Not everybody gets to stand alone in Atlanta.

For countless SEC teams, coming up just short of winning a conference title defined their seasons. And for 2 others, not winning an SEC Championship didn’t mean a thing and they still won it all.

More common than that was a 1-loss team that missed out on the SEC Championship, or perhaps the team that fell just short against an eventual national champion.

In honor of ESPN’s recent list of the best college football teams to never win a national title, that’s exactly what we’ll look at today. Well, instead of that, we’re looking at the best SEC teams that didn’t win a conference title in the 21st century.

Here are those 10 squads:

10. 2007 Georgia

Final AP Top 25 ranking — No. 2

SEC Championship result — Did not qualify

Why they’re here — Wait a minute. A team that finished No. 2 in the country isn’t higher on this list? Why? Well, let’s not forget the madness that was 2007, which yielded a 2-loss national champion (LSU) after arguably the wildest year in the sport’s history. Let’s also not forget that UGA lost to an eventual 6-win South Carolina team at home, and it was smoked 35-14 by Tennessee. And while the college football elites collapsed one by one in the latter half of the season, Georgia kept winning. To UGA’s credit, it beat 4 squads that were ranked at the time. But of those 4 teams, none finished in the top 10. The best win of the season came against a flawed Florida team (defensively at least) that finished with 4 losses.

Don’t get it twisted. Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno were a fun duo, and they showed enough promise to warrant that preseason No. 1 ranking in 2008. But as you’ll see, there were more impressive non-SEC champs in the 21st century.

9. 2001 Tennessee

Final AP Top 25 ranking — No. 4

SEC Championship result — Lost 31-20 to eventual No. 7 LSU

Why they’re here — Taking down Steve Spurrier in his last game coaching Florida in The Swamp and winning in Gainesville for the first time in 30 years in that unique, pre-SEC Championship showdown (it was moved because of 9/11) will always be a massive feather in Phillip Fulmer’s cap. Blocking Florida’s shot at a national title was perhaps the most noteworthy thing the Vols accomplished in the 21st century. Of course, Tennessee lost its own shot at a national title the following game vs. LSU in the SEC Championship, which is why it appears on this list at all. But that team still took down 5 eventual top-25 squads, 4 of whom finished in the top 15. A whopping 10 Vols were drafted in 2002, including 3 in the first 15 picks. Simpler times on Rocky Top, those were.

8. 2020 Texas A&M

Final AP Top 25 ranking — No. 4

SEC Championship result — Did not qualify

Why they’re here — No recency bias needed here. After the Alabama loss, A&M ended the season by going 8-0 against Power 5 competition, and only a win against No. 4 Florida was decided by single digits. The Maroon Goons set the tone for an offense that lifted A&M to its best AP Top 25 finish in 81 years. By the way, Alabama blew out everyone in 2020. That includes the 2 teams the Crimson Tide stomped in the Playoff en route to a perfect season. The only reason the 2020 Aggies aren’t even higher on this list is because after Caleb Chapman got hurt, they lacked home-run players in the passing game — not that it mattered — and while Mike Elko led a solid defense, it wasn’t a top-25 unit. Unlike some of the teams ranked higher on this list, A&M didn’t have national championship upside. Having said that, the smash-mouth Aggies had a new identity in 2020.

7. 2006 LSU

Final AP Top 25 ranking — No. 3

SEC Championship result — Did not qualify

Why they’re here — Go figure we’re talking about a team that finished No. 3 in the AP Top 25 … and also No. 3 in its own division. After losing road games to a pair of eventual top-10 teams (including national champion Florida), the JaMarcus Russell/Glenn Dorsey-led Tigers peaked in the latter half of the season. They beat 3 top-15 teams away from home in their final 5 games. Looking back on 2006 LSU, there are shades of 2012 Texas A&M (I’ll get to them). Nobody wanted to play that LSU team in December, and like containing Johnny Manziel, slowing down Russell was ambitious at best. Who knows if the Tigers, who entered bowl season ranked No. 4, could’ve been stopped in a 4-team Playoff format.

6. 2008 Alabama

Final AP Top 25 ranking — No. 6

SEC Championship result — Lost 31-20 to eventual national champion Florida

Why they’re here — On one hand, you could say that Alabama should be higher on this list. A lone loss to that Tim Tebow-led Florida squad, who was No. 4 in scoring offense and scoring defense, was nothing to scoff at. What the Crimson Tide did in the infamous (depending on who you ask) Blackout game at Georgia was the arrival of the Nick Saban era. To go from a borderline Top 25 team to start the year to No. 1 heading into conference championship weekend was a remarkable feat. The only reason they weren’t higher? It wasn’t just the Utah loss in the Sugar Bowl. In terms of overall talent, Alabama was still a year away. It wasn’t a peak-Saban defense and it wasn’t an “impose its will” offense just yet. At least not consistently. Fortunately for Alabama, the tide (sorry) turned in a hurry.

