Ranking 10 Best SEC Football Teams of BCS Era

Luke BrietzkeContributor IIIJuly 21, 2014

Ranking 10 Best SEC Football Teams of BCS Era

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    Picking the best SEC football teams during their dominant run through the BCS era essentially means nitpicking some of the strongest teams in recent memory.

    SEC football fans hope they will find the same success the conference enjoyed during the BCS era, when it ran off nine total national championships and seven consecutive titles.

    Of course, hosting two of the all-time great coaches certainly doesn’t hurt.

    Nick Saban and Urban Meyer represent six of the top 10 teams during the BCS era and one honorable mention team each as well.

    Emerging as SEC champion carried great honor during the BCS era—and whoever came out of the conference was expected to bring home the national hardware.

    With the College Football Playoff era upon us, we take today to look back on the best teams the BCS era had to offer.

    How good is this group of teams? Not even a national championship secures a spot in the countdown.

    We measure the top 10 teams by considering win-loss records while also factoring in margins of victory (both total and against quality competition). Other components considered were the overall talent on the teams and their strength of schedule.

    Here is our list.

Honorable Mention

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    (Ranked in order)

    2007 LSU Tigers

    2002 Georgia Bulldogs

    2009 Florida Gators

    2013 Auburn Tigers

    2001 Tennessee Volunteers

    2012 Georgia Bulldogs

    2007 Georgia Bulldogs

    2008 Alabama Crimson Tide

    2005 Georgia Bulldogs

    2000 Florida Gators

     

    LSU’s 2007 team just misses the cut. The BCS champs featured some fairly remarkable talent, led by defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey.

    This Tigers team might be best remembered as one that found ways to win close games with gritty performances.

    However, their propensity for nail-biters also serves as their biggest flaw—especially considering the vast collection of talent.

    Six of LSU’s games were decided by one possession, including both of its losses—triple-overtime defeats at Kentucky and at home to Arkansas.

    This is simply a case of the SEC producing phenomenal teams during the BCS era.

10. 2006 Florida Gators

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    Coach: Urban Meyer

    Player Accolades: First-team All-SEC—C Steve Rissler, WR Dallas Baker, DT Ray McDonald, LB Earl Everett, FS Reggie Nelson; Second-team All-SEC—OL Drew Miller, OL Phil Trautwein, QB Chris Leak, DE Derrick Harvey, LB Brandon Siler, CB Ryan Smith; SEC Freshman of the Year—WR Percy Harvin; Freshman All-SEC team—Harvin, KR Brandon James, QB Tim Tebow

    Average Margin of Victory: 16.2

    Average Margin of Victory vs. SEC: 6.9

    Average Margin of Victory vs. Ranked Teams (at time of game or at season’s end): 8.0 (Six games)

    Statement Win: LSU in Gainesville, 23-10

    Season Finish: BCS National Champs

    Urban Meyer delivered a national championship to Florida in just his second year.

    The offensive mastermind did so with a spread-offense system many SEC traditionalists didn’t think could win at a championship level.

    He also bucked conventional wisdom by effectively utilizing a two-quarterback system throughout the season. Of course it helps that the two quarterbacks were Chris Leak—who at last met lofty expectations during his final run—and Tim Tebow—then a true freshman.

    Florida’s lone loss came on the road to an Auburn team that finished No. 9 with an 11-2 record.

    The Gators turned in their statement victory in early October when LSU came to town as a 2.5-point favorite with ESPN’s College GameDay on the scene.

    Florida intercepted LSU quarterback Jamarcus Russell three times in capturing the victory.

    Meyer saved his program’s true signature win for last, though, when his squad slaughtered Ohio State 41-14 in the Fiesta Bowl.

    Ohio State went undefeated during the regular season, capping it with a hard-fought triumph over rival Michigan. The two were ranked first and second, respectively, when the game kicked off, and there was early speculation that they could meet in a rematch to determine the BCS championship.

    Florida instead got its chance by beating No. 8 Arkansas in the SEC Championship Game.

    The Buckeyes, led by Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, entered as a 7-point favorite.

    Ted Ginn ran back the opening kickoff to spark Ohio State, but Florida responded with a ferociousness not seen all season.

