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The Three Most Important SEC Football Games of 2008

The 2008 season for the SEC was not one that most folks will hold dear. More teams ended up disappointed at the end than didn't. Even so, here's three games to file away for the history books.

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October 4: Vanderbilt 14 - Auburn 13

When ESPN's College GameDay comes to an SEC game, it's barely news anymore. There are several weekends a year when the question is not if the guys are coming down this way, but rather which game they're going to.

But when they come to the campus at Vanderbilt, that's news.

The Commodores didn't disappoint either. QB Mackenzi Adams came off the bench to deliver a dramatic come-from-behind victory. It wasn't pretty, but afterwards Vandy sat at a 5-0 record for the first time since WWII. The victory also vaulted the Commodores to an unthinkably high No. 13 in the AP Poll.

This game would loom large at the end of the year too. Vanderbilt finished the regular season 6-6, putting VU in its first bowl since 1982. Auburn finished the season a disappointing 5-7 and missed a bowl for the first time since 1999. Switch the outcome and the Tigers send Tommy Tuberville out with a bowl appearance and Vanderbilt is still wondering when its bowl-less streak will end.

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September 27: Alabama 41 - Georgia 30

This was supposed to be the game that reasserted Georgia as a national title contender. The preseason No. 1 team had fallen back a couple spots, but USC lost two days prior. Fellow preseason darlings Florida had also lost earlier in the day, leaving the driver's seat of the SEC East wide open.

Instead, it was bad day for Georgia. So bad that it caused Kyle at Dawg Sports to question the point of human existence. It was the day Alabama asserted itself to the conference and nation and the day that astute observers realized that injuries had left Georgia a lot less than what we all had thought it would be.

Whenever Bama announces its back (which is necessary about every four to five years it seems), it's big news. This game also effectively ended Georgia's two-year-old blackout event, which had appeared to be a budding tradition in Athens. No one saw it coming, and it took most of the rest of the season to fully understand its meaning.

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December 2: Florida 31 - Alabama 20

Given that it determines the conference title, the SEC Championship Game is always one of the most important games of the season. This one also had the extra sizzle of it being No. 1 versus No. 2 and a de facto national semifinal.

The media played it up to be Alabama's power versus Florida's speed, but anyone who had seen the teams play knew Florida was plenty powerful and Alabama was plenty fast. Both proved it, but a dramatic final period allowed the Gators to pull ahead and win. It was Tim Tebow's first second half comeback win in six possible attempts.

The repercussions were enormous and evident. Urban Meyer's Gators went on to secure their second national title in three years. Nick Saban's Tide didn't end up being as "back" as their fans wanted, and they walked into a classic trap game against Utah in the Sugar Bowl. That's big.

Honorable Mention

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September 27: Ole Miss 31 - Florida 30

Perhaps no game was discussed more throughout the 2008 season than Ole Miss' win over Florida. But how important was it really?

It didn't end up affecting either divisional race as the two winners combined to clinch at the earliest point ever. It didn't end up launching Ole Miss into its hot streak, as the Rebels lost their next two games. It also didn't prevent Florida from playing for and winning the national title.

It kept UF from running the table, but the Gators have never done that in a full-length season anyway. It did provide for Tebow's dramatic, plaque-inducing speech, and if you believe some Gator fans, that was the catalyst for Florida becoming the buzz saw it was from October on. That may have been internal motivation, but the takeoff didn't actually occur until the fourth quarter of the Florida-Arkansas game when the Gators' offensive line finally gelled.

It was dramatic and provided for plenty of discussion throughout the season, but within the SEC, it didn't matter much at all. It perhaps was most meaningful in Texas, Utah, and California, since the one-loss teams there felt they had as legit a claim to the title as the one Florida did. For the 47 other states though, this one ended up as nothing more than debate fodder.