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THE BEST DEFINING MOMENTS FOR SEC WEST TEAMS THIS CENTURY

We did this for the East, so let's follow suit for the West. Since the calendar turned to 2000, which points in time retain a special place for the seven member football schools in the SEC West?

ARKANSAS - beating LSU in 2010 to go to the Sugar Bowl

The great teams of the Houston Nutt era which won SEC West championships and played in Atlanta did not make BCS bowls. The 2010 Arkansas team finished behind the Cam Newton Auburn juggernaut, but it punched a ticket to the Superdome in January by fending off LSU.

Arkansas' 2007 win over LSU occurred in a classic game, but that Razorback team didn't achieve at a transcendent level. A Sugar Bowl berth represented the height of the Bobby Petrino years... and accordingly, the height of Razorback football this century.

OLE MISS -- beating Alabama in 2014

The Rebels defeated Alabama in 2015 as well, but Hugh Freeze realized he had a special program when he ambushed Nick Saban the first time. That kind of breakthrough fed the confidence and belief of the Rebels, who won a Sugar Bowl at the end of the 2015 season. Some would say -- reasonably -- that a dominant Sugar Bowl win should mark the pinnacle of an Ole Miss era in any circumstance, but the gateway effect of that first win over Saban in 2014 is too strong to ignore.

Whatever else historians might say about Freeze and his off-field scandals, he gave Saban more trouble than most coaches. That counts for a lot, even though Ole Miss is an ole mess right now... and Freeze might not stay in Oxford much longer.

TEXAS A&M -- Johnny. Freakin'. Football.

There's not much more to be said. Johnny Manziel, the first freshman winner in the history of the Heisman Trophy Award, created a national sensation and punked Oklahoma in a lopsided Cotton Bowl. The only thing which DOES need to be said is that this is the obvious choice because A&M hasn't done a damn thing otherwise since coming to the SEC.


MISSISSIPPI STATE - Numero Uno, 2014

Mississippi State was the No. 1 team in the college football polls.

Yes, it didn't last. Yes, MSU didn't even win the SEC West (let alone the league) three years ago.

Yet, it still happened, and it was still a remarkable accomplishment.

Reaching No. 1 also showed how luminous and special Dak Prescott really was. His dazzling rookie season with the Dallas Cowboys didn't catch Starkville or the SEC off guard. Everyone in the league knew he was a uniquely gifted player.

AUBURN -- The 2010... Iron Bowl win

Yes, Auburn won a national title in 2010, which is kinda sorta important, but that title would not have been won had the Tigers fallen short in the 2010 Iron Bowl against Alabama. It's the game from the 2010 season which owns a truly iconic and eternal place in the hearts and minds of Auburn fans. (The national title game against Oregon was an eyesore.)

Alabama led 24-0, and frankly should have been up 35-0, but a fumble which rolled out of the end zone -- just as the Tide were about to score -- minimized the damage. No one felt at the time that it would matter, but it sure mattered three hours later.

Auburn quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton crafted his finest moment as a college quarterback, steadily shifting the game in his favor and showing he could play at his very best under withering pressure on a day when many breaks cut against him.

Auburn fans revere "Punt, Bama, Punt" from the previous century (1972), and the "Kick Six" might have marked the most remarkable ending to a college football game this century, but Auburn's failure to win the national title in the 2013 season puts that event in second place. The "Cam-Back" (a Cam comeback) in the 2010 Iron Bowl represents the sweetest taste of Auburn football this century.

LSU -- The 2011 win at Alabama

Why not the 2007 national title? Very simply, that title -- as much of a mountain top moment as it was -- came from a two-loss team which needed all sorts of help. The 2011 LSU team was a far better team, the best product Les Miles put on the field. In that season, the trucking of Georgia in the SEC title game represented a laudable feat, but Georgia was not as good as Alabama.

Winning that 9-6 overtime struggle in a game which was hyped to the highest heaven enabled Miles to claim a road win over Saban in a rivalry which was very personal to LSU fans, given Saban's departure from Baton Rouge several years earlier. The best LSU team in recent memory beat its foremost competitor on the road in a high-stakes game. That's a more impressive and shimmering accomplishment than pulverizing an outmatched Big Ten team (Ohio State) in the Louisiana Superdome (a second home field for LSU) in the 2008 BCS National Championship Game.

ALABAMA -- the 2009 national title

With so many titles to choose from, why this one and not the 2011, 2012, or 2015 editions?

One: This was the only Nick Saban title achieved with a perfect season.

Two: This title marked the restoration of what Bear Bryant had built, and what Gene Stallings briefly revived. Everything else has merely affirmed and consolidated what the Tide did on the night of their victory over Texas for the crystal ball.

Three: Alabama's 2011 title was the fruit of a poisoned process in which the Tide gained a rematch with an LSU team which had already beaten them.

Four: The 2012 title game appearance against Notre Dame was made possible by an undefeated team (Ohio State) being ineligible for postseason play, because the Buckeyes foolishly played the 2012 Gator Bowl against Florida when all logical instincts suggested they should decline the bid as a self-sanction.

Yes, 2012 Alabama would have murdered 2012 Ohio State, but 2012 Ohio State -- had it been eligible -- would have met Notre Dame in Miami instead of Alabama.

Five: Alabama's success and supremacy are taken for granted. The 2009 title marked something fresh, and therefore, something cherished at a level not matched by today's Tide teams. The 2009 team was the trail blazer in Tuscaloosa.

ALSO SEE: (THE BEST DEFINING MOMENTS FOR SEC EAST TEAMS THIS CENTURY)

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