Every SEC East team's most devastating loss of the Playoff era
It’s painful. I know.
Nobody wants to relive their most devastating loss. Coaches, players and fans all struggle to talk about them. They take us back to a place of shattered expectations.
So naturally, I decided to examine each SEC team’s most devastating loss. I already broke down every West team’s most devastating loss of the Playoff era. Today, it’s the East’s turn to take a stroll down memory lane.
A team can only be devastated when it gets expectations sky high, and then sees them crumble after 60 minutes with the Tide. An 0-8 team doesn’t get “devastated.” Teams competing for national titles that lose games to division rivals get devastated.
Don’t confuse this with a program’s most embarrassing loss. They can coincide, but as a fan, you know the difference between being devastated and being embarrassed.
And for what it’s worth, I decided to stick to the Playoff era and not bump it out to 10 years because I feel like it’s too difficult to compare certain regular season/conference championship losses that happen without a potential semifinal game to play in.
Are we all good on the criteria? Good.
Here are the most devastating losses for SEC East teams during the Playoff era:
Most devastating loss — 2016 at Tennessee
Sooooo many choices. I probably could’ve gone with 2015 LSU here, but the 2016 matchup in Rocky Top got the nod for an obvious reason — the streak. Finally, Tennessee ended Florida’s 11-game winning streak in the rivalry. And perhaps even more devastating for the Gators, it happened because they blew a 21-3 halftime lead.
At the time, it felt like a big get-over-the-hump game for Tennessee. The Vols rose up to No. 11 in the AP poll with what looked like their best chance to win the East. Ultimately, though, that title still went to Florida thanks to a mid-season collapse from Tennessee.
Most devastating loss — 2017 National Championship vs. Alabama
Second and 26. Need I say more?
Losing a national title in overtime on a walk-off touchdown might be the most devastating loss ever. Add in the fact that it was Georgia’s first time competing for a title since 1980, and all of those years of title-less seasons had to make that moment that much tougher to stomach. As memorable of a season as it was for the Dawgs, losing in that fashion was a different kind of punch to the gut.
It probably didn’t make it any easier knowing that it came via a backup true freshman quarterback and a true freshman receiver. Or that Georgia had a 2-possession lead and just needed its defense to play like it had been playing all season.
It’ll be fascinating to see how the Dawgs bounce back from the ultimate moment of devastation.
Most devastating loss — 2017 vs. Florida
It’s rare to see a team fail to guard a receiver in a defining moment of a game. It’s even more rare to see it happen twice. Only Kentucky.
The Wildcats could’ve ended a 30-year losing streak against the Gators if they had just held on to a 13-point fourth-quarter lead. The uncovered receivers epitomized that “whatever can go wrong will go wrong” mantra that Kentucky fans have been holding on to for years (via UFHighlights):
Mark Stoops called the loss “heartbreaking.” That might’ve been an understatement. Kentucky was 3-0 after getting a big-time win at South Carolina. The Wildcats probably would’ve been ranked heading into October with a Florida win. That would’ve marked their first Associated Press poll appearance in a decade.
Heartbreaking? How about soul crushing?
Most devastating loss — 2015 at Kentucky
You could make a good case that the 2014 SEC Championship loss to Alabama deserved to be here, but that was an expected blowout. You could also argue that the 2016 Georgia game was the most devastating, but that was for a Mizzou squad that was unranked.
Back in 2015, 3-0 Mizzou was coming off another division title and ranked No. 25 going into the matchup in Lexington. Kentucky wasn’t ranked. In fact, the Wildcats had an 18-game losing streak vs. ranked opponents. Well, until Mizzou showed up. The Tigers couldn’t ever get over the hump, and Kentucky walked away with the upset.
That game was perhaps the last time Mizzou fans felt in-season optimism about being a division contender. The Tigers went 1-7 in conference play that year. That game actually began a stretch of 3-19 vs. Power 5 opponents until Mizzou got hot at the end of 2017.
Most devastating loss — 2014 vs. Mizzou
This was the last chance for the Gamecocks to win an SEC title with Steve Spurrier. South Carolina started the season ranked No. 9 — a year removed from finishing No. 4 in the AP poll — and rebounded well after that blowout loss to Texas A&M in the opener. They were back in the top 15 after 3 straight wins, and a home victory vs. unranked Mizzou was expected.
With 7 minutes left in the fourth quarter, it appeared that the Gamecocks’ defense was in total control. But then the wheels fell off. Two late Mizzou touchdowns, including 1 in the final minute and a half, closed the book on South Carolina competing for an SEC crown.
The Gamecocks were never ranked for the rest of the 2014 season. In fact, they have yet to crack the Associated Press poll since that game (they did earn the No. 24 spot in the Playoff poll for a week last November).
It would be devastating if that didn’t change in 2018.
Most devastating loss — 2017 at Florida
I know. It was an awful season. It didn’t change the inevitable firing of Butch Jones.
But just for a second, go back to before Feleipe Franks hoisted that Hail Mary. Tennessee was 2-0 and ranked No. 23 with a neutral-site win vs. Georgia Tech and a blowout vs. Indiana State. Life wasn’t so bad on Rocky Top.
That all changed on that Saturday afternoon in Gainesville. Is there anything more devastating than losing on a last-second Hail Mary against your rival? That was as tough as it gets. And yeah, it was a tie game so there’s no guarantee that Tennessee would’ve won in overtime, but man.
This meltdown will live in infamy in Knoxville (via Zach.h):
Most devastating loss — 2017 vs. Alabama
I’m sorry. I had to do it.
Some losses are devastating because of a last-second play, while others are devastating because high pre-game expectations are dashed in the most humiliating way possible. This game was definitely the latter.
Who could forget this infamous video after Vandy’s 3-0 start?
— Justin Beasley (@JBeasleyWSMV) September 17, 2017
Eeeeeeek. It’s so cringe-worthy.
Alabama was in fact next, but not in the way Vandy fans hoped. The Tide just happened to be the next team to walk into Nashville and blow the doors off the Commodores. A 59-0 loss to the Tide was as devastating, embarrassing and deflating a loss that Vandy could’ve had after some argued it would hang tough with the eventual-national champs.
Vandy lost its next 6 SEC games. On the bright side, at least Derek Mason’s squad got to end the season with a win at Tennessee.
But yeah, nobody is forgetting that “you’re next” comment for a long, long time.