14 Arizona State kept them under 40 points, but the Trojans still won 38-28. Their first real test came in a rivalry game at #9 Notre Dame. USC was 5-0 but trailed at halftime, and trailed 31-28 with seven seconds left at the Notre Dame 1-yard line. Rather than attempt the field goal, USC called for a quarterback sneak, and after Leinart’s initial effort was stopped, Bush executed what became known as “The Bush Push”, driving Leinart over the goal line. USC won their final six games with relative ease, with only one opponent coming within 25 points of them. #16 Fresno State led 21-13 at halftime, but USC put up 28 points in the third quarter, and got a last-minute interception to seal a 50-42 win. They punctuated the year with a 66-19 rivalry win over UCLA, sealing another berth in the BCS Championship.

Texas hadn’t exactly been a nobody in the college football world, and they had long been a more consistent program than USC. Under head coach Mack Brown, the Longhorns had finished seven consecutive seasons ranked, including three in the Top 6, and in 2004, they had pulled off a Rose Bowl win to finish the season #5. However, Texas had not won a national championship since 1970, and they were fighting to get back to the top of the mountain. After an easy win in the opener, the Longhorns had an immediate road test against #4 Ohio State. Texas trailed 22-16 in the fourth quarter, but quarterback Vince Young tossed a touchdown pass late, and the Longhorns added a safety to win the highly anticipated battle by three points. After that, it was smooth sailing for Texas, as no other opponent came closer than eleven points. They didn’t score under 40 points, and they dismantled #24 Colorado twice, and crushed #10 Texas Tech en route to an undefeated regular season, setting up a big-time national championship game. 

The Rose Bowl was a clash of the two teams with the longest active winning streaks – USC with 34 and Texas with 19, and it also featured the top two finishers in the Heisman race, with Reggie Bush edging Vince Young out for the award. To start the game, USC did not gain a first down, but Texas fumbled the ensuing punt, giving USC’s lethal offense a short field, which they quickly converted into a touchdown, leading 7-0 into the second quarter. Texas took advantage of a USC turnover, and Young led a 53-yard drive which culminated in a field goal. USC’s next drive ended in the red zone with a Leinart interception, and the Longhorns capitalized once more. Young powered the drive with his arm and with his legs, finishing it off by sprinting ten yards and tossing a lateral to Selvin Young who polished off the final twelve yards for a touchdown for a 9-7 lead after a failed extra point. The Longhorns extended the lead to 16-7, but USC cut it to 16-10 at halftime. 

The offenses exploded to start the second half, as running back LenDale White punched in a score for the Trojans, Young responded with the first of his three rushing touchdowns, and USC fired right back as White converted a 4th and 1 on a 12-yard touchdown run. After the fireworks, the score stood at 24-23, and Texas missed a go-ahead field goal, keeping them down by one entering the final stanza. 

Things looked bleak for Texas, as USC continued to dominate the second half through the first half of the fourth quarter. After Texas’s missed field goal, USC drove 80 yards, with some superb passing from Leinart and a 26-yard touchdown rush by Reggie Bush. Texas was able to get into the red zone on their ensuing drive, but the Trojans stiffened at the last second, holding the Longhorns to a field goal. USC needed very little time to respond as Leinart and fullback David Kirtman connected for 33 yards, and then 15 more were added to the total on a roughing the passer penalty. Leinart executed a toss to receiver Dwayne Jarrett so swept through the defense for a 22-yard touchdown, and USC opened up a commanding 38-26 lead with just 6:42 to play in the game. 

Texas wasn’t down and out yet, as Vince Young threw the Longhorns on his back and personally accounted for 69 yards in just 2:39. He completed five passes for 44 yards and ran for the remaining 25, including 17 yards for a touchdown to bring Texas within five with 3:58 to play. After yielding one first down, Texas needed a stop to leave any kind of time remaining for their offense to work some magic. They got a third-down stop, forcing USC into a 4th and 2 just past midfield with 2:13 to play. Pete Carroll decided to put the game in the hands of his trusty offense rather than punt and rely on a defense that had struggled to stop Vince Young and the Longhorns. He called for a LenDale White run, but Texas stiffened and stuffed him for just a yard, allowing Texas to take over at their own 44-yard line.

