This article describes games over the past 10 years, since the birth of the BCS, that made the entire SEC look good. After these games, you called your cousin in the loser’s associated region and clearly explained to him that your team deals with that kind of talent week in and week out, and there is no way his team could compete in our league. I tried to focus on the ones that gave the SEC the most bragging rights, not necessarily the best wins for each team. I also liked a few of the games that made other conferences look inferior. Not included in the list are year in and year out rivalry games, because those are not usually associated with conference reputation as much as down-right hatred (No Florida-Florida St, Georgia-Georgia Tech, South Carolina-Clemson, etc.)
(14) September 7, 2002, Arkansas 41, Boise State 14 – Nobody remembers this game, and frankly, nobody should. At the time, it was a typical opening game stepchild whipping against some team Houston Nutt used to coach for. Anyway, WAC victories don’t need to be a part of crowing moments for Arkansas, let alone the SEC. But this one is a little different, because the Blue Bunnies from Boise ran the table afterward and got as high as #12 in the polls.
Arkansas was bigger, stronger, faster, blah, blah, blah. Matt Jones did whatever he wanted to in his first start as full-time QB, and the Bunnies didn’t get sniff the end zone until it was 34-0 in the 4th quarter and Nutt let the cheerleaders play. When Boise was asked about the black eye on their otherwise perfect schedule at the end of the year, they blamed it on not being ready and described how they were a different team then. Should have mentioned the fact that they only played one fair-to-middling team all year.
(13) September 3, 2005, Georgia 48, Boise St 13 – This was a deceivingly good start to what turned out to be a forgettable year for college football. Georgia was believed to be a good - not great - SEC team, and Boise was rumored to be ready for the big boys. Boise was ranked #18 to start the year - only five spots behind Georgia – and they were only 7 point road underdogs. Reality struck quickly for the WAC, though, and the score wasn’t as close as the 48-13 final. America’s future hero Jared Zabransky was picked off on his first pass of the day, and ended the first half with three more. Georgia’s D also took two fumbles from him, both in the first half as well. Meanwhile, DJ Shockley couldn’t do anything wrong; anyone who asked Coach Richt for a favor caught one of the five TD passes he tossed. Before the Georgia let off the gas, this game was 38-0 halfway through the third quarter.
This was a beatdown that should have kept the WAC at bay for the next few years. Instead, someone let the Blue Bunnies play with house money the following year (against an overrated Oklahoma team), where they wound up being on the right side of the most entertaining bowl game ever. This game can’t be ranked too highly because Boise lost three more games in 2005 and didn’t finish the year ranked. It’s still placed on the list because it was such a pasting and marks the last time the WAC golden boys will want to play against the monsters any decent SEC team will have on the D-line. Hawaii didn’t learn first-hand soon enough, and scheduled Florida for 2008. After last year’s Sugar Bowl literally became a health risk for any Rainbow QB, do you think any of them are looking forward to this year’s game?
(12) January 1, 2008, Georgia 41, Hawaii 10, Sugar Bowl– It’s ok to admit if you were a little nervous about this one. The Boise Blue Bunnies’ trick plays won over the nation the year before, and Utah looked pretty good when they had their shot at the BCS (albeit against Pitt). Further, just winning wouldn’t have done any good for Georgia or the SEC. The primary question was whether or not Hawaii’s toy offense could competewith the big boys, not necessarily beat them. If the score would have been 35-28 either way, then the WAC would have been a permanent fixture in the BCS. Every sports writer in the nation would have been calling for the small conferences to get more spots in the BCS, even automatic spots (gasp!), and written plenty of articles about how “talent gaps have tightened.”
Thank you, Georgia. Instead, those same writers talked about Hawaii’s determination for making it so far and their courage for not giving up. It’s a shame Georgia fans didn’t get to see how much their team had improved since the Tennessee game, and it’s a shame their players had a tougher scrap with Georgia Tech than their Sugar Bowl opponent. Still, the game should have given fans and writers a better idea of where WAC schools stand in the pecking order, and that an undefeated WAC school would be lucky – lucky– to be 4-4 in the SEC. If only the Dawgs could have gotten a hold of Boise the year before as well…
(11) November 8, 2003, Tennessee 10, Miami 6– The SEC got the split in the second of a home-and-home series against Miami when the ‘Canes were a top-notch program. Miami was inexplicably kept out of the BCS title game in 2000, destroyed Nebraska in the 2001 title game, and was shafted in the 2002 title game (weakest PI call ever). The only reason this game isn’t ranked any higher is that Virginia Tech had stroked the #2-ranked Canes pretty good in Blacksburg the week before to end their 39-game regular season winning streak. Nonetheless, the Vols got to end the ‘Canes 26-game home winning streak in the Orange Bowl and enjoyed a late-season win over a top-10 team (#6).