    The Gators scored on five of their first six drives in jumping out to a 34-14 halftime lead.

    With Florida’s defense hitting on all cylinders, Smith and the Buckeyes managed just 82 yards of total offense and eight first downs—two of which came on penalties.

    As an added bonus, four coaches on that staff are now head coaches—Charlie Strong at Texas, Dan Mullen at Mississippi State, Steve Addazio at Temple and Doc Holliday at Marshall.

9. 2011 LSU Tigers

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Coach: Les Miles

    Player Accolades: Chuck Bednarik Award—DB Tyrann Mathieu; Jim Thorpe Award—CB Morris Claiborne; SEC Defensive Player of the Year—Claiborne; First-team All-SEC—OL Will Blackwell, DL Sam Montgomery, Mathieu, Claiborne, P Brad Wing, OL Alex Hurst, WR Rueben Randle; Second-team All-SEC—RB Spencer Ware, LB Ryan Baker, K Drew Alleman, OL Chris Faulk, DT Michael Brockers, DE Barkevious Mingo

    Average Margin of Victory: 24.4

    Average Margin of Victory vs. SEC: 27.2

    Average Margin of Victory vs. Ranked Teams (at time of game or at season’s end): 17.2 (Nine games)

    Statement Win: Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala., 9-6 (OT)

    Season Finish: No. 2 in Associated Press, Coaches poll

    Through the first 13 games of the season, this LSU team would have contended for the top overall spot on this list.

    However, the BCS National Championship Game debacle leaves a lasting image of what was otherwise a superb campaign.

    LSU marched its way through a grueling schedule that included tough non-conference games at West Virginia and at a neutral field against Oregon.

    Tough competition seemed to only strengthen the Tigers, who turned in their season-defining road win over Alabama in overtime.

    LSU and Alabama’s dominating defenses silenced most of the “Game of the Century” talk that dominated conversation leading into the tilt.

    Ultimately, the Tigers scored a 9-6 overtime victory.

    Unfortunately for LSU, that game marked the first of two meetings between the rivals.

    LSU finished the regular season with a dominant takedown of No. 3 Arkansas and a deconstruction of Georgia in the second half of the SEC Championship Game.

    The entire season unraveled in the 21-0 BCS National Championship Game loss to Alabama in New Orleans.

    Again, the two defenses shined. LSU limited the Crimson Tide to five field goals through the first three quarters, but that was hardly enough for its lifeless attack.

    Alabama’s defense pummeled the Jordan Jefferson-led attack, holding the Tigers to five first downs and 92 total yards of offense.

    Even the disastrous showing in the championship game doesn’t completely overshadow an otherwise flawless season.

    Between the slate and dominance over quality opponents, the 2011 LSU program gets the nod on this list over its 2007 brethren that actually brought home the BCS crystal football.

8. 2011 Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Dave Martin/Associated Press

    Coach: Nick Saban

    Player Accolades: Doak Walker Award—RB Trent Richardson; Outland Trophy—OL Barrett Jones; SEC Offensive Player of the Year: Richardson; First-team All-SEC—Jones, C William Vlachos, Richardson, LB Courtney Upshaw, S Mark Barron; Second-team All-SEC—DT Josh Chapman, LB Dont’a Hightower, CB Dre Kirkpatrick, RS Marquis Maze

    Average Margin of Victory: 26.8

    Average Margin of Victory vs. SEC: 25.5

    Average Margin of Victory vs. Ranked Teams (at time of game or at season’s end): 17.2 (Five games)

    Statement Win: Arkansas in Tuscaloosa, Ala., 38-14

    Season Finish: BCS National Champs

    Perhaps it’s fitting that the 2011 Alabama and LSU teams find themselves ranked directly next to each other.

    Each was, after all, the other’s perfect match and only real threat in many ways—even in a year when division-mate Arkansas finished No. 5 in the final standings.

    Both Alabama and LSU dispatched the Razorbacks with relative ease, leaving a two-team race in the SEC.

    Alabama got off relatively easy in the conference schedule, drawing Florida, Vanderbilt and Tennessee from the SEC East—none of whom competed for the division.

    Even the Crimson Tide’s signature non-conference win at Penn State turned out not to be especially impressive, as the Nittany Lions weren't a notably strong team.

