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's Top 10 List so far...
#10 - 2001 Florida
#9 - 1997 Florida
#8 - 2006 LSU
#7 - 2007 Georgia
#6 - 2001 Tennessee
#5 - 1998 Florida
BNE's best teams to not win the SEC title (post-1992): #4
2008 Alabama Crimson Tide
AP Preseason #24
Final AP Ranking: #6
Final Coaches Ranking: #6
Record: 12-2 (8-0)
SEC Championship Game: #4 Florida 31-20 (Bama ranked #1)
Sugar Bowl: #7 Utah 31-17 (Bama ranked #4)
Wins vs. Ranked Opponents:
#9 Clemson 34-10 (Georgia Dome)
@ #3 Georgia 41-30
@ #15 LSU 27-21 (OT)
Star Power: QB John Parker Wilson, RB Glenn Coffee, RB Mark Ingram, WR Julio Jones, TE Nick Walker, OT Andre Smith, C Antoine Caldwell, DE Bobby Greenwood, DE Brandon Deaderick, DT Terrence Cody, LB Rolando McClain, LB Donta Hightower, LB Brandon Fanney, S Rashad Johnson, PR/KR/CB Javier Arenas
Why Ahead of '98 Florida?
Undefeated SEC regular season - the first on this list. Ranked #1 in the nation for 5 weeks. Controlled its destiny going into SEC Championship Game.
Bubba says: This is another team on our list that really exemplified the team concept. Nick Saban took advantage of a great defense and offensive line to control the clock and grind down teams that might have had superior depth. Glen Coffee was very impressive in his breakout/final season and Mark Ingram proved that he was able to handle the pressures of the SEC as a freshman backup. You have to give credit to a team that went undefeated during the regular season in the SEC and you can never count out teams that grind out tough victories like this one did down the stretch. The knock on this team will always be the humiliating loss to Utah in the Sugar Bowl (Utah wasn’t too shabby themselves). Let’s face it though, the Tide more than proved themselves during the course of the season by not only creating breaks for themselves, but taking advantage of them in the biggest situations. Senior leadership with the right mix of hungry, young talent will always be a dangerous combination and 2008 Alabama had the right people in the right place to make this surprising run.
"Busch Lite, which you can get at Winn-Dixie." Thank you Lord for providing us with fans like these...
Earl says: This Bama team set the tone early for its season as it laid the smackdown to an overrated Clemson team in August at the Georgia Dome. As much I enjoyed watching that one, I was still very confident that the Georgia Bulldogs would handle the Tide in late September. But, this Tide team did what you want to do as a football team - it got better every week. That is a sign of good coaching. The Tide used a formula of a strong rushing attack behind a strong offensive line and good defense to jump on opponents early. It had to hold off some teams like Ole Miss and Kentucky, but business was handled week in, week out. Nick Saban instilling his approach in Year 2 and the added threat of Julio Jones made this a different Alabama team from the previous year.
You can't argue against a team that was ranked #1 in the nation for an extended period of time during the season. Under the pre-1992 SEC rules, this Alabama team would've been crowned SEC Champions (like '01 Tennessee would've been), and Florida would've never won the national championship. But in the end, this Alabama team ran into a better football team in the SEC Championship Game because of the leadership of Tim Tebow (ugh).
This '08 version of the Tide would be ranked higher if not for the dismantling Utah handed it. That game really showed the value of Alabama's offensive line in 2008 as the Utes dominated Alabama's patchwork offensive line all night.
Next installment: #3 - 1994 Alabama Crimson Tide