The SEC has arguably been the best conference in the nation for the past seven years.
In those seven years, the SEC champion went 6-1 in bowl games, including going an impressive 4-0 in the BCS National Championship, outscoring opponents 124-66 in those games.
Since the inception of the SEC Championship game in 1992, the SEC has won seven national championships, with the SEC Eastern Division winning four, and the West winning three.
The SEC became the first conference in the NCAA to hold a championship game since the league's expansion in 1991. The first two games were held in Birmingham, AL then they were moved to the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA. Since then, the Georgia Dome hasn't equaled the attendance of the first championship game, where 83,091 spectators witnessed Alabama defeat Florida.
Overall, the SEC champion is 11-6 in their bowl games.
The SEC has produced great football teams during this era and it is hard for anyone to select the best 10 teams during the Championship Era. There are fans of certain teams that are going to be upset, but nonetheless, it's just a list, and this is open for debate.
It helped the team's cause by winning their bowl game, the significance of the game, and the team they either beat, or lost to at the time.
But here are the teams who just barely missed the cut in no particular order:
1999 Alabama Crimson Tide
Finished 10-3 (7-1) ranked No. 8 in the AP.
Notable losses: Louisiana Tech by one point at home and Michigan in the Orange Bowl by one point in overtime.
Notable wins: At Florida by one in overtime.
Defeated No. 5 Florida 34-7 in the SEC Championship.
The '99 Alabama team was one of the best teams they put on the field. Led by Shaun Alexander and Chris Samuels on offense, they ran through the SEC with their only conference loss coming to Tennessee at home.
They also defeated Florida twice in the same year, once in Gainesville by one in overtime, and by 27 in the championship game. They suffered a heartbreaking loss to Michigan in the Orange Bowl due to a missed extra point.
That same Michigan team was led by eventual Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady.
2001 LSU Tigers
Finished 10-3 (5-3) ranked No. 7 in the AP.
Notable losses: At Tennessee by eight, Florida by 29, and Ole Miss by 11 at home.
Notable wins: At Alabama by 14 and Tennessee in the SEC Championship by 11.
Defeated No. 2 Tennessee 31-20 in the SEC Championship.
LSU suffered back-to-back losses to Tennessee on the road and Florida at home. They got back on track to beat Kentucky and Mississippi State, but stumbled at home against Ole Miss.
Then they played Alabama the following week and exploded with the combination of Rohan Davey and Josh Reed. Davey went 35 of 44 to throw for 528 yards with Reed catching 19 of those passes for 293 yards and defeated Alabama 35-21. They would then capture the West Division and in a rematch against No. 2-ranked Tennessee (without Davey); they would defeat the Vols 31-20 to earn a berth in the Sugar Bowl and defeated Illinois 47-34.
1995 Florida Gators
Finished 12-1 (8-0) ranked No.n 2 in the AP.
Notable loss: Nebraska by 38 in the Fiesta Bowl.
Notable wins: Tennessee by 25 and Florida State by 11.
Defeated No. 23 Arkansas 34-3 in the SEC Championship.
This was a tough omission. The decision to leave them in and take a team who won their bowl game out weighed heavily.
They outscored their opponents 558 to 263, scoring over 50 points four times. They also hit the 60-point mark twice. Danny Wuerffel had a great season that year throwing for 3,266 yards and 35 touchdowns.
Unfortunately, the omission of the Mighty Gators was due to their poor performance in the Fiesta Bowl against Nebraska giving up a videogame-like 524 yards rushing en route to a crushing 62-24 loss. The Gators came into the game as a slight favorite to win.
With that being said (plus my deepest apologies to the Gator fans), here are the top ten SEC champions in no particular order:
1993 Florida Gators
Finished 11-2 (7-1) ranked No. 5 in the AP.
Notable losses: At Auburn by three and Florida State by 12 at home.
Notable win: Alabama in the SEC Championship by 15 and West Virginia by 34 in the Sugar Bowl.
Defeated No. 16 Alabama 28-13 in the SEC Championship.
Led by quarterback Terry Dean and defensive players Kevin Carter and Ellis Johnson, the Florida Gators ripped through the SEC losing only one conference game. This is probably the only team who had the respectable losses and the notable win to back up their claim of being on the list.
They lost to undefeated Auburn by three on the road and lost to the eventual national champion Florida State at home.
Due to Auburn's probation, they ended up playing and Alabama in the championship game and then blew out undefeated and No. 3-ranked West Virginia 41-7 in the Sugar Bowl.
They outscored their opponents 513-244.
2002 Georgia Bulldogs
Finished 13-1 (7-1) ranked No. 3 in the AP.
Notable loss: Florida by seven.
