SEC Football: From Tennessee Cigars To Texas A&M’s Implosion, Here Are The Best & Worst Moments From 2022

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The 2022 SEC regular season was filled with some of the best moments in college football, along with a few of the worst. Not many would’ve predicted Kentucky or Texas A&M to completely fall apart, or Tennessee pulling off a 10-2 season under coach Josh Heupel.

Let’s rehash some of the best and worst moments of the season.

BEST: Tennessee Breaks 16-Year SEC Losing Streak To Alabama

This game will certainly go down as one of the best college football games of the season, if not the best. The hatred Tennessee fans have for Alabama made the ending even better. Who could forget Nick Saban bringing his team into Knoxville for this monumental showdown against Josh Heupel, Hendon Hooker and the rising Volunteers.

Fans clad in orange were starting to put away their cigars, with Alabama lining up for the game-winning field goal. But the Tide missed the kick, and Hendon Hooker had 15 seconds for what turned into the drive of the year. Two passes later and one wobbly Chase McGrath field goal as time expired, and cigar smoke was billowing from the playing field, as fans stormed the field in celebration.

I was part of this madness, tackled twice in the rush of fans as ‘Dixieland Delight’ played over the loudspeakers as Tennessee fans and players celebrated the win. This scene will live forever in college football history.

WORST: What In The World Happened To Kentucky?

For all the praise Kentucky received in the preseason, it all but evaporated after the loss to Ole Miss. After defeating Florida in the second week, many thought UK could give Georgia a run for the SEC East. Boy, were we wrong. After losing to the Rebels, the Wildcats backed it up with a loss to South Carolina, playing without Will Levis. Then came the blowout loss to Tennessee, followed by a home loss to Vanderbilt two weeks later.

Head coach Mark Stoops of the Kentucky Wildcats. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

Having supposed first-round draft pick Will Levis leading the way at quarterback and Chris Rodriguez returning after a three-game suspension, this team had the talent. Or did they? Maybe it was the horrible play-calling on offense or the subpar performances from the defense, but this team fell short. Don’t worry though, Mark Stoops received his contract extension and we can start building up the Wildcats for 2023.

BEST: Georgia Goes Undefeated, Wins SEC Championship

Georgia didn’t take a step back in 2022. Not only did the Bulldogs go undefeated in the regular season, but also they capped it with an SEC championship, the one title that alluded them in 2021. Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett continues to marvel on the field, while the Bulldogs defense is ferocious. It might slip through the cracks for some SEC fans, but Kirby Smart made another statement this season, as they will play in the College Football Playoff next week.

Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett. (Getty Images)

Can the Bulldogs go back-to-back and win another national championship? Absolutely, with Ohio State standing in the way of another appearance in the playoff finals in Los Angeles. If the Dawgs can do it again, Kirby will add another title to his résumé and go down as one of the best to do it, early in his career.

WORST: Texas A&M Is Dreadful After Appalachian State Loss

Heading into the second week of the college football season, expectations were still high for Texas A&M, until App State rolled into town. The 17-14 loss would turn into the catalyst for a horrid season for the Aggies, with fans wondering what happen to the promises from Jimbo Fisher. The Aggies would end up losing six of their next eight games, sending everyone in College Station into panic mode.

It turned out to be a colossal mess for Jimbo Fisher, especially at the quarterback position, where they finally settled on Connor Weigman to close out the year. This season caught the fan base completely off-guard, with a percentage of Aggie fans wondering how the school could get out of Jimbo’s massive buyout. It’s safe to say that 2023 will be the ‘make or break’ season for Fisher, as 5-7 is an embarrassment with the amount of talent in College Station. Maybe the 2023 recruiting class will help, but the mass exodus from the coveted 2022 class did not sit well with regents.

NIL money didn’t turn into wins for the Aggies this past season, so maybe it will pay-off in 2023. It sure better, because Texas A&M boosters didn’t pay Jimbo to be sitting at home in December, or January.

BEST: LSU Defeats Alabama In Death Valley OT Thriller

Just when you thought the SEC wasn’t going to deliver during the Alabama-LSU game, the football gods came to the rescue. Not many were thinking the Tigers had a legitimate shot at beating a healthy Bryce Young, but Brian Kelly and the Bayou Bengals had other plans. A night game in Death Valley turned into another instant classic for college football fans.

As Jayden Daniels converted the two-point conversion in overtime, the crowd of over 102,000 rushed the field in pure jubilation. Garth Brooks would’ve been proud in this moment, as ‘Callin Baton Rouge’ played and fans danced on the field, being the first time since 2010 that LSU defeated Alabama at home. Both teams left it on the field that night, but Brian Kelly had decided he didn’t want this game going to a second overtime. Also, this was the second time an opposing team rushed the field after beating Alabama in 2022.

BEST: Mike Leach Wins ‘Egg Bowl’ In His Final Game

There wasn’t a single person participating or watching the Mississippi State-Ole Miss game thinking it would be the last time we’d see Mike Leach coaching. But, it turns out that the Bulldogs victory was ultimately the final one for the beloved ‘Pirate’ in Starkville. The Bulldogs defeated Ole Miss that night for the first time in three years, giving Leach his first ‘Egg Bowl’ trophy in the tense game until the final minute.

MIKE LEACH LEAVES US SINGING ‘LAST MANGO IN PARIS’ BY JIMMY BUFFETT

Mike Leach. (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)

Just over two weeks later, we’d lose one of the most charismatic coaches in college football. But, going out a winner and seeing his team celebrate in the locker room put a huge smile on face of Mike Leach. The scenes of him dancing during the season or folding up chairs along with Bulldogs sidelines will be etched in our memories forever, along with his love of life and coaching. One of the greatest moments of the 2022 season was getting to watch Mike Leach coach his last game, and we didn’t even know it.

WORST: Hendon Hooker Tears ACL, Loses Out On Heisman

One of the best stories in college football resided in Knoxville, with Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker at the forefront. The high-octane Josh Heupel offense was out into overdrive by Hooker, who led the Vols to monumental wins over Florida, LSU and Alabama. As previously mentioned, his :15 second drive to win the game against Alabama will live on forever, while his leadership on and off the field will be hard to duplicate.

Hendon injected life into the Tennessee program when it was on life support. His play on the field captivated the college football world, until one play at South Carolina ruined it. The feel-good story of the year came to an end when Hooker tore his ACL against the Gamecocks, losing out on a seat at the Heisman Trophy ceremony. This certainly was one of the worst moments in the SEC, as his attitude was a beaming light to anyone surrounding him.

We have a number of bowl games yet to be played around the SEC, while Alabama and Tennessee will play in NY6 games. The Georgia Bulldogs will look for another title starting next week, while some teams in the conference try to figure out what went so bad in 2022.

Happy Holidays and enjoy the rest of Bowl Season!

Written by Trey Wallace

Wallace started covering the SEC in 2012, as the conference landscape was beginning to change. Prior to his time in Knoxville, Wallace worked in Nashville for The Read Optional, where he first produced content that garnered national attention. His passion for sports is evident in his work and has led him to break some of college football’s biggest stories. His social media reach and natural podcast proficiency continue to make Wallace one of SEC’s most trusted sources.

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