    Arkansas and LSU proved to be the only two teams Alabama played that finished in the Associated Press or Coaches Top 25.

    Alabama made a strong statement in crushing Arkansas by 24 points a season after the Razorbacks narrowly missed an upset of the Crimson Tide.

    Tough schedule or not, this Alabama team was loaded.

    Quarterback AJ McCarron led the Tide to the BCS national championship in his first year as starter, benefitting from a beastly offensive line and supremely talented tailbacks Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy.

    Alabama, as it seemingly always has under Nick Saban, also fielded a sensational defense.

    Mark Barron and Dont’a Hightower captained a dominant defense that led the nation in points per game and total yards of offense.

    Even in the Crimson Tide’s lone loss—the 9-6 defeat against LSU—the defense dominated.

    When Alabama got its second chance at the Tigers, Saban’s team put on a display in total defensive dominance.

    The Crimson Tide totally stymied LSU in the rematch, holding it to 92 total yards of offense and five total first downs.

    Alabama easily avenged its lone defeat, going on to a 21-0 thorough beating of its divisional foe to cap its second national championship under Saban.

7. 2003 LSU Tigers

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    Coach: Nick Saban

    Player Accolades: Defensive Player of the Year—DT Chad Lavalais; First-team All-SEC—WR Michael Clayton, Lavalais, DB Corey Webster, OL Stephen Peterman, C Ben Wilkerson, DE Marcus Spears; Second-team All-SEC—WR Devery Henderson, QB Matt Mauck, RS Skyler Green, S LaRon Landry

    Average Margin of Victory: 22.9

    Average Margin of Victory vs. SEC: 17.7

    Average Margin of Victory vs. Ranked Teams (at time of game or at season’s end): 9.0 (six games)

    Statement Win: Auburn in Baton Rouge, La., 31-7

    Season Finish: BCS National Champs

    Of all of Nick Saban’s national championships, his first might have been the most surprising.

    LSU was again expected to be formidable in 2003, but the “it” team in the division was supposed to be Auburn.

    The Sporting News went so far as to predict Auburn to win the national championship that season.

    Instead, LSU announced its presence in the national title race by ending what little hope Auburn had left by trouncing its rival 31-7.

    LSU’s statement victory came at a pivotal time—two weeks after a surprising 19-7 loss at home to Florida.

    A late-season win over Ole Miss and Eli Manning and a convincing victory against reigning SEC champ Georgia put the Tigers in position to play for the BCS national championship—albeit in controversial style.

    LSU and Oklahoma, who the Tigers beat 21-14 in the Sugar Bowl, actually entered the game ranked Nos. 2 and 3 in the Associated Press poll. The No. 1 team, one-loss USC, didn’t get a chance to play in the title game but claimed the AP national championship.

    Splitting the national title doesn’t take any shine off LSU’s fantastic season.

    Defensive tackle Chad Lavalais proved to be a disrupting force all season, bringing home SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors.

    Behind Lavalais and superstars of the secondary Corey Webster and LaRon Landry, the Tigers led the nation in points per game and total yards of offense.

    Justin Vincent and Michael Clayton gave LSU a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver, respectively.

6. 1998 Tennessee Volunteers

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    MARK HUMPHREY/Associated Press

    Coach: Phillip Fulmer

    Player Accolades: First-team All-SEC—G Cosey Coleman, DT Darwin Walker, LB Al Wilson, LB Raynoch Thompson, K Jeff Hall, OT Chad Clifton; Second-team All-SEC—WR Peerless Price, CB Dwayne Goodrich

    Average Margin of Victory: 18.6

    Average Margin of Victory vs. SEC: 19.4

    Average Margin of Victory vs. Ranked Reams (at time of game or at season’s end): 7.3 (six games)

    Statement Win: Florida in Knoxville, Tenn., 20-17 (OT)

    Season Finish: BCS National Champs

    Tennessee was supposed to take a step back in 1998 after quarterback Peyton Manning exhausted his NCAA eligibility.

    Instead, Phillip Fulmer’s team brought home the first-ever BCS national championship.

    A dominating defense, led by Al Walker, allowed just three teams to score 20-plus points and held Florida State to 16 points in the national title game.

