Ranking some of the SEC's most anticipated games


Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Since the SEC expanded and split into two divisions in 1992, there have been far too many classics to count. You know, the kind of game that can't get here soon enough and that everybody is hyping. The showdown this Saturday in the Georgia Dome between Alabama and Florida in the SEC Championship Game is probably the most anticipated and most hyped since expansion. The winner gets a shot at the national championship. We went back and took on the impossible task of ranking the other 10 games involving two SEC teams since expansion that would come close to the anticipation, hype and overall appeal of this one. Here's what we came up with:

1. Alabama 28, Florida 21, 1992 SEC Championship Game: The SEC became the first league in Division I-A to stage a championship game between its two division winners, and the first two were played in Birmingham at Legion Field. Antonio Langham won the inaugural contest for Alabama when he returned an interception for the winning touchdown in the final minutes. The Crimson Tide would go on to rout Miami in the Sugar Bowl and win their 12th national championship.

2. Florida 24, Alabama 23, 1994 SEC Championship Game: It was the first title game played in Atlanta and the third straight time that Alabama and Florida had met for the league crown. Alabama came into the game unbeaten and ranked third nationally, while Florida was ranked sixth nationally. The Gators rallied in the fourth quarter behind quarterback Danny Wuerffel to win their second straight SEC title.

3. Florida 33, Tennessee 20, 1997 in Gainesville, Fla.: The future NFL talent on the field that day was stunning, but the No. 2-ranked Gators made it five in a row over the No. 4-ranked Vols, keeping Peyton Manning winless against Florida and ultimately costing him the Heisman Trophy. Tony George intercepted a Manning pass and returned it 89 yards for a touchdown, sending what was then a record crowd at the Swamp into a frenzy.

4. Auburn 36, Florida 33, 1994 in Gainesville, Fla.: Auburn entered the game on a 17-game winning streak under second-year coach Terry Bowden, but was a decided underdog to top-ranked and unbeaten Florida, which had been carving teams apart under Steve Spurrier. In a classic, back-and-forth game, the Tigers won it on Patrick Nix's touchdown pass in the final seconds to a leaping Frank Sanders, making it two straight years that Bowden and beaten Spurrier.

5. Tennessee 34, Florida 32, 2001 in Gainesville, Fla.: The game was pushed back to the end of the season because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Florida was ranked second nationally and Tennessee fifth, and the winner would move to front of the national title chase. The Vols were a 17-point underdog, but running back Travis Stephens ran for 226 yards to lead Tennessee to the upset in what turned out to be Steve Spurrier's final game at the Swamp as the Gators' coach. The Vols couldn't make the big win stand up, though, as they were upset the next week by LSU in the SEC Championship Game.

6. Georgia 24, Auburn 21, 2002 in Auburn: Looking for its first SEC Championship Game appearance, Georgia went into Auburn and clinched the East title in thrilling fashion. David Greene's 19-yard touchdown pass to a leaping Michael Johnson on a fourth-and-15 play won it for the Bulldogs and second-year coach Mark Richt with 1:25 to play. They would go on to win their first SEC title in 20 years a few weeks later in Atlanta.

7. LSU 41, Alabama 34, 2007 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.: Nick Saban faced his old team for the first time, and the build-up was crazy. He'd recruited most of the key players on LSU's team, but the fans on the Bayou were still livid at his coming back to coach college football and landing at Alabama. The Crimson Tide took a fourth-quarter lead, but the Tigers rallied and would go on to win their second national championship in the last five years.

8. Florida 17, South Carolina 16, 2006 in Gainesville, Fla.: The Head Ball Coach returned to the Swamp, but on the other sideline as South Carolina's coach. Steve Spurrier had steered the Gamecocks to a win over the Gators the previous season and had them on the ropes in this one. But Florida's Jarvis Moss blocked a last-second field goal attempt, and the Gators survived. They would go on to win the national championship in only Urban Meyer's second year on the job.

9. LSU 17, Ole Miss 14, 2003 in Oxford, Miss.: In what was the biggest home game Ole Miss had played since the Archie Manning days, the Rebels had the ball late with a chance to win the West and get to their first SEC Championship Game. But Eli Manning tripped coming out from center on fourth down, and the Tigers clinched the West crown in what was a raucous environment. Nick Saban's club would go on to win LSU's first national championship in 45 years.

10. Florida 49, Georgia 10, 2008 in Jacksonville, Fla.: Florida coach Urban Meyer fumed about the end zone celebration in his new book. The Bulldogs said it was a celebration that turned their 2007 season. It made for great drama leading up to a Top 10 battle of these rivals and only further spiced up the rivalry. The anticipation was a lot better than the game. The Gators jumped on the Bulldogs from the outset and never looked back. Just to rub it in, Meyer called two timeouts in the final seconds.

So what do you think the most memorable SEC game was? Vote in our SportsNation poll.