Sugar Bowl: Power Ranking the Top 10 Plays of the BCS Era

Alex SimsCorrespondent IIIDecember 27, 2013

Sugar Bowl: Power Ranking the Top 10 Plays of the BCS Era

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Alabama Crimson Tide will take on the Oklahoma Sooners in the final Sugar Bowl of the BCS era in the 2013-14 bowl season.

    While the two crimson clubs will look to break into the list of best Sugar Bowl plays since the 1999 tilt between Ohio State and Texas A&M—they'll have to make an impressive effort to do so.

    From the 2000 Sugar Bowl national title game to the 2013 upset by Louisville over Florida, the Superdome (and briefly the Georgia Dome) witnessed some incredible plays by squads fighting for BCS victories.

    Click on for the list of the 10 best Sugar Bowl plays of the BCS era.

    Note: Only actual Sugar Bowl games were considered, leaving the 2008 and 2012 national championship games out of consideration.

10. Sanzenbacher Fumble Recovery for TD

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    2011 Sugar Bowl

    Ohio State vs. Arkansas

    This was nearly and incredible play by Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor that nearly turned into an awful play for the Buckeyes.

    Instead, it turned back into an outstanding play by OSU receiver Dane Sanzenbacher. 

    On Ohio State's first drive, Pryor racked up 34 of his 336 total yards on a long run down the right sideline. But as he went down, the ball came loose.

    After bouncing around, it squirted into the end zone, where Sanzenbacher flew in from nowhere over several Arkansas defenders and pounced on the ball, giving OSU the touchdown.

    It was one of many impressive plays in a thrilling 31-26 Ohio State win.

9. Louisville's Rout-Starting Pick Six

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    2013 Sugar Bowl

    Louisville vs. Florida

    Louisville didn't buy into the conference superiority theory that had many picking Florida in a rout in the 2013 Sugar Bowl.

    Representing the Big East, the Cardinals proved right away that they weren't scared of the Gators or the big, bad SEC.

    UL took a massive dose of momentum on Florida's first play from scrimmage. UF quarterback Jeff Driskel dropped back and sent what should have been a safe pass out to Andre Debose, but it bounced off of his hands and into the grasp of Terell Floyd.

    For Floyd, the play was more being in the right place at the right time, but he took the pick all the way back for six, spurring Louisville's early rout in an upset win.

    The play itself wasn't the most spectacular, but it set the table for an enormous win for the Cards.

8. Thomas Brown's Tough TD Run

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    2006 Sugar Bowl

    Georgia vs. West Virginia

    West Virginia stunned Georgia early in a Sugar Bowl that was played in the Georgia Dome in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

    The Mountaineers opened up a 28-0 lead behind a massive performance from running back Steve Slaton, who posted two eye-popping 52-yard touchdowns of his own on the day.

    However, even after taking an uppercut to the jaw early, UGA kept fighting back. Kregg Lumpkin notched the Bulldogs' first touchdown, and Thomas Brown followed suit with a fantastic run.

    On a take up the middle, he appeared to be bottled up, but he miraculously broke free to the right. He then showed off some impressive speed, accelerating past several WVU defenders who appeared to have tackling angles.

    His 52-yard touchdown scamper was a major part of UGA's gutsy comeback.

    West Virginia ended up making one more play in a 38-35 win—but more on that later.

7. Michael Vick's Sick Scramble

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    2000 Sugar Bowl (BCS National Championship Game)

    Florida State vs. Virginia Tech

    In a pulse-pounding national championship tilt, Florida State jumped up early on Virginia Tech.

    However, with Michael Vick at the helm, the Hokies wouldn't go away so easily even after falling behind 28-7. Vick showed that VT wouldn't give up without a fight on a phenomenal play in the second quarter.

    Florida State took an early start on one play and nearly sacked Vick because of it, but the future No. 1 overall pick spun out of the tackle and did what he does best: improvise.

    He scrambled right, then cut back and ran away from the FSU defense for a 43-yard gain. A few plays later, he punched in a three-yard score to put the Hokies within two touchdowns.

    They would continue that rally in the second half and take a brief 29-28 lead. Florida State took over late in a 46-29 win.

6. Russell's Bomb to LaFell

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    2007 Sugar Bowl

    LSU vs. Notre Dame

    LSU's 41-14 rout of Notre Dame didn't provide much room for game-changing plays, but JaMarcus Russell delivered what proved to be the dagger in the third quarter.

    With Notre Dame still hanging around, down just 27-14, the Tigers were driving late in the third quarter.