    Tee Martin inherited the starting quarterback role from Manning. He wasn’t spectacular, but with tailbacks Jamal Lewis and Travis Henry, he didn’t have to be.

    Receiver Peerless Price emerged as the team’s leading receiver. He also hauled in four passes for 199 yards and the deciding touchdown on his way to co-MVP honors in the national championship game.

    While the season ended on a high note for the Volunteers, they first had to weather an early storm.

    Syracuse nearly derailed their hopes during the season opener. Behind quarterback Donovan McNabb, the Orangemen led Tennessee in the closing seconds before Jeff Hall connected on a 27-yard field goal to give the Volunteers the road victory.

    A week later, Tennessee showed it could be even better without Manning by finally getting over the Florida hump, beating the Gators 20-17 in overtime in a win that broke a five-game losing streak and set off a field-storming celebration.

    Wilson forced two fumbles in the Florida win.

    From there, Tennessee largely pummeled its opponents before the SEC Championship Game win over Mississippi State.

    The lone exception came against Arkansas, who jumped out to a 21-3 lead. A late Clint Stoerner fumble gave the Volunteers a chance and Henry took advantage, scoring the game-winning touchdown.

5. 2010 Auburn Tigers

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    Dave Martin/Associated Press

    Coach: Gene Chizik

    Player Accolades: Heisman Trophy—QB Cam Newton; Davey O’Brien Award—Newton; Walter Camp Award—Newton; Maxwell Award—Newton; Lombardi Award—DT Nick Fairley; SEC Offensive Player of the Year—Newton; SEC Defensive Player of the Year—Fairley; First-team All-SEC—OT Lee Ziemba, C Ryan Pugh, Newton, Fairley; Second-team All-SEC—G Byron Isom, DE Antoine Carter, LB Josh Bynes

    Average Margin of Victory: 17.1

    Average Margin of Victory vs. SEC: 13.4

    Average Margin of Victory vs. Ranked Teams (at time of game or at season’s end): 13.8 (Seven games)

    Statement Win: LSU in Auburn, Ala., 24-17

    Season Finish: BCS National Champs

    Cam Newton and Nick Fairley dominated their way to the BCS national championship in 2010.

    Yes, Auburn had plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, but this will be remembered as more of a one- or two-man team than any other on this list.

    Of course, the fact that the Tigers immediately went from national champions to 7-5 without Newton seemingly supports that claim—which would ignore the fact that a senior-laden offensive line opened up holes for the run game.

    A midseason victory over LSU proved the Tigers were in for a special year. That game also featured Newton’s signature play on his way to the Heisman Trophy.

    At that point few questioned Newton’s ability.

    Any skepticism centered on the defense.

    Auburn’s defense certainly didn’t play at a championship level throughout the season, which prevents it from ranking higher on this list.

    However, the group gelled as the season went forward. It also turned in championship play in the biggest moments—such as when the offense was stagnant during a Week 2 three-point win at Mississippi State.

    The defense acquitted itself nicely in the championship rounds—or really the final 10 quarters of the season.

    In Auburn’s dramatic comeback win over Alabama, the defense held the Crimson Tide to three points in the second half to allow Newton and company to deliver.

    Fairley, Josh Bynes and company also limited a good South Carolina team to 17 points and then limited a tremendous Oregon attack to 19 points in the BCS National Championship Game.

    Auburn’s dominance didn’t always meet its star power—five of its 14 wins came by three points or less—but there’s no denying its impressive, undefeated run through the SEC.

4. 2012 Alabama Crimson Tide

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Coach: Nick Saban

    Player Accolades: Rimington Trophy—C Barrett Jones; First-team All-SEC—G Chance Warmack, Jones, T D.J. Fluker, RB Eddie Lacy, LB C.J. Mosley, CB Dee Milliner; Second-team All-SEC—QB AJ McCarron, DT Jesse Williams, DB Robert Lester

    Average Margin of Victory: 27.8

    Average Margin of Victory vs. SEC: 24.1

    Average Margin of Victory vs. Ranked Teams (at time of game or at season’s end): 14.8 (Six games)

    Statement Win: Michigan in Arlington, Texas, 41-14

    Season Finish: BCS National Champs

    Had Alabama not gotten the help it needed in late November, this team might be remembered very differently.

