As a new era of college football and its postseason gets underway, let’s take a moment to look back at the oft-controversial, yet beloved Bowl Championship Series era.

The SEC became the conference we know and love today by winning nine of 16 national championships during the BCS era, along with a host of other bowl games.

As a highly-anticipated bowl season nears, Saturday Down South is looking back at the five biggest SEC bowl wins of the BCS era.

5. 1998 BCS National Championship Game: Tennessee symbolized the patriarch of the SEC’s success during the BCS era with its 1998 national title over Florida State in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl. In their first season without Peyton Manning, the Volunteers — led by Tee Martin and Peerless Price — capped a 13-0 season with its first championship since 1951. Martin completed 11-of-18 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns, the most memorable coming on a 79-yard strike to Price. A Fiesta Bowl record crowd of 84,470 saw the first BCS National Championship Game, only the second meeting between the Volunteers and Seminoles.

4. 2003 Cotton Bowl: Eli Manning earned Ole Miss its first bowl win since 1970 with the 31-38 win over Oklahoma State. Manning returned to Oxford for his senior season for exactly what the Rebels accomplished — 10 wins and a January bowl game. Manning finished 22-of-31 for 259 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing for another score. The win capped the Rebels’ first 10-win season since 1971, and Manning finished the season with more than 3,600 yards passing and 29 touchdowns.

3. 2008 Music City Bowl: Bobby Johnson’s Vanderbilt team began the season 5-0, rising as high as No. 13 in the Associated Press Top 25, before losing six of its final seven games. The Commodores’ 6-6 mark made them bowl eligible for the first time in 53 years and locked up the first season .500 or better since 1982. Vanderbilt beat a 9-win Boston College team which appeared in the ACC Championship Game. The Eagles had won their last four games of the regular season to make it to the ACC title game. Vanderbilt did not score an offensive touchdown in the game, but downed Boston College.

2. 2006 BCS National Championship Game: Urban Meyer’s Florida team got help on championship weekend with No. 2 USC falling to unranked UCLA and No. 3 Michigan idle (the Big Ten didn’t yet have a championship game) while the fourth-ranked Gators defeated No. 9 Arkansas, jumping both the Trojans and the Wolverines in the BCS poll. That set up the matchup between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Florida. Meyer, Chris Leak, Percy Harvin and the Gators’ talent-laden roster beat down the undefeated Buckeyes, 41-14, igniting a streak of seven consecutive BCS titles for the SEC.

1. 2009 BCS National Championship Game: This is the game that began Nick Saban’s storied run at Alabama. He went 1-1 in his first two bowl games as Crimson Tide CEO, this marking the second BCS bowl game, and first national championship appearance — for Alabama under his reign. Alabama and Texas squared off for the ninth time in history, with the Longhorns holding a 7-0-1 advantage. Alabama dominated from the opening kickoff, knocking Texas quarterback Colt McCoy out of the game early, and the Crimson Tide never looked back en route to a 37-21 win and Saban’s first title in Tuscaloosa.