In fact, in eight of the previous 11 games, both spots in the game were decided before the Thanksgiving weekend. Below is an in-depth look at how each year's races for the SEC Championship Game looked coming down the stretch:
1992 - Both races decided before final weekend. Florida and Georgia (6-2 in the SEC) were co-champions in the Eastern Division. The Gators won the tie-breaker by virtue of a 26-24 win over the Bulldogs earlier in the season. Alabama (8-0) was the outright Western Division champion, even with a game against Auburn in the final weekend, which the Tide won, 17-0.
1993 - Both races decided before final weekend. Florida won the Eastern Division and Alabama won the Western Division. The Gators finished 1/2 game ahead of Tennessee (UT tied Alabama, 17-17). Alabama, at 5-2-1, finished two games ahead of second-place Arkansas. Auburn was 8-0 in the SEC, but was ineligible for the conference title.
1994 - Both races decided before final weekend. Florida won the Eastern Division, finishing SEC play at 7-1, two games ahead of Tennessee. Alabama won the Western Division with an 8-0 SEC mark, three games ahead of Miss. State.
1995 - Both races decided before final weekend. Florida won the Eastern Division, finishing SEC play at 8-0, one game ahead of Tennessee. Arkansas won the Western Division with a 6-2 SEC mark, one game ahead of Auburn and Alabama.
1996 - Both races decided before final weekend. Florida won the Eastern Division, finishing SEC play at 8-0, one game ahead of Tennessee. Alabama won the Western Division with a 6-2 SEC mark, tying LSU. However, the Tide defeated the Tigers, 26-0, earlier in the year to win the tie-breaker.
1997 - Eastern Division race not finalized until after the final weekend. Tennessee defeated Vanderbilt, 17-10, to win the division on the final weekend. Tennessee, at 7-1 in the SEC, finished one game ahead of Georgia and Florida. Auburn had won the Western Division with a 6-2 SEC mark, tying LSU. However, Auburn defeated LSU, 31-28, earlier in the year to win the tie-breaker.
1998 - Western Division race not finalized until after the final weekend. Miss. State defeated Ole Miss, 28-6, on Thanksgiving night, to win the division on the final weekend. Arkansas and Miss. State finished in a tie for the division title. However, Miss. State defeated Arkansas, 22-21, earlier that season to win the tie-breaker. Arkansas defeated LSU 41-14 on the final weekend, but when State defeated Ole Miss, the chase for the Championship Game had been won. Tennessee had clinched the Eastern Division before the final weekend and defeated Vanderbilt, 41-0, to finished the SEC at 8-0.
1999 - Both races decided before final weekend. Florida won the Eastern Division, finishing SEC play at 7-1, one game ahead of Tennessee. Alabama won the Western Division with a 7-1 SEC mark, one game ahead of Miss. State.
2000 - Both races decided before final weekend. Florida won the Eastern Division, finishing SEC play at 7-1, two games ahead of South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee. Auburn won the Western Division with a 6-2 SEC mark, one game ahead of LSU. LSU lost to Arkansas in the final weekend, 14-3. Even if the Tigers would have beaten the Razorbacks, Auburn would have won the tie-breaker over LSU due to a 34-17 win earlier in the season.
2001 - Both races go down to the final weekend. Due to game postponements on Sept. 15, games were reschedule for Dec. 1. On that weekend, Tennessee defeated Florida, 34-32, in Gainesville, and LSU defeated Auburn, 27-14, in Baton Rouge, to clinch berths in the SEC Championship Game. The Vols won the East with a 7-1 mark while LSU had a 5-3 mark and tied with Auburn for the West, but won the head-to-head tiebreaker.
2002 - Western division race not finalized until after the final weekend. Georgia clinched the Eastern Division championship on Nov. 16 after defeating Auburn, 24-21, in Auburn. The 7-1 Bulldogs finish one game ahead of Florida, which was 6-2. Arkansas wins the Western Division on the season's final weekend, defeating LSU, 21-20, in Little Rock on Nov. 29. The Razorbacks, LSU Tigers and Auburn Tigers are tied at 5-3 but Arkansas wins the head-to-head tiebreakers.
