In the wake of the final Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome, I thought it would be good to go back and look at the best-ever college football games played at the grand (not too) old stadium. Even though UGA fans will long remember Nick Chubb’s 222 yard performance in the win over the Tar Heels, it probably was not the best game ever played at the Dome–one of the best venues ever for a football game.
So let’s celebrate the unfortunate demise of the Georgia Dome by looking back as the Top 5 best college football games it ever hosted.
5.) Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game, September 4, 2010: LSU 30, North Carolina 24
Number 18 North Carolina came into the 2010 Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game in plenty of trouble. The football program was under investigation by the NCAA for possible rules violations involving improper gifts and sports agents. Thirteen players were suspended for the game in the Georgia Dome against number 22 LSU on September 5. The first three quarters were dominated by LSU, rolling out to a 30-10 lead. But in the final quarter, the Tar Heels came storming back with two touchdowns, and then had a chance to win it in the final seconds by moving down to the LSU six, only to have two desperation passes by Cobb County’s Pope High School grad, T.J. Yates fall incomplete. He threw for 412 yards in the loss that day.
4.) The Peach Bowl, December 31, 1993: Clemson 14, Kentucky 13
The 1993 game was the first Peach Bowl played at the Georgia Dome and featured 24th ranked Clemson against Bill Curry’s unranked Kentucky Wildcats. After trailing the entire game, the Wildcats rallied for 10 fourth quarter points to move ahead 13-7. However, the end of the game would have Kentucky fans talking for years. The Wildcats, holding on to the lead, punted the ball away to Clemson. Tigers’ quarterback Patrick Sapp, desperately trying to move his offense up-field, was picked off by Kentucky’s Marty Moore with less than one minute to go. But Moore, instead of downing the ball and thus running out the clock, tried to the return the interception and fumbled the ball back to Clemson. The Tigers took full advantage of the gift as Sapp hit Henry Smith with a 21-yard touchdown pass. The following extra point gave Clemson the win.
3.) 1998 SEC Championship game, December 5, 1998: Tennessee 24, Mississippi State 14
The 1998 SEC Title game between Tennessee and Mississippi State will be remembered as much for the national title implications as it will for the game itself. Three teams, UCLA, Kansas State and Tennessee, all had a chance to go to the first ever BCS National Championship game. But the Bruins were upset by Miami that day and K-State was knocked off in the Big 12 championship game by Texas A&M. That opened the door for Tennessee. The Vols trailed the Bulldogs by a 14-10 score in the fourth quarter. With less than eight minutes to go, Kevin Prentiss returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown giving Tennessee a 17-14 lead, a lead it would never lose. The Tee Martin-led Vols scored once again to secure the win. Later, they beat Florida State for the National Championship.
2.) 2012 Chick-Fil-A/Peach Bowl, December 31, 2012: Clemson 25, LSU 24
The game featured number 14 Clemson against number 9 LSU. Clemson came in as a four-point underdog and trailed for most of the game. In the fourth quarter, Tajh Boyd hit DeAndre Hopkins with a 12 yard TD pass to cut the LSU lead to two points with 2:47 to go. They missed the game-tying two-point conversion. However, LSU’s attempt to run the clock out on the ensuing possession gave the ball back to Clemson with 1:39 left. Clemson went from its own 20 to the LSU 20 to position Chandler Catanzaro for a 37-yard field goal attempt. Catanzaro drilled it as time expired, giving Clemson its first 11-win season since 1981.
1.) 2012 SEC Championship game, December 1, 2012: Alabama 32, Georgia 28
The 2012 game will go down as one of the most exciting college football games in recent memory and, for UGA fans, one of the most painful. The second ranked Crimson Tide and third ranked Bulldogs were scoreless after one quarter. After an Aaron Murray touchdown pass to Jay Rome, the Dawgs were up 7-0 in the second. Alabama responded with a 41-yard Eddie Lacy TD run and field goal for a 10-7 halftime lead. The Dawgs, out-scoring Alabama 14-8 in the third quarter, took a 21-18 lead to the final period with Alec Ogletree’s 55 yards touchdown on a blocked field goal–the most memorable play of the game. However, an Eddie Lacy TD run as the fourth quarter began, put Alabama back in the lead at 25-21. Two minutes later, a Todd Gurley touchdown run gave Georgia the lead back, 28-25. The Dawgs held the advantage for about nine minutes until A.J. McCarron hit Amari Cooper with a 45-yard touchdown pass. But it was the final drive that will live long in Georgia Dome memory. The Dawgs moved the ball all the way down to the Alabama eight yard line with :09 to play. An Aaron Murray pass toward the end zone was deflected to Chris Conley who fell down at the five yard line as time expired.