In the 2008 SEC championship game, Florida scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns -- one on a short Jeff Demps run, the other on a pass from Tim Tebow to Riley Cooper -- to ice a 31-20 win over Nick Saban's upstart Alabama and clinch a spot in the BCS Championship Game. It was the second league title in three years for Urban Meyer's Gators and the 11th in 16 years for a team from the SEC East.
At the time, we didn't realize just how much of an "old guard vs. new guard" moment we were witnessing. Florida is 0-4 in the conference title game since -- with all four losses coming to the Tide -- and the East has secured only a single title in the past 12 years: Georgia's 2017 romp over Auburn.
Granted, the days of SEC divisions could be numbered. With its announced move to 16 teams, the league will likely have to think hard about moving both from eight to nine conference games and to more of a pod-based structure to assure that everyone in this increasingly enormous conference plays each other semi-regularly.
If these are the final years for the SEC East and West, however, they'll in one way go out living up, or down, to their respective reputations. In February's SP+ projections, the five lowest-projected teams in the league were all from the East, the division that has lost 11 of the last 12 conference championship games.
The division champion probably won't be overmatched, however. Reigning champ Florida might struggle to match last year's level, but Georgia, which won in 2017, nearly repeated in 2018 and finally seemed to have its revamped offense in place late last season, might be ready for another stiff challenge. The East might have a chance to score another ring or two before it maybe goes the way of the dodo bird.
Let's preview the East!
Every week through the summer, Bill Connelly will preview another division from the Group of 5 and Power 5 exclusively for ESPN+, ultimately including all 130 FBS teams. The previews will include 2020 breakdowns, 2021 previews and a brief history of each team in one handy chart. The series has thus far covered the Conference USA East and West, the MAC East and West, the MWC Mountain and West, the Sun Belt West and East, the top and bottom half of the AAC, the seven Independents, the ACC Atlantic and Coastal, the Pac-12 North and South, the top and bottom half of the Big 12 and the Big Ten West and East.
Derek Mason lost 16 of his last 17 SEC games in charge of the Commodores. Now it's Clark Lea's turn to see if he can unearth a top-secret winning formula.