10 greatest QB performances in the SEC Championship Game
The SEC Championship Game has brought out some of the greatest moments from the league’s top stars since its inception in 1992.
Fourteen QBs have won the SECCG MVP — more than the other positions combined. Two quarterbacks led their teams to victories in the SEC title game, then went on to win the Heisman Trophy for that season. Both also earned national titles. A third quarterback won a Heisman the year before he led his team to SEC title game glory.
And those three quarterbacks occupy the top spots on our list of the 10 best QB performances in SEC Championship Game history.
We weighed several factors into our ranking. Statistics matter, but so do the stakes, how close the game was and whether a player’s dramatics helped to win late.
Here is our ranking:
10. Matt Mauck, LSU, 2001
This is a classic case of a quarterback’s stats being less important than when he makes plays.
Mauck came off the bench for injured starter Rohan Davey for the Tigers against favored Tennessee. Mauck’s stats don’t jump off the page — 5-of-15 for 67 yards and 1 touchdown passing; 43 yards and 2 TDs running. But those three scores came at critical times for LSU, especially in the fourth quarter when Mauck led the Tigers on two touchdown drives. That’s why he was named MVP. On the first, Mauck scored on a 13-yard run and hit a 2-point conversion pass to give the Tigers a 24-17 lead.
The Tigers’ rally stunned the No. 2 Vols 31-20 in perhaps the biggest upset in SEC title game history.
9. Rex Grossman, Florida, 2000
It sometimes feels like Grossman gets overlooked in Gators history. He didn’t win a Heisman or a national title. But he owns two of the three most prolific passing seasons in school history, including a record of 3,896 yards in 2001 that still stands.
SEC fans got a preview of all that in the 2000 SEC Championship Game. The sophomore threw for 238 yards and 4 TDs on 17-of-26 passing as Florida defeated Auburn 28-6.
Three of those scoring passes came in the first half, two to Reche Caldwell and one to Jabar Gaffney. That gave the Gators a 21-0 lead. Grossman capped his MVP performance by hitting Brian Haugabrook for a 12-yard score in the fourth quarter.
8. James Franklin, Missouri, 2013
Franklin is the only QB on this list who didn’t win the game or MVP.
Mizzou could not stop Auburn on the ground, but for a good chunk of the game Mizzou kept pace in a shootout. Franklin hit Dorial Green-Beckham for a 55-yard touchdown with 18 seconds left in the second quarter to get the black and gold Tigers within a point of the orange and blue ones, 28-27 at halftime.
Auburn won 59-42 on its way to a spot in the national title game. But Franklin stood out. He was responsible for 4 touchdowns, 3 passing and 1 rushing. He was 21-of-37 for 303 yards and ran for 62 yards on 15 carries.
7. Terry Dean, Florida, 1993
In the second SEC title game, Dean helped the Gators avenge their loss to Alabama from the year before.
Dean passed for 256 yards and two scores and ran for a touchdown as Florida defeated Alabama 28-13 in the last SEC title game played at Birmingham’s Legion Field. He was named MVP. A play after the Gators succeeded on a fake punt, Dean hit Jack Jackson for a 43-yard touchdown to give Florida a 21-13 lead late in the third quarter:
UF went on to beat West Virginia for its first Sugar Bowl victory.
6. Blake Sims, Alabama, 2014
Sims set the Crimson Tide’s single-season record with 3,487 passing yards in 2014. That record still stands pending Tua Tagovailoa’s next two (or three) games.
As a senior, Sims saved one of his best games for the SEC Championship. Sims set the SEC CG record for completion percentage at 85.2. He was 23-of-27 passing for 262 yards and 2 TDs as the Crimson Tide defeated Missouri 42-13. He was an easy MVP choice.
Sims hit Christion Jones for a 6-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to help break open a close game. Bama went to the inaugural College Football Playoff before losing to Ohio State in the semifinals.
5. Peyton Manning, Tennessee, 1997
Manning, the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 1997, had an MVP day in the SEC title game and Tennessee needed every bit of it.
The senior threw for 373 yards and 4 touchdowns, including a critical 73-yard strike to Marcus Nash, as the Vols beat Auburn 30-29. That long Manning-to-Nash touchdown was the winner, and the only score in the fourth quarter of a game that Tennessee once trailed 20-7.
The Vols lost to Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.
4. Jason Campbell, Auburn, 2004
Campbell was 27-of-35 — his 77.1 completion percentage was a record in the SEC title game until Sims came along — for 374 yards in Auburn’s 38-28 victory over Tennessee.
The MVP also rushed for 57 yards to help keep his team undefeated. He hit Ben Obomanu for a 43-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to put the game away after the Vols had closed within 31-28:
Auburn was one of three unbeaten teams and got frozen out of the BCS title game. The Tigers won the Sugar Bowl and wound up No. 2 behind USC in the final rankings.
3. Tim Tebow, Florida, 2008
On the way to a national championship, Tebow and the Gators defeated Alabama 31-20. The Crimson Tide entered the game undefeated and ranked No. 1.
Tebow was 14-of-22 for 216 yards and 3 TDs. He also led the Gators in rushing with 57 yards and was named MVP.
Jeff Demps scored on a 1-yard run to give Florida a 24-20 lead early in the fourth quarter, then Tebow hit Riley Cooper for a 5-yard score to put the game away. UF went on to defeat Oklahoma in the BCS Championship Game.
2. Cam Newton, Auburn, 2010
In terms of pure numbers, Newton has a strong argument for the great performance by any player at any position in SEC Championship Game history.
On his way to the Heisman, Newton was 17-of-28 passing for 335 and 4 touchdowns. He also ran for 73 yards and 2 TDs as Auburn defeated South Carolina 56-17.
That lopsided margin was in part because of Newton’s MVP performance, of course. But Auburn was so much better than South Carolina that even if Newton had put on an average performance, the No. 1 Tigers probably would have remained undefeated anyway. Which is why another Heisman winner tops our list.
1. Danny Wuerffel, Florida, 1996
Wuerffel set two SEC Championship Game records that still stand — 401 yards and 6 TD passes.
The Gators had to get over the previous week’s loss to Florida State, which knocked UF out of the No. 1 spot in the AP Poll.
The 1996 Heisman winner helped Florida get over it quickly against the Crimson Tide. He was 20-of-35 passing in a 45-30 victory over Alabama.
Wuerffel led the Gators to the final three of their four consecutive SEC titles. But this was his best performance in three SEC title games — and second consecutive MVP award. He then led UF to its long-awaited first national title when the Gators got revenge on the Seminoles in the Sugar Bowl, winning 52-20.