Texas still needed a touchdown, and they were forced into a few unsavory positions on their final drive. They lost two yards on their first two plays and were immediately confronted with a 3rd and 12. However a short completion and facemask penalty extended the drive for the Longhorns. Young then rushed for seven yards and found rarely-used receiver Brian Carter twice for 26 yards, pushing Texas to the USC 14-yard line. However, the Longhorns gained just five yards in three plays, and they faced a do-or-die 4th and 5 from the 9-yard line. Young dropped back but couldn’t find an open receiver. He scrambled and found space to his right, bolting for the corner of the end zone. Receiving a critical block from Justin Blalock, Young won a footrace into the corner of the endzone for a 39-38 Texas lead. A successful 2-point conversion gave the Longhorns a 3-point advantage. 

Leinart had just 16 seconds and no timeouts to work his magic for USC, and although he got the Trojans to the Texas 43, there was simply not enough time, and Texas snapped USC’s lengthy winning streak and handed Leinart just the second loss of his collegiate career. 

The Aftermath

Vince Young was named the Rose Bowl MVP for the 2nd consecutive year, and he also received the Manning Award, given to the nation’s top quarterback and the only award based partly on bowl results. In the game, Young put up a Rose-Bowl record 467 all-purpose yards, collecting 200 on the ground and 267 more through the air while running for three touchdowns. Had USC won, Leinart (365 pass yards and a touchdown) or LenDale White (3 touchdowns) would have been prime MVP candidates. 

Bush, Young, Texas’s Michael Huff, and Leinart all were top-10 picks in the 2006 NFL Draft, with Bush and Young being selected second and third overall. USC ended up vacating their 2004 national championship and their 2005 wins, as Reggie Bush was found to be ineligible after accepting thousands of dollars worth of gifts from a few California agents. Bush also voluntarily forfeited his Heisman trophy. Although USC’s winning streak was virtually destroyed by this, and their official 2005 record was 0-1, the Rose Bowl versus Texas still remains one of the most iconic games of all times, with Vince Young’s performance and game-winning touchdown serving as one of the best individual efforts in college football history.

NCAA FOOTBALL TOP MOMENTS – #5: The 1994 Orange Bowl Produced A Classic

Sliding in at #5 on our list is the 1993 Orange Bowl, which decided the national championship at the end of a spectacular college football season. It was played between preseason favorite Florida State and perennial powerhouse Nebraska, and it was an absolute classic, featuring elite defense, no lead of more than eight points, and a spectacular finish. 

Florida State entered the year as the preseason #1 in the AP Poll, and the Seminoles justified the ranking with their level of play in the early stages of the season. They slaughtered Kansas and Duke, 42-0 and 45-7, to start the year. After that, Florida State took on consecutive ranked opponents and hardly broke a sweat, dismantling #17 Clemson 57-0, and travelling to #13 North Carolina and emerged with a 33-7 victory. After a 51-0 drubbing of Georgia Tech, the Seminoles had a glistening 5-0 record, having given up just two touchdowns. They hosted #3 Miami the following week in a huge rivalry contest, but the Hurricanes simply could not match their in-state rivals, as Florida State cruised once more, winning 28-10. They then massacred #15 Virginia by 26 points before dismantling another pair of unranked opponents. 

That led the Seminoles into the Game of the Century against #2 Notre Dame. It was by far their toughest test of the season to date, as the Irish jumped all over the Seminoles, leading 24-7 in the fourth quarter. Florida State cut it to 31-24, but they could not complete the comeback, suffering a loss that seemingly destroyed their national championship hopes. However, the following week, Notre Dame suffered an upset loss to Boston College, and Florida State throttled NC State, returning the Seminoles to the #1 ranking. They finished up their season with a 33-21 rivalry victory over Florida, clinching a spot in the Orange Bowl, which would decide the national championship. 

