Originally posted on Crystal Ball Run  |  Last updated 12/26/11

The end of the year brings lots of reasons to celebrate, including what used to be the best holiday of the year, New Year's Eve, until that crappy movie came out and ruined it for everyone.

With that magical stroke of midnight now tainted forever, it means top 10 lists are the best thing we have to look forward to. From movies to music to models, seemingly everyone with a computer and an opinion puts out some list of their "10 Favorite Somethings Of The Year" in December.

(I shudder to think how many great things get left off of these lists because people publish them before the actual end of the year. Such a shame.)

Since any website worth its salt does a top 10, we here at CBR knew we needed our own.

Just what 10 to rank was the real question.




Honestly, there's no one category that can put a neat little bow on this college football season – or any other, for that matter. That's why we're bringing you the "Top 10 Things About College Football In 2011."

What were the qualifications? We don't know.

How did we come up with the rankings? Couldn't tell you.

All we know is that these were the 10 best things about God's Sport in 2011.

10. Lane Kiffin And USC Playing For Pride

Plenty of people dislike Lane Kiffin and just as many despise his employer, the University of Southern California. Even so, it's hard not to admire how the Trojans approached the 2011 season.

Thanks to the Reggie Bush fiasco, there wasn't a bowl game waiting for USC at the end of the year. SC couldn't even play for the Pac-12 championship. Led by the dynamic tandem of quarterback Matt Barkley and receiver Robert Woods, Kiffin's crew still managed to stay motivated, reversing the program's slide from the previous two seasons and finishing the year 10-2.

With Thursday's news that Barkley is coming back for his senior year, expect the Trojans to be back in the national title hunt in 2012.

9. Melvin Ingram's Big Day

There were plenty of remarkable individual performances put forward this season, but few can top the day that South Carolina defensive lineman Melvin Ingram had in the Gamecocks' win against Georgia on Sept. 10.

Ingram was a running back in high school, and the Ol' Ball Coach gave him a chance to show off his wheels in the first half. With two minutes remaining in the second quarter, the Gamecocks lined up to punt at their own 32-yard line. Lined up to block, Ingram took the snap and rumbled, bumbled and stumbled 68 yards for a touchdown to give South Carolina a 14-13 win.

Late in the fourth quarter with the Gamecocks clinging to a three-point lead, standout freshman defensive end Jadeveon Clowney nailed Aaron Murray as the UGA quarterback dropped back to pass, jarring the ball loose. Ingram scooped the loose ball up for a score that proved to be difference in a 45-42 victory.

8. Trent Richardson's Juke

Need I say more.

7. Sooners Pay Tribute To A Fallen Teammate

The tragic death of linebacker Austin Box over the summer from an accidental overdose of painkillers rocked the Oklahoma Sooners. Despite missing their teammate, the players did their best to honor his memory.

Every week, a member of the defense took a turn wearing Box's number 12. Box's parents also participated in the team's Senior Day events.

Wide receiver Kenny Stills may paid the most poignant tribute to his fallen teammate in the Sooners' September win at Florida State. After catching what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, Stills pointed to the sky, then held up the number 12 with his fingers in front of a television camera on his way back to the bench.

6. Notre Dame And Michigan Stage A Classic Under The Lights

It was the first night game ever played at the Big House – welcome to modernity, Wolverines – and probably the best finish the venerable stadium will ever see.

Michigan rallied from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to take the lead with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Denard Robinson to Vincent Smith with a little more than a minute left in the game. Not to be outdone, the Fightin' Irish cruised down the field in the span of 42 seconds to regain the lead on a 29-yard scoring throw from Tommy Rees to Theo Riddick.

Robinson had just 30 seconds left, but that was all he need to work his magic, aided by a horrendously blown coverage by ND on a 64-yard catch-and-run to receiver Jeremy Gallon. With two seconds left on the clock, Robinson dropped a 16-yard TD toss into the arms of receiver Roy Roundtree to steal a 35-31 win.

5. RG3 Going Deep

Once a week this season, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III would strap on his Superman socks and do his part to lead the Bears to one of the best seasons in school history.

RG3 led the nation in passing efficiency en route to a 9-3 finish, throwing for 333.2 yards per game and a sparkling touchdown-to-interception ratio of 36 to 6. Throw in nine more TDs and 53 yards per game on the ground, and you've got a very deserving Heisman winner.

4. Mike Gundy Dancing

OK, so his moves need work. We wouldn't have had the pleasure of watching Oklahoma State's coach in action had he not led his team to the best season in school history.

The 2011 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award winner guided the Pokes to an 11-1 finish and the verge of a berth in the BCS championship game. OSU had to settle for its first Big 12 title and a spot in the Fiesta Bowl, but that couldn't stop Gundy from getting his groove on.

3. Sparty's Prayer Is Answered

The Michigan State Spartans and Wisconsin Badgers engaged in an epic clash in East Lansing in October, and with a mere four ticks left on the clock, the game appeared to be headed for an overtime finish.

Instead, MSU quarterback Kirk Cousins launched a 44-yard pass to the Wisconsin end zone that got batted around before landing in the hands of QB-turned-receiver Keith Nichol. Standing just a step away from the goal line, Nichol surged forward to paydirt, giving Sparty an improbable win.

The Badgers got their revenge later in the Big Ten title game, but this night belonged to MSU.

2. LSU's Defensive Backs

Forget stats. The LSU Tigers led the nation in the always important category of asses kicked.

The Tigers' talented secondary exemplified the kind of ferociousness that propelled the Bayou Bengals to the most impressive regular season in years. LSU fielded the hardest-hitting, ball-hawkingest set of defensive backs in the nation. The Honey Badger and his partners in crime put on an awe-inspiring defensive display every week that even the most jaded of SEC haters couldn't help but marvel at.

When a safety named the best defender in the nation isn’t even the best DB on his team, that's a helluva unit.

1. Eric LeGrand

A year ago, Rutgers lineman Eric LeGrand suffered the kind of horrific tragedy that for many us is too terrifying to even imagine.

Football robbed LeGrand of function in his arms and legs. Yet, rather than forsaking the game and its fans, LeGrand instead gave us a story of remarkable courage.

LeGrand slowly leading the Scarlet Knights onto the field in the middle of blizzard provided the most powerful images of the 2011 season. He somehow managed to outdo himself, though, with his message afterwards.


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