How important is the season-opener for each SEC squad? Well, there have been 21 SEC Championship Games since the SEC first expanded in 1992. Of the 21 league champions crowned since that date, not one — not a single solitary SEC Championship Game winner — has lost in its season-opening contest.
In fact, of the 42 teams to have reached the SEC title game, only four teams that won their own divisions did so after dropping their curtain-raiser.
Here’s the year-by-year breakdown with the SEC Championship Game victor receiving a * designation:
|Year||East Champion in Opener||West Champion in Opener|
|1992||Florida 59-21 over S. Jose St.||Alabama* 25-8 over Vanderbilt|
|1993||Florida* 44-6 over Arkansas St.||Alabama 31-17 over Tulane|
|1994||Florida* 70-21 over N. Mexico St.||Alabama 42-13 over UT-Chattanooga|
|1995||Florida* 45-21 over Houston||Arkansas 14-17 to SMU|
|1996||Florida* 55-21 over SW Louisiana||Alabama 21-7 over Bowling Green|
|1997||Tennessee* 52-17 over Texas Tech||Auburn 28-17 over Virginia|
|1998||Tennessee* 34-33 over Syracuse||Mississippi St. 42-0 over Vanderbilt|
|1999||Florida 55-26 over W. Michigan||Alabama* 28-17 over Vanderbilt|
|2000||Florida* 40-19 over Ball St.||Auburn 35-21 over Wyoming|
|2001||Tennessee 33-9 over Syracuse||LSU* 48-17 over Tulane|
|2002||Georgia* 31-28 over Clemson||Arkansas 41-14 over Boise St.|
|2003||Georgia 30-0 over Clemson||LSU* 49-7 over UL-Monroe|
|2004||Tennessee 42-17 over UNLV||Auburn* 31-0 over UL-Monroe|
|2005||Georgia* 48-13 over Boise St.||LSU 35-31 over Arizona St.|
|2006||Florida* 34-7 over S. Miss||Arkansas 14-50 to Southern Cal|
|2007||Tennessee 31-45 to California||LSU* 45-0 over Mississippi St.|
|2008||Florida* 56-10 over Hawaii||Alabama 34-10 over Clemson|
|2009||Florida 62-3 over Charleston So.||Alabama* 34-24 over Virginia Tech|
|2010||S. Carolina 41-13 over S. Miss||Auburn* 52-26 over Arkansas St.|
|2011||Georgia 21-35 to Boise St.||LSU* 40-27 over Oregon|
|2012||Georgia 45-23 over Buffalo||Alabama* 41-14 over Michigan|
There you have it. Just four teams — Arkansas ’95, Arkansas ’06, Tennessee ’07 and Georgia ’11 — have bounced back from opening day losses to win their division. But not a single overall SEC champion from the title game era has ever rebounded from a Day One defeat.
Obviously, past results don’t necessarily have any impact on future outcomes. The fact that no team has lost an opener and gone on to win the SEC Championship Game in 21 seasons of action might actually mean that the league is overdue for just such an occurrence.
Still, SEC fans might want to take another long gander at their favorite schools’ openers. History suggests any opening day losers can scratch “Gatorade shower in Atlanta” off their to-do lists.
North Carolina at South Carolina
Ole Miss at Vanderbilt
Alabama vs Virginia Tech (Atlanta)
UL-Lafayette at Arkansas
Washington State at Auburn
Toledo at Florida
Georgia at Clemson
Kentucky vs Western Kentucky (Nashville)
LSU vs TCU (Arlington)
Mississippi State vs Oklahoma State (Houston)
Murray State at Missouri
Austin Peay at Tennessee
Rice at Texas A&M