Meanwhile, Nebraska had been a perennial power under head coach Tom Osborne, accumulating a 195-46-3 record over 20 seasons. Despite his stunningly consistent success, Osborne had not yet won a national title with the Cornhuskers, getting as high as #2, but never climbing the last step. In ‘93, Nebraska started the year at #8, and they slapped 76 points on the scoreboard in their opening victory over North Texas, then another 50 on Texas Tech. They were held to 14 points at UCLA, but they held on for a 14-13 victory in Pasadena. They followed it up with victories over Colorado State, Oklahoma State, a ranked Kansas State team, and Missouri. 

The Cornhuskers, sitting at 7-0 and #6 in the country, travelled to Colorado for their toughest contest of the regular season, taking on the #20 Buffaloes and holding off a late surge from the hosts to win 21-17. Nebraska may have breathed too big a sigh of relief, and they nearly suffered a shocker at Kansas the following week, scraping by 21-20. After that the Cornhuskers put up 49 points on Iowa State and then held #16 Oklahoma to seven to complete an undefeated regular season. While they didn’t win with the same style as Florida State did for most of the year, the results were still there, as they ended the year 11-0 and advanced to the Orange Bowl to fight for the national championship. 

The game took place on January 1, 1994, a year after the same two teams had competed in the Orange Bowl, albeit with far less on the line. The Seminoles had won that one, 27-14, and they entered this contest as massive favorites, with some lines rising as high as 17 ½ points. However, the game was anything but a blowout. Both teams featured spectacular offenses, and the Seminoles were considered to have the better defense, but both defensive units rose to the occasion. 81,536 roaring fans flocked to Miami for the contest, and despite the Seminoles having a massive home-field advantage, neither team notched a point in the first quarter. In what was an indication of things to come, Florida State kicker Scott Bentley booted a field goal for the first points of the game in the second quarter. Bentley added another field goal, but it was only after Nebraska quarterback Tommy Frazier delivered a 25-yard touchdown pass, sending the Cornhuskers to the locker room up 7-6 in a defensive duel. 

Florida State would regain the lead in the third quarter when running back William Floyd bullied into the end zone from a yard out, but the ensuing 2-point conversion failed, keeping the lead at 12-7. Bentley drilled yet another field goal to increase the lead to eight, but the game was hardly over as the two teams played into the fourth quarter.

Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips cut into the advantage, sprinting for a 12-yard touchdown run, but the attempted game-tying conversion was short, and Nebraska remained down by two points. They then held the Seminoles in check, and drove deep into Florida State territory. The Cornhuskers got to the 10-yard line, but they could not advance further. Byron Bennett nailed a 27-yarder, and Nebraska led 16-15, with 1:16 remaining. However, Heisman winner and FSU quarterback Charlie Ward engineered a fantastic drive that culminated in Bentley kicking one more field goal with 21 seconds left. It would be the game-winner, but not without a dose of drama first. 

An excessive celebration penalty on FSU plus a good kickoff return allowed Nebraska to set up shop on their own 43-yard line, albeit with very little time to work with. Frazier connected with tight end Trumane Bell for 29 yards, but the clock hit zero, supposedly ending the game. Florida State doused head coach Bobby Bowden in gatorade and rushed the field, but the referees conferred and determined that Bell was down with a second left on the clock. Controversy raged, but Nebraska setup for a 45-yard field goal. What almost became one of the most controversial finishes in history ended with a horrific field goal attempt, hooked well to the left, sending the Seminoles into raucous celebration for the second time, and putting an end to a classic. 

