As of Thursday morning, No. 1 Alabama is a 24.5-point favorite at the Wynn Las Vegas to topple No. 15 Florida in the 2016 SEC Championship Game. If the number holds, it will equal the largest line in title game history. In 1995, the Gators walloped Arkansas 34-3 spotting as many points. Can Florida pull off a miracle with the tables turned? History tells us it’s highly unlikely.
Upsets in the SEC Championship Game are rare. Just four underdogs have won outright in 24 contests, not including the 2013 Auburn-Missouri tilt which kicked off a pick ‘em at many sports books. Even more ominous for Gator fans is the fact that no team has overcome a spread of more than a touchdown in 12 attempts. Here is a glimpse at the only underdog victories, ranked from least to greatest by point spread.
December 3, 2005—Georgia 34, LSU 17
Line: LSU -2
Synopsis: Georgia and LSU entered this matchup with the No. 4 and No. 5 scoring defenses in the nation. Under new head coach Les Miles and first-year coordinator Bo Pelini, the Tigers had given up 17 points or fewer in nine straight contests. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, yielded 20 or fewer in every game but one.
LSU kicked off chalk in every regular-season game. With a 10-1 record, it owned a 16.5 average margin of victory. Georgia, meanwhile, took a 9-2 record into the Dome with a 14.0 points differential on the season.
Bulldog quarterback D.J. Shockley earned MVP honors in the win after accounting for 3 touchdowns overall: 1 running and 2 passing to wide receiver Sean Bailey. Georgia carried a 21-7 lead into the half and put the game away in the fourth quarter with a Tim Jennings pick-6 off LSU quarterback Matt Flynn, who replaced starter Jamarcus Russell in the third quarter after an injury.
December 5, 2009—Alabama 32, Florida 13
Line: Florida -5
Synopsis: Florida and Alabama were miles ahead of the rest of the SEC in 2009. Each team entered the game undefeated at 12-0. It was the only time two undefeated teams squared off for the crown.
The East and West winners proved fairly even against conference competition prior to the matchup, making the line (-5) appear a bit inflated. The Gators owned a 15.6-point average margin of victory over SEC foes, while the Crimson Tide claimed a 15.4 mark.
Alabama’s run game overwhelmed Florida’s defense in the win when it accrued 260 yards on the ground. Tailback Mark Ingram accounted for 113 yards and 3 touchdowns on 28 carries. The Gators had not given up more than 133 total rushing yards in a game up to that point of the season.
The Crimson Tide went on to claim the national title and stay undefeated. Florida, though, was the oddsmakers’ favorite for the national title prior to the season. The Gators were the nation’s top choice before Week 1 at +225 odds, Alabama (+1200) sat as the sixth selection.
December 4, 1999—Alabama 34, Florida 7
Line: Florida -6.5
Synopsis: Alabama beat Florida 40-39 in overtime at The Swamp in Week 6. The Gators were 16-point favorites at kickoff for that one. The win came two weeks after the Crimson Tide slipped up at home to Louisiana Tech, losing 29-28 as 13.5-point chalk.
Although Alabama boasted a 7-1 conference record entering the Georgia Dome, it wasn’t winning in style early on. The team claimed just one of its first six wins by more than a touchdown. But the Tide picked up steam late, beating Mississippi State and rival Auburn by double digits before the championship.
Florida, also with a 7-1 SEC record entering the matchup, was quite the opposite. It beat five of eight conference opponents by 16 points or more, yet fell to in-state rivals Florida State 30-23 the week before playing for the conference title.
The Gators jumped out to a 7-0 lead on the first drive of the game with a trick play. Tight end Erron Kinney collected a 3-yard touchdown pass from running back Earnest Graham to cap off a 55-yard drive in 1:40 minutes. Alabama got the last laugh, however, scoring 34 points unanswered. The Crimson Tide defense snagged 4 interceptions in the win.
December 8, 2001—LSU 31, Tennessee 20
Line Tennessee -7
Synopsis: Florida was the team to beat in the SEC in 2001. Tennessee did just that 34-32 as 17.5 point underdogs in the regular-season finale to play in Atlanta. The game had been pushed back due to the September 11th attacks.
The Volunteers entered the title game with a 7-1 conference mark and held its own in an SEC East that had four teams ranked in the AP Top 25 in the final poll. LSU, meanwhile, limped into its first SEC championship with a 5-3 record to top an unconvincing West. The Tigers were the only ranked team in the division at No. 20 prior to the matchup.
LSU lost to Tennessee 26-18 in Knoxville as 10-point underdogs in Week 6. Controlling the run game and the clock helped it wear down the Volunteers in the title game as the Tigers outscoring them 21-3 in the second half. LSU out-rushed Tennessee 134-50, generating 34:21 time of possession.