Power Ranking the 5 Best SEC Championship Games Ever
Missouri and Auburn will meet in the Georgia Dome and play for the SEC Championship on Saturday in what is already—no matter what happens from here—the least predictable title game in conference history.
The two teams combined to finish 8-16, including 2-14 in conference play, last season. Mizzou was picked to finish sixth in the SEC East at media days in July, while Auburn was pegged to finish fifth in the West.
Alas, both teams have sprinted to one-loss records, and each could claim to have destiny on its side. The game is shaping up to be a fantastic one—especially given how even both teams appear on paper—but in order to become a historic one, it will have to be pretty darn good.
Since the first in 1992, there have been numerous unforgettable games in the SEC Championship. In order to land in the all-time top five, Auburn-Missouri will need to beat the following group of matchups.
5. Alabama vs. Florida, 1994
Result: Florida 24, Alabama 23
Steve Spurrier was at his boldest, wiliest, most inexplicably unpredictable during this game, pulling out a little bit of trickery to win at the biggest moment of 1994's biggest game.
Trailing 23-17 (after an Alabama pick-six) with fewer than six minutes left, it looked like the Old Ball Coach had finally been solved by an opposing defense. On the game's decisive down, though, he dialed up a trick play where running back Chris Doering completed a 20-yard pass down to the 2-yard line.
Doering then caught the game-winning score from Danny Wuerfful, ending Alabama's perfect season in heartbreaking fashion. This would not be the last time Florida was responsible for doing that.
4. Tennesse vs. Auburn, 1997
Result: Tennessee 30, Auburn 29
In a vacuum, this game probably would have ranked in the top three. That is, ingested without context as a 60-minute football game, it was phenomenal, but there were not any national title implications for the first time in SEC Championship history.
Still, Peyton Manning shed the "can't win a big game" label for the first time in his career—though it wouldn't be the last—by capturing the conference title, leading his Vols to a comeback victory in thrilling fashion.
Trailing 27-17, young Manning, who already looked and played like a seasoned NFL veteran, hit Peerless Price for a touchdown that closed the gap to 27-23.
Auburn, however, blocked the PAT and returned it for a two-point conversion, extending that lead back near a touchdown, 29-23.
In the waning minutes of action, Marcus Nash took a short pass from Manning 73 yards for a touchdown, and the game was sealed when Tennessee's kicker actually made the subsequent extra point.
3. Alabama vs. Florida, 2008
Result: Florida 31, Alabama 20
The legend of Tim Tebow was born long before (and would continue long after) this game, but it perhaps never hit a higher apex than it did in leading Florida to a comeback win over undefeated and top-ranked Alabama.
Trailing 20-17 in the fourth quarter, the Gators' high-powered offense had been stymied for most of the game, stuffed by the Crimson Tide's impenetrable defense. For the first 45 minutes, unstoppable force had been neutralized by immovable object, including an unthinkable scoreless third quarter.
Then Tebow happened, leading consecutive touchdown drives of 62 and 65 yards, both of which were things of precision and beauty. The first score won the game for Florida and the second score clinched it, propelling the Gators to an eventual BCS National Championship.
2. Alabama vs. Florida, 1992
Result: Alabama 28, Florida 21
Before the Gators started making a habit of breaking Alabama's heart, the Tide would do the same to Florida, beating it in thrilling fashion in the SEC's inaugural championship game.
Alabama jumped out to a 21-7 lead, but Florida did the unthinkable against Gene Stallings' stingy defense, making up the deficit and tying things up at 21 halfway through the fourth quarter. After a defensive stand, the Gators even got the ball back with a chance to drive down and take the lead.
That was for naught, though. With 3:21 on the clock, Antonio Langham intercepted UF quarterback Shane Matthews' pass and ran it back for a 27-yard score, sealing both teams' fates. Alabama went on to destroy Miami 34-13 in the Sugar Bowl, winning the national title.
1. Alabama vs. Georgia, 2012
Result: Alabama 32, Georgia 28
Knowing full well that I might be accused by some as a prisoner of the moment, I am still confident in calling last year's SEC Championship game the best we have ever seen.
Especially after seeing how Alabama beat Notre Dame in the national title game, the Crimson Tide's matchup with Georgia was essentially played for the AFCA National Championship Trophy. The loser—Georgia—didn't even get a consolation prize, though, falling out of the BCS entirely.
The stakes were magnificent and the game justified the hype. Amari Cooper burned Damian Swann for what was the game-winning 45-yard touchdown catch with just more than three minutes remaining.
UGA threatened on the following drive, but Chris Conley went down on the 5-yard line with no timeouts, and the clock ran out on its national title chances. It was a game that folks in SEC country and all around the nation will not soon forget.