5. 2012 Texas A&M

Final AP Top 25 ranking — No. 5

SEC Championship result — Did not qualify

Why they’re here — There’s a case to be made that the Aggies could’ve won an 8-team Playoff had that system been in place. There was nobody scarier at season’s end, which we saw in the form of Johnny Manziel’s Heisman Trophy game against eventual national champion Alabama, but also in blowout wins at No. 17 Mississippi State and against No. 12 Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. The Aggies lost a pair of regular-season games by single digits to eventual top-15 teams. That’s why the Manziel-Mike Evans explosion still wasn’t enough to reach Atlanta. But A&M hit 40 points on 8 occasions and Mark Snyder’s defense only surrendered 30 points once. That combination would’ve allowed the Aggies to play with — and possibly beat — any team on this list.

4. 2009 Florida

Final AP Top 25 ranking — No. 3

SEC Championship result — Lost 32-13 to eventual national champion Alabama

Why they’re here — As much as we think about this Florida team for Tim Tebow’s SEC Championship tears, there are a couple of things that we forget. One is that the Gators went out and dismantled Brian Kelly’s Cincinnati squad in a Sugar Bowl game that might not have been easy to get up for. Another thing that’s easy to forget is that in its 10 games vs. Power 5 competition that year, Florida only hit 30 points 3 times. The record and the pageantry of Tebow’s last hurrah skewed our impression of that Florida team, which had its sights set on repeating but ultimately missed Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy. Granted, that Charlie Strong-led defense was nasty (No. 4 in FBS). For my money, the team ranked No. 3 on this list would’ve beaten the 2009 Gators, as decorated as they were.

3. 2012 Georgia

Final AP Top 25 ranking — No. 5

SEC Championship result — Lost 32-28 to eventual national champion Alabama

Why they’re here — You cannot convince me that Georgia would not have smoked Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship. And to think, the Dawgs were a failed last-second red-zone touchdown attempt against the eventual national champs from doing so (covering Amari Cooper would’ve also helped). That Georgia team was loaded. Freshman Todd Gurley was a revelation, and Aaron Murray had his best season. With All-American Jarvis Jones on the defensive side, the Dawgs were as good as anyone. They needed some help at the pass-catcher spots, but they still ranked in the top 20 in both scoring offense and defense. For all the talk about 2017 as UGA’s national title that got away, you could make a strong case that 2012 was equally brutal to look back on.

2. 2017 Alabama

Final AP Top 25 ranking — No. 1

SEC Championship result — Did not qualify

Why they’re here — For those who didn’t acknowledge UCF as the 2017 national champ, that title went to Alabama. Should the Crimson Tide have made the field to begin with without even a division title? Even though Alabama’s résumé struggled with quality wins, it was still more deserving than Ohio State. While the Jalen Hurts-Brian Daboll experience didn’t blow anyone away, that was the last vintage Nick Saban defense. Minkah Fitzpatrick led what was easily the No. 1 scoring defense in FBS, and it was a group that allowed just 29 Playoff points. Yes, it took Tua Tagovailoa’s second-half heroics and a failed Cover 2 in order for Alabama to pull off one of the top championship comebacks ever. Nobody can deny that team proved worthy of being on the Playoff stage.

1. 2011 Alabama

Final AP Top 25 ranking — No. 1

SEC Championship result — Did not qualify

Why they’re here — For all the complaints about the 2011 Alabama team earning a trip to the BCS National Championship to run it back vs. LSU, we should at least acknowledge that no squad played a bigger role in fueling the push for a 4-team Playoff. So that’s something. Also something? Alabama allowed 8.2 points per game. Nobody is touching that feat in the 21st century. You could make a case that it’s the best defense ever. You could also make the case that winning by an average of 27 points per game and winning every non-LSU regular-season game by at least 16 points was worthy of a title game berth. Alabama was so dominant in 2011 that you could argue it’s worthy of a top-2 spot even without avenging the LSU loss in the BCS National Championship.

Everyone is welcome to dispute the system that spit out a rematch, but there’s no mistaking how good Saban’s group was.