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Pac-12 Football: Top 10 Plays of 2012

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Pac-12 Top 10 Plays in 2012

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What a great year it was in the Pac-12. My favorite part of college football is the moments the game provides over the course of a season. Let there be no doubt that this season was filled with exciting plays across the landscape.

Within the Pac-12 week after week gave way to an incredible display of talent. As a columnist for the conference even I can't remember all of the great plays that happened over the course of the past four months.

What we can do is take a look at some of the plays that were jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring. Performances that left even most outspoken of fans speechless. A running back seemingly defying gravity while evading a tackle, and then running 80 yards into the end zone. A momentum swinging defensive play that defined an opposing quarterback's disappointing season.

Do you remember a receiver putting up numbers that a video game comparison couldn't do justice? Where where you when one of the most athletic specimens to take foot on a field of play added more fuel to his already burning legend with one punt return?

Or how about the story of one team with little to celebrate suddenly break out into tears of joy over a cup of apples?

I remember these plays, but I can't stop watching them. Feel free to watch them again and again. There were too many to pick from and I'm sure that I left deserved moments out.

Enjoy the top 10 plays from the Pac-12 in 2012.


James Gomez is a Pac-12 and Mountain West columnist for Rant Sports and member of the Football Writers Association of America. You can follow James on Twitter as well.

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10. Tony Jones 84 yard touchdown run vs. Washington State

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

There wasn't much to be happy about if you were a Colorado Buffaloes fan this season. CU had only one in 2012 against the Washington State Cougars. One of the highlights for the Buffs was running back Tony Jones taking off for an 84 yard touchdown in CU's comeback win. Pretend for a moment that Colorado wasn't so abysmal and appreciate the speed that the freshman put on display.

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9. Nate Fakahafua strips Matt Barkley for a touchdown

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The game on Thursday October 4 had the possibility of being the biggest college football game in Salt Lake City history. Both the USC Trojans and Utah Utes had underwhelmed with three combined losses by the time they met. That being said the energy in Rice-Eccles Stadium was palpable. Then on the second play of the game Nate Fakahafua didn't just create a turnover, he took the football away from quarterback Matt Barkley like candy from a baby. It was a momentous moment for the Utes. Utah couldn't hang on and ended up losing the game but this moment is seared in my memory and I'm sure Barkley remembers it as well.

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8. Andrew Furney game winning kick to beat Washington in Apple Cup

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Entering the 2012 Apple Cup the Washington State Cougars were 0-8 in Pac-12 play. Mike Leach's first year in Pullman had little to celebrate. But on a late November evening all of that seemed to go away with an overtime win over the arch-rival Washington Huskies.

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7. Brandin Cooks 75 yard touchdown reception vs. UCLA

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

With only three wins in 2011, the Oregon State Beavers needed a bounce back season in the worst way. Coach Mike Riley was on the hot seat and questions remained over young quarterback Sean Mannion. The Beavers opened up the schedule with an upset win over the Wisconsin Badgers. But could OSU keep the momentum going against a favored UCLA Bruins squad in Pasadena? The answer was a resounding yes. Consider this the Beavers 2012 breakout party and this 75 yard touchdown from Mannion to Brandin Cooks the spark.

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6. Johnathan Franklin 214 yards vs. Rice

Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Note to self: Johnathan Franklin is really good. Need proof? From day one this season the back proved just how dangerous he can be. Yes the Rice Owls aren't the scariest of opponents but the performance was still a blast to watch. Assuming of course you aren't a Rice fan. If you like dynamic running backs doing their thing, sit back and enjoy a spectacular day by the senior.

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5. Kevin Hogan to Stepfan Taylor 40 yard touchdown vs. Oregon State

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Watching Stepfan Taylor run is akin to watching a painter paint. Taylor is a human highlight reel so finding one of his runs for this forum is difficult considering the options. Something about his scamper against Oregon State on November 10 just reminds me why the senior is so special. With strength, speed, agility, and the ability to read defenses Taylor has it all.

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4. Brendan Bigleow 81 yard touchdown run at Ohio State

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

There are plays and then there are moments. For the Cal Bears on a September afternoon, magic happened. Overall, the game was hard fought but a loss for Jeff Tedford and company. The Ohio State Buckeyes proved too much for the Bears over four quarters, but in the 3rd quarter, Brendan Bigelow pulled a rabbit from a hat. Watch this one several times. It doesn't get old.

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3. Marqise Lee 345 yards receiving 2 TDs vs. Arizona

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Ever put up huge numbers in a video game? When the UCS Trojans visited the Arizona Wildcats it would be understandable if one thought the game took place inside a PS3. Receiver Marqise Lee showed off his abilities with flair. What makes the day so incredible for Lee was the illusion that no one was on the field with him beside quarterback Matt Barkley. This isn't one play but rather a collection. Feel free to pick out your favorite. There's plenty to choose from.

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2. De'Anthony Thomas punt return versus Colorado.

Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

We know De'Anthony Thomas is a witch. Every week the Oregon Ducks back and return specialist comes up with some kind of impossible scamper that leaves opposing defenders searching for therapy. Called the Black Mamba, the Oregon athlete had something up his sleeve for the Buffaloes we haven't seen before. I can't explain what he did to CU on this punt return. Words cannot do this feat justice. Check it out for yourself.

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1. Zach Ertz touchdown catch at Oregon to tie game in 4th

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Stanford Cardinal tight end Zach Ertz is as good as they come. Several factors go into making this my number one play for the year. The catch was so incredible the referees didn't even think it happened ruling the pass incomplete. The second reason this play was so astounding was the timing. Needing a touchdown to tie the game late in the fourth quarter in Eugene against the second ranked Ducks, Ertz came through. Add in the fact that Stanford's overtime upset win shook up the national championship picture and propelled the Cardinal to a Pac-12 title. This was the play that encapsulated 2012.