The Best SEC Teams, 1996-2007

So, Doug Segrest of The Birmingham News decided to play a simulation tourney, the SoS Playoffs II, to determine the best SEC teams of the last 12 years. Setting the tournament up like a mini World Cup tournament, he structured it as follows:

  • Four groups of five teams each (20 teams total).
  • Each group plays a home-home set against each opponent for a total of 8 eight each.
  • The top two teams in each group advances to the quarterfinals.
  • From there it is single elimination to the finals with each game played at a “neutral” site.

Each game is run using the NCAA Football SimMatchup tool at WhatIfSports. It is a fun little device. He takes the first outcome and then captures the box scores. It only goes back to 1996 in stats, thus the limitation in this bit of entertainment.

As a little disclaimer, I started this post about halfway through the Quarterfinals, so I had no idea of the results when I started.

Group Play

I’m not going to dwell too much on this phase as it was just trying to get us from 20 to 8 teams. You can see the group results for yourself. Some highlights:

  • Georgia went 0-3.
  • Florida and LSU each sent 3 teams to the quarters, though LSU was the 2nd place team in all three of the groups it advances out of. Florida won two groups.
  • The undefeated 2004 Auburn Tigers and the 1998 National Champion Tennessee Volunteers were the other two teams to advance, both winning their groups handily.

The Quarterfinals

Three LSU teams and three Florida teams tackle the single entries from Auburn and Tennessee. The only thing we knew for sure going in was that one of the Florida teams was going to lose (they were paired up).

  • 2001 Florida defeats 2007 LSU, 37-13: Pretty much a domination. I think that LSU is better than their numbers when healthy on defense. Glen Dorsey is a beast that was hampered this year, which hurt the numbers. I don’t want to take away from the Gators though, they were tough that year, only losing two close games at Auburn (23-20) and at home against Tennessee(34-32).
  • 1998 Tennessee defeats 2003 LSU, 30-0: Ouch! That had to hurt. The Volunteers cruise to victory. So much for the two LSU National Champions.
  • 2004 Auburn defeats 2005 LSU, 42-0: It gets worse for LSU as they finish-up 0-3 in the playoffs. LSU didn’t do well in the Group play, with the 2005 version the only team to crack .500 at 5-3. Auburn’s win shows that that going undefeated actually means something here, unlike in 2004(Someone was going to get hosed that year, I just wish it hadn’t been Auburn).
  • 1998 Florida defeats 1996 Florida, 16-12: Spurrier won another one, but that was a given. The only noteworthy thing here is that this was the closest game of the quarters and that the 96 Gators, National Champs, lost to a 5th ranked Gators team. Of course, the 98 Gators two losses came against the two teams that played for the National Championship.

All-in-all, there were no upsets, unless you are an LSU fan. The four group winners advanced. I imagine that on the field, there would have been one upset. Still fun though.

The Semis

A pair of Florida teams and two National Champs made it this far, with the 2004 Tigers being the odd man out. Let’s see what happened.

  • 2001 Florida defeats 1998 Tennessee, 45-16: Florida rolls onward in what was a . I went to the site and ran it 10+ times. Tennessee only won once in a collection of games that favored blow-out scores. Every blowout favored Florida, including a 50-10 annihilation. The numbers just don’t like the Volunteers on this one.
  • 2004 Auburn defeats 1998 Florida, 32-7: The highest scoring team of this little tourney only scored 7 against the 2004 Auburn Tigers. I wasn’t surprised at the result, having run this simulation before this game, but the score was a little more lopsided than I would have guessed. That’s what the numbers will do to you though.

The Final

Time for an Auburn-Florida showdown. This is only appropriate as it was Auburn that caused the most trouble for Spurrier. Auburn was the first (1994), and second (1999) SEC team to win in the Swamp after he took over after the 1989 season. Auburn was one of two only teams, the other being Tennessee, to beat him this 2001 version of the Gators. Looking back, it is a shame they don’t still play every year.

  • 2001 Florida defeats 2004 Auburn, 33-15: After leading at halftime, Auburn was blanked 23-0 in the second half. Having followed the SEC this long, I have trouble with that possibility. Not saying Florida wouldn’t have rallied for the win. Far from it. I imagine a 33-28 victory would have been more likely for Florida against Tommy’s Tigers.

That’s it. It was interesting. Like all simulations, enjoy it for entertainment but with a grain of salt. In college football, emotion can rule the day. Without playing it on the field, you never know.

I just ran both Boise State and Oklahoma from 2006 through the simulator and OK won 4 of the 5 times, including the first. We all know how that one turned out. I’m not saying that Auburn should have beaten Florida. I’m saying that neither of those two teams may have made it that far.


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