The Aftermath

The national championship was not only a classic contest, it featured a lot of NFL talent on the field. Nebraska had 21 players from their 1993 roster eventually play in the NFL, while the Seminoles had 14, including 6 draft picks in the ‘94 draft, led by first-round pick Floyd. Ironically, Ward, Florida State’s best player, did not play in the NFL, but that’s not because he didn’t have the opportunity. Ward was drafted in football, basketball, and baseball. He declared he would only pursue the NFL if he was a first round pick, but he was not selected there, and so he pursued a career with the New York Knicks, who took him in the first round of that year’s NBA Draft. He played ten years in the NBA. 

Both teams won titles in the near future, with Nebraska going undefeated in 1994 and completing the task by beating Miami in the Orange Bowl for the national championship. Florida State returned to the top of the football world in 1999 and again in 2013. This past season was the first time since 1976 that the Seminoles were unranked the entire year.

NCAA FOOTBALL TOP MOMENTS – #6: Ernie Davis and the 1959 Syracuse Orangemen

Coming up with a list of the top 7 moments to feature this week in college football was brutally difficult. Some of these are a series of games, others a specific national championship, and others are an unlikely or inspirational run to a national title. For the most part, I refined this list to postseason moments, or games that decided a national championship, simply because with such an overwhelming list of possible options to feature, I decided that the ones with the biggest impact would be the ones that had championship implications. 

This selection at #6 may not be the most popular pick, but the 1959 Syracuse Orangemen not only surprised everyone by winning the national championship, they did so with dominance and few classic victories sprinkled in along the way. Shoutouts go to a few of the other stunning champions – the 1981 Clemson Tigers and the 1983 Miami Hurricanes being among the top few – but I picked the Syracuse squad due to their story prior to the season, combined with their utter dominance and Hall of Fame talent on their roster. 

Entering the season, Syracuse was unranked and relatively unheralded. They had averaged 5.5 wins per season under head coach Ben Schwartzwalder in ten years, and had cracked the AP Top 10 just twice and finished the season ranked a total of three times in the 23 years of the AP Poll. the Schwartzwalder era had largely been one of slightly above average play and losses in big games, as shown by Syracuse’s 0-3 Bowl Game record. Their most recent bowl game appearance ended in meek defeat, 21-6 to Oklahoma on January 1st, 1959. Little was expected of the Orangemen in the upcoming season. 

However, Syracuse’s defense was an absolute unit in 1959, dominating virtually every opponent they faced. The most points they gave up was 21, and that came in the opener against Kansas. How the Jayhawks scored 21 points is pretty remarkable, given that Syracuse held them to 67 total yards of offense. Syracuse still won 35-21 without major difficulty, and they then embarked on a wild ride of pure dominance. 

In their next five games, the Orangemen gave up a whopping 12 points in total, posting three shutouts. They started by hosting Maryland and beating them 29-0, holding the Terrapins to 29 yards. They throttled Navy 32-6, Holy Cross 42-6, and then they punctuated their string of crushing victories by visiting #13 Pittsburgh and thumping the Panthers 35-0. Pittsburgh ran for negative six yards in the contest. 

Leading the offensive surge was future Hall-of-Famer and sophomore Ernie Davis, who later won a Heisman in ‘61. Davis notched 11 touchdowns and averaged 7 yards per carry for the Orangemen, playing in his first real college action. All-Americans Roger Davis (guard) and Bob Yates (tackle) along with tackle John Brown, who played ten years in the NFL, provided running lanes for Davis. All-American Fred Mautino was a key cog in the passing game and often sealed off the edge for Davis as well. 

Back to their season, Syracuse’s stunningly dominant 5-0 start to the season had vaulted them from unranked to #4 in the country. Their next game was the best one of the season and an instant classic against #7 Penn State. The Nittany Lions were 7-0 on the year, and they quickly became the first team to take a lead against the Orangemen, leading 6-0. Syracuse scored 20 straight points and led 20-6 into the fourth quarter. Despite being held to two yards of offense in the second half, Penn State manufactured two touchdowns on a kickoff return and a blocked punt that gave them the ball at the Syracuse 1. A Penn State touchdown made it 20-18, but as they did all year, the Orangemen stiffened up and turned back the 2-point conversion attempt to stay in the lead in the final minute, running out the clock from there. 

