Tue Jan 19 07:53pm EST
The best (and worst) of the year.
5. A.J. swats the Devils. Georgia's A.J. Green, almost singlehandedly propping up an offense that averaged just 3.4 yards per play when not putting the ball in his hands, opened the scoring against Arizona State on a 56-yard bomb from Joe Cox in the first half, and proceeded to set up each of the Bulldogs' final three scores with a big catch across midfield. The last of those points came on Blair Walsh's game-winning field goal with two seconds on the clock, just moments after Green had blocked ASU's go-ahead kick on the other end and then hauled in an acrobatic, 36-yard grab on third down to set up the last-second escape.
4. Clayborn bottles up the option. When a defensive end clearly stands out to the casual fan, he's having a big game, and Orange Bowl viewers couldn't miss Iowa's Adrian Clayborn, the big man shedding blocks, holding his ground and creating havoc for Georgia Tech's lethal triple option scheme at every turn. Clayborn finished with nine solo tackles, two sacks and MVP honors as the point man for a defense that held the ACC's most potent attack to season lows in yards and points en route to a 24-14 Hawkeye win.
3. Ingram's DIY breakthrough. South Carolina held the Alabama offense out of the end zone for three full quarters in October, until the Tide abandoned decided to abandon the rest of the game plan altogether and just give the ball to Mark Ingram. The sophomore thumper carried the weight on all six plays of 'Bama's icing, 68-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, including runs of 24 and 22 yards and a four-yard plunge into the end zone to put the Gamecocks away.
Ingram finished with 246 yards on an absurd 10.3 yards per carry, and -- as the team's leading receiver, with 23 yards -- accounted for more than 75 percent of the Tide's entire offensive output for the game. By Sunday morning, he was the new frontrunner in the Heisman derby he would eventually win.
2a. Ole Miss drops McCluster bomb on Tennessee. Senior Dexter McCluster had been Ole Miss' starting running back for less than a month when he exploded against Tennessee on Nov. 14, piling up 282 yards on the ground and capping a four-touchdown afternoon with a zig-zagging, 71-yard sprint to put the Rebel blowout on ice.
McCluster not only outgained the entire Volunteer offense, 324 total yards to 275, by himself: He personally gained more yards against Tennessee than the Vols allowed to Florida's entire offense (323) in September and to Alabama's (256) in October, and outpaced the entire offensive outputs of Western Kentucky, UCLA, Georgia, Vanderbilt and Kentucky against the same defense.
2b. Spiller scores four, for naught. Of C.J. Spiller's four monster games on the season -- he racked up more than 300 all-purpose yards apiece against Miami, Florida State and Georgia Tech, and accounted for touchdowns as a rusher, passer and receiver against N.C. State -- it may seem strange to highlight the only one his team lost. But Clemson's 39-34 ACC Championship loss to Georgia Tech was unquestionably Spiller's finest hour as a running back: The senior dynamo broke free for 233 yards in his final regular season game, the first 200-yard rushing effort of his career, and did it on just 20 carries thanks to assorted runs covering 40, 41, 36 and 54 yards -- one big gallop in each quarter, each one either ending in or leading to the end zone.
Spiller wound up averaging just shy of 12 yards per carry against the Jackets, scored four touchdowns and added another 63 yards in the return game. And still it wasn't enough to overcome a porous defense and a dreadful, two-interception night by Tiger quarterback Kyle Parker.
1. Suh sacks Texas. Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh had already secured his place among the pro scouts and diehard observers with dominant, nationally televised turns against Missouri and Oklahoma and a more impressive personal stat line than some entire defensive lines. But it wasn't until he singlehandedly reduced one of the most prolific offenses in the nation to rubble in the Big 12 Championship game that Suh leapt from run-of-the-mill All-American to bona fide, Heisman-worthy star.
Suh drew headlines with 4.5 sacks and another pair of tackles for loss, and for generally throwing Colt McCoy around like a rag doll, but Texas' numbers tell the story: The mighty Longhorns finished with 18 yards rushing, nine three-and-outs, three turnovers and a single touchdown, on a possession that began in Nebraska territory. Statistically, it was the worst night of McCoy's career, and without the infamous second added to the clock to allow the 'Horns to set up for the winning, BCS-clinching field goal at the gun, Suh could have been credited with personally dismantling one of the great seasons of the entire decade. All in a night's work.