Before Georgia-Tennessee, ranking this century’s ‘Games of the Century’

Daijun Edwards and No. 1 Georgia will face No. 2 Tennessee on Saturday. (James Gilbert/Getty Images)

No. 1 Georgia and No. 2 Tennessee are scheduled to meet Saturday in only the 24th regular season meeting between the top teams in the Associated Press top 25, and only the second over the last 11 years.

Here’s a ranking of this century’s “Games of the Century”: the six meetings between the AP No. 1 and No. 2 teams that took place in the regular season or in a conference championship game.

The College Football Playoff contenders have narrowed to, oh yeah, 13

1

Nov. 18, 2006: No. 1 Ohio State 42, No. 2 Michigan 39

This one was just saturated with importance.

  • It was the only game in the history of “The Game” that featured the top two teams in the AP poll.
  • It was the first regular season No. 1 vs. No. 2 game between conference rivals since No. 2 Oklahoma defeated No. 1 Nebraska in 1987.
  • It was the first time since 1973 that both the Buckeyes and Wolverines entered their rivalry game undefeated.
  • It kicked off about 27 hours after the death of legendary Wolverines coach Bo Schembechler.

Michael Wilbon from 2006: Bo knew toughness

As for the game itself, Ohio State was in control nearly throughout in a contest that featured more than 900 yards. After Mike Hart gave Michigan a 7-0 lead with a first-quarter touchdown run, Ohio State reeled off 21 straight points. The Wolverines got within four in both the third and fourth quarters, but each time the Buckeyes answered with a touchdown of their own. Michigan was able to cut its deficit to three after a touchdown and a two-point conversion with 2:16 left, but Ohio State recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.

It was the most-watched regular season college football game since a 1993 contest between Notre Dame and Florida State, with 21.8 million viewers tuning in on ABC.

2

Nov. 9, 2019: No. 1 LSU 46, No. 2 Alabama 41

The Tigers, who hadn’t beaten the Crimson Tide since the previous No. 1 vs. No. 2 game in 2011, jumped out to a 33-13 halftime lead on the road and held on for a win that helped propel them to that season’s College Football Playoff championship.

From 2019: Joe Burrow and LSU stave off Alabama

It wasn’t easy. Alabama narrowed its deficit to 33-27 on two Najee Harris touchdowns and made it 39-34 on Tua Tagovailoa’s five-yard touchdown pass to Jerry Jeudy with 5:32 left, but LSU quarterback Joe Burrow calmly marched the Tigers down the field on a drive capped by Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s five-yard touchdown run with 1:37 left. Tagovailoa still had some magic left, connecting with DeVonta Smith on an 85-yard touchdown pass on the Tide’s final play from scrimmage, but LSU recovered the onside kick attempt and ran out the clock.

Burrow threw for 393 yards and three touchdowns, while Tagovailoa had 418 passing yards and four scores.

3

Dec. 6, 2008: No. 2 Florida 31, No. 1 Alabama 20

Nick Saban would have to wait another year for his Alabama dynasty to begin after Tim Tebow and Florida won their second SEC championship game in three seasons on their way to their second national title in three seasons.

Over the course of Tebow’s Gators career, Florida had gone 0-5 in games in which it had trailed in the second half, and Alabama held a 20-17 lead entering the fourth quarter. But behind the running of Jeff Demps and Emmanuel Moody, the Gators went ahead for good with a touchdown on their first drive of the fourth quarter, forced Alabama to go three and out, then sealed the win when Tebow found Riley Cooper on a five-yard touchdown pass with 2:50 to play. On the final drive, Tebow completed all three of his pass attempts for 53 yards.

The Gators would go on to defeat Oklahoma in the BCS championship game.

4

Dec. 5, 2009: No. 2 Alabama 32, No. 1 Florida 13

The Crimson Tide ended Tebow’s chance at a third national title, shutting out Florida in the second half and avenging its loss to the Gators in the previous season’s SEC title game.

Alabama running back Mark Ingram cemented the Heisman Trophy he would eventually win, rushing for 124 yards and three touchdowns, while Trent Richardson and Roy Upchurch combined to average 7.6 yards on 18 carries against the nation’s top-ranked defense. Crimson Tide quarterback Greg McElroy upstaged Tebow, completing 12 of 18 passes for 239 yards and a touchdown, and Alabama’s defense stifled the Gators, particularly in the second half — when Florida managed two punts, a Tebow interception and a turnover on downs on its four possessions.

By the end, Tebow was in tears on the sideline after a hugely disappointing end to his SEC career.

Alabama would go on to defeat Texas in the BCS championship game, giving Saban the first of his six national titles with the Crimson Tide.

5

Sept. 9, 2006: No. 1 Ohio State 24, No. 2 Texas 7

In the first regular season meeting between No. 1 and No. 2 since 1996, the defending national champion Longhorns had their 21-game winning streak snapped by the Buckeyes, who got two touchdown passes from eventual Heisman winner Troy Smith and a combined 239 receiving yards and two scores from Anthony Gonzalez and Ted Ginn Jr.

Texas had scored at least 40 points in 12 straight games — a streak that started one game after its 25-22 win over No. 4 Ohio State in 2005 — and though Selvin Young and Jamaal Charles were able to move the ball on the ground to the tune of 165 rushing yards, freshman quarterback Colt McCoy (making his second career start) averaged only four adjusted yards per pass attempt.

6

Nov. 5, 2011: No. 1 LSU 9, No. 2 Alabama 6 (OT)

In its 13 other games that season, LSU averaged 37.8 points, and Alabama averaged 37.3 in its 12 other contests. But when the SEC foes met in the most recent regular season No. 1 vs. No. 2 game (and probably the most hyped in recent memory), it ended up being the kicking fight of the century.

The teams combined to boot five field goals, with LSU’s Drew Alleman winning it on a 25-yarder after Alabama’s Cade Foster missed from 52 yards on the opening possession of overtime. It was Foster’s third miss of the night, and when Saban temporarily replaced him with Jeremy Shelley in the second quarter, his attempt from 49 yards was blocked.

John Feinstein from 2011: Our long national hypemare is over

Neither team topped 300 yards. Alabama gained 18 and 22 yards on its first two plays from scrimmage and then averaged only 4.4 yards per play the rest of the game. Eight of LSU’s 12 possessions ended with either a punt or an interception, and the Tigers averaged only 4.1 yards per play; take away a 34-yard catch by Russell Shepard in the second quarter, and they averaged just 3.6 yards per play.

The teams would have a rematch in that season’s BCS title game, with LSU again No. 1 and Alabama again No. 2. But the Tigers couldn’t overcome their offensive woes and failed to score in another snoozer, this one a 21-0 Alabama win.

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