The game itself was lackluster at best. The Vols got 10 in the second quarter and held on 10-6 after neither team was able to score in the fourth. The Vols scored on a not-so-Fulmer call with 20 seconds left in the first half, going with the 4thdown end around at the goalline.
(10) January 1, 2003, Auburn 13, Penn State 9, Citrus Bowl– Unfortunately, we don’t get many Citrus/Capital One Bowl wins. This one was the second of only two Citrus/Capital One Bowl games the SEC has won in the past 10 years (something must be done about this). Penn State was ranked in the top ten and was only a few breaks away from national championship talk, not to mention a BCS berth. Their only losses came from (at the time) #3 Iowa, #11 Michigan, and #2 Ohio St, with the biggest margin at seven points. Auburn had three SEC losses and another season-opening loss to USC.
The game was every bit as ugly as the 13-9 final score, but Tuberville has a way of winning those. Neither team reached 100 yards passing, and but Auburn’s running game was more steady. Ronnie Brown represented the entire Tiger offense with 37 carries and both TD runs. After the game, the media crowned Auburn as the nation’s top team heading into the next year. They were right, only one year too soon.
(9) January 2, 2002, Florida 56, Maryland 23, Orange Bowl– You ACC guys can take your refrigerator of a coach with all his supposedly great X’s and O’s and get ready for basketball season. Maryland was the feel-good story of 2001, starting 7-0 and finishing the regular season 10-1. Their new coach, who looked to be a few crab cakes away from a heart attack, was every media outlet’s coach of the year. They came in sporting about seven All-ACC selections.
Florida was knocked out of the SEC Championship Game by Tennessee in a December game rescheduled from 9/11, so they got into the Orange Bowl with an at-large bid. There was no comparison between the talent levels of the two teams, and Florida cleaned up 56-23. One interesting side note was that the only ACC team to beat Maryland, Florida State, was also destroyed by Florida a month earlier. The ACC decided to go get more teams to compete with a real football conference after they were manhandled by the SEC that year. Either that or the conference championship game revenue.
(8) January 1, 2000, Arkansas 27, Texas 6, Cotton Bowl– The Longhorns were solid favorites and ranked in the top 15 in the polls. They had also just represented the South division in the Big 12 Championship game, although they were torn apart by Nebraska. The Hogs were clinging to the last two spots in the polls after an inexplicable thrashing by LSU, who was 0-7 in SEC beforehand. Actually, the Hogs looked terrible in every SEC game in 1999 that wasn’t played in Fayetteville or Little Rock. The only road game they won was in Dallas over SMU (What were they doing giving SMU a home game in the first place?).
Not sure if Dallas had anything to do with it, but the Hogs represented the league well there again on New Year’s. The first half was uneventful and ended 3-3, but the floodgates opened in the second half. Cedric Cobbs finished the first of his seven bowl games as the MVP, scoring on a 30-yard catch and a 37-yard run. The Hogs dominated upfront all game, and Texas finished with -27 yards rushing. The ‘Horns also had to bring in multiple quarterbacks, because Major Applewhite and Chris Simms were on their backs most of the game.
(7) September 2, 2006, Tennessee 35, California 18– This game kick-started the year of the SEC in college football. The Vols weren’t necessarily 35-0 better than Cal, but a few good breaks put them in that spot soon after halftime. Eric Ainge and Robert Meacham became darkhorse Heisman candidates, and David Cutcliffe became a genius.
This was a much-needed win for the SEC over the PAC 10. USC had taken two from Auburn in 2002 and 2003, put a 70-17 beatdown on Arkansas the year before, and was only a few hours away from thumping the Hogs again. LSU had scored a few PAC 10 wins the past few years over Arizona schools, but those were far from the only losses for the Arizona schools those years. This matchup was viewed as two top-tier teams from each conference, with Cal ranked #9 and Tennessee #23. It was also good for the conference to have Tennessee bounce back from a miserable 2005, when they were one of Vandy’s victims and didn’t get to go bowling (not sure which was worse).