    Russell stepped up in the pocket to evade a sack and made a play worthy of the No. 1 overall pick that he would garner in the NFL draft just a few months later.

    Keeping his eyes downfield, he effortlessly launched a deep bomb to receiver Brandon LaFell who had beaten the Fighting Irish coverage.

    The 58-yard score sunk ND's comeback hopes. 

5. Campbell Finds the Right Mix

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    2005 Sugar Bowl

    Auburn vs. Virginia Tech

    Auburn didn't have much trouble moving the ball against Virginia Tech in this contest, but the Tigers struggled to put the ball in the end zone.

    Their first three scoring drives all ended with field goals of 24 yards or less.

    In the third quarter, the unbeaten SEC champions finally broke through, much thanks to a timely connection between quarterback Jason Campbell and receiver Anthony Mix.

    On 3rd-and-16, Campbell was nearly sacked, but he rolled right away from the intense pressure. As he bought time, he found a wide-open Mix for a 53-yard gain.

    Campbell would find Devin Aromashodu in the end zone a few plays later for Auburn's only touchdown. That score would prove to be the difference in the Tigers' 16-13 win.

    That win sealed a 13-0 season.

4. Robinson to Hemingway Through Traffic

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    2012 Sugar Bowl

    Michigan vs. Virginia Tech

    Brady Hoke's first season at Michigan was a successful one.

    The Wolverines finished 11-2 after a 23-20 Sugar Bowl win over Virginia Tech. That win wouldn't have been possible if it wasn't for one outstanding play connection between Denard Robinson and Junior Hemingway.

    The UM offense struggled early and found itself down 6-0 just before halftime. It looked like it might go from bad to worse, as Robinson was nearly sacked off the edge by VT defensive back Kyle Fuller.

    However, Robinson slipped away and found a quasi-open Hemingway. The Wolverines' top receiver wasn't really open at all, but Robinson's pass found him in traffic. Hemingway pulled it down and waltzed into the end zone to give Michigan its first lead. It would never trail from then on.

    It took overtime, but the Wolverines pulled out the BCS victory.

3. Spears' Game-Sealing Pick-Six

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    2004 Sugar Bowl (BCS National Championship)

    LSU vs. Oklahoma

    To call this a "fat-man touchdown" would be an insult to Marcus Spears.

    The defensive end measured in at 6'4", 315 pounds, but he was too athletic to achieve fat-man TD status on a play that played a major part in sealing LSU's 2004 national championship.

    One play after sacking Jason White, Spears dropped back in coverage and read the Heisman Trophy winner's eyes, pulling down the interception.

    From the 20-yard line, he bolted toward the pylon and made the corner of the end zone, giving LSU a 21-7 lead in a 21-14 victory.

    A pick-six by a defensive end on a Heisman winner to win a national title? That, by definition, is a great play.

2. Peter Warrick Catch

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    2000 Sugar Bowl (BCS National Championship)

    Florida State vs. Virginia Tech

    The 2000 national title game was a thriller.

    Florida State opened up a big lead early, only to see it evaporate behind a furious comeback effort from Michael Vick and Virginia Tech.

    But as VT took the lead late in the third quarter, FSU owned the fourth. The Seminoles notched 18 unanswered points in the final frame—a run that was capped off by an incredible grab by Peter Warrick.

    Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke dropped back and launched a deep ball to Warrick. The Bradenton, Fla., native fought through a defensive pass interference flag and tipped the ball up to himself.

    As he fell into the end zone, he showed some remarkable concentration, bringing the ball back in for a touchdown.

    The 'Noles went ahead 46-29 and held on for the win, giving them the national championship.

1. Fake Punt for the Win

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    2006 Sugar Bowl

    West Virginia vs. Georgia

    The 2006 Sugar Bowl was one of the best of the BCS era.

    West Virginia blindsided Georgia from the get-go, jumping out to a 28-0 lead. UGA would fight back, eventually bringing the game down to a 38-35 nail-biter late in the fourth quarter.

    Each side made incredible plays, but none was better than the one that sealed the win for WVU.

    On 4th-and-6 with less than two minutes to go, the Mountaineers lined up for a routine punt. From midfield, they could easily pin the Bulldogs deep and rely on their defense to take them back to Morgantown with a win.

    But as volatile as the game had been, WVU had different thoughts. Head coach Rich Rodriguez called for a fake, and punter Phil Brady followed his blockers a long 10 yards for a first down.

    The Mountaineers moved the chains one more time behind Pat White and Steve Slaton to take down the Dawgs.

    The BCS era has brought plenty of marvelous plays, but a fake punt for the win trumps them all.