Disclaimer: This list and subsequent blog posts were formed to create conversation between SEC fans about teams that were very close to having championship seasons. Looking at the teams listed and thinking about the teams that were left off further proves the depth of the SEC and the focus needed to win week in and week out. Teams were chosen and ranked based on significant wins/losses, star power and old school opinion (because we're opinionated SEC fans).
BNE Top 10 List so far...
#10 - 2001 Florida
#9 - 1997 Florida
#8 - 2006 LSU
#7 - 2007 Georgia
BNE's best teams to not win the SEC title (post-1992): #6
2001 Tennessee Volunteers
AP Preseason #8
Final AP Ranking: #4
Final Coaches Ranking: #4
Record: 11-2 (7-1)
Georgia 26-24 (UT ranked #6)
- "We stepped on their face with a hobnail boot and broke their nose!"
#21 LSU 31-20 (SEC Championship Game)
- UT ranked #2
Wins vs. Ranked Opponents:
#14 LSU 26-18 (eventual SEC Champion)
#12 South Carolina 17-10
@ #2 Florida 34-32
Citrus Bowl: #17 Michigan 45-17
Star Power: QB Casey Clausen, RB Travis Stephens, WR Kelley Washington, WR Donte' Stallworth, TE Jason Witten, DT John Henderson, DT Albert Haynesworth, DE Will Overstreet, LB Kevin Burnett, LB Dominique Stevenson, CB Andre Lott, S Reshad Baker
Why Ahead of '07 Georgia?
Ranked #2 in the nation, UT controlled its own destiny in the SEC Championship Game against LSU. Win it and play in the National Championship Game, only three years removed from Big Orange's 1998 National Championship.
Bubba says: This was a very talented group that played well as a team. These Vols featured a young Casey Clausen at QB and a hard working 5th year senior at tailback in Travis Stephens. They had their biggest moment of the year when they shocked the 2001 Florida Gators in the Swamp in December. Unfortunately, they couldn't finish the deed in Atlanta for the SEC title and a bad half of football cost them a chance to play for the National Championship. This was the second, and closest, chance the "iceman" had to beat UGA with one arm. I hated that clown.
You thought maybe we'd include some footage of that '01 UT-UF game...Nah...
Earl says: Hobnailed. This '01 UT team will go down in Dawg history as the team that helped Georgia turn everything around in Bulldog Nation. But this Tennessee team was legit. They beat Florida in Gainesville for the first time in 30 years. With Texas' loss in the Big XII Championship Game, the Vols controlled their destiny to play for the national championship if they could just beat LSU, something they had already done earlier in the season. But, a dentist came off LSU's bench to lead the Tigers to an upset victory.
It's great that Casey Clausen didn't get a chance at the national championship. But Travis Stephens was a really good running back. He destroyed Florida for over 200 yards that year, and who can forget the screen pass he took 70+ yards against the Dawgs, setting up Hobnail Time. I was in Neyland Stadium that day, sitting 11 rows from the endzone in which Verron Haynes scored. He literally caught the pass directly in front of me and the group I was with (and I still swear it was in slow motion, he was that wide open). It was a noon kickoff, but I had never heard an outdoor stadium that loud before as Stephens took it to the house, and I haven't since. Forty four (44) seconds in game time later, I've never heard a stadium so quiet. I've never been back to Neyland Stadium. That's hard to top, but I imagine the '03 and '05 games were very fun too. I'll get back there someday.
Does this '01 Tennessee team deserve to be ranked four spots higher than the '01 Florida team? I don't know. But the Vols had to be included if that '01 Florida team made the list. The Vols beat the Gators when it mattered the most that year. Maybe Tennessee should try to get that game moved to December every year.
Next installment: #5 - 1998 Florida Gators