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Top 5 SEC Championship Games of All Time

There have been some unforgettable matchups in the SEC Football Championship Game's 30-year history.
Josh Jacobs, Alabama Crimson Tide Football in 2018 SEC Championship Game

Alabama and Georgia have met three times in the SEC Championship Game, including in 2018, which the Crimson Tide won with a late touchdown to cap off their comeback.

Fans across the Deep South will make the argument that the SEC is ahead of everyone else. In terms of conference championship games, that is certainly true.

Currently, all 10 FBS conferences host a championship game. The SEC was the first major college conference to host one. The tradition began 30 years ago.

As Georgia and LSU get set to do battle in the 31st SEC Football Championship Game, we’ll look back on the top five contests in the matchup's history.

First, here’s a look at those that narrowly missed making the list:

Note: Ranking in () is from the AP Top 25.

Honorable Mention:

1998: (1) Tennessee 24, (23) Mississippi State 14 

2004: (3) Auburn 38, (15) Tennessee 28 

2006: (4) Florida 38, (8) Arkansas 28 

2007: (5) LSU 21, (15) Tennessee 14 

2008: (2) Florida 31, (1) Alabama 20 

2020: (1) Alabama 52, (11) Florida 46 

5. 1994: (6) Florida 24, (3) Alabama 23 

The first SEC Football Championship Game played in Atlanta was also the first – and still one of only two – decided by a single point. Florida and Alabama split the first two SEC title games played in Birmingham, but in the third straight championship matchup between the schools, it was Steve Spurrier and the Gators who emerged victorious. Undefeated at 11-0, Alabama trailed 17-16 after three quarters but took its first lead midway through the final period when Dwayne Rudd returned a Danny Wuerffel interception 23 yards for a touchdown. Crimson Tide head coach Gene Stallings elected to kick the extra point to make it a six-point game – a decision he would have liked to have had back. Wuerffel atoned by leading a 10-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in a two-yard touchdown toss to Chris Doering. Florida’s Eddie Lake intercepted Alabama’s Jay Barker in the final minute to seal the win.

4. 1997: (3) Tennessee 30, (11) Auburn 29 

Tennessee and future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning infamously went 0-4 against Florida in his collegiate career, but his final SEC contest ended with Manning hoisting a trophy. After falling behind against Auburn in the 1997 SEC Football Championship Game – the first appearance for both schools – Manning connected on a pair of long touchdown passes to deliver the Volunteers their first SEC title in the new format. Down 27-17 late in the third, Manning connected with Peerless Price on a 46-yard touchdown pass. The extra point was blocked and returned for two Auburn points, but a 73-yard hookup from Manning to Marcus Nash early in the fourth put Tennessee in front for good, 30-29. Neither team scored over the final 11 minutes. Manning finished with 373 yards and four touchdown passes in the victory.

3. 1992: (2) Alabama 28, (12) Florida 21 

The inaugural SEC Football Championship Game at Legion Field in Birmingham looked to be on the verge of making the conference rethink the whole idea. At 11-0 and ranked No. 2 in the country, Alabama needed a win to keep its national title hopes alive. Florida had rallied from a 21-7 deficit to tie the game and had the football with less than four minutes to go. Fortunately for the Crimson Tide, Antonio Langham was there to save the day. Langham’s 27-yard return for a touchdown off Florida quarterback and two-time SEC Player of the Year Shane Matthews' interception with 3:16 to play ultimately decided the contest. Alabama went on to rout No. 1 Miami in the Sugar Bowl to win its first national championship since 1979.

2. 2018: (1) Alabama 35, (4) Georgia 28 

In the contest to decide the 2017 national championship, Tua Tagovailoa relieved an ineffective Jalen Hurts and rallied Alabama from 13 points down to beat Georgia in overtime. In the 2018 Football SEC Championship Game, the roles were reversed. After Tagovailoa struggled and then suffered an ankle injury, head coach Nick Saban turned to Hurts, who helped erase what was once a 28-14 deficit early in the third quarter. Hurts capped a 16-play, 80-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to tie the game with a little more than five minutes remaining. After a failed fake punt by Georgia, Hurts ran in the game-winning touchdown from 15 yards out with 1:04 left. The Crimson Tide would go on to play for the national championship but were routed by Clemson, 44-16.

1. 2012: (2) Alabama 32, (3) Georgia 28 

The top spot on the list is another Alabama victory over Georgia. In what was a de facto national semifinal, the Crimson Tide erased a 21-10 third-quarter deficit to win the SEC crown. Alabama went ahead for good with 3:15 remaining when AJ McCarron connected with Amari Cooper for a 44-yard touchdown. With just seconds remaining, the Bulldogs were set up with first-and-goal at the 8-yard-line. Quarterback Aaron Murray’s pass was deflected but still caught by wide receiver Chris Conley at the 5. But Georgia couldn't get off another snap and the game ended. Eddie Lacy ran for 181 yards and two touchdowns to claim MVP honors. The Tide would go on to blast No. 1 Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game to claim a third national championship in four years.

— Written by Mike Ferguson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.