    That’s not entirely fair, because this group was absolutely loaded with talent.

    C.J. Mosley anchored a defense that led the nation in scoring and total defense.

    The Crimson Tide opened the season with an attention-grabbing 41-14 dominant win over Michigan on a neutral field and proceeded to crush all competition on its path until November.

    There, Alabama had to survive its annual slugfest against LSU and then take on an upstart Texas A&M team flying high behind Johnny Manziel.

    AJ McCarron’s late touchdown pass to T.J. Yeldon allowed the Tide to escape against LSU.

    Alabama wasn’t as fortunate a week later.

    The Manziel-led Aggies scored an upset win late over an emotionally spent Alabama team.

    That proved to be the lone blemish on an otherwise flawless campaign.

    Still, the Crimson Tide needed both Oregon and Kansas State to lose to get their chance to defend their 2011 championship.

    Both the Ducks and the Wildcats lost a week later to Stanford and Baylor, respectively.

    After Alabama slaughtered in-state rival Auburn, only Georgia in the SEC Championship Game stood in the way.

    Battle-tested, Alabama needed another late McCarron touchdown pass—this time to Amari Cooper—and a defensive stand to top the Bulldogs.

    Alabama closed the season in the same dominant fashion it started—by crushing an opponent that thought it could hang with Nick Saban’s crew.

    The Crimson Tide dispatched Notre Dame by halftime on its way to a 42-14 victory.

3. 2004 Auburn Tigers

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    JOHN DABVID MERCER/Associated Press

    Coach: Tommy Tuberville

    Player Accolades: Jim Thorpe Award—CB Carlos Rogers; SEC Offensive Player of the Year—QB Jason Campbell; SEC Special Teams Player of the Year—RB Carnell Williams; First-team All-SEC—T Marcus McNeill, Campbell, Williams (as RB and specialist), RB Ronnie Brown, LB Travis Williams, Rogers, S Junior Rosegreen; Second-team All-SEC—OL Danny Lindsey, DE Stanley McClover

    Average Margin of Victory: 20.8

    Average Margin of Victory vs. SEC: 17.9

    Average Margin of Victory vs. Ranked Teams (at time of game or at season’s end): 9.3 (Five games)

    Statement Win: Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn., 34-10

    Season Finish: No. 2 in Associated Press, Coaches poll

    Though the 2004 Auburn team went uncrowned as national champions, it still went undefeated and featured a ridiculously talented roster.

    How good was the program? Four players went in the NFL draft’s first round that spring.

    Quarterback Jason Campbell finally put it all together in his senior season—his only year with coordinator Al Borges. The Tigers also had the luxury of handing off to Carnell “Cadillac” Williams and Ronnie Brown.

    There was only one real close call for Auburn on its path to perfection—a physical confrontation with defending champion LSU.

    Auburn trailed for much of the game before Campbell connected with Courtney Taylor for the tying touchdown with 1:14 remaining.

    Sure, it took two attempts for the Tigers to make the game-winning extra point, but they converted when it counted.

    The Tigers only beat Alabama by eight points, but the Crimson Tide scored late to make the score look more respectable.

    Carlos Rogers led a defense that allowed 20 points just once during the regular season—a 38-20 win over Arkansas.

    Auburn showed its status as a national contender during an early October statement win over Tennessee at Neyland Stadium.

    However, the Tigers ultimately couldn’t crack the top two in the national standings. USC and Oklahoma started the year ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively, and voters chose Auburn as the odd team out.

    Making matters worse, the Trojans dominated the Sooners in a thoroughly uncompetitive national championship game.

    Auburn might not have won the national championship in 2004, but the undefeated squad goes down as one of the best during the BCS era.

