Florida SEC's best of decade

Georgia has won more football games than any SEC team over the past 10 years. The Bulldogs have the most bowl victories, winning eight of 10 postseason games. They are also the only SEC team that has won at least eight games each season since 1997.

But the Bulldogs haven't had the SEC's best football program over the past decade.

For that distinction, you have to have a national championship under your belt.

Tennessee, LSU and Florida do. That's why I have them ranked as the top three SEC football programs over the past decade.

But which one is No. 1?

First, you must define the criteria. Winning the national title is big in my book. So are SEC Championships. Overall wins is important. So is your bowl record and how many Top 25 and Top 10 appearances you have.

It's interesting to note that since 1997, Arkansas has more wins (71) than Alabama (67). Yet, Alabama has an SEC Championship and two top 10 finishes. Arkansas hasn't managed either. Each team has two bowl wins during that time.

If you rewarded consistency, Arkansas would get a slight edge. But if you put stock into a championship, the Crimson Tide would have the edge over Arkansas.

But that's for sixth place.

Here's a look at my top five. 5. Auburn. Tommy Tuberville has done an outstanding job, winning or sharing the West Division title five of the last seven years. He's also won 66 games in the past seven years, and posted a 13-0 record in 2004, with every right to claim the national title. In the past decade, Auburn has won one SEC title and had six top 25s, two top 10s, five bowl wins and an 84-39 overall record.

4. Georgia. The Bulldogs have two SEC titles and have been more consistent than Auburn since 1997. The Bulldogs are 8-2 in bowls but just one BCS bowl win. Their 96 wins top the SEC. They are the only SEC team with 10 straight top-25 rankings. Only Florida has had more top 10 showings.

3. LSU. The Tigers have a national championship (2003) and two SEC titles (2003, 2001). They are 3-0 in BCS bowls, matching Florida's record for best in the SEC. The Tigers have overcome losing seasons in 1998 and 1999 to post 70 wins in the past seven years. They have seven top-25 and four top-10 finishes. They are second in the SEC with most bowl wins (6-2).

2. Tennessee. The Vols have a national title (1998) and two SEC titles (1997-98). They have the same number of top-25 and top-10 showings as LSU. UT has won three fewer bowl games than LSU, but the Vols get the nod based on eight more overall wins (94 to 86). Tennessee is the lone top-five program with a losing bowl record (3-6).

1. Florida. Fresh off a national title, the Gators are tied with UT, Georgia and LSU with two conference crowns. Their 94 wins ties UT for second. What separates Florida is an SEC-best five top-10 rankings and 3-0 mark in BCS bowls. Also, Florida is second to Georgia with eight top-25 finishes.

In five years, how will the rankings look?

Based on recruiting, coaching projections and guess work, I'd rank it this way: 1. Florida, 2. Georgia, 3. LSU, 4. Tennessee, 5. Alabama.

A SPORTING EFFORT BY SEC TEAMS

SEC teams represent 24 different sports, but only 11 of those sports are fielded by each SEC team.

On the men's side, all 12 schools have football, basketball, baseball, golf and tennis. On the women's side, each school has basketball, golf, tennis, track, cross country and soccer.

Thus far, the SEC has national championships in seven sports: men's and women's basketball, football, bowling, gymnastics, and men's and women's swimming and diving. The SEC also could win national titles in men's and women's tennis, baseball, softball and golf, among others.

Don't be surprised to see the SEC reach double digits in national championships.


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