SEC in this Week's Associated Press Poll (Nov. 24)1. Oklahoma (65) 12-0
2. Southern California 10-1
3. LSU 10-1
4. Michigan 10-2
5. GEORGIA 9-2
6. Texas 9-2
7. TENNESSEE 9-2
8. Ohio State 10-2
9. Florida State 9-2
10. Miami (Fla.) 9-2
11. FLORIDA 8-3
12. Purdue 9-3
13. Iowa 9-3
14. Kansas State 10-3
15. Miami (Ohio) 10-1
16. Washington State 9-3
17. OLE MISS 8-3
18. Boise State 10-1
19. Texas Christian 10-1
20. Pittsburgh 8-3
21. Virginia Tech 8-3
22. Bowling Green 9-2
23. Oklahoma State 9-3
24. West Virginia 7-4
25. Nebraska 8-3
Others (SEC Only): Arkansas (84)
2003 SEC Bowl Tie-InsSEC CHAMPION - Bowl Championship Series The BCS consists of the Rose Bowl, Nokia Sugar Bowl, FedEx Orange Bowl and the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. The conferences with automatic berths include the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and Southeastern Conferences. ABC-TV will televise the four Bowl Championship Series games.
The Bowl Championship Series guarantees a matchup between college football's top two teams in a true national championship game.
Any Division I-A independent team or champion of Conference USA or any other Division I-A conference which is ranked sixth or higher in the BCS standings, will also be eligible for the Bowl Championship Series.
The BCS also guarantees automatic selection to the highest-ranked at-large team should that team be ranked either third or fourth in the final BCS standings of the regular season.
Otherwise, any Division I-A team can qualify for selection in the BCS if they have won at least 9 college football games during the most recently completed regular season (not to include wins in exempted games) and are ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS standings.
At the conclusion of the 2003 regular season, the Nokia Sugar Bowl will host the National Championship contest. The game will be played on Jan. 4 at 8 p.m. ET in New Orleans. The Nokia Sugar Bowl shall select the top two teams ranked in the BCS final regular season standings. Other BCS games following the 2003 regular season include the FedEx Orange Bowl on Jan. 1 at 8:30 p.m. ET, the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2 at 8 p.m. ET and the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 at 5 p.m. ET.
The BCS uses regional consideration regarding team selection. Specifically, as a member of the BCS, the Rose Bowl will host the Big Ten and Pac-10 champions in those years in which either the Rose Bowl does not have the national championship game or the Big Ten and Pac-10 champion is not ranked No. 1 or No. 2. Other "regional consideration" tie-ins include the SEC champion in the Sugar Bowl, the ACC or Big East champion in the Orange Bowl and the Big 12 champion in the Fiesta Bowl.
Since the Sugar Bowl is hosting the national championship and if the SEC representative is not ranked first or second, that team would be available to play in any other BCS bowl.
Capital One Bowl (Orlando, Fla.) Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET, ABC-TV [Opponent - Big Ten]
3rd through 5th Selections (Listed Alphabetically)
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (Atlanta, Ga.) Jan. 2, 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN [Opponent - ACC]
Outback Bowl (Tampa, Fla.) Jan. 1, 11 a.m. ET, ESPN [Opponent - Big Ten]
SBC Cotton Bowl (Dallas, Texas) Jan. 2, 2 p.m. ET, FOX [Opponent - Big 12]
6th and 7th Selections (Listed Alphabetically)
Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl presented by Bridgestone (Nashville, Tenn.) Dec. 31, Noon ET, ESPN [Opponent - Big Ten]
MainStay Independence Bowl (Shreveport, La.) Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN [Opponent - Big 12]
EV1.net Houston Bowl (Houston, Texas) Dec. 30, 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN [Opponent - Big 12]
Active Career Sack Leaders1. 20 - Antwan Odom, Alabama 2000-
2. 19 - David Pollack, Georgia 2001-
3. 17 - Reggie Torbor, Auburn 2000-
4. 13.5 - Bobby McCray, Florida 2000-
5. 12.5 - Nautyn McKay-Loescher, Alabama 2000-
6. 11.5 - Charlie Anderson, Ole Miss 2000-
7. 10 - Constantin Ritzmann, Tennessee 1999- and Jesse Mitchell, Ole Miss 2000-
9. 8.5 - Karlos Dansby, Auburn 2001- and Jeremy Caudill, Kentucky 2000-
SEC Team-by-Team NotesALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (4-8, 2-6 SEC)
Soph. Brandon Brooks returned the opening kickoff of the second half 96 yards for a TD ... It was the first KO return for a touchdown for Alabama since Shaun Alexander's 76-yard return against Louisiana Tech on Sept. 18, 1999 ... Junior Ray Hudson returned after a one-game absence and accounted for 105 yards rushing (23) and receiving (82) against Auburn ... TE Clint Johnston returned to actio against Auburn after missing the Miss. State and LSU games with injuries ... SS Roman Harper had an interception and a fumble recovery against Auburn ... Senior Lance Taylor caught his first career TD pass in the fourth quarter.
ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS (8-3, 4-3 SEC)
Arkansas picked off six Mississippi State passes, marking the most interceptions in a game by the Razorbacks since stealing nine against SMU in 1970 ... TB Cedric Cobbs became the sixth different Razorback to rush for 1,000 yards in a season after rushing for 150 yards against State ... He now stands at 1,010 this season with LSU this week ... Arkansas continues to lead the SEC and is fifth in the nation in rushing, averaging 240.4 yards per game ... The Hogs are also tops in the SEC in scoring, averaging 35.0 points per game, and total offense, averaging 447.4 yards per game.
AUBURN TIGERS (7-5, 5-3 SEC)
Auburn's touchdown on its first play from scrimmage (80 yard run by Carnell Williams) is believed to be the first time the Tigers have scored on their opening play since the Houston game in 1957 ... RB Carnell Williams moved past Stacy Danley (2,427) into sixth place in Auburn history for career rushing yards with 2,598 ... QB Jason Campbell moved past Ben Leard (4,289) for sixth in Auburn history for career passing yards with 4,461 ... WR Jeris McIntyre had at least two receptions for the 12th straight game. It is the longest such streak since Karsten Bailey did it in 22 straight games from 1996-98.
FLORIDA GATORS (8-3, 6-2 SEC)
Ciatrick Fason rushed for a career-high 190 yards against South Carolina, the 10th highest total in Gator history ... Fason becomes the first Gator to hit the 190-yard mark since Errict Rhett ran for 193 in 1992 against Kentucky ... Freshmen have accounted for 13 of UF's 42 TDs this season (30.9 percent) ... The Gators have shutout opponents in the third quarter in five straight games ... Ole Miss was the last team to score in the third quarter against Florida - a 23-yard field goal ... Florida has outscored opponents in the third quarter, 85-35, this season ... CB Keiwan Ratliff has had an interception in five straight games.
GEORGIA BULLDOGS (9-2, 6-2 SEC)
Georgia has won 14 straight at Sanford Stadium, the second longest such streak in school history ... With three field goals and three PATs against Kentucky, PK Billy Bennett has become the SEC's career leader in points scored with 382 ... The Bulldogs have lost just four fumbles this season, an SEC low ... Georgia leads the SEC in pass defense, allowing 164.3 yards per game, and total defense, allowing 249.3 yards per game ... Georgia and Florida are tied for the SEC lead with just eight TDs allowed via the air ... The Bulldog defense allowed just 212 total yards, including 75 yards rushing, against Kentucky.
KENTUCKY WILDCATS (4-7, 1-6 SEC)
QB Jared Lorenzen was 21-of-34 for 137 yards against Georgia ... The senior is now second in SEC history wtih 845 career completions and needs 18 against Tennessee to become the league's leader (863, Peyton Manning, Tennessee, 1994-97) ... WR/RS Derek Abney had seven catches for 23 yards against Georgia and now has 197 career receptions, which is fourth on the SEC career list ... Abney needs 11 receptions against Tennessee to become the league's all-time leader, passing fellow Wildcat Craig Yeast (208, 1995-98) ... Abney is also second in SEC career all-purpose yards with 5,817.
