Ranking the SEC's most successful programs of all-time: 14-11
There’s a huge influx of SEC fans who can’t remember a time when Arkansas and South Carolina weren’t conference members or when the league wasn’t expected to win the national championship every year.
But most of the SEC’s 14 football programs launched late in the 19th century. In fact, SEC football now predates the oldest living person on earth, who by happenstance was born in Alabama in 1899.
The history of these programs goes back much, much further than Tim Tebow, Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel. So we decided to rank every one of these teams based on their body of work — the entire body of work.
We’ve ranked every current SEC team since the inception of the programs across five major categories: national titles, conference titles, all-time winning percentage, Associated Press Top 25 finishes and consensus All-Americans. Today we’ll reveal the four lowest-ranked teams.
14. MISSISSIPPI STATE
Total Points: 64
Claimed National Titles: 0 (T11th in the SEC)
Conference Titles: 1 (14th)
All-Time Winning Percentage: .488 (14th)
Top 25 Finishes: 13 (11th)
Consensus All-Americans: 2 (14th)
From No. 1 in the country to last in the SEC? You bet.
The Bulldogs cemented a No. 11 overall finish in the final AP poll last season — the 13th time in team history that Mississippi State has cracked the postseason Top 25. That’s better than three of the 14 SEC members.
Last season, the team lasted at No. 1 in the College Football Playoff poll until late in the year, perhaps the best opportunity this program ever has had to win a national title.
Coach Allyn McKeen did lead Mississippi State to an unbeaten season in ’40 and helped the team win an SEC championship in ’41. But outside of Top 25 finishes, the Bulldogs rank dead last in every other category we researched.
13. SOUTH CAROLINA
Total Points: 59
Claimed National Titles: 0 (T11th)
Conference Titles: 2 (12th)
All-Time Winning Percentage: .514 (11th)
Top 25 Finishes: 9 (12th)
Consensus All-Americans: 4 (13th)
Younger audiences will reflect on the Gamecocks’ recent success under Steve Spurrier and wonder how the program possibly could rank below Kentucky and Vanderbilt in terms of all-time accomplishments.
South Carolina has qualified for a bowl game in all 10 of Steve Spurrier’s seasons in Columbia, S.C. Only two other coaches have taken the Gamecocks to three bowl games (Jim Carlen and Joe Morrison), and South Carolina lost all six of those. The team has doubled its all-time consensus All-Americans to four during the Spurrier era (Melvin Ingram, Jadeveon Clowney).
Other than claiming a Southern Conference title (1933) and an ACC title (1969), the team rarely has finished in the Top 25, much less garnered hardware.
Total Points: 58
Claimed National Titles: 1 (T9th)
Conference Titles: 2 (T12th)
All-Time Winning Percentage: .495 (13th)
Top 25 Finishes: 8 (13th)
Consensus All-Americans: 10 (11th)
We’re onto you, Wildcats.
UK finished the 1950 season ranked No. 7 in the final Associated Press poll, then beat No. 1 Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. Four decades later, Jeff Sagarin (famous for his computer-generated “Sagarin Ratings) released a post-haste number-crunching that dubbed Kentucky as the No. 1 team in 1950, so the school now claims that year as a national title.
The fact that the Wildcats have also produced more than twice as many consensus All-Americans all-time helps UK edge out South Carolina, although they’re both in the bottom four in terms of historical football accomplishments.
Total Points: 53
Claimed National Titles: 0 (T11th)
Conference Titles: 14 (T4th)
All-Time Winning Percentage: .498 (12th)
Top 25 Finishes: 3 (14th)
Consensus All-Americans: 6 (12th)
Aside from back-to-back nine-win campaigns by James Franklin-led teams, the Commodores have done next to nothing notable since joining the SEC in 1932. Lucky for Vanderbilt, the team has played football since 1890.
Vandy dominated the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association, winning 12 conference championships. That’s more impressive than it sounds: the Commodores outmatched Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and Georgia Tech, fellow conference members, in many of those seasons.
The team achieved almost all of its titles under coach Dan McGugin, who achieved a now-remarkable 197–55–19 record at Vanderbilt.