Notable wins: Tennessee by five at home and Florida State by 13 in the Sugar Bowl.
Defeated No. 22 Arkansas 30-3 in the SEC Championship.
Georgia was loaded with talent in 2002. Led by the two David’s—Pollack and Greene—and linebacker Boss Bailey, the Bulldogs climbed up as high as No. 5 in the AP Poll. With an 8-0 record, they faced their rivals the Florida Gators in their annual game in Jacksonville, FL.
This time, with Ron Zook as the head coach, the Gators beat the undefeated Bulldogs 20-13.
The Bulldogs would bounce back and win their last five games, including beating Arkansas 30-3 in the championship game and defeated Florida State 26-13 in the Sugar Bowl.
2004 Auburn Tigers
Finished 13-0 (8-0) ranked No. 2 in the AP.
Notable wins: LSU by one point at home, Georgia by 18, Tennessee on the road by 24 and by 10 in the championship game, and Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.
Defeated No. 15 Tennessee 38-28 in the SEC Championship.
Auburn may have gone undefeated and didn't win the national championship, but it's hard to keep an undefeated team off the list. Especially a team who defeated four ranked opponents.
This team was solid on offense and fierce on defense, but the team was led by their backfield consisting of quarterback Jason Campbell and the running back duo of Ronnie Brown and Carnell "Cadillac" Williams. Carlos Rogers won the Thorpe Award that year for best defensive back in the nation and defensive end Stanley McClover became an overnight star making a living in the offensive backfield.
Had it not been for Oklahoma and USC both going undefeated, Auburn probably would have played for the BCS title.
1996 Florida Gators
Finished 12-1 (8-0) finished No. 1 in the AP.
Notable loss: At Florida State by three.
Notable wins: At Tennessee by three and Florida State in the Sugar Bowl by 32.
Defeated No.11 Alabama 45-30 in the SEC Championship.
The Gators had redemption on their minds in 1996. After their loss to Nebraska the previous year, the Gators with new defensive coordinator Bob Stoops, complimented the high octane offense led by Heisman winner Danny Wuerffel.
The Gators jumped out of the gate with a 10-0 record which included beating No. 2 ranked Tennessee led by Peyton Manning and setting up a No. 1 vs. No. 2 battle with arch-rival Florida State. After their loss, they beat Alabama 45-30 in the SEC championship to earn a rematch against No. 1 Florida State.
The Gators got their revenge by blowing out the Seminoles 52-20 and with some help from Ohio State beating No. 2 Arizona State in the Rose Bowl, the Gators became national champions.
1998 Tennessee Volunteers
Finished 13-0 (8-0) finished No. 1 in the AP.
Notable wins: At Syracuse by one, Florida by three in overtime at home, at Georgia by 19, Arkansas by four at home, and Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl by seven.
Defeated No. 23 Mississippi State 24-14 in the SEC Championship.
Trivia question: Who is the only SEC team to ever go into the SEC Championship Game ranked No. 1 in the nation and win?
That team on Rocky Top.
A team who lost Peyton Manning, but returned almost everyone on defense including the unquestioned leader Al Wilson, the Vols had a brutal schedule with heart-stopping finishes, starting with a back-and-forth 34-33 win against a Donavan McNabb-led Syracuse team, and snapping a five game losing streak against Florida.
Even losing Jamal Lewis to an ACL injury didn't derail the Vols' chances. Travis Henry picked up the slack and led the team in rushing.
Their last close game against Arkansas as they fell behind 21-3 in the first half, came back to within two points, and due to the "stumble and fumble," Henry scored the final touchdown in the waning moments.
They went on to win their second straight SEC title and defeated Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl as Peerless Price had 199 yards receiving in the win.
2003 LSU Tigers
Finished 13-1 (7-1) ranked No. 2 in the AP.
Notable loss: Florida by 12 at home.
Notable wins: Georgia by seven at home and by 21 in the SEC championship, at Ole Miss by three, and Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl by seven.
Defeated No. 5 Georgia 34-13 in the SEC Championship.
The Bayou Bengals had probably the most physically imposing team in the country that year.
Led by Marcus Spears, Chad Lavalais, and Lionel Turner on defense, they held their opponents to 154 points. Their offense was led by quarterback Matt Mauck, their three headed monster of running backs—Justin Vincent, Joseph Addai, and Alley Broussard—and the talented Michael Clayton.
Their offense scored 475 points, hitting the 50-point mark twice.
However, this team was tested, especially with a stunning loss to an unranked Florida team, defeating No. 7 ranked Georgia by seven and defeating an Eli Manning-led Ole Miss team.
In the SEC championship game, they embarrassed No. 5 ranked Georgia 34-13.
Due to USC's No. 1 ranking in the AP Poll, they split the national championship, but LSU has the crystal ball in their possession since finishing No. 1 in the BCS Standings.
