For an event that started out as exclusive as it did -- Florida vs. Alabama was the SEC match-up four of the first five years that a championship game was held -- the SEC title bout has actually turned into a relatively accessible game. When Missouri walks onto the field for the SEC Championship Game on Saturday, it will become the 10th team to play in the event. (The teams that haven't made it are Ole Miss and a trio you probably expect for different reasons -- Kentucky, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt.)
So, how have SEC teams done in their first trip to the Georgia Dome? Let's take a look.
1992: Alabama* 28, Florida* 21
This is only the first SEC Championship Game appearance for either of these teams because it was the first SEC Championship Game. Alabama was working to preserve its national championship hopes and an undefeated season, while Florida was trying to defend its 1991 SEC title. The Tide defense managed to win the game with a late interception returned for a touchdown, and the Tide went on to claim their last pre-Nick Saban national championship.
1995: Florida 34, Arkansas* 3
The Hogs struck first in their initial trip to Atlanta, scoring on a 36-yard field goal. And that was pretty much the game. Florida reeled off 14 points before the end of the first quarter and coasted from there. Arkansas ended up going to the Russell Athletic Bowl, then know as the Carquest Bowl. They lost there as well. Florida fans usually try to forget what happened next.
1997: Tennessee* 30, Auburn* 29
This was a first for both teams, and the first time anyone other than Florida had represented the SEC East in Atlanta. Peyton Manning threw the game-winning touchdown pass with 11:14 left in the game to win the conference championship. That earned the Vols the right to place Nebraska -- which promptly crushed Tennessee, 42-17, to earn a split national title. But Auburn won the Peach Bowl back when it was still called the Peach Bowl!
1998: Tennessee 24, Mississippi State* 14
The Vols scored twice in the last 6:15 of this game to knock off the Bulldogs and head toward a national championship. This is actually the last time that Tennessee won the SEC -- yes, it's been 15 years since the conference title went to Knoxville. In any case, Tennessee would go on to win the first-ever BCS trophy, while Mississippi State would lose the Cotton Bowl.
2001: LSU* 31, Tennessee 20
The Vols were favored to win this game and play for their second national title in four seasons. The only problem was that they forgot to actually win this game and do the whole playing for the national title thing. It caused chaos in the BCS standings and irked some SEC East teams -- I was a junior at South Carolina at the time -- by bumping basically everyone down a spot in the bowl pecking order. LSU would win the Sugar Bowl, and Tennessee would win the Citrus Bowl
that South Carolina should have gone to when it was still the Citrus Bowl.
2002: Georgia* 30, Arkansas 3
Poor, poor Arkansas. What is it they say about always being the bridesmaid and never the bride? In any case, the Dawgs started off the game by scoring 17 points in the first quarter and never really looking back. It was the first time Georgia won the conference in 20 years. Geogia would win its first BCS bowl game after beating down Arkansas. The Hogs, which only got the SEC title game berth because Alabama was ineligible to begin with, ended up in the Music City Bowl, where they lost to Minnesota.
2010: Auburn 56, South Carolina* 17
Try as I might, I have been unable to completely scrub this game from my memory. South Carolina actually gave Auburn a game for most of the first half, and trailed just 21-14 with 16 seconds left in the second quarter. Then, the Tigers completed a Hail Mary pass as the clock expired, and the rout was on. It ended up being the most lopsided SEC Championship Game in history and knocked South Carolina clear down to the Chick-fil-A Bowl. (They might have ended up there anyway, but the margin in Atlanta certainly clinched it.) The Gamecocks lost that one, as well. Auburn went on to win the national title.
For those of you keeping score at home, that's a 4-5 record overall for teams making their first appearances in the SEC Championship Game, and 2-3 if you take out the two games that featured first-time teams squaring off with each other. That's not a great record, but it's also not a terrible record, particularly given the small sample size. We'll see on Saturday if Missouri is able to even things up for the rookies.