(6) September 13, 2003, Arkansas 38, Texas 28– For the second time in five years, Arkansas got to forget about its piss-poor record against Texas in its former life, and everyone in the state proudly flashed the upside-down hook-em horns. Texas scored on its first and last possessions of the first half, but it was all Hogs in between. Matt Jones ran and passed as he pleased, and the Hogs were in control the entire game. Jones only made two mistakes all day. The first was a fourth quarter fumble returned for a TD that cut the Hogs’ lead to 7. His second mistake was mis-calling a bootleg to the left in the huddle on third-and-one the following possession. Since it should have been a bootleg right, he just told the tight end at the line of scrimmage that he was going his way. Jones took it 60 yards to the one and Arkansas won 38-28. The Hogs also snapped Texas’ 20-game home winning streak.
For this article, forget the SWC rivalry and all the history. This was a great early-season SEC v. Big 12 matchup that didn’t receive the attention it should have. It was an 11:00am ABC regional game, so a lot of the country didn’t see anything except the 10-point win. What people should have taken from it was that a middle-of-the-pack SEC team was every bit as good as the second-best Big 12 team. Texas finished the year 7-1 in Big 12 play, and was head and shoulders above everyone save Oklahoma. Arkansas went 0 for October and was destroyed in the final game of the season in Baton Rouge, finishing 4-4 in the SEC. And for all the Longhorn fans who might say this wasn’t as big a game for Texas as it was for Arkansas, I’ll cut you some slack for 2003. But in 2004, when Texas won the Rose Bowl and Arkansas stayed home for the holidays, every Texas player stormed the field like they had just won a BCS game after squeaking out a 21-19 Matt Jones’ fumble-aided win in Fayetteville. That year, Texas was clearly second-best in the Big 12 again, and Arkansas was closer to bottom of the SEC with its only league wins over Alabama and the Mississippi schools.
(5) January 1, 2002, Tennessee 45, Michigan 10, Citrus Bowl– This was a solid bragging-rights matchup for the SEC and Big 10; it involved the second- or third-best team in the Big 10 versus the second- or third-best team in the SEC. Michigan came in with only two Big 10 losses – OSU and the “Clockgate” game at Michigan State – and another close loss at Washington. Tennessee had just blown a chance at the national title by losing to heavy underdog LSU in Atlanta. It was also a needed game for the SEC’s bowl repute. The conference had lost the past three Citrus Bowls and three BCS bowls in two years.
Tennessee dominated the game from the start and cruised to a 45-10 win. Casey Clausen, playing in one of his seemingly eight seasons, threw for almost 400 yards and 3 TD and ran for two more. Outside of some OSU games, this was the best display of an SEC team imposing its style of play on a Big 10 team since the BCS began.
(4) January 4, 2004, LSU 21, Oklahoma 14, 2003 BCS National Championship Game – Oklahoma was anointed the greatest team in fifty years midway through the season. They put 77 points on A&M among their many blowout Big 12 games during 2003. Jason White was the fake Heisman winner, and Bob Stoops was the hottest and highest paid coach in the nation.
It was a shame that Oklahoma was exposed in the Big 12 title game against Kansas State, because beating an undefeated OU team would have been so much more fun. It was still fun to see that LSU’s athletes outclassed OU’s in every which way on the field, despite only winning the game by seven points. It seemed like LSU didn’t try to score until they had to, and then their defense held strong when it had to seal the game. For winning the BCS title, Saban became the highest paid coach in college football displacing Stoops.
(3) January 7, 2008, LSU 38, Ohio State 24, 2007 BCS National Championship Game– Ohio State was ready this time. They were sick of hearing about the SEC’s speed and the weak Big 10 schedule. Hell, we were sick of hearing it too. With that said, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that OSU jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead. (It was a little surprising that Beanie Wells plowed the LSU defense like that, though.) Still, when the Buckeyes went into halftime, they had the same “Oh $h!+” faces they had at the same time a year earlier.
The great thing about this game compared to the Florida game the year before was that LSU took OSU’s best shot. Ohio State couldn’t have prepared any more, they hadn’t been anointed champions by the media, and they cut out most of the mistakes they made the year before. Still, when they finally scored late in the third to stop the 31-point scoring run, the game was already in hand. Ohio State didn’t “suck,” they could have beaten other BCS teams, and they were still a top-tier college football team. They simply did not match up well with the top teams in the SEC. And it was so much fun to watch.
