SEC: Lou Holtz
But what about those seasons when everything goes wrong? You know, the seasons that fans scratch completely from their memory banks ... or at least try to.
Here's a look at three seasons in the SEC during the past 20 years that were utterly forgettable:
South Carolina 1999: The Gamecocks didn't win a game and suffered through an 0-11 season in Lou Holtz's first year as coach. Holtz inherited a program that had gone 1-10 the season before, and the Gamecocks went 21 straight games without a win. Their offense was woeful. In nine of the Gamecocks' 11 games, they scored 10 or fewer points, and scored more than 14 only once. They were held without a touchdown in four games. In SEC play, the Gamecocks were outscored 216-72. It's the last time an SEC team has gone winless in a season.
Alabama 2000: Coming off an SEC championship in 1999, it all crumbled for Alabama the season afterward. The Crimson Tide started the season ranked No. 3 in the polls, and there was talk of a national championship. That talk quickly dissipated, and what followed was a nightmarish 3-8 season and the ouster of Mike Dubose as coach. Alabama lost to Southern Miss and Central Florida and ended the season with five straight defeats. The worst was yet to come. The Crimson Tide were hit with NCAA sanctions stemming from Dubose's tenure and the Albert Means scandal. They lost 21 scholarships, received a two-year bowl ban and nearly got the "death penalty."
Tennessee 2005: The Vols went into the season ranked No. 3 in the polls but fell flat on their faces in a 5-6 disaster that was the first losing season of Phillip Fulmer's Hall of Fame coaching career. Fulmer was fired three years later after going 5-7 in 2008. The offense was a train wreck as the Vols played musical quarterbacks all season. It could have been a lot worse, too, if the defense hadn't been so good and kept Tennessee in games. There were several dubious firsts for the Vols along the way. They lost to Vanderbilt 28-24 at home, breaking a 22-game winning streak against the Commodores, and also had their streak of 16 straight bowl appearances snapped.
On Monday came the second step in that process, one that could potentially lead to serious consequences for the Gamecocks. The university received a notice of allegations from the NCAA outlining alleged rules violations, stemming primarily from athletes being given reduced rates at the Whitney Hotel in Columbia.
The NCAA alleges that 12 student-athletes (10 football players and two women's track members) were provided an estimated $47,000 in improper benefits from the Whitney Hotel, where several football players lived last year before being forced to move elsewhere. Former tight end Weslye Saunders, who was dismissed from the team, was one of the players caught up in the Whitney Hotel case.
Also, the NCAA alleges that two South Carolina boosters working with the Student Athlete Mentoring (SAM) Foundation provided inducements and benefits totaling more than $8,000 to prospective student-athletes. Freshman receiver Damiere Byrd was a member of the SAM Foundation and is currently serving a four-game suspension. He was also required to pay back $2,700 in extra benefits.
Both of these situations are "considered to be potential major violations," according to the NCAA's letter, and the university was charged with failure to monitor in both cases.
South Carolina will have until Dec. 14 to respond to these charges and will likely have to appear before the Committee on Infractions next February in Los Angeles. There's a chance South Carolina will self-impose penalties. The university has already disassociated itself from two people as a result of these charges.
The other thing to note here is that South Carolina is still on the hook as a potential repeat offender because of violations that occurred under former coach Lou Holtz, a case that was decided in November 2005. The NCAA can hit a school with more severe penalties if that school is found to be a repeat violater.
“The University will review the notice and respond accordingly," South Carolina president Harris Pastides said in a statement. "I assure you that we will continue to take all aspects of this investigation very seriously. We are prepared to continue to work with the NCAA to resolve any issues."
The upcoming move "The Blind Side" will feature more than a few familiar faces from the SEC, past and present.
Here's a look at the trailer for the movie that includes former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville and Alabama coach Nick Saban (who's still the LSU coach in the movie) in brief speaking roles. You also catch a glimpse of former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer and former South Carolina coach Lou Holtz.
In the trailer, check out what Sandra Bullock's character says about Saban at the end.