2006 Florida Gators
Finished 13-1 (7-1) ranked No. 1 in the AP.
Notable loss: at Auburn by 10
Notable wins: at Tennessee by one, LSU at home by 13 and Ohio State by 27 in the BCS National Championship Game.
Defeated No. 8 Arkansas 38-28 in the SEC Championship.
Talk about a team who got better as the season went on that year.
Chris Leak may have led the offense, but Reggie "Eraser" Nelson, and Brandon Siler carried the defense.
Florida had a preseason top 10 ranking in 2006, but they were under the radar. In 2006, Ohio State was everyone's favorite to win it all. On the other hand, Florida quietly made noise and crept up in the rankings. They traveled to No. 10 Auburn ranked No. 3 in the country and were taken surprise by the Tigers.
Dropping five spots, they proceeded to win their last five games of the season, gaining a berth in the SEC championship against No. 8 Arkansas. Arkansas pulled out every trick in the book, but it wasn't enough as freshman Percy Harvin ran "hog" wild as Florida defeated Arkansas 38-28.
Their victory was enough to leap No. 2 Michigan—who lost to Ohio State—in the BCS Standings.
They would go on and throttle No. 1 Ohio State in the BCS National Championship 41-14 to earn their second National Championship.
1992 Alabama Crimson Tide
Finished 13-0 (8-0) ranked No. 1 in the AP.
Notable wins: At Tennessee by seven and Miami by 21 in the Sugar Bowl.
Defeated No. 12 Florida 28-21 in the SEC Championship.
This team finished No. 1 in the country and No. 1 in the hearts of all Alabama fans. In their 100th year of football (another recurring theme), 'Bama fielded statistically one of the best defenses in the history of college football allowing only 122 points in 13 games and pitching three shutouts. Their defense was led by the "Bookends" Eric Curry and John Copeland, while Antonio Langham and George Teague patrolled the secondary.
The offense was led by Derrick Lassic who led the team in rushing and Jay Barker who didn't put the fear of God in opposing defenses, but he never made mistakes.
No team scored more than 21 points on the defense all season.
This team is more known for the 34-13 beating of No. 1 ranked Miami in the Sugar Bowl. Miami talked a lot of trash before the game, but they didn't say much during the game.
It must have been hard to speak when a football is rammed down your throat.
2007 LSU Tigers
Finished 12-2 (6-2) ranked No. 1 in the AP.
Notable losses: at Kentucky by six in three overtimes and Arkansas by two at home in three overtimes.
Notable wins: Virginia Tech by 41 at home, Florida by four at home, and at Alabama by seven.
Defeated No. 14 Tennessee 21-14 in the SEC Championship.
One of the most talented teams in recent memory, the LSU Tigers had almost just as many convincing wins as they did nail biters. Be that as it may, it takes a great team to win the close games as well.
What goes unnoticed is they played half their games against ranked opponents—Virginia Tech, South Carolina, Florida, Kentucky, Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee, and Ohio State. Slice that anyway you want, that is a pretty tough schedule to have. Led Matt Flynn and Jacob Hester, the Tiger offense scored an impressive 541 points, while Glenn Dorsey anchored a talented defense.
Even after losing a heartbreaker to Arkansas a week before the SEC Championship Game against Tennessee, LSU needed a miracle to play for the BCS Championship—needing Missouri and West Virginia to lose—and win without Flynn as Ryan Perrilloux would lead the way and their victory catapulted them to the BCS Championship Game against Ohio State.
Since the Championship Game was held in New Orleans, it turned into another home game for LSU as they dominated Ohio State 38-24 to earn their second BCS Championship.
2008 Florida Gators
Finished 13-1 (7-1) ranked No. 1 in the AP.
Notable loss: Ole Miss at home by one.
Notable wins: LSU at home by 30, and Georgia by 39.
Defeated No. 1 Alabama 31-20 in the SEC Championship.
Led by Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, and Brandon Spikes, the Gators were flying high, ranked No. 4 and had to play Ole Miss. Losing a hard fought game, Tim Tebow delivered his speech, and after that, the Mighty Gators outscored their four remaining ranked opponents 201-52, en route to a showdown against No. 1 ranked Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.
The Gators were tested in a back-and-forth game that was decided in the fourth quarter as Tebow would simply will them to win as they scored 14 points and defeated Alabama 31-20, to earn a spot in the BCS Championship Game against Oklahoma.
The Gators imposed their will on the Sooners as they forced Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford to throw two interceptions, defeating Oklahoma 24-14. Tebow was the Offensive MVP.
The Gators tied the 1996 offense by scoring 611 points, but their defense held their opponents to 181 points.
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