Combined with a tough week from the top three teams in the country, Syracuse’s victory vaulted them to #1 in the AP Poll for the first time in program history. The Orangemen hammered a pair of cupcake opponents and then punctuated their regular season slate with a dominating 36-8 victory at #17 UCLA. 

Syracuse drew #4 Texas in the Cotton Bowl, and they didn’t let the chance for a bowl victory and undefeated season slide by. The Cotton Bowl was a racially charged game, with Syracuse having three African-American starters in Davis, Brown, and fullback Art Baker. Texas was an All-White team, and the game was hosted in the deep south, in Dallas, Texas. There was a mini-brawl during the game, and Davis, Brown, and Baker had to stay in a separate suite from their teammates. Regardless of the situation, and the pressure to claim the national championship, Syracuse didn’t fold as many experts predicted. On the second play of the game, Davis took a pass and raced 87 yards for a touchdown. Later, he rushed it in from a yard out to put the ribbon on Syracuse’s 80-yard drive, catching a 2-point conversion pass for a 15-0 lead. Later, with the score 15-6, Davis snared an interception and returned it to the Texas 24. He then ran for 21 yards and, on a trick play, threw for the final three yards. He caught another conversion pass for a 23-6 lead that iced the game for the Orangemen. They would win 23-14 to secure the national title and their first major bowl victory. 

The Aftermath

Syracuse began the following year ranked #1, but consecutive losses to Pittsburgh and Army saw them slide to #17. They did finish the year with an Orange Bowl victory, but Syracuse has not been ranked #1 since. They haven’t been in the Top 10 since 1996.

Roger Davis was the seventh overall pick in the 1960 draft, running back Gerhard Schwedes was a fourth round pick, Yates got his name called in the 7th, and, back in the days of the extended draft, end Dave Baker went in the 17th round.

Davis, as mentioned above, won the 1961 Heisman Trophy, the first African American winner. He was selected first overall in the 1962 draft, but he was tragically diagnosed with Leukemia, and he died before ever suiting up for a professional game. He was 23 years old. His three years at Syracuse were nothing short of spectacular, and he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1979. Below are his Cotton Bowl highlights from the ’59-60 season.

NCAA Football Top Moments – #7: A Hail Mary, A Kick-6, and a few other Auburn miracles

Coming up with a list of the top 7 moments to feature this week in college football was brutally difficult. Some of these are a series of games, others a specific national championship, and others are an unlikely or inspirational run to a national title. For the most part, I refined this list to postseason moments, or games that decided a national championship, simply because with such an overwhelming list of possible options to feature, I decided that the ones with the biggest impact would be the ones that had championship implications. 

Coming in at #7 in our countdown is Auburn’s run in 2013 to the national championship game against Florida State. Had Auburn completed their run and won the title, this would challenge for one of the greatest stories in college football history, but as they did not, the Tigers kick off our countdown in the seventh slot. 

Auburn had fallen hard from the glory days that was Cam Newton and the 2010 National Championship team. After a 14-0 season, the Tigers went just 8-5 in 2011, and they fell into the gutter with a 3-9 effort in 2012, ending the tenure of Gene Chizik and ushering in the Gus Malzahn era. Heading into 2013, expectations were justifiably low for Auburn, as they were picked to finish fifth out of seven teams in the SEC West, and they didn’t receive a single championship vote. 

