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The end of the year is when people look back on stuff.
The best songs/movies/books/TV shows of the year. The most incredible images that took your breath away. The people who “won” [fill in something – literally anything]. Thirty-seven times you felt like a dog on Mondays in 2014. Whatever – it’s just what we do on the Internet to close out a year and prepare for a new one.
With the 2014 college football season nearing an end, I thought it’d be cool to rank the 10 most viral stories of the season and remember some of the things that drove us to consume content and share it with our friends. “Story,” in this instance, is anything that made us talk, on or off the field.
So let’s do this. Here are my top 10 viral college football stories of 2014. Have other nominations? Drop them in the comments.
10) TCU HIDES PLAYER IN END ZONE
When TCU played Oklahoma in early October, the Horned Frogs had something tricky in store. On a kickoff, TCU hid B.J. Catalon inside the ‘O’ in the Frogs’ end zone, hoping his purple jersey would blend in with the purple turf, and then had the returner throw the ball back to him. It didn’t work flawlessly, but we give Gary Patterson a hat tip for the creativity and fans seemed to love it (along with most trick plays in 2014). Here’s the video:
9) OHIO STATE COACH BODY SLAMS INTRUDER
How many of you outside Columbus, Ohio, knew who Anthony Schlegel was four months ago? Probably not many, but the Buckeyes’ strength coach became a star this year when he bodyslammed a fan who ran on the field in September. Video of the slam:
Just as good, if not better, than Schlegel’s slam were the Photoshops the Internet produced afterwards. Here are the top five. My favorite:
Why doesn’t Schlegel have a statue yet, Ohio State? Too busy preparing for the College Football Playoff is not an excuse. This needs to happen!
8) TODD GURLEY SUSPENDED AMID HEISMAN CAMPAIGN
It’s not often that traditional news stories crack a “most viral” list, but there are two instances this season where I think it applies, out of sheer interest and significance in the story, and this is the first. In October, Georgia running back Todd Gurley was suspended for four games for accepting money for his signature. The NCAA upheld the suspension after concluding Gurley took more than $3,000 over a two-year period. This was huge news because Gurley was a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate through five games, with 773 yards and eight TDs rushing. But he’d miss a four-game stretch that included UGA’s horrific loss to Florida, return against Auburn only to tear his ACL and then (obviously) never play again for the Dawgs. Sad end for a brilliant college player.
7) ARKANSAS STATE BECOMES FAMOUS … TWICE
One of my favorite things about this college football season is that we all stopped to talk about Arkansas State – twice. The first was in early September when two Red Wolves decided to stand next to each other and miraculously spell out “Clark Griswold” with their last names:
And then a couple weeks later, Arkansas State went viral again by having one of its players play dead on a fake punt in a special play called “The Fainting Goat.” Booker Mays, the player responsible for playing dead, practiced his role all week and nailed it. Please, watch this another 20 times – it never fails to be hilariously funny.
6) SUSPENDED JAMEIS WINSTON WARMS UP IN FULL PADS
This really was the year of Jameis, in so many ways, and this is his first appearance on this list. Winston was suspended for Florida State’s game against Clemson in September after apparently standing up in the FSU student union and yelling an obscene and offensive phrase about women. So knowing that he won’t be playing one snap against the Tigers and already managing to be a distraction and headache all week for coach Jimbo Fisher, what does Winston do? He DRESSES IN FULL PADS and comes out to warm up for the game as if he’s gonna play. That produced this unforgettable interaction with his coach:
Jimbo’s face – priceless. Says everything he won’t ever say publicly about what it’s been like to manage Winston over the last 12 months.
5) KATY PERRY HAS HER WAY WITH OXFORD
Pop star Katy Perry was in Oxford, Mississippi, for the Ole Miss-Alabama game earlier this season and just wrecked the place. First, she was the guest picker on College GameDay, where she professed her love for Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight and destroyed the set with corndogs. And, oh by the way, she delivered picks to the viewing audience that were seven points away from being perfect. You’re welcome, degenerates.
But most memorably was what Perry did after her Rebels upset Alabama. She ended up on top of a bar, chugging beer and then jumping into the crowd. I’m not kidding.
No matter where your travels take you, Katy, we’ll always have that one great night in Oxford.
4) USC PUBLISHES JOSH SHAW HOAX
This is the second traditional news story to make our list, and it’s probably the most incredible story in our top 10. In August, USC published a story on its website about senior captain Josh Shaw jumping off a balcony and crawling to save his drowning nephew in a pool. Shaw had two injured ankles and came up with this tale to explain to the Trojans how he got hurt. USC had no reason to believe Shaw would lie, so it did what most schools would do in this social media age and used it as an opportunity to post a feel-good story about one of its athletes.
But shortly after publication, USC started receiving phone calls saying the tale wasn’t true. Shaw ultimately, after repeatedly lying, confessed the story was a “complete fabrication” and that he did jump off a balcony but not to save a drowning nephew. Shaw and his girlfriend had a loud argument in their apartment, police were called and Shaw jumped off a balcony and tried to get away. After an investigation, it was later determined no domestic abuse charges would be filed and Shaw was reinstated to the Trojans in time to play against UCLA and Notre Dame. Two lessons here, kids: Make your alibis believable and vet the hell out of every opportunistic feel-good story.
3) TOSH.O DESTROYS ALABAMA OC LANE KIFFIN
Tosh.O is a guy who makes funny television on Comedy Central. He has an audience, in part, because he’s willing to push that audience to the point of extreme discomfort with his jokes. This isn’t one of those times, but he made huge waves this season with this skit that DESTROYED Alabama OC Lane Kiffin. I was surprised to rank this No. 3 since it wasn’t a mainstream story, but after how many people watched and shared it compared to most content this season, I don’t know how we couldn’t have it this high.
It’s salty and funny and not safe for most work places, so watch at your own risk (but do find time to watch).
2) JAMEIS WINSTON AND CRAB LEGS
Ah, the perfect marriage of 2014. As you all are well aware, in the spring Winston was caught shoplifting crab legs from a Tallahassee grocery store. He was suspended from the baseball team for a few games, and then Jimbo Fisher would be forced to spend the ensuing months saying Winston is “just a kid” 10 different ways and defending his character. Meanwhile, the Internet immortalized the crab legs thing and this was the result:
The crab legs joke is far from over for Winston. In November – seven months after the incident – comedians were still joking about it to Winston’s face. It will surely follow him into his first NFL training camp as a rookie, and fans at pro stadiums will probably do what others did this year and dress like crabs in the stands. In due time, it’ll pass, but this story has some serious legs (sorry, I’ll let myself out soon).
1) DEVIN GARDNER AND J.T. BARRETT
This wasn’t even close. For me, no moment in college football in 2014 – and maybe in all sports – was more viral than the interaction between Michigan QB Devin Gardner and Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett after the latter broke his ankle in the teams’ rivalry game. After Barrett went down, Gardner walked over to his rival to console him, producing this incredible photo that touched the hearts of so many of us:
Afterwards, the story took another heartwarming turn when the director of community relations at one of Ohio State’s satellite campuses wrote Gardner a letter thanking him for his gesture. Here is that letter.
Out of all the stories in sports this year, the Gardner-Barrett moment will stick with me the longest, and I’m guessing – based on how many viewed and shared that photo and letter – the same is true for many of you. It feels good to know that while we’re quick on social media to laugh at a crab legs joke or salty video, gestures of pure humanity are still rejoiced as much as anything.
Happy holidays to all, and thanks for continually spending some time with us in 2014.
Teddy Mitrosilis is an editor/writer and the author of CFB AM every weekday on FOXSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @TMitrosilis and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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