The SEC West’s Greatest Bowl Wins

Alabama defensive coordinator Bill Oliver called it “the greatest individual effort I’ve ever seen.”

He was talking about Tide safety George Teague’s 74-yard sprint down the field to strip the ball out of Miami receiver Lamar Thomas’ hands during Alabama’s 34-13 Sugar Bowl victory over the Hurricanes on January 1, 1993.

One of the most memorable plays in Alabama history occurred during arguably its greatest bowl victory ever. No. 2 Alabama was a heavy underdog against No. 1 Miami, a trash-talking bunch who brazenly let the Tide players hear about it all week on Bourbon Street leading up to the showdown.

But the Tide featured one of its best defenses in history. Names like Teague, John Copeland, Eric Curry, Antonio Langham and Lemanski Hall will live forever in Tide lore. Those guys shut down Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Gino Torretta and Alabama led 27-6 in the third quarter. That’s when Thomas, one of the most widely quoted, confident Miami players that week, blew past Teague and cornerback Willie Gaston down the sideline. He caught Torretta’s pass, and Teague said he “chased him out of panic” due to having to face coach Gene Stallings on the sidelines.

Teague caught him at the Tide 15, snatched the ball, picked it up inside the 10 and returned it to the 13. Though Alabama didn’t get possession — the Tide was offside on the play — it saved a touchdown and kept Miami from getting back in the game.

It was Stallings’ lone national title as Tide coach. It also served as Alabama’s first national championship in 13 years (1979 “Bear” Bryant team) and the only one it would win for the next 17 years (2009 Nick Saban team).

H&A looks at the best bowl wins in history for the rest of the SEC West. Please note that College Football Playoff Games and BCS Championship Games that were not affiliated with a bowl were not considered:

Sugar Bowl, January 3, 2005
Tigers 16, Virginia Tech 13

Coach Tommy Tuberville led his team to a victory to cap off a perfect season that will live in infamy among Tiger fans. Auburn finished 12-0 but didn’t get to play for the BCS championship due to its No. 3 ranking. Instead, Oklahoma and USC played for the title. Despite the disappointment, Auburn survived a defensive struggle despite the presence of talented Tigers’ running back duo of Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown. Despite USC’s 55-19 victory over Oklahoma in the championship game, Auburn still received three first-place votes in the final AP poll. Alas, it wasn’t enough, though this team is still rightly revered in Auburn history.



Orange Bowl, January 2, 1978
Razorbacks 31, Oklahoma 6

How better to finish an outstanding season than destroying No. 2-ranked Oklahoma in Miami? Arkansas, led by first-year coach Lou Holtz, entered 10-1 but was a heavy underdog. Top-ranked Texas had lost to Notre Dame earlier in the day in the Cotton Bowl, so a win by Oklahoma would have undoubtedly given Barry Switzer’s Sooners a national title. Arkansas didn’t let that happen even though Holtz had suspended his top running backs, Ben Cowins and Donny Bobo, for the game. Roland Sales led the way at running back with an Orange Bowl-record 205 rushing yards, and Arkansas defensive tackle Dan Hampton dominated the Sooners. The Razorbacks finished third in both major polls.




Sugar Bowl, January 4, 2004
Tigers 21, Oklahoma 14

Coach Nick Saban led second-ranked LSU to a win over top-ranked Oklahoma in the bowl designated for the BCS title. Both teams entered with a loss in a season full of parity and controversy. For instance, USC fans were outraged that their 11-1 Trojans were left out. LSU’s ferocious defense held Oklahoma Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jason White to 13 of 37 passing for 102 yards. He was also sacked seven times. LSU running back Justin Vincent had 117 yards and a touchdown. Tiger fans celebrated their second national title ever, the first occurring in 1958. 




Ole Miss
Sugar Bowl, January 1, 1960
Rebels 21, LSU 0

Bitter rivals made up this No. 2 vs. No. 3 showdown in New Orleans, and it was John Vaught’s Rebels who earned revenge — and the shutout — in taking home braggin’ rights. Defending national champion LSU had won 7-3 over Ole Miss during the regular season, a game that featured Billy Cannon’s famous “Halloween Run” punt return. But in the rematch, an aggressive Ole Miss record-setting defense held the Tigers to only 74 total yards, including minus-15 rushing yards. The Rebel “D” amazingly gave up only 21 points all season — seven points on three different occasions — en route to a 10-1 record. Ole Miss quarterback Bobby Franklin was named Sugar Bowl MVP, throwing two touchdown passes. Syracuse won the national title and Ole Miss was No. 2 in both major polls.




Mississippi State
Peach Bowl, December 30, 1999
Bulldogs 17, Clemson 7

This was one of the best Bulldog teams in the modern era. Jackie Sherrill’s squad finished 10-2 after beating the ACC’s Tigers in the Georgia Dome and was ranked No. 13 in the final poll. After a scoreless first half, Wayne Madkin’s 2-yard touchdown gave MSU a 10-0 lead and later Madkin’s 15-yard TD pass to Dontae Walker provided the final score. The Bulldogs started out 8-0 this season before losing back-to-back games at Alabama and Arkansas.


Texas A&M
Cotton Bowl, January 4, 2013
Aggies 41, Oklahoma 13

What a gotcha moment for the Aggies. Brash quarterback Johnny Manziel, the Heisman Trophy winner, led the first-year SEC program into a bowl game against former Big 12 rival Oklahoma. The Aggies destroyed them, believing it validated its controversial move and quieted critics that they left the state of Texas behind. Manziel rushed for a bowl-record 229 yards. He also ran for two touchdowns and passed for two more. A&M scored 27 unanswered points in the second half for the win over the Sooners and their high-powered offense led by Landry Jones. This Aggie team will also be remembered for beating eventual national champion Alabama, 29-24, in Tuscaloosa, behind Manziel’s late-game heroics. H&A


Steve Kirk

Steve Kirk

A sports writer and editor for 25-plus years, Steve’s career includes stints at The Birmingham News, Florida Times-Union, The (Columbia, S.C.) State and Birmingham Post-Herald. A native of Huntsville, Alabama, he lives in the Atlanta area.
Steve Kirk

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