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
#4 - 2008 Alabama
#3 - 1994 Alabama
#2 - 1995 Tennessee
BNE's best teams to not win the SEC title (post-1992): #1
1993 Auburn Tigers
AP Preseason: Unranked
Final AP Ranking: #4
Final Coaches Ranking: Unranked (probation)
- The AP Poll ranked teams on probation, but the Coaches Poll did not.
Record: 11-0 (8-0)*
- Unable to play for the SEC Championship, unable to play in the postseason, unable to play on television
Wins vs. Ranked Opponents:
#4 Florida 38-35
#11 Alabama 22-14
Star Power: QB Stan White, RB James Bostic, RB Stephen Davis, FB Tony Richardson, WR Frank Sanders, OT Wayne Gandy, OT Willie Anderson, DE Willie Whitehead, DT Gary Walker, LB Mike Pelton, CB Chris Shelling, S Brian Robinson, P Terry Daniel (yes, a punter)
Why Ahead of '95 Tennessee?
Won 'em all. Had a knack for knocking off unbeaten Florida teams ('93 and '94) during Florida's run of four consecutive SEC championships (1993-1996).
Bubba says: Easily the team that had the most suprising season on our list, 1993 Auburn had everything go their way with the exception of NCAA probation. It is only the second team on our list to defeat both squads that played in the SEC Championship game, and unlike the other (#9 - 1997 Florida), these Tigers had no blemishes against their record.
If you're Auburn, how do you know Alabama is your main rival? You go undefeated, beat the Tide head to head, and the boys from Tuscaloosa still get a straight up shot at the Sugar Bowl. Seriously, Auburn had a tremedous run through 1993 and 1994 and you can't go against a team that won all of the games it played that season. I still don't get the Stan White thing, he wasn't very good.
Many of Auburn's big plays during this era came from its DB's. Of course, this play wasn't seen live on television because Auburn has a history of cheating. "Giving chase is Weurffel, won't catch him..."
Earl says: Stan White left Auburn as its all-time leading passer, throwing for more yards than 1971 Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan. Yeah, it was 1971, but Sullivan threw alot to WR Terry Beasley for the 1970s. Now that we've settled that...
After his successful 11-year run at Auburn, Pat Dye had left the program under a cloud of pending sanctions after accusations of payments to players by a former Auburn player. The cloud of sanctions led to disappointing seasons in 1991 and 1992. And then the NCAA dropped the hammer. Probation for 1993 and 1994. No postseason play for either years, no television for 1993 and the loss of scholarships.
Enter Tater Tot, head coach at tiny Samford in Birmingham. Terry Bowden retained Wayne Hall, who served as defensive coordinator under Dye. And he hired former Auburn offensive lineman Rodney Garner to be his primary recruiter, who would later serve the same role at Tennessee and Georgia. Terry's brother, Tommy Bowden, served as offensive coordinator.
The only team on this list to begin the season unranked in the AP poll announced its presence in October with a surprising win over unbeaten Florida. Of course, nobody saw it because Auburn couldn't play on television. In a theme of many Auburn and Alabama teams from the late '80s and early '90s, the '93 Auburn team just got better with each week. Still filled with players that would have long careers in the NFL like Stephen Davis, Tony Richardson, Frank Sanders, Wayne Gandy, Willie Anderson, Willie Whitehead and Gary Walker, Auburn had the starting 22 to compete in the SEC. It just needed a change of attitude and it got one in 1993. It started to believe after defeating Florida and it played its own "bowl" game against defending national champion Alabama, in which QB Patrick Nix entered the game for an injured Stan White with Auburn trailing 14-5, and led the Tigers to a 22-14 comeback win.
In the long run though, I don't know if going 11-0 in his first season was a good thing for Terry Bowden. He would go on to run off 20 straight victories to start his career at Auburn, including a win at #1 Florida in 1994. But something began to slip in 1995 as Bowden's ego grew. Not a good combination with Auburn's infamously cancerous boosters. Bowden also had a falling out with DC Wayne Hall (although he hired renowned DC Brother Oliver to replace Hall) and recruiter Rodney Garner left for Tennessee.
Going undefeated only to have it mean nothing. An Auburn tradition.