Nov 21, 2015; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Cyrus Jones (5) returns a punt for a touchdown against Charleston Southern Buccaneers at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
1992 SEC Championship Game, Alabama vs. Florida – The First Conference Championship Game
The inaugural SEC Championship Game was between Alabama and Florida. The 8-3 Gators had nothing to gain but a conference title, while the 11-0 Crimson Tide hoped for a trip to the Sugar Bowl, with a chance to play for the national championship on the line.
SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer had been criticized for creating a championship game in his newly expanded league. If a team in contention for a title stumbled in the championship game and lost the revenue of a title, what would that do to the league?
Skeptics of the game got a first look at this possibility when undefeated Alabama met three-loss Florida in Birmingham. Alabama beat Florida in dramatic fashion, securing their bowl game against Miami and reminding everyone that championship teams find ways to win.
Florida quarterback Shane Matthews led the best offense in the SEC, while Alabama’s defense was one of the best in the country. As the saying goes, defense wins championships.
The Gators scored first but Alabama responded with 21 unanswered points and led 21-7 in the third quarter. Florida wasn’t done yet and scored twice to tie the game. Then Antonio Langham intercepted Shane Matthews for the game-winning touchdown.
The game (and Langham’s pick-6) were recently the feature of an episode of SEC Storied, “The Play That Changed College Football.” National championship contender Alabama was able to win a game over a quality opponent, which proved that the 12-team conference with a championship game was a valid format for major college football.
Next: 1993 Sugar Bowl