When implemented by SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer in 1992 after the expansion to 12 teams, the SEC Championship Game was an unprecedented power move. The game has given fans great memories, heartbreaking losses, and has captivated us for over 30 years now.
#5 1992 - Alabama vs. Florida
First, we go all the way back to the beginning. The 1992 SEC Championship Game, held on December 5, 1992, at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama brought us the first ever game of its kind. Coached by Gene Stallings, Alabama entered the game with an impressive 11-0 record, seeking both the SEC title and a shot at the national championship.
In a fiercely contested matchup, Alabama emerged victorious with a 28-21 win over Florida. The game featured standout performances from Crimson Tide quarterback Jay Barker and running back Derrick Lassic, who scored two crucial touchdowns. Alabama's defense also played a pivotal role, holding off a late comeback attempt by the Gators. The victory not only secured the SEC Championship for Alabama but also propelled them to the Sugar Bowl, where they faced off against the Miami Hurricanes for the national title. The 1992 SEC Championship Game remains a memorable chapter in college football history, showcasing the intensity and drama that set the standard for championship clashes in the Southeastern Conference.
#4 1994 – Florida vs. Alabama
If you couldn’t already tell with #5 and #4 – it is no surprise, the most common matchup in SEC history is Alabama vs. Florida at 10 matchups between the two schools.
Coached by Steve Spurrier, the Gators boasted an offensive juggernaut led by quarterback Danny Wuerffel. Wuerffel delivered a stellar performance, completing 26 of 41 passes for an impressive 401 yards and three touchdowns. The Heisman winner’s passing game was a key factor in Florida's offensive success.
On the ground, running back Errict Rhett played a crucial role, rushing for 130 yards and contributing significantly to the Gators' ground game. The tight end tandem of Ben Hanks and Aubrey Hill also made notable contributions, combining for 174 receiving yards and a touchdown. Defensively, Florida showcased its strength, limiting Alabama to 23 points.
Alabama Quarterback Jay Barker passed for 214 yards and two touchdowns, connecting with wide receiver Toderick Malone for a crucial score. Running back Sherman Williams contributed 81 rushing yards and a touchdown, showcasing the balance in Alabama's offensive attack. Despite a late-game surge, Alabama fell short, and the Gators secured their victory, marking a memorable chapter in SEC history with remarkable individual and team statistics.
#3 Georgia vs. Alabama - 2018
The 2018 SEC Championship Game, held on December 1, 2018, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, showcased a highly anticipated clash between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs. Both teams entered the matchup with a spot on the line for the College Football Playoff. Alabama aimed to defend its SEC title and solidify its playoff position, while Georgia, led by Kirby Smart, sought redemption after losing the national championship game to Alabama in the previous season.
In a game that was considered home field advantage for the Georgia Bulldogs, the Alabama Crimson Tide staged a remarkable comeback to defeat UGA 35-28. Current Eagles QB, Jalen Hurts, who had been replaced by Tua Tagovailoa in the previous year's national championship, came off the bench in the fourth quarter to lead a career-defining comeback. Hurts threw a game-tying touchdown pass to Jerry Jeudy then rushed for the go-ahead score with just over a minute left in the game.
#2 Tennessee vs. Auburn - 1997
The 1997 SEC Championship Game took place on December 6, 1997, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, featuring a marquee matchup between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Auburn Tigers. Coached by Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee entered the game with a 10-1 record, while the Auburn Tigers, led by Terry Bowden had a 9-2 record. The contest was a hard-fought battle with both teams showcasing their offensive firepower and defensive resilience.
In a game that would become a classic in SEC lore, the Tennessee Volunteers emerged victorious with a 30-29 win over Auburn. The thrilling matchup was marked by dramatic moments, including a 4th quarter deep ball by “The Sheriff,” Senior QB, Peyton Manning to Tennessee’s Marcus Nash – giving the Vols a 30-29 lead. Tennessee’s defense held strong in the 4th quarter and gave the Volunteers their first ever SEC Championship game victory in 1997.
#1 Alabama vs. Georgia – 2012
In one of the greatest football games of all time, #3 Georgia vs. #2 Alabama squared off in the Georgia Dome for a spot in the BCS National Championship game. Neither team started out strong, but eventually both teams’ offenses showed up. Georgia would get out front to a commanding 21-10 lead in the middle of the third quarter. Alabama would trade blows and take the lead back, courtesy of the Tide’s tandem running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon.
All-SEC running back Todd Gurley put the Dogs up late with a 10-yard run, then Alabama came back to take the lead back with a little over two minutes to go off a play action deep ball, courtesy of Alabama’s A.J. McCarron and the freshman Amari Cooper.
Aaron Murray and the Bulldogs marched down the field in the last two minutes and Chris Conley caught a tipped ball intended for the endzone across the middle of the field where he slipped 5 yards short of the goal line. With the clock running and Georgia having no timeouts left; the Bulldogs watched as their championship hopes ticked off the clock.
Many SEC Championship Games are determined by skill, preparation, and as always - a little luck. If history tells us anything; the game this weekend will be no different.
Note: ChatGPT was used for reports on 4 of the 5 games with adjustments/edits made by the author.
Chatgpt. ChatGPT. (n.d.). https://openai.com/chatgpt
Smith, Marshal “SEC Championship” Photo. Dec. 2022.
Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, November 29). SEC Championship Game. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SEC_Championship_Game
About the Author
Marshal Smith is a current Sports Business MBA student at Samford University where he is the Graduate Assistant for the Samford University Center for Sports Analytics. He received his undergraduate degree in Entrepreneurship with a concentration in Sports Marketing from Samford University. Marshal’s goal is to gain valuable sports experiences and eventually teach Sports Business, Marketing and Analytics in the Brock School of Business.