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THE BEST DEFINING MOMENTS FOR EACH SEC EAST TEAM THIS CENTURY

Sure, Georgia won the 1980 national title after "Run, Lindsay, Run!"

Florida won the 1996 national title. Tennessee won it all in 1998.

Kentucky, under Bear Bryant, won the Sugar Bowl in 1951.

The greatest moments in program history generally stand above the others.

In these weeks before SEC Media Days -- when college football takes a deep breath -- why not turn to a more particular survey of history?

Some college football historians would say that the history of the SEC can be divided into pre-Steve Spurrier (1990) and after The Head Ball Coach arrived at Florida with his visor. That specific event ushered in a more modernized SEC based on tactics and speed. Physical prowess still lies at the heart of a winning operation -- one only needs to look to Tuscaloosa for confirmation -- but the 1990s Florida offenses made brute strength far less essential to gridiron glory than Vince Dooley and Pat Dye ever could have expected in their days.

Yet, while 1990 could be the ultimate Janus-like reference point in the life of SEC football, the turn of the century -- and millennium -- offers a tidy and rounded historical milepost from which to measure the more recent workings of league football programs.

Every school in the SEC East carries a bitter memory, but in this piece, consider the moments which cast each program in a favorable light:

KENTUCKY - the 2007 OT win over LSU

LSU had beaten Kentucky on the Devery Henderson miracle years earlier, part of the miserable Guy Morriss years and the long trail of tears the Wildcats had to travel. Kentucky gained sweet revenge in 2007 against an opponent that won the national championship months later. This win for Big Blue came one year after Rich Brooks had guided the Cats to a bowl game. The victory on national television cemented UK's status and affirmed the program's growth. Kentucky transcended the "one-hit-wonder" label with this victory. The triumph represented a firm and proud declaration to the rest of the SEC: "We proved ourselves."

MISSOURI - the 2013 win over Texas A&M to nail down the SEC East

The Tigers were laughed and sneered at when they came to the SEC. Moreover, many people in college sports still think Mizzou should have moved to the Big Ten for a better geographical and sports-based fit. Nevertheless, the football program's two SEC East titles silenced those who thought the Tigers would never cut it in the SEC. The first title was the sweeter one, and a triumph over defending Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel sealed it in front of a delirious home crowd in Columbia, Missouri.

Texas A&M's special 2012 season gave credence to the idea that the Aggies would become the hotshot new program in the league after moving from the Big 12, but the 2013 season and that Thanksgiving-weekend win over Johnny Football enabled Mizzou to beat A&M to the division championship finish line. The Tigers, not A&M, made a trip to Atlanta first. They'll always have that, even though Missouri football is currently struggling with Gary Pinkel retired.

VANDERBILT -- smacking Tennessee, 41-18, in 2012

The Commodores' return to a bowl game in 2008 was a big freaking deal, and winning consecutive bowls in 2012 and 2013 to forge nine-win seasons also represent towering events for a largely success-starved program, but nothing means more to Vanderbilt than being able to beat Tennessee.

Taking the Vols to the woodshed? It's virtually unthinkable on the gridiron... which is why the 23-point takedown in 2012 in many ways represents the zenith of the James Franklin era. Last year's win over Tennessee carried its own considerable degree of resonance, but 2012 owns much more heft in a two-way comparison.

SOUTH CAROLINA -- beating Clemson in 2013 for a five-game winning streak in the series

Before Dabo Swinney got Deshaun Watson and took Clemson football to the next level, Steve Spurrier maxed out against him. Being able to beat Clemson five straight times helped South Carolina through its best four-year stretch in program history. The SEC East title in 2010 -- a hugely significant achievement -- paled in comparison to the 2011-2013 stretch in which the Gamecocks won 11 games and a bowl for three years running. The bowl wins were special, but beating Clemson mattered more, and since 2013 was Connor Shaw's final season in Columbia, S.C., being able to send him out as a winner against Clemson mattered a great deal to the Gamecock football family. That win is the crown jewel of the Spurrier era.

FLORIDA -- the 2006 national championship

Why not 2008? That's a perfectly good question. In many ways, second titles cement the dominance first titles initially suggest. However, the first of Urban Meyer's two national titles in Gainesville was a magical event which set the table for everything which followed.

Chris Leak was not a great college quarterback, but he worked hard and stuck with the plan, trusting his teammates in the process. Those teammates spilled their guts for him and each other, and when given a chance to perform on the big stage against Ohio STate in the 2007 BCS National Championship Game, Leak answered the call. Meyer's ability to create cohesive teams in his second season at a program -- something he had done at Bowling Green and Utah -- was sustained, but this time, Urban Renewal existed on a much higher level. This season and championship turned Meyer from "really good coach" to "icon in the making."

GEORGIA - Michael Johnson over Horace Ellis, 2002

Mark Richt struggled in his final few seasons in Athens, and to be sure, the Bulldogs didn't collect loads of trophies over the past 10 years of his tenure. However, Richt's stay at Georgia was still a success, because he lifted the Dawgs from the misery of the Ray Goff years and took the team the final step Jim Donnan couldn't quite make. The road to that cathartic transformation was difficult, however, and only when Johnson -- a wide receiver -- outfought Willis, an Auburn cornerback, for a touchdown pass late in the 2002 Georgia-Auburn game did the Dawgs have an SEC East championship to celebrate. Since the SEC moved to divisional play in 1992, UGA had not won an East title or played in Atlanta at that point. Tennessee and Florida rented out the Georgia Dome in December.

Non-Georgia fans might not realize, 15 years later, how much UGA had suffered before that win over Auburn, which was followed by a demolition of Arkansas in the SEC Championship Game. This gave Georgia the freedom and confidence to remain a leader in the SEC for the next five years.

TENNESSEE -- winning at The Swamp in 2001

No loss haunts Steve Spurrier more than this one, which is enough of a reason for Vols fans to give it prominence in Tennessee football history.

The detail worth remembering about this game -- beyond the fact that Florida was in position to play for the national title -- is that it was postponed because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Had Rex Grossman and Florida's offense been able to play Tennessee's defense in mid-September, the Gators probably would have enjoyed a romp, much as they had for most of the Spurrier-Phil Fulmer years. However, with multiple months to prepare, the Vols were able to gather themselves and play an outstanding game. Casey Clausen controlled the game at quarterback, his offensive line stood tall against Alex Brown and other flustered Florida pass rushers, and running back Travis Stephens ran wild. When Tennessee stopped a game-tying 2-point pass by Grossman in the dying moments at The Swamp, they reached their greatest height this century.

They haven't come close to matching it in the past 16 years.

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