(2) January 4, 1999, Tennessee 23, Florida State 16, 1998 BCS National Championship Game– The Vols claimed the first BCS title in a game with NFL talent at every position. The weak link turned out to be Marcus Outzen, FSU’s backup QB forced into duty a few games earlier. While his scrambles had been enough to pull out a 23-12 victory against Florida a month earlier, when FSU’s defense was dominant against the SEC’s preeminent team in the 1990’s, Outzen’s offense was kept in check most of the night with only 253 total yards. Tee Martin and Peerless Price were the only ones who couldn’t be contained, as Price came up just shy of 200 yards receiving. He also hauled in the back-breaking 79-yard 4th quarter TD.
A team that beat all of the league’s top teams en route to an undefeated run in the SEC needed to win its bowl game. After FSU shut down the fun-and-gun to end the regular season, the ‘Noles were a popular underdog pick. The score was close at the end (23-16), and the Vols even wound up on the right side of a call that nullified a late FSU-recovered onside kick, but UT showed more talent and plenty more discipline.
(1) January 8, 2007, Florida 41, Ohio State 14, 2006 BCS National Championship Game – This was the ultimate SEC victory. Ohio State was an overrated, over-hyped team that had already won two “Games of the Century” before Thanksgiving. Troy Smith would have been a backup wide receiver in the SEC that year, but instead became the first Big 10 QB to win the Heisman. Then, to top it off, the Big 10 proved to everyone quickly how much speed they had when they returned the opening kickoff for a TD.
The problem was that the speed OSU had was the same speed every team has – at the skill positions. Division III (still not used to FCS) teams have that. What OSU players had never seen before that night were those freak monsters on defense with speed. Florida’s D-ends dominated the whole game, and pretty boy Troy Smith didn’t even look average.
The great thing about the 41-14 whipping was that so many other SEC teams honestly thought they should have been the ones doing the whipping that night. LSU had two inexplicable offensive performances (Auburn 7-3 and Florida 21-10) that year, and were stellar the rest of the way. Auburn was the only team to beat Florida in 2006, but laid eggs against Arkansas and Georgia in early morning Jefferson Pilot games. Even Arkansas fans thought they should have been in Tempe that night, as they finished the season with losses blamed solely on special teams to LSU and Florida (Heels on the 10, Fish!). For SEC fans to say their team would have been undefeated if they played OSU’s schedule that year can be debated. But for those who believe their team would have whipped OSU like yard dogs that night: Yes, you’re exactly right.
Florida 31, Syracuse 10, 1999 Orange Bowl – SEC’s only BCS win over Big East champ
Ole Miss 27, Oklahoma 25, 1999 Independence Bowl – How did OU go from Shreveport loser to BCS Champs in a year?
South Carolina 24, Ohio State 7, 2001 Outback Bowl – Just getting started beating the Buckeyes
Vanderbilt 45, Duke 28, October 28, 2006 – Our brain scientists are better than your brain scientists.
Kentucky 28, Clemson 20, 2006 Music City Bowl – SEC # 8 beat ACC # 4
LSU 41, Notre Dame 14, 2007 Sugar Bowl – Beating the hell out of Notre Dame could never get old.
Mississippi State 10, Central Florida 3, 2007 Liberty Bowl – State showed that Kevin Faulk would have been a good # 3 running back on most SEC teams. He would have been a good #4 on others.
Expectedly, the list was dominated by a few schools. Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, and South Carolina all failed to make the cut. Their biggest wins have come within the conference. While those schools were fairly predictable, it was incredible that zero notable Alabama nonconference wins were found over the past 10 years. To be fair, Mike Shula was 11 teams’ favorite SEC coach for half the period. Arkansas surprisingly made the list multiple times, and Auburn was denied (shafted) a chance to claim one of the top spots.
SEC in BCS National Championship Games 4-0
SEC Champion in BCS Games since 1998 season 7-3
SEC Champion in BCS Games 2001 season and after 6-1
SEC Teams in BCS Games since 1998 season 11-4
SEC Teams in BCS Games 1999 and 2000 seasons 0-3
SEC Teams in BCS Games 2001 season and after 9-1