LSU TIGERS (10-1, 6-1 SEC)
LSU's defense has not allowed a point on the road in the first half in 2003, as a team the Tigers has allowed 26 points in the first half all season, including the seven by Ole Miss today ... LSU is 10-1 for the first time since 1961 ... Nick Saban is the second coach in LSU history to record two 10-win seasons (Paul Dietzel won at least 10 games in each of the 1958 and 1961 seasons) ... LSU won all of its regular season road games for the first time since 1997 ... WR Michael Clayton has caught at least one pass in 37 straight games, every game of his career ... QB Matt Mauck is now LSU's single-season TD pass leader with 23.
OLE MISS REBELS (8-3, 6-1 SEC)
The LSU-UM attendance of 62,552 set a new Vaught-Hemingway Stadium/Hollingsworth Field record, eclipsing the previous mark of 61,140 set last year against Florida ... With 227 yards of total offense vs. LSU, the Rebels set a new school record for total offense in a season with 4,823 yards of offense through 11 games to break the mark of 4,663 set last season in 13 games ... Ole Miss recorded three sacks to extend its streak to 27 straight games with at least one QB sack. The Rebels also have at least one sack in 44 of their last 45 games ... WR Chris Collins has now had at least one reception in 33 straight games.
MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS (2-9, 1-6 SEC)
Jackie Sherrill will patrol the sidelines for Miss. State one more time, in the annual Egg Bowl against Ole Miss on Thursday night ... Sherrill's 180 NCAA Division I-A wins is fourth among active coaches and his .601 winning percentage is 25th among all active coaches (180-119-4) ... His 180 total wins are 28th all-time among all Division I-A coaches ... Soph. RS/RB Nick Turner had another productive game against Arkansas with 120 all-purpose yards (75 KOR, 25 Rush; 11 Rec.; 9 PR) ... Turner is second in the SEC and 18th in the nation in all-purpose rushing with 1,580 yards (143.6 per game).
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS (5-7, 2-6 SEC)
Tight end Brian Brownlee caught his first two career touchdown passes against Clemson ... The attendance of 83,987 in the CU-USC game was the fifth largest ever at Williams-Brice Stadium ... Total attendance for eight home games this season was 646,754, an average of 80,844 ... Six of eight South Carolina games this season drew more than 80,000 ... The 63 points by Clemson were the most ever by the Tigers against South Carolina ... Deandre Eiland had his second interception of the season and the ninth of his career against the Tigers ... Freshman RB Demetris Summers had 61 yards rushing on 12 carries.
TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS (9-2, 5-2 SEC)
Vols are now 72-4 in November games since 1985, including a 42-2 mark at Neyland Stadium (only two losses to No. 1 ranked teams) ... The Vols registered their third consecutive shutout of Vanderbilt ... UT won 38-0 in 2001 and 24-0 in 2002 ... UT has a 52-1 record in SEC games in November since 1985 ... Vols finish 2003 with a 5-1 home record ... Set UT mark for consecutive passes without an interception today (143), breaking Peyton Manning's mark of 132 set in 1995 ... Threw first pick in five games in second quarter to end streak at 143 ... UT has picked off two passes in each of the last three games and has 12 INTs this season.
VANDERBILT COMMODORES (2-10, 1-7 SEC)
Soph. Kwane Doster finished the regular season with 1,039 all-purpose yards, which is currently fifth in the SEC ... Doster has rushed for 386 yards and has 571 kickoff return yards as well as 82 on receptions ... QB Jay Cutler finishes his sophomore campaign, completing 187-of-327 passes for 2,347 yards with 18 TDs and 13 INTs ... Another soph., WR Erik Davis, had 41 receptions for 638 yards and 8 TDs ... His 3.42 catch per game average is ninth in the SEC ... In two seasons, Cutler has 4,472 total offensive yards (692 rushing; 3,780 passing), an average of 186.3 yards per game.