As we get ready to say goodbye to the BCS, we can't without taking a look back at two moments that meant so much to the SEC.
One event showed the SEC's true dominance, while the other left the entire conference feeling jilted and unsatisfied. Though the SEC has benefited from eight BCS national titles during the BCS' 14 years of existence, one season still sticks out as a major loss for the league when one team went undefeated but was left out of the big game. To make matters worse, the champion that season was eventually stripped of its title.
Still, the SEC struck back with a fury, winning six of the next seven national championships, including six in a row.
We're heading down memory lane as we take a look at the best and worst moments for the SEC during the BCS era:
The SEC truly showed its muscle in 2011-12. After winning five straight BCS national titles, the SEC entered the Allstate BCS National Championship Game with the guarantee that the conference would come away with its sixth consecutive title. LSU and Alabama met inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans a couple months after their epic 9-6 defensive stalemate on Nov. 5. LSU entered as the clear No. 1, after going 13-0 with eight wins coming against ranked opponents and seven of those being by double digits. Controversy surrounded Alabama’s championship berth, as the Tide failed to reach the SEC championship game, let alone win the SEC West, but Alabama benefited from Oklahoma State losing to unranked Iowa State on Nov. 18. Alabama rose to No. 2 in the BCS standings and never looked back.
Alabama got its revenge in LSU’s backyard by dismantling the Tigers 21-0, showing off a historic defense that finished first nationally in most major defensive categories. People outside the SEC complained about the all-SEC title game, but there was no denying that LSU and Alabama deserved to play for it all. Outside of their first loss to LSU, the Crimson Tide dominated their opponents, outscoring them by nearly 30 points a game and allowing double-digit scoring only five times.
The BCS got it right, and it greatly benefited the SEC.
The downside of having two SEC teams in the title game was that the SEC suffered its first BCS title game loss, but ensuring its sixth straight title only reiterated the dominance the SEC has had during the BCS era.
The worst moment for the SEC during the BCS era came in 2004, when undefeated Auburn was left out of the national championship. The Tigers became the fourth SEC team to go undefeated in the past two decades, but the first without a national title.
Even after running the table in the SEC, having one of the nation’s best defenses and having just two teams come within single digits of the Tigers during the regular season, Auburn was left out of the Orange Bowl, only to watch USC completely dominate Oklahoma 55-19. Auburn beat Virginia Tech 16-13 in the Sugar Bowl on its way to beating five top-15 teams to get to 13-0.
What hurt Auburn even more was that USC’s title was eventually stripped after running back Reggie Bush was ruled ineligible by the NCAA, meaning he shouldn’t have been allowed to play for USC in 2004.
Outside of Auburn’s romp through the SEC was the tremendous talent that team possessed. Auburn produced four first-round picks in the 2005 NFL draft, including three of the top nine selections. Eight of Auburn’s defensive starters went on to play in the NFL.
On offense, the Tigers led the SEC in scoring offense (32.1) and were equipped with Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown, who combined for 2,078 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns. Quarterback Jason Campbell passed for 2,700 yards and 20 touchdowns, and Auburn scored 30 points or more in nine games.
Auburn’s slight stung the SEC, but the conference went on a roll after that, winning six of the next seven national titles, including Auburn's 2010-11 title.