2. 2009 Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Coach: Nick Saban

    Player Accolades: Heisman Trophy—RB Mark Ingram; Dick Butkus Award—LB Rolando McClain; SEC Offensive Player of the Year—Ingram; SEC Defensive Player of the Year—McClain; SEC Special Teams Player of the Year—Javier Arenas; First-team All-SEC—OL Mike Johnson, Ingram, K Leigh Tiffin, DT Terrence Cody, McClain, CB Javier Arenas (as CB and specialist), S Mark Barron; Second-team All-SEC—OL James Carpenter, TE Colin Peek, WR Julio Jones

    Average Margin of Victory: 24.4

    Average Margin of Victory vs. SEC: 27.2

    Average Margin of Victory vs. Ranked Teams (at time of game or at season’s end): 14.5 (Six games)

    Statement Win: Florida in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta, 32-13

    Season Finish: BCS National Champs

    For all of the great teams Nick Saban has fielded, his 2009 Alabama team stands alone as the undefeated squad.

    It’s not hard to figure out why this team accomplished what the others didn’t.

    A star-studded defense led by Rolando McClain and Terrence Cody crushed the competition, returning the Crimson Tide to the same stage on which it stumbled the year before.

    The 2008 Alabama team overachieved in Saban’s second year, running the table in the regular season before running into a Florida team that was simply better.

    The Crimson Tide got the rematch it so desperately wanted in 2009.

    This time Alabama was ready for Tim Tebow and the Urban Meyer attack, holding the Gators to just 88 rushing yards and 20:23 in time of possession.

    Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram accounted for 189 total yards of offense and three touchdowns in helping the Crimson Tide slam the door on Florida’s quest for a repeat title run.

    Just two of Alabama’s SEC wins came by one score—Tennessee and Auburn.

    Those two victories came as more escape than domination.

    Cody blocked Tennessee’s game-winning field-goal attempt for the first and quarterback Greg McElroy hit Roy Upchurch in the final two minutes to allow Alabama to get past Auburn.

    Still, the Crimson Tide smashed SEC opponents to the tune of a 27.2-point average margin of victory.

    Alabama then beat Texas 37-21 in the Rose Bowl to win its first national championship under Saban.

    The 2010 Rose Bowl will always be best remembered for who didn’t play, though, than who did.

    Alabama knocked out Texas quarterback Colt McCoy with a shoulder injury that left him sidelined for virtually the entire contest.

    The Longhorns made the game interesting in the second half, but couldn’t overcome the 24-6 hole they put themselves in shortly before halftime.

1. 2008 Florida Gators

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Coach: Urban Meyer

    Player Accolades: Maxwell Award—QB Tim Tebow; SEC Offensive Player of the Year—Tebow; SEC Special Teams Player of the Year—Brandon James; First-team All-SEC—OT Phil Trautwein, Tebow, Percy Harvin, LB Brandon Spikes, James; Second-team All-SEC—Harvin (as WR), DE Jermaine Cunningham, DE Carlos Dunlap, CB Joe Haden, G Mike Pouncey, P Chas Henry

    Average Margin of Victory: 30.7

    Average Margin of Victory vs. SEC: 30.0

    Average Margin of Victory vs. Ranked Teams (at time of game or at season’s end): 24.1 (Seven games)

    Statement Win: Pretty much every game after the Ole Miss loss

    Season Finish: BCS National Champs

    Even with an early season home loss to Ole Miss on its resume, the 2008 Florida team goes down as the best of the SEC’s golden years.

    An emotional Tim Tebow delivered his famed speech in the immediate aftermath of the loss, serving as the rallying point for a team on an absolute mission for the remainder of the season.

    Four ranked teams tried their luck against the Gators in the regular season.

    Here’s how they fared: LSU lost 51-21; Georgia lost 49-10 on a neutral field; South Carolina lost 56-6; and Florida State lost 45-15 at home.

    Alabama at least pushed Florida in the SEC Championship Game, leading the Gators through three quarters.

    However, Tebow powered Florida into the national championship game by leading it to 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.

    The Gators dominated the SEC after the loss to Ole Miss, a fact underscored by their 30-point average margin of victory.

    Florida’s defense largely goes underappreciated since Tebow and Percy Harvin draw most of the attention.

    However, the defense featured plenty of talent, including Brandon Spikes, Joe Haden and Carlos Dunlap.

    Charlie Strong’s defense faced its biggest test in the Orange Bowl, where Oklahoma and its top national offense awaited.

    Florida held down the Sooners, led by Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford, allowing the Gators to claim a 24-14 victory and their second championship in three years.