The movie, which is the story of former Ole Miss offensive tackle Michael Oher's life, will be out in theaters on Nov. 20.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Some skeptics would suggest that recruiting and acting are really one in the same.
Perhaps it's fitting then that several current and former SEC coaches are playing themselves in the upcoming movie "The Blind Side," which is based on Michael Lewis' best-selling book about former Ole Miss star Michael Oher.
Among the coaches who passed through Atlanta earlier this month to shoot scenes for the movie were Nick Saban, Lou Holtz, Tommy Tuberville, Ed Orgeron, Phillip Fulmer and Houston Nutt.
ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach was on hand for the filming of some of those scenes and gives an interesting perspective of how the coaches fared in front of the movie cameras. Alabama fans are going to love this, but Saban actually plays the LSU coach in the movie. That's where he was coaching when he tried to recruit Oher.
Leigh Anne Tuohy, who helped foster Oher through high school, credits Saban with helping to get all of the coaches to jump onboard and play themselves.
Check out what she says about Saban, though:
"I told him, 'You'd better play yourself. If you don't, I'm going to find a short, ugly guy to play you.' You know how vain Nick is. He probably thought about it and said, 'I'd better play myself.'"
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Vanderbilt is easily the biggest surprise in the SEC this season, the team that's flown in under the radar that nobody saw coming.
The Commodores are 5-0 for the first time since 1941 in a full season. They were also 5-0 in 1943, but only played five games that season.
They try to go to 6-0 this weekend against Mississippi State for the first time since 1928.
Talk about awaking the football ghosts.
Vanderbilt's ascent to the top of the Eastern Division standings has to rate up there with some of the most surprising starts in SEC history. Here's a look at a few other teams that came out of nowhere to have big seasons during the last 25-30 years. Let me know who I've left off:
Miss. State, 2007: After six straight losing seasons, Mississippi State broke through under Sylvester Croom to win eight games, including wins over Alabama and Auburn, and capped things with a Liberty Bowl victory.
Kentucky, 2006: After three straight losing seasons and Rich Brooks on shaky ground, the Wildcats carved out an 8-5 season, culminating with a 28-20 victory over Clemson in the Music City Bowl. It was the most games Kentucky had won in a season in 21 years.
Ole Miss, 2003: Unranked to start the season, the Rebels came within a slip-down by quarterback Eli Manning against LSU of winning the Western Division title outright and going to the SEC championship game. They still won 10 games for the first time since 1971.
LSU, 2001: In Nick Saban's second year in Baton Rouge, the Tigers recovered from a 2-2 start to win the SEC championship game over favored Tennessee and then a Sugar Bowl victory over Illinois.
South Carolina, 2000: Lou Holtz was in his second season at South Carolina after a dismal 0-11 finish his first season in Columbia. But the Gamecocks rebounded to go 8-4 and beat Ohio State in the Outback Bowl.
Arkansas, 1998: It was Houston Nutt's first season as head coach after the Hogs had suffered through back-to-back losing seasons. They started out by winning their first eight games before losing the heartbreaker to eventual national champion Tennessee and finishing 9-3.
Auburn, 1993: Terry Bowden was in his first season as head coach, and the Tigers were on NCAA probation. What's more, they were coming off back-to-back losing seasons, but reeled off 11 straight wins to finish unbeaten and ranked fourth in the final Associated Press poll.
Tennessee, 1989: Coming off a losing season in 1988, Tennessee started the 1989 season unranked, then drilled No. 6 UCLA in the second game at the Rose Bowl, setting the stage for an 11-1 finish, SEC championship and Cotton Bowl victory over Arkansas.
Tennessee, 1985: The Vols were coming off a ho-hum 7-4-1 season and weren't ranked to start the year. They weathered a season-ending injury to star quarterback Tony Robinson to win their first SEC title under John Majors and then blew out No. 2-ranked Miami in the Sugar Bowl.
Georgia, 1980: The Bulldogs were coming off a 6-5 season the year before and opened the 1980 season ranked 16th in the preseason poll. Of course, a freshman on that team introduced himself to the college football world in the opener against Tennessee, and the rest is history. The Bulldogs went unbeaten and won the national title.