Auburn didn’t turn any heads early in the season, starting 3-0 before getting thumped by 14 points to #6 LSU. Auburn responded with two wins and headed for a road contest at #7 Texas A&M with a 5-1 record that had the Tigers ranked #24. Their game at College Station was the first of a few defining games of Auburn’s season. Facing Aggies’ phenom Johnny Manziel, Auburn trailed most of the game, leading briefly 38-34 before surrendering their advantage and going down by a field goal. In front of a raucous and hostile Texas A&M crowd, Auburn drove the length of the field for a touchdown to go up 45-41. They sacked Manziel on fourth down on the Aggies’ last drive, and Auburn got a huge statement victory, earning a #11 ranking in the initial BCS poll of the year. 

Auburn followed their stunner with three straight victories, including two more SEC wins to improve to 9-1 and vaulting into the BCS Top-10 after a dominant 55-23 showing versus Tennessee. That led the Tigers to their second classic victory of the season, in a home contest versus #25 Georgia. At this point, Auburn was most definitely on the national radar, but it looked like they were in line to suffer a demoralizing defeat after giving up a 37-17 lead in the fourth quarter, allowing Georgia to rally into the lead, 38-37. On Auburn’s last ditch drive, they found themselves facing a 4th & 18 at their own 27-yard-line. Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall dropped back and fired it deep down the field. The game looked to be over when Georgia safety Josh Harvey-Clemons leapt and deflected the ball, but Tigers’ wide receiver Ricardo Louis kept running, collected the deflection in the air, and sprinted the rest of the way for the game-winning touchdown with 25 seconds left in the game. Auburn won 43-38 to keep their SEC championship hopes alive. 

Auburn had a bye week after the Georgia game, which was good, because the Tigers were engaged in another classic the following week. It was rivalry week in college football, which meant Auburn welcomed the Alabama Crimson Tide into town, with the winner earning a berth into the conference championship. Alabama was ranked #1 and had won two straight contests against Auburn by a combined score of 91-14. This game was much closer, and Auburn tied the game at 28 with less than two minutes left in the game. Alabama drove to the Auburn 40 and brought out backup kicker, freshman Adam Griffiths to attempt a 57-yarder, but his attempt fell a yard short of the field goal crossbar and into the hands of Chris Davis, who sprinted 109 yards back the other way from the infamous ‘Kick-6’. 

Auburn’s collection of awe-inspiring finishes and victories had captured the attention the nation, as Auburn marched into the SEC Championship and dismantled #5 Missouri, racking up a whopping 536 rushing yards en route to a 59-42 victory that was punctuated with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to ice the game. 

Auburn almost wrote the perfect happy ending to their fairytale run in the BCS National Championship Game. Taking on an undefeated Florida State team that hadn’t trailed in a contest since September, Auburn led for most of the game, but surrendered the lead late on a kickoff return. The Tigers engineered a three-minute drive to take a 31-27 lead with 1:19 to go, but the Seminoles needed just 1:02 to score the game-winning touchdown, ending what would have been the ultimate worst-to-first redemption story in college football history. Regardless, Auburn’s series of miracle wins and upsets were enough to put the Tigers on this list, sliding in at #7 to begin what should be a great countdown. 

The Aftermath

Auburn has not had nearly as much success under Malzahn since his debut season, reaching 10 wins just once and winning just two bowl games while going 0-4 in New Years 6 Bowl Games. They have finished in the Top 25 in four of the last six seasons, and they cracked the Top 10 every season, but never finished there. 

Malzahn was named the AP Coach of the Year in 2013, and the Tigers saw four players go in the NFL draft, led by offensive tackle Greg Robinson at pick number 2. Linebacker Dee Ford, who sacked Manziel in the Texas A&M game, running back Tre Mason, and fullback Jay Prosch also heard their names called. 

Quarterback Nick Marshall is now a cornerback in the Canadian Football League. The man who caught the Hail Mary, Ricardo Louis, became a fourth round draft pick for the Cleveland Browns and now plays for the Miami Dolphins. Chris Davis, the returner in the Kick-6 miracle, is a cornerback who is currently a free agent after spending time on the San Diego Chargers’ practice squad.